Thursday, May 31, 2012

Deboullie Kayak and Camping Trip 2012

The Deboullie area in the North Maine Woods is such a spectacular place. Its a crazy busy world out there, and to have a place like this to enjoy is a GREAT thing. This was our 3rd time here, and it was just as amazing. Many things happened, and much fun was had, so much so that I could not possibly include everything, but I do promise any trip to this place is going to be special.

The ride from the MA/NH border is six hours. We left around midnight and were within reach of Portage Lake around 6AM. As we drove on the 60 miles along Route 11, the low clouds and fog covered the road completely at some points and others it was a beautiful display of under cast. We made it to the Fish River checkpoint, which is about 3 miles in on the logging road which starts off of Portage Lake. Here, you must check in, and pay the fee of $20 per person per night, which means that for our group of four, it was $320. Not cheap, but very much worth it for many reasons. The rates are different if you are not staying the night, but its important to know so you bring enough cash.
Low lying fog on Route 11
NMW Fish River Checkpoint
After that, it is close to 30 miles on active logging roads until you reach the Deboullie Pond area. There are mile markers on the roads. Along the way on the logging roads, we saw three moose, two deer, and countless snowshoe hares running around. We arrived at Pushineer Pond and took the road about a mile further to Deboullie Pond where there is another parking area. Since our last trip here in 2010, the area has gone through some upgrades, including a new outhouse at that parking area. We learned from two campers at the boat launch that rangers were at our destination building a new Adirondack style lean-to, and that it would be done today! This was pretty cool, so we unloaded the four kayaks from the jeep and carefully packed them for the paddle across two huge lakes. Off we went, into the great outdoors for 5 days.
Bridge over Pushineer outlet (used to require a fording)
Paddling across Deboullie Pond
We paddled across Deboullie and Gardner Pond and established our camp. The rangers were busy putting the finishing touches on the lean-to, which was built in an area behind the first site that was cleared for it. Afterwards, they used our fire we started to cook some hot dogs and we chatted with them for a while, which was really cool. These guys love the outdoors so much too, they really have an awesome job. They filled us in on the exact locations of the ice caves in the area, and we talked about our prior experiences in the Deboullie area. After completing their work, they left, and waiting for us was a brand new lean-to that had never been slept in. Our good friend Sean was the first to ever sleep in it, and me and Bill slept in it one night of the three we were at Gardner. When we come back here again...sometime in our lifetime, it will be totally awesome to think back on the first time this shelter was ever used. I hope that is there for many years to come. By the way, they built another one at Gardner East too.
Gardner Mountain rock slide on the way across Gardner Pond
Our tent setup (new shelter in back)
The brand new Adirondack style lean-to at Gardner Point
Over five days and four nights, a lot happens, including sometimes a whole lot of nothing, and a whole lot of no biting fish, and a whole lot of food preparation. Rather than go on about every exact thing we did and when we did it, I will break it down a bit differently for this report by activity. Continue on...

At this time, the Gardner Point campsite is accessed only by kayak, however that will soon change, as a trail is planned to loop Gardner Pond and connect with the other current trails. To get to our site, we had to kayak across Deboullie Pond, portage our kayaks to Gardner, and then cross that pond. On our last day, most of us traversed Pushineer Pond too. Over the entire weekend, winds never allowed the water to be completely still like it was in 2010. These lakes offer some challenging kayaking. Paddling across Gardner Pond from Deboullie is always difficult because of the westerly winds, which blow whitecaps right in your face. Not to mention that, you can't stop paddling or turn to the side or risk getting worn out trying to start again or be toppled by a large wave. While paddling here, your a very small person on a vast lake miles from any civilization.
Paddling across Deboullie Pond
Sean is seen below paddling to camp ahead of us on Gardner
Choppy water on Gardner Pond
On Friday, we explored the rockslide on Gardner Mountain. The pictures do not even do any justice to how massive it is up close and in person. We would have liked to summit, but we might have to wait until the trails are built because there was no way around or up from the rockslide.  The areas of vegetation are thick and tough to pass through, and the shoreline is all rocks and the depth of the lake is easily 30 feet at least at the stepping off the deep end. Finding a suitable spot to pull the kayak up in this area is not easy. If you can climb up at least halfway though, you will be greatly rewarded with a view not many people have ever seen.
View down from near the top of the rock slide
Looking straight up from as far as we could go up
Close up of the slide and  sheer cliffs above
On Saturday, me and Bill hiked to Deboullie Mountain while Sean and Eric stayed back around camp fishing and paddling. Trails originate near Pushineer Pond and circumnavigate Deboullie Pond. After we kayaked across Gardner, we left the kayaks and hiked towards Deboullie Mountain on the trail. Along the way, there were a couple of pretty large blow downs across the trail. Bill and I thought it was a cool idea to pitch in a couple of extra minutes and clear a a couple of good blow downs. We were very excited this opportunity was right in front of us, especially to give back to those who already maintain this area for us to enjoy.
One of two blow downs we cleared on the way to Deboullie Mountain

The hike up to the mountain is a short but steep climb of about 800 ft of elevation to the summit, which offers tremendous remote views with no civilization in sight. The sun was beaming hot, it was a beautiful day, and the trail was very pretty. It was suggested by someone in the area that we visit the inside of the fire tower on the summit since we had not climbed up it before. Boy did we miss out those prior years. As a matter of fact, while climbing down from the tower, we noticed the USGS summit benchmark for the first time directly beneath the tower. The views extended well beyond 100 miles because we could see Mt. Katahdin about 75 miles away. We could see as far as the eye could see, basically.
Trail to Deboullie Mountain
Standing at the trail junction and start of the climb
From left to right, Black Pond, Deboullie Pond, and Pushineer Pond
Mt. Katahdin from Deboullie Mountain fire tower
We also took a late afternoon bushwhack from the campsite up and around towards the more gentle sloping side of Gardner. We walked quietly through the woods hoping to see a moose or signs of wildlife. We saw several different types of poopies throughout the entire trip (you can see them in the album below). We kept moving forward, and even this way we came to an abrupt end at a massive rock wall. We were quite surprised and humbled that it was so difficult to pass over or approach the summit from this side. It makes it so much more remote and real. There's no easy access to this spot, which is why we love it so much. (the photo below was taken with my GoPro so it has a fish-eye effect on the trees, but you get the idea - cool bushwhacking) 
Exporing the woods near Gardner Mountain
Wildlife & Fishing
Wildlife we saw: Deer, Moose, Snowshoe hare, red squirrel, garter snake, beaver, loons, ruby-throated humming birds, blue jays, toads, crayfish, arctic char, yellow perch, a newly hatched dragonfly 
Wildlife we heard: Owls (every night), woodpecker (we knew which tree, but could not see him, he had to be huge)

The fish were not as big as the two we caught last year. This makes that nice catch in 2010 really special. Sean had success pulling in multiple arctic char ranging from 6-9 inches, but only one was kept and eaten on the whole weekend. We each had at least one catch. My best of about three small char was pregnant. There were a couple of days and at certain times there is just no bites at all. I make it sound easy, but I have well over an hour of video from the weekend of me just casting and catching nothing. We fished in Gardner, Deboullie, and Pushineer Ponds, and all catches were in Gardner, but this time they were all very small - This is a good sign, though, for the rare char.
How cool is this guy?
The Rest of the Trip
For our last night, we paddled back to Pushineer South to get an early morning start home on Monday. Although it was overcast and cloudy most of the afternoon and evening, it was still comfortable. With the tent pitched right over the pond, we left the rain fly open on one side. Bill and I kayaked down to Fish Pond earlier in the evening, which is the small pond that Pushineer drains into. Its no more than a few feet deep, and we didn't see any fish jumping, but it was a cool little abode, and worth the 20 minutes excursion from base camp. We enjoyed a nice fire at Pushineer South, but the wood was tough burning, we had to feed the fire constantly. It worked out though, and we had some more Glenlivet to toast on another wonderful trip to this beautiful place.
Pushineer South campsite
A beaver swims right past the campsite
My kayak and Pushineer Pond
Please click on the slide show below to see a lot more photos from the trip - I've captioned most of these since most are not familiar with the area. I took over 1000 photos and 105 videos on this trip, that means almost 800 didn't make the cut for my online album. I plan to put together a video, but I'm afraid it will be while with my upcoming trip. I have video of me catching the pregnant char, paddling across white caps, climbing the Deboullie tower....and much much more, but you'll see those in a video sometime soon or when I have the chance. If anyone has any questions about the area, feel free to ask here.


  1. Awesome pictures, Dan! 75 miles from Katahdin? Maine is one big state! Sounds like you guys had a blast.

  2. Thanks Owen - Yea, I google earthed it, so 75 may not be exact, but when driving up there this time, I didn't realize how far Katahdin is up in Maine. I will be climbing it in July after a white water rafting trip. Looking forward to the Knife Edge.

  3. Dan, This trip sounds amazing. You are such a great writer. I love reading your posts. I started hiking about a year ago and only day hike. The most I've hiked is 9.5 miles in one day. My goal is to hike in the Grand Canyon--because Mules can carry my stuff lol--sometime next Spring. Reservations need to be made so far ahead! I'm looking forward to your trip to CA. Have a great time and be safe!

    1. Thanks Patti. I never liked English when I was in school, but I guess I came out of that alright. Hiking in the Grand Canyon sounds exciting too!

  4. Beautiful area - my folks are up in Portage Lake - they summer there. I've never been over to Debouille though. My Dad sent me a song about Debouille - I've got to send it to you!

    1. Karen - I would love to have a small piece of property up there someday. Please do send me an email with the name and artist of the song. How could there possibly be a song lol? That's awesome! I'll have to get the group together to listen to it! dmoutdoors1 @ gmail

  5. I googled Deboullie fishing reports and came across this post. You did a nice job. I am headed there soon and have been going up for many years. I have family that have gone here yearly for 40+ years! It used to be only $10 or so a night, but they are certainly keeping it up nice. I am always impressed with the comradery and etiquette of other campers when up there as well. Not only have we shared our homemade french fries and some firewood, we have never had a problem leaving our canoes or boats put up on the bodies of water or our camp sites messed with (This wouldn't happen many other places). My most favorite memory was a year a moose came through our camp-site late one night. He came within a foot step of one of our tents and it was a source of excited conversation over breakfast.

    1. Hi, thanks for sharing your thoughts. Its an incredible place. You are exactly right about the etiquette too. In the 3 times we've been up, anyone we ran into was helpful or was eager to chat about their experiences, particularly about fishing, and where to locate the Char. On our 2010 trip, at Gardner Point, we heard a moose definitely walking through the muddy area down near the water, but not through the campsite. Right now my favorite memory is catching the arctic char in 2010, which I have on YouTube.