March 8, 2012

Allagash Wilderness Waterway

 pin-hole photographs by james smith / summer 2009

A few summers ago we spent a week and a half on a little adventure up in the northern part of Maine, canoeing 92 miles of lakes and rivers on the Allagash Wilderness Waterway, along with a few friends. 

It is a stunning landscape and completely removed from any civilization or cell reception. We were truly cut-off from the outside world, focusing each day on observing the beauty of our surroundings, paddling, setting up camp, cooking, enjoying simple conversation, taking down camp, and paddling again.

We owe this trip to our dear friend Dan who always pushes us to be ambitious and challenge ourselves. It was  indeed a challenge, the rapids were not without drama! But it was also one of the few vacations where I returned to my everyday life feeling like I'd actually had a break. I was rested, centered, and a changed person from living in this peace, even for a short time. 

We saw dozens of moose and so much amazing wildlife. We became experts at arranging our gear in our boats each morning and hoisting everything up and away from prying bears at night.

Canoeing in fast water is a great test as a couple. One person is the eyes and the other steers the boat and it all happens very quickly! We learned to better communicate and work together (I dreamed about shouting out "left, left, SHARP LEFT" for weeks).

When we reached the end of our trip and pulled our boats out of the water along a rural roadside, it was jarring to see cars drive by. I fished through our dry bags and found our cell phones and car keys, constants in everyday life but they felt oddly foreign in my hand. I am always surprised by how being completely unplugged, even for a brief time, makes my own life seem fresh and new. I'm looking forward to making some time for getting a little lost this summer, now as a family.


  1. This is my dream vacation... okay, not right now with so many non-swimmer kids, but in the future, when they are old enough to appreciate and handle camping. I am already planning this trip in my mind!

  2. Looks so beautiful! Love the pinhole photos, too. It's on my to-do list to make... but you know. Someday!

  3. What beautiful photos! This sounds like a such a lovely vacation, one where you can actually rest your mind and rejuvenate your body. I am so looking forward to Ezra being old enough for us to really travel and enjoy some restorative family time. You guys are gonna have a blast this summer!

  4. I especially love the picture of the water/rapids. That's amazing. The landscape in all the pics is breathtaking. Looks like you couldn't but have a fantastic time when surrounded by that!

  5. This trip looks and sounds amazing - living in the natural world for a time without all the "stuff" is such a treasure!