A Well-Catered Paddle Around the Pond

Maine has at least 24 Round Ponds (as well as two Square Lakes and a Square Pond), and three of the Round Ponds are part of the Allagash River watershed. It was at the third Round Pond on the Allagash that Louise took inventory of our supplies and said, ''We'll have enough grub left over to make this whole trip again!''

We were three couples with three canoes and we were winding down two magnificent weeks in the Maine wilderness. Tonight at Round Pond, tomorrow night at Allagash Falls, and the next afternoon we'd reach Allagash Plantation and ''take out.'' Friends would meet us with our vehicles at the highway bridge, just before the Allagash flows into the bigger St. John.

So we found the campsite at Round Pond and went ashore to look it over. It was a beautiful spot, sheltered by tall spruce trees but with a movement of air that would deter the insects. A good fireplace had been laid up with flat rocks years ago, and dead ashes topped by a wilted alder limb attested that the latest campfire had been properly doused with pond water.

It was while we were opening our wanigan boxes and arranging for supper that Louise made her observation. And she was right: We had lived high and still had plenty of food. We got some wood gathered, made a fire, and were soon setting up the tents. Louise was soon mixing the grist for hot cream-tartar biscuits, and as we always came off the river around 4:30 there was no hurry whatever about supper. ''Cut for deal,'' said Flint, and I got an ace, which is a good way to start a cribbage match.

It was our custom, every evening, to ask Red, Flint's wife, what she planned for supper, and Red would say, ''Biscuits and With-its!'' This time, Louise added, ''And a six-piece apple pie!'' She'd found some canned apples thus-far neglected. So I brought a couple of pails of pond water for ablutions, and Flint skunked me three games. Owen blew up the air mattresses, the three ladies made ready the feast, and the sun settled in behind the spruces. And we dined. Sumptuously.

When the shadows of the spruces were running out into Round Pond, there came a hatch of flies, and this encouraged the trout to gambol, cavort, and disport as you wouldn't believe. Flint stepped to the marge to invite certain of them to breakfast. Louise arranged them, one by one as they came ashore, on a plate, and when she had 10 she told Flint to cease. She put the plate under the dishpan, and a big rock on top of the dishpan to make the raccoons mad at her, and with such jolly frolics we passed the crepuscular period and turned in.

The next morning dawned on schedule, and we stood in a row looking east at the rising sun. It was beautiful. Flint had kindled a fire, and in a moment Louise would start mixing the cornbread and I would be dicing salt pork. Flint said, with his woodsman's reasoning, ''Something wrong out there.''

He had spotted a canoe 'twixt us and the rising sun. He added, ''Why would those two jokers be paddling that fast downstream this early in the day?'' Now we saw two boys in the craft, and they were, indeed, making undue haste in an otherwise leisurely context. They paid no attention to us, or didn't see us, and were soon out of sight around a bend in the beach.

It didn't take us long to demonstrate the mathematical improbability that 10 can go into six with no remainder, and we had the dishes washed and packed, bedding and tents rolled, the canoes loaded, and I had cut a green alder branch to lay on the fire after I doused it cold. We paddled Round Pond and drifted like a yellow leaf in autumn, and made sandwiches at noon.

As the afternoon went along, we came to Allagash Falls, a sheer drop of 85 feet, and, having been warned by the sound of rushing waters, we went ashore at a well-used landing spot. Tomorrow morning we would portage about a half mile, but for now we'd unload and make camp, and drag our empty canoes up into the cleared tenting space.

There we found our two young men of the morning, their canoe upside down as a card table, and playing high-low-jack. They answered our pleasant greetings but only just, and Flint's expression simply said, ''I told you so.'' He walked closer to the boys, and when he came back he said, ''Out of food. Haven't et for two days.''

They were both 18, with no knowledge of the woods, and had started the Allagash trip with only dried foods and not enough of them. There are no mom-and-pop stops in that country. Louise took care of things in tactful manner.

''Boys,'' she said, ''got a small campground here, so I tell you what let's do. We'll make a fire and use the thing, and you come and eat with us when things are ready. That way we won't be walking on anybody's feet.''

One of the boys said, ''Thank you.''

We had a No. 10 can of hamburg patties, which we buried in onions, and Flint made his special Chesuncook Towboat Black Bear Brown Gravy with mushrooms. Louise said, ''I guess we almost ran out after all.''

The next morning, restored, the two boys carried the ''portage'' and we six walked along with no burden save our trout rods. That's just the way it happened.

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