Paddlers encounter gusty winds during a summer picnic at Moxie Pond

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By Ron Chase Every July, the Penobscot Paddle & Chowder Society celebrates summer with a weekend of paddle adventures collectively referred to as the Summer Picnic. For many years the event was held in West Forks in western Maine.

By Ron Chase

Each July the Penobscot Paddle & Chowder Society celebrates summer with a weekend of paddling adventures collectively known as the Summer Picnic. For many years the event was held in West Forks in western Maine.

The base camp for club activities is Webb Campground located on the Dead River in West Forks, just before it merges with the Kennebec River. Both rivers offer whitewater paddling opportunities that range from Class I to Class IV.

Again this year, the most popular scheduled trip on the first day was a Class III excursion on the dead, while a few members paddled the Class IV Kennebec Gorge.

My wife, Nancy, and I decided to offer club members a flatwater option: a swim across nearby Moxie Pond. Although Nancy kayaked part of it, neither of us had paddled the full length. Since we had hiked the Moxie Bald and Mosquito Mountains, which border the pond to the east and west, we knew it was a very scenic body of water.

Photo courtesy of Ron Chase
MOXIE POND – Paddlers pass a few islands on a recent crossing of Moxie Pond.

Seen from the tops of the mountains, I had the impression that it had the character of an inland fjord. This is how I promoted travel.

Three additional Chowderheads signed up for the excursion. We were a diverse group of paddlers. Gail Carter and Devon Carter sailed a tandem canoe and Jonathan Ludlow piloted a solo canoe. Nancy and I paddled solo in flat water kayaks.

The direction of the narrow Moxie Pond is north-south. Moxie Pond Road follows along the western shore. We had to decide which way to travel. The forecast called for southwesterly winds for the whole day, so our choice was from south to north.

Not knowing where we might start on the south end, Nancy and I explored Moxie Pond Road before meeting the group. We found a suitable location where vehicles could be parked next to the shore near the southernmost navigable area of ​​the pond.

The group met at the Moxie Pond landing stage, adjacent to the exit dam near the northern terminus. From the dam, Moxie Stream flows west for about 5 miles before entering the Kennebec River. Just before joining the Kennebec, the spectacular Moxie Falls, one of Maine’s tallest waterfalls, plummets nearly 100 feet vertically.

The weather was beautiful with sunny skies. As expected, there was a gentle breeze from the southwest. The participants transported their boats south after leaving two vehicles at the landing stage to facilitate a post-trip shuttle.

The paddling was superb as we began our eight mile journey north. Passing through a narrow channel on the right we entered a larger body of water where Moxie Bald Mountain was visible to the east and Mosquito Mountain to the west. It was then that I realized that my observation that the pond looked like an inland fjord was an unintended embellishment.

However, if you let your imagination run wild, navigating the pond between the Mosquito Mountains and Moxie Bald looks like a fjord.

Everything was effortless while enjoying a gentle tailwind and sunny weather until we started looking for a place to stop for lunch. After exploring several unacceptable possibilities, we found a small uninhabited island where landing was doable but difficult. It took a team effort to climb the steep embankment before taking part in our delayed lunch.

The easy paddling continued as we entered the northern sector of the pond which was cluttered with small islands and jagged peninsulas. In an open area about a mile from the landing, the wind gods have betrayed us. Wicked broadsides rocked our boats until we found refuge to leeward of a high peninsula.

As we rounded the bend to the landing stage, we encountered a strong headwind which persisted until we reached the west shore. By the time we got to the takeout, everyone had experienced an invigorating aerobic workout.

After just one day of our thrilling weekend of adventures, more exhilarating feats were expected. The day ended with a short club business meeting and a delicious potluck picnic at Webb’s Campground. Nancy and I were to lead a Class III whitewater trip on the Kennebec from Carry Brook to West Forks the next morning.

Find more Maine lake and pond expeditions and thrilling whitewater excursions on the Dead and Kennebec Rivers in my book, “Maine Al Fresco: The Fifty Finest Outdoor Adventures in Maine.” The next book signings will be August 27, 1-3 p.m. at Sherman’s Maine Coast Book Shops in Freeport and September 3, 1-3 p.m., at Sherman’s in Portland.

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