Lost!

Canoe bow in fog

I was determined to get on the pond early to enjoy the sunrise and calm before everyone else began their fishing and boating activities. We were staying at Balsam Cove Campground for three nights and I only had the canoe rented for the morning and I wanted to make the most of it. Kirsten set her mobile phone alarm to sound at five o’clock for me but I was up and gone before it would go off.

The morning was much like many we’ve experienced since arriving Downeast, foggy. But this morning the fog was not the usual light cloudy mist. No, this fog was thick and low.  It was difficult to make out objects only 20 or 30 feet away. I probably should have known better than to venture out on the water but I was determined so I put the canoe in the water and pushed off.

I was not disappointed! The pond surface was as smooth as glass which made paddling nearly effortless. I put in a few hearty strokes and quickly retrieved my camera to capture the fog and the grasses that were protruding from the calm water. After taking several photographs while aimlessly drifting I looked up and was surprised to find that the shore had vanished! I had been drifting and spinning in circles; how many I could not tell. I paddled in the direction I thought the shore was but after more strokes than it should have taken to reach the bank I still wasn’t there.

So I continued paddling. I paddled and paddled but the scenery never changed. Looking down I could see water and canoe but on every side and up was gray and white. I could see no tree line or lights of any kind on the shore no matter how hard I strained to see them.

I wasn’t nervous though. Toddy pond is very long but also quite narrow. The worse case, I thought, was being run over by a motorboat who’s captain wouldn’t see me. I figured I could wait for the fog to life and simply paddle back. I knew approximately how far I’d paddled and, if I hadn’t drifted too far, would be able to see our campsite in clear air. So I wasn’t really lost, just adrift.

There was a good chance, because of the narrowness of the pond, that if I paddled in a relatively straight direction I’d see the shore soon. So I began to paddle. I wasn’t anxious, besides singing and chirping birds the air was perfectly calm, quiet, and still. I was thoroughly enjoying myself despite the fact that technically I didn’t know where I was or the direction I was headed.

The scenery wasn’t interesting enough for me to take more than a handful of pictures. I stopped paddling occassionally to appreciate the tranquility of my present environment and of living in a state with such an abundance of raw majestic beauty.

Eventually though I began to see trees along the water’s edge. I paddled up and down the shore but saw no sign of Balsam Cove Campground. What I did find was a large pink buoy floating in the water.  It reminded me of the crab buoys I saw in Alaska as a young boy. This buoy, I decided, would be my base.

As I was sitting in the canoe within sight of my new base I looked skyward as I contemplated my present situation. To my great astonishment a bald eagle was soaring just above me fifty or so feet! He was, I would later discover, heading to its nest only a few hundred feet from me.

Foggy morning on the lake

After ten or twenty minutes another canoe appeared in the mist. The man paddling approached me and when we were close enough to see each other’s faces we exchanged greetings and discussed briefly our awe at the gorgeousness of the early morning pond. He knew where he was and where he was going. There was no way I would let him know that I was totally lost! After he told me about the eagles’ nest he paddled away in the direction from which he came.

While we had been talking the dense white cloak with which we were enwrapped parted just above our heads enough to reveal a small piece of the bright blue sky I was hoping would be my savior. Yet, no sooner than my fellow paddler disappeared into the fog so to did my small patch of sky and with it my brief moment of hope.

What I did hear every few minutes was traffic behind me! I knew we turned right off Acadia Highway (Coastal Route 1) then left to our campground. I figured the traffic must be on the highway and I must be on the wrong side of the pond. By this time the fog had lifted a bit and I was sure I could see approximately half way across the narrow pond.

I decided to use an anchored ski boat as my reference. It would help me paddle straight and I could return to it at any time. If the boat began to disappear before I could see land on the opposite shore I would return to the boat and wait.

Returning wouldn’t be necessary. Just as my ski boat faded into the misty fog I bagan to see a faint tree line directly in front of me. As I paddled toward the shore the two bright yellow swim docks at our campsite slowly came into view. I had made it!

I had a great time and enjoyed the adventure. My fog cacoon eventually turned into a beautiful sunny day filled with canoeing, a camp fire, swimming, and s’mores. I did learn what should have been obvious: if you’re only method of navigation is reference to the shore…you should insure you can always see the shore!

1 Comment

  1. I have a similar canoe story!
    As a Fresh out of High School Senior, I got a temp job working at the campgrounds our church has in the Cascades here in Oregon, over by Mt Washington and the Three Sisters. I was helping to roof the new lodge that was supposed to replace the old A-frame building that was deemed structurally unfit. That evening at twilight, I asked to take a canoe out on the lake. I was looked at kinda like ‘do you know what you are doing?’ I said I would like to relax by paddling around for a bit before it got too late.
    Well, they said yes. I grabbed a life jacket and got to the canoes and picked one and put it in the water, leaving my life jacket behind. I paddled straight out into the HUGE lake. I was in awe of all the stars I could see and the boldness of the colors all around. I tried to lay back and take it all in.
    When I awoke, it was pitch black!!! In a type of terror I looked around for even a glint of where I was. All I knew was I was in Big Lake somewhere in a tiny canoe with no reference points at all and no idea what time it was!! (I have never worn a watch and there were no convient time keepers back then…)
    I started to paddle to the closest shore and realized I had no idea where to go from there. I figured I would at least be able to find a dry place to sleep. When I got to shore, I took a big look around the lake; watching for any light source I could find. There was none. I then thought that since the lake had been still, I probably hadn’t turned much and I could try to get a bearing on which way I had been pointed when I awoke and try to head back in the opposite direction. So I paddled back out to where I thought I was and then turned to the left and started paddling. I soon saw a light poking out from a distant area and paddled towards it. It turned out to be a powerful flashlight that someone had left on the dock for me to see! I made my way to the shore and pulled the canoe up on the beach and walked to the lodge. A few sets of eyeballs greeted me with anticipation as to where I had been for so long, but no one said a word. I said good night and went to my cabin and found one of the Pastors waiting for me. He told me eveyone was worried I had gotten lost on the lake but had decided to give it a little more time befroe they sent the boats out to find me. He had placed the flashlight on the dock as a reference for me. I told him I had fallen asleep in the canoe and awoke adrift in the middle of the lake. I told him my story of how to return and he was amazed I would be able to think like that. It was 1 am when I finally made it back to my cabin.
    I had left around 6pm…..

Leave a Reply