Henry David Thoreau.

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made less passable than ordinary by the unusual wetness
of the season. We sank a foot deep in water and mud at
every step, and sometimes up to our knees, and the trail
was almost obliterated, being no more than that a mus
quash leaves in similar places, when he parts the float
ing sedge. In fact, it probably was a musquash trail in
some places. We concluded that if Mud Pond was as
muddy as the approach to it was wet, it certainly de
served its name. It would have been amusing to behold
the dogged and deliberate pace at which we entered
that swamp, without interchanging a word, as if deter
mined to go through it, though it should come up to our
necks. Having penetrated a considerable distance into
this, and found a tussock on which we could deposit our
loads, though there was no place to sit, my companion
went back for the rest of his pack. I had thought to
observe on this carry when we crossed the dividing line
between the Penobscot and St. John, but as my feet had
hardly been out of water the whole distance, and it was
all level and stagnant, I began to despair of finding it.
I remembered hearing a good deal about the "high
lands " dividing the waters of the Penobscot from those
of the St. John, as well as the St. Lawrence, at the time
of the northeast boundary dispute, and I observed by
my map, that the line claimed by Great Britain as the
boundary prior to 1842 passed between Umbazookskus
Lake and Mud Pond, so that we had either crossed or



THE ALLEGASH AND EAST BRANCH 239

were then on it. These, then, according to her interpre
tation of the treaty of '83, were the "highlands which
divide those rivers that empty themselves into the
St. Lawrence from those which fall into the Atlantic
Ocean." Truly an interesting spot to stand on, if that
were it, though you could not sit down there. I
thought that if the commissioners themselves, and the
King of Holland with them, had spent a few days here,
with their packs upon their backs, looking for that
"highland," they would have had an interesting time,
and perhaps it would have modified their views of the
question somewhat. The King of Holland would have
been in his element. Such were my meditations while
my companion was gone back for his bag.

It was a cedar swamp, through which the peculiar
note of the white-throated sparrow rang loud and clear.
There grew the side-saddle flower, Labrador tea,
Kalmia glauca, and, what was new to me, the low birch
(Betula pumila), a little round-leafed shrub, two or three
feet high only. We thought to name this swamp after the
latter.

After a long while my companion came back, and the
Indian with him. We had taken the wrong road, and
the Indian had lost us. He had very wisely gone back
to the Canadian's camp, and asked him which way we
had probably gone, since he could better understand the
ways of white men, and he told him correctly thai we
had undoubtedly taken the supply road to Chamberlain
Lake (slender supplies they would get over such a road
at this season). The Indian was greatly surprised that
we should have taken what he called a " tow " (i. e., tote



240 THE MAINE WOODS

or toting or supply) road, instead of a carry path, that
we had not followed his tracks, said it was " strange,"
and evidently thought little of our woodcraft. ,

Having held a consultation, and eaten a mouthful of
bread, we concluded that it would perhaps be nearer for
us two now to keep on to Chamberlain Lake, omitting
Mud Pond, than to go back and start anew for the last
place, though the Indian had never been through this
way, and knew nothing about it. In the meanwhile he
would go back and finish carrying over his canoe and
bundle to Mud Pond, cross that, and go down its outlet
and up Chamberlain Lake, and trust to meet us there
before night. It was now a little after noon. He sup
posed that the water in which we stood had flowed back
from Mud Pond, which could not be far off eastward,
but was unapproachable through the dense cedar swamp.

Keeping on, we were ere long agreeably disappointed
by reaching firmer ground, and we crossed a ridge where
the path was more distinct, but there was never any out
look over the forest. While descending the last, I saw
many specimens of the great round-leaved orchis, of
large size; one which I measured had leaves, as usual,
flat on the ground, nine and a half inches long, and nine
wide, and was two feet high. The dark, damp wilderness
is favorable to some of these orchidaceous plants, though
they are too delicate for cultivation. I also saw the
swamp gooseberry (Rides lacustre), with green fruit, and
in all the low ground, where it was not too wet, the Rubus
triflorus in fruit. At one place I heard a very clear and
piercing note from a small hawk, like a single note from
a white-throated sparrow, only very much louder, as he



THE ALLEGASH AND EAST BRANCH 241

dashed through the tree-tops over my head. I wondered
that he allowed himself to be disturbed by our presence,
since it seemed as if he could not easily find his nest
again himself in that wilderness. We also saw and heard
several times the red squirrel, and often, as before
observed, the bluish scales of the fir cones which it had
left on a rock or fallen tree. This, according to the
Indian, is the only squirrel found in those woods, except
a very few striped ones. It must have a solitary time in
that dark evergreen forest, where there is so little life,
seventy-five miles from a road as we had come. I won
dered how he could call any particular tree there his
home; and yet he would run up the stem of one out of
the myriads, as if it were an old road to him. How can a
hawk ever find him there? I fancied that he must be
glad to see us, though he did seem to chide us. One of
those sombre fir and spruce woods is not complete unless
you hear from out its cavernous mossy and twiggy
recesses his fine alarum, his spruce voice, like the
working of the sap through some crack in a tree, the
working of the spruce beer. Such an impertinent fellow
would occasionally try to alarm the wood about me.
" Oh," said I, " I am well acquainted with your family,
I know your cousins in Concord very well. Guess the
mail's irregular in these parts, and you'd like to hear
from 'em.'* But my overtures were vain, for he would
withdraw by his aerial turnpikes into a more distant
cedar-top, and spring his rattle again.

We then entered another swamp, at a necessarily
slow pace, where the walking was worse than ever,
not only on account of the water, but the fallen timber,



242 THE MAINE WOODS

which often obliterated the indistinct trail entirely. The
fallen trees were so numerous, that for long distances the
route was through a succession of small yards, where we
climbed over fences as high as our heads, down into
water often up to our knees, and then over another fence
into a second yard, and so on; and, going back for his
bag, my companion once lost his way and came back
without it. In many places the canoe would have run if
it had not been for the fallen timber. Again it would be
more open, but equally wet, too wet for trees to grow,
and no place to sit down. It was a mossy swamp, which
it required the long legs of a moose to traverse, and it is
very likely that we scared some of them in our transit,
though we saw none. It was ready to echo the growl of
a bear, the howl of a wolf, or the scream of a panther;
but when you get fairly into the middle of one of these
grim forests, you are surprised to find that the larger
inhabitants are not at home commonly, but have left
only a puny red squirrel to bark at you. Generally
speaking, a howling wilderness does not howl : it is the
imagination of the traveler that does the howling. I did,
however, see one dead porcupine; perhaps he had suc
cumbed to the difficulties of the way. These bristly fel
lows are a very suitable small fruit of such unkempt
wildernesses.

Making a logging-road in the Maine woods is called
" swamping " it, and they who do the work are called
"swampers." I now perceived the fitness of the term.
This was the most perfectly swamped of all the roads I
ever saw. Nature must have cooperated with art here.
However, I suppose they would tell you that this name



THE ALLEGASH AND EAST BRANCH 243

took its origin from the fact that the chief work of road-
makers in those woods is to make the swamps passable.
We came to a stream where the bridge, which had been
made of logs tied together with cedar bark, had been
broken up, and we got over as we could. This probably
emptied into Mud Pond, and perhaps the Indian might
have come up it and taken us in there if he had known it.
Such as it was, this ruined bridge was the chief evidence
that we were on a path of any kind.

We then crossed another low rising ground, and I,
who wore shoes, had an opportunity to wring out my
stockings, but my companion, who used boots, had
found that this was not a safe experiment for him, for he
might not be able to get his wet boots on again. He went
over the whole ground, or water, three times, for which
reason our progress was very slow; beside that the
water softened our feet, and to some extent unfitted
them for walking. As I sat waiting for him, it would
naturally seem an unaccountable time that he was gone.
Therefore, as I could see through the woods that the sun
was getting low, and it was uncertain how far the lake
might be, even if we were on the right course, and in
what part of the world we should find ourselves at night
fall, I proposed that I should push through with what
speed I could, leaving boughs to mark my path, and
find the lake and the Indian, if possible, before night,
and send the latter back to carry my companion's bag.

Having gone about a mile, and got into low ground
again, I heard a noise like the note of an owl, which I
soon discovered to be made by the Indian, and, answer
ing him, we soon came together. He had reached the



244 THE MAINE WOODS

lake, after crossing Mud Pond, and running some rapids
below it, and had come up about a mile and a half on
our path. If he had not come back to meet us, we prob
ably should not have found him that night, for the path
branched once or twice before reaching this particular
part of the lake. So he went back for my companion and
his bag, while I kept on. Having waded through another
stream, where the bridge of logs had been broken up and
half floated away, and this was not altogether worse
than our ordinary walking, since it was less muddy,
we continued on, through alternate mud and water, to
the shore of Apmoojenegamook Lake, which we reached
in season for a late supper, instead of dining there, as we
had expected, having gone without our dinner. It was at
least five miles by the way we had come, and as my com
panion had gone over most of it three times, he had
walked full a dozen miles, bad as it was. In the winter,
when the water is frozen, and the snow is four feet deep,
it is no doubt a tolerable path to a footman. As it was, I
would not have missed that walk for a good deal. If you
want an exact recipe for making such a road, take one
part Mud Pond, and dilute it with equal parts of Umba-
zookskus and Apmoojenegamook; then send a family
of musquash through to locate it, look after the grades
and culverts, and finish it to their minds, and let a hurri
cane follow to do the fencing.

We had come out on a point extending into Apmoo
jenegamook, or Chamberlain Lake, west of the outlet
of Mud Pond, where there was a broad, gravelly, and
rocky shore, encumbered with bleached logs and trees.
We were rejoiced to see such dry things in that part of the



THE ALLEGASH AND EAST BRANCH 245

world. But at first we did not attend to dryness so much
as to mud and wetness. We all three walked into the
lake up to our middle to wash our clothes.

This was another noble lake, called twelve miles long,
east and west ; if you add Telos Lake, which, since the
dam was built, has been connected with it by dead
water, it will be twenty; and it is apparently from a
mile and a half to two miles wide. We were about mid
way its length, on the south side. We could see the only
clearing in these parts, called the " Chamberlain Farm,"
with two or three log buildings close together, on the
opposite shore, some two and a half miles distant. The
smoke of our fire on the shore brought over two men in
a canoe from the farm, that being a common signal
agreed on when one wishes to cross. It took them about
half an hour to come over, and they had their labor
for their pains this time. Even the English name of the
lake had a wild, woodland sound, reminding me of
that Chamberlain who killed Paugus at Lovewell's
fight.

After putting on such dry clothes as we had, and
hanging the others to dry on the pole which the Indian
arranged over the fire, we ate our supper, and lay down
on the pebbly shore with our feet to the fire, without
pitching our tent, making a thin bed of grass to cover
the stones.

Here first I was molested by the little midge called the
no-see-em (Simulium nocivum, the latter word is not
the Latin for no-see-em), especially over the sand at the
water's edge, for it is a kind of sand-fly. You would not
observe them but for their light-colored wings. They are



246 THE MAINE WOODS

said to get under your clothes, and produce a feverish
heat, which I suppose was what I felt that night.

Our insect foes in this excursion, to sum them up,
were, first, mosquitoes, the chief ones, but only trouble
some at night, or when we sat still on shore by day;
second, black flies (Simulium molestum), which mo
lested us more or less on the carries by day, as I have
before described, and sometimes in narrower parts of
the stream. Harris mistakes when he says that they are
not seen after June. Third, moose-flies. The big ones,
Polis said, were called Bososquasis. It is a stout, brown
fly, much like a horse-fly, about eleven sixteenths of
an inch long, commonly rusty-colored beneath, with
unspotted wings. They can bite smartly, according to
Polis, but are easily avoided or killed. Fourth, the no-
see-ems above mentioned. Of all these, the mosquitoes
are the only ones that troubled me seriously; but, as I
was provided with a wash and a veil, they have not made
any deep impression.

The Indian would not use our wash to protect his face
and hands, for fear that it would hurt his skin, nor had
he any veil; he, therefore, suffered from insects now,
and throughout this journey, more than either of us. I
think that he suffered more than I did, when neither of
us was protected. He regularly tied up his face in his
handkerchief, and buried it in his blanket, and he now
finally lay down on the sand between us and the fire for
the sake of the smoke, which he tried to make enter his
blanket about his face, and for the same purpose he lit
his pipe and breathed the smoke into his blanket.

As we lay thus on the shore, with nothing between us



THE ALLEGASH AND EAST BRANCH 247

and the stars, I inquired what stars he was acquainted
with, or had names for. They were the Great Bear,
which he called by this name, the Seven Stars, which he
had no English name for, " the morning star," and " the
north star."

In the middle of the night, as indeed each time that
we lay on the shore of a lake, we heard the voice of the
loon, loud and distinct, from far over the lake. It is a
very wild sound, quite in keeping with the place and the
circumstances of the traveler, and very unlike the voice
of a bird. I could lie awake for hours listening to it, it is
so thrilling. When camping in such a wilderness as this,
you are prepared to hear sounds from some of its inhabi
tants which will give voice to its wildness. Some idea of
bears, wolves, or panthers runs in your head naturally,
and when this note is first heard very far off at midnight,
as you lie with your ear to the ground, the forest
being perfectly still about you, you take it for granted
that it is the voice of a wolf or some other wild beast,
for only the last part is heard when at a distance, you
conclude that it is a pack of wolves, baying the moon, or,
perchance, cantering after a moose. Strange as it may
seem, the " mooing " of a cow on a mountain-side comes
nearest to my idea of the voice of a bear; and this bird's
note resembled that. It was the unfailing and character
istic sound of those lakes. We were not so lucky as to
hear wolves howl, though that is an occasional serenade.
Some friends of mine, who two years ago went up the
Caucomgomoc River, were serenaded by wolves while
moose-hunting by moonlight. It was a sudden burst, as
if a hundred demons had broke loose, a startling



248 THE MAINE WOODS

sound enough, which, if any, would make your hair
stand on end, and all was still again. It lasted but a
moment, and you 'd have thought there were twenty of
them, when probably there were only two or three. They
heard it twice only, and they said that it gave expression
to the wilderness which it lacked before. I heard of some
men who, while skinning a moose lately in those woods,
were driven off from the carcass by a pack of wolves,
which ate it up.

This of the loon I do not mean its laugh, but its
looning, is a long-drawn call, as it were, sometimes
singularly human to my ear, hoo-hoo-ooooo, like the
hallooing of a man on a very high key, having thrown
his voice into his head. I have heard a sound exactly
like it when breathing heavily through my own nostrils,
half awake at ten at night, suggesting my affinity to the
loon; as if its language were but a dialect of my own,
after all. Formerly, when lying awake at midnight in
those woods, I had listened to hear some words or sylla
bles of their language, but it chanced that I listened in
vain until I heard the cry of the loon. I have heard it
occasionally on the ponds of my native town, but there
its wildness is not enhanced by the surrounding scenery.

I was awakened at midnight by some heavy, low-
flying bird, probably a loon, flapping by close over my
head, along the shore. So, turning the other side of my
half -clad body to the fire, I sought slumber again.

TUESDAY, July 28.

When we awoke, we found a heavy dew on our blan
kets. I lay awake very early, and listened to the clear,



THE ALLEGASH AND EAST BRANCH 249

shrill ah, te te, te te, te of the white-throated sparrow,
repeated at short intervals, without the least variation,
for half an hour, as if it could not enough express its
happiness. Whether my companions heard it or not, I
know not, but it was a kind of matins to me, and the
event of that forenoon.

It was a pleasant sunrise, and we had a view of the
mountains in the southeast. Ktaadn appeared about
southeast by south. A double-topped mountain, about
southeast by east, and another portion of the same, east-
southeast. The last the Indian called Nerlumskeechti-
cook, and said that it was at the head of the East Branch,
and we should pass near it on our return that way.

We did some more washing in the lake this morning,
and with our clothes hung about on the dead trees and
rocks, the shore looked like washing-day at home. The
Indian, taking the hint, borrowed the soap, and, walk
ing into the lake, washed his only cotton shirt on his
person, then put on his pants and let it dry on him.

I observed that he wore a cotton shirt, originally
white, a greenish flannel one over it, but no waistcoat,
flannel drawers, and strong linen or duck pants, which
also had been white, blue woolen stockings, cowhide
boots, and a Kossuth hat. He carried no change of
clothing, but putting on a stout, thick jacket, which he
laid aside in the canoe, and seizing a full-sized axe, his
gun and ammunition, and a blanket, which would do for
a sail or knapsack, if wanted, and strapping on his belt,
which contained a large sheath-knife, he walked off at
once, ready to be gone all summer. This looked very
independent; a few simple and effective tools, and no



250 THE MAINE WOODS

india-rubber clothing. He was always the first ready to
start in the morning, and if it had not held some of our
property, would not have been obliged to roll up his
blanket. Instead of carrying a large bundle of his own
extra clothing, etc., he brought back the greatcoats of
moose tied up in his blanket. I found that his outfit was
the result of a long experience, and in the main hardly
to be improved on, unless by washing and an extra shirt.
Wanting a button here, he walked off to a place where
some Indians had recently encamped, and searched for
one, but I believe in vain.

Having softened our stiffened boots and shoes with
the pork fat, the usual disposition of what was left at
breakfast, we crossed the lake early, steering in a diag
onal direction, northeasterly about four miles, to the out
let, which was not to be discovered till we were close to
it. The Indian name, Apmoojenegamook, means lake
that is crossed, because the usual course lies across, and
not along it. This is the largest of the Allegash lakes,
and was the first St. John water that we floated on. It
is shaped in the main like Chesuncook. There are no
mountains or high hills very near it. At Bangor we had
been told of a township many miles farther northwest;
it was indicated to us as containing the highest land
thereabouts, where, by climbing a particular tree in the
forest, we could get a general idea of the country. I have
no doubt that the last was good advice, but we did not
go there. We did not intend to go far down the Alle
gash, but merely to get a view of the great lakes which
are its source, and then return this way to the East
Branch of the Penobscot. The water now, by good



THE ALLEGASH AND EAST BRANCH 251

rights, flowed northward, if it could be said to flow at all.

After reaching the middle of the lake, we found the
waves as usual pretty high, and the Indian warned my
companion, who was nodding, that he must not allow
himself to fall asleep in the canoe lest he should upset us;
adding, that when Indians want to sleep in a canoe, they
lie down straight on the bottom. But in this crowded one
that was impossible. However, he said that he would
nudge him if he saw him nodding.

A belt of dead trees stood all around the lake, some
far out in the water, with others prostrate behind them,
and they made the shore, for the most part, almost inac
cessible. This is the effect of the dam at the outlet. Thus
the natural sandy or rocky shore, with its green fringe,
was concealed and destroyed. We coasted westward
along the north side, searching for the outlet, about one
quarter of a mile distant from this savage-looking shore,
on which the waves were breaking violently, knowing
that it might easily be concealed amid this rubbish, or by
the overlapping of the shore. It is remarkable how little
these important gates to a lake are blazoned. There is
no triumphal arch over the modest inlet or outlet, but at
some undistinguished point it trickles in or out through
the uninterrupted forest, almost as through a sponge.

We reached the outlet in about an hour, and carried
over the dam there, which is quite a solid structure, and
about one quarter of a mile farther there was a second
dam. The reader will perceive that the result of this
particular damming about Chamberlain Lake is, that
the head-waters of the St. John are made to flow by
Bangor. They 'have thus dammed all the larger lakes,



252 THE MAINE WOODS

raising their broad surfaces many feet ; Moosehead, for
instance, some forty miles long, with its steamer on it;
thus turning the forces of nature against herself, that
they might float their spoils out of the country. They
rapidly run out of these immense forests all the finer,
and more accessible pine timber, and then leave the
bears to watch the decaying dams, not clearing nor cul
tivating the land, nor making roads, nor building
houses, but leaving it a wilderness as they found it. In
many parts, only these dams remain, like deserted
beaver-dams. Think how much land they have flowed,
without asking Nature's leave! When the State wishes
to endow an academy or university, it grants it a tract
of forest land: one saw represents an academy; a gang,
a university.

The wilderness experiences a sudden rise of all her
streams and lakes. She feels ten thousand vermin gnaw
ing at the base of her noblest trees. Many combining
drag them off, jarring over the roots of the survivors,
and tumble them into the nearest stream, till, the fairest
having fallen, they scamper off to 'ransack some new
wilderness, and all is still again. It is as when a migrat
ing army of mice girdles a forest of pines. The chopper


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