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Lobster Lake - 1999

We're lost. After breakfast at Kelly's Landing in Greenville we drive hours north towards Lobster Lake and as often happens when we get to logging roads, our brains seize. We've passed our turnoff, and gone far enough out of our way that my "Can't go back" syndrome has kicked in.

Mark Q shares the same personality flaw. Years before, he and I arrived at Chamberlain lake ahead of everyone else. After driving five hours to Millinocket, stopping briefly at Casa De La Fiesta and then driving another three hours to the lake, we needed to find a place to camp. It's the camp part that was the problem. Since we had a placid, moonlit lake in front of us, we both agreed that we had to pitch our tents in a secluded area on its shore. We couldn't be too conspicuous about camping in an un-maintained site, so we chose rutted paths to drive down that looked like they ended at water's edge. These paths always narrowed to paint scraping width and far short of the water. We always got out and walked further just to make sure. We would then back out, choose another rutted path and repeat the futile shore search. We could have gone back to our starting point at the southern end of the lake ,to the group campsite but that was,"Going back." And therefore out of the question.

Which is why when I suggest that we forget Lobster and find somewhere closer to spend our five days, I was surprised that Mark Q answered, "Even though I've never been to Lobster, that's where we intended to go and, I'd rather die than change our plans." "Planning on" just overruled "Can't go back."

Dan also wanted to go to Lobster and Adam may have initially, until he spotted Rainbow Lake. We all know that lake names are arbitrary and this one could have been a mosquito infested puddle but -Rainbow? How could he resist. Even I, who live in a perpetual state of ambivalence, thought, hmmm, what a great name for this year's website.

Rainbow, at least on our map, was at the end of one our now familiar single lane rutted paths. That was clear, which path, was not. No road signs. We started down a promising one, with Dan repeatedly telling us via our talkabouts that he wasn't going to follow. But every time we turned around there he was, until we ran out of road. Looking through our windshield was like staring at the Amazon minus man eating snakes. There was no way to carry our canoes and gear through this jungle even if the lake were just over the next hill. But oh, that magical phrase, just over the next hill. We jumped out : dead trees, bushes, branches, quicksand, it was all in our way. We kept walking hoping the lake was just ahead.

At Chamberlain Lake Mark and I had finally pitched our tent. In the dark, in the rain, and in the mud, far, I assume, from the shore. We were dead tired but happy that we hadn't gone back. Near Rainbow Lake, it was still early so we backed out, gave up and headed back to Lobster.

By the time we get to the put-in, the weather that has been toying with us turns ugly. The wind is now bending trees, the drizzle now rain and all of it, in our face. I know, we all know, that if we get to the lake and the weather hasn't stopped we will never reach our campsite. Canoes and waves are compatible like planes and mountainsides, still, like a child to his school lunch we are morbidly drawn.

Mark Q and Mark S are the first onto the water. They push off, paddle furiously and go nowhere. A funny, improbable sight, arms moving, orange hats bobbing, paddles splashing, canoe just sitting. Minutes passed and just before I applaud their lack of movement backward, they begin to move forward. Like Lemmings but with smaller brains we follow but for less than a mile, when we all give up. We turn around and let the wind push us to a campsite about two miles downstream.

This one is on an island in the middle of the river and named Thoreau's; here, we off load and set up camp in the wind and rain and with Mark Q's newly hurt back. No back problems before, but after unloading a heavy bag from his jeep, he joins the world of the lame and the halt.

From a never complaining hauler of anything heavy, to asking me to lift his paddle. But Mark, new to the world of bad backs, simply will not give in as others would. He'd move to help out and suddenly fall to the ground to a crouching position. He would remain in that all fours position until the pain subsided and then make his move to stand upright, only to fall almost face first into the dirt. It is as if his back, acting as drill sergeant said, "Did I give you permission to stand?" Watching, I can't stop laughing. As cruel as it sounds, from my vantage point, here is a newbie to the back world thinking that life hasn't really changed. But it has. In spite of the pain he helps cut wood, build the fire and most of what he always does, except for lifting heavy things, like his boots.

With our tarps up, our fire finally giving off heat, dinner planned, and the puddles disappearing, gray clouds break into pink streaks. The sun appears low in the West, and on the opposite bank a rainbow.