Temple Stream Adventure (a standard debacle). PART 2
June 10, 2016
About my River (Rebirth of the Kennebec)
June 12, 2016
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Temple Stream Adventure (a standard debacle). PART 1

Parked near the intervale of Temple Stream.

RiverWe’ve had a real good dousing of rain over the course of the past week, drenching late spring thunderboomers that have dropped a couple of inches of water on a landscape that was relatively parched for the season. Crossing the Rt. 2 bridge in New Sharon yesterday I looked out my car window to the swiftly coursing and rather full looking Sandy River. It’s nothing I haven’t seen before. This river is born in the steep mountains that rise to meet the height of land beyond the Rangely Lake region providing ample runoff from early spring snowmelt and thunderous downpours. It always looks like a violent and dangerous gush of muddy brown here during the spring and following a downpour, but the yesterday’s observation struck a nerve in me. “I could’ve run the friggin’ Temple today!” I bitched aloud.

Deep up the Temple was a glowing cool green gem of peacefulness one might go to if he knew it like me. Deep in it up here during summertime I’d rock hop, wade a few cool shallow pools, pick blueberries…

Temple Stream is a tributary of the Sandy River. Originating deep in the highlands off the back side of Mt. Blue in the sparsely populated town of Avon. The stream spills down from the highland through the valley of the old town of Temple, finally winding its way into Farmington where it empties into the Sandy. During the years I lived in Farmington Temple Stream was a frequent area of respite for me. From tip-toeing and maneuvering my way around the poison ivy along the banks under the very old mill dam so I could hit a pool with a lure and hopefully snag a brookie, to travelling up along it by off  Rt. 42, past the intervale, off the pavement, off up in the deep woods where it babbled and gurgled cold and clear under shady forest. Oh what a place to be on a hot summer day! I lived in an upstairs apartment right in the middle of downtown during those days, a blistering honking hot hell on a hot summer day. Deep up the Temple was a glowing cool green gem of peacefulness one might go to if he knew it like me. Deep in it up here during summertime I’d rock hop, wade a few cool shallow pools, pick blueberries, and agonize over weather those orange fleshy looking mushrooms were chanterelles or false chanterelles because I just didn’t know. In fall with alders and hardwoods springing into color I’d ride out here on Sunday mornings with a cup of hot coffee to leaf peep and calm my nerves before the Patriots 1:00 PM kick-off. In winter just so long as we weren’t being over inundated with snows (as we often are in this area) I could still tool my little Nissan Sentra down the snow-packed road to this spot and explore the area on snowshoes. In the spring however I rarely if ever go there. Any dirt road in the woods in Maine after a long hard winter is a soupy rutted hell hole mess of road not reasonably passable to anything but a four wheeled drive vehicle. While I’m certain the deep early spring woods in Maine have something to offer by way of beauty and respite, the resulting muck from the melt can ruin it and the stream runs high and muddy in early spring and not so beautiful as a clear torrent would. These are the reasons I generally stay away. In late spring however, after awhile the stream begins to slow enough for sediment to settle and IF the rains stay steady and even enough for the watershed to handle the flow then the stream can run high clean and swift and it is possible to put canoe or kayak in under the bridge at the end of State Rt. 42 and paddle as far as the mill dam park. IF. I only say the word “if” with such emphasis because I had to learn this lesson of the stream the hard way.

Earlier this spring I read the book on Temple Stream. Well maybe not “the book” but certainly a fine book by Bill Roorbach titled Temple Stream with the apt sub-title A Rural Odyssey. Ever since last October when I moved down from the foothills back to up beyond the banks of the Kennebec River in Augusta I’ve felt a bit of pining for the wilder area I formerly lived near. It’s a bit ridiculous I know but my nature leads me to these things sometimes. Bill’s book spurred me. I too wanted to paddle the Temple and explore its swirls eddies oxbows riffles critters and vegetation. It was June 3rd. Still spring right?

When I got to the Cummings Hill Road parked my car got out, walked to the bridge and looked downstream I was highly dismayed. There looked to be barely more than a foot of water running under the bridge and less than 30 yards downstream a large tree lay across it that was impassible. I trotted back to the car and drove further down stream looking for a spot I might put in further below where the water might be better. Not half a mile down I spotted a little turn out and a grown in drive down into the woods. I hopped out to explore. It was a steep embankment down to the stream and a little island or peninsula strip that was somewhat familiar here as I’d remembered scrambling down this bank years ago to fish. The water was pretty good then. It shouldn’t be too too bad I thought and went back to the car for the gear and kayak.

I had expected my paddle to be only a few hours and estimated I could make the mill dam by 3:30. I hadn’t brought much for food but an apple I’d consumed on the drive up here, an energy bar, and one bottle of water for halfway through my trip. The embankment down to the stream here was steep. I held onto the kayak from the back end with one hand and used my other to grab at small trees while slowly shimmying down. Despite it being a cloudy gray day the water down here seemed very low. I had to drag the kayak a few yards to find a spot I could set it down in. It was 12:30 when I did so; the temperature was 58 degrees and the water, colder.

I grabbed my kayak and began to make my way to the bend. Two steps into the water my right foot slipped off a boulder and scrapped down hard betwixt some hard angular pocket in the stream bottom causing a sharp pain on the outside of the foot and a piercing jolt on the inner ball of my ankle…

I wasn’t fifty feet downstream before I got hung up on the streambed. I tried using my paddle as a way to pole over some of the rock but it wasn’t very fruitful and within a few more yards my section of stream became completely un-navigable for kayak. What the hell I thought. I’d been given to believe this stream was paddle worthy on this section. I crawled out of the kayak and stood on a large rock spying downstream for deeper water I might be able to float in. It didn’t look good. I thought briefly about bailing on the whole adventure but the embankments back to the road were so steep here that I didn’t too much like the idea of struggling my way back up them with a kayak in hand and knew it might be dangerous to try. I grabbed the kayak and dragged it with me over ankle deep riffles to another large rock I could survey from. Where is the deeper water I wondered. It can’t be too far down can it? Up ahead about fifty yards away I saw a deep enough pool at a sharp bend in the stream. This bend would be my last chance to bail near roadside before the stream turned sharply away from the road and descends into the deep woods. Having read about the stream I knew there to be some intervale land somewhere below this section where the water should be deep and paddle-able. Given the deeper pool ahead I decided it couldn’t be too far from here and chose to stay the course. I grabbed my kayak and began to make my way to the bend. Two steps into the water my right foot slipped off a boulder and scrapped down hard betwixt some hard angular pocket in the stream bottom causing a sharp pain on the outside of the foot and a piercing jolt on the inner ball of my ankle…

Read Part 2 Here: Temple Stream Adventure (a standard debacle). PART 2