A Day on the Allagash Wilderness Waterway in Maine

Written by Dan. Added on September 18, 2005.

This is an excerpt from Allagash Wilderness Waterway, a short book I wrote about canoeing the river with Scout Troop 60 and my Dad and brothers. 

Thursday, July Twentieth

I woke up at around 4:00 am shivering from the cold. I slept on top of my sleeping bag last night, and at this particular time I felt that was an idiotic decision. How cold was it? Well, I had to run up to the bathroom so I took a look at my thermometer on the way out: 28 degrees Fahrenheit! Can you believe it—four degrees below freezing in the middle of the summer! We had frost on our tents and a fog was over the water.

For those not “in the know” BSA has an award for sleeping in below-freezing weather (32 degrees Fahrenheit) called the Polar Bear Award. In the winter months in Connecticut this isn’t a hard award to receive. (I’ve lost count of how many I have, but it’s gotta be close to two dozen of them.) But this is mid-July and we earned this award. How exciting is that? To sweeten things even further, we later found out that Team 2 didn’t get below 35 degrees! According to Griff and Don, they were on higher ground and didn’t have any frost on their tents, either.

Months prior, at the weekly Troop meetings, I kept telling everybody that it could get below freezing and that we had to pack appropriately. That is, bringing a hat and gloves was a wise idea, to say nothing of warm pants and coats. Some people laughed at that notion. Ha!

Anyway, I jumped back into my sleeping bag quickly to get warmed up again. 5:30 came too soon and I had to crawl out of bed to get moving for the day. It was still only 32 degrees. I ran over to the backpacking stoves to get them fired up with water to make hot chocolate. We had oatmeal for breakfast, which I’m not so fond of. But ya know, it’s just like the bagels: when you’re this hungry it doesn’t matter what it is because you’ll eat it.

Read another story: On Winter Camping