Soon, the annual Source to the Sea will begin. This is a river trek beginning at the source of the Androscoggin River in the waters of Lake Umbagog and ending 19 days later at Fort Popham as the river flows into the Atlantic Ocean. The river drops 1500 feet over its 160 miles.
The trip is divided into manageable days of paddling and is open so that folks can join up for the whole thing or just a piece of it. There are naturalists and ecologists and historians along who interpret and share information.
Several years ago, Archie and I joined for a day from Dixfield to Jay and, ever since, I have looked at the river differently during my daily drives.
Daughter Sara's good friend Alexa is spending the summer working on a film about the Androscoggin as part of her college program at Bowdoin College. A month or so ago she invited me to join her on the two days of the trek that she planned to film. We planned July 11 (Shelburne, NH to Gilead, Maine) and July 12 (Gilead to Bethel).
Sadly, she called yesterday and said that her schedule was only going to allow her to participate on Saturday--but to tell you the truth--I was wondering if two days was a little ambitious for someone like me with no upper body strength and who hasn't kayaked in two years. Particularly since, Alexa is a basketball star and probably can paddle fast enough for someone to waterski behind.
The Androscoggin was once terribly polluted by the paper mills and textile mills along its course. By the late 1960's , it was one of the most polluted rivers in the country. In the summer, the oxygen content of the river over its course frequently hit zero which meant that there was no fish population.
In 1977, Senator Edmund Muskie, who grew up in Rumford along the banks of the Androscoggin at its very worst, sponsored the Clean Water Act Since that time the river has improved markedly. It supports a wide variety of fish and wildlife and many Bald Eagles, once as endangered as the Androscoggin, nest along its banks.
I graduated from high school in 1977--it wasn't really that long ago. The rivers were a mess all over the country then--isn't it amazing that by regulation and awareness we have helped so much of the environment recover. Times seem bleak again--we are worried about global warming and the polar ice cap and energy costs and impacts--but I think humans are imbued with a great deal of ingenuity and maybe in 30 years I'll be peering through my bi-focals and writing about how much better the environment is than it was in 2008. I hope so.