One Hundred Hours on Lobster Lake

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Our intrepid paddling group has returned from our annual expedition.  A bit less ambitious than last year’s Boundary Waters adventure, it still proved to be a wonderful time with good friends and an interesting location along the Northern Forest Canoe Trail.

What follows is a photo journal of our 100 hours on Lobster Lake in Maine.  It is a bit of a travelogue with occasional side-trips into how the photographs were made.  I hope either aspect of the narrative won’t be too boring for the different readers of this article.

I’m guessing your first thought it something akin to “Where the heck is Lobster Lake?”  Fair question.   It’s located a bit north and east of Moosehead Lake (the largest lake in Maine) and about 20-30 miles west of Mount Katahdin.  The lake feeds a western branch of the Penobscot River.  The lake is so named due to its resemblance to a lobster claw.  As near as I can tell, it also the source for the idiom “If you don’t like the weather in New England, just wait a few minutes”.

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Day 1 – Arrival (WIND)

Betsy and I arrived about 90 minutes ahead of the rest of the group (they stopped for lunch and we got lost on the roads getting there).  It’s a lot of backroads driving to get there, including a good stretch on a logging road with fully laden trucks barreling at you at what appear to be insane speeds for the road conditions.

We made it to the put-in and began the trip down Lobster Stream that connects the lake to the Penobscot around 3pm.  One of the issues when you only really travel to new areas once a year is that it’s hard to calibrate your brain of the true size of things vs the map you are given.  So, the trip down the stream was longer than we anticipated.  No matter because there was a strong headwind that meant we were constantly hunting for the lee to make our way there.  This, of course, did not bode well for when we arrived at the lake itself.   (For various reasons I would make an additional trip up and down this stream later in the trip and it is quite pretty when you aren’t fighting a vicious headwind.)

We arrived at the lake to a strong headwind from the South and whitecapped waves coming directly at us.  Based on our group’s original trip plan, most of the campsites were on the other side of the lake so Betsy and I set off directly into the wind and headed for Shallow Bay with our fully-loaded kayaks.

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The Shallow Bay beach was in the lee of the winds, so it was pretty calm for a the last few hundred yards or so and along the beach.  That made for a pleasant conclusion to our first foray on the lake.

At this point we get to the first of the two and a half things that I really didn’t like about Lobster Lake: you pay to get a permit to camp on the lake, but there are no reservations for the sites.  This means that you have to find a site when you arrive and there is no guarantee that all of the sites won’t be occupied.   We had this stress while in the Boundary Waters and it was repeated here, albeit with far fewer negative consequences (the worst case scenario being a 90-minute paddle in the dark and spending the night in the car).

The Shallow Bay sites were full (and then some) and we paddled over to Ogden Point only to find that the first two sites were occupied and the remaining sites were around the point and subject to the full force of the winds.  When the rest of the group arrived we opted to ignore the rules and camp on the beach as the sun was getting ready to set and there was no guarantee that there were open sites around the bend and it was going to be treacherous paddling at best.

Paula, Pat and Donna setting up their tents on the beach:

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Our dinner table…

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Pat filling up their water bottles…

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With camp setup and dinner consumed, sunset started around 7:30pm…

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… and a pair of loons cruised by …

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Later that evening with the winds calming down a bit I did a long exposure of the lake roughly in the direction of Mt. Katahdin.

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(Fujifilm X-T1, 10-24mm at 10mm, 30 second exposure, f/22, converted to B&W in Lightroom)

Day 2 (Clouds and Rain, then more Rain…)

We got up early on Friday so we could go in search of a legitimate campsite.  We assumed the wind and waves would have subsided by then (they had, somewhat).  When Pat & Paula chatted up the folks on the 2nd Ogden Point site, they said they were leaving in a couple of hours.  Hooray!   I picked up some tea and cookies at our site and returned to sit on their doorstep so nobody else pilfered our bounty.

The view northwest from Ogden Point:

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We spent a few hours in the morning getting our tents and other areas established.  When the people were leaving they mentioned that the neighbors were a “bit noisy” but it was otherwise a great site.   Which leads me to the second (and a half) thing I disliked about Lobster Lake: power boats are allowed.  We normally prefer to camp on lakes that don’t permit power boats.  We’re looking for some peace and quiet and the only annoying buzz we’d like to deal with are the mosquitos.  It’s not just the noise.  Power boats mean that what is ostensibly a remote wilderness lake can, without too much effort, be a party lake — which is exactly what was happening on several sites.   If power boats were prohibited we really doubt there would be groups of 20-somethings getting drunk and yelling “dude!” at each other at all hours…  sigh!

The weather during the day was pretty unsettled and we opted to stay off the water for the rest of the day.  Here’s a time-lapse from about 9-11 in the morning.  I really enjoy the multiple layers of clouds. The boats you see are our neighbors motoring here and there:

I took some time to explore Ogden Point with my other camera, the Fujifilm X100S.  The lake, and particularly Ogden Point has some beautiful trees clinging to the landscape against the prevailing winds:

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The winds from the south continued to bear down on us.  We had set up a tarp to block most of its effects…

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Suddenly in the afternoon the winds switched from southerly to northerly and then came the rain…  and the need for a second tarp…

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Day 3 (Calm and Sunny)

Saturday morning started out looking pretty good…

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Around 11am we headed out for a paddle around “Big Island”…

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During a pause in the paddle at the “bottom” of Big Island I filmed another (quick) time-lapse:

When we returned from our excursion in mostly windless condition I noted dense groups of small moths dancing in the sun.  I thought they’d make an interesting abstract:

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(Fujifilm X-T1, 50-200mm at 200mm, f/22, 1/8 second exposure, handheld)

As the day drew to a close I was hoping that I could get a nice photograph of Mt. Katahdin at sunset.  I honestly had no idea if it would be spectacular or boring but thought it would be worth setting up.  The mountain was not visible from Ogden Point, so I would photograph my quarry from my kayak.  While waiting for sunset I continued to explore around Ogden Point:

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And then headed out on the water as sunset grew near…

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Mt. Katahdin, some 30 miles away, didn’t overwhelm as a subject – but it managed to look pretty as the sun went down.

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(Fujifilm X-T1, 50-200mm at 200mm, f/7.1, 1/250 second, handheld.  Processed with Lightroom CC 2015.  This is the first image in this article that makes use of the new Dehaze control, which really is remarkable.)

While waiting for changes on Katahdin, clouds to the south make for a good alternative scenic view along with the sunset itself:

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Back on land, with clear skies overhead, I set up for a series of evening and night photographs:

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The Big Dipper (Ursa Major) over Lobster Lake:

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The moon was, unfortunately, in its first quarter so it washed out the Milky Way.  So before I retired for the evening I teased out a bit of our galaxy straight overhead:

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Day 4 (Fog, Sun, Rain, Rainbows, and Thunderstorms)

We started Sunday morning with a glorious veil of fog over the lake and hills.  Most of the sites were cleared out during the morning making Sunday blissfully quiet.  THIS is what we had hoped Lobster Lake would be…

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By 8am the fog started to lift and we headed out onto the water.

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After dinner, as sunset approached, there were a couple of passing showers, followed by a small beam of a rainbow:

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This would gradually grow to nearly a full rainbow and then even signs of a double rainbow.  (The following are a mix of “natural” photographs and a few that have aggressive use of Lightroom’s dehaze control, which works really well on rainbows!)

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A good example of the power of the Dehaze control for rainbow:

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And finally the sun sets for the final time of our stay:
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The seemingly quiet weather changed after the sun set with the clouds looking a bit angry at times.   That evening a series of thunderstorms passed within 10 miles of the lake.  (Sorry, no photographs…)
Day 5 (More Rain and Wind)
Before we headed back (now into the headwinds from the north) we celebrate another successful paddling trip:
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I hope you enjoyed this rather long report of our experiences on Lobster Lake.  Overall it was a great trip and given the weather forecast for the coming days, we left pretty much right on time!

3 thoughts on “One Hundred Hours on Lobster Lake

  1. Wow! Nice show. Loved the stressed tree photos. Never see loons around these parts. Think the flowers are common purslane, maybe. The lake looks like a beautiful spot even with the neighbors. Thanks for teasing out the milky way, cannot see it at all at my house. Wonder what the other folks do on these trips?. You seem to be very busy playing with your toys.
    -len

  2. So another amazing trip revisited! What an amazing tour! And just to add to the fun, the 3 Muscateers dealt with a flat tire and lunch at Auntie M’s (bacon cheeseburger was to die for!!). Funny how after a trip like this you appreciate the finer things in life — like flush toilets and cell phone service… Love you guys!

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