top of page

Day Five. Expedition Journal. Chamberlain to Chesuncook. "Togo 261 Solo Memorial Dogsled Expedition

I woke up around 6am at the beautiful Nugent’s Camp on day five and fed the team. The owners, Rob and Stella had kindly stocked the fridge with eggs, sausage and bread. So I cooked up some breakfast for myself and Jeremy, the videographer.

Trevor the Ranger pulled up for one last farewell as I loaded my sled to depart from his jurisdiction. I spoke with Rob about my route for the day as I harnessed the team. In short order it was time to pull the quick stick and launch out onto Chamberlain Lake, due west some four miles to the far side of the lake.

It was a sunny and warm 32degree morning. Such a weather forecast would be welcome in almost any other endeavor, but we’d traveled only three miles before the knee deep slush and direct sun drained the vigor from the team. We were not even across Chamberlain Lake before Sawyer resumed his leisurely ride in the sled.

An hour into the day, across the slog of sludge, a terrible realization flooded my mind. I must give you some backstory, though, so that my reader can understand. I have had a medical problem since childhood, from a martial arts injury, which caused scarred tissue. As a result, I have to use the bathroom often. At least two or three times a night.

On this expedition, whether in a cabin or in a tent, there was no electricity or running water. So I had resorted to using whatever might be available as a urinal. Only, in my haste to leave Nugent’s, I'd neglected to dispose of it. This oversight was made all the more regrettable in light of the great hospitality by which we had been received.

I was mortified. So I stopped in the middle of calf deep overflow on the lake. I pulled out my satellite phone and made a desperate call to my wife.

“Tammie! I need you to do anything you can to reach Trevor or Jeremy immediately!”

“Oh no, Jonathan! Are you OK?”

No! I need you to get ahold of them and have them head back to Nugent’s immediately!”

“Why? Whats wrong?” Tammie asked, expecting Id crashed, or lost my team, or had an injured dog, or had injured myself.

“I left a bowl of pee by the bed, and one of them has to go back and dispose of it before the great folks at Nugent’s finds it!”

With that, I had to push the tormenting thought out of my mind as there was nothing further I could do about it. I later learned that Tammie had put in a message to the Ranger, but it had been received too late. She then emailed Stella at Nugents. But there was no internet at Nugents.

Stella later graciously replied that I should not worry more about it, adding that she’s found worse things left by campers in the past. Id hate to know what could possibly trump my parting gift, but the thought that mine was not the worst was some comfort.

On the western shore, we traveled south through a short but beautiful portage to Mud Lake. Mud Lake was even more miserable going than Chamberlain. And then onto Umbazooksus Lake. As grueling as Mud.

From there we portaged onto Umbazooksus Stream. I traveled only a couple miles south until I was met by an oncoming snowmobile. The driver pulled aside and turned off his motor. I assumed he was pleased to see a dog team and had pulled over to watch us go by.

But then the snowmobiler called out,

“Well are you gonna stop and say hi?”

I knew there was a snowmobiler named Bill that had been scouting a route from Chesuncook to Seboomook for me, so I replied,

Are you Bill?”

“No” he replied “”I’m Don Hibbs.”

Don Hibbs. Retired musher. Yukon Quest veteran. Three time Can Am Crown champion. A living Maine mushing legend. He built the sled I was using for the expedition. When I started mushing, he was at the top competitor. And when American teams were routinely defeated by Canadians here in the east, Only Don Hibbs beat them. He was my mushing role model. But we’d never met in person. And here he was.

Don had driven in on logging roads, and then unloaded his sled and came out another twenty trail miles, all to show his support for my endeavor.

I dropped the snowhook and snacked my dogs. In no time they stretched out in the warm midday sun. Don complimented my dogs, particularly Druid, and pulled out some refreshing trail magic from his sled bag.

We talked for at least an hour on the trail. We shared mushing stories. He told me about the time he was beaten by Doug Willet’s team of Seppala Siberians back in the 1990’s in Labrador, Canada.

“That’s the only team of Seppalas Ive ever seen, other than yours. And I have to say they looked good as they passed me for the win.”

After a great chat, he told me he’d head up to the Chesuncook House for a cup of coffee and would wait for me there.

My last few miles to Chesuncook House were uneventful. I arrived around 3:30pm at the Chesuncook House. A small crowd of snowmobilers greeted me and snapped photos.

“I’m nothing.” I said to the gathered group. “This man right here is a mushing legend.”

I pointed to Don.

The owners of Chesuncook house had a fire burning in the cabin for me and suggested where I might bed the team down for the night.

“Don, do you want to drive my team up to the cabin? Ill run ahead to guide them.”

“Sure.” he replied.

I ran up the hill to the cabin and turned around to see Don Hibbs mushing my team. “This, I have to get a picture of!” I said as I snapped a shot.

The Chesuncook House had originally been built back in the 1860s. Sadly, the original house burned down in 2018. My attempts to reach out to them since had failed.

My expedition plans had been to camp out somewhere along the lake.

Turns out, the owners, David and Luisa, were in the process of rebuilding and had a free cabin for me to stay in. Cyndi Robbins had made the arrangements as I traveled.

This was a welcomed surprise. Their food and hospitality were unexpected and overwhelming.

The bad news for the day, other than leaving my urinal, was that Jeremy had intended to hitch a ride into Chesuncook with Don Hibbs. But Don had other engagements and could not wait out late for him. This meant Jeremy would not be able to reach me at Chesuncook. We connected by satellite phone, and made plans to rendezvous the following day where Id cross the Golden Road 15 miles south of Chesuncook House.

This meant that, again, I would not have access to the extra meat supplies. But when I shared this complication with the proprietors, David said, “ I think I can help with that.”

Apparently, when moose are struck by logging trucks, the warden’s give the meat to Chesuncook House. They had freezers full of meat that they snowmobiled over to my cabin to thaw.

In short order, my dogs were gorging themselves on as much meat as they could stomach. And falling into a glutonous sleep.

And now it was time for me to do the same.

Join me next time as we travel overland from Chesuncook to Seboomook.

I hope you are enjoying these expedition journal entries. If so, please consider joining with me in raising funds for the Togo statue to be erected by clicking on the link below.

108 views1 comment

Recent Posts

See All