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Not Your Grandparents’ Travelogue

Do you want to know more about my journey on the Northern Forest Canoe Trail?  In this interactive travelogue I will involve the audience as I discuss my experiences as a solo paddler, artist and naturalist exploring the 740 mile Northern Forest Canoe Trail.  A Canoe Called Joe will also be making an appearance.

There will be another opportunity to be included in this discussion at the Harrsion Center for the Arts at 1505 N Delaware St, Indianapolis, IN, on Friday, October 3rd.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI returned from New England a month ago.  In that time I’ve begun a new school year, celebrated my youngest daughter’s twenty-first birthday, survived eye surgery, helped move my oldest to graduate school and prepared for an upcoming performance obligation.

Today I sum up a few things and share a few ideas about how this adventure moves forward.

  • Joe is a 15 foot 1958 Old Town Wood and Canvas Canoe.
  • The Northern Forest Canoe Trail begins in Old Forge, New York and crosses Lake Champlain, Vermont, a dip into Quebec, New Hampshire and Maine ending in Fort Kent, Maine.
  • I travelled alone about 420 miles from Old Forge, New York to Rangeley, Maine
    • I paddled, poled and tracked over 259 miles (much upstream).
    • I walked over 100 miles (at times on wheels and at times on my shoulders and back).
    • I accepted shuttles for about 60 miles (by car, truck and ferry).
  • I spent four nights in hotel rooms — five if you include my post trip clean-up and rest.
  • I spent 40 nights on the trail.
  • My shuttle back to my truck — left with friends in the Adirondacks — was facilitated by two friends, from Indianapolis, that arranged their own Maine vacation to coincide with my trip.
  • I never saw the big animals that I’m often asked about – moose and bear — though I have seen both in Maine when I was much younger.

I’ve got great plans for moving forward.  More news, soon.

I’m hunkering down for the night in a “resort campground”. It’s been raining so the weekend crowd won’t arrive until tomorrow.
I’m heading out at dawn-ish to bird Sapsucker Woods. I tried in March, but there weren’t enough hours in the day.

I cooked a quick dinner and am listening to the birds around me. It’s a slightly different cast of character than I’m used to, but they are why I’m doing this.

The no-see-ums are eating me alive. They will drive me nuts, but I’m reminded of Thoreau’s references to them in The Maine Woods and I’m feeling a bit nostalgic as I’ve not encountered a no-see-um in about 15 years.


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I finished packing for my Northern Forest Canoe Trail trip last night.  Today I’m spending the morning with my 4th grade students exploring the boat and my packs.  I’m really looking forward to their arrival!photo 2 (2)



Before I hit the water next week I wanted put a few plans and intentions on paper.  If you have any other questions about my journey feel free to ask. I’m also using this opportunity to become familiar with blogging from an iPad mini.

What is the Northern Forest Canoe Trail?

The NFCT extends for 740 miles across contiguous rivers, streams, and lakes, following Native American travel routes from Old Forge, New York, through Vermont, Québec, and New Hampshire, to Fort Kent, Maine. In addition to being a paddling route, the Trail celebrates the history of the Northern Forest. Paddlers will be able to explore both the natural beauty of the rivers and lakes as well as the communities through which the trail passes. http://www.northernforestcanoetrail.org

Are the portages or carries?

Yes, no matter what term you use or how it’s pronounce I will be moving the canoe and gear over land.  Carries are as short as a few yards and as long as 8.5 miles.  I will be carrying wheels for long portages on prepared surfaces.  This means that on rough carries I have to pack and carry those wheels.  There are over 50 miles of carries over the course of the trail.

It’s all downstream, right?

Nope.  After crossing Lake Champlain, the sixth largest lake in North America, I will begin the 74 mile up the Missisquoi River into Quebec.  To make progress upstream I will be tracking (pulling the canoe with long lines), poling (standing and pushing with a long pole), portaging/carrying and paddling.

Will you make it to the end?

I don’t know.  I’m considering myself a through paddler.  I’d like to paddle the 740 miles.  However, I’ve no idea what my ace will be on the trail.  I’m not sure how conditioned I am.  I’m out there to enjoy the landscape and birds.  I may paddle 30 miles and camp for five weeks.  I may paddle the 740 miles.  I suspect the answer is somewhere in between.

What are you doing with your truck?

My good friends Gordie and Donna Felt live and run a children’s camps near the beginning of the trail.  I will leave the truck with them and they will see me off at Old Forge on Sunday morning.
Later in the season my friends Sandy Sheets and Sonia Cassell will be vacationing in Maine.  On a designated day, to be decided tonight, they will meet me.  They will know where I am the same wat that you will using the tracking reports from the satellite device I am wearing.  (See the column, right, to see how you can track me, too.)
After they find me they will hand off some pre-packed clean clothes and transport the canoe and me back to Gordy and Donna’s home in the Adirondacks.

Where will you get food?

The trail passes through communities often.  I will shop in groceries and carry 3-4 days supply of food and eat in restaurants.

Where will you sleep?

Most nights will be spent in my very tiny tent.  There are many, many designated campsites along the route.  Most are free and first come first served.
Occasionally I may get a hotel room in order to rest, clean up and update this blog.

Why a canoe called Joe?

From the earliest planning stages I wanted the boat to reflect my obsession with birds.  The trip is about observing birds and adding to my life list.  In many ways crows are my favorite birds.  Many years ago I rescued a crow from the playground at the school where I taught.  It was tame and begged shiny objects from the students.  I brought him home and named him Joe (What else?).  He hung around a few days and went off to traumatize more children on playgrounds.  Since then I’ve called all crows Joe.  
My boat, a 15 foot 1958 Old Town Canoe, came to me named Naulakha, after Rudyard Kipling’s Vermont home.  Officially, out of a great deal of respect for its former owner, it maintains the name–but I call it Joe. A Canoe Called Joe.


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