I’ve written quite a bit about my dream to take a summer and paddle the Northern Forest Canoe Trail. I’ve applied for the Lilly Teacher Teacher Creativity Fellowship to fund a trip for the summer of 2014. (This is the same funding source that I used to study ukulele construction and playing in Hawaii in 2004.)
I’ve included most of the application below. I’ve not included specific costs in the budget or the three letter of support (Which were amazing!). Your thoughts are encouraged
50 Little Birds and the Northern Forest Canoe Trail
I plan to combine four lifelong passions—wooden canoes, traditional outdoor adventure, art and birding—and explore the Northern Forest Canoe Trail (NFCT) in order to inspire and inform continued work on my sculptural carved bird series 50 Little Birds and to, in turn, inspire my students.
As an Indiana Artisan I have created over three hundred carvings depicting Indiana birds. I draw the inspiration for these works from my direct experiences with these birds in the field. I believe that my childhood experiences—including outdoor adventures in New England—led me to be the artist, naturalist and teacher that I am today. It is my desire to revisit, as an adult, those important and formative experiences.
This trip will be a learning experience and a challenge for me. Just as I demand that my students strive to challenge themselves, I look forward to a particularly challenging and difficult task. My students face the challenges of poverty every day. I hope to inspire them to see that with effort and planning they may move well beyond their personal obstacles to seek out unique and empowering opportunities in their own lives.
The goals of this solo expedition are to:l
- push myself, mentally and physically, beyond my known limits.
- immerse myself in the natural world and collect a variety of rich and meaningful experiences.
- develop empathy for my students and inspire them to continue to strive for greater personal success.
The NFCT is a 740 mile long band of streams, lakes, rivers and trails winding from the Adirondack Mountains of New York, across Lake Champlain, northern Vermont and New Hampshire (with a short loop into Quebec) before striking north through the wild interior of Maine. The length and isolation of the trail are not its only challenges. A good portion of the trail crosses large lakes, is upstream and includes nearly sixty miles of portages.
I will spend six weeks paddling, poling and walking a wood and canvas canoe from Old Forge, New York towards Fort Kent, Maine. My days will be spent canoeing, observing wildlife and camping. Evenings will be spent resting and writing. I will compose blog updates to be shared when internet access is available. To establish short term completion goals and to combat loneliness I’ve arranged for friends to meet, for brief visits, along the way.
I spent my childhood exploring the forests and coastlines of New England. My family had a small house on the coast of Maine and I spent most of my time obsessed with all things outdoors. I would spend hours leaning from a wooden rowboat, with my nose dipping into the water, watching crabs and flounder beneath the surface. I walked through dark forests and slept on windswept coastal islands. There were always birds. I awoke each morning to bickering crows and seagulls and fell asleep to calling owls. Osprey, heron, and kingfishers captured my attention and my imagination.
I remain deeply interested in birds and spend a great deal of time in the field. These experiences inspire my carvings. With a quick sketch, a few simple tools and a piece of white pine I carve the birds that touch my life. As these carvings are passed hand-to-hand I am able to recall and share my experiences. More importantly, people are often moved to share their experiences and stories with me.
Those idyllic New England summers of my youth have never ceased to tug at me. The birds of New England that I find in Indiana are the most powerful to me. Sometimes, when a crow calls among Indiana’s rare towering pines or a loon calls over quiet mist covered pond, I find myself overwhelmed with a longing to revisit the experiences and places that I found so meaningful long ago. This call is not a desire to relive my past, but rather to connect these meaningful experiences of my past with who I am and what I do today.
In many ways my plans to explore the birds of the NFCT began over two years ago. While travelling through the Adirondacks I discovered a NFCT kiosk on the shores of Long Lake, New York. As I gazed at the blaze of red, yellow and green trees reflected in the lake’s mirrored surface I knew this was something I had to do. I was overweight and in poor shape. I knew I had to alter my lifestyle in order for this trip to become a reality. I changed my diet, lost the weight and began training. Since then I’ve walked the hills of southern Indiana with a heavy pack, slept under the stars miles from other folks and spent days poling a canoe against White River’s current.
This trip will drive my creative life for years to come. I will write. I will carve. I will tell stories. I will share. I will show my students what they can do. I will better know who I am and what I can do.
My students will be involved with this trip from the beginning. Children will follow the trip though our classroom mascot, Cecil, a stuffed monkey. When internet is available, Cecil will post photographs and descriptions of his activities and students will respond. Students will be able to follow his position, in real time, as it is reported by a GPS transmitter. Cecil’s pictures will serve as writing prompts and discussion starters for many years.
Students will have opportunities, before and after my trip, to examine my canoe and equipment. We will discuss my need for food, water and shelter and relate it to science and social studies lessons. Students will examine my route and my maps to explore and apply compass directions and latitude and longitude. As I teach and model writing I will be able to share my experiences through my own stories and writing. Most importantly I hope to inspire students to challenge themselves to rise and to every challenge to push beyond their boundaries.
Paddle, Pole and Shoe
Misc. (Bailers, Line, Sponges, etc.)
Packs and Map Case
Garmin Etrex 10 GPS
Handheld VHS and Weather Radio
Spot GPS Emergency Locator
Solar USB Charger
I-Pad and I-Phone Cases
First Aid Kit
Improved Tent Pegs
Steripen with Filter
Olympus Tough Camera
Zeiss 10×42 Binoculars
Insect Proof Shirt
Insect Proof Pants
Wool Socks (2 prs)
Wool Base Layer Pants
Wool Base Layer Shirt
Canoe Pick Up – Birmingham, AL
- Lodging (2 nights)
- Food (3 days)
Noblesville, IN to Remsen, NY and Return
- Lodging (2 nights)
Shuttle from Maine to Remsen, NY
Permits, Fees and Passport
Passport and Photo
Stipend and Taxes
March Travel to Birmingham, Alabama to Purchase Canoe
March – June Continued Training and Gear Preparation
Saturday, June 14, 2014 Depart Noblesville for Remsen, NY
Sunday, June 15, 2014 Visit Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Arrive Remsen, NY
Monday, June 16, 2014 New York support team shuttle to Old Forge, NY and begin canoe trip
About June 27, 2014 Meet with Vermont support team including visit to the Birds of Vermont Museum
About July 10, 2014 Meet with New Hampshire support team
About July 27, 2014 Maine support team shuttle back to Remsen, NY
July 28, 2014 Depart Remsen, NY
July 29, 2014 Arrive Noblesville, IN
I plan to continue teaching at the Key Learning Community, Indianapolis Public School, Indianapolis, Indiana for the 2014-2015 school year.