Saturday, May 31, 2008

Day 11


The end of May. Wow. And here we are in Vermont. Spent today writing letters and postcards - waiting for the storm to pass. Water is calming, but the thunder and lightning continues to crash down and the rain is torrential. Theoretically this will blow by in the morning and we will paddle northward once more.
Here is a photo of the little cabin we are crashing at - this is at Aqua Vista here on North Hero. These folks are very accomodating and incredibly generous - once again, we meet amazing people...
Cranky Pants is on the deck contemplating the infinite nature of the abyss. Deep thoughts.
Weather: STORMY
Wildlife: just a bunch of partying folks down at the local inn rocking out at a wedding...
"I must go down to the seas again, to the
lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer
her by;
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song
and the white sails shaking,
And a gray mist on the sea's face, and a gray
dawn breaking.
I must go down to the seas again, for the
call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be
And all I ask is a windy day with the white
clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume,
and the seaguls crying.
I must go down to the seas again, to the
vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull's way and the whale's way where
the wind's like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick's over." ~John Masefield

Day 10


Greeted the day at Peter's camp on Union Falls Pond and made a big breakfast. Repacked our gear for the journey to P-burgh. Loaded the truck down with the canoe and put all our gear in the back.
Took this photo at the dam - Peter is the one in the scarf and hat (he is a sort of local do-it-all kind of guy, chat him up about lodging or shuttles, or just about anything else...) with the Scepter of awesomeness - Dennis is in the green shirt on the left. Bean is in the middle and Cranky is in the back.
Made it out to a marina in Plattsburgh and bid Dennis and Peter a fond farewell - as Champlain was incredibly calm, we decided to put out on the water ASAP. We began paddling at 1pm and made it to North Hero around 530pm (14.5 miles or so) - just as rain storms began to roll in. Since it was in the forecast for the storms to increase (wind and thunder storms) we decided it would be a good idea to lay up for a day in North Hero where we have access to a post office, a cafe, library, and food.
Weather: Sunny to start, gathering clouds, slight headwind, Storms a brewin'...
Wildlife: FISH - Champlain is so clear you can see right to the bottom along the shore, amazing! Blue herons, King Fisher, Cormorants, Gulls and lots of geese.
"What is life: It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the winter time; it is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset." ~ Crowfoot

Day 9


Cold and shady morning at Franklin Falls Pond = slow to get moving...but eventually, we did hit the water - hey, we're on vacation! High winds were a blowin' in towards where we wanted to go. Sailed basically from camp all the way to a portage around the dam.

Short portage to the Saranac River and then a short paddle out into Union Falls Pond - which is basically a dam-flooded river. Lots of tree stumps poking up out of the water like snaggly teeth waiting to chew on our boat - tricky maneuvering!

After a bit we made it out into the middle of the pond where the wind was really whipping (and there were no tree stumps!) raised the tarp and sailed on. The wind was so strong we had to drop the sail from time to time in order to avoid hauling over onto our side and swamping! It was about all we could do to hold on! It was a lot of fun!

Thus we found ourselves at Union Falls Dam and looking hard at the map. We had heard from the friendly folks at St. Regis Canoe Outfitters ( - if paddling the NFCT, go here for info, supplies, and help, they are excellent!) that the water below Union Falls Dam was low - on top of that, we also noticed that the next stretch was very technical (ranging up to Class V whitewater) and in a wood/canvas canoe loaded down with gear we felt it prudent to search out a shuttle.
So we made our way over to a local campground and tried to phone people in Plattsburgh, NY. This search proved to be futile as no one was interested in driving out to Union Falls, picking us up, and then driving back to Plattsburgh. Eventually, we ended up meeting some amazing local folks - Peter and Dennis.
Peter hooked us up with a place to stay at his cabin down on the waterfront as well as offering to take us into P-burgh in the morning. And so it was that we found ourselves crashing in this cozy cabin right on Union Falls Pond with a ride arranged for the morning! Peter even took us around the dam and gave us a personal tour of the whole facility - wow...Always depend on the kindness of strangers!
Weather: Sun and profuse ammounts of wind...
Wildlife: Half submerged tree stumps...
"Remember this advice: It's easy to keep your head above water. Empty things float." ~Tillie Olsen

Day 8


Spent the morning getting our gear together and loading up in Saranac Lake. Said farewell to Fogarty's (it will be missed) and hauled the boat on the portage cart right through downtown to the put in on the water. Had to stop at traffice lights and everything - funny.

Paddled out of town along the Saranac - the river actually goes right through the downtown - under bridges and along buildings. It felt like traveling in a canal. We were well rested and made excellent time to the portage at Permanent Rapids (10.6 miles away.)

A sketchy portage along River Rd. (cars and trucks did not slow down - plus lots of blind corners and hills...yikes!) Put in at a nice campsite on the other end and paddled out to Franklin Falls Pond. Good breeze kept the blackflies down and there were so many peepers their chorus was deafening!

Excellent view of the sunset - 12.6 miles total for today. Not too bad considering we started after noon and had a long portage right in the middle!

Weather: Sunny and clear - cooling down temp-wise

Wildlife: 2 deer, beaver, a HUGE snapping turtle right out of pre-history!, black duck on the nest, heron, hummingbirds, and a river otter.

"Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world's great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs. I am haunted by waters." ~Norman Maclean

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Day 7


Saranac day - good food, resupply, and rest.

If you get the chance, swing in and stay with Jack and Emily at Fogarty's Bed and Breakfast ( They are warm and friendly types who know how to take care of folks. You can't beat their hospitality and they make a mean breakfast!
We hit the trail again tomorrow - most likely be a little while before we find some time to post. Maybe in Platsburgh? Stay tuned for more.

Weather: cloudy and rainy - increasingly colder as the day goes on.

Wildlife: canadian geese with young ones
"When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people." ~Abraham Joshua Heschel

Day 6


Happy Memorial Day! At the end of today we have traveled 90 miles so far!

Left Upper Saranac Lake and had a short paddle to Bartlett Carry. A short carry, but the start is directly uphill for the first half - in addition to this fun fact, it was horrifically buggy. Luckily we had a couple of baseball bats with us - after about 10 minutes of beat down on the blackflies and misquitos, we were ready to continue.

Put in on Middle Saranac Lake and paddle across to the Saranac River. Not only is this a beautiful waterway, but it has a series of locks on it - sort of like a mini Panama Canal. We paddled into them, water was released, lowering us down to the height of the water on the other side, then we paddled out and continued on our merry way. Very slick.

This brought us out to the Lower Saranac Lake where we sailed up to a boat put in and talked with folks at the Campground Headquarters. They foretold of rain and cold. Good times.

Bean and I decided to try to bust on through to the town of Saranac, NY to get a jump on our rest day and re-supply. Paddled out through Osseetah Lake where we got caught in a heavy rain - it sounded really neat on the water though. We made great time and managed to make it into Saranac by 3pm. Rolled up to a marina where the guy directed us to a local Bed and Breakfast - who just happened to have excellent rates, plus we get food in the morning. Bonus.

A bit of a culture shock paddling up into a town, but we are looking forward to resting our bodies and re-provisioning. Another 20 mile day - we are ready to take it easy a bit.

Weather: Sunny and warm, PM showers

Wildlife: 2 bald eagles, 3 loons, great blue heron (flew right over us!)

"No servant brought them meals; they got their meat out of the river, or went without. No traffic cop whistled them off the hidden rock in the next rapids. No friendly roof kept them dry when they misguessed whether or not to pitch the tent. No guide showed them which camping spots offered a nightlong breeze, and which a nightlong misery of misquitos; which firewood made clean coals; and which only smoke...The elemental simpicities of wilderness travel were thrills not only because of their novelty, but because they represented complete freedom to make mistakes. The wilderness gave them their first taste of those rewards and penalties for wise and foolish acts which every woods-person faces daily, but against which civilization has built a thousand buffers. These folks were on their own in this particular sense." ~ Aldo Leopold

Day 5


Packed up and left Kelly's Point and paddled up the rest of Long Lake. What a change from yesterday - dead calm during the paddle this morning. Rejoined the Raquette River at the Northern end and paddled to a portage at some falls. We made excellent time as we were both paddling and being born on by the current - it seemed so fast!

1 mile portage around a series of 3 falls put us down at the other end where we got some local info about weather and the trail ahead from a Ranger stationed there. The portage was absolutely mobbed with people - still in the crush of Memorial Day trippers. It is strange to see so many folks...and all trying to use the same narrow portage trail! We were happy to set out again.

More easy paddling downstream brought us to the junction with Stony Creek - here we traveled upstream along a narrow, shallow waterway. Got to use the setting pole that we made (about 11 feet long and made from spruce) to push ourselves up against the current. It worked exceedingly well and saves the arms a bit of paddling. Plus, standing up in the stern allowed me a better view of what was coming around the bend.

After working our way over a mucky beaver dam, we paddled out into Stony Creek Ponds. At the end of which lay Indian Carry - about a mile, 1/2 carry, 1/2 cart. This brought us to the Upper Saranac Lake where we paddled out to the closest camp site and promptly passed out.

All told, we did about 20 miles today - LAKE - RIVER - CREEK - POND - LAKE - what a day!

Weather: sunshine and warmth - hooray!

Wildlife: Red salamander, fish (Bean was very excited about them...), 3 loons, mergansers, red-winged blackbirds, grackles, geese with little fluffy geese

"Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing - absolutely nothing - half so much worth doing as simply messing around in boats (said the water rat solemnly). Simply messing, he went on dreamily: messing-about-in boats; messing...about in boats-or with boats...In or out of 'em, it doesn't matter. Nothing seems to really matter, that's the charm of it. Whether you get away, or whether you don't; whether you arrive at your destination or whether you reach somehwere else, or whether you never get anywhere at all, you're always busy, and you never do anything in particular; and when you've done it there's always something else to do..." ~ Kenneth Grahame

Day 4


Rolled out of camp this morning and continued North East along the Raquette River. This is some of the first truly moving water that we have paddled on so far on the NFCT. There was a short carry around Buttermilk Falls and then another short stretch of paddling to (yet again) a portage around more rapids.

Here the Raquette River drains into Long Lake. It really is loooonnnng. To add to this, we paddled against the wind all the way. Tried to stick close to shore and island hop to stay in the lees. We were moderately succesful...

Towards the middle of Long Lake is the town of Long Lake. Here we used the facility (running water, how sweet it is...), picked up a few odds and ends at the local general store, checked out the NFCT kiosk, and then put back in. It was strange to be around so many people as downtown was swarmed with tourists for the holiday weekend.

Paddled up to Kellys Point. Old ruins of a house. Huge, old trees. A neat campsite with gorgeous view of sunset.

Weather: 50's-60's, partly cloudy, windy - clear at night

Wildlife: 3 bald eagles, 1 osprey at nest, 3 loons, 2 kingfishers, geese, ducks, blue jays, and lots of tourists...

" 'I think,' said Christopher Robin, 'that we ought to eat all our provisions now, so we won't have so much to carry.'" ~ A.A. Milne

Day 3


Set out from Big Island and paddled northward past Long Point to Tioga State Campground. Got some rest and a snack and then fought the wind to get up and around Bluff Point. High winds and swells makes staying on course a challenge! Luckily our spray cover that we borrowed works well - despite water breaking over us, we stayed high and dry!

Maneuvered up Outlet Bay and portaged to Forked Lake. Here we set sail as the wind was now at our back and flew down the lake to our next portage at Forked Lake State Park. Grabbed some lunch and water and then portaged on the cart down a dirt road for about a mile to our campsite for the night at a shelter on the Raquette River.

Blackflies are out in force today!

Weather: Mixed - hard rain, showers, sun - definitely warmer than yesterday!

Wildlife: 3 loons, 1 deer (walked across the road right in front of us on our portage!) and 1 ruby throated hummingbird (it kept trying to find nectar in our brightly colored med-kit...)

"There is magic in the feel of a paddle and the movement of a canoe, a magic compounded of distance, adventure, solitude, and peace. The way of a canoe is the way of the wilderness and of a freedom almost forgotten. It is an antidote to insecurity, the open door to waterways of ages past and a way of life with profound and abiding satisfactions. When a person is a part of their canoe, they are a part of all that canoes have ever known." ~ Sigurd Olson

Day 2


Paddled to the end of 7th lake and then managed a 1 mile portage through to 8th Lake Campground. This was our first use of the portage cart - it was much quicker than taking two trips as we could leave everything in the boat once it was on the cart. We learned some lessons of the cart: center the wheels as much as possible, center the weight of the packs over the wheels as much as possible. This lets the cart do the work and saves our arms!

After crossing 8th lake, we had our 2nd portage of the day (1.1 miles) that went along a snowmobile trail near rte. 28. This portage ended in a series of bog bridges which sunk down under the water when we crossed them. Pretty tricky maneuvering laden with gear!

After the portage we loaded up the boat and set off down Browns Tract Inlet towards Raquette Lake. We paddled about 15 feet and then had to find our way over the first of 4 beaver dams that we encountered along this windy little inlet. Ah, castor canadensis, we thank you for your many gifts...

Browns Tract Inlet was a gorgeous and easy paddle through some amazing wetland ecosystems. We saw sundews and pitcher plants and lots of lilies. At the end of the inlet, we paddled out into Raquette Lake and made our way to the South East side of Big Island. A short day mileage wise (about 8.5 total) but they were hard fought!

Weather: 30's in the AM, unsettled weather - rain, with some sun poking through. Hard steady rain in the evening.

Wildlife: 2 loons, 1 heron, a snapping turtle, more ducks, geese, and a campgroup in aluminum canoes...

"The canoe gives a sense of unbound range and freedom, unlimited movement and exploration such as larger craft never know...It is as free as the wind itself, and can go wherever fancy dictates. The Canoeist can camp each night in a different place, explore out of the way streams and their sources, find corners where no one has ever been." ~ Sigurd Olson

Day 1

21May - Woke up in Old Forge and had b-fast at a local pancake shop. Drove around to the food store and Old Forge Hardware to pick up some last minute provisions and gear. Said goodbye to family, packed up and made our way over to the visitor center.
While we were checking out the info there and taking some photos of the first NFCT kiosk, we ended up meeting up with someone from the local paper and doing an interview. They literally took photos of us as we paddled away. Funny.

Finally hit the water at about 1230pm! Traveled up through the Fulton Chain of Lakes to a campsite on 7th Lake - on the other side from the boat launch. We ended up sailing with a rigged up tarp along a good portion - it is nice to have the wind at your back on flatwater! Portaged .4 miles uphill - not too bad for our first portage. We stopped along the way and had coffee and cookies at a local eatery. That was a welcome break!

Weather: mixed, some rain and wind. Cool temps.

Wildlife: 8 loons, 1 heron, 1 osprey, lots of ducks

"Now I know the secret of making the best persons; It is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth." ~ Walt Whitman


Transport day. Traveled from Maine down to Old Forge, NY. Thanks to the help of some family, we arrived safely in the evening and have loaded all of our gear into our room at the Waters Edge Inn (about 100yds from the start of the NFCT at the visitor center.)

Tired. Lights out.

8May - 19May

Rebuilt the boat - basically a total strip down of the canvas, tore out broken ribs and replaced them as well as the planking. Re-canvased the boat, new filler and paint and gunwales and the boat is as good as new thanks to the highly capable folks at Ace Lightning Canoe Repair (Island Falls) who were able to help me get it all back together.

If kindness were criminal, these amazingly giving people would be locked up for life...

The 19th was our last major gear prep day before we set out for Old Forge, NY. Finalized food preperations and packed gear and loaded up into our transport. If we don't have it now, we will pick it up on the way or do without...The trip is upon us!

7May, 2008

Disaster! Cracked/broke 3 ribs, gore planking, the gunwale (inner and outer) amidship on port side of the boat while practicing poling on a local stream. I think a little part of my soul died. Made a phone call to Island Falls Canoe and Jerry assured me that it wasn't the death knell that I thought it was. I am taking the boat up to the shop tomorrow to see what can be done before the trip. Sad sad day...

Winter to Spring - Preparation

Over January to May, we built our boat - an 18' 6" EM White Wood/Canvas Guide Canoe at Island Falls Canoe Co. in Atkinson, ME ( Jerry Stelmok and the rest of the gang at the shop worked with us from start to finish and it turned out to be a thing of beauty. When we get access to a decent computer with a quick connection, we will post a short film of this process - it is pretty neat!

Additionally, we looked at the trip as a whole. Our first step was to order our maps ( and organize our gear. Basically we squeezed everything down into two packbaskets, a duluth pack, and a seal line dry bag. This allows us to portage everything (boat included) in two trips and we are able to camp in relative comfort. Not too shabby.

Again, we have excel spreadsheets of gear lists and trip prep info that we will post once we have access to a faster connection - stay tuned for more info! Here is a link to a local newspaper article about it all: