Aqua-Bound, who manufactures quality U.S.-made paddles in Osceola, Wisconsin, recently invited me to collaborate on a blog post about my thru-paddle and book.
A long paddling expedition is built of many components, both within the paddler and without. When it comes to on-the-water equipment, after the boat, the paddle you choose is key. In my case, it was an Aqua-Bound Sting Ray Carbon kayak paddle that brought me safely through to Fort Kent. Here is the blog post, published yesterday. We covered a lot of ground, or should I say water, in 900 or so words!
I was especially pleased that we were able to include a quote from Upwards, in response to one of the more introspective interview questions, about paddling solo. The post also links to two of my favorite websites, the Northern Forest Canoe Trail (with an amazing online auction ending Sunday) and the Pemaquid Watershed Association. Thanks again, Aqua-Bound, for introducing the book to a new community of paddlers!
This post will be short and sweet. As the publication of Upwards gets closer (really it is), it’s time for me to have an author’s website, with an easily remembered address and expanded content. My blog, Laurie’s Adventures, will soon be moving over to become part of the new website, at laurieachandler.com.
(If you go take a peek now, you’ll discover that it’s still a work in progress).
All of the existing blog posts and followers of Laurie’s Adventures will migrate to the new site at some point during the next week or two. At least that’s the plan. If by chance we miss moving you, the home page of the new website makes it simple to subscribe again.
In other book news, the interior design is virtually complete and only a Library of Congress number stands between us and the long-awaited press proof. After that, the order goes out to the printer and we wait for that glorious moment when the boxes arrive. It can’t come soon enough for this anxious, exhilarated first-time author.
Yesterday evening we loaded my old kayak on my vehicle in preparation for the trip to the NFCT Freshet Fest in Vermont this weekend. This past week has been blessed with summery weather and the trees, flowers, and people are all blossoming. Sunday I had my longest paddle yet, going down to Bristol Mills and back, for a total of 8.5 miles on a windy afternoon, followed by 4.8 miles on an even windier Monday.
The fun of shopping continues, with a growing pile of stuff to show for it. So, what’s in the pile?
One pair of wicked-expensive liner socks from REI, great for portaging…they will join the 2 1/2 pairs I already have – the missing sock is somewhere in the South Branch of the Dead River! (cost $0, thanks to my member’s dividend)
Two tiny dry bags, one red and one blue, different colors to have fun with organizing something. Color coding and a system is a key to success ($15 LL Bean close out) – couldn’t find these this morning for the photo – this being a great advertisement for my system of organization – you should see my room!
A 21-serving bag of dehydrated refried beans for burritos which arrived yesterday ($10 from Amazon Prime)
Lots of camper’s toilet paper. I always bring this…not sure if it is worth the expense, but it sure is so well packaged, cute and compact ($5 for every 3 rolls).
My first ever Platypus collapsible water bottle, to replace one of my Nalgenes. Still holds a quart of water, weighs 0.9 ounces, compared to 6.3, and takes up no room empty. This will be especially good since there are large stretches where I will be buying, rather than filtering, my water, and containers will just be going along for the ride. ($9 from LL Bean)
The lightest weight combination cable lock I could find – weighs 4.9 ounces and is 5 ft. long, which is barely long enough ($5 from Walmart) …this was more like a necessity for my peace of mind (if I ever finish my book about Paddle for Hope you can read about the time some fisherman “found and rescued” my boat)
Three pairs of Ex Officio black quick-drying underwear from LL Bean, with the hope that they can be hand washed as I go (hate to say it – they are $18 a pair)
Almost forgot to share this: my new canoe will ship out from Wenonah on May 11 and arrive 3 to 5 days later.
This is the story of our recent whirlwind tour (in my RAV4) through most of Maps 6 and 7 of the NFCT, told in pictures. Above you see the check-in point for U.S. Customs in Newport, VT. At this point, I will be 267 miles into the trip, at the south end of Lake Memphremagog and returning from the area where the trail meanders into Quebec. It was a gray day when we visited.
Food, of course, is of the utmost importance. Here we are in Derby Center, VT in the midst of the 32-mile upstream section of the Clyde River, some of which I will be bypassing by road. And it will be a relief to paddle the few lakes and ponds that are included in this mileage. Note the happy, carefree parents, lovely large grocery store (color-coordinated with their jackets), and WOOD-FIRED PIZZA!
And why are you frequently portaging around parts of a perfectly good river? Choose your answer: rapids; dams; very shallow sections; torrential, angry, raging, flooded sections (we saw a lot of that last week); and obstacles like this lovely tree. The good news is that there are great maps and paddler blogs to consult, as well as roads that run along beside many miles of river.
In Vermont and New Hampshire, the NFCT passes through many small towns with general stores of varying sizes, such as this one in Island Pond, VT. Purchasing food as you go helps the local economy, lightens your paddling and portaging load, and adds welcome variety.
After the Clyde comes a rather enigmatic portage and then the Nulhegan River, going downstream, often at a frantic pace. I may walk around as much as 12 of its 18 miles, depending on water levels. I look forward to passing through a National Fish and Wildlife Refuge there.
A huge sigh of relief will be expelled here, as I will have reached the Connecticut River, which is both relatively calm and headed in the right direction. Twenty miles of blissful paddling will bring me to the Ammonoosuc and then the Androscoggin Rivers, both upstream paddles. The sun started to peek out at Pontook Reservoir below, just before reaching the Androscoggin. Like the lifting clouds, seeing this part of the trail boosted my confidence immensely.
A huge number of people attempt a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail every year and an impressive number succeed. Not so with paddling the Northern Forest Canoe Trail. A recent email from NFCT reported that 79 people (only 79) have completed the entire trail…since 2000!
The AT “Class of 2015” has a Facebook page, simply bursting with hikers, many of whom are already out on the trail. How about the NFCT Class of 2015? Well, so far there is one other person listed in the NFCT paddler blogs, Mack Truax. Mack is retired and his training regimen certainly puts me to shame. His typical training paddle is 25 miles, half of it upstream! It will be so fun to follow Mack and cheer him on as he starts his journey later in May.
Oh well, I am not retired and, even if I was, I probably don’t have a 25-mile paddle in me, at least not now. So what am I doing for training? Anything I can. Earlier this week, we spent a few days at a resort with a great pool. Between the swimming and using the treadmill with a wicked incline, I was in heaven.
I also started upper body strength training in early March. I began with 2 sets of 10 reps with 3 lb. weights and am building up to 3 sets of 15 reps with 5 lb. weights. My exercise routine (every other day) includes the shoulder press, front and lateral raises, bicep arm curls, overhead triceps extensions, and upright rows, hopefully covering many of the major muscle groups.
Yesterday I was able to get out for another paddle on the lake and river, covering 6.3 miles, with some great wildlife out on the chilly, breezy waters: loons, cormorants, a pair of goldeneyes, and a beaver cruising the shoreline on patrol. Totals for April so far are: 43 miles walking and 24 miles paddling (note that the latter is one mile less than Mack’s typical training day!).
In retrospect, not much else could have been wrong, short of a wrecked boat or a drenching downpour. Twilight was descending swiftly over the endless curves of the Dead River, the time measured in stabbing back pain with every paddle stroke. Somewhere ahead on river left lay one last campsite. Here were no sandy beaches or rocky fir-clad bluffs, just mud and grass and tired alders.
In the end, the site was not too hard to spot, marked as it was by the dilapidated remains of an ancient dock. Even now, four years later, there is no need to look back into my journal to recall the misery. A steep and slippery bank to climb, the unpleasant evidence of roadside access, a dirth of branches for hanging my food bag, and THE BUGS, a solid cloud of black flies that made a terror of the outdoors. Supper that night was peanut butter crackers with water.
Luckily, few evenings feature all of these negatives, but many will have at least some challenges…bugs, a late hour, exhaustion, and sometimes rain. In planning food, these are the rule rather than the exception. So my mission this spring is to discover economical, nutritious, yummy meals that are absolutely the easiest to prepare.
An idea that had escaped me until I started watching all those backpacking videos, was the simple concept of cooking in a pouch. Sure, that’s what you do if you buy those expensive freeze-dried meals, but did you know that lots of thru-hikers are doing that with grocery store packages like the pasta in the photo above? The package may say cook for 7 minutes, but they are just dumping in boiling water and letting it sit for a while in a pot cozy. Super quick, with no dishes to wash.
My first experiment (other than successfully cooking instant oatmeal in its pouch) was salmon with parmesan spinach pasta. For one person, use the entire 2-serving pasta package (480 cal), a scant 3 tablespoons of instant nonfat dried milk (40 cal), 1 3/4 cups boiling water, and 2.5 oz. pink salmon (70 cal). I feel like this is a fairly nutritious combination, with the milk, salmon, and variety of vitamins from the spinach. The result was almost chowder-like and delicious, although some of the pasta was clumped together and chewy. I need to work on how to mix it more thoroughly and perhaps create a pot cozy to hold in the heat while it is “cooking.”
Another recipe came from the January 2010 issue of Backpacker magazine, courtesy of thru-hikers Ian Mangiardi and Andy Laub. For a one-person “Backcountry Thanksgiving,” combine half a package of stuffing mix (3 oz. dry and 330 cal), a 3.3 oz. can of chicken (70 cal), 1/3 cup of dried cranberries (125 cal), and 3/4 cup boiling water. Stir together, wait 5 minutes, and enjoy. (Both of these recipes could also include butter or olive oil to increase the calories and flavor, but they are fine without. The directions call for 1 T. butter with the pasta and 2 T. butter with the stuffing, adding 100 calories to the pasta and 200 to the stuffing.)