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!
Did you know that the architect, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, often used the phrase “God is in the details,” before the devil became involved at all? Somehow that has a more positive spin, so let’s go with that. And, God, you are most welcome to jump right in and help make sure that I don’t forget to do anything before my upcoming departure date.
The details that go into the preparations for a 2-month canoe trip are almost infinite, and yet they must all be finished very, very soon. And if not finished, then abandoned.
When we were camping in Vermont, Katina Daanen kindly brought me the materials to make a cozy for my cute little .6 liter Optimus cook pot. After watching a video or two showing how it was done, I gave it a try, with the results shown below. The pot cozy weighs just under 1 ounce and I was delighted to discover that it could fit in the drawstring mesh bag, along with the cook pot, lid, stove, and fuel.
Thought I’d share just one more detail: the all-important first washing of the Ex Officio underwear. (In case you are wondering, the most commented-upon topic on my blog so far has been my new underwear.). And now it is time to fine tune the packing and tying in of all of the gear. Our boats came home this evening to stay until we leave, with much gratitude to Ed and Carol Knapp for sharing their lakeside yard and dock on McCurdy Pond as home base for our canoes and paddling for the past month.
Today is my Mom’s birthday…wishing her a happy, sunny day filled with fun and a healthy, blessed year to come! My parents are my support team, not just for this latest adventure, but for life…and my love of nature was surely nurtured by all those camping trips and family forays into the great outdoors as my brother and I were growing up.
As we are nearing crunch time in being ready for my departure, it is all hands on deck at home. Last weekend (in addition to our awesome intergenerational worship at church), we were busy.
There is no footprint (groundcloth) available for my tent because it has a special reinforced floor. But I wanted one, to keep the bottom of the tent cleaner and drier. It is much easier to contain the dirt and dampness of a groundcloth in your dry bag, than an entire tent. So at the LL Bean outlet, I found a Hubba Hubba footprint for less than 14 dollars and Mom altered it to fit my tent (weight 6.7 oz).
Dad is building canoe yokes for both of us, using birch plywood left over from our new bathroom construction. Mine has a Mad River Canoe self-adhesive foam yoke pad that I purchased at Maine Sport Outfitters, which will be taped to the wooden base once we finish custom fitting it to my boat and shoulders this afternoon.
A couple of brief news items follow. My May training totals, given days under the weather, were 38 miles walking and 42 miles paddling. Mack Truax, who is through-paddling right now, made it from Old Forge, NY to Errol, NH in 14 days and only has Maine left. My computer is currently not allowing me to add links to posts, but you can find his blog link on the NFCT website under Paddlers/Paddler Blogs. Last night I slept through the night, eight hours, for the first time in 3 weeks. Only the fuzzy vision in my right eye remains…may the healing continue.
I’ll close with a few of my favorite photo memories of Mom and Dad…
Update (September 2015) – My SPOT completed the 53-day trip requiring only one battery change, around day 35 or 40. I now have a supply of AAA batteries to last a while!
Let me introduce you to Bernie. At least he started life as “Bernie.” I don’t usually name my equipment, but the online account asked for a name for my new device and that seemed like a good one. Just like a St. Bernard, a SPOT satellite transponder will help you get rescued in the wilderness (and let friends and family know when you are fine).
However, it evolved that with my first test message all of my friends and family got a message that someone named Bernie was paddling the NFCT! There ensued some confused emails asking who is Bernie? My old SPOT is named Laurie so I will christen this new one Laurie C.
Comparison of old and new units:
Old: SPOT Satellite Personal Tracker – purchased in 2011 for about $50 after rebate – annual subscription of $99 – weight 7.2 oz with two AA lithium batteries – its three buttons could (a) send an email message showing that I had safely arrived somewhere with the time and coordinates, (b) send a help message to a small previously-chosen group of email addresses, and (c) send a 911 message far and wide, activating a rescue process.
New: SPOT GEN3 – purchased in 2014 for free after rebate – annual subscription for SPOT Basic Service is $149.99 – weight 4.1 oz with 4 AAA lithium batteries – does everything that the old one did, plus includes tracking (where my position every 10 min. is sent to a private page) – the emergency button is now called an SOS button and sends a message to the GEOS International Emergency Response Center. Here’s hoping I never need to push it!
Those who have seen me recently will be amazed at this photo taken this lovely morning (in the yard in the sun without sunglasses). I woke up after nine hours of sleep with no more light sensitivity and proceeded to set up my new Sierra Designs Flashlight 1 UL tent for the first time (outdoors) and seam seal it. Although the seams are taped inside, Sierra Designs recommends seam sealing the inside and outside of the rainfly and center floor seams to fill in all the tiny holes from the stitching. Another job finished !
Happy day, it’s another package from REI, although this one is for my father. It’s another Wheeleez Tuff Tire Kayak/Canoe Cart. After reading often about wheel breakage and meltdown on other paddlers’ blogs, we were very pleased to find that this exact model was still available. The price had gone up slightly, from $129 in 2011 to $135 now.
I chose this model initially for its weight (9 lbs.) and the solid, foam-filled tires which gave me one less thing to worry about. It has carried my kayak on about 50 miles of portages since 2011, with no problems. Even such places as the last third of a mile of the Demo Road portage on NFCT Map 10, which is basically just a rocky trail through the woods. Does it help that I walk so slowly? And my load is well under the cart’s 176-pound capacity.
In my kayak, the cart rode upside down behind my seat, fully assembled. The wheels can be taken off, however, and the marine-grade aluminum cart folded up. Last weekend the wheels were very squeaky, so we greased them, and I will take a bit of grease and some spare pins with me this summer. The cart comes with two 13-ft straps, which traveled across Maine with me in a small Rite Aid bag, tied to the frame! Not very professional, but they were always handy when needed. I think this time, though, I will get a small dry bag that can be clipped on more securely.
Goody, goody…my package from REI is here. A visit to a real REI store has always been a treat, going all the way back to the days when my kids were little and the Timonium, MD store was the carrot (at least for Mom) on the long drive from VA to PA. Last weekend I discovered one just on the outskirts of Richmond, in Short Pump!
I spent lots of travel time researching shoes and thought I had found the ones…Chaco Outcross Evo 1 water shoes … a brand I have never owned before.
But they’re light (their 1 lb. 2 oz. weight saves 7 oz.), with good padding, support, traction and a totally closed heel. Plus the color is simply lovely. The biggest debate was not whether to buy them, but in what size. Finally, going by the “true to size” reviews and the saleswoman who said Merrells and Chacos run similar and looking down at the well-loved size 8 Merrell trail shoes on my feet, I chose 8’s. Not sure how much I will wear them barefoot or with liners or Smartwool socks.
Then there’s my hat. I am stubborn, and last summer I lost my favorite paddling hat. Sometimes it can just be incredibly difficult to find a replacement for something! This is true, of course, not just for hats but for all manner of things. The difficulty, I believe, is directly proportional to how much you loved the item. I simply wanted a baseball style tan cap, quick-drying and WITHOUT a stiff brim. Finally, in the Short Pump REI I found one. Happy day! It does have mesh ventilation on either side but that is all to the good. So now a new hat for the top of me and new shoes for the bottom and most of the stuff in the middle will not be new.
(This is my first post composed on my iPad rather than my laptop!)
Fusion…the process of combining two or more distinct entities into a new whole. Like the Western cowboy and his horse, a paddler and her boat should become one. This fall, therefore, I set out in search of my missing half, a boat that might be faster and lighter than my kayak, while retaining many of the qualities I love about my old boat. Let me introduce you to the Wenonah Fusion, a 13-foot solo canoe weighing just 30 pounds in Kevlar, shown below.
By the way, among the many types of fusion (like nuclear), I discovered binaural fusion, the cognitive process of combining the auditory information received by both ears and binocular fusion, the cognitive process of combining the visual information received by both eyes. So even hearing distant rapids and spotting a bear (which I have yet to do on the river) involve fusion!
My new boat will arrive at Maine Sport Outfitters in Rockland in early May at the latest. The folks there were kind enough to arrange for a loaner of the same model in the heavier Royalex, which handled well on a surprisingly warm Christmas paddle on the Pemaquid River. So about a week ago I paid the hefty deposit, guaranteeing a place for my canoe in their large spring shipment. So now I wait, about as patiently as a small child nearing Christmas, for the chance to carry and pack and paddle my new Fusion.
Strategic planning. Right up there with faith and courage, good decisions up front will help me go the distance this summer. And strategic planning is ideal for a long, cold, snowy Maine winter anyway. One goal has been to reduce the weight, volume, and sheer number of items in my gear. Even eliminating a tiny unused item reduces the number of things to scramble through in the search for whatever I am looking for (usually found at the very bottom of the dry bag). Today’s focus: Tent, fly, and footprint (another term for a groundcloth)
Old: Sierra Designs Clip Flashlight, purchased in 2000 for a backcountry camping trip with my 7-year-old son in Shenandoah National Park (weight 5 lbs., 6 oz. including footprint.; packed size 6″ x 18″; peak height 43″, 2 poles)
New: Sierra Designs Flashlight 1 UL…yes, it’s the same model, updated and in the one-person version (weight 2 lbs., 15 oz. without a groundcloth; packed size 5″ x 13″ without poles; peak height 46″, 3 poles)
Major changes: Lighter (good), smaller stuff sack (good), poles too long for stuff sack (bad), attached fly (good), side entrance (good), plastic sheet replacing footprint (untested)
Cost: $178 from REI with member’s discount and free shipping (Christmas present anyway…thanks, Dad!)
To do list: Seam sealing is recommended, cut plastic sheet for inside tent rather than having a footprint, figure out where to pack poles
One winter evening, we had fun setting up my new tent in our living room, staked out to furniture and some metal weights Dad had in his workshop. I crawled inside and was delighted that it felt roomy and there was plenty of space in its long length to put my gear bags. I like to bring as much as possible inside my tent at night to keep it dry and clean (everything but food, cooking gear, and boat stuff). The side entrance makes for easier access and creates a small vestibule similar in size to my old tent’s. For future backpacking, trekking poles can be used in place of 2 of the tent’s 3 poles. Lastly, the color works for me. I was afraid it would be too bright, as I like to blend in with my surroundings. My little tent will be the color of bright green baby leaves or grass…she sighs wistfully, thinking that is has been months since she has seen any green grass…