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!
It’s never hard to feel grateful at Thanksgiving time. Beyond the blessings of family, friends, and the start of the Christmas season, there are five days off from school. This year, added in are a mellow black Lab named Kiah sleeping at my feet while I write and the sun washing the frosty fields of the farm where I’m staying for a few days. Soon I will pull on my boots and saunter out to open the chicken door and count 1, 2, 3…10, as the chickens march out in a parade, of white, russet, and speckled black. And they’re even still laying, so I get to gather eggs!
On the book front, there is also a lot happening. This Sunday, Nov. 26, will be my first radio talk show appearance, on “Maine Outdoors” with V. Paul Reynolds. Tune your dial to WVOM FM 101.3/103.9 or AM 1450 around 7:30 p.m. to listen in. Our first book review posts Nov. 27 on “George’s Outdoor News,” a Bangor Daily News blog by George Smith.
We also continue to have new press coverage, including this article about an upcoming book signing with Thomas Jamrog, a new author friend, who wrote In the Path of Young Bulls about his Continental Divide Trail thru-hike. We’ll be at Maine Sport Outfitters in Rockport (where I purchased my canoe) from 1 to 4 PM on Sat., Dec. 2. Love this photo!
In closing, may your blessings be many and your home be warm and filled with a spirit of true thankfulness, not just on Thanksgiving, but every day!
The summer of 2014 was Dad’s time for a grand adventure, a 200-mile section paddle from Spencer Rips on the Moose River to the village of Allagash on the Northern Forest Canoe Trail. He had started out alone and was planning to meet me, so we could do the Allagash together. Our rendezvous hour at the Umbazooksus Stream bridge came and went, though, with no sign of him out on the water. I decided to go exploring.
It turns out that you can drive into the last campsite on the east shore of that wide stream, really an arm of Chesuncook Lake. Down through the potholes and brush I went, until suddenly emerging right next to an ancient picnic table complete with roof. Set up next to the table was a roomy canvas cabin tent looking lived in and loved.
It was too late to escape without being seen. I stopped and walked down to the shore to say hello to a friendly-looking man sprawled in a camp chair. Mike Messick, from Missouri, had many a story to share and a history of long, adventurous road trips following wherever the spirit would lead.
That morning, it had led him to us or, rather, us to him. After Dad arrived, over a cup of Mike’s freshly brewed coffee, we found ourselves inviting him to join us on the Allagash. This was a bit beyond the boundaries of our usual behavior, but it turned out to be the birth of a strong friendship.
Hastily, knowing the day was moving along, we spread out maps, jotted down the name and number of our favorite outfitter (Tylor Kellys Camps in the village of Allagash), and agreed to meet a few days later at Umsaskis Bridge.
Even though we were a bit late in arriving there, Mike was waiting for us with a campfire crackling…and the rest is history, part of which made it into the pages of my new adventure memoir, Upwards.
I’ve been thinking this week that our lives flow along as glistening threads in an almost unfathomable web, their intersections our places of decision or serendipity. My author’s walk, still in its infancy, has been strewn with crossings, some joyful surprises, others the fruit of grasping courage with both hands and making them happen.
I’ve met trail founders, penned prayerful inscriptions for friends and strangers battling cancer, and sent copies of Upwards to stores hundreds of miles away. Through it all, the abiding kindness of people and the strength of their stories has filled me with new energy. On Thursday, I came in from my morning bus ride with the students of Bus #14 to discover that my school was celebrating ME, with snacks and speeches and lots of love! The handmade card below, created by Karen Hight, is one I will always treasure.
I’ve found there is something in those who go to the rivers and forests of the north that reflects those places and their intrinsic character. These are souls who live by the rhythm of the seasons, who know gratitude and peace. Rooted in the land, they love hearty meals and heartier laughs, have simple stuff, but complex thoughts. They are people like Mike, who quickly become dear to the heart. If you have gone there, you know. If you haven’t, I hope you will!
A library is not a luxury, but one of the necessities of life. Henry Ward Beecher
Don’t I look just the same at not quite 4 years old, reading with my great-grandfather? Those who attended the book launch may remember Grampy as the professional photographer who spent summers camping out on New Jersey’s Island Beach.
Like the outdoors, books and libraries have always been a natural and essential part of my life. Here in the state of Maine, there are 264 public libraries, and each and every one of them has patrons who are eagerly waiting to read Upwards. They just don’t know it. When the snow deepens and the cold and ice incarcerate us, there are never enough good adventure stories. So let’s try to reach as many libraries as we can before winter sets in. (Those of you beyond the borders of the Pine Tree State are welcome to help, too.)
The idea popped into my mind when friends told me that they were buying copies to donate to their local libraries. Administering the program will be simple. Just let me know by email (email@example.com) which library you would like to support and I will track and report our progress. We currently have six Maine libraries covered, giving us plenty of room for growth. A big thank you to those who have donated:
Boothbay Harbor Memorial Library and Wiscasset Public Library – Susan Sefcik
November has arrived with brisker air and comparative calm after Sunday night’s monumental winds and rain. Our town is still mostly without power, but neighbors are helping neighbors in the true Maine spirit. Why are the lyrics to “The Maine Christmas Song” suddenly playing in my mind?
School for us has been closed for three days, and I’ve accomplished a lot on my “to-do” list, including sleeping nine hours last night. I’ll let the photos tell the rest of the story. Look for another post soon about an initiative to get Upwards into our libraries.
Those that hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary. Isaiah 40:31
Today we will gather to officially celebrate the book launch and continue the encouraging start that Upwards has had. This is a day that I’ve been anticipating for months. It would be natural to be focusing on the refreshments and slideshow and whether we have enough pennies and nickels to make change for $18.94.
This morning, though, I want to think of eagles’ wings, not book sales numbers. To remember why I felt such a pull to write and how long I agonized over how much of myself and my faith to share in what is, at heart, an adventure tale.
The dawn has been arriving a bit later every day, but when it was light this morning, I walked down to nearby Webber Pond. Thinking about this day, it seemed like the summit of a high peak, for so long hidden by clouds. If not for my hope in God, that peak might still be shrouded in mist. I might never have reached it.
Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. I had hoped and found the strength I needed – to brave escaped convicts and insane stretches of upstream whitewater. I had learned to be more flexible, to try to forgive myself when things didn’t go according to plan, on the water and with the book. I had believed in a dream enough, just enough, to reach the summit. So thank you, God, for walking (and paddling) with me.
In time of sorrow…may you see God’s light on the path ahead
When the road you walk is dark,
May you always hear, even in your hour of sorrow,
The gentle singing of the lark.
When times are hard may hardness never turn your heart to stone—