The devil is in the details

Holding the finished portaging yoke and sporting my “canoe cut,” as Katina would say, ready for the river.

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.

Constructed from Reflectix pipe insulation and metallic tape, this custom pot cozy will allow meals to sit and cook after boiling water is added, saving on 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.

Energized and enlightened at the Maine Canoe Symposium

Inspired by the many hand-crafted canoes and paddles at the Maine Canoe Symposium, I came home feeling creative. Last evening, I glued, sanded, and stained my new canoe yoke.

One month…two paddling events…I could get used to this.  After enjoying the NFCT Freshet Fest so much, I had high expectations for the Maine Canoe Symposium.  From the first scrumptious meal to the last informative workshop, we enjoyed the community, stories, advice, and especially the warm welcome and encouragement from everyone at Camp Winona in Bridgton, Maine.

Meeting Gil Gilpatrick, author of our “family Bible” on the Allagash, and his wife Dot was awesome and we took a good luck picture together after hearing about his latest Allagash trip at age 80.  Dad and I also had a personal workshop (no one else had signed up) with Reinhard and Nancy Zollitsch on the most applicable topic of packing for a solo expedition.  Reinhard is a sea canoe adventurer who has done many amazing unassisted solo trips along New England and the Canadian Maritimes.

Then there was Emily Turner’s valuable workshop on planning for an extended paddling trip.  I have discovered a kindred spirit in Emily and we certainly share a love of planning with spreadsheets.  I’ve already created an Emily-inspired spreadsheet for Leg 1 (Maps 1 and 2 of the NFCT), where Dad and I will paddle through the Adirondacks from Old Forge to Saranac Lake, NY.

Emily is really the reason we discovered the Maine Canoe Symposium.  Dad met Emily last summer near Big Island on the West Branch of the Penobscot, as she came poling upriver.  They shared Dad’s steak and her fresh vegetables and we have heard a lot about her ever since.

Geoff Burke (in a traditional solo boat above) taught double-bladed paddling in the first workshop that Dad and I attended.  Who did I sit down next to but Beth Whelan, who through-paddled the NFCT last year (self-propelled) with her husband Paul?  They were kind enough to stay Sunday to peruse my maps and answer a million questions before we all headed home.  It was a nice respite from the preparations, which I resumed with vigor yesterday…making spreadsheets and granola, calling and emailing about logistics, and working on my yoke.

New friend Kathy Buhl, 2014 NFCT Through-Paddler Beth Whelan, instructor Geoff Burke, and Dad during our double-bladed paddling workshop. That’s Dad’s new Wenonah Wilderness Kevlar canoe in the background


Mom’s favorite composition from her photography workshop
Encouragement from folks like Gil and Dot Gilpatrick give me confidence for the journey ahead


A family affair…and Happy Birthday, Mom!


After creating beautiful quilts, piecing together my groundcloth was a breeze
The materials for the yoke that Dad is building for portaging my canoe

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…

One of Dad’s finer moments on his 200-mile NFCT paddle last summer
Last summer, showing Mom my 2011 campsite on Fish Pond
Camp at Long Lake Dam
Photos abound of Dad as camp cook…this one is from the evening we first met the fireplace birds at Lock Dam on the Allagash