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…

DSCN5315
One of Dad’s finer moments on his 200-mile NFCT paddle last summer
DSCN5099
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

 

Still training…still shopping…days going faster

050715 hooded mergansers
A pair of hooded mergansers in Biscay Pond

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.

050715 purchases

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.

Preview of things ahead (driving NFCT Maps 6 & 7 in VT and NH)

043015 1 customs office

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.

043015 2 wood-fired pizza 043015 3 grocery store Derby Center

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!

043015 4 turbulent Clyde River

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.

043015 5 Ted's Market Island Pond

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.

043015 6 turbulent Nulhegan River

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.043015 7 kiosk in Groveton, NH

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.

043015 8 Pontook Reservoir

Weaving training into a busy life

042615 swimming pool
Added swimming to the training this week in Waterville Valley, NH

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!).

Wind and water

“Welcome home,” whispered the gentle waves
Spring still life

Well, I am debating whether I can manage without taking my iPad Mini this summer.  I already know I can’t live without my binoculars and GPS and SPOT and phone and probably my camera, at least for the latter part of the trip.  So here’s my first “phone-only” post!

We’ve been away for the first bit of April vacation, so yesterday morning was my first paddle on the open waters of the lake, totaling 6.6 miles.

Going out, I was headed into the wind, but got quite a push from the current on the usually placid river, about 1.5 mph.  On the way home, thank you wind!  Birds galore: swallows, flickers, buffleheads, an osprey, Canada geese, and a pair of very vocal loons. I thought I heard a kingfisher, but have yet to see one this year.  I may add a couple more photos from the camera after this experimental post works.  More soon on our explorations earlier this week…

042415 buffleheads
Pair of buffleheads on the sparkling lake
042415 Canada goose
“Are you looking at me?”

Gettin’ lots of love (the NFCT through-paddler’s guide)

Katina and I 2011
Katina and her husband Sam stopped by my house to visit on their way home to Wisconsin in 2011, just after Katina completed her NFCT through-paddle and before she became an author!

“You’d get lots of love,” Katina wrote, if I put my blog out there for the public to read. I’d been wavering. Posting that first post is a statement…hey world, look what crazy thing I’m going to try to do! And that funny, unbelievably varied group of people called “the public” that would become my readers. Who would they be? Was it safe to put my story out there?

Well, last time, back when I was writing my blog for Paddle for Hope in 2011, one of “the public” turned out to be Katina Daanen. I first saw her name when she donated to the Maine Children’s Cancer Program through the Paddle for Hope website.  At the time, hers was just a name on a financial report, but I sure was excited to have a donor who had found us through our online presence.  Later, I discovered her blog and realized that Katina was planning a through-paddle. It was fun to leave notes for her in the trail journals along the way, including one that she found on Hurricane Island in Flagstaff Lake.

Later, using her super-detailed trip notes, Katina authored The Northern Forest Canoe Trail Through-Paddler’s Companion,   032615 Katina's book   first published in 2014 and already updated with a 2015 second edition. Invaluable as a planning resource, this book describes the over 160 miles of upstream paddling (or portaging, praying, and persevering) from the perspective of someone going in the wrong direction. The NFCT maps and guidebook (logically) assume that most sane paddlers are going downstream.

Those going the right direction or just for a day or weekend will still learn much.  Wondering how “wheelable” a portage will be?  Hankering for a cheeseburger or a real bed along the trail?  Then this resource is for you. And, as you’re munching or tucked up under the covers, you can discover a bit more about the crazy world of through-paddling. In the months to come, you’re sure to hear more about Katina, who continues to send me great paddling encouragement and advice!

The best things come in small packages

My collection of small packages from the Richmond trip…and, yes, the hotel desk clerk did give me all of those tea bags when I asked for just one. Isn’t the True Lime cute? I discovered that minimus.biz also has crystallized honey in packets equivalent to one teaspoon.

Spring has arrived, at least by the calendar.  Yesterday’s new snow was just playful flurries, dusting the road and recording the passing of some deer.  The ice is still thick on the lakes, though, thick enough for the snowmobiles to go roaring by.  Last year, ice-out was April 12, so open water will soon be here.  Until I can paddle again, I am walking a lot and am ready to start some upper body strength-building now that I have dug out my hand weights from the barn.

On my Jet Blue flight home the other day, I ordered tomato juice, something healthy to balance out some poor but delicious weekend food choices.  (Like the supper of tater tots smothered in cheese and bacon, with cake for dessert…and nothing else, unless you count the beer).  Anyway, with my tomato juice came a tiny packet of True Lime, the equivalent of a lime wedge in crystallized form.  Now there’s a condiment I had never met!

Almost any backpacker or paddler will tell you that’s exciting!  I’m sure none of us have ever deliberately taken any extra jelly or mayo or those lovely little packs of honey, but sometimes they just load you up with extra condiments and it’s like heaven.

Although this collecting of condiments can still continue, there is another option, one I just discovered.  It’s http://www.minimus.biz and it is wonderful.  Here you can find an amazing assortment of tiny packages, priced individually, which even ship for free if your order totals $20. My shopping cart is getting full…so far with orange marmalade, apricot preserves, honey, sunflower butter, sweet relish and mayonnaise (for my tuna), hot sauce, and even first aid items like anti-fungal and anti-bacterial ointments.