Day 35: We Made It!

August 21, 2009 at 11:45 pm | Posted in NFCT | 4 Comments
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Us at the end of the NFCT in Fort Kent, ME

Us at the end of the NFCT in Fort Kent, ME

35 days after leaving Old Forge, NY we have arrived in Fort Kent, ME and the end of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail. 740 miles of paddling, portaging and lets face it mucking our way through the Northern Forests. We can’t say it was always graceful or pretty but it was fantastic fun and adventure. We’ll be a bit sad to leave the daily camp life behind but coming home sounds pretty good right about now (especially with all the storms moving in!). We paddled hard for the last week putting in 30+ mile days. 4am starts got us across some of Maine’s largest lakes without a hitch. The sunny days and warm weather made sure we didn’t have to do any more knee deep wading in mud and the Allagash river was a friend as well as a challenge. Its quick waters sped us along and its rapids pushed us into admitting we have actually learned a thing or two along this trail. The rapids were amazing fun and the scenery enchanting. We saw 5 moose in one day! Swimming along in the water beside us. As we paddled into Fort Kent today we saw and Eagle swooping and diving for prey in the water. A fine mist hung over the St. John Valley and we were reminded of how lucky we have been to see and experience the past 5 weeks. Thanks to everyone along the way who made it all work. From the guys at the dam who gave us cold water on the hottest day to the ranger at Chamberlain lake who gave us brownies when we looked pretty defeated to Kathy at Kathy’s Country Store in Vermont whose ice cream mended all wounds and hornet stings and everyone else along the trail…you made it work out and made it all possible. You are all as much a part of the adventure as the many dozens of water ways we traversed.

We have pictures glalore and even more stories and we can’t wait to share them with you all. We’ll be updating the blog as soon as we can with our journal entries from the trip.

Onward!

Mahsa, Morrigan and The Flora Burn

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Day 13

July 30, 2009 at 8:14 pm | Posted in NFCT | Leave a comment
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This morning we went into Enosburg to find a great little downtown area. We scouted out the local diner (Leon’s diner) and decide to have some breakfast there and boy was it delicious (eggs, french toast, potatoes and of course coffee!). We spent the next two hours writing postcards, journaling and of course pouring over maps. After this we headed over to the public library, where we did the usual internet things.

From here we rand some errands (pharmacy, laundry, grocery) and then headed back to camp to clean out and reorganize our bags and canoe. We then enjoyed a dinner of spaghetti o’s and ravioli!

Lawyers Landing is a great place to camp. It’s owed by a guy who lives up the hill from the canoe access. He’s really nice and you can get water from his hose too.

Day 10

July 27, 2009 at 7:58 pm | Posted in NFCT | Leave a comment
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Woke up at 5am and waited until 5:30 to get out of bed. We checked the weather and it was the same forecast as last night. Morrigan went to the shore and checked the water conditions. Once we got the a-okay, we dismantle camp (stuffing sleeping bags away, deflating our mattresses, taking down the tent, packing the dry bags, etc.) and put the canoe and gear on the cart and headed to the beach. We made a quick stop at the bathroom and refilled our water skins and then began the journey.

We put into Champlain just down from our camp site. The sun was still coming up and the sky was all bright and orange. Immediately we noticed that the swells on Champlain were larger then any we had encountered on other lakes. The wind began to pick up once we entered the main part of the channel. Our crossing was about one and a half miles to Hog Island on the Vermont mainland. It was perhaps the longest one and a half miles of our lives. Not long into the trip Morrigan expressed that she was nervous, really nervous. By mid channel we both had good reason to be nervous. As we came to find out later, we crossed at one of the toughest points on the lake: where the two channels converge. This coupled with a strong (13mph) southern wind caused the swells to grow and the white caps to form. Plus the waves from each channel converged to make a churning mix of waves from all sides. Our arms shaking with nervousness we paddled our little hearts out. At one point waves from each side crashed into the canoe. Mahsa, paddling in the bow kept up a constant stream of encouragement as we inched closer and closer to shore. Our route was to go North along Hogshead Island. But we just headed straight for shore. Finally we reached the opposite shore and we jumped out to pull the canoe ashore. The waves had only gotten bigger as we crossed the lake. By the time we reached the shore to look out on the channel we couldn’t believe how choppy the water had become. Once on firm ground we both hugged like we had just survived the apocalypse. Its hard to describe how scary our crossing was since its hard to describe how quickly the water changed and how truly big the swells became. But rest assured it was ridiculous!

Morrigan proclaimed that she would rather walk the whole length of the state of Vermont then get back in the lake. Mahsa agreed. By the looks of the map we could portage 3 or so miles up a small highway and put into the Missisaquoi River, our next water way.

As we were pulling our gear along, Bill the bicyclist rode by and asked us about our trip. We told him all about crossing Lake Champlain and he told us that we had crossed at one of the worst points. He noticed that our canoe carts wheels were making an awful squeak, which we had noticed some days previous. The wheels on our cart are like small bicycle wheels and like bicycle wheels they need to be trued every now and then. Bill happened to have a truing tool on him and offered to true our wheels right there. Shortly after and with significantly less squeaking we continued on our way to the Missisaquoi River.

We put in at Louies Landing and began our upstream trek thru the fine Missisaquoi River (or what Morrigan has begun calling the 3rd layer of hell…more explanation to come). From here we paddled into Swanton, VT where we had to get out and portage around an old dam. As we passed through the small town we took our canoe on the cart with all our gear up to a local pizza shop to get some lunch. The place was the SHOP (Swanton House of Pizza). We proceeded to gorge ourselves on pizza, salad, cheese sticks and soda. The cook got a real kick out of our canoe parked in front of the store. After lunch we picked up a few supplies at the Swanton Pharmacy. Mahsa went to refill the water skins at a public faucet. In a funny coincidence she ran into the woman whose lawn we washed up on after crossing Lake Champlain. She thought we had camped in her back yard and once she found out we had crossed Lake Champlain she agreed it was smart to get out. She had thought we were going to call someone to pick us up and was surprised when we put together our “wheel contraption” and rolled off. We then had a blackberry creemee (too really set our food consumption for the day over the top!) and then set of back up the river.

We paddled upstream to Highgate Falls Dam, were we set up at a campsite perched on the side of a hill. The NFCT crew had been out this summer building the portage rout and boy have they done a fantastic job!

Day 8: Saturday, July 25th Union Falls

July 25, 2009 at 5:23 pm | Posted in NFCT | Leave a comment
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Woke up this morning and the rain had stopped. Packed up camp and headed dow the road. Mahsa walked up to the top of hill to see if we could get cell reception – no luck. She did, however see a naked man sunning himself on his porch. They exchanged pleasent hello’s. We knocked on a few doors looking for a phone to use before sitting on the side of the road to discuss the day’s options. We were looking at a day of mostly lining and portaging around class III and IV and maybe even some class V rapids just to get to Claysburg. After that it could be more of the same. We decided that based on our assumption that it would take us too long and force us to face possibly unsafe situations, we would call around to find a shuttle to Plattsburgh, NY. One call to a great outfitters in Saranac Lake got us a shuttle. We waited around for a bit, explored the dam and dried out our gear in the sun. The shuttle arrived and we hit the road. It would one day be great to come back and do the stretch of river we missed out on. It all looked so lovely and fun, passing through some great little towns. Maybe next summer! We were dropped off at Cumberland State Park campground – more like a large peice of land by Lake Camplain where people could park ther RV’s. But it was clean, safe, had showers and even a laundramat. We got to clean up a bit which definintly raised our spirits.

Our neighbor at the campsite was a women who had been living there since it opened for the season. She talked with us for a while about her life and the goings on at the camp. In the course of talking with her we learned that she basically has terminal cancer – though she has chosen to not find out what kind – and is not seeking treatment. She was a really great lady with some very nice dogs. She seemed to have a lot of friends too, as they kept stopping by to say hello to her. Others in the camp also seemed to know her and care for her – brining by firewood and food.

We went to sleep to a lovely sunset and full belly’s and a little nervous about tomorrows 1st crossing of Lake Champlain.

Day 7: Friday July 24th

July 24, 2009 at 5:03 pm | Posted in NFCT | Leave a comment
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We began the day by meeting the Robertsons – who let us camp in their yard along the Seranc River. We missed our inteneded campsite about 6 miles, which was ok since it just put us 6 miles ahead of schedule.  We found out they summer at the cabin on the lake which they bought many years ago. Last summer a freak twister came through and lifted it off its foundation. We set off down the Saranac River for about a half an hour before we had to get out and portage our the perminent rapids. Here we sat on the bank of the river and enjoyed some day old apple fritters, a nice breeze and some wild flowers. There is no sign for the portage when coming down river, just get out when you start to hear moving water and see a gravel embankment leading to the road. The portage is up the shoulder of the highway to another little camp ground (with a great composting toilet!)  and put-in just up from Franklin Falls Pond. Franklin Falls Pond is really nice. We hit it on a glossy smoot morning, which made for quick and downright delightful paddling. It was nice to be on some bodies of water without speed boats. At the end of the pond where we had to portage to Union Falls we met a man who works for the Department of Corrections. He said that a few years back water levels were much lower and wildfires were a daily threat. He said that they would send the inmates out to fight the fires…seemed to us this sounded like dangerous work and a tad like slave labor. We portaged around the dam but couldn’t find the put in on the other side so we ended up going down a steep drive way to someones dock (they weren’t home) and put in. Here we found what might be the fanciest out-house ever. It was fully stocked with toilett paper, had to seets, a nice bay window over looking the water and a mounted, stuffed dear head on the wall – plus lots of reading material.

We paddled across Union Falls Pond – where the dam is not marked at all! The take out is about 40-50 feet from the dam falls and very hard to spot. Its on the right and once spotted is obvious. Less then 10 minutes after landing we were hit by a fierce rain storm that left us soaked.

We packed up the canoe on the cart and headed to a local private camp ground. We were told it was seasonal and basically closed. So we came back to the take out and made camp on state land (technically it is a campground we think. there is an outhouse). Its just not marked on the map. We set up the tent and tarps and hunkered down for a long night of rain and wind. We had to eat PB&J sandwiches for dinner. Basically we then fell asleep around 7pm. We did run into a man from the DEC who said that our quickest option for getting back in the river was to jump the fence by the dam and put-in…basically to put in at the base of the dam falls in class IV rapids. We obviously did not take this advice.

updated photos

July 24, 2009 at 1:10 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Here a couple photos from the first 5 days on the trip!  Click the photo to see more.

on the nfct!

in old forge

July 18, 2009 at 2:17 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Hi everyone. We are in old forge fueling up at walts diner. One quick stop at the outfitters for a knife and we’ll be off.

heading out!

July 17, 2009 at 9:40 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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We are on our wpay to old forge. Pretty awesome! Josh made a rad stencil for the bow that reads flora burn with a skull and cross swords. It officially makes our canoe the best ever. It was a little emotional to say farewell to our pals. Five weeks! Holy cow! But we’re quite excited to be on our way. Blogging from the BlackBerry is tricky with such chubby fingers. I think we will call it a post.

The Ipswich River and a Box of Clams

July 6, 2009 at 4:18 pm | Posted in Canoe Training | Leave a comment
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Me and MahsaWell praise the Lord! We had a good day on the river! Ok, could have been warmer and without the threat of thunderstorms tailing us the whole way. But it wasn’t raining and the wind was low an the sun even joined us for a while. This is our day on the Ipswich River!

Boston has suddenly been experiencing the weather pattern of Seattle. It has rained her for most of the last month and when its not raining its been gloomy and gray. This dank weather has taken quite a toll on the people of Massachusetts. The local video store down the street, which holds summer time outdoor film screenings, sent out a notice saying that all screenings were postponed until the rained stopped. This summed up a air of defeat that has hung over Boston much as the rain clouds have.

Our first venture to the Ipswich failed due to storms in the area. We were determined not to be turned away this time. Paul drove us out to our chosen put in along a small highway. He then went to explore Gloucester while we headed down stream.

IMG_3417We had planned to do a 17 mile trip but put in so late that we chopped it down to about 12 or 13 miles. The Ipswich is a narrow, winding and rather quick paced river. The first half hour we spent getting our bearings. All of the rain had made the river flood into the surrounding marsh making the river channel a bit hard to find at times. But find it we did and wound our way along under fallen trees, around roots and through tall grasses. We learned a IMG_3415lot about approaching obstacles and reading water movements and got to practice a lot of good skills. The going was slow but not unpleasant. At one point the river opened up wide into a swamp like area. We had the distinct thought that we might not be able to find our way out of mass of water ways. With all the fallen trees and debris we had to leave the main river channel a few times and even back track a few times. Eventually we did make it out of the swamp and to a nice little landing for some lunch.

IMG_3421After lunch we put back in the river. The current picked up quite a bit at this point. Quite a bit. We remarked later on that the Ipswich isn’t so much physically hard as it is mentally hard. We had to be completely on our game the whole time, which for mile after mile after mile, gets a tad old. Part of the fun of canoeing after all is the leisure time of just letting the current take you away. Sigh. If only that were the case all the time.

We were having a great time though. That is until we entered the Audubon IMG_3414Society Bird Sanctuary. This is massive expanse of marsh and grass lands. The river winds itself tightly through the sanctuary for many a mile. There is it seems always a point on a canoe trip where you think you just can’t take it any more. We hit that point somewhere in the marshes. It was just tedious! Plus we were desperately trying to out run a ominous looking storm coming up behind us.

We saw some lovely wildlife to be sure and some very cute little marmots or the like swimming back and forth across the river. We also encountered a IMG_3420number of other canoes towards the end of the sanctuary and one father son kayak team. These two were somewhat stuck in the brambles as they had veered off of the main river channel into the muck of the marshes. The son (whom must have been 6 or 7) was pitching a fit while the dad worked hard to free their kayak. We allowed ourselves a chuckle since it was rather comical, asked if they needed help, which they didn’t, and moved on.

IMG_3423We emerged from the bird sanctuary hungry and a bit cold. The storm was coming in and we were ready to get out and get warmer. Our pull out was at Foote Brothers Canoe rentals by the Willowdale Dam. We caught sight of the landing soon enough and pulled out to the dock. It was nice to stretch!

Shortly after Paul came and got us and we dashed off for a well earned meal atIMG_3426the Clam Box. We ate our fill of fried food and feeling rather sleepy departed for home. IMG_3425

One Craptastic Day on the Ole River

June 29, 2009 at 12:42 am | Posted in Canoe Training | Leave a comment
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“If this was the first day we spent on the river practicing I wouldn’t be going on this canoe trip.”

“What is that buzzing?”
“Its the high voltage power lines you’re standing next to.”

“Oh look, there is a lazy boy washed up on shore.”

Canoe 6-6-09 016The other Saturday Mahsa and I went out in the Flora Burn to do some practicing for our big canoe trip. We chose to do a river we had yet to travel upon, the Neponset River. The canoe launch was about 30 minutes from my house in Norwood. The place we put in was none too scenic. But then most of our put-in spots are rather drab as we usually find ourselves starting off in inhabited places and paddling away.

The river was moving along at a quick pace. But it wasn’t very deep at all. The muck on the shore was about knee deep in places and almost claimed one of my boots. As we made to set off Mahsa observed that there was a lazy boy recliner perched in the shrubbery along the banks of the river. By the looks of it the chair had traveled down-stream a bit before getting caught in the brambles.

Canoe 6-6-09 005We didn’t get far after pushing off from the shore. Just around the first bend when we encountered some light rapids or riffles if you will we had to get out of the canoe and basically line her through the water as it was too shallow to continue. Lining a canoe is when one person ties a rope or line to the bow and the other person ties a line to the stern. Together you wade through the water near the bank, guiding the canoe. This is done when the water is too shallow or when you need to avoid obstacles. As we waded along I wondered at the intense buzzing overhead. Mahsa made her second astute observation of the day by noting that we were indeed standing under some gigantic high voltage powerCanoe 6-6-09 002 lines. This didn’t take long and before we knew it we were back in the canoe…that is until we ran a-ground on a sand bar…and then another…and then another. The river bed was horribly uneven. To make matters worse the river was also full of trash. We are talking serious trash here too: lawn furniture, sporting equipment, fire extinguishers, construction signs, lumber, a children’s plastic play fort, tires (lots of those!), shopping carts and just plane Canoe 6-6-09 006garbage. The trash had built up against fallen brush making a maze of obstacles. Sure we got to practice some fancy maneuvering…but it was a nasty sight. The uneven river bed didn’t always correspond with the direction we had to go to avoid an obstical eitehr. We would find ourselves bottoming out Canoe 6-6-09 015gowing around a blockage quite often. More then once we had to pass under or quite close to fallen branches caked in filth. We grew rather jumpy, constintly feeling like we were covered in creepy crawlers.

Canoe 6-6-09 018With the current moving pretty quickly, navigation wasn’t too hard. Slowly we left the buzzing power lines behind…only to be replaced by low flying aircraft as the river does pass by a private air field. To drown out the bothersome buzzing of little planes we cranked up our hand crank radio and took in a little of WGBH’s Celtic Music Hour. Really it just meant listening to staticey Celtic music intermingled with the buzz of aircraft.

Canoe 6-6-09 022Eventually the garbage mounds do give way to more scenic fare. After passing under the freeway the Neponset enters the Blue Hills Reservation. Here the banks became lined with tall grasses and deepened considerably. The low flying aircraft were still present. But the general mood of the trip improved vastly. We even found a nice shady spot along the bank to have lunch and walk around a bit.

Canoe 6-6-09 009Well, whatever beauty and loveliness we may have encountered on later part of the trip was eviscerated by the return journey. At our turn around point we had about 4 miles to paddle up river. This translates to roughly twice as long as coming down river. Determined not to take 7 hours getting back to the car we doubled our efforts paddling as quickly as we could. We made good time but our muscles were sore and our hands raw. All fun was gone. After crossing under the freeway we were back in the garbage wonderland. If paddling downriver threw the maze of trash bothersome then the paddling upstream was down right terrible. Not only did we have to contend with the barriers of trash and uneven river bead but we also had to do it all against a current that kept wanting to turn us around.

Canoe 6-6-09 013Our pace slowed considerably. At one point we stopped talking even. We both just sat in our respective seats brooding over the unpleasantness of our experience on the Neoponset. At one point we had to cross over the river channel from one deep spot to another. This required paddling through that was in fact to shallow to paddle in. The result was us sitting in our canoe paddles flailing against the river bottom feebly trying to move us against the current. We weren’t even moving. Anger gave way to the hilarity of the situation. We just ended up polling with our paddles over to the deeper water but even that took more effort then seemed worth it.

Who knows how much time passed….days maybe! But eventually we made it back to the buzzing power lines and the canoe launch and most gratefully our car. It was in near silence that we loaded the canoe and set off towards home. I think we felt dejected. Each day on the river up until then was full of fun. We always left the water wanting more. This trip was over in our minds just as it started and left us never wanting to canoe again. Or at least a little less eager to canoe again soon.

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