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!

Lisa’s homemade granola

032415 homemade granola

Have I already confessed how many hours I am spending watching videos or reading articles about backpacking food? Which, of course, sometimes segues into watching other people’s adventures, instead of planning my own.

One of the videos I watched suggested mixing granola with dry milk at home, then simply adding water for breakfast on the trail. So I purchased some fresh (not four years old) dried (not fresh) milk and tried it out. The milk tasted great. The sogginess of the granola is not for me, though, so I guess I’ll enjoy mine dry.

Later that same week, my friend Lisa was making homemade granola with our students at school. She generously shared the recipe. This is actually my second batch and the recipe as it has evolved so far. Lisa’s original recipe called for more salt and the raisins (or chopped dried cherries) were optional.

Ingredients:  3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (900 cal), 1 cup sliced almonds (480 cal), 3/4 cup shredded coconut (210 cal), 1 cup golden raisins (436 cal), 1/4 cup brown sugar (209 cal), 1/4 cup maple syrup (210 cal), 1/4 cup vegetable oil (520 cal), 1/2 t. salt

Combine all ingredients except raisins in large bowl, mixing well. Spread on greased baking sheets and bake for 1 hour at 250 degrees, stirring every 15 minutes for even toasting. Cool on wire racks, then add raisins and store in airtight container or plastic bag. Lisa says it lasts quite a while.  So far I have eaten it too quickly to know! Total calories would be 2,975 or around 250 calories per 1/2 cup serving.

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.

Where the rubber meets the road or river (my new shoes)

Did I mrntion how much better my new shoes smell? At least for now…

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.

The old hat and shoes at work on the Oquosset carry in 2011. My friends were surprised that I really wanted to wheel my boat when they could have easily shuttled me. Grandson Joshua made a pretty cute companion, though!

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!)

 

interlude

031615 capitol in Richmond 031615 megan 031615 tiffany lamps              Found my green grass on Richmond’s capitol lawn, found Megan in her new cubicle, found beauty at the VMFA

Loving RVA (Richmond, Virginia) more with each visit.  Megan was tickled with my excitement over the public buses, particularly the app on my phone that would send me walking two blocks ahead, then 500 feet left until I met the proper bus at exactly 2:14 p.m.  Thanks to Jacob for treating us to an IMAX film on prehistoric monsters of the sea and to Megan for some awesome Thai food.  Also enjoyed the First Freedom Center, a tribute to our nation’s history of religious freedom, a historical treasure right across from the Randall Branding office.  I promise more news later when the box arrives from our shopping excursion at REI!

Contemplating Fusion (my new boat)

031415 testing Fusion
Trying a Royalex Wenonah Fusion during a Christmas paddle on the Pemaquid River

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 031415 Wenonah Fusion 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.

031415 Christmas paddling

A moose makes BIG TRACKS

030715 deer tracks
Deer tracks for comparison
030715 moose tracks
Are these moose tracks?
030715 moose track with snowshoe
Same size as my snowshoe!

The warmer weather (upper 20’s) and sunny skies made for sparkling snow and early morning shadows to highlight tracks in the woods out back.  I was out several times this weekend for 1 to 1 1/2 hours each, getting in some cardiac endurance training.  These photos from Saturday morning show what I think are moose tracks.  We do not often see moose here in Lincoln County.  In fact, in the twelve years we have lived here, our family members have only seen one or two or three “local” moose, depending on the individual.  In contrast, 20 is our record for a short Allagash paddling trip of less than a week!  This afternoon I said goodbye to the snowy beauty for a week, as I am off to Virginia to visit Megan.  And take advantage of her graphic design skills to spruce up this blog, I hope.

A roof over my head (my new tent)

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Fond memories of the old tent…
DSCN6441
…waiting to make some with the new one

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…

Spring awaits…

Winter world waiting for more snow tonight
Winter world waiting for more snow tonight

I promised myself and I try to keep my promises. I would start my new blog at the beginning of March and not a moment later. So here it is, a blank journal to fill with my thoughts and adventures, a chance to share my life with you.

If you have been a recipient of this epic winter deluge of snow and frigid air, perhaps you share my joy at finding myself on the doorstep of March.  Spring and longer days are assured and such wistful dreams as green grass, new leaves and gently lapping waters are drawing closer.  Late this afternoon I crunched my way over the crisscrossing snowshoe trails in the woods behind my house.  They are my winter creation and my tether to the outdoors in this bitter cold.  As the light dimmed homeward, the calming rustle of beech leaves gave way to the heart thump of an owl’s sudden flight from above.

March also brings me ever closer to my summer journey, a solo through-paddle of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail.  This 740-mile trail winds its way from Old Forge, NY to Fort Kent, ME, following historic paddling routes through waters large and small, still and turbulent, all connected by good old-fashioned portages. The half in Maine I have paddled before (except for seven elusive miles) and half I have never seen. Trip planning is gaining momentum, as I shop for a boat, test new recipes, upgrade equipment, and try to picture the NY, VT, Quebec, and NH portions of the NFCT.  Much more on all that later!