A dot in the wilderness (my new SPOT GEN 3)

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Update (September 2015) – My SPOT completed the 53-day trip requiring only one battery change, around day 35 or 40.  I now have a supply of AAA batteries to last a while!

Let me introduce you to Bernie.  At least he started life as “Bernie.”  I don’t usually name my equipment, but the online account asked for a name for my new device and that seemed like a good one.  Just like a St. Bernard, a SPOT satellite transponder will help you get rescued in the wilderness (and let friends and family know when you are fine).

However, it evolved that with my first test message all of my friends and family got a message that someone named Bernie was paddling the NFCT!  There ensued some confused emails asking who is Bernie?  My old SPOT is named Laurie so I will christen this new one Laurie C.

Comparison of old and new units:  051815 SPOT comparison

Old:  SPOT Satellite Personal Tracker  – purchased in 2011 for about $50 after rebate – annual subscription of $99 – weight 7.2 oz with two AA lithium batteries – its three buttons could (a) send an email message showing that I had safely arrived somewhere with the time and coordinates, (b) send a help message to a small previously-chosen group of email addresses, and (c) send a 911 message far and wide, activating a rescue process.

New: SPOT GEN3 – purchased in 2014 for free after rebate – annual subscription for SPOT Basic Service is $149.99 – weight 4.1 oz with 4 AAA lithium batteries  – does everything that the old one did, plus includes tracking (where my position every 10 min. is sent to a private page) – the emergency button is now called an SOS button and sends a message to the GEOS International Emergency Response Center.  Here’s hoping I never need to push it!

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Feeling awfully good

Those who have seen me recently will be amazed at this photo taken this lovely morning (in the yard in the sun without sunglasses).  I woke up after nine hours of sleep with no more light sensitivity and proceeded to set up my new Sierra Designs Flashlight 1 UL tent for the first time (outdoors) and seam seal it.  Although the seams are taped inside, Sierra Designs recommends seam sealing the inside and outside of the rainfly and center floor seams to fill in all the tiny holes from the stitching.  Another job finished !

Thanksgiving in May

Just a quick post to let everyone know that thankfully I am on the road to recovery.  Yesterday evening, the light sensitivity made a dramatic  improvement and even the vision in my right eye is better.  So let the trip preparations resume at lightning speed…SPOT setup, yoke construction, packing, creating a custom pot cozy with materials from Katina, and just a bit more shopping.  Thanks for all the well wishes!

Christmas morning in May (my canoe arrives)

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Well, I am still among the living, although the final outcome of my health challenge still hangs in the balance.  Right now, the vision in my right eye is blurry (among other problems), although I can’t imagine that stopping me from going on my adventure if I am otherwise recovered.

Enough of that topic and on to a fun glimpse into the long-awaited arrival of my new canoe Saturday a week ago.  Above are Jordan and Ed  bringing her out at Maine Sport Outfitters in Rockland.  It was love at first sight and I could easily carry her out to the car.  We talked yokes and portaging and paddles and other fun details.  Skip Ciccarelli had talked about the importance of a foot brace, so I was glad to see that my canoe did indeed arrive with one.

For those of you just tuning in, my boat is a 13-foot Wenonah Fusion Kevlar canoe, with skid plates on both ends (adding about 3 or 4 pounds).  One thing I haven’t done is to take an actual weight, which I will do.  The green removable seat that you see in the photo above came with the boat.  So far, I have paddled her 3 times, with her fastest average moving time of 3.3 mph on a roundtrip lake paddle with light winds, about 0.8 mph faster than I would have gone in my kayak!

Traveling partners…my canoe travels well on my RAV4

Health challenge

A challenge has come my way, one that hopefully will not impact my through paddle of the NFCT.  Last Wednesday evening, my right eye started to water and turn red.  Five days, six medical professionals, and several ineffective medicines later, I was diagnosed with EKC.  Most of us haven’t heard of this viral (not bacterial) type of conjunctivitis or “pink eye.”

It’s really fun…very contagious, usually lasts 1 to 2 weeks, has to run its course with only steroid drops, Aleve, cold compresses, and sunglasses to alleviate the symptoms, which I will not list here.  Between blurry vision and light sensitivity, reading and computer work are limited, but I wanted to post something so you would know the latest.  There is a small epidemic locally.

The good news is that most everyone has a full recovery in several weeks, including normal vision.  I am allowed to exercise, so tried my new canoe twice and enjoyed walking, mostly with my eyes shut.  Promise some cheerful posts soon!

The slow road home

051715 1 Martin Bridge

Coming home last Sunday, I took the scenic route.  Somehow my GPS knew that I had some time for exploring.  (For an instrument so obsessed with the word “recalculating,” it is still pretty smart.)  This is the Martin Bridge, a covered bridge built in 1890 on a Vermont farm.  It is the last privately-constructed covered bridge in existence in the state and was designed to be especially tall to accommodate wagons piled high with loose hay.  Feeling the need to stretch my legs, I wandered the property, found an old dump, and saw lots of red-winged blackbirds.  The prize, though, was a bobolink.  It looked vaguely familiar, but I had to consult the bird book at home to learn its name.

Bobolink small

 

Old friends and new at the NFCT Freshet Fest

051315 1 campsite

The NFCT held their first-ever Freshet Fest this past weekend.  Here are old friends, Katina and Sam, sharing their delicious breakfast with me at our campsite in Grand Isle State Park.  This was my first look at Lake Champlain and first taste of the fabulous baked goods from Hero’s Welcome, on North Hero Island, which I hope to paddle to this summer.  Katina and I talked for hours and Sam was very patient, while making us an endless quantity of delicious coffee.

051315 2 Arrowhead Mt Lake
Our group paddle on Arrowhead Mountain Lake on the Lamoille River
051315 3 osprey nest on water
Have you ever seen an osprey nest right at lake level?

051315 4 friends

The evening gathering at the Splash Boathouse in Burlington was a great chance to meet lots of kindred spirits, including Dan and Michele Brown, on the left, with Sam and me.  Talking with folks from the NFCT staff and fellow paddlers who I only knew through blogs or emails was very neat and they all expressed their confidence in me and my planned trip.  That meant a lot!

051315 5 through paddlers

The through-paddlers who shared their stories definitely helped me visualize the trip and made me realize that they just went out there and took a day at a time.  Here we have Mark Fromm (2012), Skip Ciccarelli (2011), Dan Brown (2014), Katina Daanen (2011), Paul Heintz (2008), Nicole Grohoski (2006) and Peter Macfarlane (2013).  Just a sample of the advice I came home with: paddle from your torso, travel light, don’t be afraid to knock on doors, and stop along the way for some chocolate milk and Milanos.  I’ll close for tonight with flowers and a sunset.

051315 7 flower
Yellow trout lily at the campground
051415 8 trillium
The trillium were thick in the campground woods.
051315 6 sunset Splash Boathouse
Sunset over a quiet Lake Champlain…a fitting farewell to a wonderful day!

 

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.

A few things to know about the Northern Forest Canoe Trail

192 - With Team Moxie

With Team Moxie on the day they finished in July 2011…Moxie was the first dog to complete the NFCT

1.  The Northern Forest Canoe Trail is ancient and, yet,  it’s quite young. Its rivers, lakes, and portages carried America’s native peoples from summer fishing camps to winter hunting grounds since times now lost in history. When the voyageurs and settlers arrived, they, too, knew the same fir-clad banks and steep portages.  Thoreau did, too.

2.  Now the NFCT is both a recreational paddling trail and a non-profit organization, headquartered in VT.  There you will find wonderful maps, tons of paddling resources, and your membership will support everything from building new campsites to negotiating new portage routes to amazing paddling adventures that introduce kids to paddling.  This coming weekend I am going to the NFCT Freshet Fest in Burlington, VT, to paddle the LaPlatte River, attend a panel discussion on through-paddling and more.

3.  Moxie, a 4-lb. Yorkshire terrier, was the first (and so far only) dog to brave the entire trail, sleeping in her own adorable little tent, and finishing in Fort Kent on the same day as me!  The photo above with Justine Jarvis and T.K. Kiernan, the rest of Team Moxie, was taken at the Northern Door Inn in Fort Kent, Maine.

4.  The NFCT travels through 4 states and one province: New York, Vermont, Quebec, back to Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.

143 - Playing engineer
Fun in an abandoned locomotive of the Eagle Lake and West Branch Railroad in the Allagash

5.  Follow the entire route and you will go through locks (as in the Erie Canal), paddle under a hotel, discover relics of logging history, and maybe even see an Alligator.

6. Although the NFCT is widely described as a 740-mile-long trail, those who through-paddle go only about 710 miles.  The difference comes from some short areas of the trail where two possible routes are maintained, such as the Northeast and Northwest Carries at the north end of Moosehead Lake.  The through-paddler chooses just one, but the mileage of both are counted.  My spreadsheet plan (which I’m sure will be accurate to the tenth of a mile) totals 710.8 miles.

7.  The fastest anyone has ever solo paddled the entire trail was 25 days.

8.  The ghosts of the past will speak to you.  One day, on a rocky bluff, forested and remote, you will find a metal ring imbedded in a mighty boulder and sit for a time, pondering how and why it got there.  The answer will forever remain a mystery…

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