A letter from camp: The 2017 Maine Canoe Symposium

Mom and Dad’s home was four tents down, where we sat one evening sharing smoked salmon that Dad had brought back from his workshop on smoking fish with Shawn Burke.

Wouldn’t you like to be a boy, away at summer camp in Maine?

Enjoying late-night loon calls, ice cream heaped with strawberries, summer breezes, and the pull of the paddle?

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Gathering for the morning Parade of Canoes

This letter from camp has taken a few days to arrive, but this past weekend, I christened another summer of possibility in the company of friends, old and new, famous or not-so-much, at the annual Maine Canoe Symposium. Somehow this event manages to be old-fashioned and far-reaching, restful and yet challenging everyone to try new skills.

“Dear friends,” I might have written from Camp Winona, on the shores of Moose Pond in Bridgton, Maine…

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Today I tried poling under the tutelage of Harry Rock, well-known at MCS for leading us all in a chorus of huzzahs from time to time. “Your boat might be a little tender,” he told me, by which he meant I might end up tipping into the chilly water. It felt very strange leaving shore without a paddle! “Huzzah!” I stayed upright. It was all about leverage and angle, as we stood up and propelled ourselves around with just a 12-foot aluminum pole.

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Learning to identify edible woodland plants with Ray Reitze, who also shared the effectiveness of Japanese knotweed in fighting Lyme disease, a surprise to me!

The two evening speakers lived up to MCS tradition. This year, we heard from Winchell Delano about the Rediscovering North America expedition, 5,200 miles by canoe with five friends, from the Gulf of Mexico to the Arctic Ocean. They redefined perseverance and conquered unforeseen challenges like raging forest fires in their 8-month odyssey.

Did you know that the 2020 Toyko Olympics will be the first to include women’s canoe sprint, as well as kayak events? This victory owes much to the fight of our other evening speaker, Pam Boteler, the first woman to participate in canoe sprint (against men) in the 2000 U.S. National Championships. She brought home two medals, a gold and a bronze, and the dream of breaking down the barriers at the Olympic level.

Sunday morning, I had a chance to try the high-kneel stroke, first on the dock and then on a paddle board. With Pam teaching me! I can testify to the power and physical demands of this racing stroke, which I experienced once or twice, before taking a swim.

So, it’s never too early to put dates on the calendar. Next year’s MCS will be June 8-10, 2018, and I’d love to have you join me. This year, I tent camped with friends, ate all six meals in the dining hall, and experienced all the above and more for just $153. Hope to see you at Camp Winona on the shores of Moose Pond under the towering pines.

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Tradition Meets Innovation at the Maine Canoe Symposium

For weeks I’ve been feeling the pull to return to blogging. Writing has been consuming my creative energy as I continue to work on the book about my NFCT thru-paddle, but I miss blogging. So hello!

 

Setting up camp in a circle of friends

My summer adventures began at last weekend’s Maine Canoe Symposium, reconnecting with friends, sharing NFCT news, and pushing my comfort zone.

It was equally challenging to learn paddleboarding from Moe Auger on windy Moose Pond and to build a reflector oven under Nicole Grohoski’s encouraging tutelage. After journeying so many miles last summer, Geoff Burke’s workshop on double-bladed paddling added new insights and fired my desire to switch to a longer 8′ 3″ handcrafted Geoff Burke paddle someday!

There’s a problem with the MCS workshops, though. One weekend just isn’t long enough to attend all the tantalizing choices. I missed the chat with Gil Gilpatrick and hearing about paddling Ontario. Oh well, there’s always next year and I did get to talk with Gil about book publishing, which is close to my heart right now. More on that soon.

Beth and Kathy built reflector ovens with me, as did the Flint family. Someone said we should have a bakeoff next year!

 

A new dragonfly meets the world

 

 

Energized and enlightened at the Maine Canoe Symposium

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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

 

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