I am writing on a waterproof pad in my sodden two-man tent. I can feel the walls quivering from the heavy rain just outside the thin barrier. I am alone, tucked away in the dark woods along the shore of an Adirondack lake.
Do not feel bad for me, I desire the rains more than anything, so much that I revel in their storm cloud companions. It is late in the season and kayaks like mine cannot run rivers if there is no water in them. Without the connective tissue of the rivers, the task at hand becomes increasingly difficult.
The task at hand is the Northern Forest Canoe Trail. It is a 740-mile chain of winding rivers, scenic ponds and lakes of all sizes. Beginning in Old Forge, New York, and finishing in Fort Kent, the aquatic pathway also runs through Vermont, Quebec and New Hampshire.
Through forest, swamp and mountainside, a thru-paddler will witness what few ever find – a truth not known since earlier times – a way of life that demands more: physical fitness, endurance, strength of mind, a sound spirit and determination as wild and cunning as the animals that share their wilderness home. By blending into the natural world, not as a visitor but as another part of the daily ebb and flow, the paddler will safely and proficiently cover mile after mile, conquering the trail.
I’ve had my sights set on tackling this adventure since I moved to New England. Now is finally the time and, in my first 50 miles, I’m realizing that my partner on this trip needs to be the rains.
It is time consuming and physically demanding to carry the gear needed for the trip, along with a 12-foot kayak, through unwheelable portages. There are 700 miles of lakes, ponds, rivers, streams, whitewater and untold adventure ahead of me. At 27, I must rely on my practiced skill and lifetime of outdoor experience – and the weather.
Tomorrow the rains will cease and I will pack up my damp belongings and continue to paddle my way to Maine. Do not wish me luck, only rain and safe travels.
Editor’s note: Collin Blunk, a contributor to MaineToday Magazine, is on a month-long solo kayak trip on the North Forest Canoe Trail. The 740-mile trail starts in New York’s Adirondack Mountains, passes through northern New England and Canada and ends in Fort Kent. These are his dispatches from the wilderness.