Behind the Scenes: ‘Through Paddle’

Mike Lynch documents the NFCT by paddling every mile of it

Last summer, C&K contributing writer Mike Lynch spent 45 days paddling the 740-mile long Northern Forest Canoe Trail, shooting the 37-minute documentary Through Paddle about his experiences on the trail, which starts in Old Forge, N.Y. and ends in Fort Kent, Maine. The Saranac Lake, N.Y.-based writer paddled more than 300 miles with friend Jacob Resneck, and the last 300 miles with his now-wife, Ariel (Read more about his trip HERE). The film is being shown now during the NFCT’s annual film festival, a fundraiser for the NFCT also showcasing films from Rapid Media’s Reel Paddling Film Fest 2012 tour, with stops throughout the Northeast. The NFCT’s next screening stop is Friday, May 18, at Connecticut’s Collinsville Canoe & Kayak. We caught up with Lynch after the film’s debut at the festival’s Lake Placid screening.

CANOE & KAYAK: What was your first experience with the NFCT?
MIKE LYNCH: I’ve been paddling all my life, but much of my early experience paddling was when I went fishing in the family Grumman—a slow, heavy aluminum canoe. I didn’t start paddling to explore until I moved to the Adirondacks about six years ago. My first experience with the NFCT that stands out was about two years ago when I interviewed Maine resident Don Mullen. He’s believed to be the first modern-day person to complete the trip from New York to Maine on the NFCT, although he followed a slightly different route that the current one. He did it in 2000. That interview was part of a series of events that inspired me to paddle the entire trail.

Jacob Resneck joined through-paddler Mike Lynch for more than 300 miles of the NFCT, at a difficult carry on the Saranac River near Plattsburgh

How about your most memorable experience on the trail?
It was Churchill Lake on the Allagash Wilderness Waterway in northern Maine. After an intense three-hour thunder and lightning storm, Ariel and I were paddling toward Churchill Dam when we encountered two loons, an eagle, a family of river otters, a dozen Canada geese and a moose with its calf all in one area. It was as if they all came out after the storm.

Why is the trail a unique asset?
What I like most about the trail is that I now know I can put my canoe in the Saranac River, where I live in Saranac Lake, and travel for hundreds of miles. I can make my way to Fort Kent, a small town in northern Maine on the U.S./Canadian border, or any of the places in between. Being able to travel that way brings a sense of independence that’s hard to achieve otherwise.

A moose raises its head out of the water on Churchill Lake in the Allagash Wilderness Waterway

Why make a film?
When I started planning the trip, I didn’t have any intention of making a film. That idea came from Jason Smith of Adirondack Lakes and Trails outfitters in Saranac Lake. Jason organizes the NFCT’s film festival in Lake Placid every year, and he wanted to have a movie from the trail to show at the festival. My idea for the film was to recreate the experience of being a through-paddler. The goal of the film is to encourage people to explore and spend time outdoors.

Did it go as planned?
First, the heavy Pelican case with all my camera equipment added an extra burden on a trip that is best done with a minimal amount of gear. Another challenge was trying to get steady footage  in my canoe. I remember sometimes if I saw a moose or an eagle that I wanted to get on film, I would stick my tripod and camera in the lake or river and beginning shooting, very careful not to knock the setup into the water. In the end, I’m just happy I didn’t dump my equipment in Lake Champlain or any of the other ponds, lakes or rivers along the way. Also, I had no editing experience prior to this endeavor. I had to learn that skill on the fly.

3. Paddlers make their way across scenic Middle Saranac Lake in the Adirondacks

Future plans?
After the trip, I had a greater appreciation for the generosity of people living in rural America. I met so many people along the trip that went out of their way to help me. In the near future, I plan on pursuing another documentary film set in the Adirondacks and I’m looking forward to it because of all I’ve learned in the past year.

14. Dew clings to a spiderweb on the Allagash Wilderness Waterway in Maine

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  • Rose

    What a great idea!! This is an absolutely beautiful trail. I’ve done parts of it and do a little more each year – but to do the whole trail with a friend and as a couple – meeting very good people all along the way – is excellent. Every paddler knows the feeling he’s talking about in the video. It’s the best.

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