Imagine packing your supplies, stepping into your boat and pushing off. You paddle on scenic rivers, historic lakes and shimmering streams, winding your way through the New York’s Adirondacks. You’re surrounded by billowing hills, with quaint cabins plopped into the deep emerald fields that seem to roll straight to the clouds. Paddling on, you venture across yawning farmlands, as plains stretch far and flat into the distance. The rural sights slowly fade into buzzing suburbs as you watch, with each stroke, as trucks and sedans meander through busy streets, honking and screeching. You pole upstream, you portage, you descend challenging rapids. You witness the purest of nature and the most typical of modern man. Eight weeks and 740 miles later, you arrive in Maine, having survived a little thing known as the Northern Forest Canoe Trail.
The Northern Forest Canoe Trail, a 740-mile trail that has access to all major drainages in the Northeast, officially opened June 3. Following old Native American trade routes, the trail begins in Old Forge, New York, and weaves through Vermont, Quebec and New Hampshire before ending in Ford Kent, Maine. While it is named a canoe trail, the NFCT can be paddled in a canoe or kayak, according to the NFCT website. Complete with relaxing day trips through wilderness as well as longer, challenging treks through towns and farms, the NFCT offers an array of paddles, varying in length, difficulty, and scenery.
Paddling the entire trail, however, is arduous, and requires specific skills. In order to journey through all 740 miles, paddlers must pole upstream and downstream, cross exposed lakes, portage at least 62 times and descend up to Class IV rapids. So far only one person, Donnie Mullen, has through-paddled the trail, although others are currently attempting the expedition. Mullen, an Outward Bound instructor made the trek in 55 days in May and June of 2000 in a 16-foot wood-canvas canoe, according to the NFCT website.