As the greatest flood in nearly a century neared its apex in the second week of May, it brought a change of weather to my hometown of Clarksdale, Mississippi. The typical spring southerlies gave way to an unlikely cool breeze, which blew steady from the north for five straight days.
The rain turns to sleet as we gain elevation; ahead and across the valley, clear accumulation shows the depravity of an early October snowstorm in Germany’s Black Forest. Sweat still rising from furrowed brows, we cross the snow line, coughing into stiff hands and stretching sore muscles. We get back into our positions, the canoe between us, and continue our portage.
Just over a year ago, the 25-year-old from Connecticut completed the first, modern-day canoe expedition across America—a 4,300-mile solo journey from Portland to Portland, Oregon to Maine, that is. 2011 presents a new year for “Zand” and with it, a new continent to paddle across. Martin will be recounting the epic, 4,000-km journey across Europe from Nantes, France to Istanbul in a series of exclusive En Route posts.
Canoes have a problem: They’re not always floating. Sometimes you have to carry them. And that can be an issue, especially in the Adirondack region of upstate New York, the birthplace of John Rushton’s legendary pack canoe. The map tells the tale: a scattergun-like array of remote lakes and rivers stretching from New York to the tip of Maine. Every one is a unique and beautiful place to paddle. All you have to do is get there. And therein lies the rub.
One hundred fifty years ago this month, our young nation was beginning its darkest hour—a four-year Civil War that would claim nearly 700,000 lives. Today, a century and a half later, that agony lingers deep in our collective consciousness. And one of the best and most peaceful ways to visit these battlefield sites is by paddling the bodies of water that have defined them through the years.
On the third day of a weeklong, early spring canoe trip in northern Ontario, my trip mates start calling me Shackleton. We’ve been icebound on sprawling Smoothwater Lake since the end of Day One, when we dragged, pushed and occasionally paddled across 10 miles of ice, slush and short-lived leads of open water. From this sweeping sand beach on Smoothwater’s east side, it’s disappointingly obvious that zeal outweighed logic in planning this early season trip across 75 miles of prime canoe country in search of the lake that carries my family name. Breakup is days away, and our expedition is fast becoming a failure.
Peter, Dan and Paul Bragiel are brothers from the Chicagoland area whose combined canoeing experience, prior to this summer, amounted to three days total. They all live in California—Dan, 31, and Paul, 33, are Silicon Valley Internet entrepreneurs, and Peter, 29, is a Los Angeles-based filmmaker with a strong chi for adventure. This summer, and thanks in part to a grant from YouTube, the trio recruited Tony Corella, a 25-year-old filmmaker from L.A., in order to attempt to canoe the length of the Mississippi River…
On a clear October day in the middle of the Ka’iwi Channel, the island of Oahu is a distant smudge on the horizon and 45-foot outrigger canoes, each carrying six strong men paddling full out, appear only as rocking torsos and slashing paddles glimpsed amid the swell rolling down from the north.
The mood was electric and the music acoustic at the 2011 Paddlesports Industry Party in Salt Lake City on Aug. 5. Athletes, legends and industry employees flooded the venue for free food, beer, networking and the 26th annual Canoe & Kayak Industry Awards.
Yesterday the Worlds ended. I’m talking about the 2011 Canoe Slalom World Championships, of course, not the end of everything. (That’s in 2012.) Riding in cars or buses or airplanes back to their homelands today, slalom athletes and coaches are thinking about this year’s racing season, and planning the next.
France’s Denis Gargaud-Chanut and Fabien Lefevre, the silver medalists in Saturday’s C-2 event, made slalom history Sunday by medaling again in their two different singles classes. Lefevre claimed the Bronze Medal in Men’s Kayak, and—in the biggest surprise of these World Championships—Gargaud-Chanut is the 2011 World Champion in C-1 Men.