After sea kayaking from Nova Scotia to New Orleans in 2013 and following canoeist Dale Sanders on his 2015 bid to become the oldest person to paddle the length of the Mississippi River, filmmakers Brad Tallent and Austin Graham sought wilder waterways in 2017. The co-founders of Adventureitus Productions, along with their partners, Megan Tallent and Mallory Hirschler, canoed the length of the 740-mile Northern Forest Canoe Trail, shooting an intriguing teaser and developing a series of video guides for each section of the water trail, which stretches from New York to Maine.
We caught up with Tallent to learn more about the 69-day journey, which included a whopping 63 portages totaling 53 miles.
CanoeKayak.com: When did you first become interested in the Northern Forest Canoe Trail?
Brad Tallent: The NFCT has been on my to-do list since I heard of it in 2012. Being able to travel from New York to Maine through some of the most incredible waterways was a no-brainer for our team. Following old fur trade routes and ancient Native American routes is incredibly interesting to me as well.
Your previous expeditions have focused on semi-wilderness and suburban waterways. How did your experience on the NFCT compare?
In the past we have experienced some of the most developed waterways in North America and this was complete opposite of the norm for us. The most development along the NFCT is summer homes in the Adirondacks. Some lakes can be littered with them but the beauty of it is you're never on the same waterway for too long.
How did your interactions with trail supporters and local residents enhance your trip?
Talking to the locals has always been one of my favorite parts of traveling and this trip was no different. With each section of this trail being so diverse, the people along the trail was also different from area to area. Many of the towns along the way praise the trail and look forward to it becoming a more popular thru-paddle.
What was your favorite section of the water trail?
From the get-go, I built up northern Maine in my mind and really looked forward to the Allagash and St. John rivers. Section 13 lived up to everything I could have asked for and more. My memories consist of serene lakes, super fun whitewater, tons of trout fishing and 95 miles of pure wilderness. It’s certainly on my to-do list to go back and re-paddle that section.
What advice can you offer to prospective thru-paddlers, in terms of essential skills and gear?
The biggest piece of advice I can offer would be to gain some whitewater experience before embarking on a thru-paddle. It’s not entirely necessary but would certainly cut down on portage times for someone attempting the entire trail. The number one piece of gear I would recommend is the sturdiest pair of portage wheels you can find. With roughly 55 miles of portages along the way a good pair of wheels will make that a little easier. As far as boats, it's pretty wide open in that department. We found a home with NorthStar Canoes, and our Northwind 17's performed extremely well in every paddling style we threw at it including the whitewater sections.
— Read C&K editor-at-large Alan Kesselheim's gear picks for thru-paddling the NFCT, plus 5 lightweight tripping canoes reviewed.
— Follow Adventureitus on Facebook to learn more about the release of their NFCT route guides.
— Watch Tallent and Graham's video for Minnesota's NorthStar Canoes