I journaled meticulously during my 52 days on the trail - sometimes to log boring details and other times to record my story. What you are reading is my word-for-word account, logged directly from the two notebooks I filled during my time paddling the NFCT. Some days are short, others are lavish and detailed. There are mistakes, it may not always make sense, but it is certainly a true account of the experience. Enjoy!
I woke up at my river site two hours after my alarm went off. I probably would have slept all morning had I not heard the group of people fishing near my site - a grandpa, father, and young boy. I quickly got up and made breakfast. I accidentally knocked my first pot of boiling water over across the picnic table. After grabbing the hot pot, I poured the last bit of remaining water out to douse the flames from the spilled fuel. Reset, and restarted breakfast.
I packed up after breakfast, making sure everything was ready for the rapids I would face today. I put in headphones, put on some tunes and launched into the waterway. It was marshy channel paddling for the most part, although some of it was really clear and beautiful - during those times I was able to spot a lot of fish.
I eventually came upon the second lock, the operator wasn’t as friendly or talkative as the last one, but the experience was still pretty cool.
Oseetah Lake was next, the book's description made it sound like it was going to be spectacular but I wasn't overly impressed. I paddled to the northern end to a channel which brought me onto Lake Flower and then made my way up to Saranac Lake Village. I pulled my boat out at the access next to the dam and threw on the wheels. I made my way to the NFCT kiosk a few yards away, and then into the abutting town park.
I called Moose and Mom and Dad before going across the street to Little Italy Pizza which was staring me down the whole time I was on the phone.
It was extremely delicious and extraordinarily cheap! It had won all the local awards, and I understood why after tasting my two cheese slices.
I asked a policeman, who was also grabbing lunch, where the nearest grocery or convenient shop was and then proceeded to make my way downtown, boat in tow. It must have been quite a sight watching me pull my equipment down the sidewalks and across the crosswalks.
A gentleman stopped to talk with me and to ask questions. The policeman’s directions had already escaped my mind so he whipped out his phone to help me find Top’s Grocery. As I made my way, I happened to cross the street that St. Regis Outfitters was on, I had planned to stop there anyway and I recalled that they may offer gear storage. I popped in and was directed to leave my boat by their boats at their launch which they also said I may use - very nice people! I spoke with Tyler who happens to be the trail maintainer for map three and an experienced whitewater paddler. He gave me the non-sugar coated version of what was to come. I am doing this at the wrong time of year! They said they don’t even run trips on this section after the end of June. The gist was; run Permanent Rapids, run Trail Rapids and the one that comes before, and then take out at the Casey Road Access and portage 5 miles down the road to the town of Clayburg. He said that that section would be un-runnable, extremely technical even with adequate water levels, and demands a full whitewater outfit. Even as an experienced whitewater paddler, he said that he has wrapped boats in that section. He then went over the remaining sections with me.
After I spoke with Tyler, I left to go to Tops, it was on the next street over. The store was nice and small, and I was able to get what I needed. I wanted a soda but grabbed a Snapple in honor of Moose, she never drinks them but had been craving one while she was paddling with me. I was dying of thirst - I have been able to refrain from filtering thus far, but I had run out of drinking water yesterday evening and had gone this morning with nothing, knowing I could fill up in town.
It stinks that I always have to be in such a rush, Saranac Lake Village was an awesome place. I really needed to charge my devices and update social media while I had service, but I also needed to make miles. I had already spent the better half of the day making my way around town, it was 1 o’clock and I knew I needed to get moving.
On my way down the river out of town, I ran alongside a St. Regis guide leading an family down to the High Water Bridge. I chatted with the guide for 10 minutes as we mellowly made our way down the low, winding Saranac. I eventually separated when I picked up the pace.
The river was winding, slow, and remote. I had planned on portaging Permanent Rapids as the book recommends it, but Tyler said that I should run them - referencing my experience on the Deerland Rapids. It was getting late when I reached the rapids and honestly I was still a little shaken from my mishap in Moose’s boat. I had already made my mother cry from worries on the phone earlier so I decided to stick with my original plan and portage.
It was an easy portage until I had to get my boat back to the water's edge. Not running the rapids was a tough decision and after the carry I felt like a wuss - defeated and regretful. I know the only way to learn is experience, and experience is the only way to be confident when facing the things I will inevitably face down the road. Risk management is a tough line to draw when you are by yourself. I put in and paddle into an extremely quiet and peaceful Franklin Falls Pond.
I was lucky to find an empty island campsite. It seemed as though I was the only person in the world on the pond.
I had a nice little fire and enjoyed the peaceful evening. The fish were feeding into the evening, jumping like crazy all around the island. I was able to briefly text Moose on one bar of service. I enjoyed one of my dehydrated chickpea curry dinners and my first fruit cup. I was happy to have accomplished my mileage goal even after spending a long time in town.