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!
Best night of sleep yet! Finally, I was able to get comfortable and sleep through an entire night. I made breakfast and broke down camp- I am getting very proficient at multitasking. I took my time organizing things this morning and I think I have settled on my cleanest load up yet. As I shipped off for the day, I kept thinking I had left something behind because I didn’t have any loose ends floating around.
Franklin Falls Pond was a beautiful place to wake up to, and a great place to start a day of paddling - feeling very happy.
As I made my way along Franklin Falls Pond, conditions worsened and by the time I made it to the north shore I was basically thrown off the lake by the waves. After a quick portage around the falls I returned my boat to the water at Union Falls Pond. Conditions were alright at the south end in the shadow of the dam. I took a small detour to explore Woodruff Bay to see the waterfall listed at French Brook. The falls were small but pretty, it started to sprinkle while I was there so I threw on the skirt. Conditions got worse as I paddled out of the bay, the winds were tailing me so I made good time, but I surged and surfed the waves all the way to the end of the pond.
Another portage next, this time around Union Falls. This one was interesting - taking me behind and around a power station to the put in. I made sure everything was strapped in tight for the upcoming rapids 2.1 miles down the way.
I decided to risk having the GoPro mount raised in an effort to catch the action. This is a risk only because I cannot take it down once I am moving through rapids, any overhanging branch or fallen tree I may need to navigate under would likely break it right off.
The first set of rapids was long! I managed to bang my way through. It all happens so quickly it is hard to reflect on them. This was followed by a pause of flatwater, then the second set. Again, I handled them with grace- nothing too challenging, and this time much shorter. I was warned that the Casey Road Access might not be well marked so I stuck close to the left side where I eventually found it and eddied out literally right before the next set of drops.
The access was un-wheelable which means one thing… it’s going to take a while. It took three trips to get all my gear down the 300 yard carry. I was pooped from hauling the gear, and decided to rest and eat lunch at the road. It was getting late and I wasn’t as exuberant as I expected.
Everything is privately owned on this section which pretty much means that you are screwed for camping. I didn't have a plan or destination, and I had no idea where I was going to find a place to call home for the evening but I didn’t focus on that, I just hauled my boat down the road to Clayburg.
One person stopped to offer help on the 5-mile haul: an estranged lady who passed me going the opposite direction about 5 minutes prior. She asked if I needed a ride and then continued to harass me in a very kind but crazy way... asking if I wanted to be her next ex-husband etc. She was eager to get me in her small car but I politely declined, she took off with a load of cars behind her which she had held up while talking to me. She turned her car around just up the road and stopped again as she passed, headed once again in the opposite direction. She wanted to make sure of my decision, saying that I was mighty cute and that she wanted to take me home cause I was a “sexy little bastard,” I laughed and again politely declined.
The carry wasn’t bad, the countryside was beautiful, and I felt like I could walk forever- the way I felt on the AT. At times I could see the river and it was extremely low - I was happy that I listened to Tyler and decided to portage.
When I got to Clayburg the river was wide and shallow, rippling erratically from the rocky bottom. The book said the put in was right along the roadside but it was nowhere to be found. I am slowly learning that sometimes the book is terribly mistaken. The road continued to pull away from the river so I decided to just drag the boat over the guardrail and down the wretchedly overgrown hill. It was late but Tyler had mentioned that there may be a stealth spot at the Separator Rapids take out - this was my tentative plan.
The river was entirely un-runnable! I could go ten/twenty feet before bottoming out! I had to constantly get out to line the boat down the river, carefully walking in the water as to not slip or break anything. Progress was slow and now I was racing daylight. Eager to get out of the river and get camp established I looked for nothing other than the take out. I eventually made it all the way to the rapids and had still not seen the take out!!! By the map and GPS I could tell I had missed it, 'what the heck!' maybe while I was looking down at my steps?!? I turned around, at this point I was panicking, I now needed to backtrack and head upstream to search for the elusive take out. It was 7:30 and getting dark. I was still in the water with no out. I walked/paddled/tugged my boat up the river to no avail- now clearly past where the non-existent take out should be! I was screwed. Side note: while searching, I did come across a beaver who slapped his tail at me twice, and a deer who I chased out of the river. Now I had no other option but to return to the road and walk. I went up the river further until I found a house with budding property. I trespassed, and pulled my boat ashore.
Throughout the day I had gulped down my restocked water supply from Saranac Lake, I was so thirsty and with nothing left I grabbed my bottle and filter and quickly downed some river water. I moved quickly, I was trespassing and did not want to cause alarm. Since I was leaving the water’s edge, I knew that dinner would be light as there would be no cooking water for me. I threw on the wheels in the dusk and pulled my boat up through the yard. Using my GPS I navigated down a road, back to Route 3 - the road I left to put in in Clayburg.
In darkness I headed down the road towards Redford to meet up with the Separator Rapids carry that I could not find on the water. I utilized the Luci light on flash mode and my red flashing light function on my headlight for safety as I pulled my boat along the road. I went about a mile or so before finding a clearing off the side of the road. I pulled in and started setting up camp. There were not many houses along the road but one happened to be situated right across the street from the one opening I had found in the woods. The occupants took notice even though I was trying to be stealthy. I was aware that this area was pro-private property and was warned of the general distaste for the paddling community so I decided to go talk to the man checking me out in the darkness. I left the woods with the headlight shining on my face. I explained my situation and asked if it would be alright to camp there for the night. I assured him I would be out in the morning. Clearly confused, he still agreed that it would be alright.
I set up a minimal camp, ate Goldfish and a fruit cup for dinner, and went to sleep. I admittedly felt pretty defeated, the Saranac had chewed me up and spit me out. My feet were killing me from the hasty river walking, and they were clearly pretty banged up.
I examined the next few maps in hopes of catching a break, but I discover that it is majority upstream travel through small rivers with barely any camping - private land sucks! Going to miss Adirondack Park and its ease of accessibility. Went to sleep feeling like this is an impossible task. If things are anything like the low river I faced this evening then this might take me 80 days. Collin, if you make it to Fort Kent, you are a serious bad ass! Got to take this thing one day at a time.