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 early knowing that I had a big day ahead of me - 15+ miles with 12+ sections of whitewater. The book suggest running this section only if the flow is at 1850 cfs (cubic feet per second) or greater, or at least 5 ft. in average height. Utilizing my cell service, I checked the USGS gauge for the Saranac River in Plattsburgh and it reported a low 297 cfs and 2.89 ft. which essentially meant I would need to line and drag the boat down an almost continuous stretch of whitewater all the way to Plattsburgh. Bleh! Was I going to be forced to road walk instead of paddle? This was not an easy decision to make. My brain was saying don’t do it dummy, the facts are clear; while my heart was saying you got to stick to the river.
After discussing it with Moose and the parents via text message, it was clear that I needed to portage. As much as I wanted to stick to the river the facts were unchangeable. I have a long way still to go, I don’t need to bang up my already damaged feet or damage my boat. Realizing I was in for a long road portage, I secured and packed everything away as cleanly as possible. Then I hauled my boat back up to the road.
I paused for a moment to quickly cross the closed bridge that I had witnessed so many trespass on the night before. I wanted to go down to the post-dam put-in and get one last good look at the river. Maybe then I could see that the USGS reading was all a lie, the water would be plentiful and I could run the river instead of walking - unfortunately, that was just my hopes speaking.
As I began my way down the gravel road I noticed someone with a carted kayak coming towards me. When we met, we introduced ourselves and learned that we were on the same journey. Her name is Rosser, she is the first thru-paddler I have met and she has been tailing me for a while. She knew who I was due to my name in all the NFCT kiosks dated just days, and sometimes hours ahead of her. I told her of my deduction on the river conditions, and she decided to join me. We pulled our carted boats down Goddeau Road to 22B, and then to US Route 3, we hauled our boats all the way into the heart of Plattsburgh. On our way, we passed every type of chain business in America. It’s definitely a strange feeling coming out of the slow, quiet woods and into the city - busy and bustling.
We passed a Five Guys at noon and I just couldn’t get over the prospect of a Diet Coke and fries, lots of fries! We were about a half block past the restaurant when I made my decision. I said bye to Rosser and I parked my boat outside the delightfully air conditioned burger joint. I ordered a cheeseburger with everything, cajun fries and a soda - $14 worth of food. The first bite was ridiculous, the fries were on point and the Coke was the most refreshing thing I’ve had in two weeks. When I finished the meal I was way too full, a bit regretful, but wholly satisfied.
Afterwards I continued down the streets of Plattsburgh. It was here that I had arranged my first supply drop box with Moose, and she picked the most ideal place for it- The Naked Turtle, a lakeside eatery and bar with a fun vibe and lots of outdoor seating. I asked three people about my package before I found the one who knew what a dropbox was. She sent me a huge resupply, this was great, but I still had a lot of leftovers which was my own fault. I took my time repacking up all the goods and loaded up the boat while I let my phone charge.
After my phone was recharged, I sought out the Green Street Launch where the NFCT kiosk was located. After debating my options of paddling a couple miles to Cumberland Bay State Park and paying $20 for a campsite (I hate paying for camping) or walking back through downtown to knock on doors for a yard to camp in, I chose to paddle. At 4 pm, I suited up and paddled for the first time in the day, to Cumberland Bay State Park.
Lake Champlain was packed - jet skis and sailboats were everywhere. The water was choppy and it took a while to get across the bay, over to the park. Once I landed I walked around looking for the parks office, entry, or anyone that could tell me anything. On my way around, I found Rosser. She had paid for two nights, $46, since she missed her dropbox at the post office by 20 minutes (it was Saturday). I had informed her of this possibility earlier in the day and suggested she arrange her next drop boxes to arrive at businesses instead of post offices due to their strict hours and closings - wisdom I had picked up on the Appalachian Trail. I tossed her a $10 to split the night and set up camp next to hers.
After camp was established, I immediately went to the nice beach that I had landed on and took a swim - my first dip since Moose had left.
The campground was absolutely packed! It was also predominantly people from Quebec. Everyone was speaking French! I don’t think I heard a lick of English. It was fun to feel a bit of Canadian culture shock; there was a topless girl at the beach, tons and tons of PDA and touching, beautifully extravagant camp set ups - full banquet tables and feast, and lots of wine - wine everywhere!
The surrounding area was gorgeous, Cumberland Bay looks out over an enormous stretch of Lake Champlain. To the left I could see the Green Mountains of Vermont, to the right, the Adirondacks of New York. I took a lot of time photographing the scenery and sunset before making dinner on a bench by the beach- West African Peanut Soup.
I planned to have an early morning, so I tried to get to some sleep. It was a weird day and I felt a little off. It was interesting to be traveling with someone, I strangely started to rely on her in a way, and I felt myself become a little soft for not being entirely solo. I set my alarms for 6 am.