Voices from the Northern Forest Canoe Trail

The Official Blog of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail :: Paddling – or dreaming about it – in the Northern Forest

Five Pieces of Advice for an NFCT thru-paddle

Categories: Northern Forest Canoe Trail

By Mike Lynch


Mike Lynch

Paddling the 740-mile Northern Forest Canoe Trail is a challenging adventure that requires thoughtful planning and the proper gear. When planning for my trip in 2011, I sought out advice from numerous sources, including books, maps, blogs, the NFCT organization, and experienced paddlers. Below are five pieces of I advice I offer to people heading onto the trail this year.

  1. Seek Out Past Thru-Paddlers: There are now roughly 100 people who have registered as thru-paddlers with the Northern Forest Canoe Trail, in addition to those who have done the trail and decided to remain anonymous. Many of the thru-paddlers are willing to offer advice about doing the trip. You can get in contact with past thru-paddlers by contacting Trail Director Walter Opuszynski (walter@northernforestcanoetrail.org) or by seeking out paddlers through contact info on their blogs. Before my trip, I got advice from thru-paddlers Ryan and Catherine Thompson, who were living in Old Forge, New York, and I found it invaluable. Thru-paddlers can offer advice about whitewater sections, portages, gear selection, and where to find food along the route, among other things. You’ll learn more from a conversation with a person with experience than any map and most books.
  1. Listen to Advice from Local Outfitters: Local outfitters are great sources of information while you’re paddling the trail and many are located either on the water or a short distance away from it. Local outfitters can offer updated info on trail conditions, tell you where to find the best campsites, and warn you about hazards along the trail. I found that some of my best experiences during my thru-paddle came about as a result of the help I received from local outfitters. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised how helpful many of these businesses will be.
  1. Do A Practice Run: It’s fairly common for thru-paddlers to find out they are carrying too much gear by the time they paddle the first 90 miles of the trail and arrive in Saranac Lake, New York. Many paddlers have been known to stop at the post office in this small village and send their extra gear home. However, some of the over-packing can be avoided if you take your gear out on the water before heading out of the trail. Portage around your neighborhood and paddle a local river with all the gear you plan to bring. Don’t surprise yourself on Old Forge Pond that your gear doesn’t fit in your boat.
  2. Leave Yourself Extra Time: One of the interesting parts of the trail is that is goes through 45 communities on the way from the Adirondacks to northern Maine. Those communities (as are many of the wilderness sections) are great places to spend to visit during a

    Covered bridge in Stark, New Hampshire.

    thru-paddle. I spent three days in Rangeley, Maine, during my trip and it allowed me to get to know the local people a little better and also to resupply. It’s also important to set aside extra time during your trip planning, because you may also find yourself delayed by things such as weather or illness. Many of the large lakes, especially Lake Champlain and those in Maine, can be extremely challenging to cross when there are high winds and have keep paddlers ashore when they were hoping to be out on the water.

  1. Don’t Take Unnecessary Risks: This might seem overly obvious. However, it’s worth mentioning that it’s not worth getting in over your head by attempting a whitewater section above your ability or taking a short cut across a windblown lake in Maine just to save some time. Keep in mind that the goal of this thru-paddle is to get to Fort Kent, Maine. This may mean having patience on a windy day in Maine or avoiding a whitewater section because recent rains have swelled the river. Trust me, there will be plenty of unexpected challenges during a thru-paddle. Might as well avoid those you deem beyond your ability. Keeping a calm head is one of the keys to success on any long-distance trip.

Mike Lynch is the New York Outreach Coordinator for the NFCT. He can be reached at mike@northernforestcanoetrail.org.


A Tribute to an Amazing Friend and Volunteer: Lisa Dyslin

Categories: Northern Forest Canoe Trail

By: Walter Opuszynski, NFCT Trail Director

Lisa and her husband Nick pose at the outlet of the West Branch of the Penobscot.

Lisa and her husband Nick pose at the outlet of the West Branch of the Penobscot in Maine.

The Northern Forest Canoe Trail community suffered a great loss recently. Lisa Dyslin, a longtime supporter of the trail and the mother of our Adopt-a-Segment program, passed away on January 28. Lisa lived in Wilmington, New York, with her husband Nick and one very lovable and excitable Labrador retriever.

Lisa served as a charter member the NFCT Board of Directors for a total of 11 years, becoming one of the first members of the Stewardship Committee. With a former teacher’s attention to detail and spelling, she became the first board secretary and held this position for many years.

“Her tireless concern for the smallest of details and her adeptness at keeping projects on track echoed strongly of her years as a classroom educator. The NFCT benefitted immeasurably from her many years of involvement,” said Rob Center, first Executive Director of the Trail. This attention to detail and process also helped her play a significant role in the development of the NFCT section maps between 2002 and 2006.

Lisa was a constant champion of the NFCT, tabling booths and telling people about the trail whenever she was able.

Lisa was a constant champion of the NFCT, tabling booths and telling people about the trail whenever she was able.

During her time with the board and stewardship committee, she helped make substantial progress on organizational structure, developing an emergency preparedness plan for the trail and creating guidelines for safety signage.

As the founding NFCT Board Chair, Kay Henry reflected on how Lisa’s organizational skills and matter-of-fact approach helped in the creation of a hard-working and hands-on board culture for the fledgling organization.  “She was always quick to volunteer for projects and followed up to assure their success. You could always count on Lisa to complete what she had committed to.”

Lisa poses with an NFCT Stewardship Crew as the group takes a break from installing a new campsite on Franklin Falls Pond in NY.

Lisa poses with an NFCT Stewardship Crew as the group takes a break from installing a new campsite on Franklin Falls Pond in New York.

Lisa was the first person to become a volunteer Trail Maintainer in the Adopt-a-Segment Program, working with Ryan Doyle to maintain New York Segment 9 covering an area of the Saranac River corridor from Permanent Rapids to Union Falls Pond. Ryan remembers volunteering with Lisa on this section of the NFCT fondly.

“I was fortunate to meet Lisa through Adirondack Lakes and Trails Outfitters,” he said. “When I asked her if I could help as a maintainer she graciously welcomed me. Over the years, we spent several days together on the water and each time was special. Lisa was great with conversation and had much to share. Her stories of adventures with her lady-friends and husband Nick always made me smile. I will always remember Lisa’s enthusiasm, vibrancy and strength.  I am honored to have known and worked with her.”

Always hospitable, Lisa would feed many an NFCT intern, staff member, and volunteer when passing through the area.

Always hospitable, Lisa and Nick had an open door policy and would take in many an NFCT intern, staff member, and volunteer whenever they found themselves in the Wilmington area.

Lisa was an active participant in the Adopt-a-Segment program and was a regular at our annual maintainer jamborees. She is remembered for her kindness, hospitality, and ability to roll up her sleeves and get things done. Many volunteers and interns will also remember her very tasty lemon squares. Lisa was well known for finding people working on projects along the trail and providing them with this tasty treat at their moment of need, giving them a sweet and tangy boost of energy. She truly understood what it meant to volunteer and her efforts have left a lasting impact the NFCT. We will do all we can to carry her spirit forward and will be dedicating our 2017 stewardship season to her memory.

Nulhegan Confluence Hut and Trails

Categories: Northern Forest Canoe Trail, Trail Stewardship

By Noah Pollock
Vermont State Coordinator & New York/Vermont Regional Field Coordinator

Nulhegan Hut construction 2016

The arrival of winter has slowed—but not completely stopped—the completion of a new amenity for paddlers: a hut along the Northern Forest Canoe Trail’s Nulhegan River in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom.

This year I’ve been managing the construction of a 14′ x 16′ cabin near the confluence of the Nulhegan River and the East Branch Nulhegan River, on a 70-acre parcel that was conserved by the Vermont River Conservancy (VRC). Like NFCT’s other state coordinators, I “wear hats” with other organizations and it is always wonderful finding projects like this that are natural partnerships.


One way to level a stone.

While project development and fundraising is being led by VRC, the Northern Forest Canoe Trail has provided critical hands-on support. Last summer, NFCT interns and volunteers literally built the foundation for the hut. The stewardship team also constructed a moldering privy, a campsite, a river access point, and cleared nearly a mile of walking trails along the Nulhegan. The trails also serve as a re-route for the Nulhegan Gorge portage, getting paddlers off busy Route 105 and the often shallow and rocky East Branch. Read more

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