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Canoeing

Monday, April 25, 2016

Follow John Connelly on PaddleQuest 1500

On April 16, John Connelly, the former leader of L.L. Bean’s Outdoor Discovery Schools, set out on a 1500-mile, 75-day solo paddling journey. Connelly, now president of Adventurous Joe Coffee hopes that his PaddleQuest 1500 inspires a desire for the outdoors. “I’m making this trip for anyone who’s ever stared into the night sky and yearned for a deeper connection to the world beyond ourselves,” says Connelly. Follow along as John provides video and text updates from his journey through 2 countries, 4 states, 22 streams, and 58 lakes. His paddle will take him through the majestic Fulton Chain Lakes of the Adirondacks, the entirety of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail, the Bay of Fundy, the Saint John River, and the Maine Island Trail. If this doesn’t get you excited to get outdoors this spring, nothing will. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 04/25/16 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, March 31, 2016

This is the Year to Finally Paddle the Allagash

Mention the Allagash River to a canoeist and his eyes suddenly become moist and dreamy as he inevitably responds, “Yeah, I'd like to go there someday.” The river has somehow attained legendary stature. Perhaps it's the way the blue streak of water slips off the map of America’s northern fringes, remote and isolated, hundreds of miles from the nearest metropolis. Or maybe it's the legacy of writer, philosopher, and inveterate traveler Henry David Thoreau, who ventured down the waterway a mere 152 years ago, waxing lyrically about the last great frontier in the East in his book, The Maine Woods. Whatever the reason, the 92-mile Allagash Wilderness Waterway continues to lure 10,000-plus paddlers to its shores every summer, turning farfetched dreams into reality.
 
2016 marks the 50th anniversary of the creation of the Allagash Wilderness Waterway by the people of Maine. So there’s no better time to experience this serene paddle. Chip Cochrane, third-generation guide, will be making his 150th descent down the river this summer with Allagash Canoe Trips. Or join another legend of the river, Gil Gilpatrick, who will be leading a Mahoosuc Guide Service trip down the river September 6-11. Expect to spot many moose slurping the shallow waters at sunrise and sunset. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/31/16 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, July 23, 2015

Maine Huts & Trails Week: Day Four, Paddling to Grand Falls Hut

Every night after dinner at all four Maine Huts, you’re encouraged to take part in the energy tour. Sustainability is an important part of the Maine Huts credo and on the tour you’ll learn that the huts are completely off the grid. Solar is the primary source of energy, providing electricity and the heating of water. Propane gas is also used as a back-up to heat the water if not enough solar energy is produced. 80 cords of wood are used each winter at the huts to supply heating for all rooms, even the floors. The composting toilets are created by Clivus and use only 3 ounces of water per flush. All of this I learned from Nate at the Grand Falls Hut on our last night of the trip. 


We started the day with an easy walk back to the Flagstaff Hut trailhead, where we met our paddling guide Matt Rolfson. A University of Maine at Farmington student, Matt grew up in these parts and knows this neck of the woods intimately. We drove to the put-in and soon started our 6-mile paddle down the Dead River. The Dead River is best known for its whitewater rafting, but that’s after the Long Falls Dam release. This section of the river is a serene paddle on quietwater, where there were far more loons than other canoers. 

2 ½ hours later, we pulled the canoe out and hiked the remaining 2 miles to the Grand Falls Hut. This stretch of trail leads to one of the highlights of the MH&T’ network, the magnificent Grand Falls, where a wide ribbon of water rushes down the rocks. On the shores below, a fly-fisherman was trying his luck hooking rainbow trout. While overhead, a bald eagle was circling the falls. The scene was so majestic I could have started waving the American flag. We walked down granite steps and were soon at our last of four huts. To commemorate the achievement, I downed a maple frosted carrot cupcake. Tasty!  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 07/23/15 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, September 12, 2014

My 5 Favorite Fall Adventures in North America, Canoeing the Boundary Waters, Ely, Minnesota

My preferred place to be in September is inside a canoe, paddling the tranquil rivers and lakes of the Boundary Waters in northern Minnesota, Wabakimi Wilderness in western Ontario, the Adirondacks in upstate New York, and the Maine woods. Those nasty mosquitoes and black flies are gone, foliage color is already starting to appear, and moose are lining the shores in heat, more talkative than Bullwinkle. So grab a paddle and find your own placid retreat. It’s no surprise that paddlers get all dreamy-eyed over Minnesota’s northern frontier, the Boundary Waters, home to a whopping 1200 miles of canoeable waters through countless lakes, rivers, and ponds. You can go days without seeing another person, replaced instead by moose, whitetail deer, black bears, beavers, otters, and those laughing loons. Wilderness Outfitters has been taking people away from civilization since 1912, offering canoe rentals and maps for self-guided trips and leading organized trips.  

 
I’ll be in Iceland next week for the annual Society of American Travel Writers convention. I’m proud to be on the board of the SATW Foundation’s Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Competition. In the past 30 years, the SATW Foundation has handed out more than 2,100 awards and over $420,000 in recognition of outstanding travel journalism. If interested in submitting stories, books, or blogs for the 2015 competition, please contact me. 
 
I’ll be back on September 22nd with updates from Iceland. In the meantime, enjoy the glorious September weather and keep active. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/12/14 at 10:00 AM
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Monday, September 08, 2014

My 5 Favorite Fall Adventures in North America, Canoeing the Penobscot River, Maine

In October 2009, I had the good fortune to paddle down the West Branch of the Penobscot River following in the current of the great naturalist and philosopher, Henry David Thoreau. Our guide was Kevin Slater, a legendary Maine paddler and dogsledder who learned these rivers and how to carve his own canoes and paddles from his mentor who he simply called, “the Old Timer.” We spent four glorious days on the water, with few other paddlers, spotting moose, bear, loons, and osprey. In the backdrop was mighty Mount Katahdin, the ending point of the Appalachian Trail. The story appeared in Sierra Magazine, the publication of the Sierra Club. If you want to paddle with Slater on the Penobscot or the Allagash River, another dreamy paddle, you can contact him at Mahoosuc Guide Service

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/08/14 at 10:00 AM
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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Paddling an Outrigger Surrounded by a Pod of Wild Dolphins

On our last morning at the Four Seasons Hualalai, we had to be in the lobby at 7:30 am for a guided paddle on a Polynesian-style outrigger canoe. The kids weren’t thrilled to get up so early on vacation, especially since our son, Jake, had to register for classes at Cornell at 9 am EST or 3 AM Big Island time that night. So I was seriously considering blowing it off. That would have been a huge mistake!  We saw at least a dozen sea turtles feeding on the reef as we pushed off from shore. Within five minutes, heading to a sheltered bay, we spotted dolphins jumping out of the water. “They never usually come this close to shore,” said our guide, a local who seemed just as amazed as we were. He handed us snorkeling gear and the next thing you know, we were swimming next to rows of six and seven dolphins. One zipped right by my daughter, Mel, and me. When we lifted our heads, the dolphins were flying above the water, doing flips in the air. Ridiculous! Needless to say, we didn’t get much paddling in, but yes, it was worthy of getting the kids out of bed. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 07/24/14 at 10:00 AM
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Friday, June 13, 2014

Urban Adventures: Paddle the Charles River, Boston

Say ta-ta to the treadmill and sprint on over to the Esplanade, the beginning of a 17-mile paved greenway that lines the Charles River. Boston loves its jogging so don’t be surprised to see runners here year-round. Better yet, get on the Charles and paddle along the Harvard crew team. The Charles River Canoe and Kayak Center rents kayaks for $15 an hour off of Soldier’s Field Road in Allston. 
 
Happy Father’s Day to all you dads! I’m off to New Brunswick next week, where I’ll be blogging live from location. So please tune in! 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/13/14 at 10:00 AM
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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Celebrating the 150th Anniversary of Thoreau’s “The Maine Woods”

As an outdoor writer based in New England, I’ve spent a good deal of time following in Henry David Thoreau’s footsteps, from climbing Monadnock and Katahdin to walking the shoreline of the upper Cape to swimming in Walden Pond. In 1864, the great naturalist and philosopher published his book “The Maine Woods” that chronicles his exploration of the remote Maine waterways. In October 2009, I had the good fortune to paddle down the West Branch of the Penobscot River following his route. Our guide was Kevin Slater, a legendary Maine paddler who learned these rivers and the skill to carve his own canoes and paddles from his mentor who he simply called, “the Old Timer.” We spent four glorious days on the water, with few other paddlers, spotting moose, bear, loons, and osprey. In the backdrop was mighty Katahdin, the end point of the Appalachian Trail. The story appeared in an issue of Sierra Magazine, the publication of the Sierra Club. If you want to paddle with Slater on the Penobscot, contact him at Mahoosuc Guide Service

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 04/24/14 at 10:00 AM
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Monday, September 10, 2012

September is the Best Month to Paddle the Allagash or Penobscot Rivers in Maine

Mid-September is my favorite time of year to paddle the legendary Allagash or Penobscot Rivers in Maine’s North Woods. Mosquitoes and congestion on the rivers are gone, replaced by early foliage colors and moose standing in the shallow waters. The first week of the Maine moose hunt takes place September 23-30 in 2012. So it’s best to get here before that time, unless you like to see your moose dead, on the back of a trailer bed. Go with a reputable registered Maine guide like Mahoosuc Guide Service, who know these waterways like the back of their hand. My story on canoeing the West Branch of the Penobscot River with Mashoosuc co-owner, Kevin Slater, can be seen in the pages of Sierra Magazine
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/10/12 at 12:00 PM
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Monday, June 04, 2012

My Favorite Small Outfitters, Mahoosuc Guide Service, Newry, Maine

I’m very excited this week to divulge my favorite regional outfitters, the small guys who have no budget to advertise and create a catalog, but know their locale like the back of their hand. In fact, many of the larger outfitters hire these guys to take their groups out. First up, Mahoosuc Guide Service, based in Newry, Maine. The best introduction to Mahoosuc is to simply share the intro of the article I wrote about paddling the Maine Woods for Sierra Magazine
 
Wearing a felt hat, plaid shirt, and a graying beard, Kevin Slater sits in the back of his canoe, looking as comfortable as most men his age are reclining in a Lazy-Boy. His stroke is short, fluid, with a short inward snap at the end to steer him exactly where he needs to be in a river dotted with boulders. In front of him sits his faithful companion, a peach-colored husky named Kara. Several months from now, when the maples grow barren and the pines are heavy with snow, Kara will be in a raucous team of her fellow Yukon brethren pulling a dogsled through the melt. But now, at the peak of fall foliage in northern Maine, with the maples and poplars on the hillside radiant with splashes of yellow, plum, and purple, Kara can rest and she does just that with her head jutting out over the edge. 
Like the paddles we hold in our hands, the 17 ½ and 20-foot long wood and canvas canoes we sit in were all created by Slater. It takes more than 120 hours of work to carve one of these delicately ribbed beauties out of northern white cedar and cherry wood, using only native varieties. 
“I was taught that you can find anything you need to make in these woods,” says Slater.
His skilled craftsmanship was passed down from his mentor, who Slater refers to simply as the “Old Timer.” As in, “after paddling the entire Allagash, the Old Timer told me to go to the local store and get ten days of supplies. I was going to go back upstream on my own. That’s how I learned how to canoe these rivers.”
Slater is the latest in a long line of teachers and students who learned to live in the Maine woods and to navigate the maze of blue waterways, a seemingly countless number of lakes, rivers, streams, and ponds that branch off in every direction to form this capillary system deep in the forest. The baton, (or in this case, a paddle) has been passed over the generations from the Wabanaki Indians to European fur traders to a growing legion of naturalists with familiar names like Emerson and Thoreau to the timbermen of the 20th century, and lastly the recreational paddlers like you and me who yearn to get lost in a timeless bubble far away from the hyperkinetic mindset of modernity. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/04/12 at 12:00 PM
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Longtime Boston Globe travel writer, Steve Jermanok, dishes out his favorite travel locales and provides topical travel information that comes across his desk.

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