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Canoeing

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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Monday, September 12, 2011

My Favorite Fall Foliage Travels—Canoeing the Allagash

In 1998, I had an assignment from Men’s Journal magazine to paddle the 92-mile Allagash Wilderness Waterway in the northern tier of Maine. It was late September, when the summer infestation of mosquitoes and black flies were gone, along with most paddlers. Instead, I found a river ablaze in fall color. An added bonus was that moose were in heat. One night while I was sleeping near the shores, several moose were going at it and I thought I was going to be trampled to death. Besides that little mishap, I had a glorious time venturing down this magical waterway. I went with classic Maine guides, Alexandra and Garrett Conover, who are semi-retired and no longer take folks down the river. Instead, go with a trusted guide like Mahoosuc Guide Service, who led me down the West Branch of the Penobscot River in Maine last fall.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/12/11 at 01:00 PM
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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Canoe the Upper Iowa River, Cresco, Iowa

Don’t worry about crowds on this forgotten run in the glacial-carved valley of northeast Iowa. The Upper Iowa can be paddled for 110 miles from Lime Springs to the Mississippi, but a good 31-mile jaunt from Kendalville to Decorah snakes through cliff-lined gorges below 200-foot-high chimney rocks. Bald eagles frequently soar over the limestone outcrops and deer, mink, raccoon and beaver call the area home. Chimney Rock rents canoes, offers trip planning, and provides a free shuttle. 
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 07/20/11 at 12:59 PM
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Monday, August 30, 2010

Top 5 Fall Foliage Picks in New England, Paddling a North Woods River in Maine

It’s supposed to reach 90 degrees today in Boston, but my mind is already thinking ahead to fall foliage. The dry hot summer will lead to an earlier than usual foliage. Though we did get much needed rain in New England this past week, so trees that were wilting should be happier. This week, I’m delving into my favorite activities during the height of fall foliage.

12 years ago, I was hired to write a story about paddling the Allagash River for Men’s Journal magazine. It was late September, when the leaves on trees were yellow, orange, and crimson and the normally taciturn moose was in heat and was as talkative as Bullwinkle. There were no mosquitoes, no black flies, no humans, except our little group who paddled over 5 days up the narrow river corridor. Last year, I was fortunate to return to Maine’s North Woods in autumn, this time on assignment for Sierra magazine. I was in the capable hands of registered Maine guide, Kevin Slater, who with his wife, Polly, run Mahoosuc Guide Service. We spotted moose, bear, a barred owl, and once again we had the river, this time the West Branch of the Penobscot, to ourselves. There’s something about being on a lengthy Maine river in autumn, when the crowds are gone, and you have this serene scene of water, the pine-studded campgrounds, and mountains hovering in the background. It seeps into your skin and I yearn to be back there each fall.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/30/10 at 01:00 PM
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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

New Jersey Woman First Female to Paddle 740-Mile Northern Forest Canoe Trail Solo

This past Monday, Cathy Mumford of Colts Neck, New Jersey, became the first woman to paddle the entire Northern Forest Canoe Trail solo. The 50-year old mother of two started at Old Forge, New York, on June 19th, and finished her trip in Fort Kent, Maine, at the northern terminus of the 740-mile route. She paddled across Lake Champlain on her 50th birthday, made several wrong turns on the route to add to the mileage, yet still achieved her goal of completing this Appalachian Trail of the water in her trusty 9-foot kayak. And she only started kayaking several years ago in Tennessee. Talk about a quick learner!
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/18/10 at 01:00 PM
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Friday, May 28, 2010

Top 5 Paddling Spots in America, Upper Iowa River, Iowa

Don’t worry about crowds on this forgotten run in the glacial-carved valley of northeast Iowa. The Upper Iowa can be paddled for 110 miles from Lime Springs to the Mississippi, but a good 31-mile jaunt from Kendalville to Decorah snakes through cliff-lined gorges below 200-foot-high chimney rocks. Bald eagles frequently soar over the limestone outcrops and deer, mink, raccoon and beaver call the area home. Chimney Rock rents canoes, offers trip planning, and provides a free shuttle. 
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/28/10 at 01:00 PM
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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Top 5 Paddling Spots in America, Allagash River, Maine

Maine’s rivers have attained near-celebrity status from paddlers nationwide. 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 140 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. Go with a trusted guide like Mahoosuc Guide Service, who led me down the West Branch of the Penobscot River in Maine last fall. That led to an article in this month’s Sierra Magazine.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/27/10 at 01:00 PM
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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Top 5 Paddling Spots, Niobrara River, Nebraska

Canoeing and Nebraska may bring to mind images of portaging through cornfields past cows and combines. But avid Midwestern paddlers know there’s a gem in the rough and it’s called the Niobrara River. A coveted Cornhusker secret, the Niobrara is arguably the prettiest prairie run in the States. A 30-mile, three-day jaunt from Valentine’s Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge to the take-out at Rocky Ford is a smooth ride on a wide and shallow river between sandstone cliffs. Along the way, there is excellent wildlife viewing opportunities. Scattered groups of bison

 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/26/10 at 01:00 PM
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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Top 5 Paddling Spots, Boundary Waters, Ely, Minnesota

Maybe it’s the 1,000,000-plus acres of seemingly endless wilderness—a whopping 1200 miles of canoeable waters through countless lakes, rivers, and ponds—that gets paddlers all dreamy-eyed over Minnesota’s northern frontier, the Boundary Waters. 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. Fish for smallmouth bass as you canoe from Mudro to Crooked Lake in early June, or wait for fall foliage in late September and you can paddle when moose are in heat. They also offer canoes and maps for self-guided trips. 
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/25/10 at 01:00 PM
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Monday, May 24, 2010

Top 5 Paddling Spots in America, Adirondack State Park, New York

The weather in Boston has been sunny and warm this past, which, believe me, is a rarity in spring. It’s a great time to grab a canoe and paddle one of the rivers or lakes before the mosquitoes start to swarm. This week I’m going to discuss my top 5 places to paddle in America. First up, the Adirondacks in upstate New York.

The countless rivers, lakes, and ponds in the Adirondacks are connected by short trails, resulting in a seemingly endless combination of canoeing options. One of the finest is a 4-day figure eight loop in the St. Regis Canoe Area that includes eight ponds and the Upper and Middle Saranac Lakes. Creeks, inundated with beaver dams and lily pads, connect the placid waters of the ponds. Mountains hovering over 2500 feet surround the lakes. St. Regis Canoe Outfitters will help plan an itinerary and provide all the necessary amenities for a canoe trip including canoe, paddles, maps, tents, backpacks, and sleeping bags. 
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/24/10 at 01:00 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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