NORTHERN FOREST CANOE TRAIL || CHAPTER 2

September 13, 2019

Vermont

This summer Brian Ross completed a self supported 740 mile thru-paddle along the Northern Forest Canoe Trail in just 31 days. Follow with Eastward as we release his journal in segments over the next few weeks to recap his journey through remote NY, VT, Canada, NH, & ME.

- Know The Way -


Lake Champlain

4 a.m. wake up call - It’s still dark. And silent. Silent in a pleasant way, since not a whisper of wind upset the lake’s surface. Initially I had planned to cut across the shortest distance and follow the shoreline northward but the conditions were so fair I b-lined toward the northern channel crossing over 2 miles of open water.

You know that sensation when you’ve been traveling on the highway for hours in a sort of hypnosis? That’s the same sensation one gets while paddling all day in a straight line toward a target they can see 20 miles away. I reached Swanton in the early afternoon. Ryan from Eastward was there to meet me at the boat ramp. He generously took my resupply order and had it all, fresh pizza, and beer by the time we met a mile downstream at the dam. We talked about the trail and about Eastward and our lives. I am very grateful for the assistance especially after such a long day.


"Ryan from Eastward was there. He generously took my resupply order and had it all, fresh pizza, and beer by the time we met."

Upstream With A Paddle

6/25 marked my first full day of upstream paddling. I continued north and eastbound on the same branch of the Missisquoi River for the next 100 miles. The zealousness with which I approached the first day would prove impossible to keep up for the many miles of battling turbulent eddy lines, strainers and other obstacles.

I passed through a few towns along my way. Typically they would consist of a gas station with a general/convenience store. I never strayed too far. Doing so would mean abandoning my only source of transportation.

The sun began to set and I made camp on the only clear and available land nearby, an island in the middle of the river. Shortly after laying down for the night I heard the distant rumbling of thunder. I was initially unperturbed but it got louder and closer and I realized that my tent was little more than 4” off the water line. If the river rose fractionally I may be getting wet. It was barely light out as I packed up as best as I could. Instead of moving camp I prepared for a speedy getaway if need be. The tent could be packed, stowed and I could be in the boat in 5 minutes if the river began to rise. I watched the storm pass north of me and experienced a light shower.


Crossing the Border

6/28 presented a cool and dewy morning. I was up before 6 a.m and reached the border at 8:27am - a touch later than I planned. There was no notice for upstream travelers and only one sign for downstream traffic on the U.S. bank requiring passersby to report for inspection. I was directed to cross the bridge and report to Canadian customs.

I truly realized I was in Quebec when another paddler who was easily passing in the opposite direction greeted me with a polite “Bonjour”.

Passing through Masonville was the precursor to the Grand Portage - a 5.7 mile hike that rose over 600’ in elevation for me to arrive on the Canadian half of Lake Memphremagog. After reaching the peak of the portage about 4 miles in, a nice family offered me a glass of wine in French then in English as they watched me struggle to keep my quarry in control descending the road toward the lake.

I politely declined citing that I needed to reach the lake before sundown. Which I did. I quickly cleaned my boat in order to remove the potential for carrying invasive species into a new watershed and promptly took off heading south looking for a tent site. This was the first time in nearly a week that I was not paddling against a current. I flew over the water with an amazing effortless feeling.

"I continued south to Newport, VT where I used

Custom’s app to check into the U.S. via an iPad."

Memphremagog

From my place on Memphremagog I awoke to the sound of conversation among fishermen passing by. They were trawling the waters in a boat but that didn’t seem necessary. Everywhere I looked large schools of perch were chasing baitfish to the surface and gulls were having a field day with the easy prey. I continued south to Newport, VT where I used Custom’s app to check back into the U.S. via an iPad.

F the Clyde River

“Hey bear….hi bear…..go away bear…..”

It started hard and got harder. I couldn’t ascend the class III river with steep banks and was forced to bushwhack my way out to a road. I walked along a highway until I reached Salem Lake and could rejoin a calmer section of the Clyde. All the while – it was raining.  

I had passed Pensioner Pond around 5 p.m. thinking that I would have time to navigate the fens and find a campsite further on. The sun was going down when I found a VT farmer’s field alongside the river. Thinking I might have an interaction with a cow or two in the morning I went to bed.

About 20 minutes later I awoke to the sound of someone or something shuffling around my tent. Initially I thought it was a raccoon. Then I heard more rustling around my boat and down around some felled trees. Ok, a family of raccoons. Then I heard the sounds of a large rotted tree branch being torn apart by someone looking for food.

Bears.

My food was stored in the stern compartment of my boat but there was a snickers wrapper in the front of my life jacket. I could hear the bear investigating my boat. They were knocking around the paddles and the pulleys on my pin-kit make a very distinct noise. Most disconcerting however was the snorting, grunting and lip smacking going on right outside my tent door. I hoped my to instill a defensive reaction from these visitors so I began talking slowly and softly. “Hey bear….hi bear…..go away bear…..”. To be honest my responses were a little meek. As I moved to get into a more “defensible” position I shifted on my incredibly squeaky and insanely loud sleeping pad. The crunching noise punctuated a relatively silent night and these animals took off running. They came back one more time perhaps out of curiosity but again the sleeping pad drove them away. I waited. They didn’t come back a third time. Off in the distance I heard a pack of coyotes yipping and howling in celebration. When I awoke in the morning my pfd and skirt had been removed from the boat and were laying in the grass nearby.  

"Then I heard the sounds of a large rotted tree branch

being torn apart by someone looking for food.

Bears."


About

 

This summer Brian Ross completed a self supported 740 mile thru-paddle along the Northern Forest Canoe Trail in just 31 days. Follow with Eastward as we release his journal in segments over the next few weeks to recap his journey through remote NY, VT, Canada, NH, & ME.

- Know The Way -


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