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Interesting, Helpful, Memorable Folks You've Met on Canoe Trips

Glenn MacGrady

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No, I don't mean the folks you've taken your trips with. I mean strangers you've met along the way who are memorable for some reason, such as being just interesting, helpful, entertaining, needing your help, annoying or even obnoxious. They could be other paddlers, hikers, rangers, fishermen . . . whoever.

I'll just mention some folks I encountered on a six day trip in the Adirondacks a few years back, which included the famous 1.1 mile carry around Raquette Falls. This carry was the much anticipated Jekyll-Hyde "highlight" of the trip for me because, given my age (69), not-so-great physical condition, and the almost 90° heat, I would have to triple carry. This carry starts with what has been likened to a climb up football stadium steps; its total rise being 187' and decline being 191'—5.5 miles for a triple carry.

So, to avoid a full triple, I decided to try to canoe cart most the carry even though some sources claimed it not to be wheelable. My collapsible canoe cart fit nicely in the deep bow of my Hemlock SRT as I began my trip at Blue Mountain Lake.

Boat loaded at Blue Mountain Lake.JPG

Around noon of the fifth day I entered the mouth of the Raquette River at the north end of Long Lake.

Entrance to Raquette River.JPG

A few miles down is the junction of the Raquette and Cold Rivers, the latter having been called "the wildest and most remote river in [New York] state" (Jamieson & Morris, p. 76).

Junction of Raquette and Cold Rivers.JPG

After exploring the Cold River and returning to the Raquette, I passed two massive guys in an aluminum tub engaged in "fishing", which is just a universal euphemism for drinking lots of beer. Being a non-fishing teetotaler, I regarded these louts with some disdain.

Forthwith, one comes upon a subtle hint that Mr. Hyde has arrived . . . Raquette Falls!

Raquette Falls Portage Sign.JPG

Dreading my triple carry up the football stadium to be followed by a possibly impossible wheeling experiment, I was further embarrassed by two guys and two gals, training for the 90 miler, who hoisted their GRB-Newman racing boats on their shoulders and sprinted up the hill.

"I coulda done that 40 years ago, you show offs!", I shouted in the caverns of my mind.

I was tired and hot, having paddled for nine hours since 6 am. The mid-afternoon sun was pushing 90°, and I plopped down amongst my boat and gear at the foot of the hill.

"Hello, sir, could we help you carry some of that stuff," said a voice from the water.

It was the aluminized, beer-swilling louts . . . now transformed into helpful gentlemen of the highest order of chivalry. Struggling with my ancient pride and self-reliance, I finally gave in and said, "yes". So, those two Samaritans carried my canoe up to the first part of carry trail that seemed arguably wheelable.

Raquette Falls portage helpers.JPG

I only had to double carry to that point, at which time I loaded the canoe with all my gear in an attempt to wheel that unknown-to-me mountain goat trail.

Raquette portage rest.JPG

I dumped most of my drinking water to save weight. I muscled and struggled and tugged and pushed and hauled and finessed my loaded gear on a canoe cart for about a mile. Over rocks, around rocks, around corners, up hills and down hills. Frequently, my 100 pounds of wheeled canoe and gear got very stuck in washed-out ditches that would have been easy to step over with a canoe on shoulders or for a tandem team of wheelers.

Raquette Falls portage difficulties.JPG

So I yanked and pulled and pushed and tugged. And sweated and sweated.

My heart was pounding against my chest so hard and so fast I knew -- just knew -- I was going to die. But I sort of accepted it. Die while canoeing. I'd thought about that for decades, and decided it would be my preferred way. Just to go out in my canoe . . . alone . . . and die. Leave no trace.

But I didn't die.

I completed the portage, out of water and out of energy.

The resident ranger at the base of Raquette Falls came over to me and expressed concern over my physical condition. He said I Iooked heat stressed and possibly dehydrated. He asked if I had water, and I told him no, I had dumped out all my reserves and would have to gravity filter some more. He told me to just sit in the pool at the base of the falls and cool off while he fetched something for me.

He came back with two cold bottles of apple juice, an apple, and a half gallon of fresh water. He gave me some packets of Gatorade to mix in the water for energy and electrolyte balance. And then asked if I needed any help reloading my canoe.

I probably looked worse than I really was, but this guy was a saint. I got the feeling he was equally solicitous to everyone who struggled out of that portage.

Evening was closing in, so he advised me where all the campsites and lean-to's were downstream. But every one of them was full and I was paddling like a bat out of hell to try to make the next one, and the next one, and it was getting dark, and . . . . Finally, I gave up and set up my tent on a small clearing next to the river that was not an approved campsite. This is against park rules, as you have to be 50 yards (or something) back from the water to wilderness camp. But I was too exhausted to bushwack into the forest.

The next morning a dangerous thunderstorm with high winds was predicted. Down river comes the same ranger in a motor boat, warning campers of the oncoming danger. He sees me breaking camp by the riverside. He says, "I didn't realize yesterday that all the campsites would be filled, and I bet you were in no shape to hike into the woods." I say, "You got that right." He says, "That was a smart and safe decision," and gives me a friendly good-bye salute.

I blasted through the storm that morning . . .

Raquette River rain.JPG

. . . took a whiz right behind those signs because they pissed me off . . .

Took a whiz.JPG

. . . and made it to the takeout under an Edgar Allan Poe sky.

Takeout poe weather.JPG

I'll never forget those fit young racers, the two beer-fishers-cum-gentlemen, and that most helpful park ranger.
 
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I rarely see anyone close enough to talk to, but if I too met a red headed ranger named Gary at the base of the Raquette Falls. I was with a couple inexperienced friends and my Dad, and it was pouring rain (probably beginning of October) and after a few minutes of talking, Ranger Gary left momentarily and came back with a large bundle of dry wood “slats” to help get the nights fire started.

on another trip Ranger Gary approached my lean to camp and asked if he could repair the fire ring. He brought up a bucket of water and cement and rebuilt it while we talked about his love of wood working and strip boat building….and the bear that raided that very campsite the night before without disturbing any of four coolers the group had left around the fire.
 
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I had a very memorable experience with two different ladies on Long Pond...

I paddled in to Long Pond solo on a midweek day, the goal was to have some alone time and secure a nice site for my buddy and his wife that would be coming the next day, and another buddy of mine with his current girlfriend.
As I poked around the shores, scouting for a site large enough for 6 of us, a lady's voice called out "hey, nice boat", I was paddling my stripped DY Special. She was reading a book, camped out on a prominent site along the main paddling route. I thanked her for the compliment and continued on.
About halfway up the pond I secured a nice spot, set up my tent, made lunch, yada, yada, yada. As the day grew longer, I went out for an evening paddle, to enjoy the sheet of glass water and the changing colors. As I'm dipping along, I hear another lady's voice calling out to me, sounding very nervous, asking "where is the carry and parking lot". She was solo in a Hornbeck, with but a daypack and a days worth of snackbag residue.
She was near panic, and explained to me that she had been quite proud of herself, loading her boat by herself, driving to the put in, making the carry and then paddling all of Long Pond and even carrying to Turtle and Slang. But, she explained through tears, that she attempted to return to her put in and nothing looked familiar along the carry...there was even another pond that she never saw on the way in. She had only a brochure from the outfitter as a guide.
So, I try to calm her, and ask a series of questions so that I can understand where she started from. After just a few questions it's clear to me that she started at the far end parking area, same as I did, and made the short .3 mile carry. It's also clear that she made the wrong carry on her attempted return to her car...she took the longer, beaver flooded carry from midway along Long Pond that leads to St Regis Canoe Outfitters, with a beaver pond in the middle.
She's still quite nervous and unsure, even after I show her my map. So I show her some images on my camera, with photos of the parking lot, asking her which car is hers. "Oh my God, that's my Subaru" she squealed. Ahh, I can see her body relax. Feeling pretty good about helping someone in distress, I offer to accompany her to the correct carry. So we paddle along, with her Hornbeck making all sorts of gurgles from a dragging painter in the bow. She thanks me profusely.
We part company near the carry, and I paddle not far from that solo lady's site, the one I spoke with on the way in. She starts yelling at me, because....wait for it....because my conversation with the lost soul was disturbing her "wilderness experience". OK, everyone has their pet peeves, I suppose. I explain the situation of the panic stricken, lost lady, to deaf ears. HER wilderness experience has been degraded because of ME.
OK, I've had enough of her sh!t at this point, and make it very clear that she was now disturbing MY "wilderness experience". Furthermore, I tell her if she wants an undisturbed experience, she should not camp in such a prominent site, and if she truly wanted a wilderness experience, she should not expect it on such popular water on a holiday weekend.
The next day, the rest of my group arrives, makes camp, has lunch, yada, yada. We decide to paddle to Pink and Ledge ponds. 6 of us, in 4 canoes head that way, carrying on casual conversations between boats. Of course, I've already told my friends about the "wilderness experience" lady.
And guess what? Here comes Ms. wilderness again, rushing to the shoreline to admonish us for ruining (here it comes again) HER wilderness experience. I'll just say that my fellow campers were not nearly as tactful as I was, they promptly told her where she should place her opinions.

So there it is, two ladies that left a lasting impression, for vastly different reasons.
 
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I usually don't meet anyone on river trips in the West.

We were on a portage in the BWCA in 1985. I ran into a guy from Ontario that started asking questions about my cow dog Snuffy. He asked me where I get the dog. "I ween her in a pokeer game." "Did you win or lose?"
 
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Glenn, the Raquette Falls carry is legendary, as you have discovered. On last count, I have made more than 35 such passages through. Gary V. lives most of the summer there in the ranger cabin, and it is common to see him being as helpful with anyone who seems to need assistance as he was with you. There are three uphill pitches to climb before you reach anything like height of land where you can then use wheels, not without difficulty in may places on the back side way down. Not far from the end is another uphill climb that makes you say "why is this here?"

During the Adirondack 90 mile race, most race paddlers do not bother with wheels at all, unless they have a heavy voyageur. Even guide boat padders tend to carry their boats overhead. The super light race boats with 20-something paddlers litterly run full tilt with boat hanging on one shoulder at a very high rate of speed. Walkers have to get out of the way fast to let them pass. Last year I had two 30-ish young brothers as part of my C4 team and they shouldered each end of our 23' kevlar canoe upright with gear inside and ran the whole way while my 70 yr old high school classmate friend and I had a hard time keeping anywhere close.

Most times when I am tripping I go to places and at times where and when there are few others, so I have few encounters with strangers. The exception would be on Lows Lake when I would seek out to visit AFR Dawn Andrews who patrolled the lake in her green kayak and unmistakable yellow blade paddle.

One of the most memorable encounters on the Yukon would have to be during the first 1000 mile race in 2009 on the Yukon Flats paddling our big voyageur canoe when we came upon a couple of First Nation guys tending their fish wheel as it collected salmon. One guy hopped in his boat and motored over toward us, holding up his arms about 3 feet apart and offered us two fresh king salmon. Of course we had to reluctantly turn him down, as during the race we had no way to process or prepare such a gift. We later learned that word had traveled through the villages of the first 1000 mile race with a big boat being paddled.

Later, near the 1000 mile finish, other FN residents came out, motoring a few mielsupstream from the fiinish in their unique flat bottom cabin boats to welcome us. One in particular, a self proclaimedd "bushman" with a .44 magnum and a full bullet gun belt slung over his shoulder was excited to help us pull the boat out of the water after the finish at the bridge. He first met my wife (pit crew) the previous night at dinner in the local truck stop restaurant. My wife had made friends with his wife, Dorothy, earler. Dorothy had a tent shop setup with home made bushcraft items for sale in the parking lot. I did not race in the 1000 the next year, 2010, but did the year after, 2011. Dorothy was still there, but we were sad to learn that her husband had since died, though he looked for us (the big boat) during the 2010 race year with photos to give us that he had taken of us the first year. He watched and waited a couple of days as all other boats came into the finish, and Dorothy said he was heartbroken that we were not there.
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Funny that Glenn should begin this thread off with a story from Raquette Falls. Over the years I've traveled through that carry numerous times both personally & professionally. On one of my trips with SUNY Cortland, we got to the upstream side of the trail pretty early in the afternoon.
Consequently, we pulled our canoes off to the side and portaged our gear over to set up camp, relax, take a swim and enjoy dinner. Being early June, we decided to take advantage of the late light and get our canoes after our meal when it would be cooler. Eventually we made it to dinner time and as we were cooking, a "gentleman" trudged into our circle and began setting up his large North Face tent. He was clearly exhausted and looked closed to death; seriously. His face was covered in a heavy white sunscreen and he was mumbling to himself. The students took one look at him and realized this guy wasn't in the best of shape. I asked him if I could help him in any way but he just looked at me and proceeded to unpack his gear, erect the tent and mumble to himself. From there he pulled out his stove and lit it without paying any attention to the breeze that was blowing. A large whoosh was quickly followed by a ball of flame that blew directly towards his tent. I suggested he might prefer another site since he was in the middle of our cooking area. He was obviously making my students very uncomfortable and it was just as obvious that he didn't care. When he stated he wasn't moving and if we didn't like it, we should move...we did.

After dinner we hiked back over the portage trail to get our canoes. When we arrived we found lots of gear lying on the steps that come up from the beach. There was stuff strewn all over the place, clearly blocking the stairs and approach to the carry. I instructed the students to carefully move everything into one pile off the trail so we didn't step on anything while going up the stairs with our canoes.

As we were moving the gear off trail, down comes our visitor from earlier and he instantly started screaming, "It's like the Lord of the Flies...the Lord of the Flies." I tried explaining to him that all we were doing was moving his gear to the side of the trail where no one could step on it and break anything. I didn't even bother to try and mention to him that maybe, just maybe, he shouldn't have left his stuff where he did but I could tell that would be fruitless so I didn't bother. Eventually we got out of there with him still yelling at us as we ambled up the hill and out of his sight.

The next morning I spoke with Ben, who was the ranger at the falls before Gary, and he told me this guy was a NYC lawyer who came up each year after Memorial Day to do a trip. Ben explained as nicely as possible how socially challenged this guy really was. The best example of that was Ben's story about how his dog, who was sick at the time, was having difficulty keeping up with him on the trail. Apparently Mr. NYC Lawyer saw the dog and inquired about it. When Ben told him the dog was aging and currently sick, the man's reply was, "I'd shoot him." With that he walked away.

What can you say to that?!?

Over the next couple of days this guy followed us but we never had another face-to-face encounter with him. Eventually we lost him at Stony Creek ponds when he took the old carry trail to Upper Saranac Lake while we took the new, shorter one. I knew he was going the wrong way but at that point, I decided it wasn't worth trying to share that information with him. I was just glad to see him paddle left out of the ponds as we went straight into the bay with the new carry trail. After that, we never did see him again and that was fine by me.

That's all for now. Take care and until next time...be well.

snapper
 
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I have only met people on trips a couple of times. I met Cliff Jacobson and his crew once on the Steel River around the year 2000. I had a crew of about 20 teenagers with me, lol.

On a two week trip with some buddies, the first five days were complete misery, rain and muck the whole way. An American from an outfitter camp stopped in to see us after we had set up camp in a miserable bug infested hell hole. I was griping because I was out of booze and smokes. We talked for a while, then he returned to the lodge, way over the other side of a big lake. About two hours later he showed up with several packs of Camel lights, my favorite smokes, but hard to get in G Town, and a large canvas bag full of beer.

It was a good night, never did remember his name though.
 
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1641930097907.jpeg

In 1995, Kathleen and I, with one other couple, were paddling the Coppermine River in the Northwest Territories, when we came across this cluster of buildings on the shore of Red Rock Lake. We had no idea that any buildings existed here. Suddenly, a power boat approached, and we were invited for hot coffee and showers. I was initially hesitant. We still needed to find a campsite. Even though this was our day 16 since landing at Winter Lake, I did not want to unpack and then repack just to have a shower.




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I have copied this story from my Coppermine River TR, so I hope it came across ok.


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The rest of the group was more excited about the invitation, and we soon found ourselves at the summer home of Max Ward, founder of Ward Air. Max and his wife Marjorie were entertaining a group of family and friends for the week, in their personal retreat called Rock Haven.


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We were then invited to spend the night in this large tent, and to use their washing machines. After our shower, they said Happy Hour is at 6:00, followed by dinner at 7:00. After showering, I stepped on the scales, and was surprised to see that I had lost 12 pounds since leaving Winter Lake. I looked forward to stuffing myself.



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Chairs were a real treat. As we sat looking out at the wind, though, it was difficult to connect to the world that we had lived in for the last two weeks. Kathleen looks a bit weather beaten. Do not tell I said that, though. Max was entertaining business associates, primarily from Toronto. There were multiple tables seating six. And the four of us were seated separately at a table to regale his guests with our adventures. Max regularly looks for paddlers to invite in as entertainment.

We enjoyed a gourmet dinner served on china. As I sat with Max at dinner, I asked him why he chose to build his summer retreat here. He told me that he especially remembered Redrock Lake from the days when he flew bush planes. He often invited his friends from Boeing to join him for fishing holidays.

Max recently passed away, in his nineties, so you probably should not paddle the Coppermine just to hope for an invitation to visit Rock Haven.
 
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Dorothy Molder was still around in 1985 in the BWCA. She was the root beer lady. We came near her house but did not stop in. One of my canoeing regrets.
 
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On my 2017 47 day Albany River trip at the last campsite of the trip I was surprised by an approaching canoe. It was the first person I had seen since Osnaburgh Lake 37 days earlier.

Turned out to be Jesse Terry the son of Thomas Terry the co-author with Jonathan Berger of the Canoe Atlas of the Little North.

I invited him into my shelter for a cup of tea, he had smoked his last cigarette the day before and was very happy when I handed him a full pack. We chatted for a long time, turned out that he was doing an advance trip to clear portages (one truly horrible one in particular) so that Mr Berger would have an easier time a few weeks later.

Of course during the chat session I offered cigarette "alternatives" which were gleefully accepted! We parted ways with the comment that maybe someday we should consider doing a trip together.

The next day I meet him at the Fort Albany airport, we both launched into a short follow up discussion and agreed that while it might be fun we were actually totally incompatible in many ways!

In what way you ask? Well because it had taken me 36 days to cover the route Jesse had done in 14 days and that included a full day of chainsaw work on that portage. Add to that the fact that when he arrived at my camp while I was just thinking about breakfast he had been on the water for 6 hours and planned to make it to the finish by mid-afternoon. No way I could compete with that!!!!


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I generally try to avoid folks, but I've run into several who were memorable...

Saw one guy on Low's Lake one year, in a white canoe with a sail, headed straight across the lake toward my lunch spot... beached about 10' from me, and out comes Conk, with whom I've stayed in contact on and off since. But that's how we met.

Met another couple, from MA, also on Low's. She was an artist, iirc, and he watched rich people's summer homes all winter, checked on and immediately repaired storm damage so it wouldn't become worse, that sort of thing. They invited me over for dessert after dinner one evening, and the memorable part was paddling back to my campsite in the pitch darkness... very eerie, but I didn't get lost.

Met a young man (early 20s) this past spring in the St Regis Canoe Wilderness, from Vermont... Apparently lived in a wall tent year round, cut and sold firewood in winter, made maple syrup in spring, and worked construction as the seasons allowed. He had planned a lake trip with an old schoolteacher of his, but the teacher fell ill and couldn't make it... as he'd already packed and had plans to take the week off, he went elsewhere and ended up on Clamshell Pond... 17' aluminum canoe, large tent, full tarp, and I saw a small dutch oven and cast iron frying pan near the fire... so he wasn't traveling light... said he'd had to double portage it all and asked about the route ahead, up to Fish Pond. I told him the next section was shorter, but steeper, but worth the work. Ah, to be that young again... he looked like he was having a great time.

Ran into a guy at Lake Lila one year, and ran into the exact same guy the next year on Lows. He was from Buffalo, NY.

Have run into some really crappy folks too; loud, drunk, trashy.
 
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Lance Mackey, four-time winner of the 1,000-mile Yukon Quest sled dog rce, four-time winner of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. I was enjoying the Alaska Salmon Bake, a wonderful all you can eat outdoor bufffet and museum in Fairbanks, after we had completed the Yukon River 1000 mile canoe race. We met up with Lance and had a good discussion about our adventures.
 
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I haven’t met anyone paddling-world famous on a trip, or at least no luminary I hadn’t met before at a rendezvous or demo.

I did share a campsite on the Green with Alex Comb of Stewart River Boatworks. He and his party arrived and enjoyed a sponge bath with my bucket of warm alum settled water, and helped sip some (considerable quantity) of my bourbon around a blazing Fire-in-a-Can that evening. I’d been on the river for two weeks, mostly alone, and appreciated their company and conversation.

Alex was demonstrably impressed with my weather prognostication abilities and proclamations, “Feel that humidity drop? A front is gonna come over tonight, with wind, and then rain tomorrow afternoon”.

Next morning, sure enough, it wasn’t raining yet, but it was coming. Alex implied to his companions that I was some wizened desert river rat, who’s long-learned forecasting abilities should be respected. At that point I was pretty ratty looking, maybe feeling a little desert wizened.

The day before Alex and company had paddled in a young couple, launched the day before and doing a speed trip, had briefly stopped by the site. I asked if they remembered anything from a recent weather forecast. They handed me a printed 7-day forecast and said “Keep it, we’ll be out tomorrow

I had been sneaking a look at that forecast before every weather prediction. As Alex and friends were launching their canoes I finally fessed up, and showed them the printed forecast. Alex’s companions more amused than he. I really enjoyed his Minnesota preacher friend.

The most lastingly memorable folks met were a couple of woefully unprepared college students, Jared and Alex, who hiked in five miles of Assateague beachfront. I would say “backpacked” in, but neither actually had a backpack, instead carrying their gear in a variety of shoulder slung duffel bags. One of them had hiked in twice; they arrived to discover they had no food, so one of them hiked back out, bought convenience store “food” and hiked back in. He had a 15 mile day, over beachfront sand.

Their unusually shaped (saggy) tent was missing a pole, their sleeping bags were giant cotton batting monsters bundled loosely and tied knee-whacking to their duffels, their surf rod (planning to catch and eat fish) turned out to have only 30 feet of line on it, their mostly empty milk jug water containers were duct taped to the duffels. Every time they picked up their “packs” something fell off.

They were hale and hearty and have a fine time. As they were packing up that afternoon for the hike out I invited them to stop by camp for a copy of my Assateague map. They stopped by and we shared a little of this and that, and, upon hearing that the mussels were edible, they returned to the bayside and came back with a quart pot full, steaming them open atop some crushed beer cans over my fire.

Sensing that they were hungry I pulled out everything that could possibly be added to a mussel chowder meal. A can of New England clam chowder. A can of whole new potatoes. A can of black eyed peas. A can of vegetable chili.

Alex (yes, another Alex), the self-appointed cook amongst them, shucked the steamed open mussels, added all four cans of extra provender and set the pot over the fire. The three of us (mostly them) scraped that pot clean, eating every steaming morsel. It was pretty damn tasty. Those boys were hungry. Thirsty too, as we proceeded to put a dent in my remaining beer and bourbon supplies.

Towards dusk, still dawdling around the fire with Jared and Alex, who had intended to start hiking out hours ago, a voice behind me intoned “Hi Mike”.

Chip Walsh and companion Andy. When they arrived at the Ranger station they asked if anyone was in the backcountry and, on being told “One guy on Pine Tree for 9 days”, had inquired “McCrea?” and received an affirmative.

We now had three aging retirees and two not-yet twenty somethings, all great spirits. Late into the night Chip and Andy called it quits and retired, and rounding midnight the boys allowed that they should probably start hiking out so they could take a class the next day.

A few hours later Jared called his girlfriend to say he wouldn’t be in class on Monday.

Nearing dawn, finally upright and shouldering their duffle bags, they headed out. Having filled their bellies with food and their milk jugs with water for the hike out, I concurred that if they simply walked east across the island to the beach, and turned north, keeping the ocean on their right, they would eventually find the parking lot with their car.

What I later heard from Chip, and thought myself was “I admired their spirit”.

Everyone starts with what they have, and refines the art from there. Well done boys, well done.
 
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Passed a guy on a SUP in the middle of Seagull Lake (BWCA) once. He had his cooler and was flipping away with that big stick. I wondered where he started. Seemed like a hard way to get anywhere. Tried to get a photo, but it came out blurry. He was moving too fast for my camera, I reckon.
 

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I was traveling in the Quetico and stopped for a few days on Jean as I buggered up my knee and could not travel very well. A man and his wife paddled up to my camp to discuss walleye fishing. One thing led to another and I was invited to their camp after supper for some whiskey sipping. I paddled over with my 12 year old rye and sampled some of their bourbon as we visited around the fire. Even though we were in the Canadian Bush, it turns out we live with in 40 miles of each other.

Anyway, on a solo trip it can sometimes be nice to visit with another tripper, especially if doing a little sipping by a camp fire.

Bob.
 
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One year my two oldest sons decided it would be a good idea to participate in the Yukon River Quest. Since Dad has a canoe, paddles, PFDs and the means to haul all this stuff, I became the support person. To shorten the story, we were sitting, enjoying a beverage, in our campsite just outside of Whitehorse, Yukon when a middle aged couple walked past pulling two carts loaded with dry bags and other canoe-tripping paraphernalia. I kindly offer them help indicating I had two strong boys who would love to assist them. They thanked us but declined our help and continued to their campsite which was just across the access road from ours. After they set up camp they came over and talked for a few minutes. They asked if we were going into Whitehorse for supper and, since we were, we offered them a ride. We had supper with them and talked about canoe-tripping and other things. As it turns out, they had paddled every major river in northern Canada including some on the arctic islands. Some trips they had done more than once. I have done a lot of short trips over the years but I was completely overwhelmed by the trips that this very ordinary couple have done.

To put things into perspective, their trip that year was to take the White Pass and Yukon Railway to Bennett Lake which is the headwaters of the Yukon River. They would travel down the Yukon to Whitehorse, where we encountered them, and follow the Yukon well into Alaska. At some point along the Yukon River in Alaska they had arranged for a float plane to pick them up and fly them well up an Alaskan river whose name I have forgotten. They would then paddle down this river back to the Yukon River and then downstream a bit further before their trip ended.

This couple (whose name I am withholding to protect their privacy) has continued to be an inspiration for me. What a wonderful chance meeting.
 
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This from 2015 so not too long ago but the meeting made a difference:

Now here began an interesting twist to this tale. A gentleman showed up, Ed Webster. I never saw him walk up the porch but all of a sudden he was there. Apparently we had passed him on the portage while he was mowing his lawn. He just had to ask what the hell we were up to and so for the next hour we exchanged stories. We shared our tale and then he told us he was a three time Mt. Everest climber the last route the took was a new one and one that left him minus parts of his fingers and toes to frost bite. Holding up his hands to show the lack of parts of fingers absolutely blew me away. In our conversation I never noticed. Four days on the retreat were without food. Ed was an absolutely fascinating man and was such a pleasure to meet him. We ended up each buying his book, "Snow In the Kingdom, My Storm Years on Everest".


Ed Webster










He has collected quite a collection of rare photos from the Perry Expedition and others as well over the years. The beauty of this long venture of ours has truly been the people we have met along the way. I do not think there has been one person who hasn't reached out and offered help in one way or another during our six hundred mile jaunt. Ed was just another character whose unique background made this part of the trip worth the paddle.
 
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It was more than 20 years ago when me and DougD were portaging through Portage Maine, ready for a diner, motel, laundry, booze and even a General Delivery maildrop at the post office. Somehow we got the attention of the local Game Warden and the two previous Game Wardens and all three felt it appropriate to buy us breakfast in celebration of us being the first canoeists to actually portage through town in anyone's memory. Well Jim Fahey was the current game warden, new to the job and full of enthusiasm. He was tickled that we were passing through his current town and would eventually pass through Bangor where he grew up. And when we told him we were going to carry our boats over to Little Machias Lake and take that stream down to the Aroostook, he said "I wish I knew you were coming, I'd have brushed it out for you." Yeah, and after we pushed, poled, and dragged our canoes through that hoorah's nest, we wished we had told him too. John Robertson, the eldest, took us up to his house, showed us his vast collection of canoe poles, and offered up the use of his Chestnut mold, in case we wanted to throw together a wood canvas canoe sometime. So while Jim was busy securing us a camping spot at the Ashland rod and gun club, John offered to run our gear down for us, since he was headed that way to check on his trap lines. While we were setting up camp in Ashland, John came by to show off his successful catch of beaver skins, then Jim showed up with his young wife and beagle puppy, handed us a 6 pack of beer. To this day, even though Jim's wife looked me straight in the eye and gave a great big smile, Doug will insist that she was smiling at him.

Over the years, the dog died of old age, they moved back to Bangor to raise a couple of fine young boys, who are now adults and Jim has retired. But we keep in touch, and he's my ace in hole when it's time to get a shuttle anywhere, any time. He is currently caretaker of all the campsites on Nicatous Lake.newscans5half.jpg
 
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I searched through my archives and dug up a description of a group Jan and I recall as"the Baloupa Brothers," but who actually went by the name "Brotherhood of the Moose." We met them on the St. John River during their annual trip, which they said was always in the 3rd week of May. Maybe they still do it. Here's my description from a May, 2000 trip:
-----excerpt from TR-----
I can’t remember the full name of the Brotherhood of the Moose (Charlie, Jameson, Jason, John, Chris, & others I forget). The acronym on a mock Massachussetts license plate they had on display was “B.O.I.M.” I can’t remember what the “I” stands for. We met them when we came ashore at Priestly campgrounds at the end of a long, cold, rainy day. We weren’t too happy to see them since we were really looking for our own private camp, but it was already 5pm, we were about out of gas, and we really didn’t have much desire to paddle on. The Moose were eight scruffy guys between 30 and 55, and Charlie seemed to speak for them as he welcomed us into the rain shelter they’d fabricated with a couple of tarps. He insisted we come off the river and have some coffee / tea, which really hit the spot at about that time. Soon they offered us beer and other sundries, and we began to get some energy back. Terry arrived and wanted to continue down river and do Big Black Rapid. I guess he figured he was already wet. But common sense and the late hour dictated camping, so we set up camp.

We wanted to get a tarp up. I went into the woods and came back with three poles to use as two-uprights and a center, ridge pole. I had an inverted “V” sort of design in mind. While I was tracking down ropes and stakes, Janice lashed up the poles and tarp, and I couldn’t figure out what in heck she was doing. It turned out she had a completely different design in mind. Since hers was already lashed up, we went with her modified lean-to design, and it worked great. As our tarp went up, some of the BOIM couldn’t resist helping, so the stake-down went quickly. It is amazing to me how we all saw the problem (rain) and solution (tarp), all had a slightly different vision of the solution, and in a matter of about 20 minutes had a solution that was a hybrid of all the differing visions. It was definitely not the most elegant solution any of us envisioned, but it was up and keeping rain off us!

The BOIM called themselves from Cape Cod, but actually I think they were from the Brockton area. They were mostly tradesmen, and had hearts of gold. They kept telling us to come over and play Baloupa with them later. I had no idea what they were talking about and figured it was some sort of drinking game. There was a road nearby and BOIM had somehow arranged for a drop off of eight 30-packs of Budweiser, per man, so they had plenty to drink. They'd stopped at that one bank of the St. John were ice always piles up and filled their coolers with ice for the beer. They'd been at Priestly all day working on their 30-packs, and they were well lubricated by the time we arrived.

Later, Janice and I went over to the BOIM’s “white-man’s fire” (big fire). The rain was letting up, and sure enough a Baloupa game broke out. It was not a drinking game, although it is a game greatly enhanced by drinking. I think the essence of Baloupa is beyond my descriptive abilty and your comprehension. Suffice it to say it is a ritual involving the stylized passage of a sacred stick through a large fire, and that how much fun you have playing Baloupa depends a lot on your attitude and the spiritual support provided by the other players. In Baloupa, one player at a time throws the sacred Baloupa stick through a triangle over the bonfire (style counts!) while the rest of us emulate a cheering crowd of 80,000. Each throw must be unique. If you hit the triangle, repeat a throw or the sacred stick ends up in the fire, you turn ends. A skinny ‘Nam vet named Jameson eventually proved himself the Baloupa king with 32 unique throws. As the BOIM tire and head for sleep in their tents, they just tell each other “moose dropping.” We, too, became happy moose droppings.

A historical note: the BOIM said that Janice is the only woman to ever have witnessed, let alone played, Baloupa. The BOIM really liked Janice (did I mention it is good to have a woman along?). And they really treated her with respect after they saw the way she could swing an ax!
----end excerpt----

Most of us prefer not to camp with a bunch of noisy drunks. On this trip, circumstances dictated we needed to camp with the Brothers. They were loud, and we were going to have to put up with them one way or the other. I'm glad we chose to join them. They turned out to be nice fellows, it was a hilarious evening, and they were real quiet the next day.
 
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