“So tell me about these portages,” Robert Field asked during a video chat two weeks before the trip. “How heavy are the canoes?” Anxious about our planned trip to New York’s Adirondack Mountains, I evaded the question, instead assuring Field (a first-time canoeist), “It’s nothing.”
The trip was my idea, six days over 85 miles through the Northern Forest Canoe Trail, famous for rolling mountains and crystalline water filled with bass and pike. Carrying the canoes and our gear a few miles was a small price to pay for a ticket to fishing heaven.
Rex DeGuzman, another first-time single-blader, was more concerned about the weather. “How cold is it?” he asked for the third time. DeGuzman is a native Texan accustomed to heat and humidity. Through the computer screen, I could see him sitting in his house wearing a puffy jacket and wool hat. “It’s nothing,” I guaranteed him.
Mark Vlaskamp, the fourth member of our group, was on my side. “I don’t think carrying the canoe is going to be a problem,” he took up the torch, “canoes are really light.” Vlaskamp, a seasoned canoeist, knew as well as I did that portages around rapids and between lakes are no fun, but the other two would only learn after it was too late.
As web editor of Kayak Angler, I work with these three famous anglers on many projects. But most of our face-to-face time is through Skype. Field suggested a long fishing trip to bring the group together, and make a video for his YakFish TV Youtube channel. DeGuzman, owner of ActionHat and host of LiveLiveNow.com blog, is always up for an adventure. It’s just that most of his adventures take place in a kayak on warm water, in one day. Vlaskamp, formerly from YakGear, was leaving the paddle-fishing industry behind for an adventure-fishing sabbatical. For him the trip was a marathon kick-off to six months he planned to spend paddling and fishing around North America.
The Adirondack Mountains are almost more water than earth, crossed and dotted with streams, rivers, lakes and ponds. The Northern Forest Canoe Trail is a 740-mile chain of loosely-connect- ed waterways running through four states and into Canada. The NFCT website lists 22 rivers, 58 lakes and 63 portages. That was the part that had me worried. We planned to paddle sections 1 and 2 of the 12-section trail and the guidebook said to expect 10 portages, the longest stretching 1.5 miles.
Portages, or carries, are sections of the route that can’t be paddled. Travelers have to beach their boat, and lug their stuff to the next watery spot. We were paddling 17-foot-long Old Town Penobscot canoes, 83 pounds each. Then we had our food and gear packed in barrels and coolers. I figured each loaded canoe weighed 400 pounds.
“I don’t think the carries are going to be...