No Guts, No Glory
Let’s start with the tough stuff. Nine days after the launch of PaddleQuest in Old Forge, New York, John has just survived the trip’s toughest 48 hours. But the nasty creature he battled for the past two days doesn’t live in the great outdoors.
A nasty stomach bug had John going more than a bit off course. If you think it’s hard flagging a cab on a rainy night in NYC, try finding one along the Northern Forests Canoe Trail. John finally connected with a cabbie who could take him to the promised land: a pharmacy that stocked the Immodium that let him trade a seat in the bushes for the one in his canoe again.
Cash was the one supply John didn’t think he’d need in the wilderness, but his cabbie was cool. The Good Samaritan cited his refusal to “mess with the bad karma” he was sure would befall him if he didn’t help his wayward passenger in his hour of need.
John still managed to cover 20+ miles during those two terrible days, but the seven before it saw much better adventures.
Better—but still rocky. They included a rescue for paddling friends, Brian and Ned, who slipped in for an unintended swim in some rapids. John’s canoe connected with a rock, mandating a stop to apply a fiberglass repair over the hole and a few hours of river-gazing while the patch dried.
Afterwards, blowdowns and dams along the Saranac River made the going especially challenging along the remote waterway. The roots and rocks on the portage trails bit at John’s canoe-dolly wheels until they finally failed, and he had to replace them to continue on his way.
Through it all, John reported to wife Nicole that there was plenty of silver to report among the cloudy conditions. They included some thrilling whitewater stretches, the cold beauty of a world slowly waking up from winter, and the warmth of some unexpected friends; after Ned and Brian’s swim, the guys hooked up with a bevy of backyard barbecuers who were only too happy to help restore the tired trio.
With New York in his wake, John headed across the wide reaches of Lake Champlain this morning. It’s in the 30’s, with wind and snow showers forecast for tomorrow afternoon. But with his gut finally settled on an even keel, John’s ready to take on whatever Mother Nature has in store next.
Early spring in the Adirondacks is extremely raw. Freezing temps at night with daytime highs promising a transition from drab brown to a revival of green and the new life of nature’s parents traveling in pairs. I’m struck by the deliberate effort to balance human desires and the needs of nature in this place. Dams, hydropower projects, lakeside development, commerce and nature seem to be in peaceful coexistence, we seem to be preserving what remains and we need more of that outside like of this preserve. Leaving the Adirondack Forest Preserve, I was struck powerfully by this lack of balance. We should be doing better.
Despite falling ill and having to push myself through 20 mile days and frozen nights, I find genuine joy and spiritual uplifting when descending Rapids I had never seen before, floating through a conifer corridor with a bald eagle assessing me from his perch and listening to the of barred owls and the night sounds as I drift off to sleep in my tent under a full moon with the fragrance of pine in my nostrils.
This is not a vacation. It is a journey of a lifetime with something new and may things unexpected around every bend. The people and places add to who I am and I will be much richer for this time well spent. New York is behind me, Vermont and the rest are in front. Bring it!