CANTON - This summer, four St. Lawrence University students and recent alumni are taking the road - or river - less traveled.
Silas D. Streeter, a rising senior from Newbury, Mass.; Evan P. Haynes, a rising senior from Norwich, Vt.; Wesley D. Norton, a May 2011 graduate from Peaks Island, Portland, Maine; and P. Alex Comeau, a May 2011 graduate from Essex are canoeing the rarely paddled 740-mile Northern Forest Canoe Trail. The four men, all of whom are or were guides for St. Lawrence University's Outdoor Program, are braving bugs, floods, wind and hailstorms in the name of adventure this month.
"We wanted to have an adventure at the end of the school year," Mr. Streeter said in a phone interview from a Lake Champlain island Friday. "This is kind of the only time in your life where you have an opportunity to do this. It's something not a lot of people have done before, so it's kind of appealing."
The Northern Forest Canoe Trail, which connects major watersheds across New York, Vermont, Quebec, New Hampshire and Maine, has been completed by only about 35 people since it was officially established in 2006. The St. Lawrence paddlers departed from the Fulton Chain of Lakes in Old Forge on May 24 and hope to reach their final destination in Fort Henry, Maine, by July 4.
The four also hope to make the journey a through-paddle, which means they will not take any unnecessary breaks or detours until they reach Fort Henry. Although they have never traveled together before, the paddlers have individual canoeing experience and have been planning the trip for months, using the blogs and journals of previous canoers on the trail.
"We're learning a lot as we go," Mr. Streeter said. "Definitely packing light is an issue - every time we get more food, the barrels weigh a lot more. It's not very hard to carry all the gear in a canoe, but it's hard to carry the gear over land."
In addition to 62 portages that comprise a total of 55 miles, the Northern Forest Canoe Trail includes 22 rivers and streams, 56 lakes and ponds, 45 towns and three national wildlife refuges. The travelers are funding the trip themselves, although the college's Outdoor Program has loaned them two canoes and several watertight storage barrels.
In New York state, the canoers have encountered challenges ranging from flooded waterways and foul weather to an abundance of black flies and mosquitoes, but they have remained upbeat about their journey. A blog entitled "Rough Water Gypsies" is updated periodically with news and pictures of their progress.
"We're having a lot of fun on this trip. Even though it's very serious and we tend to work 10 hours a day, we don't stop having fun," Mr. Streeter said. "None of us expected it to be as hard as it has been and as tiring as it has been, but we all love these kind of trips and at the end of the day no one is mad that we had to work all day. We've seen an amazing amount of wildlife and landscapes that many people don't get a chance to see."
On the Net:
The canoers' blog: http://canoegypsies.wordpress.com