Northern Forest Canoe Trail Planning and Trip Considerations
The first consideration I can give is, every thru paddler should have an understanding of what they would like to achieve on the paddle. Such as: is it just a physical endurance goal? Or maybe a release from your standard life, free of electronics and machines? Or perhaps you’re looking to experience the rustic wilderness with all its majesty during your journey? Knowing what you want to achieve will vastly improve your trip planning. Part of the reason our journey was so successful was the clear belief by us both that we should be trying to relax and enjoy the trip as much as possible. That was what we wanted to achieve.
Knowing what we wanted, led to a realistic packing list that was moderate in weight. With two paddlers and certainly with the more people you have you can pamper yourself with nonessential gear. That kind of goes without saying but an example of what I am talking about is, we tossed a reflector oven that weighed ounces! Our thought at the time was, it would be too heavy! Looking back, it would have been great to have and definitely would have enhanced our meals! And with better meals, certainly we would have had a more relaxed trip. You can apply this thought process to all kinds of things but remember, more gear is more weight, which you will have to lug on those oh so fun portages.
A strong consideration after you have your goals in mind and your weight set is a bit more obvious. Your portage wheels! Our portage wheels were stout but not so tough. If it wasn’t for our continued preventative maintenance the wheels would never have made it the whole trip! Finding a good set of portage wheels is difficult, I have not heard of a set of wheels that has completed the NFCT without breaking yet. Our wheels did last quite a while, most of the way in fact! And we typically were moving the canoe loaded with all our gear except one pack which helps emphasize why a good set of wheels is important. Portages with lots of weight suck!
Any other recommendations kind of come down to user preference & comfort. I took a fold able stool, which was useful and light! WiseOwl decided to sit on the wet, cold ground even though another stool would have only been a few ounces. The Absolute BEST recommendation I can give is, take a set of felt bottom boots or felt river shoes! The slick rocks will lead to lots of slips, spills, and stumbles! Which is not pleasant no matter up or downstream. (note: Vermont has made the use of felt wading shoes illegal due to possible transmission of invasive species from waterbody to waterbody. Caution should be used in other states too, to clean, drain, dry the soles and your entire outfit where marked.)
Another huge must, depending on season you intend to journey, splash pants and jacket! I purchased mine and that was a smart investment! Bill chose to use a rain jacket and wind pants and suffered a bit even with our Indian summer. No other gear seemed to be a must, just remember, the whole trip depends on your commitment to your goal and adaptability! Gear, Food, Weather, Broken equipment, Water levels, you must be adaptable! We had a self made repair kit using epoxy and roofing mastic that came in real handy! In the North Maine woods this repair kit provided a little bit of a sense of security. Even with maps to assist a paddler you would have to navigate far out of their way to repair any serious damage, Thankfully we didn’t have any serious damage! Finally, I mentioned maps, we had the NFCT map set. These maps are great but don’t rely on them! I say that because we found ourselves misjudging or second guessing our distance and location several times. Take a GPS, and typically follow the most flow! We used a camera with GPS which worked great and helped conserve weight. GOOD LUCK!