An interview with John Connelly halfway through his Northern Forest Canoe Trail thru-paddle



By Sandy Tarburton
Membership & Communications Director


“Loving it! Today was a challenge on Mooselookmeguntic. It was calm with a following warm breeze from the south. I started a 6 mile crossing. Halfway into it, cold rain blowing sideways from the northwest with 3 foot waves. You could hear and see it coming, like a freight train! Used my skills and my strength to manage the positive outcome. Opted for a roof and bed early after covering 21 miles. Wind and cold again tomorrow. Awesome vacation!!!”      

– John Connelly, Rangeley, Maine, May 8, 2016

John Connelly and wife Nicole at the start of the Northern Forest Canoe trail in Old Forge, New York.
Old Forge, New York

On April 15, John Connelly left Old Forge, New York to not only thru-paddle the Northern Forest Canoe Trail but to continue paddling to the Bay of Fundy and down the coast of Maine. He turned his dream trip into an awareness campaign about the growing number of hours Americans spend indoors. Connelly’s PaddleQuest 1500 Expedition is “dedicated to raising awareness of the mental, physical, and spiritual renewal that awaits those who embrace outdoor adventure of any kind.”

Long Lake, New York
Long Lake, New York

Three weeks into his trip and one-third of the way closer to his goal, NFCT caught up with Connelly by email. All photos are courtesy of John Connelly.

How many miles have you paddled so far?

About 420.

What is your final destination?

Kittery Point, Maine in mid-July!

Camping on Lake Champlain.
Lake Champlain

What’s been a trip highlight so far?

The Nulhegan River—source to end—with GREAT whitewater flow!

What has been the most challenging?

Upstream tracking in slippery algae/moss stones and paddling upstream against strong, featureless flows making attaining exhausting.

Have you had wildlife sightings?

John upstream tracking on Vermont's Missisquoi River.
Upstream tracking on the Missisquoi River.

Tons of waterfowl. Geese on nests but now I’ve seen two batches of new goslings. Lots of ducks, mink, muskrat, deer, eagles, osprey, songbirds and pileated woodpeckers and a bull moose.

Have you met any trail angels?

Several offers of help. One backyard BBQ with a family in New York on the evening I had boat repair to do.

What’s been your most interesting encounter with a stranger?

Common casualty for long-distance paddlers.
Good thing John has spares.

I was ill with a nasty intestinal bug in New York. At dusk, in cold rain and wind, I went to the nearest house to ask about area lodging. The man said there wasn’t any but I could camp in his yard and use his restroom. One caveat I learned about later, his woman friend … came out to let me know in no uncertain terms that I will never set foot in the house and if I try, she’ll put her dog on me and he has already bitten several people.

Is there anything else you would like to add?


Crossing the border in North Troy, VT.
Crossing the border.


John Connelly and his wife Nicole own Adventurous Joe Coffee. Mild weather allowed John to train for his 1,500-mile journey in his sea kayak for much of last winter near his home on Maine’s coast. Learn more about his trip and read his on-going updates at


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