Best of 2022: Escape from New York

The NFCT’s Best of 2022 series features short stories from staff, board members and friends highlighting their favorite paddles of the year, both on and off the canoe trail. If you have a favorite trip to share on our blog and social media, email [email protected]

I started working for the NFCT at the tail end of the 2019 paddling season. The pandemic hit before I could start planning adventures in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine, which kept me tied to local paddles near Saranac Lake, where I live. The pandemic carried into the following summer, and lifted just in time for our team to run a whole slate of new events inherited from Brian and Grace McDonnell — another summer missing out on further afield trips. And even though 2022 was absolutely bonkers for me, both professionally and personally, I was determined not to let anything stop me from getting outside the Adirondack Park.

Two trips, both in Vermont, stand out as my favorites from 2022.

Missisquoi River, Louie’s Landing Loop

I took a few days off in mid-July, prior to the Missisquoi River Paddle-Pedal, to explore some sections of the Missisquoi. I loved paddling below Highgate Falls and near Sheldon Dam, but it was the Louie’s Landing loop near Swanton that stole the show.

I paddled this loop on Karrie Thomas’s recommendation. (Tip: When Karrie gives you estimated trip times, remember she is a paddling beast and you should tack on another 30 minutes or so at minimum.) It starts from Louie’s Landing, a meticulously maintained and user-friendly access point. I put in there and paddled downstream into the heart of the Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge, immediately regretting that my partner Kaet wasn’t with me to hear the symphony of birds. The water in July seemed low — though as a first timer on the Missisquoi, I didn’t have a real benchmark. The current is slow and the river takes its time, eventually hitting a bend near another access point called Mac’s Bend, which is only open seasonally to hunters.

From there, the river narrows slightly, eventually emptying into Lake Champlain. If you try this loop, you’ll need to be mindful that as you approach the lake there are a few branches you can take — make sure to veer river right (east) and head into Goose Bay.

The weather for me was perfect: 80 degrees, no bugs, a hint of cloud cover and no breeze. Nonetheless, I forgot to expect some chop when I got to the lake — keep that in mind when you paddle this one.

Once in the bay, I paddled south, hugging the shoreline somewhat and checking my map to make sure I didn’t miss the creek that connects back to the Missisquoi. You’ll paddle around a peninsula and look for an outlet on your right. This point on was my favorite part of the trip since I’m a sucker for paddling along narrow waterways. After winding through another stretch of bird sanctuary, I reconnected with the Missisquoi and slowed my pace to coast downstream, eventually ending at Louie’s Landing after about 3.5 hours of paddling.

Mad River Staff Paddle

This one was unplanned but fun as heck.

I try to visit Waitsfield when I can since it’s where the NFCT is headquartered and because I love The Mad Taco. On this trip, I truck camped outside our new office and got in some face-to-face time with Karrie, Marthe and Noah. We had initially planned to have a real in-person staff meeting, but Noah proposed to scrap a meeting so we could paddle the Mad River.

We put in at the parking lot near the covered bridge, where we paddled downstream, shooting some mild rapids and passing below the covered bridge. From there, the river winds parallel to Route 100, with a few other stretches of mild whitewater. What made this fun for me, aside from paddling with the whole NFCT team for the first time, was getting a closer look at the terrain along the river, as I’ve only experienced the Waitsfield area from the land.

This trip ended up being about an hour long. If you want to check this one out, make sure you have the appropriate equipment and gear for some Class 1 rapids — and stop by our office to say hi, too!