By Nicole Grohoski
NFCT Thru-paddler 2006
Spring is once again spreading across the Northern Forest, bringing with it some of my favorite seasonal sights and sounds: ferns poking out of the duff, peeper frogs, and canoes and kayaks secured to roof racks. I wonder where each boat is headed and think of some of my own favorite paddling spots, many of which lie along the Northern Forest Canoe Trail.
Ten years ago this month, I paddled out of Old Forge, New York with sister and brother Pam and Tom Perkins in two red canoes, wondering where our twelve hot-off-the-press NFCT maps might lead us. We were ready for anything with homemade portage wheels, a machete, rain gear, bug dope, and our wits. As we set up camp that night on First Lake and thoughts turned to dinner, we realized that Pam’s stove and my fuel canister were not a match…so it was to be bagels for our first meal on the trail. Not as prepared as we thought.
It was 2006, the year the Northern Forest Canoe Trail officially opened. Former field director Jen Lamphere hurried ahead of us to sign a few recently-secured portages. The machete came in handy on a few such “trails.” We found campsites where permission had been given, but there were no amenities. We sometimes paddled upstream to an impassable feature and just dragged boats through the woods. And then there was the time we thought we were lost pushing our way up an alder-choked stream in Maine, causing us to turn around and invent what we called the “Perkoski Portage”.
Though the trail was pretty rough in its early days, it clearly had much to offer. Pristine lakes dotted with loon pairs, exciting whitewater runs, moose galore, and that feeling of wilderness which nicely contrasted with small communities of friendly folks.
I commend the original founders, staff, volunteers, and board for having the vision and energy to make the Northern Forest Canoe Trail a reality. And I am grateful to all of those who have made the trail the spectacular recreational resource that it is today.
Since that first trip, the NFCT nonprofit has managed to rope me into all sorts of fun. It started with film festivals where I showed my home-made video about our adventure. Then I wrote the thru-paddler section of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail guidebook. In 2011, I was crazy enough to spend a summer in the Allagash moving rocks and gravel along the boggy and buggy Tramway Trail as an intern.
Evidently I wanted more trail work, so I adopted a segment to maintain. It includes my favorite lake on the trail, Spencer Lake, and the now-official portage from the lake to the Moose River (a.k.a. the Perkoski Portage). Seeing that I was either very dedicated to the trail or have trouble saying no, the NFCT board of directors asked me to join and I’m currently its secretary.
I have been lucky to see the trail change and grow in this past decade through the eyes of a paddler, staff intern, volunteer, and now board member. The organization wouldn’t be where it is today without all of the people who continually fit into all of those roles. You fit in there, too, as a trail enthusiast and supporter…with your boat strapped onto your car and map in hand, ready to explore a new section of the trail or visit an old favorite.
Enjoy the Northern Forest Canoe Trail adventure and help us grow in this next decade!
Nicole Grohoski is a cartographer and lives in Ellsworth, Maine. Her most recent adventure was organizing friends to raft the Grand Canyon last January. Watch her video, The Northern Forest Canoe Trail: As seen by two through-paddlers, about her 2006 thru-paddle.