Planning a trip

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    I am interested in planning a 3 -4 day trip with a two families (10 people approx) and am interested in doing sections of the trail. Does anyone have ideas of what sections would be best for a trip of this duration. Everyone in the group has done several canoe trips.

    The trip would be in the summer and we would leaving from Mass



    Chris Gill

    There are lots of possibilities, how do you feel about whitewater and portages? How old are the kids?



    The kid are all 16 and above. Would like to avoid any long portages if possible ?

    Chris Gill

    I’ll give you two suggestions.

    1. Lake Umbagog on the Me/NH border. You could paddle from one site to another or base camp in one location and do day paddles, If you start from Errol, NH you have the option of taking a day and paddling the Androscoggin River for some Class I and II white water.

    2. The Saranac Lakes in the Adirondack, starting at the State Bridge or Ampersand Bay and heading up to Middle Saranac Lake and back.

    There are more ambitious trips if you are willing to portage or drive pretty far up into Maine. I’m sure others will have some different recommendations. Good luck with your planning.


    Chris Gill

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    Chris Gill

    A couple of things I should have mentioned. Umbagog is map 8 and Saranac lakes ate map 2.

    A third trip you might consider is the West Branch of the Penobscot from the North East Carry to Chesuncook Lake. This logistics on this trip would be more challenging. It’s on Map 11.

    None of these trips have any portages, the first two require campsite reservations, Umbagog and the Saranac lakes do not require shuttles.


    Rich, it would help if you gave a little more information about your group and geographically what general area of the NFCT you are considering. My assumptions based on what you provided is that you will be a mixed group, male/female and you plan to camp (tent or lean-to). I understand wanting to avoid long carries (portages) but I think with a mixed group and the age of the paddlers there are a few other considerations.

    1) How experienced are the paddlers and what would be a reasonable distance for them to paddle each day?
    2) The type of boats you will be paddling? and how much do they weight?
    3) How much gear will you be bringing with the group? Will you be going lightweight (think backpacker) or will you need to bring everything including the kitchen sink :(.
    4) How important is it for members of the group to use a real bathroom instead of an outhouse? Even if it is every other day they get to civilization.
    5) Over 3-4 days will the group become bored or are they accustom to being away from tweets, instant messaging etc. If they need their tweet fix you’ll want to be fairly close to populated areas.
    6) Do you plan to shuttle your own cars, use an outfitter or return to your starting point.
    7) Will you be using carts for your canoes/kayaks or if you encounter portages will you have to carry all your gear.

    I wouldn’t let the carries/portages become the sole make or break issue on which section of the trail to paddle. I’ve taken boy scouts ranging in age from 13 to 17 on seven to nine day wilderness paddles in the Allagash and Algonquin areas and encountered portages with them where even the smaller younger boys did fine going up and over the mountains carrying 70 pound aluminum canoes.

    While I agree with Chris on the Saranac Lake area being a good suggestion if I were to paddle in that general area I’d lean more to a Bog River – Lows Lake paddle. Although not on the NFCT there is only one very short few hundred foot portage between Hichens Pond and Lows Lake and Lows Lake has 39 campsites.

    If you throw out the concern about portages you can’t go wrong doing the Old Forge to Long Lake section of the NFCT. This section has a little of everything and you could always tell the kids when they have made it to Long Lake that it’s only another 700 miles to Fort Kent in Maine.



    Maps 1 and 2 (the Saranacs) came immediately to mind to me too, but this section has the highest concentration of portages, but the camping opportunities are outstanding and the terrain interesting (you’d could have lakes and easy rivers, and view the ocassional waterfall (from the portage trails.)

    Another section that might be nice is on Map 8, starting on Lower Richardson to Rangeley–if you like lakes. There are only two portages, one short and historically interesting and the other longer, but along a road (ice cream stop in Oquossoc). Wheels will be appreciated as I think it was a .75 – 1.25 mile walk. You may even be able to bum a ride from Haines Landing–its a popular resort area. However, these are big lakes with the possibility of wind.

    You MUST register for campsites in this whole section. The Richardson’s have lots of beautiful options (Chris Gill can advise on the best beach sites) and you can end at Rangeley State Park (hot showers!) if you like.

    The West Branch Penosbscot trip would also be a nice family trip–no portaging at all!


    Hi Ray,

    Sorry for the late reply. This group is two families consisting of 6 teenagers (5 scouts 4 of whom are eagles) and 4 adults. To answer your questions

    Several of us have done the West Branch Penosbscot on a Scout trip several years ago and had a blast. The woman in the group have no problems with outhouses since we have all done various level of camping. Everyone can live without the electronics for a 3 – 4 day trip.

    We are just looking for a trip were we can enjoy some nice paddling and kicking back at a campfire for the night. Since a lot of the kids are working and heading back to college hoping to find a trip which would not require the need to make a lot of reservations since scheduling could be a problem



    My first reaction to reading your recent forum entry was with four (4) eagle scouts I would get myself a sedan chair and have them carry me over any portages. That is based on my experience while hiking parts of the Appalachian Trail with my son who was a eagle scout, whenever we came to any really steep rock climbs I’d let him climb to the top with his pack then come down and get my pack to carry up the rock slope while I go up the hill with just my hiking poles. While I’m sure there are people who would refer to that as borderline child abuse, I considered it a character building exercise. He turned out OK so I’m sticking to it being good for him.

    Just picture the four of you adults transported over carries in sedan chairs like royalty. Then arriving at the campsite where the boys have erected your tents and are busy preparing gourmet meals.

    My choice given that you have 5 young men with you would be to start at the beginning in Old Forge and paddle to Long Lake. While there are a couple of interesting carries (portages) on this section with the use of some good canoe carts they are doable. Although I have to admit, I have a particular dislike for the Buttermilk Falls carry. The advantages of this section are:

    1. There are reasonable size towns at both ends and safe parking areas where you can leave shuttle vehicles.
    2. You get a mix of lake paddling and small winding bog paddling.
    3. With a little research, there is a lot of drama and history associate with the area.
    4. There are plenty of campsites along the way that do not require reservations.
    5. At just about the right time in the paddle you pass through NY state campgrounds on the portages. The campgrounds have hot and cold water, potable water etc…some have even been known to take a shower, but I won’t admit to knowing anyone that would do that.

    A nice relaxed pace for the trip from Old Forge to Long Lake is three days. With a number of campsites where you could easily spend an extra day or two just enjoying the paddling near the site.

    Chris Gill

    You could go up to Island Pond, Vt and camp at Brighton State Park. From there you could paddle on the Clyde or Nulhegan Rivers, the CT River is not to far away and it’s a great day trip or overnight if you camp at The Samual Benton Site. You will need a reservation for Brighton State Park, there would be no portages although you would have to deal with beaver dams and short rapids on the Clyde and Nulhegan. You would have to shuttle your canoes daily. the State Park has lean-tos which I found to be really nice if the weather gets bad.


    The idea of carried by the Eagle scouts sound like a just reward for 9 years of Boy Scout service and having gone through 2 Eagle projects !! 🙂

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