By Kate Williams
He did it. Gil Whitney, whose story I’ve shared with you on and off for the last couple of months, made history as the first person to through paddle the Northern Forest Canoe Trail in a kayak. Kathy Whitney, Gil’s wife, set up a blog to track him along the way, Gil’s Bucket List, and she also called our offices regularly with updates. The story that has emerged is truly inspirational. Gil didn’t do this to make history or set a record. He did it because it he “thought it would be a good thing to try with a kayak.” And over the course of the 57 days and 740 miles, Gil proved time and again that making “a good thing to try” a job well done takes tenacity, sweat, passion, curiosity, and – I’m going to say it – love. Love for wild places and rural neighbors, and most of all in Gil’s case, love for his wife Kathy who was his motivation for the 30-mile days that got him through the final stretch of the journey. To both Gil and Kathy I offer my congratulations on a terrific accomplishment, and my thanks for sharing it with the larger paddling community.
And it seems that people are interested. The story has been picked up by several news outlets:
- The Bangor Daily News carried an excellent story with photos, reported by Julia Bayly who drove up to Fort Kent to meet Gil at the trail’s end.
- WAGM- TV 8 did two minute story, including interviews with Gil and shots of him paddling in
- Further afield, the Albany Times Union blog post has a good photo and some detail on the journey and an AP clip found its way to such places as Boston.com and the Times Argus in Vermont, in addition to various outlets in Maine such as MaineToday.com and the Maine Public Broadcasting Network.
- And it appears to be a story with some national legs. The Outdoor Industry Association picked up the story in its Industry News.
I hope that as I am writing this, Gil is safe home with his gear in the dryer. I also hope that Mike Stavola, a fellow kayak through paddler who started his journey about a month after Gil, is finding smooth waters and gentle tailwinds as he makes the final push north on the Allagash River to the St. John and into Fort Kent. You can track his progress at his Facebook page, Kayakathon. Go Mike!