Lake Champlain on July 14

By Kate Williams

What a day:  July 14, 1609, Samuel de Champlain paddled by canoe into the lake that now bears his name.  July 14, 2009, I was priveleged to spend the day on this very same lake with NFCT intern Ben Malakoff, first on the western shore at Plattsburgh, where we dedicated the long-awaited Plattsburgh kiosk, and later back in Vermont at Shelburne Bay, where we joined a commemorative birch bark canoe flotilla.

Ben and I arrived in Plattsburgh a bit early, so managed to get in a short paddle out around the breakwater just beyond the mouth of the Saranac River.  We returned to find a group of friends and partners assembling at the kiosk, with just a light drizzle falling.  As always, kiosks and the short ceremonies we host to celebrate their installation are one of the most tangible celebrations of NFCT partnerships.  With us yesterday were the full range, from kiosk builder Ron Sharon, to Al Johnson of the U.S. Coast Guard, to photographers, local NFCT members, a representative from the Plattsburgh mayor’s office….  We’re a pretty mixed crowd at NFCT, and that’s just how we like it:

Platts Kioks Group Shot, 7-14-09Notice the roof on this kiosk, an addition we think looks great, and that we certainly appreciated as the rain increased at the end of our brief ceremony.

From Plattsburgh, Ben and I retraced our path, taking the Champlain Islands Ferry back to Vermont.  We headed down to Shelburne Bay where we met up with the commemorative canoe flotilla, an amazing event.  8-10 incredibly beautiful birch bark canoes were joined by sea kayaks, contemporary canoes, young paddlers and old, for a group paddle out from Shelburne Bay.  One of the birch barks had been built especially for the day by a Manitou couple from Quebec, finished only 48 hours before.  As Ben and I paddled among the variety of boats, I was struck by the fact that the simple technology of the canoe has been as enduring as any other I can think of, and provides us with a very real connection to past experiences, people, and places.  Some of the group headed up the lake shore to Burlington, others of us headed back to Shelburne Bay, but I think we all shared a sense of this connection as we dipped our paddles into the lake’s waters.

Canoe Flotilla 1Ancient canoe meets modern kayak, 7/14/09.  Hard to see in this photo, but the fellow in the stern of the canoe wore period dress from 1609, which was loose linen and looked quite comfy.  Lifejacket was a bit more contemporary.

Canoe Flotilla 2The next generation of birch barkers pulled their weight.