Why Thru-Paddle?

(Editors note: Beth Ziehl and Calvin Decker plan to thru-paddle the Northern Forest Canoe Trail, starting in mid-May. The pair are outdoor enthusiasts who both currently live in the Hudson Valley, where they enjoy paddling, hiking, and biking. The following blog was used with permission from their own website, Stories Worth Telling. In this post, Beth and Calvin share their views about why they have chosen to paddle the NFCT.)


Beth takes a self as Calvin sits in the stern.

Beth’s Perspective

There are many reasons why I feel inspired to canoe the Northern Forest Canoe Trail. Probably the biggest inspiration comes from having worked on the trail in the summer of 2014 as a stewardship intern. That was when I learned about the trail and worked with the crew building and fixing trail amenities. We worked on picnic tables, privies, stairs, signs, a lean-to, you name it. I learned a lot that summer about tools and carpentry. I’m still no expert, but I look back on that summer fondly when I lived out of my waterproof barrel, camping and paddling along the trail.

I never gave much thought to thru paddling the entire trail myself, but I’ve done plenty of multi-day canoe trips in the past. To me, it seemed like a very large undertaking that I wasn’t ready to do alone and didn’t think I had the time to do. After meeting Calvin and learning about his experience with long adventures, I knew that it was something I could do with him. I still hadn’t truly considered the idea until he brought it up; the more we talked about it, the more excited we got. I’m looking forward to seeing some of the places I worked on that summer along the trail and experiencing the challenges that Calvin and I will get through together.



Calvin’s Perspective

Simply stated, it seems like the next logical step.

I’ve always loved “getting away.” For years my vehicle of choice to do so has been a bicycle. Rides turned into longer rides which turned into touring. Touring led to some really long days in the saddle and a desire to get off pavement for said long days. All that led to Tour Divide 2014 where I finished 2nd, in my first “bikepacking event.” Turns out I’m pretty good at pushing myself when the going gets tough.

I was in the middle of training for another bikepacking event when I met this fantastic young lady who I now get to call my girlfriend! Her love of outdoors and camping definitely caught my interest. She talked about the NFCT, which I had never heard of. Over a year, and a few big “races” later, I was ready for a change of pace from bikepacking. (I’m not quitting here, shheeeesshh). Trade the bike for a boat and spend [lets call it month and a half] in the wilderness with my girl? That’s a no brainer….

When we first started talking about thru paddling, one of my first questions was, “What’s the record?”

Calvin Decker and Beth Ziehl

I was quickly reminded we would not be “racing” the NFCT, rather enjoying the trip. This is the first time I’ll be engaging in long distance travel with a partner. This is both thrilling and a little scary. Thrilling because even though I love the solitude of traveling alone, loneliness can be tough to deal with at times. So many experiences are nearly impossible to describe to anyone not there, so a lot goes unshared. I look forward to sharing the stupid jokes that pop into my head, gasps of amazement when something cool is seen, the feeling of accomplishment when milestones are crossed, and having someone to complain with when the going is tough. So, why am I scared? If I don’t eat enough on time, I get cranky. You need to eat a lot on these types of trips, and nobody likes me when I’m cranky. I don’t want Beth not to like me.

As I often do, I’ve already got ideas for next year’s big adventure floating around in my head. This won’t take away anything from this trip, but it does give my mind a place to wander to when the inevitable monotony can set in.

Yes, bikes are involved.

Beth as an intern in 2014.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *