Taken as a whole, the two guides, the 13 maps, and some help
from Google Earth, and the tools on the NFCT site, and you are
Planning for such a
trip takes some time, so don’t be in a rush.
First, get acquainted with the NFCT by checking out their official site
You will find a wealth of information here from a description of the
trail, an interactive map that will enable you to follow the trail on the
screen while seeing all of the points of interest and resources available for
the entire trail, or any point along the way.
You can read the blogs of previous Through-Paddlers, and their insight
will prove valuable as you read the guides and begin to comprehend the
obstacles being encountered. Read the
questions and answers section for a good overview. Then, become a member. Membership helps to support the work on the
trail, and also offers discounts on the guides and maps you will need to
purchase; a win-win.
To really appreciate
the trail, you have to comprehend the amount of work contributed by an army of
volunteers along the length of the trail.
They build steps in wood and stone to help paddlers ascend steep banks
for portages and campsites, clear and create new campsites, build lean-to’s,
picnic tables, fire pits, privies, sign-in boxes and kiosks, and follow-up with
ongoing maintenance. There won’t be a
day go by that you won’t reap the benefits of hundreds of helping hands.
The Official Guide
There are two guides
for the paddler planning to tackle the trail.
“The Northern Forest Canoe Trail: The Official Guidebook” is a 302-page
detailed breakdown on every twist and turn from Old Forge, NY, to Fort Kent,
ME. The second guide is “The Northern
Forest Canoe Trail Through-Paddler’s Companion,” by Katina Daanen. Katina is herself a Through-Paddler, and
writes to address the specific needs of the paddler on the trail. This is 240 pages plus index. So, wouldn’t you expect them to be pretty
much the same? Well, No!
Most trails follow a
specific route, and that trail’s official guide carries the paddler along that
route, and in a prescribed direction.
The Florida Saltwater Circumnavigation Paddling Trail goes
counter-clockwise around the coast of Florida, and the other trails, like the
Georgia Trail, the Intracoastal Waterway, all follow the counter-clockwise
movement around the Eastern United States.
The rivers, Missouri and Mississippi, go in one direction from source to
sea. All references, all mileage counts,
all shore identifications, all navigational markers assume you are following
the prescribed route. If you are not, the
consistency of downstream and source-to-sea makes it easy to realize that all
references will be reversed. No
problem. The NFCT guide, however,
assumes you are a section paddler picking rivers you can float, or rapids you
can run. This approach is undoubtedly used
because they feel the bulk of their visitors will be sectional paddlers. For the Through-Paddler, however, it becomes
confusing at times. This is not to take
away from the trove of valuable information the guide provides, just the mental
gymnastics needed to be going in one direction yourself while the guide is
going forward, back, forward, back, etc. to follow the current flow of every
stream you encounter.
The Through-Paddler's Companion
Katina Daanen puts
all the confusion to rest with her “Northern Forest Canoe Trail
Through-Paddler’s Companion.” Every
section of trail includes all the information needed to progress steadily with
all the portages, types of portages, the
map to use for each section, the distances involved, types of waterways or
challenges to be encountered, the services available, points of interest, and
lodging/camping options, and a narrative to tie everything together. Additional information is added on poisonous
plants, pests, wildlife, and how to handle them, route planning, skills needed,
boats and carts to use, safety and awareness, camping, water and food, and
much, much more. She helps you pronounce
all of the unusual names, and lists every applicable service available in every
town along the way with address, phone number, and, using the NFCT kiosk near
the landing as the reference point, the distance needed to walk to get to each
The bottom line is
this. They are both outstanding
guides. If you are a sectional paddler/vacationer,
get the official guide. If you are a
Through-Paddler, then the Through-Paddler’s Companion is a must. If you suffer from a touch of OCD, like
myself, by all means get them both. I
bought the official guide with the maps on line after becoming a NFCT member,
and then got Katina’s ‘companion’ from her (autographed) at Canoecopia. In either case, the guides accompany the essential