90 Miler

With the 90 Miler approaching, we thought we would share a view of the race expressed last year by Peter Heed, author of Canoe Racing: The Competitor’s Guide to Marathon and Downriver Canoe Racing. Here it is:

Sorry I missed your good race, Shawn, but unfortunately there is a conflict with another wonderful race – actually a paddling ” event” – The Adirondack Classic 90 Miler! Thought you’d get a kick out of hearing that this race is evidence of a growing new trend in paddle sport – team canoes, especially C – 4s!

We all know that the concept of “team canoes” aka “Voyageur/War Canoes” is not new. There actually was a good set of races which emphasized War Canoes back during the 70’s and early 80’s in New England. Those races faded away for the most part, but there is a new variation of the team canoe that is starting to have a real impact on the racing scene – the C-4. These four person canoes come in “stock form” (Wenonah and Savage River) or longer “unlimited” hulls made by Grass River or Rimer. They bring “team dynamics” to canoes that can be raced in all sorts of river and lake conditions. They are fast; they are fun; they can ride wake just like a C-2 or C-1, and they are a blast to paddle! Nowhere is this more evident than at the Adirondack Classic.

Many New Englanders have had the good fortune of racing The Adirondack Classic, but for those not familiar, The Classic is a three day stage race – a 90 mile journey through the heart of New York State’s gorgeous Adirondack Forest Preserve, from Old Forge to Saranac Lake. This annual Fall event follows the same routes traveled by the region’s early settlers and guides – a chain of lakes, rivers and carries known as the original “Highway of the Adirondacks.” It is both a race and an adventure back in time. Many of the difficult “carries” (portages) seem to have changed little in over a hundred years of use. Not only is the course breathtakingly beautiful and historical, but this race is hugely successful. They limit the field to 275 canoes – and turn teams away every year!! In a time when many races struggle with dwindling entry numbers, you know there is something very special going on here to attract so many paddlers. The organizers offer all sorts of classes for everyone (yes, SUPs too!), but the increase in the team boats, particularly the C – 4s, has been nothing short of incredible. This year there were 41 teams entered in the “racing” C – 4 division (stock and unlimited) and 32 C -4s in the “touring” division. The math is easy – that’s 292 paddlers just in C-4s!! There must be something to this – and there is!

Much of the credit for popularizing the C – 4 class goes out to Marc Gillespie and his Forge Racing organization, for encouraging racers to give C -4 a try and for helping them find canoes. Just look at some of the legends of paddling – both current and past – that tuned out to race C – 4s this year: Andy Triebold, Steve Lajoie, Nick Walton, Matt Rimer, Bruce Barton, Tim Triebold, Jeff Kolka, Sol Carriere, Paul Olney, Matt Rudnitsky, Rebecca Barton, Mike Davis, and Al Limberg – just to name a few! Even more important was the tremendous number of less serious, fun oriented paddlers, who turn out to fill the teams. With the best racers spread out onto different teams, it “levels the playing field” and emphasizes the significance of team work. The end result: great competition with a huge dose of fun and camaraderie.

Another unique aspect of the 90 Miler that cannot be ignored is the wild scene at the portages. The portages at the Classic (or “carries”, as they refer to them) are long and challenging to say the least. How long? On the first day alone you face 4 portages with a total of over 3 1/2 miles.! These make the portages at The Run of The Charles seem like a walk in the park! So how do so many levels of paddlers with so many different and sometimes heavy boats make it over these difficult portages while still having fun? Wheels! Lots of wheels! All sorts of wheels! I have to confess that until I paddled a team boat, I was one of those racers who used to secretly think ” wheels were for wimps.” How wrong I was! The first year I was in a C – 4 with Jeff Shultis and some good NY paddlers – big strong guys! Our wheels broke on the long, rough carry during Day 2 (The old Tupper Lake 40 race that many will recall). We tried to lug the big 23 ft canoe(with 4 jugs, food, equipment,etc) on our shoulders. Wow! Just about reduced us all to tears- a bunch of wimpering wimps! When Alec Davis’ team wheeled by us with Alec riding in the canoe – like he was on a parade float – we just about gave up! We finally did make it back in the river, after getting passed by countless teams breezing past us on their wheels. And we vowed never, ever again to even think of trying to portage a stock C -4 without a good set of wheels! Or any other kind of canoe for that matter. If you come to paddle the 90 Miler, bring some wheels!! You won’t regret it.

So if you get a chance to paddle on C-4 team at the Adirondack Classic – or any race – give it a try! It is thankfully one of the newer and growing aspects of paddle sport! For instance, both the Clinton and this weekend’s Josh Billings Triathlon have a C – 4 division.!! Thanks Patty!! I know my good teammates from the 90 – Gary and Gloria – will be out in their C-4 on a Josh team this year, so you can see one in action and maybe give it a go. Whatever you do, give some thought about coming to northern New York some Fall weekend in the near future and have an unforgettable paddling experience at The Adirondack Classic 90 Miler!

Happy paddling,


Tidal Rivers Paddle in Guilford

Jan and Tom took a leisurely six-mile paddle on Guilford’s tidal rivers 24 August 2104. See the Google Earth view.

Little Tupper Lake 2014

Tom and Jan camped at Little Tupper Lake August 11-14. It was their third trip to Little Tupper. Rain and stiff winds were part of the package, but so were loons, osprey and a bald eagle. They had a roller coaster paddle out downwind. They also overshot the takeout, and were able to to get some upwind paddling in as well.
You can see the photos here.