This column was first published May 20, 2006

Despite a wet Friday start to last weekend, we dodged a soggy bullet, didn’t we? Most of the state languished in warm and sunny weather while parts south of the border were snorkeling.

For us northerners it was a great weekend to get caught up on yard chores, camp openings, or just plain playing. Unfortunately, the deluges caused lots of property damage and grief for our neighbors to the south.

The rest of this week wasn’t rosy, but at least the major rains missed us. The trees around here have flourished. Everything’s green.

I didn’t let last Friday’s showers deter me from hitting Pushaw Lake for a paddle. What’s so great about a kayak is that only half of you is exposed to the elements.

Your bottom half is below deck, protected by your spray skirt and boat. What’s above deck can be pretty much weatherproofed with the addition of a paddling jacket and a hood. Neoprene gloves or pogies are an option if you need to keep your hands warm.

Properly outfitted, you’re wrapped up in a weather-tight cocoon and free to explore at will. And best of all you almost always have the water to yourself because most other boaters stay ashore.

So don’t let the rain dampen your desire to explore. Should there be high wind and waves, however, think twice about your abilities and skills. Don’t even think about heading out if there’s lightning.

Paddling late on a sunny, breezy Sunday afternoon presented a different set of challenges. The brisk southern wind pushed me quickly north past Dollar and Hardwood islands where I needed to make a decision – turn west and head back in the open water into the wind or turn east and hope the far eastern shoreline would provide some relief.

East it was, and once I got close to shore, indeed there was some relief. At one point, near a marked snowmobile trail, it was calm enough to take a short break and grab a drink. For a moment I thought about stepping ashore and stretching until a little movement caught my eye.

There looking back at me was a robust-looking porcupine – so much for a stretch. We exchanged pleasantries and parted company before I remembered I had my camera with me.

I stopped for a sip of water a short way up the shore in another lee, then ducked behind a small, unnamed island.

By the time I’d reached a point even with the southern end of Moose Island, the breeze had dropped to less than 10 mph and I had a pleasant shot back to Hardwood Point and Gould Landing.

As I was putting my gear in the car, a mallard and her chicks swam up to the beach and disappeared in the bushes. Thinking I’d get a picture, I hustled to the spot only to see them disappearing on the other side of the causeway and back into the water.

The lake always provides me with some entertainment — most of it wildlife, some of it human. I almost always see loons and ducks.

As the season progresses, the loons grow less wary and won’t dive out of sight as quickly as they do early in the season. I’ve had the opportunity to look them in their red eye from less than 20 feet as I sat still in my boat.

Then there’s an eagle or two that make cameo appearances (Wednesday evening during a kayak class we were treated with an eagle fly-by, a Baltimore oriole, a kingfisher, and numerous red-winged blackbirds.). Lately, geese have dropped in at sunset noisily announcing their arrival. I regularly see gulls and other visiting ducks.

There are the turtles and fish that occasionally dart out from under the kayak, and the ever-industrious beavers that will slap their tails and scare the daylights out of me if I don’t see them first. I’ve seen muskrats as well plying the waters.

Canoe trip update

Pam Perkins got back to me last Monday. She’s the young lady doing the Northern Forest Canoe Trail I wrote about last week. The reason I was unable to get her earlier, she wrote, is because she’s already on the trail. Last Monday she was 80 miles into the 740-mile trek.

The College of the Atlantic student is doing the trip as a final project combining the trip with the creation of an educational Web site that will be used to track her journey. There will be weekly lesson plans covering a number of subjects relating to the rivers, “from navigation to the occurrence of mathematical fractals in nature – photos and progress reports will accompany these activities which are designed for children in third through eighth grades.”

Last Monday, Perkins sent me an e-mail explaining “I’ve already hit the water and internet access is few and far between. I just got your email today. I’ve gone 80 miles so far from Old Forge, New York, to Lake Saranac where I am now. It’s been challenging, exciting, scary and fun. I paddle with two others, my brother Thomas and longtime friend Nicole Grohoski.”

It was Grohoski who got Perins hooked on the Northern Forest Canoe Trail.

“I first heard about the trail from my co-paddler Nicole, who wrote me a quick email about it and joked about how it would be a great followup to her recent cross-country bike trip. She said, ‘This will do the exact opposite to my muscles as the bike trip.’ I wrote back, half joking and said. ‘Let’s do it.’ Somehow, somewhere it got serious. That was sometime in February and here we are just months later paddling hard.”

Ah, to be young and adventurous again.

Perkins explained that all it takes is the willingness to do it.

“Talking with my paddling groups we’ve often remarked about how we’re really no tougher, stronger or better than most anybody else, it’s simply a matter of taking the leap, deciding to be adventurous and setting out. We’re learning as we go and enjoying ourselves immensely.”

It doesn’t hurt that she got into a canoe at an early age and developed a love for paddling.

“Tommy and I grew up following the [MaCKRO] races around the state with our mom. My mom likes to talk about how my brother was hardly old enough to fit into a registration class when they first started out. All canoe experience I owe to my mom who not only traveled to races around the state every weekend but also took my brother and I on long-distance canoe camping trips around the state.

“It’s really because of her that we both have a love for the outdoors and canoe tripping. When we hit the Allagash this time around it will be my sixth trip down that particular waterway, most everything else along the trail is new to me.”

If you’d like to check up on her progress in the coming weeks, check out the Perkins’ Web site at

International acclaim

Congratulations are in order for an Orono businessman.

Registered Maine Guide and Orono business owner Jon Tierney is the first person from Maine to be awarded a license to guide internationally by the International Federation of Mountain Guides Associations. The highest professional award attainable for mountain guides has only been granted to 38 American guides previously.

Tierney achieved this in spite of disabilities resulting from a mountaineering accident he survived three years ago when he shattered the lumbar region of his spine. It happened when part of the mountain he was skiing on broke out from under him. Recovery was long and arduous and included two years of spinal reconstructive surgeries.

According to information provided, “achieving the award takes tremendous dedication to mountain guiding; a world class level of skill in rock climbing, alpine climbing, and ski mountaineering; and a mastery of guiding skills. To be certified in each discipline an aspirant guide must pass a rigorous 10-day exam in some of the most demanding mountain locations in North America and Europe. [Tierney] recently passed his Ski Mountaineering exam in Valdez, Alaska. Valdez is known for some of the steepest skiing in the world. Deep glacial crevasses and avalanches are regular hazards that must be avoided.”

Tierney plans to stay in Orono and continue operating Acadia Mountain Guides Climbing School and Alpenglow Adventure Sports in Orono.

Jeff Strout’s column is published each Saturdays.