Photo provided
Promise Road Elementary School art teacher Darlene Patterson smiles as she just finished her canoe trip along the 740-mile Northern Forest Canoe Trail in 28-½ days, which was 2-½ days ahead of schedule.
Photo provided Promise Road Elementary School art teacher Darlene Patterson smiles as she just finished her canoe trip along the 740-mile Northern Forest Canoe Trail in 28-½ days, which was 2-½ days ahead of schedule.
Noblesville school teacher Darlene Patterson on July 2 sent out correspondence to people back home in Indiana.
“We made it!!!” she exclaimed.
Patterson, an art teacher at Promise Road Elementary School, is talking about her summer trek, a 740-mile, month-long canoe trip along the Northern Forest Canoe Trail.
She finished the trail in 28.5 days. That’s two-and-a-half days ahead of the 31 days planned.
What an accomplishment.
If you read my June 21 column, then you know about the teacher’s adventure. If you didn’t, I’ll catch you up to speed.
Patterson, on May 31, Noblesville Schools’ last day of classes, departed for a month-long canoe trip along the Northern Forest Canoe Trail, which starts in eastern New York, travels into Vermont, up into Canada, down into New Hampshire, and finishes in Northern Maine.
She departed Old Forge, N.Y., on Monday, June 3. Her goal was to complete 25 miles a day and travel 740 miles, with nearly 100 miles of carrying and portaging boats and gear.
While she has traveled to many parts of the world, this trip may have been her biggest adventure. “This trip is definitely at the top in regards to difficulty,” she said.
The Northern Forest Canoe Trail is both new and old, Patterson said. “Researchers set it up to retrace old fur-trading paths.” She first learned of the trail around 2005, but it was still too new and not ready to attempt.
The longest inland water trail in the nation follows travel routes used by Native American, settlers and guides. It consists of 23 rivers and streams, 59 lakes and ponds, 45 communities and 65 portages (carrying boats between bodies of water).
At various points along the canoe trail, she stopped and signed a book called the Northern Forest Canoe Trail log. “These signatures can help with things like identifying a person’s location on the trail if there is some kind of emergency at home and it acts as a record of you being there. Thru paddlers can fill out a form, with the sponsoring agency, and then be listed as an “official” thru paddler of the trail on their web site. You also receive a certificate and a badge to sew on your life jacket or a pack. I definitely plan to fill it out, as completing the trail is an accomplishment for which I feel a sense of pride.”
Very few people try to thru-paddle the canoe trail each year because it is difficult. “You need to be physically fit and have many wilderness and paddling skills,” she said.
At the end of the trip, Patterson and her two trail companions posed for photos, showing off their triceps muscles.
“We all marveled over the ‘guns,’” Patterson said.
She kept a blog where her friends, family, students and the community could read about her adventures, and she has kept in touch with this journalist, sending photos and trip details, since the morning that she departed Noblesville.
“Only about 12 to 13 paddlers are able to complete the trail each year. It takes most (paddlers) 40 to 50 days,” she said.
“I feel like I have been in training for this all my life,” Patterson said.
Completing the trail in 31 days was her goal. The two-one-half days early was a great accomplishment.
“Now that the trip is done, I feel a sense of wonder. I wonder how we did 740 miles in 28.5 days averaging 26 miles a day, even in the wind and rain,” she said July 5. “In the very beginning, I was very cold and tired, and I wondered where I would get the mental and physical strength to make it to the end.”
Patterson said, “Everything got easier with each passing day. The days were filled with alternating between paddling, portaging and camping, and I was soon in a groove. So much that the days clicked off as quickly as the miles and, by the end, I really did not want the adventure to be over.”
Her favorite part of the trip? “On the next to last day, we were camping on the Allagash River and were woken as a moose marched through camp, brushed (fellow traveler) Mack’s tent, continued to the river edges, and then woke the rest of us as he/she splashed down stream,” Patterson said.
They were driving home all day on July 4 and were at home on July 5.
“Ahhhhhhh!” she said in relief last weekend.
One of the questions that my inquisitive daughter asked was about the teacher’s cell phone, how she kept her cell phone charged during the trip.
Patterson replied on July 2: The phone was a real challenge, as I often had no service. I currently have a backlog of journal entries in my notes. I plan to add them to Wordpress in the next day or two. As for photos, I started out with a 35mm camera but quickly found that was too much to manage, and I left that in the car when we resupplied. Switching to using my phone was easier. Plus, we all had iPhones, so when we had the chance, we would select photos and airdrop them to each other. We even did this in the tents sometimes. Fun way to share images.”
Her paddle partners, both Michigan residents, Mack Truax (who holds the record for the fastest time, which was 21 days) completed the trip for the fifth year, and Maggie Gremore completed her second. “I was talking to Mack, asking him questions about the trail. When he realized I was planning to do it by myself, he mentioned that they were hoping to find another person to go along. It seemed to work out perfectly,” she said.
“I do not plan to repeat. There are so many other places in the world to explore,” Patterson said.
“Maybe a backpack trip in the Grand Canyon, a bike trip on the Katy Trail in Missouri, a train trip on the Empire Builder to visit the Redwood Forest in Washington… or backpacking in New Zealand?” she said.
Patterson has memories and made friends with her paddling partners that will last a lifetime.
If anyone is wondering, she does have a husband that she left at home.
“Mark and I love to spend time together visiting state parks and traveling to places were we can hike and paddle and explore a little closer to home,” Patterson said. “We have a small travel trailer that helps us do this in comfort.”
But she is definitely the more adventurous one.
“The expedition style is all me,” Patterson said. “I find that the hardest part of my travels without him is the moment I am leaving the driveway to begin the trip. I miss him from the start. But, exploring has always been a part of who I am, and he understands this fact and he respects and supports my passions.”
She said, “Mark will definitely be along on the next trip. He wants to take a train trip or visit the Grand Canyon, so that is likely the direction we will go for the next one.”
Darlene Patterson often shares her love of outdoor adventures with her Promise Road Elementary art students, and leading Noblesville Township Trustee’s free hiking and adventure day camps later this month.
Patterson hoped that her canoe trip was a learning experience for her Promise Road students. “School will be starting back up in a month. I look forward to finding out if any of my students followed my blog on Wordpress and are sharing some of the stories,” Patterson said. “I hope the tales inspire them to go out and explore the world to find all this is good in it.”
-Contact Betsy Reason at