Peter Macfarlane's 2013 Solo Through-Paddle of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail
in a Cedar-Strip Canoe by Otter Creek Smallcraft

NFCT's Map of Overall Route Peter & Sylva completing the NFCT

Day 9

15.5 miles

Monday 27th May

Richford - Highwater


Day 9 route on Google Earth imagery

I have a lie in today until 6:45 am. Breakfast is not until 7:30, so I have plenty of time to pack, ready for a prompt departure afterwards. Outside comes as a shock: the sky is blue and the sun is shining, things I haven't seen in far too long. It's cold still, but otherwise seems like a stunningly beautiful day. Maybe the weather pattern has broken. The river appears to have dropped by about a foot.

Tim has advised me that breakfast is worth waiting for, and this is no exaggeration. It is excellent in quality and quantity, and I have to refuse his offer of more out of fear that I may overdo it again. I can't repeat often enough how great the hospitality is here at Grey Gables Mansion in Richford. Almost reluctantly I check out and begin the carry through town at 9:00 am.

Grey Gables Mansion

Richford Gorge

After taking photos from the bridge, I put in behind Wetherby's and immediately realise that being a nice sunny day does not necessarily mean that the paddling will be easy. The current is still strong and eddies are hard to find. I ferry glide across the river and lose 20 yards. After 10 minutes of hard paddling I'm exactly opposite where I put in. Eventually I make a little progress, but at this rate I'll be lucky to move a mile today.

I reluctantly take-out and access the adjacent road through private property, seeing no-one to ask permission. It seems wrong not to be paddling on a day like today, but the only alternative is to wait for the river to subside, and my schedule doesn't allow for that. I carry for a while, then put in again, but with the same result. The river is now more confined within its banks, and so eddies where it has spilled over are few and far between. I take out again on to the railway and follow this to the road, requiring a steep descent from the railway bridge.

Finding eddies again

Almost to Canada

I decide to carry to Stevens Mills. This is shorter by road than by river, and I seem to be missing the point of the trip, but needs must. Beyond Stevens Mills I put in again, but only briefly before grinding to a halt once more. So I take out and carry to the junction with Route 105A, the road to Canada. From here I paddle some more, but have to take out again a quarter of a mile shy of the border.

I carry to the US passport control. They don't need to see me, but I wish to check that all is in order for me to check back in by videophone in Newport. They check my passport and green card and can see no reason for problems. At the bridge which marks the international border I set a SPOT, and then continue to the Canadian passport control, where the agent advises me that paddling gets easier a few hundred yards up. Sure enough, I find a trail down to the river, and paddling is once more possible. What a difference a country makes!

A foot in each country

Missisquoi River & Sutton Mts

The current is still strong, maybe 4 mph, but eddies are present and, for the first time in days, I do not have to work hard to make progress. The weather is even so good that I strip down to T-shirt and shorts; that's been a rarity recently. I reach Glen Sutton bridge at about 3:00 pm and take out, having battled to pass through the bridge. I walk to where the centre of the village seems to lie to try to find evidence of Canoe & Co. Eventually I see a sign pointing back across the river, indicating 4 km distance. Whether upstream or down I don't know. Maybe I've missed it, and therefore the sign-in box there. So be it – I'm not going back downstream.

Some distance upstream I encounter a building with some canoes outside. This must be the place. More for show than anything else, I stow my paddle and pull out my ski poles to double pole across the flooded lawn to a landing. I spend time talking to François, who is happy for me to stay there, but appreciates that it is early yet to stop for the day. Continuing upstream I arrive at Camping Carrefour in Highwater at about 5:30 pm. Much is flooded, and it is unclear where to land, but, after some aborted attempts to walk through the site, I eventually find the right place.


First (visible) sunset of the trip

On checking in, I am directed to a site with trees, and am able to hang my hammock. Amazingly there is enough dry wood for me to be able to cook dinner and brew tea. A further 25 cents buys me a shower's worth of hot water, and, for the first time this trip, on day 9, I see the sunset. I also have the privilege of seeing high water in Highwater and, at the same time, Canada geese in Canada. Things are looking up. Tomorrow is the Grand Portage. It doesn't seem so daunting now. I'll have to dress my heel before walking, but that's no problem. My hands are the most painful part of me at the moment. Probably due to constant exposure to rain and cold wind, they have developed several very painful splits, especially on my thumbs. Even regular application of Burt's Bees has not been able to prevent this.


Website design & Photography © Peter Macfarlane 2013

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