FORT KENT, Maine — Ah, to be young, when a plan to paddle, hike and bicycle around the country seems like a great and enviable idea.
It sure does to brothers Adam and Andy Boone, who took a break Friday after arriving at the Fort Kent terminus of the 740-mile Northern Forest Canoe Trail which begins in Old Forge, N.Y.
“This was the first leg of a much longer trip,” Adam said over coffee and eggs at Rock’s Diner on Saturday morning. “We have another day or two of paddling to Perth, [New Brunswick,] and then we start walking.”
Once in Perth, Adam, 23, and Andy, 22, will trade their paddles and canoe for packs and hiking shoes at the intersection of the International Appalachian Trail.
From there they will hike south to Mount Katahdin and then will through-hike the famous trail to its southern tip at Springer Mountain, Ga. — 2,278 miles in all.
For a change of pace, after spending the Christmas season in Georgia, the pair will hop on bicycles and pedal to New Mexico to link up with the Grand Enchantment Trail for a 730-mile hike into Arizona.
In Arizona the Boones will be reunited with their bicycles and ride into California to begin the last part of the odyssey — a 2,650-mile trek north to Canada on the Pacific Crest Trail.
Couch potatoes, the brothers are not.
“I’d had this planned for a while, but it was like something I’d do ‘sometime,’” Andy said. “Then we were out on a hike and in 20 minutes it all came together last March.”
The Indianola, Iowa, natives are no strangers to outdoor adventure. Last year Andy through-hiked the Appalachian Trail north from Georgia after a “brief introduction” to hiking the 600-mile Florida National Scenic Trail.
Once on the AT, Adam joined his brother for the second 1,000 miles.
“That’s why our blog is ‘Boone and the Follower,’” Adam said. “I’m the follower.”
While both have plenty of hiking and cycling experience, they fully admit to starting the Northern Forest Canoe Trail as complete paddling novices.
“This was our first foray into the realm of canoe expeditions,” Adam said. “It’s a romanticized activity, to say the least.”
The canoe trail begins in Old Forge, N.Y., and passes through Vermont, Quebec, New Hampshire and Maine.
“It was much harder than we would have thought,” Andy said. “We kind of figured we would be leaning back the whole way and occasionally dipping our paddles in the water.”
Thanks to a summer of heavy rains, rivers and streams along the way were running up to 6 feet above normal, creating strenuous workouts on the upstream portions.
“It was impossible to paddle at some points,” Andy said, “so that added a lot of portages.”
When not paddling, the Boones often were slogging through muddy portages up to 25 miles long carrying their 16-foot canoe and gear.
“At one point Adam purchased a small caster wheel and we attached that to the bottom of the canoe,” Andy said. “We pulled it along all day and crossed into Canada in that fashion. We got some pretty strange looks.”
On the water, both men agreed the weather was the biggest challenge.
“We had rain for 16 straight days,” Adam said, “but once we got into Maine, it cleared up.”
They also have determined the nicest folks along the trail are in Maine.
“We were doing the north-east carry after Moosehead [Lake] and walking down to the boat ramp and saw all these trucks and a campfire,” Andy said. “It turned out the fire was at a cabin across the stream and the guys there saw us and yelled for us to come over.”
Once the Boones joined the gathering, they were fed a hot meal and offered a warm, dry place to sleep in one of the cabins.
“They even offered to let us stay another night in their cabin after they left,” Andy said. “We thought we’d be staying that night in a swamp with the bugs [and] instead we were in a 1930s cabin.”
By and large, Adam said, that was typical of their experience along the way.
“You learn to just go with it,” Adam said. “Most people don’t have malicious intents.”
Based on previous trips, the brothers have learned to pack light. For the 29 days it took them to complete the canoe trail, they carried only two medium-size waterproof packs in the canoe.
Given that minimalist approach, the two do miss a few things.
“Espresso,” Andy said.
“And my girlfriend,” Adam added.
As far as the two are concerned, the payoffs are just not there with a canoe.
“We would fight our way to the top of a long stretch of white water and all we wanted was a nice, long cruise down the current on the other side,” Andy said.
“Instead all you see is miles of dead water.”
Adam agreed. “The least desirable form of travel is taking a canoe upstream,” he said.
Despite the challenges, the brothers remained in good spirits and were pleased with their performance on the water, having come through it relatively unscathed, save for Andy’s paddle.
“He broke his paddle and used glue and duct tape to fix it instead of just buying a new one,” Adam said. “I thought it was a ridiculous idea, but it worked.”
If the brothers are pleased with their progress thus far, a woman in Indianola was quite relieved.
“I think they are very ambitious,” Chris Boone, their mother, said from her home Sunday morning. “I’m just glad the canoeing is over.”
On Monday, Chris Boone was driving to Maine with her parents to meet up with her sons and exchange hiking gear for the canoe. “I’ll also bring three food drop packages with me to mail from Maine to three points in Maine,” she said Sunday. She expected to meet the brothers by midweek.
When her boys first began hatching this most recent adventure, Chris Boone did her best not to hear.
“I kind of ignored it for the first two months, thinking this, too, will pass,” she said. “But they really spent months in preparation [and] it sound like their planning was good.”
As a mother, Chris Boone said, it is very rewarding to watch how well the two brothers work together.
“They both have said they could not do this with anybody else,” she said. “They really complement each other’s skills [and] I trust them to use common sense.”
Chris Boone said her children have always enjoyed the outdoors and suspects it’s a trait they inherited from their father, Alan Boone, who on Sunday morning was out on a three-hour bicycle ride.
Their third child, Abby, is working as a pastry chef in a lodge near Telluride, Colo.
“She’s making pastries for elk hunters,” Chris Boone said with a laugh.
Once the Boone brothers reach Canada and the end of their journey, neither one is sure what they will do next, though there was some talk of hiking a northern route back to Iowa.
“After our last hike along the Appalachian Trail it was clear we wanted to do something again,” Andy said.
To follow the Boone brothers’ adventures, go to www.travelblog.org/Bloggers/Boone-and—the-Follower/