DAMARISCOTTA, Maine — Laurie Chandler set off on her kayak Sunday, June 19, to the northernmost region of New England on her 347-mile Paddle for Hope.
The effort, originally announced May 1, is being undertaken by the Damariscotta resident to benefit the Maine Children’s Cancer Program. Each year, the Maine Children’s Cancer Program (MCCP) in Scarborough treats more than 50 newly diagnosed pediatric cancer patients, children whose lives will be forever changed by cancer. It is in support of MCCP and these brave children that Chandler began Paddle For Hope. Her goal is to raise $10,000.
Chandler’s month-long kayaking trek will take her solo across the state of Maine on the Northern Forest Canoe Trail. The trail enters Maine through Lake Umbagog at the New Hampshire border and follows native historic travel routes for 347 miles along eight rivers and streams and across 26 lakes and ponds to the St. John River on the Canadian border. There are 25 miles of portages, numerous rapids, and even some upstream travel. Three of Maine’s four largest lakes are on the route.
Planning, purchasing supplies, and packing filled Chandler’s final days before setting off on her trek. “Although my goal was to travel light (within the bounds of safety),”Chandler sai, in a press release issued prior to her departure, “it is hard to keep the pile from growing.
“One fun last-minute purchase was a four-piece packable spinning rod, which fits easily in the bow along with all my smaller bags. Everything is in dry bags — one large bag with backpack straps containing my tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, and other gear, and six smaller bags that can be clipped to the backpack. I am not sure how professional the final result will look as I portage, but the small bags are very practical for fitting in a small space.”
Her kayak and gear weigh about 105 pounds, including 48 for the boat without its removable seat. To reassure her family and friends of her safety she explained, “I’m carrying a SPOT Satellite Messenger capable of sending both a ‘I am fine’ check-in message giving the time and GPS coordinates, and a ‘911’ emergency message that will automatically call out rescuers. Also, a digital camera, binoculars, and a GPS, which I plan to leave on to track my trip (distance, average speed, total paddling time).”
Food supplies include “a lot of trail mix, granola bars, beef jerky, tortillas, tuna, dried and fresh fruit, spam, instant potatoes, pasta, and dried soup.”
Chandler said her biggest concerns was skunks. “My wilderness camping experience includes many trips to Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, where black bears are very common, so the thought of a bear actually doesn’t bother me as much as the thought of a skunk. I really don’t want a skunk in my camp at night! Since moving to Maine, I’ve camped, backpacked, canoed, and kayaked from one end of the state to the other and have been on many of the waters I will travel, including Mooselookmeguntic, the West Branch, Flagstaff Lake, Chesuncook, and the Allagash. My biggest concerns are portages, rapids, and wind. Luckily, many of the longer portages are ‘wheeleable,’ with my kayak and all its gear rolling along on the kayak cart. Historic Mud Pond Carry, the ‘back door’ to the Allagash Wilderness Waterway, will most likely be the greatest challenge. Almost two miles of trail, worn to a depth of two feet by those who have gone before, including Thoreau and centuries of Native Americans.”
Reflecting on her effort and the results so far, Chandler said, “During my journey, the courage of the children we are all helping and my spiritual faith will be my inspiration and strength. Thanks to the generosity and commitment of my family, friends, and the community, I am pleased to report that Paddle for Hope has already raised almost $7,000 for MCCP. In a recent visit to the clinic, the faces of the children whose photos line the halls brought new meaning to the urgency of this project. Together we are truly making a difference in their lives and letting them know how much we care, through our gifts of money, time, and love.”
Thanks to the help of MCCP staff, Paddle for Hope has its own webpage where donations can be made online, directly to the hospital. Visit www.mmc.org/paddleforhope to learn more about the trip, view a map of the route, and make a donation. Checks can also be made to “MCCP” and mailed to Laurie Chandler, 16 Pinkham Road, Damariscotta 04543. For more information on MCCP, visit www.mmc.org/mccp.