Laurie Chandler’s paddling adventure was amazing and inspiring

After reading Upwards, I’m not sure I want to tackle the entire Northern Forest Canoe Trail. But I sure do want to paddle some of the trail.

Laurie Apgar Chandler was the first woman to solo paddle the Northern Forest Canoe Trail, and her new book is a detailed and inspiring account of that 740 mile adventure including 67 portages totaling 125 miles.

Her faith, and remembrance of padding some of the trail with her husband Chris who died at a young age of a heart attack, are inspiring, and her fierce determination to get through tough portages, awful storms, fierce winds, and lots of long days of paddling, is amazing.

While she did the trail by herself, she made lots of friends along the way, including paddlers who joined her on parts of the journey.

Laurie’s love of wilderness paddling took hold after she turned 40 and moved to Maine with her two children to live with her parents in Bremen in a log cabin. That’s when she began journaling, and the book came from the daily journal writing she did throughout trip. She includes lots of history of places along the trail, and stories from other paddlers, some long long ago.

Two of her stories brought back memories of my own. The first involves a bull moose she encountered that was in the river, eating plants. The moose was deep enough in the water that it was protected from the swaming bugs.

I had a slightly different experience. Canoeing on Little Sourdnahunk Lake with wife Linda and the kids, we spotted an old bull moose with a very old ragged set of anglers. The moose’s head was covered in flies, and when it dipped its head underwater, the flies would hover in the air over it.

I made the mistake of paddling up very close to the moose, and when his head went under water, all those flies moved over and settled on me! Not a single fly settled on Linda and the kids. I paddled frantically away, swatting at all those flies, but it took quite a long time to get rid of all of them.

The other story comes from one of my favorite outdoor adventurers and writers, Gil Gilpatrick. Gil’s story involved sitting in a riverside outhouse. Here’s Gil’s story.

“With no one around, I left the door open to enjoy the view. Within a minute or so the view included a good size bear strolling leisurely down the hill about 5 yards in front of me. While I know bears are shy and avoid human contact whenever possible, it is still a little unsettling to be that close to one in such a compromising position. A little later, as I made my way back down the hill, the bear was feeding on some berries in the empty campsite. He quickly disappeared as I approached.”

My story is somewhat similar, and is included in my new book, A Lifetime of Hunting and Fishing, published by North Country Press. My experience happened while my friend Les Priest and I were floating and fishing the Karluc River on Kodiac Island, Alaska.

We’d camp in tents each night along the river, and the guides would put a boxed-in portable toilet in the bushes behind the tents. One morning I emerged from our tent to sit on the toilet out back in the alders. Finishing my business there, I turned around to gaze into the alders as I pulled up my pants. And there, strolling by about 20 feet away, was a massive brown bear.

If that bear had walked by in front of me while I was seated on the toilet, I wouldn’t have needed to go to the bathroom for a week!

Laurie’s wonderful book was published by Maine Authors Publishing in Thomaston. It would be a great book to take along on your next paddling adventure, but it would also be a great read beside the fire on a cold winter’s night.

George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website,, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. Islandport Press published a book of George's favorite columns, "A Life Lived Outdoors" in 2014. In 2014, George also won a Maine Press Association award for writing the state's bet sports blog. In 2016, Down East Books published George's book, Maine Sporting Camps, and Islandport Press published George and his wife Linda's travel book, Take It From ME, about their favorite Maine inns and restaurants.