Next week is the big “90-miler.” The Adirondack Canoe Classic is running again for what looks like the 30th year.
Since 1983, the weekend after Labor Day hundreds of paddlers have convened to navigate their boats 90 miles from Old Forge to Saranac Lake via historic waterways that make up the first leg of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail (NFCT).
This event is like the other fun, athletic events that epitomize the way North Country people play — it’s hard.
But by tradition recreationists are welcome alongside serious competitors. The course takes three days and to accommodate the 250 to 275 boats the route is divided into three distinct legs. The Department of Environmental Conservation provides safety and logistical support and sets aside blocks of campsites. Participants receive a T-shirt, mileage pins, awards, camping, snacks, boat shuttles and a post race meal. Several different classes of boats compete, including canoes, kayaks and guide boats crewed by one to eight paddlers or rowers.
The sense of community that gathers as the race gets closer is impressive. Volunteers, race officials and local businesses all thrive on the challenge of running a fun and safe course as well as hosting the several thousand extras who come to town in support of a boat or a team.
This year one boat will be bringing a new dimension to the field. Folks raising money for the Northern Forest Explorers will paddle an eight-person voyageur canoe. This idea is just one of the positive spinoffs of the 90 Miler.
Northern Forest Explorers is a program that was started by the NFCT for kids ages 10 to 14 to participate in five day canoe trips. The trips run along various sections of the 740-mile route between Old Forge and Maine. Potential participants can sign up with a simple application on the NFCT website. The cost ranges from $100 to $500 depending on income but scholarships are also available.