Maine Man First to Solo Kayak 740-mile Water Trail

Monday, 29 June 2009
Fort Kent, Maine, June 29th, 2009 — A 67-year-old Maine man on Saturday completed the first solo kayak through paddle of the 740-mile Northern Forest Canoe Trail from Old Forge, New York, to Fort Kent, Maine.

Gil Whitney of Lakeville, Maine, arrived at Fort Kent's Riverside Park on the St. John River 57 days after launching his lime green kayak on the Fulton Chain of Lakes in the Adirondack Park Preserve. The retired tractor trailer driver lost four inches off his waist and nearly 30 pounds while experiencing a stretch of nine straight days of rain, a spill into Class IV rapids on the Saranac River in New York, an inner ear infection, and a meeting with a swimming black bear on Flagstaff Lake in western Maine.

Whitney's wife, Kathy, shared news from Gil's trip on a blog called Gil's Bucket List. Eager to reach home, and to stay in front of a second solo kayaker from New Jersey, Gil paddled about 30 miles a day during the last week of the trip.

The Northern Forest Canoe Trail opened to the public in 2006, and follows historic American Indian paddling routes on the major watersheds of northern New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, and a portion of southern Quebec, Canada. It is the longest inland water tail in the northeast.

Another Maine resident, Donnie Mullen of Hope, completed the first unofficial through-paddle of the 740-mile trail in a canoe in 2000. Nicole Grohoski and Tommy Perkins, from Ellsworth, Maine, made the first official end-to-end canoe paddle in 2006. Twenty other paddlers have accomplished the feat. The majority of trail users spend a day or weekend exploring one of the 13 sections of the waterway. Learn more about the Northern Forest Canoe Trail online at

The Northern Forest Canoe Trail: The Northern Forest Canoe Trail links the watersheds of northern New York, Vermont, Québec, New Hampshire and Maine, and is a unique thread tying together the Northern Forest Region. The 740-mile water trail traces historic Native American travel routes through the rivers of this region, and is a living reminder our history, where rivers are both highways and routes of communication. Flowing with the stories of Native Americans, European settlers, and the development of mill towns and the timber industry, the Trail's rich heritage serves as a basis for widely accessible, environmentally friendly tourism in many of the small communities along the route.

David Johnston

David Johnston

David Johnston has been introducing people to the sport of sea kayaking for the past 15 years. He is a senior instructor trainer with Paddle Canada and teaches for several paddling schools in Ontario, Canada. Full Bio.

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