Setting the Speed Hiking Record on the Northern Forest Canoe Trail

Wilderness paddler Mike Stavola sets a record on the Northern Forest Canoe Trail.
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Wilderness paddler Mike Stavola sets a record on the Northern Forest Canoe Trail.

Some would argue that the 740-mile Northern Forest Canoe Trail is meant to be traveled slowly, savoring one scenic day—and one arduous portage—at a time. Not New Jersey native Stavola, 57, who shattered the previous speed record last July, when he kayaked the whole NFCT in 32 days, 3 hours, and 56 minutes.

HOW DID YOU BEAT THE RECORD?

The NFCT is the ultimate adventure paddling trip in this country, but so far, most people have canoed it. Kayaks are faster. Plus, an older kayaker started a few weeks earlier than me, and I didn’t want him to show me up.

SCARIEST MOMENT?

The two-mile crossing of Flagstaff Lake. I was paddling into 20-mph winds, and the boat was diving into the waves. I kept thinking of that chapter in The Perfect Storm about what it’s like to drown.

WHAT WAS THE MOST SCENIC SPOT?

Attean Pond in Maine. Mountains surround the whole pond, and I paddled my boat in circles, taking pictures.

WHAT’S NEXT?

My partner Juan Carro and I will paddle across Nicaragua, from the Pacific to the Atlantic. We’re going to portage over the Continental Divide.