The Hamilton College Marathon Canoe Racing Team did it again! Starting on Friday, Sept. 7, the team of 20 competed in the annual Adirondack Canoe Classic, hosted by Mac’s Canoe Livery. For two weeks prior to the race, the paddlers woke up before the sun rose to train on Delta Lake in Rome, N.Y. Before they knew it, they were lined up in Old Forge on Friday morning poised to start the journey.
This year the team entered three C4 canoes and one voyageur canoe, which seats 8, into the race, and Director of Outdoor Leadership Andrew Jillings competed in the K1 kayak class. Jillings was the first Hamiltonian to set off in his kayak. Next, came the voyageur canoe (also called war canoe), with Fiona McLaughlin ’19, Lydia McGinn ’22, Ruth Coolidge ’21, Ben Stoloff ’19, Gus Huiskamp ’21, Wade Steely ’20, Emma Stout ’20, and Keith Ruggles ’20.
The three C4 boats all launched in the same wave and were made up of strong teams. Catherine Berry ’19, Rachel Zuckerman ’19, Emily Steates ’19, and Leigh Gelotte rounded out one of these boats. The other two were filled by Chase Moulton ’19, Marley Napier-Smith ’21, Matt Knowlton ’21, and Sammi D’Angelo ’21, and Alex Holmwood ’19, Maggie Horne ’19, Erin Walicki ’20, and Roger Danilek ’21.
On Day One, the boats made their way, 35 miles in total, through the Fulton Chain, with a brief carry across Route 28 in Inlet, N.Y., from Fifth to Sixth Lake, and then up into Seventh and Eighth Lakes. This time a longer carry took the boats into Brown Tract, notorious for beaver dams and tight turns, which led to Raquette Lake and the Marion River. The day finished in Blue Mountain Lake, and the weary paddlers aided by their loyal Pit Crew made their way to the night’s campsite near Long Lake.
Thanks to Pit Crew members Claudia Morse ’19, Erik Johanssen ’19, Tyler Spector ’19, and Kevin Roback ’17, the paddlers arrived at a collection of campsites already set up and a dinner that was whipped up quickly. Day Two began in Long Lake, where choppy waters challenged and then yielded to the resolve of the paddlers. Then the boats entered Raquette River, where they would fight through unprecedented low waters for the remainder of the day.
The Raquette Falls portage, 1.5 miles, presented arguably the biggest challenge of the race, but the paddlers all overcame and conquered the hostile landscape. “At the end of the day, with 30 more miles under our belt, I knew that we were going to make it,” said Walicki ’20, one of the three team captains. Again the Pit Crew worked their magic and blessed the team with a pristine campsite and delicious dinner, this time at a campground near Upper Saranac Lake.
Day Three arrived, a 20-mile tour through the Saranac Lakes and up into Lake Flower where the finish line and town of Saranac Lake, N.Y., awaited. It was a scenic paddle, and spirits were high as the boats turned the corner into Lake Flower and saw the town before them. “Once we could see the finish line, we were just taken over by this energy and paddled as hard and as best we could,” said Steely ’20. Cat Berry ’19 echoed the sentiment, “The feeling when we finished was just indescribable, we just couldn’t believe what we had done in only one weekend.”
The only veterans on the team, captains Ruggles ’20, Walicki ’20, and Holmwood ’19 commented on the experience. “We could not be more proud of the team, and we are so thankful to Andrew and the Pit Crew for supporting us through the race, and Mac’s for putting on the event.”
The team hopes to put together a boat to compete in the Long Lake Regatta, which is on Sept. 22. The paddlers are all hungry to get back after it!