LONG LAKE - More than 250 boats and 500 paddlers took to the water Sept. 11 for the 27th annual Adirondack Canoe Classic 90-Miler.
The three-day race included 14 classes of competition and drew participants, volunteers and spectators alike from all over the northeast as well as abroad. This year attracted 58 boats from inside the Adirondack Park, but also drew paddlers from as far away as New Zealand.
The 90-Miler launched from Old Forge Pond and was completed Sept. 13 on Lake Flower in Saranac Lake. Paddlers traversed the Fulton Chain, the Eckford Chain, Long Lake, the Raquette River, and the Saranac Lakes.
The course intentionally follows some of the "original highways of the Adirondacks" once traveled by Native Americans, guides, and early settlers.
Day one consisted of paddles and carries through the Fulton Chain of Lakes, Raquette Lake, the Marion River and the Eckford Chain of Lakes. Paddlers bedded down in Blue Mountain Lake and launched early on day two from Bissell's on Long Lake.
Day two was a paddle down Long Lake and into the Raquette River, a carry around Raquette Falls, a paddle down the Raquette River to a finish at the state boat launch on Routes 3 & 30 outside Tupper Lake.
Day three started at Fish Creek Campground and included a paddle down Upper Saranac Lake, carry to Middle Saranac Lake, paddle across Middle Saranac Lake and into the Saranac River, carrying around the Upper State Locks. Paddlers continued on the last stretch of Lower Saranac Lake and another section of the Saranac River, carrying around the Lower State Locks. The homestretch was across Oseetah Lake and Lake Flower to finish the race at Prescott Park in the village of Saranac Lake.
Voyageur canoes set the pace of the race. The Richard Reynolds Express, powered by seven paddlers from Rochester including captain Marc Gillespie, finished the trip from Old Forge to Saranac Lake in 12 hours, 14 minutes and 41 seconds to the take the fastest overall time of the weekend.
Two other voyageur canoes finished second and third. Dog Breath, captained by Roger Henry of Rexford, finished in 12:33:04. Dale and the Destroyers, led by Dale Krapf of West Chester, Penn, took third in 12:48:11.
The fastest local finishers were Jon Santor and Chad Kennedy of Plattsburgh and Bloomingdale, who took first in the C-2 Amateur class with a time of 13:15:24 and fifth overall.
The second fastest local boat was a team consisting of Tom Boothe, Mike Rechlin and Jack Burke of Paul Smiths along with Saranac Lake resident George Cook. The team finished second in the C-4 Stock men's class with a time of 13:56:23 and 11th overall.
This year marked an important milestone for the role of the state Department of Environmental Conservation in the 90-Miler.
The DEC became involved in 1985 when they featured the Adirondack Canoe Classic as an Adirondack Park Forest Preserve centennial event.
DEC employees Terry Healy and Bill White initiated the relationship between the 90-Miler and the DEC.
"Bill White was the quiet behind the scenes organizer, and Terry was the 'Hey guys, this is gonna be a lot of fun' motivator we were looking for to coordinate the on-the-water aspects of the growing event," said long-time Adirondack Canoe Classic organizer and race director Brian McDonnell.
Healy died in 1993, but is remembered each year through the Terry Healy Award, given to a participant, support team, volunteer or staff member who best exemplifies the true spirit of the event.
The safety of the race had been tremendously improved over the 25 years of DEC involvement. It is now operated under the Incident Command System (ICS) with guidance from DEC Forest Rangers. Also, DEC Environmental Conservation Officers, state Office of Public Protection Dispatchers and Natural Resource and Operations staff operate safety boat patrols, radio communication, campsite facilities and monitor all 90 miles of the event.
"The knowledge and skills of the DEC personnel has proved invaluable in the continuing success of the 90-Miler," McDonnell said.
The 90-Miler is organized and sponsored by the Adirondack Watershed Alliance. Other sponsors include Wenonah Canoes, the Central Adirondack Association, Byrne Dairy, Grand Union, Adirondack Bank, Forge Racing, Long Lake Recreation, Placid Boatworks, Lake Placid Pub and Brewery, Campmor, Adirondack Lakes and Trails, NYMCRA, Franklin County Tourism, Little Beaver Guideboats, GRB, Hyde Fuel, The Old Forge Camping Resort and MAC'S Canoe Livery.
More than 100 volunteers also help to shuttle boats, keep time and provide pit stops for paddlers. Amateur Ham radio operators led by Saranac Lake resident Roland Patnode also provide invaluable assistance.
This year, Region 5 Director Betsy Lowe presented the Terry Healy Award. In honor of the 25th year of DEC involvement, the Terry Healy Award went to all communication, safety and medical volunteers.
Those who received the award included members of the DEC, led by Mike Grove and Phil Johnstone; The Adirondack Amateur Radio Association, led by Roland and Jackie Patnode who provided radio communications to race officials; and the Search and Rescue of the Northern Adirondacks (SARNAK) that provided first aid along the route.
The 90-Miler began in 1983 by a group of Saranac Lake residents looking for an event that would celebrate the historical mode of transportation in the region: human-powered boats.
The original organizer, Sue Dyer, was looking for "something physically challenging, naturally gorgeous and positively memorable after the pain went away."
For the past three years the members of The New York Marathon Canoe Racing Association have voted the 90 - Miler its race of the year.