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The 90 Miler
Laurel Auchampaugh/ Special to the Citizen war canoes approach Route 30/ 3 bridge in Saranac Lake.

The weekend of Sept. 8, 9 and 10 saw 500 paddlers from New York, Vermont, Massachusetts, Canada and as far away as Arizona, Florida and Hawaii convene in the Adirondack village of Old Forge to navigate the 90 mile Adirondack Canoe Classic to Saranac Lake.

Limited to 250 boats, and aided by 100 enthusiastic volunteers and pit crews, ‘the boaters' three-day course covered all aspects of canoeing including the labored portages from river to lake, through forest trails, over mountain paths and isolated river walks. 2007 will mark the 25th year for this fun-filled family event.

Covering the original route of the Native Americans as observed in the area's folklore from fishing and trapping guides, their haunting presence was felt in the sight of the stirring war canoes and restored 100-year-old guide boats. Added to the mix were the slick, streamlined single and double kayaks that sliced through the blue water.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation boat crews were even present along the route to monitor each boat as it passed strategic checkpoints. The men on shore would wade in the water at the end of each day's course to aid the cramped and stiff boaters out of their boat and to assist in carrying the boat to shore. Besides being a sponsor of the event, their readiness to help was much appreciated and commented on by everyone.

Each day, the bystanders lining the highways, bridges, parks and deep forest glades gave their cheerful support with calls of encouragement. Organizer Brian McDonnell, of MAC'S Canoe Livery best summed this infectious spirit by saying, “There is a true feeling of camaraderie and community around the Adirondack Canoe Classic, following the original highways of the Adirondacks. It is more an opportunity to reacquaint with paddling friends than a paddling competition. We bill it as an event, and play down the race aspect, even though there is friendly rivalry at every turn in every class.”

The classes ranged from single entrants to long war canoes filled with eight to 10 paddlers. American pride was evident in a veteran's group, the “Wounded Warriors,” who participated. Chris Hoyt paddled the 90 miles backwards in his restored fishing guide boat.

All ages were represented, and there is even a number of competitive seniors who return each year. Young Mary Stockwell had a Barbie Pink paddle and was with her grandfather, Ray Morris, and brother, Richard. Ray is a 24-year veteran of the canoe classic, and was one of the organizers in the beginning. This family group won the Terry Healey Award given to a person or team who best exemplifies the true spirit of the Canoe Classic. They had come to the aid of a woman kayaker who needed help getting back into her boat after she fell in the water.

Area men who finished the 90 miler are: Tom Ieradi, of ACE Kayak in Skaneateles, a sponsor for the Kayak Classes. Scott Stenberg, of Moravia, in the touring Kayak Men's Masters. David and T. J. Sennett, of Auburn, who were in the two-man canoe Mens's Open Class. Also, Jim and June Genkos, of J & J Canoe of Owasco, set up during the event to provide quick repairs and furnish racing supplies.

Other area participants were Dan Tracy and Ron Reed, of Cortland; Doug Caveney and Dan Karig, of Ithaca; Ron Gay, of Skaneatles; Rob Hinsdol, Jeffery Moore, of Oneida, and Mike Martin, James Fritzen, Patrick McCooey, Robert Morse and Tom Shannon, all from Syracuse.

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