The Longest Day


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   The fist day of summer is finally here!  The longest day of the year, the summer solstice, and June 21st, 2007 is the first official day of summer.   It always seems strange to me that summer doesn’t begin until June is almost over, but here it is anyway.

     On this day we will have more daylight than we will know what to do with.  I know I will be sleeping for at least an hour of this daylight since the sun will rise at 5:03 AM and it sets at 9:03 PM for a total of 16 hours of forecasted mostly sunny skies.  From this day on the days will get shorter and shorter and before we know it summer will be over.  OK, it may not happen that quickly but it does seem like it at times.

     This is one of my favorite times of the year to be on a canoe trip.  There is so much daylight you can paddle and portage for hours upon hours and cover tons of new territory in a single day.  This is unlike the fall when we usually only have 8-10 hours of daylight to paddle.  Guests to Voyageur often ask how far they can paddle during a day which sounds like a straightforward question but it really isn’t.

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     How far you can paddle in a day depends upon many things.  The obvious is how many hours of daylight are there?  Most people don’t want to paddle in the dark or by the light of the moon so this is the first determining factor.  Then there are the questions of how many hours you want to paddle, how many hours your body will let you paddle, and how many hours do you want to spend fishing or relaxing at a campsite.  Everyone paddles and portages at a different pace so you have to keep in mind you only travel as fast as your slowest member.  Are you paddling with kids or elderly people?  If all members of your group are fit then that makes a difference too.  Some people like to take a couple of strokes and then relax as they glide along the surface of the water.  Others pause to look at plants along the shoreline, take photos of wildlife or explore a distant bay.  Serious anglers will want to fish along the way so you need to consider time for snags and landing fish.  If you do land a fish then you’ll probably need to spend more time in that spot trying to catch more fish too.

      The length and number of portages will also determine how far you can paddle in a given day.  Will you be able to carry all of your gear and canoes in one trip or will you have to return for a 2nd trip?  Do you have all of your items neatly packed away or will you spend ten minutes getting re-organized at each landing?  Taking additional time at portages can really slow your group down preventing you from paddling great distances in a day.

     One variable a person can’t determine or control is the weather.  If it’s windy or rainy weather then you may not feel like being out on the water.  We always recommend planning one day for sitting out a storm or rainy weather to be on the safe side.

     All things considered you can travel a great distance in a day or barely make a noticeable move on the map.  A rough guide is the average paddler can travel 3 miles per hour, not including portages.  If you have a longer, sleeker canoe like a Kevlar Minnesota II then you may be able to increase it to 5 miles per hour.  Again, there are many variables to consider when determining how far you can paddle in a day.  The biggest factor to be concerned with is how far you want to paddle, because if you don’t want to be paddling it will feel like the longest day ever, even if it isn’t.

Happy Summer Solstice!