SARANAC LAKE - The 30th running of the Adirondack Canoe Classic, also known as the 90-Miler, is this weekend.
The three-day event kicks off on Friday in Old Forge, stops in Long Lake on Saturday and then finishes on Lake Flower in Saranac Lake on Sunday.
The race is organized by Brian and Grace McDonnell of Paul Smiths. The pair operate Mac's Canoe Livery and the Adirondack Watershed Alliance paddling club in Lake Clear. Grace takes care of much of the registration logistics while Brian concentrates mainly on the race and course logistics.
Once the event starts, Grace hits the water to join the other participants while Brian directs the race with the help of the state Department of Environmental Conservation, Adirondack Amateur Radio Association and dozens of volunteers who do everything from move boats to operate safety boats.
This year's race includes 275 canoes and kayaks. That's 25 more boats than in previous years, which shows that interest in the race is strong.
"We ended up getting more entries this year than we've ever gotten," Brian McDonnell said. "I hate telling people 'no,' and we talked it over with the DEC, and we bumped (the number of boats) up to 275. I thought that would help to alleviate that bubble, but we ended up getting 325 applications."
That means about 50 boats were turned away.
As usual, there will be a variety of boats. Competitors use guideboats, eight-person voyageur canoes, four-person canoes, solo and tandem canoes and kayaks.
Many of these participants hope to win a first-place plaque in one of the many racing divisions, but nearly as many are in simply to finish. This year's non-competitive open touring class consists of more than 100 boats and will continue to grow in the days leading up to the race and during it, as boats drop out of the racing classes.
Stories by numbers
One of the themes for this year's event is "stories in the numbers." Numerous paddlers, upon their request, have been given numbers that have special meaning to them.
One of those paddlers is Saranac Lake's Rodger Dempster, who will be in boat No. 20. Upon completion of this race, Dempster will join the Golden Canoe Club, which is for paddlers who have finished 20 90-Milers.
McDonnell said there are currently 35 members of the Golden Canoe Club, and he expects about 30 of them to paddle this weekend.
Here are a few more significant boat numbers:
Boat No. 29 will be paddled by Holly Crouch of Sherburne and her friends, whom she has dubbed "the First Ladies." Crouch has only missed one 90-Miler, a few years ago while she was serving as an Army nurse in Afghanistan.
Boat No. 30 will be paddled by Ray Morris of Glens Falls, who has made his way from Old Forge to Saranac Lake in September for each of the past 30 years.
Boat No. 60 will be rowed by Bob Pierson and his friend Bob Davis. Pierson and his wife will celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary during the event.
Boat No. 100 will be paddled by Glen Van de Winckel, who is celebrating his 75th birthday and his 25th 90-Miler. He will paddle a solo canoe surrounded by friends in solo boats.
For those who want to watch the race, there are many points along the course to do so. Here's a description of the course.
Day One - The 90-Miler starts in Old Forge and follows the Fulton Chain of lakes up through Eighth Lake, to the Brown's Tract, across Raquette Lake to St. Huberts Bay, up the Marion River across the railroad grade to Utowana and Eagle lakes, to the finish line at Blue Mountain Lake. Participants carry their boats from Fifth to Sixth lakes, Seventh to Eighth lakes, Eighth Lake to Brown's Tract and across the Marion River Carry. Approximate Day One distance is 35 miles.
Day Two - Begins at Endion on Long Lake. Paddlers go off in waves toward the north end of the lake, following the Raquette River down to the DEC fishing access east of Tupper Lake. There is one carry around Raquette Falls. Approximate Day Two distance is 30 miles.
Day Three - Begins at the DEC's Fish Creek Campground. Paddlers cross Square Pond, go down Fish Creek to Upper Saranac Lake, across Middle Saranac Lake, through Lower Saranac Lake, down the Saranac River, across Oseetah Lake to the finish line on Lake Flower in the village of Saranac Lake. Approximate Day Three distance is 25 miles.