In 2015 Laurie Chandler did something no woman had ever done before: she was the first woman to solo thru-paddle her 13-foot canoe the entire length of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail. And she completed the 740-mile journey in just 53 days.

“Upwards” is her very personal story of that remarkable achievement, “a journey of faith, trailing back across four states and one province,” revealing much about her physical and mental strength, her determination and her faith in herself.

Chandler, now living in Bremen, was 53 years old in 2015, a widow with a dream inspired and encouraged by her father and their many years of canoeing adventures together. The NFCT, created in 2000, is a waterway canoe trail running from Fort Kent to Old Forge, New York — 740 miles of rivers, lakes, canals and portages, “the largest mapped inland paddling route in the country.” She points out that many of the NFCT’s rivers run northeast, which is why she paddled from New York to Maine, crossing through New York, Vermont, Quebec, New Hampshire and Maine.

Chandler tells of her training, preparations and experiences, with detailed descriptions of the route, dealing with bad weather, rapids, high water, low water, strong wind, voracious bugs, water hazards, fatigue, injuries and the joy of an occasional hot shower.

She also vividly tells of the NFCT’s fascinating geography and history, while poetically describing the colors, smells, sounds and sights of the waterway’s wilderness and wildlife, and the days and nights of quiet solitude. She admits, however, that “solitude is priceless, but sometimes so is companionship,” telling of warm encounters with other paddlers, fishermen and folks along the way.


Throughout her beautifully written memoir is her clear message: “Every day is a gift.”

. . . . .

The boy detectives Cooper and Packrat are back in action in Poland, Maine author Tamra Wight’s fourth novel in this fun mystery series.

Award-winning author Wight’s series is focused on middle-grade readers, but adults will enjoy these well-crafted stories of good kids solving mysteries and being responsible, considerate stewards of wildlife and nature. And this is just plain fun — sort of like the Hardy Boys meet Marlin Perkins. (Remember “Wild Kingdom”?) This book has been chosen as a Junior Literary Guild selection.

Cooper and his best friend, Packrat, are 14-year-old, seventh-grade boys living at Cooper’s parents’ Maine lakeside campground. They help with campground chores but really enjoy exploring the woods, fishing and goofing off.

Now, however, they try to solve the mystery of who has been dumping trash and garbage on their property, endangering animals and birds — especially a cute bear cub and his protective mother. Cooper’s initial suggestion that the town create a recycling program is hijacked by someone and turned into a criminal enterprise, and Cooper unfairly gets the blame.

They also search for a treasure of gold coins hidden a hundred years ago in the dug privy of an old, abandoned inn — a stinky adventure with plenty of laughs. Adding to the drama, the boys and Cooper’s parents try to help a homeless mother and son, try to understand a pal’s anger over his parents’ divorce, and learn a lot about bears and archeology.

The boys come up with a sneaky plan to catch the trash dumpers, but the suspects are many, and there is danger when the plan backfires. These are delightful kids, smart, loyal and respectful, and it’s a pleasure to read about their exciting mystery adventures.

Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.

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