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Gordy's Allagash Sass

By Nancy Kennedy

I had the privilege of being invited by Gordy to join him, his wife, Taffy, and several of their friends, along with my Chewonki colleagues Peg Willauer-Tobey, Greg Shute, and Kate Ziminski, for a late summer trip on the Allagash River. Although I responded with an immediate and enthusiastic “yes!” I was, admittedly, a bit nervous about going. Before this trip, I had never traveled the Allagash and, frankly, had very limited paddling experience. Although I heard stories of the beauty of the landscape, I kept thinking about other comments about the hardships of encountering a strong headwind. But Gordy, with his years and years of familiarity with the trip, and his characteristic enthusiasm, assured me that all would be well.  

Every day I saw amazing wildlife and gorgeous views, and I always learned something new. Taffy shared several pro tips on settling comfortably into a campsite at night. Greg taught me to identify some bird calls. Kate and Peg reminded me to soak up each blessed moment in nature. In the mornings, I was seated at the bow of a canoe paired with an experienced paddler in the stern who would offer their insights for successfully navigating the river. One day, I was thrilled to find out my paddle buddy would be Gordy. We set out for the day, sharing stories from our respective life roads, singing songs to each other, and brainstorming solutions to solve all the world’s ills.  

Just before lunch, conversation quieted down between us at the exact time the paddling became immeasurably more challenging. I thought, “This must be the dreaded headwinds I was warned about!!” Determined to pull my own weight, I paddled and paddled with all my might to keep the canoe moving forward. It was a tremendous struggle. My arms were so tired, but I refused to let Gordy think I could not keep pace with him. 

At long last, we reached our destination. The paddling became easier, and as we reached the shore, we were greeted by laughter and cheers! I was so happy to be on land and happier still that I successfully partnered with Gordy through that difficult stretch. 

Once we pulled the boat out of the water, my tripmates made their way over to me, holding a cell phone and laughing. Someone had been documenting the entire trip and that day captured a photo of me and Gordy. I wondered what could possibly be so funny until I saw the photo for myself. The morning paddle was indeed a challenge, but not for the reasons I suspected. There actually was no headwind. Instead, as the photo showed, what made the paddling so difficult and why there was silence between Gordy and me during that stretch was that while I was in the bow paddling with all my might, Gordy was completely reclined in the stern and was captured on camera taking a nap!

We all had a laugh for a good long time. And I think I was secretly proud that Gordy felt comfortable enough with me in the canoe to relax. I love Gordy so much. And for many wonderful reasons, I will always remember that trip.