The Constant Paddler
Name: Larry McIntosh
Lives in: Brattleboro
Profession: Paddling guide, retired teacher
Primary sport: Paddling
If you ever sign up for a paddling trip with the Brattleboro Outing Club, you would be lucky to get Larry McIntosh as a guide. McIntosh has been leading the Brattleboro Outing Club’s paddling program for more than 20 years.
McIntosh, who turned 85 in April, had already gained a lot of experience when he started hosting paddle trips in the late 1980s in the tri-state area (Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts). At the time, he managed the local outdoor store, Wildwater Outfitters and it was a way to get the public into kayaks, since kayak equipment was some of what he sold. It worked.
McIntosh went off to the Peace Corps in Namibia in 1995, to teach English, math and science in a small village . It was one of the best jobs he ever had, he notes, on par with being a year-round ranger in Yellowstone for four years— another gig he did. When he came back from Africa in 1998, he went back to school to get certified and licensed to teach English as a second language in Vermont and New Hampshire schools.
While in Africa, McIntosh had two friends carry on the Wildwater Outfitters paddle trips. When he returned, he presented plans for a paddling program to the Brattleboro Outing Club, and the club took on the program in addition to tennis, XC skiing, and rowing as part of its mission. McIntosh also became a board member.
“The idea was to have a program that was free, open to the public, and didn’t cost the BOC anything,” he says. So, he started a consignment sale/ swap of various watercraft. It now does between $2,500-$4,000 of sales annually which gives him between $250-$400 a year to run the program. So far, the paddle program has always put money back into the club and no membership fee is charged.
“Paddling is free, as it should be,” he says.
“This year would have been the 21st year of the Paddling Program and 20th year for the Sale/Swap,” says McIntosh. The spring swap was cancelled due to Covid-19 but many of the clubs other paddling programs and events are still going on.
Like many kayakers, McIntosh likes to switch gears, trading in scenic meandering for speed as an avid kayak racer. He has competed in three Blackburn Challenges (a 20-plus-mile open-ocean race around Cape Ann, Mass. every July), ten Adirondack 90-Milers (the classic three-day event in September), and tons of other races. “it’s been a blast,” he says.
He has also started races which are still running today: in 1980 the Yellowstone Park to Paradise Run/Bike/Paddle, an annual May event in Wyoming; and the Nashua River Spring Run-Off on Earth Day in the 1970, from Harvard to Groton, Mass.
While working at Wildwater Outfitters, McIntosh brought kayak equipment up to the original LL Bean Sea Kayak Symposia in Castine, Maine, four years in a row so he could paddle saltwater. That’s when he got hooked on the Maine coast, with its many fir-topped, granite clad islands and the popular Maine Island Trail. He did a week-long day solo trip out of Castine around Deer Isle and Isle Au Haut after one of the symposia. He has been a Maine summer person ever since, paddling mostly in Vinalhaven and Down East.
His local Vermont favorite is Somerset Reservoir, on a weekday. He had two BOC trips planned there this year, including on in September. His other favorite paddling destinations include the Boundary Waters of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and anywhere along the Northern Forest Canoe Trail.
Due to Covid-19, McIntosh and the Brattleboro Outing Club had originally cancelled paddle trips for the season but the club has now reinstated some of the fall trips, including paddling and camping on the Connecticut River near Wilgus State Park, on Somerset Lake and other places. And McIntosh plans to be part of them.
“At 85, I look back on my past, and realize how blessed I’ve been. The ‘good old days’ are still with me, just in a different form,” he says.
“If I survive this latest virus outbreak, I’ll be amazed, and blessed again,” he adds.
Meanwhile, like many seeking social distancing outdoor pursuits, McIntosh will spend mid July to September paddling in Maine returning for the fall blast of color, reflected in Vermont’s quiet waters.
For more information, brattleborooutingclub.org/paddling/
Tamsin Venn is the publisher of Atlantic Coastal Kayaker Magazine and author of Sea Kayaking the New England Coast and Sea Kayaking the MidAtlantic Coast, Appalachian Mountain Club Books. Also