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Bren McDonnall
11-16-2017, 12:18 PM
I know I just posted another question, and this one is related, but not too closely.

I'm involved in a one month project where the protag is dropped off on the east coast what will some day be Massachusetts on January 1st, 500AD with the objective of reaching a point on the Pacific coast that has been assigned as his goal.

I'm thinking that the best chance he has is going to be traveling by water for the majority of his journey. Faster, easier travel, more weight carried, therefore larger food supplies, etc. Trouble is, the last canoe I crawled into was in Wisconsin, and, I think Johnson might have been President. The search engines are of limited use. I can look at the maps or satellite pics, but they don't tell me anything about currents or portages.

IS there a way that somebody in a canoe can make it from the Boston area to, say, Lake Erie?

I know there's the St Lawrence River, but the whole trip will be upstream into a current that I can't find any real information on. Also, I understand there's some sort of obstruction in the area of Niagra.

To the south, I've been able to back-trace a route that goes all the way from the Mississippi to the Monongahela National Forest west of Washington DC. It's a winding route, but again, I'm not sure of the currents. Also, it looks to dump into a gigantic swamp.

One guy suggested to follow the coast down around the southern tip of Florida and row up the Mississippi to the Missouri. I'm not even sure it's possible to row upstream on most of the Mississippi.

Any help would be appreciated. I sort of fell into this project, but I'd like to finish it.

Thanks.

Jason
11-16-2017, 12:43 PM
I actually took a trip along the Erie Canal back in high school days and remember from the travels that there was much ado about this because it was the first route from NYC to the interior Western edge of the country in the time (1800’s) that didn’t require portage. One could go from NYC up the Hudson to Albany then the canal spanned to Buffalo where it dumped you into the Erie Canal.

At the time I think it was the longest canal in the world (or perhaps one of the longest - my old brain doesn’t remember all the specifics right now, am sure google can help you though...)

Since you are talking circa 500 BC, I think it’s safe to say that along our historical timeline as we know it, water travel was unlikely to get you that far. Unless you wish to write it under the auspices of historical fiction (alien waterways since filled in after their departure), not sure what other options you have.

insolentlad
11-16-2017, 02:47 PM
I recently read an historical about the American attempt to take Quebec during the Revolutionary War (Arundel by Kenneth Roberts). They portaged over 'the height of land' in Maine to reach the St Lawrence, and not with canoes but dragging heavy bateaus. Native Americans apparently used the route with some regularity. So it can be done, but it is a swampy wilderness and easy to get lost in.

Marlys
11-16-2017, 04:15 PM
Maybe grab a copy of UNDAUNTED COURAGE (or the diaries themselves) and take a look at the route of the Lewis and Clark expedition. From what I remember, they were on land until picking up the Ohio River in Pittsburgh and still had to portage a bit after that, but a lot of the journey was by boat.

The real logistical problem is how someone in the year 500 on the East Coast even knows there's a West Coast, or in the absence of maps could plan a way to get there. I suppose if they can speak every language that existed from coast to coast, they could keep asking the inhabitants of each area they cross whether they know of a navigable river they can use or major obstacle they should go around. But I imagine there'd be years' worth of backtracking and rerouting.

Bren McDonnall
11-16-2017, 04:54 PM
I recently read an historical about the American attempt to take Quebec during the Revolutionary War (Arundel by Kenneth Roberts). They portaged over 'the height of land' in Maine to reach the St Lawrence, and not with canoes but dragging heavy bateaus. Native Americans apparently used the route with some regularity. So it can be done, but it is a swampy wilderness and easy to get lost in.

Height of Land. I'll look it up, thanks. He's got a modern compass and good maps. His big problem is that it's January 1st when he gets dropped. If he heads north he'll be getting into that area in February, the coldest month of the year.


I actually took a trip along the Erie Canal back in high school days and remember from the travels that there was much ado about this because it was the first route from NYC to the interior Western edge of the country in the time (1800ís) that didnít require portage. One could go from NYC up the Hudson to Albany then the canal spanned to Buffalo where it dumped you into the Erie Canal.

At the time I think it was the longest canal in the world (or perhaps one of the longest - my old brain doesnít remember all the specifics right now, am sure google can help you though...)

Since you are talking circa 500 BC, I think itís safe to say that along our historical timeline as we know it, water travel was unlikely to get you that far. Unless you wish to write it under the auspices of historical fiction (alien waterways since filled in after their departure), not sure what other options you have.

It's 500AD, as if that makes a dif. I was afraid this was going to be the answer. The aliens major part in this operation was recruiting the protag to participate in their reality game show and dumping him in 500AD for their viewing pleasure.



Maybe grab a copy of UNDAUNTED COURAGE (or the diaries themselves) and take a look at the route of the Lewis and Clark expedition. From what I remember, they were on land until picking up the Ohio River in Pittsburgh and still had to portage a bit after that, but a lot of the journey was by boat.

The real logistical problem is how someone in the year 500 on the East Coast even knows there's a West Coast, or in the absence of maps could plan a way to get there. I suppose if they can speak every language that existed from coast to coast, they could keep asking the inhabitants of each area they cross whether they know of a navigable river they can use or major obstacle they should go around. But I imagine there'd be years' worth of backtracking and rerouting.

I would certainly do that if I had time. In fact, I probably will before the book actually sees print. My problem ATM, is that I've got fourteen days to finish the rough draft. I can go back and backfill later, but I'm trying to keep major story changing edits to a minimum.

The protag is from 2017 or 2018. He's been given a complete set of USGS grade topo maps, some star charts contemporary to 500AD, and a destination point on the Pacific coast he must somehow reach.

The problem I'm having is that I tried to play it kind of straight when I started writing. The rules of the game were random points decided by RNG upon transport. Nobody knew where he would be landing or where his destination would be until time of transport. I rolled him into Rockport Mass, and am having a difficult time getting him out of there.

Bren McDonnall
11-16-2017, 04:58 PM
Thanks for the answers so far, folks. If anybody's got any solid experience with, say, the St Lawrence River, I'd love to hear it. Likewise the Clinch River in Tennessee/Virginia.

I've got major rivers that get him from the Boston area about halfway across Pennsylvania, but that last couple of hundred miles to Pittsburgh is still a mystery.

Maryn
11-16-2017, 05:35 PM
There's a reason we built the Erie Canal, and it's not so I could walk there. (Although I did, just yesterday.) There was neither a land nor water route between the Great Lakes and the East Coast that was navigable with trade goods.

Have you found the Navigable Waterways Network (https://www.arcgis.com/home/item.html?id=a6370d12781f4de58e3e76c8fa1612f7)? My internet connection is syrup-slow this morning, but if yours is decent it's worth exploring.

I found an all-water route map from the Mississippi to New York from the 1880s here (https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d0/Map_of_the_all-water_route_from_the_Mississippi_to_New_York_and_t he_eastern_Atlantic%2C_1885.jpg).

I suspect if I were this character, with my modern maps and knowledge, my first move would be hauling ass south as quickly as I could. Even in the era of modern highways and motels with attached restaurants, the smart traveler going east to west in winter moves south as early as possible.

It's not my concern, but I'm curious about the deadline you mention. It seems to me that doing this story right involves more in-depth research than you've given yourself time to do. Is it NaNo?

Maryn, ever so nosy

jclarkdawe
11-16-2017, 06:40 PM
Historically, the route from the Boston area to Montreal would be up the Merrimack River, which starts from the Pemigewasset River. From there, you do a portage over to the Connecticut River. You go up that as far north as you can, then another portage over to the St. Lawrence. There will be numerous falls that you have to portage in all these rivers and most of the time you're going to be going upstream.

This is the route that the captors of Hannah Dustin were intending to take. She was captured by Indians in the Lowell, Massachusetts area and her story is rather well known in the area. There is at least one book about her.

Jim Clark-Dawe

Jason
11-16-2017, 07:00 PM
Maybe grab a copy of UNDAUNTED COURAGE (or the diaries themselves) and take a look at the route of the Lewis and Clark expedition. From what I remember, they were on land until picking up the Ohio River in Pittsburgh and still had to portage a bit after that, but a lot of the journey was by boat.

The real logistical problem is how someone in the year 500 on the East Coast even knows there's a West Coast, or in the absence of maps could plan a way to get there. I suppose if they can speak every language that existed from coast to coast, they could keep asking the inhabitants of each area they cross whether they know of a navigable river they can use or major obstacle they should go around. But I imagine there'd be years' worth of backtracking and rerouting.

OH God, that's been on my "must read" list for years, and I never can get into it...dad gave me a hard bound edition of the book too, insisting that I must simply read it. So, thanks for the reminder :)

Ariella
11-16-2017, 11:01 PM
Is it necessary to the plot that the protagonist end up in Lake Erie? A more direct route west from Montreal would be the one taken by the Algonquins guiding Samuel de Champlain: up the Ottawa and Mattawa Rivers, making a short portage over to Lake Nipissing, then down the French River and straight into the north end of Lake Huron.

PorterStarrByrd
11-16-2017, 11:42 PM
In 500 AD most of the world had no idea there was a continent, let alone with east and west coasts or if there was how wide it was. Read some info on the Lewis and Clark expedition for an indication of that type of journey. There were (and are) NO maps of the area then if someone did stumble across the new continents ergo such a trip would be trial and error with the emphasis on error. No one could possibly have crossed the country in a month. On top of that, January 1 might be the worst starting date possible due to there being several months of wintry weather ahead.

Bren McDonnall
11-17-2017, 03:47 AM
There's a reason we built the Erie Canal, and it's not so I could walk there. (Although I did, just yesterday.) There was neither a land nor water route between the Great Lakes and the East Coast that was navigable with trade goods.

Have you found the Navigable Waterways Network (https://www.arcgis.com/home/item.html?id=a6370d12781f4de58e3e76c8fa1612f7)? My internet connection is syrup-slow this morning, but if yours is decent it's worth exploring.

I found an all-water route map from the Mississippi to New York from the 1880s here (https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d0/Map_of_the_all-water_route_from_the_Mississippi_to_New_York_and_t he_eastern_Atlantic%2C_1885.jpg).

I suspect if I were this character, with my modern maps and knowledge, my first move would be hauling ass south as quickly as I could. Even in the era of modern highways and motels with attached restaurants, the smart traveler going east to west in winter moves south as early as possible.

It's not my concern, but I'm curious about the deadline you mention. It seems to me that doing this story right involves more in-depth research than you've given yourself time to do. Is it NaNo?

Maryn, ever so nosy

It is. The story idea came about from a forum thread concerning how a single person might travel east coast to west coast in 500, presumably because of the complete lack of trails (although, that's a bad assumption) As the thread progressed, I became intrigued with the idea and what I could do with it. As it happened, I came to this conclusion just about October 29th. The timing was too good, so I figured I'd give it a shot.

I took the kernel of the idea, which was forcible insertion into the past by unknown aliens for their amusement, and changed it into a voluntary participation in a reality game show. Still aliens, same basic rules as to what and how much you could take with you to aid your journey.

The protag in this case isn't above subverting the spirit of the game. It's not his intent to hit the ground running, as it were. He's planning on forting up until late spring and gathering supplies and necessities from the local area while he builds (if applicable) a boat or canoe. Part of the plotline involves the inordinate time he's taking and the illicit gambling industry that's the darker side of the game.

As of midnight the 15th, I was at 22K words. Still there, and thinking I need to mush on using placeholders for some things.


Historically, the route from the Boston area to Montreal would be up the Merrimack River, which starts from the Pemigewasset River. From there, you do a portage over to the Connecticut River. You go up that as far north as you can, then another portage over to the St. Lawrence. There will be numerous falls that you have to portage in all these rivers and most of the time you're going to be going upstream.

This is the route that the captors of Hannah Dustin were intending to take. She was captured by Indians in the Lowell, Massachusetts area and her story is rather well known in the area. There is at least one book about her.

Jim Clark-Dawe

Do you have any idea how long the portages are, or how powerful the current is that you'd be rowing against? Could one man in, say, a 12 or 16 foot canoe do it with a 3 or 400 pound load of gear?



Is it necessary to the plot that the protagonist end up in Lake Erie? A more direct route west from Montreal would be the one taken by the Algonquins guiding Samuel de Champlain: up the Ottawa and Mattawa Rivers, making a short portage over to Lake Nipissing, then down the French River and straight into the north end of Lake Huron.

Lake Erie isn't necessary. Really, I'm trying to get him into the Ohio River Valley. The Hopewell peoples were a well established trading group in 500AD, and his thumbnail plan is to find them and establish relations. Floating down the Ohio just seemed better than rounding the tip of Florida and rowing up it, and with fewer alligators.


Part of the issue I'm having is with the ludicrous weight he's brought back with him, which includes about twenty-seven pounds of mostly steel trade goods. In a land and era where knapped flint is the height of technology (well, okay, they were cultivating maize, weaving cloth, and making ceramics) he should be able to generate some good will as he stages for his journey west.

jclarkdawe
11-17-2017, 05:30 AM
Do you have any idea how long the portages are, or how powerful the current is that you'd be rowing against? Could one man in, say, a 12 or 16 foot canoe do it with a 3 or 400 pound load of gear?

Some are fairly short, while others would be miles long. It might take several trips to get your goods around the obstruction.

If current is too strong, you can tie a rope to the canoe and walk on shore, pulling the canoe. I won't want to do it in spring, but most of the rivers aren't that strong during the summer. However, they do freeze up in winter. In winter, you've have to go with snowshoes and sleds.

Jim Clark-Dawe

Bren McDonnall
11-17-2017, 03:22 PM
Some are fairly short, while others would be miles long. It might take several trips to get your goods around the obstruction.

If current is too strong, you can tie a rope to the canoe and walk on shore, pulling the canoe. I won't want to do it in spring, but most of the rivers aren't that strong during the summer. However, they do freeze up in winter. In winter, you've have to go with snowshoes and sleds.

Jim Clark-Dawe

Yep, that's the sort of info I'm needing. His (protag's) initial plan is to fort up for the winter and not tackle the journey until late spring or early summer, precisely because rivers in springtime are a bear whether you're floating them or crossing them on foot.