British army soldier Sven Heaps is paddling the Northern Forest Canoe Trail (NFCT), taking time to clear his head after returning from Afghanistan.
Heaps launched his Wenonah canoe on Tuesday morning, May 21, after buying the boat and needed gear at Paddlefest over the weekend. Mike Farmer, Director of Tourism, was there to record the moment with camera and to wish him well.
Heaps decided while in Afghanistan that he needed to take time away when he returned to Britain after his stint in the Near East. An experienced paddler, he started out looking at Canadian canoe routes but discovered the NFCT online.
He also made contact with Mountainman Outdoor Supply Company from abroad. One of their staff met Heaps in Utica after he flew into New York City and took the train to Utica.
Heaps bought a canoe, paddle, camping gear, maps and dry bags from Mountainman and other outfitters at Paddlefest.
He spent five days in Old Forge before heading out, and he plans to return here in late July. Heaps has allowed himself seven weeks for the trip.
According to Mountainman staff Clark Lubbs, Heaps joined the service at age 16 and will retire in August, with 24 years of service. He served two tours of duty in Iraq and one in the Balkans. Heaps has a scar from a war wound on his forehead. He intends to go back to school after retiring from the British army.