The past month has seen us out on the water quite frequently…paddling some new lakes and old-standbys; we have also been getting off the water to hike some old familiar trails. Most of our outings result in the posting of at least a few photos on our blog’s Facebook page ( check us out at Vermont Paddle Pups). So, rather than bore you with more monthly summaries, I will present a trip report from our most recent out-of-Vermont adventure.
We have just returned from a 5-day paddling trip to the Adirodacks. This was one of the trips we had to cancel in the summer of 2015, due to a family situation, so our anticipation for this year’s trip had been high. Instead of canoe camping, we decided to take a land-based approach this trip…that would allow us to have a fixed base of operations from which we could head out and explore many of the canoe routes we wanted to check out. Of course, we always had in mind that we would be scouting potential sites for future canoe camping expeditions.
Our journey began on Monday,with a crossing of Lake Champlain, via the Ticonderoga cable ferry…a quick 7 minute crossing, over rather rough waters, with high winds blowing. Okay, so maybe we would not be paddling Monday morning….
We entered NY state,and noted that the skies appeared to be clearing, but the winds were still pretty gusty. A majestic Osprey greeted us on the western shores of the lake, surely an omen for good fortune!
Our campground for the first 2 nights was located in the general area of Saranac Lake, so we examined our map options, targeting spots where we could hike or paddle enroute. We had hoped to be able to meet up with our “Dog Paddlin’ ” Facebook friends Roger and Mary for a paddle on their nearby 13th Lake, but our schedules just did not mesh. So we proceeded across Rt. 74, a path of travel we have taken many time over the past 6 years, while our son was a prospective, and then enrolled, student at RIT in Rochester,NY. On these trips we passed by Eagle Lake, a large, rocky-shored lake bisected by Rt. 74…the lake always looked inviting, so today, we decided to actually get on the water. Thankfully, the winds had died down, and we had a great paddle, crossing under Rt. 74, so we could explore the larger portion of the lake.
As we approached the take-out, a lone eagle flew over the kayak, only about 100 feet above….the first of quite a few eagles we would see on this trip, but certainly an appropriate way to end our trip to Eagle lake.
We picked up a few sandwiches, and headed off to the campground. Now, we knew that our campground was near another NY state campground, but we did not realize that we had to drive through the first one, to get to ours. Both are large campgrounds, and apparently populated by folks whose idea of camping is very different from ours. Bringing all the trappings,noise,lights,and crowds of your suburban backyard into the woods does not seem like an enjoyable way to enjoy the outdoors….We managed to finally find our site, which thankfully was in a more quiet, tent-orientated section of the campground.
Camping in a state campground comes with inherent risks, since you can find yourself a bit close to your neighbors. We were fortunate to meet a couple of nice kayaker and canoeist guys, one a former professor from RIT, as our neighbors the first night. They gave us some tips on the routes we had planned, and they allowed us to examine their beautiful new Swift Keewaydin 14 solo canoe. Our site was right on the water, which made some of the odd behavior of nearby campers a bit more tolerable. Griff and Edgar got to spend a lot of time playing in the water, we saw lovely sunsets and sunrise colors, and we could launch for the Rollins Pond loop right from our site.
Late Monday afternoon, we decided the dogs needed to stretch their legs, so we took them off to Mt. Arab, a small mountain near Tupper Lake. This was a nice, if a bit muggy, easy hike, with beautiful views from the summit. The dogs were a bit concerned when their dad went up the fire tower, and I think they watched him every step of the way.
Though this was an easy hike, with only gradual grades, we each had a knee that began to act up…so we decided to stick to easy hikes, and loop trails for the rest of the week. After seeing the mobs of hikers and cars at many of the classic mountain trail-heads, this was not a tough decision to make.
We had a nice quiet Monday evening, resting up for our Rollins Pond Loop expedition on Tuesday…we planned to get out very early, to avoid crowds and the winds which tend to pick up later in the day.
Tuesday’s adventure began bright and early…heading out to complete the Rollins Pond Loop. A Bald Eagle stood guard over Rollins Pond ,across from our canoe and kayak as we launched.
The fog was rising,and a mist fluttered over the lake as we paddled towards the first outlet creek. Since our starting point was about 2/3 of the way up the eastern shore of Rollins Pond, it took only a short time paddling through the early morning mist before we reached the first carry point.
In the Adirondacks, a portage is called a carry, and so the indicator signs show the trails over which you can “carry” your boat. The first outlet is a narrow, winding stream…often too shallow to paddle. A carry trail is located along the stream, and probably is 200-300 yards up and down through a wooded hillside. We opted to try to paddle, but soon realized the gravel and sand bars made that problematic. Since the current is slow and easy, we were able to sometimes paddle/sometimes walk the boats through this channel,safely maintaining control of the boats, and our somewhat bemused ride-along dogs.
This short adventure brought us out onto Floodwood Pond, a lovely lake, with a few remote paddle-in campsites, that looked very appealing. We were still the only boats on the water, and it was a beautiful, calm paddle along the southern shores. The dogs spotted a pair of deer, well before we did….
At the southeast corner of Floodwood, we entered a spooky, dark,green,and longer creek passageway….a slow current helped propel us past downed tree,rocks,and under a footbridge.
After this journey,we popped out onto Little Square Pond, where we found our favorite campsite..where we stopped to let the dogs stretch a bit, and have a mid-morning snack, while we watched the loons and heron.
Little Square Pond led to a teeny pond called Copperas Pond. Here, we spotted a juvenile broad-winged hawk watching us from a dead tree. Well, Gryphon spotted it, and I photographed it!
Lovely little Copperas Pond led to the first our our real portage, oops , I mean carry. It is a trail 1/3 mile long, through woods, with quite a few rocks and roots, but thankfully, no long up or down hills.
We had brought along the canoe dolly, and we actually were able to use it successfully on the kayak….Took us only about 15 minutes each way to portage, as we were taking it slowly, and were in no rush. We had yet to see another boat on the water.
After getting the dogs back into their boats, we headed west on Whey Pond. Here, the wind was gusting strongly and blowing right into our faces. We just kept plugging away, and reached our final carry. This last carry was only about 200 yards, and was level and packed…we crossed the campground road, and re-entered Rollins Pond. Now, we had just a paddle up the eastern shore of Rollins, where we finally saw another few boats,until we returned to our campsite.
This was a great adventure for us…not too difficult, but lovely paddling some beautiful scenic waterways, and we came back dry and safe. Wildlife was abundant, and the dogs were well behaved. Of course,we immediately started searching the guidebooks for descriptions of similar, yet perhaps a bit longer and more challenging, loop paddles in the area!
After a quick lunch, and a brief rest, we headed out for the Whiteface area, to hike some trails we explored last winter. The dogs enjoy the Flume Trails, and it was nice to get out and see the river when it was not frozen,and full of ice formations!
Well, it was soon dinner time. We decided to splurge and hit up the Tale O’ the Pup, a Ray Brook restaurant, a typical summer joint, where we could get good greasy food. The dogs could have joined us at our picnic table, but we opted to let them sleep in the car. Unfortunately, one of us ( not me) left his Vermont Paddle Pups ball cap on the table….our schedule did not allow us to return to recover it, so I hope that whoever claims it wears it in good health.
We returned to our campsite to find that we had a vacant site next to us, as the RIT fellows had moved on. Unfortunately, that gave us clear view to a site of city campers, who obviously have missed out on the objective of camping. At about 9:15, we noted that they were playing a movie for their 4 kids…on a 6 foot screen suspended between 2 trees. Hmmm, not sure that is proper campground etiquette anywhere. I did have to yell at them to turn the sound down ( for which neighboring campers expressed gratitude), and as we checked out the next morning, I was assured that the ranger would have a chat with them.
Wednesday Transition day, as we pack up to move to a more southern campsite for our next two nights. But first, an amazing sunrise paddle as we bid farewell to Rollins Pond. We had the lake to ourselves ( except for a pair of eagles flying overhead, and loons fishing while surrounded by fog), and watched the sunrise over the trees.
After breakfast, we broke camp, and departed our site (feeling pity for the poor kayakers/tent campers on the opposite side of the Drive-In theatre RV). Heading south towards the Raquette Lake area, and our next campsite, we just had to stop at one of the classic ADK paddling spots. The canoeing guidebooks had warned of “close to 50 cars” parked on the roadside on a summer weekend…but I think they under estimated. As we approached Low’s Lake Dam, preparing to paddle the Bog River Flow, we counted 36 cars along the road,and 10 in the small parking lot..this, on a late summer midweek morning. Some folks with impressively lightweight and tiny Hornbeck canoes said that we should definitely paddle here, and that we would see very few boats out on the water. They were correct! This is an amazingly beautiful, and varied paddling location. We paddled upstream, into a brisk wind, but it was getting pretty warm, so we cut the trip short. Since we did not get out on the water until mid-morning (unusual for us), we were concerned about the dogs getting too hot. However, we did paddle for a few hours, and spotted some very attractive remote campsites!
After paddling the Bog Flow, we headed down to Brown Tract Campground. This is also a NYSDEC campground, but much smaller, quieter, and more our style than the prior area. As we checked in,the ranger warned us that 3 of the 4 previous nights,black bears had entered campsites. One benefit of car camping? Your entire car can serve as a bear canister….even though we did still seal up all our smelly items.
After dinner, we had a quiet evening paddle on the small lake. No motors at all allowed on this lake, not even electric motors. That sounds good to us!
Our neighbors were quiet and respectful, and we had a nice fire to end a busy day. We saw some clouds rolling in late, and knew that the forecast for the next day might be a bit iffy…but we got through the night without any rain on our tent.
Thursday , (Our River Day) got off to a late start, as the dogs actually slept until 0630! We awoke to overcast and windy weather, with a forecast for showers arriving during the day. We took the time to make a hot breakfast, then drove to the nearest NYSDEC campground where there were free hot showers. Once we felt a bit more human, we drove to Old Forge to check out paddling possibilities in that area. First, we made a stop at Mountainman Outdoor Supply Company, where we marveled at the impressive display of hundreds of canoes and kayaks ( for sale). From the folks there, we verified the location of the put-in for the Moose River. One can utilize the MMO shuttle service to paddle the 9-10 miles of the river ( which includes a 1000 foot carry around rapids), but given the very iffy weather, we did not want to commit to that option. We put our boats in at the half-way point, intending to paddle north/upstream to Rondaxe, and then turn around for a nice easy downstream cruise back to the car. The paddle started out great…the river is narrow, and serpentine,but the current, though definitely work to paddle against, was manageable. We avoided some downed trees and sand bars, and were really getting it the swing of this river paddling. Then, the sprinkles started…which very quickly became a downpour. Sine the forecast had called for T-storms, we decided that perhaps we should end our paddling before we had to find a place to take cover. A quick reversal, nice downstream paddling, and we were able to get out of the river without incident. Another day, we will return, and paddle more of this interesting river.
We returned to the camping gear portion of MMO, picked up a new dry bag for my keys, and more stove fuel. We also found a fascinating gear trailer/pop-up camper combo on display. Hmmm, might be nice for our planned 2017 trip to Banff!
Continuing with our “Let’s Play Tourist” theme for the day, once the showers ended,we went to the waterfront of Fourth Lake, and checked out the western terminus for the Northern Forest Canoe Trail. 740 miles long, from Old Forge to Fort Kent, Maine, the trail has 55 miles of portages. Maybe in a prior life, but not for us these days ( except for some of the sections).
After a sinfully decadent lunch at the local Pancake House, we stopped at the View Arts center…there, we found the only moose we saw on our trip. I also picked up a wonderful watercolor print, of two XC skiers in the snowy woods. Yes, thinking of snow. Since I have just placed my gear requests with Tubbs Snowshoes, for the 2016-17 winter, the realization that we could be skijoring and snowshoeing in 2 months has recently occurred to us!
We drove back to the campground,and stopped at the village of Raquette Lake to pick up some firewood. The bundle of wood far exceeded our requirements for that evening, so after taking a goodly number of logs, we donated the rest to a Boy Scout troop that was heading out camping on the lake. Due to regulations, we cannot transport firewood across state lines, so it was nice to have the wood be used by a deserving group.
We gave the dogs some down-time at the site ( and we enjoyed a bit of rest time also). Since the skies were a bit lighter,and rain was not imminent, we took a few hours to hike on trails around our campground lake.
Our second night at Brown tract, we had vacant sites all around us…absolutely quiet and peaceful. An evening paddle discovered that there are loons on this lake, as well as mallard type ducks, with a blue band on only their left wing.We had an impressive fire, using all the great quality firewood we had picked up in town. There was one “Please God, no!’ moment, when at 6pm, a pickup truck, loaded with all sorts of trashy camping stuff (i.e.inflatables,large screen houses, huge tarps), with at least 4 kids under age 10 hanging onto the running boards and riding in the bed with all the “stuff”, backed in past our site, towards an adjacent site. Think of the opening of Beverly Hillbillies, with the overflowing truck! Thankfully, they were just checking out sites for a future visit, and once their loud truck left, we once again had the peace and quiet we cherish.
Our last night camping was uneventful…that is, until 0230 on Friday. The sound of light sprinkles on the tent fly soon became the pounding of torrential rains, which continued until sunrise,and beyond. No sunrise paddle this day!
Friday we break camp in the rain, taking advantage of lulls in the intensity to load the car. The dogs were fed, but we did not pause for our breakfast ( though the Pocket Rocket gives us a nice,quick, cup of hot coffee), and we are packed up and on the road at 0635. This day, the forecast was for clearing skies, so we had chosen 3 possible lakes to paddle on our way home, each located a bit further along the route. We passed Utowana Lake and Lake Durant while the skies were still heavy and overcast….at Blue Mt. Lake, we stopped for gas ( at 2.69 per gallon!), and some fresh,hot, homemade donuts. With us, the dogs, and the car now suitably fueled, we targeted 13th Lake.
We found 13th Lake without any problems, and use the dolly to carry the 2 boats the 100 yards or so to the launch site. As we paddled around this very scenic lake the weather improved, and we finished under sunny, bright skies. What a great spot, and with some remote campsites as well…so glad that Roger and Mary had told us about this lake.
And so, after paddling the 10th different body of water on our trip, we headed back to Vermont. We crossed at the Crown Point Bridge this trip, and the road nicely lead to an ice cream stand on the Vermont side. The dogs had behaved wonderfully this trip, and certainly deserved an ice cold treat!
Our trip was a great adventure, exploring places we had never before visited, as well as those we had seen only in the cold of winter. We only got wet twice, and neither time was a drenching. Our gear all worked well, and we lost only one item…the VPP hat. The temperature stayed mostly moderate,and we never received the very cold conditions predicted for one of our nights. This was a great week for the Vermont Paddle Pups!
After a few weeks of respite at home, we will be heading off again, on our next adventure,north of the border..stay tuned!