Tag Archives: canoeing

Racquette River: Axton Landing

Steve, Skip and I ventured out for a 3 day 2 night canoe camping trip on the Raquette River. The Raquette River, sometimes spelled Racquette, originates at Raquette Lake; and is the third longest river (146 miles) entirely in the state of New York. The river is a popular destination for canoeing and kayaking. It passes through many natural and man-made lakes to its final destination at Akwesasne on the Saint Lawrence River. Historically, the river was a part of the “Highway of the Adirondacks”, by which it was possible to travel hundreds of miles by canoe with short stretches of portage connecting various waterways. This route is still followed by the Northern Forest Canoe Trail, a 740-mile canoe trail from Old Forge to Fort Kent in Maine. It is also the basis of the route of the Adirondack Canoe Classic, a three-day, 90-mile canoe race from Old Forge to Saranac Lake.

From the put-in at Axton Landing we proceeded north (left) upstream along the Raquette River. After about 0.5 mile Stony Creek came in on the left. This widening is easy to recognize, a bridge on Coreys Road can be seen just upstream over Stony Creek. The outlet of Stony Creek Ponds provides access to Upper Saranac Lake and routes north. To reach Raquette Falls, pass by Stony Creek and continue upstream. Axton Landing to Raquette Waterfalls is 6.5 miles. Going around the Raquette Falls involves a 1.3 mile portage around Raquette Falls. We dropped our gear off at leanto #7 and paddled our empty canoes to the falls. We hiked the trail along the falls, took the requisite photographs and returned back downstream to our campsite. Along the way we saw an immature eagle perched on a dead tree watching a mother duck and her little ones below and contemplating how to make them a meal. Steve fished his way back catching several nice pike and large mouth bass. Campsite 7 was well used and had habituated chipmunks, red squirrels and mice. The following morning we headed downstream returning to Axton Landing and to the Crusher. From Axton Landing, it is eleven miles to The Crusher launch site. From Axton Landing to The Crusher there are multiple spots where you can pull off for lunch or to take a break. We stayed the night at campsite 14. Leaving early the following morning we paddled two hours downstream past the outlet of Follensby Pond just before the Raquette curves north toward the Crusher. If you can find the outlet, you can work your way upstream to the causeway that marks the north end of Follensby Pond. We saved that adventure for another time.

Cedar River Flow

Matt and I took a day trip on Cedar River Flow. We saw an eagle and lots of yellow swallowtail butterflies. Black flies were nasty at put in and take out but not on the water.

After lunch we looked at the boggy mess concealing the inlet.
Paddling back we lost our cooling breeze
At the brief break we stood in the water and cooled off.

Kathryn’s 2nd Solo Canoe Camping Trip

Kathryn completed her second-ever Solo (+dog) canoe camping trip. Positioning a 100lb dog can make one a little nervous especially if she won’t lay down in the canoe, but other than that she was a perfect companion for 24 hours of wilderness and quiet. Kathryn had a fabulous time and pledges to do this more often. Jim and Eric came up today for lunch and escorted us back.

Little Tupper Lake to Lake Lila to Lows Lake

In 2002 Kathryn, Matt, Mark and I did an overnight trip from Little Tupper Lake to Lake Lila shortly after NYS acquisition of the Whitney Estate. At the time we were told that less than 75 people had completed the trip. For this adventure trip we planned to continue past Lake Lila and portage to Lows Lake per the schematic below.

It was a 2 hour drive from Floyd to the Little Tupper Lake boat launch off Sabattis Road in the town of Long Lake. We met Steve at the launch about 9am and unload everything from the truck for Skip and Paul to guard while Steve and I transferred my truck to a parking spot in the Lows Lake parking lot. We returned in Steve’s car to LTL boat launch and were paddling by 11am.  We headed to Rock Pond to find a campsite for the night.

Rock Pond to Lows Lake Traverse

Little Tupper is six miles long and at 2,300 acres, it is the 14th biggest lake in the Adirondack Park. Behind Lows Lake, it is the second biggest motor-free lake. There are 24 designated primitive paddle-in campsites available on a first-come, first-served basis. To the west is a low wetland and the outlet of Charley Pond. We paddled upstream towards Charley Pond as far as the Burn Road Trail bridge. One can continue paddling further upstream for ~mile before reaching private land.

The Rock Pond Outlet is 1.5 miles of fairly wide, gently-winding stream with boggy shores. Rock Pond has a total of six campsites. We stopped at the 1st available for a late lunch at 2:30. We debated the merits of staying on Rock Pond versus trying to knock off the 2 mile portage to Hardigan Pond and staying at the unknown campsite. The Rock Pond campsite won the debate. While snacking we saw people at site 26 – the island campsite. We decided to scout the other campsites and discovered the two people on the island site were day tripping and returning to Little Tupper Lake. We set up camp and the light breezes kept the bugs away. We also took this time out to unpack the package of hats we’d bought from some custom hat manufacturers. We distributed the hats amongst the group and made a campfire.

Looking at Salmon Mtn from Rock Pond

Day 2 we got up at 5:30am and were on the water by 7:30 as we had 4 miles of portages to accomplish to reach Lake Lila. We started off with a 2 mile portage to Hardigan Pond. From Hardigan Pond there was a .55 mile portage to Salmon Lake Outlet. From Little Salmon Lake there was another .5 mile portage into Lilypad Pond. Each of these portages included traipsing over beaver dams or flooded trailways resulting in soaked feet. Finally we concluded an .8 mile portage from Lilypad Pond to Shingle Shanty Brook. We paddled the meandering Shingle Shanty Brook for nearly 45 minutes until reaching Lake Lila. While all these portages showed footprints, the trails were overgrown with ferns and briars. The deer flies were a constant annoyance. While we tried to single carry portions of the portages, largely we leap-frogged our packs and the canoes. White caps were rolling on Lake Lila so we undertook tacking maneuvers to quarter the wind and stay near shore. We reached site 20 which was a large open site with a rocky beach. We went swimming, re-hydrated and cooked dinner. We set up a tarp due to rain projected in the forecast.

We awoke at 6am with the sound of light rain and packed up our damp tents during a lull in the rain. On the water at 7:30am we set off for the Harrington Brook trailhead. The Harrington Brook trail was extremely muddy so we opted to make the short bushwhack to the railroad tracks and skip the Harrington Brook trail and pond. As we trekked up the 1.2 miles up the railroad tracks the rain transitioned from light sprinkles to an absolute downpour as we launched into Clear Pond. The portage from the railroad to Clear Pond was open with good footing – the best trail of all the portages. The deer flies at Clear Pond and Bog Lake were horrendous – causing us to paddle with head nets.

Lows Lake

Paul and I made a navigation error and prolonged our trip on Lows Lake; otherwise extending a 15 mile paddle. As the rain continued we decided to paddle out to the lower dam and head for home, rather than set up a campsite and leave the next morning. We were loaded up by 8:30pm (making a 13 hour day) and drove home to showers and dry clothes.

Stillwater Reservoir

Skip and Steve left on Thursday to scout campsites; ending up at Picnic Point, which they said was fine when breezy, but overrun with mosquitoes when the wind died down. So they picked an alternative (#37) for those of us that arrived on Friday. Kathryn, Gaie and I paddled in Friday afternoon, followed by Dave and Debbie Shoemaker.

After sitting up camp Kathryn and Gaie went fishing with Kathryn catching 7 small bass during the evening session.

Kathryn made Spanish Rice for dinner which was delicious and bountiful. It rained overnight but cleared out Saturday morning. We took the canoes out for fishing, but didn’t have much luck. The weather was highly variable with sun, clouds and wind all fluctuating throughout the day, but no rain. At night we had chicken and rice with vegetables. After dinner and another attempt at fishing the crew started playing pitch and looking over their shoulders at a pending thunderstorm. We settled until Skip’s tarp just as the heavens unleashed a torrential rain. It rained almost all night. Sunday morning we awoke at 6, packed up our gear, were on the water a little before 9am and off the water 45 minutes later.

Killarney Provincial Park

Sunday – 6am and I am in Skip’s driveway and he is in mine as we got mixed up on our departure. A quick phone call and we got straightened out and headed north on Route 12. We had 9 hours of driving time and 11 hours total travel time including lunch and meeting at Walmart, to get to Killarney Outfitters. Conrad and Jack rented a canoe and accessories. We finally found a place open to give us dinner and returned to squeeze 4 tents into our small site; so snoring was an issue.

Monday- We sorted out our gear and got packed.  We were on the water at 0945.  There was over a mile (1.6 km) over 4 portages.  After the 1st couple I got more organized and carried two packs and the lawn chair then doubled back for the canoe.  We stayed at Muriel Lake for night 1.   Steve thawed his beef stew only to discover it was Skip’s chili.  We were lucky to avoid the rain or high winds which predicted in the forecast. However, it remained cloudy and the temperature dropped at 0600. Skip’s chili dinner was good.  During the night Skip awoke from a dream convinced a bear had taken down out hung food.  He yelled ‘There’s a bear getting our food’ and got everyone to go look.  Of course, there was no bear and the food was fine.

Tuesday – After a leisurely breakfast we were on the water by 0930. We had difficulty finding the 1st portage and portaged into a weed choked Artist Lake.  The day was dominated by “The Pig” a 3 hour portage with 1,000 meter elevation gain. It was a rough portage with lots of cobblestones; fortunately the stream bed was dry.  Conrad and Jack took a side trail to Topaz Lake and enjoyed lunch and a swim. We got off The Pig at 3pm and spent two hours paddling for a campsite, ending up on Site #50 Doris Island.  We all did a swim before dinner washing off the day’s sweat.  We had Steve’s beef stew for dinner.  We turned in at 8pm.  I read for 1 hour and slept the night. I heard a lot of Barred Owls during the night.

Wednesday – This was our lazy days.  Conrad and Jack took a hike while Steve fished, and Jim & Skip read.  Conrad made pancakes and pre-cooked bacon for breakfast.  We saw a black bear swim from our island across a span to opposite shore.  Conrad had packed a small box of wine in the food barrel which sprung a leak during the Pig portage.  The only food affected was the boxed spaghetti, but the accident necessitated a through cleaning of the food barrel.  Spaghetti dinner was moved up in the order of meals and greatly enjoyed.

Thursday – We were on the water at 9am and paddled back across three Narrows Lake past The Pig, hit seven small portages along Kirk Creek to come out onto Georgian Bay.  We decided to skip site #137 and paddle another 45 minutes to  camp on Crown Islands.  Total paddle time from 9am to 3:30!  Dinner was that San Francisco treat; Rice a Roni supplemented with additional rehydrated vegetables and hamburger.

Friday – Rather than take the 800’ elevation gain portaging over the Baie Finn we opted for the Split Rock portage.  We paddled continuously from 0830 – 0430. – 8 hours! Our campsite on Muriel was the best swimming site I’ve used.  We were all tired.  We did stop a couple of times (Jeff’s Point) to stretch, snack and drink.  I went through a gallon of water during the day.  Dinner was rice and Indian spices.

The portage song…. Sung to “Itsy Bitsy Spider”
Itsy Bitsy portage, everyone get out.
To carry all this stuff you must be strong and stout.
Follow the trail with all its twists and bends;
because itsy bitsy portage, it will never end.

Whether it was the location, the food, the sensory overload several members of our group experienced hallucinations.  In addition to Skip’s Bear Dream, Steven was convinced there was a kayak fisherman anchored across the bay who was fishing a prime location.  In fact, Steve was certain he saw him pull in a fish.  View from another vantage point the kayak fisherman turned out to be a rock cairn piled on a small ledge.  Paddling out across Three Narrows Lake on Day 4 Conrad alerted the group to witness a mother loon and her chick sitting on a rock just ahead of us.  Upon closer inspection, the “loons” turned out to be two proportionately sized rocks.

Sung to “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”
Somewhere in park Killarney, there we’ll be;
‘Cause in park Killarney hallucinations you’ll see.

There’s a kayak fisherman, I cannot see him, but Steven can,
Oh Killarney!
A mother loon and her first child, they do not move, don’t look too wild
Oh Killarney!
Skip is sure he saw a bear, but when we looked there’s nothing there.
Oh Killarney!

Somewhere in park Killarney, there we’ll be;
‘Cause in park Killarney hallucinations you’ll see.

Best things about the trip:

  • The company. It was with trepidation that we joined an established group with the unknowns of group dynamics, leadership styles, food tastes, camp protocol, paddling speeds and sense of humor.  Despite long days and occasionally arduous conditions we operated well.
  • Awesome weather that allowed us to enjoy our surroundings.  We covered some big, open water that could have been dangerous in windy conditions.
  • Fantastic landscape with white granite cliffs at the shoreline.
  • Clean accommodating campsites.
  • We did it and survived to tell about it.  Although everyone suffered aches and pains along the way.

Spanish River

2015-07-31 Spanish River

During our 5 day trip down the Spanish River Skip had several ‘songs’ composed in his honor.  It gave Jim something to do while paddling and proved mildly entertaining to the rest of the group.  There were variations of Canoeing in the Rain, and 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall (became 30km to Paddle Today) and this summary of the trip.

Spanish River 2015 (with apologies to New Riders “Henry”)

Every year about this time we plan a canoeing trip,
bringing all our canoeing buddies the group is led by Skip.
Heading north to Spanish River, there are sights to see,
paddling down those Spanish rapids, classes II and III.

The Spanish landscape is beautiful and a wondrous sight,
we saw ducks, ospreys, moose and the full moon at night.
But the lure of the river was running down those waves,
we ran all the rapids except those named as graves.

Now we’re paddling the Spanish River going fast splash, splash;
if we dump at this one it will be our last.
Paddling Spanish rapids, classes II and III;
help me keep this canoe straight through these rapids if you please.

Paddling down Spanish River for all of five days
Skip consulted all the maps we thought he knew the way.
Lakes and swifts and rapids, the water ran downstream
We paddled 30 kilometers every day ‘cause Skip was mean.

Bouncing off the rocks and boulders paddle Steve and Ski,
Following right behind them paddle Tim and me.
Jack is ruddering, Skip is prying, trying to keep them straight.
At the bottom of the rapids we will quietly wait.

Now we’re paddling the Spanish River going fast splash, splash;
if we dump at this one it will be our last.
Paddling Spanish rapids, classes II and III;
help me keep this canoe straight through these rapids if you please.

Now it’s looking dire for our boys and their sideways canoe,
They are floating towards the rocks and we don’t know what they’ll do.
Watching beers and chocolates floating down the waves.
Leaving Jack and Skip alone, it’s snacks and beers we’ll save.

Friday before departure Eric and I assembled the Yakima racks for my truck; a vex some process, but it enabled us to carry most of the gear, two canoes (Wenonah Cascade & Old Town Camper) and three passengers.  Tim drove his Jeep with his gear, Steve’s Mad River canoe and three passengers.

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We met at my house at 7am and were on the road by 7:30am – headed to Buffalo, Toronto and NW to Agnew Lake Lodge.  Toronto was hosting the Pan American games and traffic was unbelievable.  We lost 1 hour in heavy stop and go traffic and almost got rear ended.  We stopped in Perry Sound (home of Bobby Hull) due to a traffic accident. We overheard the accident lawyer, who was a famous florida accident attorney,  say that the accident had killed 2 and left 4 others injured. To the other side, another personal injury lawyer was assimilating the grim scene on the accident spot. We call Agnew Lake Lodge and informed them we would arrive the next morning instead.  We rented a campsite and turned in at 9pm.  We arose Sunday at 5:30am, packed up and drove to Agnew Lake Lodge.

Google Directions to Lake Agnew

At Agnew Lake Lodge we got our shuttle drivers, fishing licenses, camping and parking permits and headed to Duke Lake – a three hour drive.  We were on the water at 1:30pm and headed out looking for an early campsite.

2015-07-31 Spanish River

We camped on a sandy point after paddling on 9th Lake for a little over 2 hours.  We were hopeful the exposure on the sand spit would provide a breeze and keep the bugs away.  It did, occasionally.  We had some mosquitoes, but mainly biting flies – stable flies / ankle biters.  We all took a quick swim to clean up but didn’t stay in long due to the leeches.  We agreed that each of us would be responsible for our own breakfast and lunch but we took turns making dinner.  For the 1st night Steve made turkey meat burritos for dinner.

I slept OK – not great.  I overfilled my NEOS air mattress and it was hard, but my charcoal pillow gave relief, though. We had mosquitoes in the tent and I had to get up to pee.  We got up at 6pm.  Skip made coffee and eggs.  We packed up our tents, damp with condensation and were paddling by 8am.

2015-07-31 Spanish River1

Our routine was to paddle for 60-90 minutes and then stop for a drink and snack.  Skip’s plan was to get us to the head of Agnew Lake on Thursday night so the paddle across the lake could be done early Friday morning while the lake was calm.  To achieve this he set paddling goals of 10km on Sunday and 30km every day thereafter.  We paddled from 8am – 3pm – all lake paddling with a couple of little swifts in between. Leaving 1st Lake we followed a series of swifts and easy rapids.  Tim and I put our canoe cover on as we left our lunch site anticipating rapids.  Tim and I went 1st through the first rapids we encountered.  Skip and Jack went next; followed by Steve and Ski.  There was a large rock towards the bottom of the rapids.  Skip and Jack tried to cross to the right side of the stream and broadsided the rock and dumped.  They used the home made bailer I issued to each canoe to empty the water from their boat – it would be used again.  Tim and I saved the beer and chocolate which escaped their canoe.  We took pictures at one of our break points that coincided with a campsite that Skip, Steve, Bob and I had used as our day 1 campsite on our trip 12 years prior.  It was more overgrown by bushes.   We fell just short of Skip’s goal for the day when we decided to stay on a point in Expansia Lake.  Skip and Jack made dinner: steaks, potatoes and fried squash.

2015-07-31 Spanish River2

Our water filter got clogged despite our pre-filtering of the lake water.  We back flushed multiple times and got minimal improvement.  Tim declared out Expansia Lake campsite to be ‘Squatchy” and claimed to hear several Sasquatch noises.

Our 3rd day was a marathon day of paddling from 8:30am – 6:30 pm with a one hour break to portage around Upper Albion Rapids.  We ran the Lower Albion Rapids, Railroad Rapids, Bridge Rapids and Cliff Rapids.  We were going to stay at Cliff Rapids but the 1st site was too muddy and dark.  We ran the rapids (past the nude sunbather) and found the lower two sites were taken.  About 3pm we stopped at an old campsite and Jack, Tim and I went for a swim to cool off.  I felt like I was overheating and needed to cool down.  About 4km below Cliff Rapids we found an island campsite where we stayed for the night. It was buggy, but home for the night. Tim and I made carrot sticks and celery sticks stuffed with peanut butter or cheese spread as our snack and cooked hot dogs and beans for our dinner.  Jack & I took a swim off a nearby sand bar after dinner but the hordes of large horse flies were a menace and kept us from being out long.

2015-07-31 Spanish River3

We were on the water at 7:30am and paddled Zig Zag and Little Graveyard rapids.  We emptied the boats and carried around Graveyard Rapids.  At Agnes Rapids, Skip & Jack carried, Tim & I lined and Steve and Ski ran.  We played leap frog with a family group who stopped to swim at the Elbow.  One of the swimmers lost their Croc while swimming.  Tim and I managed to retrieve it from the fast moving water and toss it up on shore for them to retrieve.  We saw two moose swimming across the river and they stood on the shore and watched us approach for a long time.  We stopped to camp for the night on top of a very large rock with an outstanding view although it was a pain to haul our gear from the canoes up the slope.

Our water filter has failed.  It has gradually slowed down to the past few days we have had to back flush every 16-32 oz.  We finally got enough water by letting it drip all night long into the big collapsible water bucket and by using the water from the 1/2 gallon ice blocks which melted.  I also had 2 dromedary bags filled with water from melted ice.  It was nice drinking clean water that we didn’t have to add Crystal Light flavoring.

Wednesday night I made Spanish rice  using Kathryn’s recipe and preparations.  It came out great and everyone had 2nds and 3rds.

2015-07-31 Spanish River4

Thursday morning we were on the water at 8:15am, ran a couple of swifts and then ran the Cascade Rapids.  Cascade Rapids were a series of ‘cascades’ with the last of the rapids being large standing waves.  Tim got a chestful of water, but little made it’s way into the canoe.  The canoe cover worked well.  It was easy to access the snaps stayed on and it shaded our lower legs and feet.  It saved us on at least two occasions from getting serious water in the canoe. We paddled until 2pm and camped at the head of Agnew Lake.  There was a lot of wind and white caps as we set up camp.  We staked our tents down securely and enjoyed some camp time.  Skip and Jack made dinner from freeze dried vegetables and rice.  Bored by 6pm we turned in early at night. We were once again blessed with a full moon at night.  We got up early, had coffee and granola bars and packed up for our paddle across Agnew Lake.  The lake was dead calm to start, but we ended up paddling into waves on our return.

Spanish River Last Day Collage

On our return ride home (13 hours !!) we had plenty of time for trip assessment discussions.

  • The Spanish River was a good choice for our skill levels.  The Class II & III rapids were challenging but not threatening.  Both Tim and Jack, as well as the rest of the group, gained more confidence in running rapids and maneuvering the canoes around obstacles as the trip progressed.
  • Traveling with 6 people / 3 canoes was ideal.  The group fit the available campsites and we all traveled at a similar pace.
  • The truck and Jeep were ideal for transporting 3 canoes, gear for six people and six passengers.
  • The Mad River and Wenonah Cascade canoes were well suited for the trip.  The canoe cover was a nice feature.  The 16′ Old Town Camper canoe lacked a little freeboard in the middle and that’s where Skip & Jack shipped most of their water.  Bailers for each canoe were useful.
  • Despite planning a 6 day trip the group decided to try and return on Saturday.  We spent 1/2 day on the water Sunday; Monday-Thursday as full days on the water and 1/2 day out on Friday.  While a little more “down time” would have been appreciated on a couple of the long days paddling when given the extra time on the last day we got bored.
  • Despite planning to fish the group didn’t invest as much time in fishing as perhaps planned.  Even with a license and bringing fishing equipment Jim never fished at all.  Steve and Ski did the most fishing, but much of that was trolling while paddling.
  • The next trip should have a ‘transportation officer’ responsible for road maps and alternative routing to/from our destination.  We relied too heavily on our GPS which routed us through Toronto and heavy traffic.    The drive to/from Agnew Lake Lodge was excessive.
  • Our water filter issues were troublesome.  We had another Basecamp filter and a small emergency Sawyer water filter if needed.  We did multi-layered pre-filtering of our water, but probably should have let our water settle in the camp bucket for 10-15 minutes before pre-filtering.
  • Our meals worked out great and we had an abundance of food and snacks. The two burner propane stove worked out well.  We agreed next time that the cooks shouldn’t also be responsible for washing dishes.  We should have squeezed our food supplies to reduce  from 4 to just 3 coolers.

Plans for a summer 2016 trip are being considered.

Essex Chain of Lakes

The Essex Chain Lakes Complex is comprised of the 19,600 acres of lands and waters of the Essex Chain Lakes Primitive Area  located in the central portion of the Adirondack Park.  Essex Chain Lakes  were acquired by the state in 2012, opened to the public officially October 2013 and made accessible for camping in June 2014.  Thirteen designated tent sites along the shores of the waters of the complex require a free permit between May 15 and October 15.  The permit system is administered through a partnership with the Student Conservation Association Back Country Stewardship Program and SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry’s Adirondack Interpretive Center (AIC) facility.  Campers must call 518-582-2000 or visit the AIC facility at 5922 State Route 28N in Newcomb, NY, to reserve a tent site. Campers can pick up their reserved permit at the AIC facility between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. any day of the week. Tent sites may be reserved no more than 10 days in advance.  Campers may visit the AIC web site  ( http://www.esf.edu/aic/ ) for maps and information about camping, the tent sites and the permit system. The AIC website will track tent sites that are occupied or reserved to assist campers in choosing a campsite.  The camping is restricted — no campfires — as these campsites are located in what are the Essex Chain Lake and Pine Lakes Primitive areas. More campsites are in the works with fewer restrictions in other areas.

Essex Chain of Lakes Campsites

It’s about an 11-mile drive from Rt. 28N to the Deer Pond parking lot. Take the Goodnow Flow Road approximately 4.3 miles and turn right onto Woody’s Road. Follow Woody’s Road for approximately 1.5 miles. Turn left onto the Cornell/Deer Pond Road and travel 4.4 miles to the Deer Pond parking area.  The first seven miles are through private land until you reach the new Forest Preserve boundary. From there, it’s another four miles on a dirt road. A car with good clearance can make this trip under current road conditions.

Essex Chain of Lakes Access

essex-chain-lakes-sign

Much of the portage trail is old  road which can accommodate a wheeled cart.  Paddlers can carry their canoe or kayak from the parking area at the end of the Cornell/Deer Pond Road less than 0.25 mile to Deer Pond.  Below Kathryn and Eric arrive at the Deer Pond launch site.

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The 0.5 mile carry from Deer Pond to Third Lake is located directly across the pond on its southern shore.  Once in Third Lake paddlers can access Second Lake by water and from there travel to First Lake using a short carry trail. On the northern shore of First Lake near its western end is the 0.4 mile carry to Grassy Pond.

We chose  the other direction and traveled from Third Lake to Fourth Lake and then to Fifth Lake can be reached by paddling through the culvert under the roadway, or during high water portaging over the road. Paddlers can reach Sixth and Seventh Lake directly from Fifth Lake.  We chose to camp at the only site on Fifth Lake assuming seclusion but were unaware of the dirt road passing behind the campsite.  On our 1st day there were bikers and one lost hiker.  The campsites were a little rough but the lake was pretty.

Eric worked hard at fishing and was finally rewarded when Kathryn suggested he use pieces of hot dog near the downed tree.

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Eric caught 25+ sunfish and shiners (some possibly more than once).  Kid fishing at it’s best.

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We toured Sixth and Seventh Lakes on Tuesday evening.

 

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Matt and Skip

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Generally good weather, although rained one day. Bugs were not bad except for deer flies on the portage.  We heard and saw lots of loons; swimming, fishing, flying from pond to pond and making defensive displays to distract Skip and Matt when they inadvertently got too close to a family unit.   At least 5 of them  swimming, dancing and flying past our campsite all the time.  Very cool.  Heard owls and various warblers.  Because the campsite hadn’t had a lot of use (we think we were actually the first), no black bears in evidence.  Leeches in the water were a deterrent to a lot of swimming, though we did swim some and the water was very warm.

 

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Kathryn doing a little tent house-keeping.

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After breakfast Wednesday morning Matt and Skip hiked out to the parking lot;  Matt to return home and Skip to meet his brother-in-law, Steve.  Skip and Steve paddled around the Chain of Lakes Rain.  Mid-afternoon rain moved and we sat under the tarps and played cards and cooked our dinner of Mac & Cheese and hot dogs.  The evening cleared out and the next morning displayed a clear and calm Fifth Lake.

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Thursday morning we opted to portage out along the road rather than paddling back to Third Lake.  It took about 60 minutes of easy walking.

Sacandaga Headwaters 30-Mile Canoe Route

A paddling tour of the southern Adirondacks. This is not a pure wilderness route, as most of it is a front country tour of Piseco Lake, Sacandaga Lake and Lake Pleasant. At the same time, there is plenty of wilderness paddling required to connect the three big lakes. It so happens the position of Piseco, Sacandaga and Lake Pleasant in the southern Adirondacks can be linked together with several streams, smaller lakes and two canoe carries, to make a multi-day, 30 mile canoe route.

After a rendezvous at Speculator we put-in at Piseco Outlet (a.k.a. Big Bay) along Route 10 on Friday morning, after leaving a vehicle at Duck Bay on the Sacandaga River off Rte. 30, south of Speculator. We put in and began paddling at 10am. With unusually low water levels we had to line the canoe through the rocky elbow of Big Bay. Calm conditions allowed us to easily paddle across 5-mile length of Piseco Lake past three state campgrounds.

From Piseco Lake we entered Fall Stream and headed to Vly Lake. Fall Stream is passable by small watercraft from the Old Piseco Road to Vly Lake and is used for canoeing, fishing, hunting, and trapping; in addition to providing access to Fall Lake and Vly Lake. The meandering narrow stream bed winds across a broad, marshy area with the terrain consisting of low rolling hills, traversing through a picturesque marsh for most of the trip with occasional beaver dams to carry over. Apart from a two docks just past the put-in, Fall Stream is undeveloped.

We portaged around the short section of rapids (about 50-60 feet long) under the bridge and took a break for lunch at the put-in. We watched 3 kayakers and one tandem blue canoe launch and head upstream in advance of us. We also saw a small pickup truck in the parking lot that probably held a car top fishing boat. We paddled up Fall Stream passing over two large beaver dams to Vly Lake. A large dead fall had been recently cleared with a chainsaw so it posed no obstacle. We met up with the three kayakers at the 2nd large beaver dam and stopped to chat with two fisherman exiting Fall Stream in their fishing boat. They reported catching several pickerel on their fishing trip. They had a chain saw and had been responsible for clearing out the dead-fall.

A two primitive tent sites are located on Vly Lake which is a beautiful, isolated spot. The lake is surrounded by mountains with Vly Lake Mountain right on the eastern shore. We reached our campsite on Vly Lake at 2:30pm. Above Vly Lake, Fall Stream becomes narrower and the number of obstacles increase.

The last time I had visited the Vly Lake campsites the western most campsite had been “improved”. It had a an old canvas chair, a gas barbecue grill sans the gas tank, two flag poles, a half buried 5 gallon bucket (clean and 1/3 full of water), and a lot of garbage. The last residents had left a smoldering fire and left toilet flowers all over the woods. They had cut a large spruce tree off at 4′ that was apparently obscuring their view and dropped it into the lake. They dumped crackers on the ground, burned their cans in the fire and dumped beans on the ground. We ended up taking 2 bags of trash out with us on Saturday.

On this trip the campsite was clean. We hung out for the rest of the afternoon watching water fowl and beaver, ate an early dinner and turned in for a great night’s sleep shortly after dark.

Saturday morning we began the 1¾- mile carry over a shoulder of Vly Lake Mountain on a trail that has been maintained by canoe parties from Camp Fowler kid’s camp out of Speculator. There is no official trail to Fawn Lake. The trail was marked in a few sections by yellow and orange flagging tape and in others with occasional old, faint tree blazes and lopped off branches providing clues. The inlet to Fawn Lake is a beaver damned, blow-down clogged inlet stream on the south side of the lake. More flagging tape leads another .25m the lake shore to a shore side campsite and launch point.

Fawn Lake is an undeveloped lake surrounded on all sides by the Jessup River Wild Forest. Fawn Lake is as popular for its sandy beach and easily accessed back country campsites as it is for fishing. Fourteen undesignated tent sites currently exist at Fawn Lake. Wild brook trout can be caught from shore in the spring near deep water areas. Small mouth bass and pickerel are also found here in lesser numbers. According to the DEC UMP two deer wintering areas have been identified on the northern and eastern shore of Fawn Lake.

Below are Mud Pond, Vly Lake, Fawn Lake and the western shore of Sacandaga Reservoir.

Upon reaching Fawn Lake at 1pm we decided to proceed to Sacandaga Lake and make a determination based on the wind and weather to proceed or camp for the night. As we launched the rain showers began. We donned rain gear and paddled across Fawn Lake. At the northern end of Fawn Lake there is a long sandy beach. We disembarked and did the ½-mile carry to Indian Bay on Sacandaga Lake. It was 2:30 when we reached the shores of Sacandaga Lake. We observed a dead calm lake under heavily overcast skies. Since it was still early in the afternoon and we had unusually calm conditions we made the decision to return to the car in Kunjamuk Bay.

Ten minutes after launch we found ourselves in a down pour trying to decide whether to pull ashore and wait out the storm or to continue paddling. I was concerned that we would be fighting hypothermia by standing around in wet clothes and so I was glad to continue paddling. We paddled the breadth of Sacandaga Lake with light crosswinds; then paddled the outlet stream under Rte. 8 to Lake Pleasant. We paddled down Lake Pleasant to its outlet, where we paused to exit the canoe and stretch our legs. This brief five minute stopped chilled us so we hopped back in the boat and continued another 30 minutes down the flatwater Sacandaga River through Kunjamunk Bay to Duck Bay and our vehicle.

Lows Lake / Bog River Flow

Lows Lake is a reservoir in the Adirondack Park in northeastern New York. It is located in the Five Ponds Wilderness Area, 10 miles (16 km) southwest of Tupper Lake. The lake is part of the Bog River Flow. While it is largely surrounded by New York State Forest Preserve, the northeast shore is privately held, along with a few small parcels that border the lake. The lake lies within the towns of Colton, Clifton, and Long Lake. The lake was named after A. Augustus Low, son of Abiel Abbot Low; Low owned 40,000 acres (160 km2) in this vicinity early in the 20th century. Low constructed two hydroelectric dams along the eastern portion of the Bog River Flow; the upper dam, where most of Low’s main buildings were located, created Lows Lake. On the granite ledge above the second dam, there is a plaque commemorating the Low’s memory. His ashes were spread from the ledge.

Sabattis Scout Reservation owns a portion of the lake with three islands and has a Boy Scout camp located near the mid-eastern and northern portion. The lake is open all year long even during winter, as a few of the locals there love ice fishing. The state owned lands along Bog River between Lows Lower and Upper Dams and at Lows Lake offer an opportunity to enjoy over 14.5 miles of scenic waters with only one short carry around Lows Upper Dam. Navigability of this route was established by the two dams built by A.A. Low in 1903 (Lows Lower dam) and 1907 (Lows Upper dam). Public access to the area is by a short gravel road (sometimes gated in the spring to protect it during frost-out) off State Route 421 to Lows Lower Dam, where a canoe may be launched.

We decided to go canoe camping before 4th of July week at Lows Lake. Our plan was to meet Skip at the Long Lake Diner at 9am and proceed to Lows Lake. Our goals were to camp on Grass Pond, bushwhack to the top of Grass Pond Mtn and possibly canoe/explore Bog Lake. We were on the water at 10:45 and observed that most of the people signed into the register were destined for Hitchins Pond with minimal numbers planning on Lows Lake. The launch at the lower dam leads one upriver two miles to Hitchins Pond. Another shallow body of water, Hitchins rarely gets as rough as Lows Lake.

On the way in across Hitchins Pond I told Eric the story of coming to Lows Lake a couple of years after it opened in 1985 with Rich Roman. There was a threat of rain in the forecast so I threw an extra rain jacket in the car and offered it to Rich at the put-in. Rich declined stating that it wasn’t going to rain and, of course, he didn’t need a rain jacket if it did. As we paddled across Hitchins Pond I pulled on my rain gear as it increased in intensity from a sprinkle,to shower, to rain, and then downpour. Finally we coasted to a stop under the railroad bridge where a soaking wet Rich accepted my offer of a garbage bag which he cut holes for his head and arms.

At the upper dam there are options for portaging around the dam, one option is to paddle up the outlet and drag your boat and gear up the embankment. We chose to utilize the picnic grounds; a little further to walk.

A short carry from Hitchins Pond leads over the upper dam and into Lows Lake. The first seven miles up the flow are quite narrow and not often windy. Once you get past the Boy Scout Camp on the right shore, the lake begins to widen until a second narrow passage is reached about one mile further along. Once through this channel, a view of Lows Lake proper is achieved, and you are greeted with the usual white-capped waves. Lows Lake is speckled with several beautiful islands, but camping is limited to a few numbered sites.

Shortly after leaving the upper dam we encountered the floating bog. The floating bog is fully blocking the river channel. Going upstream we were able to line/drag over a mucky 5-yard stretch on the far left, then get back in the boat and paddle to the far right thru a passage in the bog and squeeze through. We stopped on an island near the boy scout camp, stretched our legs and ate a quick lunch. As we neared the main body of the lake we were slightly concerned about wind blown waves. We decided to paddle along the north shore, stay behind the islands and investigate the two portages. After completing the 1st portage we re-entered the main body of the lake where conditions were not bad and paddled to the entrance to Grass Pond.

Kathryn set a rapid tempo and Skip struggled to keep up in the solo canoe. Coming into Grass Pond we caught up to and pulled along side another couple that were also destined for Grass Pond. Not knowing if there would be empty campsites and feeling guilty for ‘racing’ by the other couple I offered campsite #29 to them; “Site 29 is open if you want it, it’s yours.” They declined stating there was a particular site they wanted (I assume #31 – same as us). By declining our offer it was on! With Kathryn’s pace there was no way they would catch or pass us so we proceeded to #31 and found it and #32 occupied. A quick search of the other sites was disappointed so we headed back out to the main lake. As we passed #29 we found it empty – the other couple must have decided they weren’t going to catch us and they preferred a site on the main lake over those at Grass Pond. At this point we had paddled 12+ miles over 5+ hours and were ready to be done. So we settled in at site #29, which was a nice site except for a muddy beach and lack of a swimming area.

Eric started our fire in a recently cleaned out fire pit and Kathryn made lemon chicken and pasta for dinner. After dinner Eric and I fished from the canoe for a short time with a few bites but no catches.

We had overnight thunderstorms, but had put all our gear under the tent vestibules. After a leisurely breakfast, we decided to paddle over the Grass Pond Mtn access and check out site #31 on our way. As luck would have it we met the previous occupants coming off the site, so we turned around, broke camp and transferred our tents and gear to #31. About 10 years ago Kathryn and I stayed at site 31 with Matt and Beth. It is a large open site on a small point. The site is under large white pine trees on a slight rise from the water. The front of the site gets good sun in the afternoon/evening with a sitting rock at water’s edge for a perfect view of the sunset, and a good swimming area out front. The back of the site has 3 shady areas for additional tents plus a privy up on the hill.

That afternoon took a short walk to the “Ice Caves” by following an old jeep road until it passes the 2nd culvert. Just before the creek is a herd path marked with flagging tape. It is a short 5-10 minute hike to reach the cliffs and the ice caves which hold the winter’s snow within the talus slope. Unfortunately, given the unusually warm and snow-less winter we had there was no snow or ice in the ‘caves’ but they were refreshingly cool. Eric was fascinated by them.

After our hike we went swimming, ate some of Kathryn’s delicious Spanish Rice for dinner and planned our assault on Grass Pond Mtn.

Eric shares his GORP with Kathryn during one of our bushwhack breaks.

Grass Pond Mountain climbs to 2,244 feet (683.97 meters) above sea level. Grass Pond Mountain is located at N 44.093395 and W -74.776292. The bushwhack / scramble up was rewarded by fantastic views of Lows Lake. We took lots of pictures, ate our lunch of bagels, summer sausage, cheese and gorp and generally hung out. From our vantage point we could see major whitecaps on the main lake.

Upon our return we all went swimming. Kathryn stepped into a leach ‘nest’ resulting in one large leach and 6-10 small baby leaches attaching to her toes. The large leach freaked her out and she required assistance in removing the larger leach. Afterwards we sat and read.

Saturday night Kathryn and Eric caught several small bass fishing from the campsite.

Sunday morning we woke early and paddled out with a slight tail wind.

We encountered a group of 8 people / 7 canoes from the Albany ADK Chapter in the midst of a canoe camping loop. They started on Little Tupper, canoed to Lake Lila, portaged into Lows Lake on and were taking the Lows Lake outlet back to Round Lake and Little Tupper. One of the group had developed blisters and was opting out of completing the trip. We had a nice chat on the way out and Skip gave him a ride back to his car at Little Tupper.

We were blessed with great weather throughout our trip. We managed to secure an ideal campsite for swimming and hiking. Great Trip!