Tag Archives: canoeing

Camping in Croghan Tract

In 1999 the State of New York purchased 29,000 acres and an additional 110,000 acres of conservation easements from Champion International Corporation. This acquisition consists of three noncontiguous blocks, known as the Santa Clara Tract, Tooley Pond Tract and Croghan Tract, covering portions of ten towns in Franklin, St. Lawrence, Herkimer and Lewis Counties.

Skip and I explored the Croghan area and camped on night on Long Pond. Barbara Martin’s Discover the Adirondacks series showed a shelter located on Long Pond. Skip and I used the public boat access on the south end of Long Pond and found the lean-to located above a sandy beach.

It was too good to be true. The lean-to was immaculately clean with a stocked wood box. The lean-to was located on an esker between Round and Long Ponds.

We spent the afternoon enjoying the cross breeze between the ponds and reading. I worked on editing my Guide to Winter Camping book.

During the afternoon a family group of 10-12 came to swim at the beach below the lean-to. They admired the canoe and paddles, but did not venture up to the lean-to or spot us.

After further examination it turned out the site and land were owned by the NYS Future Farmers of America (FFA).

After dinner I was contemplating a swim before turning in when a group of boats with camp counselors came for a bonfire and swim. They stayed from 9-11pm and noticed our presence while hunting for wood.

Skip and I decided discretion was in order and planned to depart upon first awaking. Sunday morning found me awake at 5am and us packed up and canoeing out by 5:30.

We drove to Sand Pond and then along the Beaver River Flow to High Falls Pond where we spent the afternoon lounging on one of the island campsites. During the late afternoon we paddled upstream to Belfort.

For dinner I made corn bread and heated up Dinty Moore beef stew. We went swimming in the evening and turned in early as the mosquitoes came out about 8:45pm. We slept well and had a slight shower as we awoke in the morning around 6am. We drove into Croghan for breakfast. I returned home to re-stock for our next camping trip. Skip left for Saranac Lake with plans to meet us Tuesday noon at Long Pond.

Return to Rock Lake

With temperatures predicted in the high 80s we headed back to Rock Lake to spend the weekend swimming and staying cool by the water. Scout joined in for some swimming but going out to the rock was too much for her.

We were plagued by deer flies and stable flies aka ankle biters aka Adirondack Meanies. The deer flies were annoying, but mainly buzzed about our heads and they were slow enough to enable swatting. The stable flies were another matter. They were numerous, fast and vicious – especially attacking Scout.


The stable fly or biting house fly is a blood-feeding pest known to attack almost any kind of warm-blooded animal. It looks like the common house fly except that its mouth parts are adapted for biting and sucking blood. The stable fly feeds by inserting its proboscis (beak) through the skin and then sucking blood from its host. The proboscis is long enough to penetrate some clothing.

Females can live up to a month and may require several blood meals during this period in order to continue laying eggs. It is a daytime feeder, with peak biting occurring during the early morning and late afternoon. Stable flies prefer to attack people around the ankles; hence being called ‘ankle biters’. Fortunately, it does not appear to be an important vector of any human diseases. The immature stable fly (maggot) can be found breeding in many kinds of moist, decaying organic matter. The variety of breeding sites, and the fact that the adults fly several miles to feed but spend little time on the host, make it difficult to manage stable flies. They didn’t seem to be daunted by repellents or the bug lantern employed by Kathryn.

Eric worked the fire to provide a full on smoke attack which worked, however.

Speaking of the fire pit we pulled broken glass, aluminum foil, cans, Coleman propane bottles, and a broken golf club out of the fire pit and campsite; yielding about 10-15 lbs of trash. Below is the before and after versions of the fire pit. We ended up leaving six metal grates as Kathryn expressed her limit of what she was willing to pack out.

Dinner consisted of chicken and fresh baked biscuits – a definite keeper. In the evening we were treated to an evening sunset.

On our way out we experimented by putting the dog in one of the last sections in the canoe. We paddled over to the site where we stayed last week to see if the bugs were as bad there. They were less annoying, perhaps due to less vegetation or a more open site. We saw a rough legged hawk hunting over the swampy inlet, although Kathryn had to consult her bird book to be sure.

After lunch we paddled across the lake and loaded up for the portage out. Eric astounded us by volunteering to double carry the kitchen backpack and the cooler backpack the last 2/3rds of the way out so Kathryn could continue to pack the Bill’s Bag and trash.

Rock Lake

We were destined for Little Tupper Lake and decided to check out Rock Lake instead. In 2008 Skip, Bob and I hiked into Rock Lake to check out the portage trail. There was one vehicle at the parking lot. We shuffled gear, since going to Little Tupper we hadn’t planned on doing a portage. Eric took the kitchen backpack and carried the food pack. Kathryn carried the Bill’s Bag, life jackets and backpack cooler. I carried my backpack, canoe and paddles as we single carried down the portage trail.

Rock Lake is located northwest of Route 28 and 30,between Indian Lake and Blue Mountain Lake. While the trail sign says .5 mile the actual distance is closer to .8 mile –about a 20 minute portage. If you go straight down to the lake you have a beaver dam to get over. If you take a right and go over the bridge you can get to the lake below the dam.

From the parking area the red marked trail goes through a forest of red and white pines. At 0.3 mile the Johnny Mack Brook is on your left. At 0.6 miles reach the junction of a snowmobile trail and turn right following the snowmobile trail over Johnny Mack Brook on a bridge. At 0.8 miles the trail turns left and heads to a campsite on Rock Lake.

 

At the lake we found two canoes parked along the shore. We looked across the lake and saw a large empty site directly across lake where three years ago we spotted hunters camping during our spotting trip. We landed on the sandy beach, checked out the campsite and decided to stay.

One interesting facet of the campsite was a large number of owl pellets of containing squirrel and mice bones. Eric found many of these pellets below the large white pine trees and collected bones trying to recreate a squirrel skeleton.

In the afternoon we toured around the lake looking for campsites and swimming beaches.

We went swimming from a large sandy beach on the south side of the lake.

After swimming we hung around camp: taking pictures, resting, playing cards and listening to podcasts.

We baked four fruit biscuits, using our Backpacker Oven, and tea in the late afternoon. Below Kathryn wades out to get clean water to filter through our Base Camp water filter. We made pasta primavera for dinner.

In the evening we had a small fire and turned in shortly after nine o’clock.

Sunday morning Eric started and fed a small fire “to keep the bugs away”. Kathryn and I watched a family of sapsuckers flit around the trees above us.

We explored the inlet and outlet of Rock Lake and then went swimming again before having lunch and packing up for our portage out and trip home.

4th of July Weekend

We took Friday and Saturday and went camping overnight near Piseco Lake. We managed to pack light and single carry across the portage. We found 4 other fisherman staying on the lake with a considerable amount of gear: chainsaw, tents, a canoe and a small boat with an electric motor. For lunch we had sandwiches. Friday night we made 1 pot pasta. Saturday breakfast was instant oatmeal that was past it’s prime and Saturday’s lunch was bagel/cheese/pepperoni sandwiches. Eric convinced us to go swimming on both days. The water was “refreshing” to be kind. There was a lot of loon activity. The fishing was poor. We heard, but did not see, the Piseco Lake fireworks as we went to sleep Friday night. We took Scout with us and she definitely got more comfortable riding in the canoe the more we paddled.

We returned from camping on Saturday afternoon and put away our gear, got showered and went to Red Lobster for dinner.

Sunday morning we cut several ash trees along the far edge of the back meadow – adding about 1 face cord to our wood pile. It was hot, sweaty work and we cooled off with a quick dip in the pond afterwards.

In the afternoon we leveled an area for the swimming pool Kathryn bought the previous summer.

In the evening we met Jack, Chris and Jennifer in Boonville to watch the fireworks. Below Eric and Jennifer chilling before the show.

I used my new camera to try to capture some of the fireworks. I got a lot of pictures of black night skies, but also managed to luck into several nice firework explosions.

Monday we finished installation of the pool. All it needs now is 4,000 gallons of water, more than I plan to provide from our well. I replanted two new rows of peas, made another planting of yellow wax beans and tied up my tomatoes. The tomatoes are showing golf ball sized green fruit. I got my grape arbor wires put up. Finally!

Upstream on the Jessup and Spy Lake

I picked up Skip at 10am and we headed for the Jessup River. Usually, we just get Bounce House Rentals and invite the neighbouring kids to our place but this we wanted to spend some time in nature. We were in the water a little before noon. With the three days of rain mid-week the river was really high and we were able to scoot over almost all the beaver dams and dead fall. We paddled for 2 hours and then found the river to be choked with logs. It was only 2pm on a bright, sunny day and we weren’t ready to sit around in a camp all afternoon. We turned around and headed down stream arriving back at the Route 30 bridge in only 40 minutes. On our return trip we came up with Plans B, C and D.

  • Plan B was to explore the Miami River leaving from Lewey Lake. We talked to the ranger at the Indian Lake boat access who informed us that a day fee would be necessary and he wasn’t optimistic about the Miami or camping opportunities around it.
  • Plan C was the north side of Lake Pleasant so we drove back to Speculator and investigated the possible launch site at the bridge. With the high winds, high water and steep rocky shore we decided to pass on Plan C.
  • Plan D was Spy Lake as we noticed the gate was open. As we drove in there were four kayakers coming off the lake so we traded rides to/from the highway as I drove out to leave my car and they drove back in to pick up their kayaks.

We checked out a couple of campsites but stayed in our usual site, but up in the woods to get out of the wind. I tried three new items this trip – neoprene socks, two sleeping pads and the Megamid tent.

  1. Neoprene socks because I thought we would be getting wet crossing beaver dams and logjams on the Jessup. The socks were warm – in fact my feet were sweaty when I took them off arriving at our Spy Lake site. They were easy to put on and off with my sandals and I think they would work well with cold water.
  2. Megamid tent. With cooler temperatures there no bugs to worry about. The Megamid tent is only 5 lbs and is spacious. I have used it for winter camping in the past. On this site we were faced with uneven ground and strong winds through out the evening so there was LOTS of ventilation…. The Megamid is light, but then one has to bring a space blanket or other ground cloth. We didn’t try cooking inside the tent. The jury is still out.
  3. RidgeRest foam pad on top of an inflatable Thermarest. I am a side sleeper and getting a Thermarest pumped up hard enough to provide support, but still provide give to my artificial hips is problematic. By putting the foam pad on top I was warmer, got more support and slept comfortably. More testing is needed, but this is very promising.

Meal time was a treat. Skip made dinner; carrot soup, garden salad, BBQ chicken with salt potatoes. I made breakfast; coffee, apricot scones in the Outback Oven and omelet in a bag.

I got home shortly before noon.

Canoeing the West Sacandaga

Kathryn was attending a baby shower for Shelly. Our U8 soccer team had a bye week so Eric and I joined Skip and friends canoeing down the West Sacandaga River. I dropped an extra seat in my Jensen 18 and paddled it like a solo canoe, with Eric contributing when he felt like it. Fortunately this is a fast canoe so we could power past the water fights when desired. By myself I could just outdistance the other canoes and when extra power/speed was needed, Eric provided the Turbo-boost to sprint a safe distance.

We had 6 canoes and 2 kayaks in attendance. There was only one obstacle on the West Sacandaga, requiring a bit of a limbo maneuver as demonstrated by Skip and his nephew below.

Our wild life viewing was limited to one Great Blue Heron and a pile of moose dung, but the weather was ideal and the company was a lot of fun.

Canoeing Schoharie Creek

Saturday Skip and I paddled Schoharie Creek from Fultonham rest area to Central Bridge; a distance of about 18 miles. We were joined by an old friend Albert Hodder, who was my primary camping buddy during my high school and college years, paddling his kayak.

The Breakabeen River Gauge was at 3.4 feet – which is normal summer time levels. One wouldn’t want it much lower.

There was a small thunderstorm on Thursday night that gave a little bump to the water levels. The extra 3-4″ of water helped us get over some riffles that would have grounded us otherwise.

Our greatest concern was the wind which was gusting from the west in the 15-25 mph range. While the Schoharie River is protected in the upper stretches, in the lower sections it opens up and we knew we would be battling winds as we finished up our trip coming into Central Bridge. Temperatures were in the high 50s-low 60s, just enough to warrant a 2nd layer.

The upper stretch was interesting, with lots of turns, little riffles, and lines to pick.

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We launched at 11:30am. We had several nice views of Vroman’s Nose.

We saw Osprey and several ducks. We saw lots and lots of kingfishers though out our trip. We stopped for a creek side sandwich in Middleburg. We took a 2nd break in below Bridge Street in Schoharie and got to the Route 7 bridge fishing access in Central Bridge at 4:30pm. We really lucked out with the weather, until the last stretch into the take out. We avoided the wind until the last 30 minutes when we really had to slug it out against the wind.

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The Pefect Storm of a Day

Saturday was the perfect storm of a day. We were invited to paddle down the West Branch of the Sacandaga River with a group of friends. The trip ended at Skip’s camp. It was the perfect confluence of emerging fall colors, perfect weather, “Talk Like A Pirate Day” and canoeing with friends. We put in the West Branch near Goodluck Lake and took out at Shaker Place as the stream starts to get rocky near Skips camp.

We got to Skips camp early and checked out the place as Kathryn hadn’t yet visited there. Below Eric poses on one of the rocks in the stream near the camp.

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Eric tells Kathryn and Skip that they must talk like a pirate or they will be walking the plank.

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The West Branch of the Sacandaga is small, flat water with a couple of runnable beaver dams. Kathryn paddled our solo canoe. Eric and I paddled in the Jensen. I estimate that Eric paddled 80% of the trip. Being ‘pirates’ and either chasing or being chased by other ‘pirates’ helped keep him engaged. Below Kathryn runs a beaver dam

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There was one solid log obstruction that required some finesse. Skip’s brother and his son were in the boat ahead of us. As they stood to walk up the boat they flipped and enjoyed a refreshing swim and our comments for the remainder of the trip.

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Fall colors were emerging on the surrounding hillsides.

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About 2/3rds of the way we all got out and sat around on a large rock for a bit of a break.

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St Regis Canoe Area – 11 Carries Trip

St Regis 11 Carries Route

On Sunday 16 August Kathryn, Eric, Skip, Bob & I embarked on a tour of the St Regis Canoe Area via the 11 Carries Route. The 7 Carries and 9 Carries Routes are popular ways to tour through Fish Pond. We lengthened the trip and did it counter clockwise by leaving from Upper St Regis Lake on Sunday afternoon. Our plan was to be arriving as other campers were leaving from their weekend trips, but frankly we didn’t see a tremendous difference in attendance. I have read various theories; including that the early summer (July) was so rainy that many people postponed their camping trips until later in the summer. As mid-August approached they decided to get out camping. We had a similar approach two weeks prior at Lake Lila; coming in on Sunday afternoon; and although not all sites were occupied we certainly didn’t have the lake to ourselves.

We set up our car shuttle by returning one car to Long Pond (far lower left) and were paddling across Upper St Regis by 2:30pm. We quickly crossed Upper St Regis and made the 150′ portage into Bog Pond. We had pre-determined this would be a leisurely trip. In other words we were going to bring comfort items (chairs, books, backpacker’s oven, etc) and hopefully spend some time relaxing in camp – perhaps even stay two days in the same place. This meant that we would double carry each portage. Below Skip completes the 2nd carry of an early portage.

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As the trip wore on we consumed drinks and food and packed more efficiently such that not everyone had to double portage. Usually everyone made one carry, including Eric who carried his knapsack and three canoe paddles, and three people returned for a 2nd load. We took my kevlar MN II (43 lbs) and fiberglass Jensen (54 lbs). I fit a clamp-on portage yoke onto the Jensen, but it was never really comfortable. We all took turns carrying this boat, but Bob & Skip carried the Jensen the most. Below Bob demonstrates his technique as I follow with a 2nd load.

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From Bog Pond we did another 150′ portage into Bear Pond; crossed Bear Pond and portaged the 1/4 mile into Little Long Pond where we made camp for the 1st night. Our tent sites were up the hill in the woods, but our kitchen and living space was down near the water where we had an excellent view. We were concerned about mosquitoes, but were never really bothered by bugs. Kathryn attributed the lack of bugs to her diligence attending to her bug lamp. Below Eric relaxes in the evening sun after a long swim in the lake.

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Kathryn relaxed in her lawn chair reading and watching for birds. Despite being somewhat bulky the aluminum lawn chairs are light and offer supreme comfort (and back support) in camp.

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We were rewarded by seeing and hearing loons on every water body. At night we not only heard loons but also Barred Owls (Who, Who cooks for you?).

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The 2nd day we left Little Long Pond, portaged 1/4 mile to Green Pond and then portaged 100′ into St Regis Pond where we came upon a lean to site shortly after it was vacated. We saw a solo canoe paddling along the edge of the lake and believe he just left the lean-to site. Eric was enamored with the lean-to, having never stayed in one before. It gave him a clean flat surface to play with his Legos and lots of left items to experiment with.

Other than the curious chipmunk and normal ‘lets leave stuff at the lean-to for others’ it was a pretty nice site. Kathryn and Eric went for a long 40 minute swim while we organized our gear. Throughout the trip we had constantly sunny, hot days that made swimming a refreshing activity we enjoyed each afternoon.

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Skip relaxed and worked on his ideal 10 team volleyball schedule.

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Kathryn read her Lee Child murder mystery. She was proud of being able to finish an entire novel on this trip

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In the evening Eric and I took the canoe out for a little paddle. Eric has his own junior-sized bent shaft paddle now and is getting more adept at paddling. He still paddles primarily on one side, but that’s OK.

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The hot weather encouraged another swim by Bob, Eric and myself, which broke down into water splashing games.

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The additional time encouraged us to try some artsy photos such as the paddles leaning against the tree.

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The next day we loaded up bound for Fish Pond.

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It was a short paddle up St Regis Lake into the outlet.

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Bob had been told that with the wet summer conditions there was enough water flowing in the outlet that one could mostly paddle to to Ochre Pond and avoid the 7/10 mile portage. I am always willing to drag over a couple of beaver dams to avoid a long carry. From Ochre Pond we had a 1.4 mile carry into Fish Pond. This was a killer, mainly due to expectations. The carry route is interesting, up and down along an esker that extends into Fish Pond, but the carry continues long after one sees Fish Pond on both sides of the esker. I was expecting to be able to drop the canoe into Fish Pond, but noooo….. must carry more. We were all tired and thirsty at the end of the double carry. Below Bob carries a food pack and the growing garbage bag while I carry our backpack, life jackets and lawn chairs.

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We camped that night at the lean-to on the north shore of Fish Pond. After a swim we had a wonderful one-pot pasta meal inspired by Tamia Nelson’s “In the Same Boat” article on Paddling.Net. A word about our cooking arrangements, if I might. Bob is a wonderful cook. We usually pre-agree that we will each do our own breakfast and lunch meals and Bob cooks dinners. In exchange for dinner we set up tents, cut wood, wash dishes and do pretty much all the other camp chores so Bob doesn’t have to. Our meals included franks and beans, pork and sauerkraut, and vegetable pasta. For some reason Bob’s one pot vegetable laden pasta really hit the spot that night. The basic recipe was to mix sauce and water together, break the pasta to ensure it gets covered and then, in this case, add vegetable soup for extra veggies and flavoring. Yum. Thanks Bob!

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In addition to Bob’s meals we brought along our Backpacker’s Oven and made each day we made blueberry, corn meal and triple berry muffins or brownies. It was a nice treat.

It was at this campsite that Kathryn and I heard Barred Owls the most clearly. They were so close we could hear a long purr at the end of their call, “Who, Who cooks for you, purrrr?”. It was the loudest and clearest owl call I have every heard. Very cool.

Wednesday morning after a brief sprinkle we left Fish Pond. Our plan was to journey down to Bessie Pond and examine the campsite there. If it met our basic criteria; clean, enough room for two tents and decent swimming opportunities; we would stay there and then do the 1.6 mile portage to Long Pond the next day.

We were disappointed to see the Bessie campsite trashed. The fire pit was still smoldering with food wrappers and fiberglass tent poles in fire. There were Jolly Rancher candies and AA batteries scattered around the site. There was toilet paper and excrement on the ground near the campsite. There was a tarp and some cooking pots stored under an old picnic table, probably left by other campers. We picked up the most toxic items (batteries) to pack out and hoped that we would be able to confront the pigs that left the mess on our portage to Long Pond. Unfortunately we did not. Later we unsuccessfully checked the trail register in the parking lot for anyone signed into Bessie. We did encounter an Assistant Ranger the following day and told him about the situation.

Back to the 1.6 mile portage…..in a break from previous portages we decided to use a leapfrog approach; carry the canoes part way down the trail, drop them and return for gear, bringing the gear to the previous drop spot and then move the canoes the next increment along the trail. This worked great. The 1st 5-10 minutes of a canoe carry go easy. Then there are 5-10 minutes of it becoming a chore. Finally you enter the “why am I doing this” zone. Mentally it was easier to put a canoe up and say to oneself “I only need to do this for 15-20 minutes”.

Other than Skip leaving his Nalgene water bottle at the 1st stop, the trip quickly proceeded in three increments and we were at Long Pond before expected. At the put in we encountered a couple from Indiana who were going up the trail on a hike. We talked about trail conditions and where to find blueberries. They told us they had a blueberry cheesecake set into a pot which was cooling in the lake and if Eric could find it he could have a piece. Naturally that sparked Eric’s interest and he was determined to find a pot along the lake shore while we were more interested in finding an open camp site. We gave them our trail description and told them about the Bessie Campsite and the lost water bottle. The following morning they came across our campsite as they were paddling out and we were finishing breakfast. They had found and returned Skip’s water bottle.

Once on Long Pond we checked out a couple of empty campsites and settled on the one Skip & I had used last fall when we did a scouting trip to St Regis/Long Pond. It was a nice site with white birch trees, good swimming and it was clean. That night we skipped a formal dinner to finish up all our snacks: nuts, cheese, pepperoni, summer sausage and bagels made a nice treat.

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The next morning was foggy and the trees were draped with visible spider webs.

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A note about our water purification system. At each campsite I would scoop up water in our collapsible water bucket and filter it through a bandanna into the Katadyn Base Camp water filter which we would hang until departure. From here we would fill our cooking pots and water bottles as needed. If we needed more water during the day, Bob carried a Steri-Pen to cleanse individual Nalgene bottles. Kathryn brought along crystal light and tang to mix with the drinking water and Eric carried his own water bottles and did a good job of keeping hydrated.

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Usually mornings Skip, Bob and I were the 1st to awake and get the hanging food bags, make coffee and watch the morning. Kathryn would follow shortly and Eric was the last to arise. Below Eric wakes up slow and snuggles in Kathryn’s lap before breakfast.

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After breakfast we began the process of packing up and paddled across Long Pond to our takeout car. While left in the parking lot someone scraped against Kathryn’s car and relocated the tail light such that the hatch back couldn’t open. This made loading the car a little more problematic (not to mention the $200 repair bill). Kathryn, Eric and Skip reversed the car shuttle process to retrieve Skip’s Outback from Upper St Regis as Bob & I played Sherpa and moved gear from the Long Pond access to the parking lot. It just began to rain as we were loading the canoes on the car and it rained most of the way home. Perfect timing!

Kathryn, Eric and I stopped at the McDonald’s in Tupper Lake for hot, salty, quick food, while Bob & Skip stopped at the Hard Rock in Eagle Bay for something more thirst quenching. We got back in time to shower, change our clothes and attend the year end volleyball awards party. The following day, Friday, was spent washing clothes, unpacking, and cleaning the camping gear.

This was a nice trip despite our conflicting objectives. Our goal of a leisurely comfort trip (chairs, books, baking oven, etc), conflicted with our desire to do the 11 carries route and traverse the longer portages. We really thought we would spend two nights at the same site, but Fish Pond wasn’t as spectacular as we had thought. Our weather was ideal, couldn’t be better – except maybe cooling off more at night, but that is a quibble. No one suffered any cuts, scrape, dings, or missing fingers. Eric helped out on the portages and did great for being 6. All in all a nice trip.

General Clinton Grand Prix Relay Race: Splash, Bump & Beach 2009

This is our 3rd recent Splash, Bump & Beach team. We were the 15th team in a 30 team field. We had a 2005 and 2007 version who’s stories are told in a 2005 pdf/2005 pictures here and 2007 posting here.

Honestly, I was going to let the 2009 opportunity go by but back in January when we were visiting Howe Caverns I saw and talked with Sparky. Sparky related that Beth so enjoyed his description of the 2007 that she wanted to try the Relay Race. It sounded like fun; a team relay race, an easy paddle down stream rather than fighting wind across a lake. Of course, in 2007 Sparky did a 4.25 mile leg…..

So I started recruiting, searching for a stock aluminum canoe and organizing our team. I asked our previous team members; of which Skip, Connie, Sparky, Vanessa, and Kathryn all agreed to participate – except Kathryn declared she would not paddle the 1st leg again. Past year battling with aggressive competitors and being hit and swamped had her justifiably concerned. In addition to Sparky’s partner Beth we recruited fellow Winter Camper Len Fudge and a friend from volleyball, Beth Bohlman. Steve and Vanessa volunteered to supply the canoe and I wbrought my bent shaft paddles and a spare. Steve applies our race number to his Sea-King canoe – quite likely the only time this canoe has seen a racing number applied.

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The race is approximately 30 miles in total with all 5 legs starting/exchanging on the left side (south) of the river going downstream. Skip and Beth were volunteered to tackle the 1st leg and the notorious strainers in back of Hannaford Markets; the rest of the race broke out accordingly.

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Water flow was moderate and while it didn’t provide a big boost we didn’t anticipate excessive shallow areas.

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As the 15th entry we lined up on shore starting in the middle of the pack with all the action. This year the start was moved up to 11:15am. Below Skip and Beth position the canoe along the shore.

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The start of the race is frantic, with everyone striving for optimal position as the river converges in a narrow chute beneath the Route 23 Bridge. Below Skip and Beth are located centrally ahead of 7 other canoes.

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It starts to get a little crowded as the team pass under the bridge.

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And even more crowded coming out from the other side of the bridge – a four way. Now just stop and take a moment to compare the width of the three Grumman canoes to our Sea-King. See a difference? Perhaps in the width of the canoe? As Steve aptly stated later in the race “I have been looking at these canoes and ours seems to be pushing more water”. Hmmm…. note to self, next year a narrow (and faster) canoe would be nice.

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Good bye Skip & Beth. See you in 30 minutes.

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Sparky stops the canoe, Beth disembarks, Jim holds the canoe, Beth is amazed and Skip exits.

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A quick dump of the canoe to rid it of accumulated water.

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Sparky & Beth are off on their 9 mile jaunt. They passed one team, they rammed shore, they questioned why they were doing this race.

Sparky and Beth declared they were happy to keep the bottom of the canoe in water. Beth said “We did go backwards down one set of rapids, which was my fault. There were three to choose from and I chose the lowest, but as we approached the canoe in front of us went sideways. In an effort to avoid hitting them, I decided to take the middle rapid, only it was too late. When the current caught us it turned us around. Of course, there were three spectators sitting on the bank. I yelled to them that we just wanted to give them a little excitement. They yelled back that we weren’t the first!”

All that could be heard by the spectators on the banks was Sparky saying,”I want to be over there in the current.” and Beth replying,” I know, I’m trying.”

Sparky does admit putting his paddle down 3 times for rests.

Below, Skip enjoys being done with his portion of the race during the cool of the morning.

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Sparky and Beth come into the Wells Bridge Fishing Access. They only looked moderately tired. (See how broad the canoe looks?). After wards Sparky showed off bruising along his forearms from banging his arms on the gunnels.

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This exchange point has a slippery clay bottom and it is deep near the stairs where most teams exchanged. We opted to change just a few feet downstream where we could stand without falling. Skip and Kathryn secure the canoe. Sparky and Beth had shed their life jackets mid-leg.

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Kathryn sets the pace, Skip gave a push, Sparky realizes how much one uses their legs during paddling and Beth washes up. At this point we could barely see a group of four teams ahead of us in the distance with close to a 1/2 mile lead.

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Kathryn set a great pace through out the 8.75 miles. She stopped her pace at two points: once to pull up her knee pads so she could brace her knees on the boat and once to cram two Oreo cookies into her mouth for a quick sugar boost. Slightly away from the exchange we declared passing the last boats of the group in front as our goal and passed three of the teams. Team Blue Lining was the 1st to be captured after about 40 minutes of paddling. As we were catching up to them we were caught by a C-1 canoeist with a red cap. He told us to stay right through the current section of the river and we would have no problem passing the next team. We tried drafting on the C-1 but he easily out paced us. We passed Blue Lining and quickly passed a 2nd team who were caught broadside in a shallow riffle. As they re-positioned their boat we skirted around them and were re-passed by Blue Lining. I kiddingly told them “Have you no honor? We passed you once.” Shortly downstream we picked a great line on the far right through a shallow riffle and left Blue Lining behind. We found and passed one other team who were wearing grey T-shirts, straw hats and fake mustaches. They were choosing good lines through the current, but lacked the pace that Kathryn maintained. The final member of the 4 canoe group we set out to capture maintained their lead throughout and we were never able to catch up to them.

There were several bridges in the 1.5 miles approaching the Unadilla Fishing access. We were hopeful that each one would be our exchange point. At one point we asked spectators how far it was to the exchange and got the not-so-helpful “Not far”. Come on people; time and/or distance estimates would be nice.

Finally, we pulled into Unadilla. Len holds the canoe, Kathryn swings a leg out, Skip is ready to help dump, Connie gets ready to enter, Eric checks the water depth, Sparky helps dump the canoe and Jim disembarks.

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Len (rocking his WinterCampers.com t-shirt) and Connie head out on their 4.25 leg to Sidney. Kathryn finally gets to drink from her water bottle and Skip snaps a picture of the departure.

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Skip provides a little balance for Kathryn. Sparky observes as Eric gives Dad a high five.

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Len and Connie come into the Sidney exchange. Connie swapped the bent shaft paddle for the straight paddle that feels more normal to her.

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Steve and Vanessa battle the wind as they come in under the finish line with a total time of 5:22.

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After wards we enjoyed a BBQ chicken dinner, talked about our race and watched the teams behind us come in.

The table below depicts the year we raced, our cumulative time, the times of the 1st and 10th place team, the time difference between our finish and our desired Top 10 goal and finally our overall placing. You can see in 2005 we were in 15th place less than 15 minutes out of 10th place – after dumping on the 1st leg! I still think a Top 10 finish is achievable.

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Over the years we have gotten better (or the water flow has improved), but so has the competition. Graphically it looks like this.

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What will it take for us to make it into the Top 10 and get a trophy? About 40 minutes. A faster canoe? Maybe shuffling our lineup around? A couple of practice sessions? A better starting position?

Regardless I think Steve said it best; “It was a great way to spend a day”.
Applicants are being accepted for the 2010 Splash, Bump & Beach team. Commit early!