Category Archives: camping

Stillwater Reservoir and The Red Horse Trail

Stillwater MapSteve, Skip and I planned a 5 day pond hopping trip up the Red Horse Trail north of Stillwater Reservoir.  We arrived at Stillwater Reservoir at 10:30am as boats and families were coming off the reservoir. If you will bring your own boat, it’s recommended to have some Outboard Motor Covers for Boats to protect the boat engine.

With the end of the weekend and the pending rainy forecast there were lots of available campsites.  We were hoping for site #4 so we could also check out Peak Mtn Pond, however, the sign-out board at the boat launch indicated that site #4 was taken and signed out through Sunday evening.  As we were contemplating alternative plans a parting camper recommended site #11 which he had just vacated.  We paddled to site #11, checked it out and set up our tents.  No sooner than we set up our tents, blew up our sleeping pads and shook out our sleeping bags than Skip declared “I see a bear, and I am not kidding”.  A medium sized black bear was headed to our camp.  I walked towards the bear yelling and clapping my hands loudly.  The bear walked away slowly, pausing when I stopped advancing, keeping a distance of roughly 50 feet.  We convened to discuss our options and decided to move camp.  As we were packing up our tents and gear the bear came back.  Skip sounded his air horn which caused the bear to move away slightly, but not run or vacate the camp site.  We packed up and paddled our canoes across the reservoir ending up at site #30 – Picnic Point.

Stillwater Reservoir campsite map

For dinner Steve cooked hamburgers and we drank cold beer.  It rained Sunday night.  We turned in early and the next morning we proceeded to Trout Pond and campsite #15.  We set up our rain tarp just in time to avoid a major thunderstorm.  I cooked chicken soup for dinner; it came out too salty as I added too many favor packets.  We turned in early as it rained all night long.

Red Horse Trail Loop

Tuesday morning we cached our heavy items and traveled with just our canoes, backpacks and fishing gear to the Red Horse trailhead. Skip had the heaviest backpack, but grabbed his Kevlar Sundowner and headed north up the 1 mile portage from Trout Pond to Salmon Lake.  I made it about 1/3 the on the trail but couldn’t get my solo canoe to balance on the top of my backpack.  Steve helped me carry it the rest of the way to the Salmon Lake put in.

We crossed Salmon Lake to the northern extremity  looking for a take out.  The take out was obscured by a 4′ high beaver dam.  We managed a take out shore side and bushwhacked to the Red Horse Trail leading to Witchhopple Lake.  We took drinks and a little trail mix and hiked the 1 mile trail to Witchhopple Lake.  From Witchhopple Lake it was a 1.5 mile trail to Clear Lake.  There were four new bridges on the trail from Witchhopple which averted some of the water crossing described in the trail guides.  Clear Lake displayed a large burnt out hole where someone’s fire smouldered in the pine duff and tree roots.

Clear Lake Ground Fire

We hiked back to Salmon Lake just prior to dinner time.  Steve went out fishing before dinner and caught several trophy caliber small mouth bass.  For dinner I made Rice-a-Roni with dehydrated peppers/onions/tomatoes and hamburger.  The meal was good, but more time was needed for the hamburger to fully re-hydrate.  After dinner Steve and I went fishing and each caught some more fish, but noting trophy sized.

Wednesday we packed out gear and portaged back to Stillwater Reservoir.  This time I made some adjustments to my pack and balancing the canoe that enabled me to portage my solo the entire trail.  Steve packed out Skip’s Sundowner.  We recovered our cache and re-located to campsite #19 on Burnt Lake.  The campsite was located on a high ridge where it received a nice breeze and respite from the heat.

Thursday morning we agreed to arise early and paddle across Stillwater before the winds and waves arose.  I awoke early, started coffee and we packed up and were paddling by 7:30am.  The managed to return to the boat launch by 9am just as the wind and waves began to pick up.

Jockeybush Lake

Matt, Mark, Rick and I were yearning for a trip in the woods and selected an easy trip into Jockeybush Lake for an overnight camping trip.  With temperatures in the mid-40s our hike was pleasant.  Jockeybush Lake is a 1.1 mile hike up a 200′ grade with two small stream crossings.   Access to the trail head  begins across from Lake Alma on Route 10 with parking is adjacent to yellow and brown trail sign. The trail follows a stream ith several small waterfalls that flows from the Jockeybush Lake into West Sacandaga River.

We celebrated seeing a Unicorn – Mark finally participating on a winter camping trip-  we took pictures of the waterfalls on our hike in, and observed a “Joanie loves Chachi” tree carving from a previous trip that went bad.

Hiking In

The south east end of the lake has a log jam across it, allowing one to cross to an area of large, flat rocks.  We used trekking poles for balance and safely crossed dry on the way in.  In the morning on the way out, however, it was a different matter.  The logs were covered with frost and slippery.  Matt got his boots wet at the start of the crossing and then plunged his foot into the water after slipping on the frosty log.

Log Crossing

The view of the lake from this end is wonderful, however we found it devoid of wood and being cooled by winds sweeping down the lake. We followed an unmarked, but easy to follow trail around the north shore of the lake to another camp location where we deployed our various shelters.  I used my Black Diamond 1st Light tent, Matt used his tarptent and Mark and Rick used hammocks; Rick’s 4th attempt and Mark’s 1st use of a hammock for winter camping. Mark added a festive atmosphere by hanging holiday lights around his hammock.

Tenting at Jockeybush Lake

After setting up our tents we gathered firewood for cooking and an extended evening chatting around the fire; one of my favorite aspects of winter camping.  As the wind died down it actually felt a little warmer as the evening went on and we managed to stay up until 9pm before turning in.  Matt and Mark cooked brats on a stick over the open fire.  Rick used his alcohol stove to cook pasta and I boiled water from the lake over my Solo Stove.


The solo stove consists of a main burn chamber, for burning the twigs, and a separate pot stand which a metal ring with three feet and a gap that lets you add twigs and small pieces of wood – roughly finger sized. Rising hot air pulls air through the bottom vent holes. This air movement fuels the fire at its base while also providing a boost of preheated air through the vent holes at the top of the burn chamber. The double wall Solo Stove is a natural convection inverted downgas gasifer stove. The air intake holes on the bottom of the stove channels air to the bottom of the fire while at the same time, channels warm air up between the walls of the stove. This preheated oxygen feeding back into the firebox through the smaller holes at the top of the stove causes a secondary combustion.  There is also a heat shield between the ash pan and the bottom of the stove which protects the ground under the stove from scorching.

This was my 1st time using the Solo Stove which I intended as a winter camping backup stove.  It worked well for one person, boiling 20 oz. of water for my freeze dried dinner in ~10 minutes.  It used 3-4 handfuls of twigs.  For an optimal burn it requires constant feeding, but it burned well with a mixture of dry and damp sticks.  The stove balanced well and I did not feel a need for a separate wind screen.  The usual issues with soot covering your pot exists – just like cooking over any wood fire.


Overnight the temperatures dropped below freezing, causing the lake to freeze over with interesting ice patterns.

Frozen Lake

We encountered “Frost Flowers” on our hike out; something I had never seen before.  These are one of the stranger ice formations found in the woods; crystallofolia  are delicate ice formations that form from water emitted along a stem during a hard freeze in late fall/early winter. From Latin crystallus for ice and folium for leaf these are commonly called “frost flowers” or “feather frost”.

A typical example looks like a small puff-ball of cotton candy, a few inches across, made up of clusters of thin, curved ice filaments.   The petals of frost flowers are very delicate and will break when touched. They usually melt or sublimate when exposed to sunlight and are usually visible in the early morning or in shaded areas.

Frost flowers usually grow on a piece of water-logged wood.  It’s something of a rare find with conditions having to be just so before it will form. The formation of frost flowers is dependent on a freezing weather condition occurring when the ground is not already frozen. The moisture in the plants or dead wood expands when frozen, causing cracks to form in the stem. Water is then drawn through these cracks via capillary action and freezes upon contact with the air. The capillary action pulls moisture up from damp ground which continues to freeze and adds to what’s already frozen there. As more water is drawn through the cracks the thin ice filaments are essentially pushed out from pores in the wood as they freeze.

It’s something of a misnomer to call this frost since it freezes from liquid water, not water vapor. None the less, they were beautiful to see.

Frost Flowers

Rock Lake Fishing Derby

We planned an overnight canoe camping trip for 4; with Eric inviting his buddy Trevor.  The last minute Trevor bailed on the trip, so we unloaded one of the canoes, cut down on our food and decided to continue. The weather was perfect.

Kathryn and Eric had guided fly fishing trips while we were canoe camping. Eric won Day 1 by virtue of the shear number of Sunfish he caught. Kathryn clearly won Day 2 by catching 3 bass; a nice small mouth bass and two large mouth bass; one of which was a hefty 18″. Kathryn mistook it for being caught in the weeds at first.

We fished at night with a bright half moon, beaver swimming and splashing around us.  Eric had a strike on the lure he found at one of the campsites, but wasn’t able to catch anything.

2015-08-22 Rock Lake

Henderson Lake

Over Columbus Weekend Matt, Skip and I squeezed in one last late season canoe camping trip to Henderson Lake; making it the 3rd trip to Henderson this year for Skip and I, including our May scouting trip, our July tour with Steve, Kathryn and Eric.  We had gorgeous weather on Sunday, a clear starry night and light fog on Monday as we departed.  We took lots of pictures.

2014-10-13 Henderson Lake

This is an awesome picture taken by Matt  on Henderson Lake. He probably took about 20 different versions of this shot trying to capture the dead tree spire, the Big Dipper and the faint silhouette of the high peaks to the west. I believe this required a 60 second exposure and about 2 seconds of illumination of the tree with a head lamp.


Long Lake to The Crusher

I took a 4 day canoe trip from Long Lake down the Racquette River over the 1 mile carry to the Crusher (Racquette River and Route 3).  This route is part of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail and most of the route of the 2nd day of the 90 Mile Adirondack Canoe Classic.

Long Lake to Crusher TopoMap

I went with the two Paul’s from the local ADK chapter and Bill Ingersoll, author of the Discover the ADKs series.  Wednesday  was beautiful, sunny and no wind as we crossed Long Lake.


As we paddled north on Long Lake we passed several lean-tos.  There are other campsites up both sides of Long Lake without lean-to’s and are shown on the canoe route map. Between the end of Long Lake and Raquette Falls there are few sites once you pass the Cold River confluence.  The tent sites get much less traffic and most have an outhouse somewhere back from the site. All the lean-to sites do also, but due to the increased number of visitors and the general inexperience of the campers, some lean-to sites can be messy.

Bill, his dog Lexi and I paddled down the Raquette River and proceeded up the Cold River. The Cold River is navigable for a little ways upstream from it’s confluence with the Raquette River.  There’s a trail/herd path to Shattuck Clearing from where you can’t paddle any further upstream.   The trail along the Coldriver is called the Pine Point trail.

Paul and Paul missed the confluence with the Cold River and proceeded down stream on the Raquette River all the way to the Raquette Falls Carry, approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes further.  Realizing their error they paddled back upstream and re-joined us at the Calkins Brook Lean-to on the Cold River.   We cooked dinner and played a little three handed pitch before turning in for the night.

Paul stayed in his tent while Bill, Lexi, Paul and I slept in the lean-to.  We heard owls during the night.  It was windy and it rained overnight; continuing an on-again, off-again rain and wind until mid-afternoon when it broke long enough for Bill and his buddies to go searching for a trail head on the Cold River.


Friday we paddled down the Raquette River and did the carry which skirts waterfalls with some class 2-3 rapids with “must moves” above the falls.  We leap-frogged the carry splitting duties carrying packs and canoes.


At the bottom of the carry we paused for a snack and to re-group prior to hiking to see the lower falls of Raquette River.


Below Paul checks out the two plank Lazy-boy chair.


The Lower Falls displays a  significant amount of elevation drop.


We  camped at a lean-to slightly below the falls.  Our lean-to was crashed by a couple of other paddlers who claimed they couldn’t find the lean-tos on either side of ours.  They just pulled in and started unloading their gear without seeking consent.  There were two lean-tos within walking distance on either side of us.  They ended up tenting on the site, but they wanted to hang their food bag in the lean-to!  Without asking!  I wasn’t happy about it – I mean there is only 6.1 million acres for them to camp in. Fortunately they stayed to themselves and turned in early.  We cooked dinner and played 4 person cut throat pitch until 9pm and turned in.  We heard coyotes and owls during the night.

Saturday morning it was 35 degrees when we got up.  Our tenting partners woke up cold, packed quickly and headed out downstream.  We ate breakfast, pack up and were paddling downstream by shortly after 9am.  After paddling for 30 minutes we warmed up.  I shed a layer and exchanged my fleece jacket for access to my rain coat as dark clouds were threatening.  As we paddled downstream we were passed by DEC Ranger Gary Valentine who warned us of a thunderstorm coming in around noon, but stated “the way you are paddling you should be pulled out at the Crusher by then”.  Ten minutes later it started raining; a cold, wind driven rain.  We caught up and the canoe bearing the two men who tented on our lean-to site and passed one hunting tent with a man sitting dry under his canvas tarp while the rain soaked canoeists paddled by.  We passed the outlet to Stony Creek Ponds and made it to the Crusher slightly before noon.

The Crusher launch site is  just northwest of Trombley Landing, near the intersection of NYS Route 3 and 30.  The Crusher is the common end point for Day 2 of the 90 Miler Canoe Classic.  There’s a large paved parking lot and a wide ramp for launching boats and an outhouse.  We were very glad to reach the cars, load up the canoes and change into dry clothes.

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Canoe Camping St Regis & Round Lake

Skip & I went to St Regis Canoe Wilderness area on Saturday AM. We launched from Hoel Pond, hopped over the RR into Turtle Pond and Slang Pond. We did the short portage into Long Pond and set up camp on the north shore across from the portage as it started to sprinkle rain. We no sooner than got our tent and a rain fly set up and it came down in bucket loads.

We sat under the rain fly, drank coffee, read maps and watched other canoers exit the pond.

Later the rain stopped and we decided to take the short paddle to check out the next day’s portage. We hiked to the Dave Cilly’s CanoeOutfitters outpost and met Dave ( he wrote the ADK Paddler’s map & recent guidebook ). We talked about a friend of mine, John (Jay) Baumann, that used to guide for Dave in the ’80s when he was starting his outfitting service. Unfortunately, Jay Baumann passed away due to colin cancer, but he was a nice person and good outdoors man.

On our walk back to our canoe the skies unloaded and we got drenched as we had left our rain coats back at the canoe! Returning to camp we changed into dry clothes, huddled under the rain fly and cooked our one pot meal of rice and BBQ pork and ate sliced peaches and chocolate chip bars. We heard loons through the night.

The next morning we were paddling at 8:30 and across the portage by 9am. We traversed Floodwood Pond to Square Pond; portaged to Follensby Clear Pond and again portaged to Polliwog and we were back to our car at Hoel Pond at noon. Since we were out so early we decided to grab burger for lunch and head to Round Lake to spend Sunday night.

We found 3 cars in the parking lot and set out around the lake in late afternoon. We checked out the new campsites along the western side of the lake ( which are poor) and finally settled on the bluff at site #3. We sat out on the large rock as the evening set in.

The temperatures dropped after sunset and a decent breeze came in so we turned in at 8:30 for a nice 10 hour snooze. We awoke at 6:30, packed up, paddled out, and had breakfast at the Long Lake Diner by 8:30.It was nice heading out in September – after the crowds had left.

Canoe Camping at Round Lake

I’ve gone winter camping with Jason several times, including our memorable dog sledding trip. Jay was interested in canoe camping and last year when I met his fiancee, Beth, we talked about scheduling a canoe camping trip. We scheduled 9-10 August for our trip and then anxiously watched the weather forecast fluctuate all over the place. I was near to canceling the trip on Wednesday as the prediction for rain exceeded 70%. I wasn’t looking forward to sitting under a rain tarp with a 5 year old for the weekend.

We called to confirm on Thursday night and the forecast had dropped to probable rain Friday night, but clearing to 20% rain during Saturday with rain likely coming in on Sunday afternoon. We agreed to go ahead, meet early at Hoss’s General Store in Long Lake and try to get on the water at Little Tupper Lake early before winds became a problem on the shallow lake.

We had planned for company for dinner on Friday night and so began our packing early in the week. Friday afternoon we loaded canoes and packed the car so Saturday morning we only had to add our sandwiches and food packs. Kathryn & I arose at 5am and got Eric up a little before 6am and were on the road soon after. We met Jason and Beth at 8:30 as planned.

We counted 28 cars in the parking lot at Little Tupper Lake and decided to return to the nearby empty Round Lake parking lot.

We dropped our canoes in the Little Tupper outlet which drains into Round Lake. It was a pretty little stream lined with white lily pads.

Below Kathryn, Eric and Jim cruise down the outlet stream.

We found Round Lake devoid of other paddlers as we explored the eastern shore examining the potential campsites. Several of the campsites are located at old hunting camps built by the Whitney’s. Most sites are located back from the shore line and have P3 toilets. We ended up staying at site #4 which was on a prominent point with several large white pine trees and copious blue berry bushes. The only drawback to the site was lack of level tent sites. We managed with our two tents, but more or larger tents would be a problem.

Eric, Kathryn and I went swimming while Jason and Beth basked in the sun. Below the swimmers threaten a passing canoe.

We found a large rock that let us play King on the Mountain before we cooled enough to call an end to the swimming.

After our swim we took short nap and then a walk to scout the nearby campsites. Beth demonstrates our voting technique: Everyone that wants to take a hike put their hands on their hips!

As we prepared for the hike Jason noticed an interesting bug on his leg.

After our hike gathered firewood and baked biscuits using our Outback Oven. We had afternoon tea and biscuits so we could delay dinner until later in the evening.

After our snack we swapped canoes and explored more of the lake so that Jason and Beth could test out the Wenonah Minnesota II. It was a beautiful evening for a paddle.

For dinner we had a vegetable tortellini salad and turkey chops grilled over the fire with marshmallows and s’mores for dessert.

We tried to stay up and look for meteorites, but Kathryn, Eric and I crashed about 10pm. Beth and Jay stayed up until midnight buring wood, watching the fire and looking for meteorites. They saw a total of 14 during their watch.

We slept great and heard loons through out the night. In the morning we added fresh picked blueberries to our three berry muffin mix and then began our leisurely packing up to head out Sunday morning.

It was sprinkling lightly as we paddled out. As we were loading up Ranger Coons stopped by to talk. We told him where we stayed and talked a little bit about Round Lake. He characterized Round Lake as without the winds of Little Tupper Lake and without the portage of Lake Lila. I asked him about the illegal introduction of largemouth bass into Little Tupper Lake. He said they have spread through out the watershed and it doesn’t bode well for native trout. I asked him about the navigability of Shingle Shanty Brook. Ranger Coons referenced recent advice by Kenneth Hamm NYSDEC, Office of General Counsel in the June issue of the NYS DEC Conservationist Magazine. He jokingly asked if we wanted to provide a test case. We also talked about the portage trail connecting Round Lake to Low Lake/Hitchins Pond. Another trip…… 🙂

We stopped at Hoss’s for a milk shake on our way home and thought we had parted ways, however, we later saw Jason checking out canoes in Blue Mtn Lake.

Camping with the next generation

When Adam and Matt were small (pre-teen) I took them on a couple of camping trips:

  • Once on Barton Hill in back of my parent’s house where they brought everything- pillows, dinosaur books, flashlights with dead batteries and two cook kits, “because I didn’t have to wash one”. Needless to say Kathryn and I remember carrying our stuff and a fair amount of their’s as well.
  • Once in back of their parent’s house where I famously forgot the matches for the fire to toast the marshmallows.

After a successful trip to 13th Lake it was decided to take Eric and Nathan – the next generation – camping again. We chose Spy Lake as our destination, canoing in on Sunday afternoon and coming out on Monday. Mark, Nathan and Matt occupied one canoe and Eric paddled bow in our canoe. For his 1st ‘extended’ paddle Eric did quite well. Upon arrival we set up tents and the boys enjoyed a snack ‘sitting’ in their chairs.

During the afternoon Matt, Nathan, Eric and I took a short hike exploring a near by stream. Nathan packed his snack bag.

Uncle Mark took a nap.

On our return to camp the boys decided to put the snack bag to good use.

In the evening we had Mac & Cheese and hot dogs or Brats. Below Mark & Matt check on the food preparation.

While the cooking was going on Nathan & Eric worked on sawing serious wood for the fire.

Nathan and Eric eat their Mac & Cheese while the Brats are being roasted by Matt & Mark.

After dinner we enjoyed a game of war. Below Eric stacks his deck while keeping one eye on his chocolate cookie lest Dad grab it!

Afterwards we enjoyed a spendid sunset.

Matt proved he could not only throw a bear rope over a tree, he also has an artisy side.

About 9pm the mosquitos came out in full force and we retired to our tents. After a brief story everyone was snoozing. During the night we got a brief shower which had Mark, Matt and I scrambling to zipper up rain flies – there was a two minute stretch where the sound of nylon zippers dominated. sleeping bag, tent, rain fly, tent, and back to sleeping bag).

Everyone slept late the next morning. Mark made breakfast burritos and the boys had hot chocolate and oatmeal. It was a nice trip and Eric & Nathan make great camping companions.