Today we are going to step back 365 days…..
We had hopes of paddling in Old Forge this weekend under a palette of fall color. I was frantically checking the weather everyday only to have our hopes dashed by rain and wind. However that did not stop us from packing up the family truckster and head north to the Adirondacks. Saturday morning, literally as we got on the highway the rain began to fall. It poured the entire 3 hour trip to Old Forge.
Our first stop was Old Forge Hardware, as we would spend the better part of an hour wandering the vast aisles of stuff. Max is obsessed with bears and rightfully so, that is his nickname. He convinced his mother to purchase a bear cookie cutter for making Christmas cookies this year. I myself could not resist the canoe cookie cutter either. With our tummies rumbling like a bear we drove 10 miles further north to Inlet, NY and the Screaming Eagle for lunch. For all you beer lovers out there they have at least 30 beers on tap. I tried the Bell’s Inspired Brewing “Octoberfest” and have to say I enjoyed it very much. As we were eating lunch the rain had stopped and the sun was teasing us from behind the thick cloud cover.
With such uncertainty in the weather we decided to do two short hikes. The first would be Rocky Mountain in Eagle Bay. This half mile, steep hike to the summit of Rocky Mountain has some stunning views of Fourth Lake. Our elevation gain according to my GPS was 489 feet.. Actually Michael and I hiked this back in 2013 the day before the Utica Boilermaker 15K. Staying right in Eagle Bay our next stop would be the Moss Lake loop which includes the Sis & Bubb lake trail as well. Sis & Bubb lakes are two lakes only reachable on foot. We began our adventure at the Moss Lake trailhead located off Big Moose road. We followed part of the Moss lake loop trail until reaching the Sis & Bubb lake trail. Here we turned and hiked to both lakes and were rewarded with some amazing color and sunshine. Our round trip hike would be 4.32 miles with only 269 feet of gain. Now if you know me I’m already planning to return with my canoe and paddle both lakes.
Back at the trailhead parking lot we tossed our gear into the car and headed back into Old Forge so we could check into our hotel for the evening. The boys were exhausted and Julie and I were thirsty. We left the boys like zombies in the hotel room and ventured to the Fulton Chain Craft Brewery for some refreshments. The place was packed, but I was still able to secure two seats at the bar with some quick thinking. Returning to the hotel to grab Michael and Max it was late but time for dinner.
With dinner in the books I wanted take a walk down along Old Forge pond. It was quiet and gazing up at the night sky you could see some stars. Julie, myself and the boys found the playground with complete with swings and a wooded pirate ship. Can you believe the Fratelli’s made me walk the plank! I know all you Goonies fans will appreciate that.
I woke Sunday morning around 0600 as I had planned to do my morning run before everyone was awake. I quietly snuck out the door to a light rain falling and off I went. Crossing the Moose river that light rain became a steadier rain and the wind was fierce. By mile two it was pouring and the wind and rain was pelting me in the back but I continued. Weaving my way through downtown Old Forge along the waterfront and onto the Tobie trail towards Thendera. In the middle of my last mile the rain had let up and I returned completely soaked. Thankfully it was almost 70 degrees at 6AM so it wasn’t all that bad.
Starving and craving pancakes I riled the troops and we headed for breakfast at Keyes Pancake House. A full stack of blueberry pancakes and some hot coffee made the world better. The rain and wind continued so I wanted to drive out towards Raquette Lake and see how the colors were there. I was not disappointed! The white caps on the bigger lakes made them seem like the ocean. As we were driving I noticed a lot of the leaves had been knocked down due to the heavy rain and wind. Oddly enough as we returned back to Old Forge to gas up for the trip home the rain stopped and the sun again was teasing us. Julie, Max and I ran into a few of the shops while Michael decided to stay in the car. A little while later we were all gassed and on our way home.
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Finished with exploring Henderson lake I reloaded all my gear into and onto my car and began the slow journey from New York to Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom. Making a quick stop in Ticonderoga for fuel and food before crossing at Crown Point. There is no highway that runs west to east in Vermont so the 158 miles to my destination was slow but the scenery more than makes up for it. Leaving the Champlain Valley my favorite section of this adventure is on route 17 as you cross the Green Mountains and descend into the Mad River Valley. There are six hairpin turns I believe on this section of road.
I would spend the next several days visiting with friends and doing what I enjoy most. Roaming around Vermont and New Hampshire taking in their beauty. Over the past several years I have visited the town of Newport, VT and Newport has really grown on me. Nestled along the US/Canadian border, Newport sits at the southern end of Lake Memphremagog. Lake Memphremagog stretches 32 miles to the southeastern Quebec city of Magog. I hope to someday kayak parts of this lake which oddly enough is part of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail. After a long day and as we were 200 hundred yards or so from the house my friends truck would lose its brakes to a ruptured brake line. All I can say is thank goodness it happened close to home.
On our way to Cannon Mountain in Franconia Notch State Park we are climbing route 112 which is also called the Kanc (Kancamagus Highway) cresting near Beaver Pond we noticed smoke along the Kinsman Range. It appeared that a small forest fire had started and personnel were on the scene. Continuing on to Cannon Mountain we would take the tram to the summit. As the tram car climbed the winds increased quite considerabley and the temperatures dropped as well. At the top we made our way to the tower, a viewing platform where on a clear day you can see for over one hundred miles. The fog and clouds were rolling over the mountain tops playing a game of hide and seek with the sun.
Afterwards we stopped to check out the “The Basin”. The Basin is a 20 foot diameter granite hole at the base of a beautiful waterfall. Some say it had been eroded 15,000 years ago while the North American ice sheet was melting. Over time The Basin has been smoothed small stones and sand, whirled around by the Pemigewasset River.
Stopping in North Woodstock, NH at the Woodstock Station Inn & Brewery for lunch it was so sunny and warm at this point we chose to sit outside. I sampled some of their beers with my favorite being the 4,000 footer IPA. For lunch I would knock down their adult grilled cheese sandwich with a side of chili.
Heading back west over the Kanc we noticed there was a lot more smoke than earlier this morning. A helicopter was also on he scene making water drops on the mountain side. We would spend the next 90 minutes watching and photographing the efforts of all involved. I’ve never witnessed a forest fire of this size about (5 acres) at the time up close. Looking at the sheer rock cliffs one could see the firefighters trying to advance. The aggressive sound of their chainsaws cutting timber in efforts to battle the blaze could be heard echoing down below. The heat from the fire was causing slides and I could see trees falling. According to news reports that I have read there is speculation the fire was caused by a meteor strike which is unconfirmed at this time. As a note this section of the White Mountain National Forest is also part of the Appalachian Trail.
The next afternoon I would begin my long trek back home taking me 6.5 hours. The traffic on route 4 across Vermont was horrible and slow going. I was glad to be home!
See you in Old Forge….
Originally I was supposed to be hiking Mt. Washington today. I had to cancel my plans as Max was marching in the Maine Endwell homecoming parade on Saturday and I did not want to miss it. I love watching and listening to him play in the high school band.
Recently I had been reading that Henderson lake in Newcomb, NY was spectacular to paddle offering breathtaking views of the Adirondack high peaks. Henderson lake is also the headwaters of the 315 mile Hudson river. I contacted friends Gary Sharp and Chad Smith and made alternate plans. After the homecoming parade that afternoon I packed up and headed north to the Adirondacks stopping in Lake George for a couple of hours to catch up with friends. Afterwards I would continue my northward trek making it to Schroon Lake, NY for dinner at a bar called Flanagan’s. After dinner I drove to my new favorite place to car camp along Blue Ridge road in North Hudson. I threw on an extra layer of clothing knowing it was going to be a cold night in the mountains. All settled in it was time to get some rest.
I woke early Sunday morning 0430 and peered out the window to see the night sky littered with stars. Falling back asleep I would find myself wide awake by 0600 and the fog had rolled in, it was a chilly 33 degrees. Once the sun began to shed some light on the day I packed up and drove to meet Gary and Chad in Newcomb. Cell service in these parts is very sparse and I never saw Chad’s message that he had to cancel. Gary and I would make our way to the parking area, load our gear for the short half mile carry to the put-in on Henderson lake. As we arrived the last of the fog was pretty much all burnt off and the sun was warming things quite nicely. A good 5-6 MPH wind had reared its ugly head adding some small whitecaps to our adventure.
Gary and I were off exploring the shoreline and taking in some of the views. My favorite had to be the view of Indian Pass and the huge cliffs on Wallface. At the northwest end of the lake Gary and I would take out for a little exploration and coffee at a lean-to. This is a great place to camp and carry the 1.7 miles to the Preston Ponds. But we will leave that to another time. We spent about an hour enjoying our coffee, conversation and a small brook and waterfall. Back in our boats we zig-zagged along the lake back to where our adventure started. The color is almost nonexistent and what is there is very muted. The birch trees have been stripped bare of their leaves as well.
Great day spent paddling, see you all in Vermont!
Saturday September 23rd 2017: Zipping up my wetsuit into a new adventure, open water swimming. Several years ago I had purchased a wetsuit with the intent on using it, things never panned out that way. Our swim was to take place on Quaker lake in Silver Lake Township Pennsylvania not too far south of the New York border.
Saturday morning the fog quickly burned off, the air temperature perfect and the lake like glass. I’m guessing the water was somewhere between 66-68 degrees. The three of us (Chris, Bob & Myself) plunged into the lake at 0840, beginning our swim. I’ll admit I had been nervous all week leading up to this. I purchased a 15 liter New Wave Swim Buoy as a safety precaution. I was extremely happy with it and you wouldn’t even know it was there. Chris would swim 2 miles skirting the perimeter of the lake. Myself and Bob would swim 1.5 miles down and back the length of the lake. I stopped a few times briefly to adjust my goggles and take a quick break. On our way back up the lake I began to feel a little more confident with some endurance, my nerves had finally settled. Exiting the lake and sitting on the dock I glanced down the lake taking notice of my accomplishment, turning to my watch I covered the distance in 1:27:00. I really enjoyed the experience of open water swimming and look forward to more of it in the future. Recently I have been using swimming as a cross training tool, a low impact workout to supplement my running.
Later that day Julie and I would head back down to Pennsylvania to our families lake house to visit my cousin, his wife Dawn and friends who were staying the weekend. Some great food, company, kayaking, campfire and a game of Cards Against Humanity and all was right with the world.
Sunday September 24th 2017: Lacing up my running shoes I would run my first race in five months, the Dick’s Sporting Goods Greater Binghamton Marathon. Myself, Chris, Chuck and Ken would run the marathon relay as team “Sunday Bloody Sunday”. It was another beautiful day in the Southern Tier but extremely warm. Chuck would be our first runner, followed by Chris, Ken and lastly I would be runner #4. I do feel the need to pick on Ken for his little snafu during the race, just because it adds to the memories of a really fun day. Prior to Ken’s turn running he was getting in a few extra miles. Chris arrived to the exchange earlier than anticipated and Ken wasn’t around. I panicked and quickly jumped in and began to run. A few minutes later Ken exchanged with Chris and the guys came and pulled me off the course just over a mile in. Even though we lost some time Ken ran strong showing up to exchange with me pretty much as predicted. My leg of the course would be 4.2 miles mostly along the rail trail. It was HOT and I struggled a bit. I almost never hit the water stops on a race course but today I did twice. I ran an average of 7:26 pace for the race and honestly I could not be happier finishing my run in 30:58. This was huge for me because I had no pain in my hip flexors at all. I’ve finally have gotten my bigger muscles to start doing the work and I have really been enjoying the rebuilding process. Approaching the finish I was very excited to see my wife cheering me on as it its always brightens my day to see her smile. Our official finishing time was 3:15:25.
Post race refreshments and entertainment were provided by Ommegang Brewing of Cooperstown, NY and Local band Wreckless Marci. Later in the afternoon the week had finally caught up with me and I found myself unexpectedly napping on the couch.
Cheers to a super fun weekend!
It’s September 22nd 2017 4:02PM and I am teaming with excitement as the Autumn Equinox has officially begun. Fall is by far my favorite time of the year. There is so much to be excited about. Crisp temperatures, changing and falling leaves and the fall harvest of fruits and vegetables. I personally love the apples and squash that come into season this time of year.
For me Autumn also enhances my love of running and canoeing. There is just something peaceful and magical about the crunching of leaves underfoot, our hillsides burning with reds, yellows and oranges or a placid lake at sunrise or sunset. No matter what you enjoy doing Autumn is a perfect time of year to be outside!
While summer slips into Autumn I am reminded at how much I enjoy fall paddling in the Northeast. I try to take every advantage I can get to be out on the water whether by myself or with my family. Sadly this summer I/we have not been on the water much and Max and I have not even taken the Cownoe out together.
The boys and I had plans to camp and canoe in the Fish Creek Ponds area of the Adirondacks this summer but we had to cancel. However not all was lost. Julie, Max & I took advantage of the nice weather this past weekend and made the short drive to Nanticoke lake in Lisle, NY. Nanticoke is a small and quiet lake. This is partly due to the quarter mile hike in from the parking area.
I also learned a very valuable lesson for the future as well. An 18 foot 47lb canoe with gear and a 30 lb kayak strapped on top make for a heavy portage. The lesson I learned is two canoe carts instead of one and your shoulders will thank you.
To our surprise we discovered two other people kayaking, a sight I have not seen here before. Then again I’m mostly here at sunrise.
No matter what you enjoy doing Autumn is one of the best times to get out and do what you love, so enjoy!
On Friday afternoon I nibbled at another small portion of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail. The weather was cold and windy with lots of sunshine. I arrived at Raquette Lake, NY at 1240 and was shortly headed out into Raquette lake to reach the Browns Tract Inlet. It was a short distance but the wind was brutal. I was nervous in an open boat even though I wasn’t far from shore. I thought to myself once I was in the inlet I’d be fine.
Almost immediately after entering the inlet I encountered my first beaver dam which spanned the entire width of the waterway. I thought great now what.. Water was too deep to exit the boat and drag it over. I was stumped so I backed up and paddled hard right into it and got the bow of my canoe about 3 inches over it… Freeing myself I went back a little further and really got after it and this time I maybe got 4-5 inches of the bow over the dam. Ok I was pissed but determined! I decided to head back out of the inlet turn and paddle for all I was worth and I hit the dam sending the bow of my canoe halfway over the obstruction. Now I was stuck… I separated my paddle and used it to work my way over and voila, I continued on.
The Browns Tract snakes like an Adirondack back road. The wind was whipping right up the tract and what I thought would be a leisurely paddle turned out to be an olympic event. I encountered four beaver dams on my journey but only one of them I had to actually exit the boat and drag it over. The 3 mile paddle to the western end of the tract sports a wooden pier, this pier is for paddlers that carry the 1.5 miles between 8th lake and Browns Tract Inlet to put in on the inlet. Its tradition that through paddlers of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail begin at the western terminus in Old Forge and paddle the 740 miles east to Fort Kent, ME.
I was thinking that my return would have the wind at my back but I was completely wrong. Again I was olympic paddling all the way back to Raquette lake. Despite some of the difficulty I was glad to have had the opportunity to complete this small piece in the very large NFCT puzzle.
Once I was back to shore and gear reloaded I broke out the Jetboil and enjoyed a cup of warm soup sitting lakeside. As I glanced across the lake I envisioned launching my kayak and continuing my Pac-Man approach to the trail. I have no desire to be a through paddler of the NFCT. I like having the choice to pick and choose my boat that best suites the waters I will be adventuring. A luxury through paddlers do not have. In a perfect world I’d just assume pick and choose my weather as well. But as they say in the Adirondacks “Wait 10 minutes” the weather will change.
As I departed the small village of Raquette Lake my turn signal bulb blew out. Where does one find a replacement bulb in the middle of the Adirondacks? Three miles up Route 28 I tried my luck at Burke’s Marinina. Sure enough they had a bulb and a phillips head screw driver. I changed the bulb and was on my way. One thing that caught my eye while paying for the bulb was the free packs of matches advertising the Marina sitting on the counter. I could not resist and grabbed a few as you very rarely see this anymore.
Onto my next adventure!
When I heard in the Spring of 2016 that New York State acquired the 20,758 acre Boreas Ponds Tract from the Nature Conservancy which subsequently was purchased from the Finch, Pruyn Paper Company I had all I could do to contain myself. This 320 acre beauty is bordered by the North River Mountain Range to the west, the Boreas Mountain Range to the east and the High Peaks Wilderness to the north. I have been chomping at the bit since to make this journey and canoe this remote piece of heaven.
I car camped Friday night along Blue Ridge Road in the town of North Hudson, NY about 6 miles east of the access road to the ponds. Early Saturday morning I woke to 38 degree temps as I made my way to the parking lot which is 3.5 miles down a dirt road, a rather bumpy dirt road I might add. When I arrived it was a mere 30 degrees, looking around I noticed there were four other cars in the lot as well. The sun had just begun to rise, as I stepped out of the car I could feel that brisk chill take a hold of me. I quickly added another top layer and began to load my canoe and gear for the additional 3.6 mile hike to the Boreas Ponds. Canoe strapped to the canoe cart as I slid under the barrier to the DEC register box. All signed in and off I went. I quickly experience technical difficulties with the canoe cart due to my inexperience in lashing the canoe to it. The trail in is quite boring and lacks scenery until you get closer to your destination. I covered the 3.6 miles in 1:18:20 hauling about 30 pounds of canoe and gear. Upon arriving I was in awe of the view that I didn’t notice a guy and his dog sitting along the waters edge. I was startled by Shelby a yellow lab barking at me, we quickly made friends. I chatted for a few minutes with the gentleman and he told me that they had hiked in yesterday and were camping close by. Unpacking my gear I caught a glimpse of two people in a green canoe fishing off in the distance.
Getting my act together out on the water I went. The magnitude of peacefulness was awe-inspiring. Paddling across First Pond the whisper of my paddle entering and exiting the water complimented boreal birds who were singing along the shoreline. Soon enough the call of Loons shattered the stillness with their own chorus echoing off the mountains. I decided to pay a visit to the two men in that green canoe. We made small talk but I learned that they had only caught 1 trout, they were from Lake Luzerne and their wives were hiking in to camp that evening.
I spent around 2 hours exploring this magnificent resource before heading back to shore. Canoe and gear reloaded and properly secured it was time for my 3.6 mile hike back to the car. Along the trail I passed quite a few hikers, bikers and canoers all on their way to enjoy the wonders of the Adirondacks. I covered the return distance in 1:01:53 and had my gear loaded back onto and into my car. Now it was coffee O’Clock, so out came the Jetboil and in about 2 minutes I had a very nice hot cup of Joe. I sat on a large rock and drank in this experience, one I had been dreaming about for over a year. It was everything I had thought it would be.
This past weekend we traveled to Long Island to visit my sister who had been in the hospital, celebrate my brothers birthday and just spend some time with family. It was a nice weekend despite some medical issues my sister is experiencing.
With that said on Friday August 18th Julie, myself and the boys along with their cousin visited the Fire Island National Seashore and the Fire Island lighthouse. The weather was overcast and humid but a nice breeze kept things somewhat tolerable. In all the years I had lived and visited Long Island I never took the time to climb the 182 steps to the top of the light. This has been on my list of things to do for quite sometime now and finally I got it done!
Julie and I hope to return in the near future and do some more exploration along the seashore.