Raquette Falls: NFCT Waterway Work Trip

In 2011 I was searching “The Google” and discovered the Northern Forest Canoe Trail and immediately I was enamored. I spent several days reading about the organization and decided to become a member. Seriously what could be better, a 740 mile waterway strung through the Adirondacks of New York and northern New England with a small portion reaching over our border to the north. It was intriguing and even a bit intimidating. Miles of rivers, lakes, streams & ponds. Flat water, whitewater, portages, oh my!

As my interest grew I noticed the NFCT had what they called “Waterway Work Trips” scattered over the trail. Usually about 6 every summer and they would use staff, interns and volunteers to work and improve the trail. I was hooked! Sadly over the course of the past several years my schedule and their schedules never seemed to workout. However this year the stars would align under clear skies and I was able to register and volunteer. July 6th, 7th & 8th I ventured along with four other volunteers to the 1.25 mile Raquette Falls canoe carry along the Raquette river near Tupper Lake, NY.

July 6th: We would meet our staff and interns at the Axton Landing boat launch at 3PM, load our canoes with our camping gear and paddle 6 miles upstream to Raquette Falls. Here New York State DEC Ranger and Raquette Falls “Outpost” caretaker Gary Valentine would be waiting to greet us. Our campsite was nestled beneath far reaching pines that towered towards the sky. Once set up Gary met with us to go over some rules and safety precautions. NFCT Staff and Interns had been on site since the previous Friday. Dinner this evening would be some sort of chicken stew that was absolutely delicious, followed by an attempt at blueberry cobbler in a dutch oven set into the coals of our camp fire. To be honest I think it turned out great.

July 7th: I made the mistake of packing in 100 degree weather in an air conditioned house. I would find myself unprepared for Friday night. During the night the temperature dropped to 41 degrees under clear skies. I would find myself very cold and had a bad nights sleep. I woke about 5AM, tossed and turned in my tent for a bit and then headed to Gary’s cabin for coffee. Two other volunteers soon arrived and we chatted for a while before breakfast. I had mentioned my unpreparedness and Gary quickly offered me an additional sleeping bag, problem solved.

After breakfast we would hit the trail to finish up work that had already been started earlier in the week. We would be working on the “Vista” trail. Paddlers usually make two trips over the canoe carry. Carrying gear and then returning for their boat. The “Vista trail is a narrow muddy trail that parallels the Upper & Lower Raquette Falls. These sets of falls and rapids span just over a mile. Often paddlers will take the Vista trail on their return. We would assist in finishing a stone stair case, wooden steps and several bog bridges. We would brush several spots and define the trail even more. There are many more improvements that will be made over the coming seasons. There will even be a reroute towards the Upper Falls end of the trail. Although it wasn’t as hot and muggy as earlier in the week the mosquitos and deer flies were out in force. We would go through bug spray like Motely Crue used Aqua-Net…

Later that afternoon after we finished work for the day it was time to hit the cool waters of the Raquette river before dinner. This evenings meal would be burritos and smores for dessert. Later on we all would wander to Gary’s cabin and sit on his screen porch. We talked, told stories and listen to Gary’s record collection. By 10PM I was tired and made my way back to my tent and settled in for the night and I slept like a baby.

July 8th: Back to Gary’s for coffee and then breakfast. Afterwards we would be back on the trail doing the final touches on our work. We were back by noon to break camp and have lunch. After lunch I would load my canoe and make the 6 mile paddle back to Axton Landing. Once I had my car loaded it was time to make the 5 hour journey back home.

This experience was wonderful and exceeded my expectations, and I enjoyed every minute of it. The group of staff, interns and volunteers worked hard and extremely well together making the work flow smoothly. I hope to volunteer next year on another NFCT “Waterway Work Trip”.

Cheers!

Paddling upstream along the Raquette river passing Stoney Creek. © Joe Geronimo
Paddling upstream along the Raquette river at the Palmer Brook Lean-To. © Joe Geronimo
Paddling upstream along the Raquette river heading for Raquette Falls. © Joe Geronimo
We’ve arrived at Raquette Falls. © Joe Geronimo
Making blueberry Cobbler at Camp. © Joe Geronimo
Morning Coffee. © Joe Geronimo
New York State DEC Raquette Falls “Outpost”. © Joe Geronimo
Work along a stone staircase on the “Vista” trail Raquette Falls. © Joe Geronimo
Putting the finishing touches on a wooden staircase along the “Vista” trail at Raquette Falls. © Joe Geronimo
Lunch break at the upper falls of the Raquette river. © Joe Geronimo
NFCT staff & interns taking in the beauty of the upper falls Raquette river. © Joe Geronimo
The air temperature was very cold and the warmth of the water flowing over the lower falls of the Raquette river made for a foggy morning. © Joe Geronimo
The sun is burning off the remaining fog along the Raquette river. © Joe Geronimo
Our final night at camp and we’re making Smores. © Joe Geronimo
Hanging by the fire on our final night at camp. © Joe Geronimo
Paddling downstream along the Raquette river headed for Axton Landing. © Joe Geronimo

Day Tripping

Brown’s Tract Ponds:

On Wednesday June 20th I took a day trip to Raquette Lake, NY area in the Adirondacks to canoe with friends and explore a bit on my own. I met my friends Kathy and Gretchen in Old Forge. After a brief chat session we were headed to the Brown’s Tract Ponds near Raquette Lake.

We would put in on the smaller Upper Pond clinging to the shoreline circumnavigating the pond. There is a small, narrow stream that meanders a good half mile connecting Upper Pond to Brown’s Tract Pond. We entered the stream, the water was low but passible. We zigged and we zagged, encountered three small beaver damns and one foot bridge. We were able to paddle over the first damn but the other two and foot bridge we had to carry over. I enjoyed this very much as it added to the adventure.

Exiting the stream into the larger Brown’s Tract Pond a sizable island with large boulders caught my attention standing proud on the west side. Paddling around and up to the island I noticed two wooden ladders on a large rock. It seems this is a great spot to swim, picnic and jump off into the clear waters on a hot summers afternoon. I personally was a little cold yesterday at this point so I opted not to.

We would take out on the eastern shore at the unoccupied campsite #90 of the Brown’s Tract State Campground. Here we would take time for coffee, some snacks and great conversation. Sadly this is where Kathy, Gretchen and I would part ways for the day.

A little wind along Upper Pond near Raquette Lake NY June 20th 2018, © Joe Geronimo.
Gretchen and I on Upper Pond near Raquette Lake, NY June 20th 2018, © Joe Geronimo.
Kathy navigating over a small beaver damn along the connecting stream between Upper Pond & Brown’s Tract Pond near Raquette Lake, NY June 20th 2018, © Joe Geronimo.
It is Gretchen’s turn to get over one of those beaver damns June 20th 2018, © Joe Geronimo.
I’m entering Brown’s Tract Pond near Raquette Lake, NY June 20th 2018, © Joe Geronimo.
Gretchen & Kathy chatting it up on Brown’s Tract Pond near Raquette Lake, NY June 20th 2018, © Joe Geronimo.
Gretchen has just entered Brown’s Tract Pond near Raquette Lake, NY June 20th 2018, © Joe Geronimo.
One of the wooden ladders I spoke of in my post on Brown’s Tract Pond near Raquette Lake, NY June 20th 2018, © Joe Geronimo.
Kathy & Gretchen on Brown’s Tract Pond near Raquette Lake, NY June 20th 2018, © Joe Geronimo.
Finished with the Upper Pond & Brown’s Tract Pond near Raquette Lake, NY June 20th 2018, © Joe Geronimo.
Coffee O’ Clock along Brown’s Tract Pond near Raquette Lake, NY June 20th 2018, photo by Kathy Corey.

South Inlet:

I still wanted to explore more and thought I would head north 12 miles along Route 28 to Utowana lake scope out the lean-to and then venture into Eagle lake . Rolling along I crossed over South Inlet which feeds into the very large Raquette lake and immediately jammed on my brakes. I had just read about an trip my friend Daniele had done into South Inlet all the way up to the waterfalls. This was my new plan!

I parked along the side of Route 28 and carried my canoe the short distance to the water, packed up my gear and I was off. I quickly bumped into a kayaker returning from the falls and a few minutes later I spotted a woman paddling a super cool Hornbeck and  I stopped to chat with her. She was from New Hampshire’s Lakes Region and oddly enough camping at the Brown’s Tract Campground. After I wouldn’t see another soul as I meandered my way 2 or so miles to the falls. Quickly the road noise of Route 28  disappeared and the whisper of my paddle entering and exiting the water could be heard and the remoteness of my surrounding and solitude of being on the water settled in. The work of a Pileated Woodpecker could be heard as a Red Tail hawk floated high above me like drone surveying the landscape. A chorus of all types of birds chirped their day away where it seemed I had a traveling symphony escorting me.

Arriving at the falls I was treated to a shallow pool of water dotted with rocks and a sandy bottom. This is a great swimming hole! I exited my canoe and waded around a bit cooling off as the days sun warmed the air. I spent about a half hour milling around on the rocks and just taking in my surroundings and a few photos.

Returning back to where I began this adventure I decided to venture out a bit into Raquette lake. Staying close to the shoreline as the wind was making some decent chop, I approached a gentleman in a kayak fishing and he immediately pulled a nice size small mouth bass from the lake. We made quick conversation and I was on my way.

It was around 4:30PM at this point and it was time for my canoeing to come to an end. Packed up I made the 25 mile drive back to Old Forge for a beer and food at Fulton Chain Craft Brewery before my 3 hour ride back home.

This adventure had me on the road at 5:30AM and back home safely by 9:00PM. I traveled a total of 375 miles, paddled approximately 10 miles and spent time with good friends.

Cheers!!

Beginning my adventure on South Inlet in Raquette Lake, NY June 20th 2018, © Joe Geronimo.
a sizable beaver lodge along South Inlet in Raquette Lake, NY June 20th 2018, © Joe Geronimo.
Approaching South Inlet falls in Raquette Lake, NY June 20th 2018, © Joe Geronimo.
South Inlet falls in Raquette Lake, NY June 20th 2018, © Joe Geronimo.
Taking a break at South Inlet falls Raquette Lake, NY June 20th 2018, © Joe Geronimo.
Approaching the Route 28 overpass and the entrance to Raquette lake June 20th 2018, © Joe Geronimo.
My time on South Inlet has come to an end hear in Raquette Lake, NY June 20th 2018, © Joe Geronimo.

Morning Mood Lighting

Yup you guessed it I returned to Nanticoke lake! Almost immediately I was greeted by not one, not two but three beavers this morning just as I was getting into my canoe. Once on the lake the fish made no bones about coming to the surface for breakfast and I noticed that the beavers had moved their home to the other side of the lake since last fall.

It was a calm morning with just a slight breeze. The birds were singing and the cows on the other side of the hill were mooing. It made for a pretty interesting chorus.

Cheers!

Morning mood lighting on Nanticoke lake. © Joe Geronimo
Enjoying the tranquility of Nanticoke lake. © Joe Geronimo
The water is like glass on Nanticoke lake. © Joe Geronimo
My friend Don is chasing some bass on Nanticoke lake. © Joe Geronimo

Ode to Lynn

I had just purchased my Hornbeck canoe in June of 2015 for the sole purpose of backcountry paddling and camping. Weighing only 17 pounds I could carry it to any remote lake in the Adirondacks.

After seeing and reading stories of hikers being lost and rescued I thought it would be wise to hire a guide to take me into the remote Essex Chain of Lakes. I just didn’t want to be that guy who gets the very expensive helicopter ride out as this would be my first adventure. I wound up hiring Adirondack guide Lynn Malerba of Tupper Lake, NY.

When I first met Lynn we hit it off immediately. We shared the same passions for the outdoors. Lynn would not only guide me into the Adirondack wilderness but also fueled my passion for it. Lynn and I have remained friends ever since.

This past weekend I had heard rumblings of a camper being struck by a tree in the Pharoah Lakes Wilderness in the eastern Adirondacks. Today I have learned that this person was Lynn Malerba. I am heart broken to say the least. Lynn was an amazing human being with a wonderful, gentle and kind soul. She will be missed.

Rest in peace Lynn!

From the Adirondack Explorer: https://www.adirondackexplorer.org/view_finder/lynn-malerba-dies

Navigating over one of the many obstacles on the First lake outlet September 26th 2015.
Image: Lynn Malerba Adirondack Connections Guide & Outfitting
Lynn Malerba on 4th lake Essex Chain September 25th 2015.
© Joe Geronimo
Lynn Malerba & I paddling from 4th to 5th lake September 25th 2015.
© Joe Geronimo

 

Our Winter Landscape

This afternoon I was able to get out for a short hike with my fine fury friend. Ruff loves the cold weather and snow. Heck he’d just assume sit in a snow bank all day.

Under sunny skies, a 4 degree temperature and a wind making it feel sub zero we headed to Nanticoke lake for our little adventure. Once we arrived I noticed there was more snow out there than here at home. But a lot of it seemed to be drifting. We made our way to the lake and met two guys ice fishing. I asked if they knew how thick the ice was and they said about 10-12 inches. It felt weird walking on a lake that I routinely paddle. Ruff was in dog heaven! It was cold, there was snow, other humans and the sniffs were abundant.

Our winter landscape can be beautiful if not stunning, I was in my glory as well.

 

Cheers!

Ruff taking in all there is to sniff at Nanticoke lake January 7th 2018. © Joe Geronimo
Ice fishing on Nanticoke lake January 7th 2018. © Joe Geronimo
Ruff loving Nanticoke lake January 7th 2018. © Joe Geronimo
Ruff & I Nanticoke lake January 7th 2018. © Joe Geronimo

Autumn Sunrise

I’m sure by now you are pretty tired of hearing about me paddling Nanticoke lake. I’ve written about it many times before and shared many images from my adventures there as well. However as I race against Mother Nature in my final attempts to keep my paddling season going I ventured to none other than Nanticoke lake this morning.

I arrived under darkness, exiting my car peering upward towards the heavens. The unpolluted night sky was alive with the moon, stars, clouds and I believe Venus. I rubbed my hands together with excitement and commented to my friend Don “I think we have the makings of a beautiful sunrise”. Don whole heartily agreed and we carried our canoes to the lake. The narrow beam from my headlamp pierced the darkness and I could feel the the damp grass beneath my feet with every step.

Don and I set out to watch the show as our paddles dipped in and out of the water whispering an elegant song. As we sat in the middle of the lake the cloud cover began to thicken and I said to Don “I think we’re going to get skunked on our sunrise”. Don laughed, shrugged his shoulders and said he didn’t think so. I placed my paddle in the water, turned my canoe in order to investigate a playful beaver who was splashing a little closer to the shore. All of a sudden I could see the skies reflection in the water turn to pink, orange and blue. Another dip of the paddle, my canoe turned and I was laying witness to a blazing fire in the sky.

Cheers!

Sunrise Nanticoke Lake Lisle NY October 25th 2017. © Joe Geronimo
Sunrise Nanticoke Lake Lisle NY October 25th 2017. © Joe Geronimo
Sunrise Nanticoke Lake Lisle NY October 25th 2017. © Joe Geronimo
Don & I on Nanticoke lake October 25th 2017. © Joe Geronimo

Paddling the Park

Have you ever had an adventure although small it just packs a punch? Or better yet fills your shoes with mud. Today was that day for me. I got out of work super early and rolled north to Inlet, NY.

First on my agenda would be Eighth lake adding yet another piece to my Northern Forest Canoe Trail puzzle. Today’s weather was wonderful with a light breeze rolling up the lake. I have now completed the first 20 miles of the NFCT from Old Forge, NY to Raquette Lake, NY and I am very excited. Except for one other person I had the lake to myself. I explored the primitive lean-to on the only island on Eighth lake and thought to myself that has to be a very popular camping spot during the summer. The crystal clear water and sandy shorelines make this a prime spot for swimming. You know my wheels or better yet paddles are turning for 2018.

My next adventure for the day would take me to the shores of Sis & Bubb lakes in Eagle Bay. Julie, myself and the boys were just here over the Columbus Day weekend as we hiked to the lakes from the Moss lake trailhead. While hiking I began to brainstorm about returning with canoe in hand hopefully before the weather turned.

Today I returned and here is where things get a bit muddy. First in order to get to the lakes I would have to carry my canoe in from the trailhead parking lot a half mile to Bubb lake. There were some sections along the trail that were muddy as I did my best to avoid what I could. I arrived first at Bubb lake and immediately noticed someone has stashed a canoe along the shore. I was able to easily get on the water exploring the 45 acre lake. There is a short portage from Bubb lake to Sis lake and I learned it is quite muddy. Before exiting my canoe I tested the density of the mud with my paddle. Hmm looks like only a few inches, no problem. Well when I stepped out of the boat my feet sank about a foot into the mud filling my shoes. Once I freed my feet they were extremely slippery making navigating the rocks difficult. I persevered and carried my canoe the 100 yards to Sis lake. I have to say this was my favorite of the two. Even though Sis lake is smaller there was something about it that just intrigued me. Maybe it was the pattern of the rocks that dotted its shoreline, the tall pines reaching for the sky, or the crystal clear shallow water? No matter it was my favorite. Hugging the shoreline and trying to stay away from the wind I was hoping in the back of my mind that I might see an Adirondack moose.

Once off the water I packed up and would have to carry back to my car 1.2 miles. I signed out at the trail register loaded up my gear and headed straight to the Sreamin Eagle in Inlet, NY for a beer. With 50 beers on tap it was a tough choice. However I went with the Alchemist “Focal Banger” albeit in a can… This would be my first time trying this brew and I’ll have to admit it was pretty darn good.

Cheers!

Starting out on 8th lake Inlet, NY October 18th 2017. © Joe Geronimo
Along the north end of 8th lake Inlet, NY October 18th 2017. © Joe Geronimo
Straight ahead starts the 1.3 mile carry to Browns Tract Inlet along the Northern Forest Canoe Trail Inlet, NY October 18th 2017. © Joe Geronimo
Making my way back south along 8th lake Inlet, NY October 18th 2017. © Joe Geronimo
Just finished up paddling 8th lake Inlet, NY October 18th 2017. © Joe Geronimo
The wind calms down a bit along 8th lake Inlet, NY October 18th 2017. © Joe Geronimo
Beginning my adventure to Sis & Bubb lake Eagle Bay, NY October 18th 2017. © Joe Geroimo
Along the trail to Sis & Bubb lake Eagle Bay, NY October 18th 2017. © Joe Geronimo
Bubb lake Eagle Bay, NY October 18th 2017. © Joe Geronimo
Bubb lake Eagle Bay, NY October 18th 2017. © Joe Geronimo
Sis lake Eagle Bay, NY October 18th 2017. © Joe Geronimo
Sis lake Eagle Bay, NY October 18th 2017. © Joe Geronimo
Sis lake Eagle Bay, NY October 18th 2017. © Joe Geronimo
Sis lake Eagle Bay, NY October 18th 2017. © Joe Geronimo
Finished with the days adventure I am all signed out at the trailhead register Eagle Bay, NY October 18th 2017. © Joe Geronimo

 

I closed my day with this beautiful sunset along Fourth lake Inlet, NY October 18th 2017. © Joe Geronimo