The dog and I woke early this morning traveling to Oakley Corners State Forest in Owego, NY under a thick blanket of fog. Undeterred our plan was to hike and have breakfast along the back side of the pond. The trail was still a bit muddy from the heavy rains this past Friday. Making our way under a canopy of trees and filtered sunlight the woods were alive with song as an owl hooted away in the distance while other birds provided the chorus.
The dog was in all his glory, kind of a dog Disneyland complete with a waterpark. We came upon the pond and immediately he went swimming, snorting and sniffing and loving life. I reached into my pack and pulled out my camp chair setting that up first. I wanted to use my new twig stove again but the leaves, pine needles and twigs were still damp. Poking around looking for my fire starters I realized I forgot to pack them. This wasn’t starting off well. I tried getting a fire going to no avail. It was just to wet and damp.
Disappointed I couldn’t use the new stove I did however remember to bring my Jetboil system as backup. Soon enough water was boiling and coffee was brewing. Now time to break out my new 8″ fry pan and cook our breakfast. This mornings delicacy would be salmon filet and bacon. I could see the dog licking his chops already. The Jetboil fry pan has folding handles and a plastic plate that clips to the bottom as well for easy storage. Glancing over at the dog I set the fry pan on the burner and all of a sudden smoke starts to billow from the pan. I was like what the heck! Then I noticed I set the pan on the burner but never removed the plate. Oh I was pissed to say the least and melted plastic was everywhere.
I was frustrated as the dog peered at me with the look of hurry up and get breakfast cooked, I’m hungry. I finally get the melted plastic cleaned up, pan back on the burner and warming. Reaching into my cooler pouch I pull out a bag with a Tbsp of butter and our season salmon filet. I open the bag and put the butter and fish in the pan. The butter goes sliding right out of the pan and onto the ground. A quick thinking dog snatches the butter. I couldn’t help but chuckle. I mean what else might go wrong!
Finally the fish and bacon were cooking and the dog kept inching closer with those please feed me eyes glaring at me. I sipped my coffee as the aroma of breakfast waft through the air. After we ate my fury compadre felt he needed another swim. Packing our stuff up and doggie finished with his swim we were back on the trail. It was about another mile or so back to the car and we were on our way home. Windows down and a wet dog hanging his head high!
Despite my little mishaps I had a really fun morning just being outside., cheers!
It was August 2009 and we were vacationing in western Maine at the Sunday River Resort in Newry. A spectacular evening was upon us as we had just finished dinner and the boys wanted to go fishing, driving a few miles east to North and South ponds in Greenwood. Locals had told us that fishing from Johnny Bridge Road was good, so here we stood. The boys were becoming professional weed fisherman and dad an expert lure changer. Another cast another clump of weeds. Well when they reeled up this clump it began to move only to reveal a small mouth bass. To say Michael & Max were ecstatic would be a slight under statement. It would be the perfect ending to a beautiful evening with my boys.
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”.
On July 1st I woke early with my car already packed I was rolling north under a rising sun. Windows down and the cool morning air gave me a bit of a chill. The sun slowly creeped higher along with my cars thermometer. I arrived in Old Forge for breakfast at 0800, sitting myself down at the counter of Walt’s Diner.
After breakfast I still had another 50 miles to go in order to reach the Sargent Ponds Wild Forest and the trailhead for Upper Sargent Pond. Here I would meet my friend Gary Sharp from Schenectady and we would carry our canoes 1.25 miles into the pond. Upper Sargent Pond is relatively big and the information I can find says it is 131 acres. I personally find it hard to believe as I think it is much larger.
All signed in at the register we’re off. Immediately a rag tag gang of black flies, deer flies and who knows what else began to chase us. Up, down, over, hot, humid with a touch of mud thrown in for good measure, Gary and I would slug it out with Mother Nature. It would take us 32 minutes to reach the shore of the pond and our band of outlaws had given up. Upon laying my eyes on this remote Adirondack wilderness, I was in awes. The pond was beautiful, the water like glass.
Gary and I would take a few minutes to organize our things, change our shoes and set off for a day of canoeing. Only after a few minutes of being on the water Gary had a line in and almost immediately reeled in a beautiful large mouth bass. Suddenly a Loon popped up right next to us, quickly diving back under the water only to reemerge again close by, our escort would stay with us for a while. As I approached a small island I realized why Mr. Loon had been so interested in us. Mrs. Loon was tending to her nest and eggs. We made sure to give her plenty of space.
Paddling and chatting Gary had mentioned that there were several campsites scattered around that had canoes stashed there as well. We came upon another island this one with a campsite and canoes. We beached and got out to explore. The site was on a hill in the center and I climbed to the top. Peering down I noticed one of the canoes was stenciled “Payne’s”. It immediately struck me “Payne’s Air Service”. on Seventh lake in Inlet. Payne’s flies customers into this remote pond for camping and fishing. I had hoped to see a float plane land on the upper pond.
With my new discovery fresh in my head Gary and I moved into another portion of the pond and all you could hear were the birds chirping the day away and the plunking of Gary’s fishing lure breaking the placid water. Off in the distance I notice two other humans fishing out of a canoe. I said to Gary I bet you Payne’s flew them in here this morning. I was excited as I wanted to know when they would return to pick them up. So I paddled over toward them to start a conversation. I introduced myself to this couple and they were extremely friendly. I had asked if they had flown in for the day. They said they had flew in on Saturday and were camping until Thursday when the plane would return to pick them up. I was intrigued!
As the day wore on and the temperature reached close to 95 degrees it was beginning to be lunch time. Gary and I found another campsite along the shore where we thought it would be a perfect spot to eat, swim and test some gear. I was sporting a brand new life vest which was so comfortable plus I had a new dehydrated meal I wanted to try. Gary had a twig stove that he had wanted to use as well. I fired up my Jetboil, poured the boiling water in my Good To-Go “Smoked 3 Bean Chili”. While my meal rehydrated it was time for a quick swim to cool off, man did that feel good!
Gary and I sat and had lunch, chatted away and enjoyed a cold beer. After it was time for another quick swim before getting back in our boats. Continuing on there still was barely any breeze and the water was still placid and the mountains were quiet. All of a sudden we hear this thundering loud crashing noise and our minds begun to race. Did a moose just plunk its hot self down into the water to cool off? We turned our boats rapidly as the sound was behind us only to find the water still calm and no moose. We thought to ourselves what the heck was that, suddenly realizing we had just answered the age old question of “What sounds does a tree make when it falls”.
Shortly after our revelation we noticed two hikers had come to the pond to swim. We made our way over to chat with them as it was getting later in the afternoon and we would have to pack up and head back out on the trail. After talking with them for a bit it was time to head back into the woods. This time would be bug free!
Once back to our cars and all our gear reloaded it was time for a celebratory beer before Gary and I parted ways. On my way out I stopped at the popular and beautiful Buttermilk Falls along the Raquette river. From the parking area this is a very short walk and a great lunch stop as well. There are several picnic tables to sit and enjoy as there are many rocks as well.
Today was a 16 hour 433 mile amazing adventure in a beautiful area of the Adirondacks.
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.
With the miserable weather forecasted for this weekend I decided to drive to Ithaca yesterday evening to explore the canalways that flow from beautiful Cayuga lake. The weather was perfect to say the least. I launched from Allan H. Treman State Marine Park on Cayuga Inlet paddling the short distance into Cayuga lake. There was a good wind and chop on the lake as I made my way around the breakwall and light station into the calm waters of Fall Creek. Fall Creek flows into Beebe Lake but I couldn’t get that far as the water became increasingly shallower the further I went and plus there would be the Ithaca Falls to contend with as well.
Paddling back out into Cayuga lake as the evening progresses the wind and chop had begun to die down a bit as I headed out a little further to Explore the south end of the lake. I then made my way back into Cayuga Inlet to do more exploring. I wound up with 5.80 miles and didn’t even finish the entire Inlet as my evening light was fading quickly.
I really enjoyed this small adventure and will return again soon to do some more. I do like the theory of being able to kayak right up to the always popular Ithaca Farmers Market. And to be honest I’d really like to get an early morning start on a calm Cayuga lake as well.
I feel very fortunate to be able to live in and around such a beautiful area of our State.
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 in the hamlet of Raquette Lake, NY at 1240. A small amount of gear loaded into my canoe I set off into the rather large Raquette lake in order to reach “Browns Tract Inlet”. This lake is notoriously windy, thankfully it was a short distance to the inlet.
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! Backing up I 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 canoe 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 hitting the dam sending my canoe halfway over. Now I was stuck! Separating my paddle I work my way over and voila.
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. It was a 3 mile paddle to the western end where 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. But then again traditions can be broken.
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 continuing my Pac-Man approach to the trail. At this time and place I have no desire to be a through paddler of the NFCT. I like having the option 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 Marina. Sure enough they had a bulb and a phillips head screw driver to boot. 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.