Raquette Lake to Blue Mountain Lake an Adirondack Adventure

For the past year now I have had this desire to paddle across Raquette lake and into the Marion river. Here I would make the flat half mile carry to Utowana lake continuing through Eagle lake and reaching Blue Mountain lake, a total distance of about 14 miles. On Sunday September 30th myself and three other friends did just that.

We arrived at Raquette lake just as the sun was rising and the fog was rolling across the surface of the lake like the stage of a rock concert, however the silence was deafening.  It was a cool 39 degrees as I unstrapped my kayak from the roof of my car. Yes I brought my heavy kayak for this adventure. For some reason I have always been intimidated by the size and notorious winds of Raquette lake. The weather report for the day was calling for 8 MPH winds and I had visions of white caps dancing in my head. With that said I chose poorly and that decision would haunt me a little later in our adventure.

The water was like glass as we set out to cross Raquette lake under the watchful eye of Blue Mountain towering 14 miles in the distance. With only a small navigation snafu we reached the mouth of the Marion river in 3.30 miles according to my GPS. The Marion river was beautiful with its mirrored reflections of autumn beginning to paint the landscape. We twisted and turned up the river several miles before we reached a somewhat large beaver dam. We knew this dam would be here and that we would have to exit our boats in order to get around it. Once we got over the damn it was only another quarter mile or so to the Marion river carry.

This carry from the Marion river to Utowana lake follows the former road bed of the Marion River Railroad. It is only a half mile long and was the world’s shortest railroad. Here is where my kayak would come back to haunt me. Without gear my kayak weighs in a 52 pounds at 14 1/2 feet long. I probably had at least 8 pounds of gear stowed in the boat. So I had the pleasure of carrying 60 pounds on my shoulders for a half mile. A huge departure from my 17 pound canoe…

Once we reached the put in on Utowana lake we were about half way through our journey. In other significance this is where the wind would finally kick up as we paddled our way up through Utowana and into Eagle lake. The entrance from Eagle lake into Blue Mountain lake has two routes that go under bridges and around a small island. Entering Blue Mountain lake we would see the only other paddlers during our trip. From here it was about a mile or so to our take out spot in the hamlet of Blue Mountain Lake.

Once we were off the water and boats loaded I was ready for my long trip back home. As I approached Old Forge I had thought I might want to stop quick at Fulton Chain Craft Brewery. But I was exhausted and just wanted to get home. I made a quick stop to top off the gas tank, grabbed some coffee and kept rolling for home. Not only did I rack up another 425 miles on my car I was part of some great memories with some amazing friends. I look forward to doing it again soon somewhere in the Park.

Cheers!

Pulling into Raquette Lake, NY the sunrise was amazing. This is one of my favorite views in the Adirondack Park. © Joe Geronimo
Starting my day on Raquette lake. © Joe Geronimo
Crossing Raquette lake on our way to the Marion river. © Joe Geronimo
Wayne, Jan & Hugh crossing Raquette lake on our way to the Marion river. © Joe Geronimo
When the autumn colors are just starting to pop you improvise and bring your own. Jan giving a big wave on Raquette lake. © Joe Geronimo
Jan & Hugh on Raquette lake. © Joe Geronimo
Wayne making his way across Raquette lake. © Joe Geronimo
Blue Mountain keeps a watchful eye as Hugh crosses Raquette lake. © Joe Geronimo
Hugh and Jan entering the mouth of the Marion river. © Joe Geronimo
Making my way along the Marion river. © Joe Geronimo
Hugh and I on the Marion river. © Joe Geronimo
Hugh and I on the Marion river. © Joe Geronimo
Hugh and I on the Marion river. © Joe Geronimo
Wayne and I chatting it up on the Marion river. © Joe Geronimo
Wayne & Jan along the Marion river. © Joe Geronimo
This was a cool obstacle along the Marion river. The reflection in the water was amazing. © Joe Geronimo
Wayne & Jan along the Marion river. © Joe Geronimo
Hugh & Wayne getting their boats over the beaver dam. © Joe Geronimo
Wayne assisting Jan getting her boat over the dam. I dragged my heavy kayak around the beaver dam through the mud. © Joe Geronimo
Jan & Hugh carry their canoes between the Marion river and Utowana lake. © Joe Geronimo
Wayne & Mya make their way along the Marion river carry. © Joe Geronimo
On Utowana lake the sun peaked out from behind the clouds for a few minutes. © Joe Geronimo
Wayne paddling up Utowana lake. © Joe Geronimo
Hugh & I paddle up Utowana lake with Blue Mountain looming in the distance. © Joe Geronimo
We’ve gotten a little further up Utowana lake. © Joe Geronimo
Hugh & I along Eagle lake. © Joe Geronimo
I’ve just entered Blue Mountain lake. © Joe Geronimo
Wayne & I on Blue Mountain lake. © Joe Geronimo
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Coffee O’Clock

My morning coffee on Long Pond. © Joe Geronimo
My morning coffee on Long Pond.
© Joe Geronimo

Awakened by the aroma of freshly brewing coffee, its 4AM and I stumble my way downstairs. I reach for the coffee pot and pour myself a cup, taking a few sips, ahhhhh! I fill my waiting thermos like the belly of a dragon, slinging my camera bag over my shoulder, reaching for my car keys and out the door I go.

Shrouded in heavy fog I arrive forty five minutes later at Long Pond. Its quiet today compared to Friday morning. A few bullfrogs murmur and in the distance I can hear a Pileated Woodpecker attempting his breakfast. The water is smooth as glass, the silence becomes deafening only to be disturbed by what sounds like the pitter patter of little feet across a hard wood floor. Dew dripping from the many low hanging trees ripple the pond’s placid water.  I paddle my way along the shoreline littered with lily pads.

Slowly I enter a few bogs looking for signs of life. All is quiet on the western front. I meander for a bit only to be startled by a beaver who has surfaced next to my kayak. He retreats and I’m in pursuit. Cautiously I paddle finding his lodge which he is now proudly protecting. We court one another and I give him some distance. He again retreats and I stand my ground, floating patiently waiting for his return. I pour a cup of coffee for the long haul, shortly after he reappears, THWACK! He then disappears into the fog only to repeat his actions again and again. I begin to wonder, is he angry or is he playing? This display would continue over the next forty five minutes. My camera’s motor drive echoing the haunted sound of a gatling gun at war.

Mr. Beaver @ Long Pond © Joe Geronimo
Mr. Beaver @ Long Pond
© Joe Geronimo
MR. Beaver @ Long Pond © Joe Geronimo
MR. Beaver @ Long Pond THWACK!
© Joe Geronimo
Beaver Long Pond_03SB
Mr. Beaver on Patrol @ Long Pond © Joe Geronimo

Continuing my journey back up the pond and still covered in a heavy fog I notice a lone fisherman in a canoe. As I get closer a friendly voice greets me “Good Morning” I reply in kind. We paddle towards one another and strike up a friendly conversation. Don is from Ithaca and he enjoys the fishing on Long Pond. He has also paddled the Boundary Waters in Minnesota, the entire length of the Susquehanna, amongst other places. Don casts his line. Almost immediately he gets a hit. I back my boat away to give him room to reel in this catch, camera at the ready. Don had caught a Chain Pickerel. This was his third of the morning and he had only been on the water twenty minutes. I ask Don for his email address so I can send him a photo, he agrees. After a few more minutes we part ways and I shortly after am loading my kayak back onto my car, thus far ending another episode at Long Pond.

A Lone Fisherman (Don) on Long Pond © Joe Geronimo
A Lone Fisherman (Don) on Long Pond
© Joe Geronimo
Don nabs a Chain Pickerel on Long Pond © Joe Geronimo
Don nabs a Chain Pickerel on Long Pond
© Joe Geronimo

This Mornings Chorus

Long Pond, Smithville Flats, NY. Image © Joe Geronimo
Long Pond, Smithville Flats, NY. Image © Joe Geronimo

Arriving Long Pond State Forest shortly before 5AM and stepping out of my car into a witch’s brew of fog and mist I was greeted by a melodic symphony unlike any I have ever heard before. The sound was so rhythmic and so soothing that I had to pause and pause I did.

The wildlife was in rare form on this placid pond nestled just outside of the small village of Smithville Flats. The harmony of vast tones sung by a variety of birds had the forest alive, the who’s who of owls on backup vocals, the Pileated Woodpecker providing percussion and filling out the baritone section was the charge of many a bullfrog.

Unpaused now and launching my kayak, I slowly threaded my way out into the darkness only to be spooked by a rather large beaver rising from the depths and then rapidly disappearing. Several fish as well made their way over to greet me wondering who was coming to visit. Off in the distance the amber glow of a Coleman lantern barely able to pierce the fog as soft voices of campers could be heard against the stillness.

Continuing my slow paddle I made my way to the opposite end of the pond all the while my mind had been conjuring up romantic thoughts of exploring this beautiful world. In the background the symphony was still going strong as Mr. Bald Eagle had finally strutted on stage, his screeches echoing off the hillsides for the encore.

With the sun now poking its head over the treetops, pockets of fog and mist vanishing, the sky above painted and the greens of spring along the shoreline popping, Long Pond was alive.

Mr. Bald Eagle thought it was fun to taunt me, moving from perch to perch in his attempt at breakfast. He however did provide ample photographic opportunities but this fellow left the house without “Big Glass” this morning. None the less I was determined and pursued Mr. Eagle.

Returning to my launch site I came upon two fisherman preparing their small boat, a brief conversation was struck and we went our separate ways. Loading my kayak onto the car and gazing back out over the pond the fog and mist had vanished. Just as quickly had the fog and mist vanished, this mornings beautiful chorus was fading into the distance like that of a steam engine’s whistle making its way towards another town.

With Long Pond now in the rear view mirror and the open road ahead I thought to myself how fortunate I am to live in such a beautiful place.

Time for my coffee, cheers!

http://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/8180.html

Sunrise Long Pond, Smithville Flats, NY. Image © Joe Geronimo
Sunrise Long Pond, Smithville Flats, NY. Image © Joe Geronimo
Mr. Bald Eagle taunting me. Long Pond, Smithville Flats, NY. Image © Joe Geronimo
Mr. Bald Eagle taunting me. Long Pond, Smithville Flats, NY. Image © Joe Geronimo