Part 1 in a 3 part series, Little Colby Pond in Saranac Lake, NY is very small but one of my favorite ponds to paddle in the area. I don’t know why but there is just something magical about it. Maybe it’s the thought of long New York Central freight trains echoing off the mountains that once crossed the fill splitting Little Colby Pond and it’s big brother Lake Colby. Or conjuring in my mind an Adirondack moose coming for a drink in the early morning hours under the cover of a ghostly fog.
No matter the intrigue it is definitely a peaceful place to paddle where one can take a few moments to reflect on life or better yet a floating nap.
Don’t forget to stop by tomorrow for part 2, enjoy the short film!
The gleaming warmth of the sun piercing our office window has me ever so excited that spring has sprung. More importantly some great canoe camping adventures are now in the planning stages. If that wasn’t exciting enough, I’m having two brand new carbon/kevlar canoes built for me by the Adirondack Canoe Company of Minerva, NY. Both canoes are of their “Boreas” design which are 14 feet in length. However one will be a pack canoe (24 pounds) that can be paddled with a kayak paddle and the other a traditional solo canoe (27 pounds). I couldn’t decide which one I wanted so I’m getting both. To be honest I’m a huge fan of the pack canoe and I love the feeling of a double blade kayak paddle. With that said there is just something timeless about a solo canoe that draws me in as well.
Currently our dinning room table is littered with maps of the Adirondack Park and the Connecticut River Valley which straddles the borders of Vermont and New Hampshire.
My first almost completely planned trip which will take place in September has me in Lake George, NY for two days where I’ll be photographing the Lake George Triathlon Festival. After that my adventure brings me further north to the St. Regis Canoe Area for several days of pond hopping and exploring. Another component to this canoe/camp trip is that my friend Gary Sharp will be joining me. Gary is highly entertaining, a wealth of knowledge and just fun to be around. Oh and he likes beer!
Once I return to civilization I’ll take in the spectacle that is the Adirondack Canoe Classic ( 90 Miler) for three days as a volunteer with the Northern Forest Canoe Trail. Originally I had thought that I might want to paddle this event in 2019. After much self reflection I feel its better to be an observer in order to get a feel for it first.
The map below is currently a mock of my trip. I might add to it or even do it in reverse but it is still in the planning stages.
I encourage you to visit the Adirondack Canoe Company’s website at the link above or follow them on Facebook and Instagram. Their boats are stunning!
If you like what you see here please share and follow my blog. “AdirondackJoe” can also be found on Facebook and Instagram as well.
Last week I posted about my first attempt at dehydrating meals for backpacking and canoe camping. I went out this afternoon in order to test the meal. I wanted to see if I could gauge how much water and time I would need to properly rehydrate the 6 ounces of sausage vegetable stew.
You can check out the results in a short video below! Give my blog a follow, you can also find me “Adirondack Joe” on Facebook & Instagram as well.
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”.
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.
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 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.
Recently I was in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont near Island Pond exploring the Silvio O. Conte Wildlife Refuge with my two sons and friend. As always we were on the hunt for moose. I must have had my moose kryptonite on me this time because we didn’t see any moose. However we saw all sorts of fascinating birds.
If you know me or have read my many posts you won’t be surprised when I say “I have a major affection for the Northern Forest Canoe Trail”. In all honestly I have only paddled small portions of this beautiful flowing highway system spanning 740 miles from Old Forge, NY meandering into Canada and finally terminating in Fort Kent, ME. The Silvio O. Conte Wildlife Refuge sits in the Nulhegan river basin, wait for it, which is part of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail.
As we exited the refuge the Nulhegan river was so calm and peaceful but just 100 yards away it’s rapids roared. Slamming on the brakes and testing the seat belts of the cars other occupants I leaped out to capture its serenity.
October 2016 I spent a couple days kayaking in the Adirondacks under amazing Autumn skies. While on 7th lake I discovered Payne’s Air Service and was immediately intrigued. I’m not really a big fan of video and I think this was literally the fifth time using the video feature on my DSLR camera, but gave it a go. I only took a few very short clips. I asked my son if he would take them to school for me and merge them together.
The video is a bit bumpy most likely due to the motion of my kayak, however I think it represents the uniqueness of the Adirondacks.