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
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My Thoughts: Book Review “A Journey through New England history, Paddling the Northern Forest Canoe Trail

image.jpgI’m not a voracious reader like my wife but I do enjoy the occasional book from time to time. I just finished reading Paddling the Northern Forest Canoe Trail “A journey through New England history” by Sam Brakeley.

Sam and his close friend Andy set out on the 740 mile adventure in 2009 taking 39 days for them to complete. As you may or may not know I have a passion for the NFCT myself. Although I have only paddled small pieces of it.

This book captured my sense of adventure and my passion for the outdoors. I really enjoyed reading about Sam and Andy’s interactions with others along the trail, just as much as their trials and tribulations.  The Dead River section in Maine did not sound like fun to me, that is just me. One Aspect of this book that caught my anttention was the hospitality, generosity and kindness of strangers and town folk showed all through their journey.  Whether I’m out paddling, hiking or running I always relish people I meet or even friendships that blossom from those meetings.

All in all I really enjoyed this book and as Sam and Andy approached Fort Kent, ME ending their adventure, my adventure ended as well.

Cheers

 

 

 

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

Autumn in the Air

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!

Max and I canoe around Nanticoke lake in Lisle, NY September 10th 2017. © Joe Geronimo
Julie kayaks on Nanticoke lake in Lisle, NY September 10th 2017. © Joe Geronimo
Elsie getting her feet wet on Nanticoke lake in Lisle, NY September 10th 2017. © Joe Geronimo
Max and I walking Elsie back out to our car from Nanticoke lake in Lisle, NY September 10th 2017. © Julie Geronimo
Julie made this image of me portaging all our gear back to our car from Nanticoke lake in Lisle, NY September 10th 2017. © Julie Geronimo

Bum Rushing Beaver Dams & the Browns Tract Inlet

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 tot he inlet as 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 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 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. 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!

Beginning my adventure into the Browns Tract Inlet at Raquette Lake, NY, september 1st 2017. © Joe Geronimo
Northern Forest Canoe Trail Kiosk and DEC register Raquette Lake, NY September 1st 2017. © Joe Geronimo
Along the Browns Tract Inlet September 1st 2017. © Joe Geronimo
At the western end of Browns Tract Inlet September 1st 2017. © Joe Geronimo
Arriving back at Raquette Lake, NY September 1st 2017. © Joe Geronimo
I’ve exited Browns Tract and entered Raquette lake. Blue Mountain can be seen towering in the distance September 1st 2017. © Joe Geronimo

Tranquility in Vermont

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.

Cheers!

Exiting the Silvio O. Conte Wildlife Refuge near Island Pond, VT June 17th 2017. © Joe Geronimo
The Nulhegan river in all her tranquility. However just 100 yards away the rapids roared. Island Pond, VT July 17th 2017 © Joe Geronimo

Adirondack Throwback

I’m paddling backwards to May 21st 2016 when Julie and I spent the day at the “Adirondack Paddlefest” sponsored by Mountainman Outdoors of Old Forge, NY.

This year we will return on May 20th with a small paddling adventure in mind and the hopes of adding another kayak to our fleet.

Julie & I entering First Lake, Old Forge, NY May 20th 2016. © Joe Geronimo
A very small portion of the 2016 Adirondack Paddlefest sponsored by Mountainman Outdoors. Old Forge, NY. Image © Joe Geronimo