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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Sargent Ponds Wild Forest

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.

Beginning our journey as we signed into the Upper Sargent Pond trailhead July 1st 2018, © Joe Geronimo
Gary & I making our way along the Upper Sergant Pond trail Long Lake, NY July 1st 2018, © Joe Geronimo
Gary & I making our way along the Upper Sergant Pond trail Long Lake, NY July 1st 2018, © Joe Geronimo
Almost immediately of plunking his lure into the water Gary landed this beauty of a large mouth bass. Upper Sargent Pond Long Lake, NY July 1st 2018, © Joe Geronimo.
A beautiful summer day on Upper Sargent Pond Long Lake, NY July 1st 2018, © Joe Geronimo.
Gary and I exploring Upper Sargent Pond Long Lake, NY July 1st 2018, © Joe Geronimo.
I just finished chatting with the couple who had flown in to camp and fish for several days on Upper Sargent Pond Long Lake, NY July 1st 2018, © Joe Geronimo.
Gary paddles under stunning views of the Adirondack mountains on Upper Sargent Pond Long Lake, NY July 1st 2018, © Joe Geronimo.
It was time to cool off before lunch in Upper Sargent Pond Long Lake, NY July 1st 2018, © Joe Geronimo.
Lunch time on Upper Sargent Pond Long Lake, NY July 1st 2018, © Joe Geronimo.
Beer O’ Clock on Upper Sargent Pond Long Lake, NY July 1st 2018, © Joe Geronimo.
The end of our adventure on Upper Sargent Pond Long Lake, NY July 1st 2018, © Joe Geronimo.
The Raquette river is so peaceful. Shot from the canoe carry for Buttermilk Falls Long Lake, NY July 1st 2018, © Joe Geronimo.
The Raquette river spills over the beautiful Buttermilk Falls Long Lake, NY July 1st 2018, © Joe Geronimo.

Day Trip: The Finger Lakes

Our day started early with a trip to the car dealership in Horseheads. I wasn’t happy with the tires that came on our new car so I had them changed. Since we were so close to the Finger Lakes we decided to make an afternoon of it. After leaving the dealership we made our way through Watkins Glen driving route 14 along the west shore of Seneca Lake. We had our stomachs set on lunch at Fox Run Vineyards only to be disappointed when we arrived to find the cafe was closed until April 1st. Starving we decided to hit up Eddie O’Brien’s in Geneva. Once seated I ordered a pint of Climbing Bines pale ale which is located in Penn Yan. For lunch I went with my favorite the “Bacon, Egg & Cheese” burger and Julie had the french dip. The food was wonderful, the company even better and peering out the window a snow squall had enveloped the city of Geneva.

Bacon, Egg & Cheese burger at Eddie O'Brien's in Geneva, NY.
Bacon, Egg & Cheese burger at Eddie O’Brien’s in Geneva, NY.

After lunch we left Geneva and made the short trip to Vintosa Vineyards where we tasted some pretty darn good wine. Departing Vintosa with a bottle of their 2013 Riesling and now driving south on the east side of Seneca Lake we opted to head towards Ithaca. As we got closer to Ithaca a quick stop was made at Taughannock Falls for a glimpse of the 215 foot splendor. https://youtu.be/PY4BeH6b1n8

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Our Ithaca destination was the amazingly awesome Purity Ice Cream.

Brownie Sundae with chocolate peanut butter and vanilla ice cream. Yeah I know awesome!
Brownie Sundae with chocolate peanut butter and vanilla ice cream. Yeah I know awesome!

After ice cream we made our way home where our two teenage boys didn’t disappoint. The house was a mess when we returned.

Here is to our next adventure!