We passed through two set of locks today, both operated by lock keepers, which made for a quick passage into and out of the river above and below Lower Saranac River. Margaret at the first locks said I had the lightest load she had seen so far this year, which made me feel good. The day ended fighting power boats and wind to make it to Saranac Lake, NY and the end of Map 2. Congratulations, Dad, who was a big help to me on what he called my shake-down cruise. Knots, distributing my load properly, crackling campfires, taking endless photos of me, and some great company! Now he and Mom will be my support team.
We stayed with Pati Peebles and Dave Staszak, who are hosting through-paddlers in their home where we had our own bedroom and half bath. The NFCT has their contact information. So thank you so much, Dave and Pati, for the healthy snacks, suggesting the Downhill Grill, the tour downtown, local history, ride to buy a flash drive, and yummy breakfast. We had so much fun that I didn’t get much blogging done, but now I’m catching up! Tomorrow I go solo!
I could easily have lingered in this campsite that was so like the West Branch or Allagash, but we were off before 8 a.m., passing the ‘boys” with a shout to Alden and Z (Zion), our Brooklyn friends. (Somehow I deleted their photo from the Day 5 post and will need to reinsert it later).
We gently drifted and paddled through a flooded, mysterious world of silver maple, to the melody of songbirds, rounding bend after bend with impressionistic reflections doubling the beauty.
This morning, I thought, was such a contrast to yesterday. As you trudge with aching shoulders, shrugging the portage yoke in a search for comfort, mud wrestling your shoes, grit in your socks like sandpaper, it is the hope ahead and the memories behind that fuel you and carry you to tranquil mornings of peace and wonder.
Everywhere the world was flooded and it made for some interesting paddling as we navigated Stoney Creek, picking our choice of routes. I think Dad was enjoying finding obscure paths that worked. And then there were the bridges that followed…
Focused on making progress, we were on the water just after 7 a.m. Seven miles and three hours to the Raquette River…a contented paddle with Dad leading and me lagging behind for photos…of Adirondack camps and loons, including one with a funny curled up tail that I thought was a chick until I had carefully drifted close!
About one and a half miles down the picturesque, but fast moving, river, we encountered two canoes from a group we had met the day before. They were students from Brooklyn with two of their teachers, being guided by local camp staff. One boat had capsized and was underwater, caught in a strainer by the powerful force of the flooded river.
Now Dad loves nothing better than coming to the rescue. We knew better than to pull into the same situation, so we paddled back upstream to the downstream side of a mostly stable old log. I was to end up squatting on that log for 2 hours, meanwhile acquiring some new friends from Brooklyn.
Dad thought of using a nearby tree and a rope, which we supplied, along with company for some of the boys. Quiet at first, we were soon laughing and connecting. I guess sharing Snickers and bug spray on a rolling log is a bonding experience.
From my tent window I could see hemlocks reaching out over the water, sun shimmering through, with the sparkle of water behind. Our cooking has gone from steak with potatoes and fruit to beans and franks to just franks rolled in tortillas. It still tastes good! Heard a group of coyotes right across the river at dusk, powerful and eerie.
TOTAL MILES: 62.4
Only 7.5 miles, you say? Well…let me tell you our story. Violent thunderstorms with heavy rain had continued off and on for hours in the night, turning the difficult portage trail into a treacherous one. Hardest was the rushing stream that now crossed the trail at a point with no boardwalk. Ominous rumbling continued as I carried both boats (very carefully) and Dad the rest of the boat gear. His stamina has been impressive. Left camp about 10 a.m., already having done quite a bit!
We called home and Mom reported that the escaped convicts were far away, riding the rails in PA, a huge relief. (Also ultimately not true, but we had peace of mind for a day or two).
The wind had picked up more and on we sailed, torn between hugging the shore for safety or flying free down the middle. Then there was that delicate point where fun becomes a bit scary. Was it a blessing of prayer that there was a lean-to exactly there? The waves carried us in and deposited us firmly on shore for an early camp.
An afternoon in camp is always a gift, for drying, washing, and relaxing. Just remember to put a large rock on anything you set down or it will blow away! And when you are done washing yourself and the laundry, you will need to pick little leaf bits out of all the crevices. This was some serious wind and stirring up of an already- flooded shore. Hot dogs and beans for supper on the campfire and Dad’s new twig stove.
Both time and service have been in short supply for posting. Tonight I finally have service and will add photos later.
Today began with two gorgeous lakes (Raquette and Forked), the wind at our backs and a couple of easy wheelable portages to get us warmed up for what lay ahead. We are becoming skilled at launching with the wheels from docks and beaches. Also, pushing rather than pulling, which I haven’t seen mentioned much, but which I do a lot.
Then came the test: Buttermilk Falls and Deerland carries on the Raquette River, which was the first fast water we had paddled in our new boats…a few rocks to avoid and the feel of the Allagash. Both of us were able to carry our boats on the first carry…go Dad! The second was another story, a long (6/10 mile), muddy, slippery mess and we were exhausted. Each of us took some gear for the first trip and, there, at the end, was a marvelous sight. An empty lean-to saying, “Collapse here.”
Of course, no collapsing yet. Dad got to work on the fire and I mustered the strength for a couple more loads, the mud once sucking my shoe right off my foot! Along the way, I met a couple with two friendly dogs. They proceeded down to visit Dad and transformed into the world’s best trail angels. John walked to his house downriver and paddled back with 4 beers and enough wood for a lovely campfire, making a cheery abode of the somewhat dark lean-to. Another blessing!
Today in photos, as I remembered to take some! Today featured two portages, the first an easy mile through a campground and the second longer and more difficult, to lovely Brown’s Tract Inlet. Lovin’ my bug jacket from Nancy and Arne Aho! Although bugs have overall not been bad. It was a world of beaver lodges and dams, butterflies, and blue flag. Only one dam to carry over (below), as water was high.
Still a bit behind schedule and tired of wakes and waves, we found lean-to #6 at Tioga Point. Ranger Autumn was very organized and helpful to two tired paddlers. Soon, up paddles NFCT through paddler John Mautner of Fair Haven, NJ, (with me below), also headed to Fort Kent! We gathered for dinner and plans by the campfire. Wonder if I will catch him again? Hope so. TOTAL SO FAR: 26.4 miles
We were up at 5:15 and the packing and loading felt awkward and tentative, without the rhythm of veteran campers. Everything soon fit, however, and we were off. The sight of a doe and fawn added a touch of wildness to a day of powerboats and Adirondack camps on the Fulton Chain of Lakes. We lunched at the Screamen Eagle in Inlet and got our first carry (wheelable) under our belts. Dad got a helping hand from two older women and a dog for some boat steadying as he got back underway. The day’s answered prayer was finding the very first lean-to empty.
A wide, gentle needle-strewn slope led up from the sandy beach to a bold bluff. A granite outcropping commanded a spectacular view of undulating mountains backed by dramatic patterns of cloud and sun. Grilled steak and peppers with mashed potatoes. Not all was perfect. We fell a bit behind plan and I slipped and skinned knuckles during the dangerous task of dish washing. Also realized I took no photos on the phone, just the camera. I will try to do better! TOTAL MILES: 14.7
Amazingly, the moment of departure finally arrived, with friends Bill and Mary Bausch stopping by to snap a farewell photo. Bill will be the expedition archivist, maintaining a record of the SPOT tracking data and updating my progress on an old-fashioned paper map at church.
As Dad and I drove across Vermont and entered the Adirondack Park, I felt calmer than in recent days. Tiny hamlets with quaint churches appeared as we followed the rushing Hudson River toward its source. Sparkling lakes, fir clad islands, rustic cabins..all reminders of why I wanted to do this. We mused about the rapids, our thoughts traveling to our new boats, as yet untested in whitewater. How sturdy were they, how maneuverable? Soon we would find out.
We dropped our boats and gear at The Forge Motel, where they kindly let us have our room early. Then it was off to Saranac Lake with the truck, where it would wait for our arrival. Dan Brown, who paddled the NFCT last year, had generously offered to shuttle us back to Old Forge. From the minute we hopped in his car, we were talking about the trail and so appreciating not just the ride, but the stories and pointers. So many kindnesses already and we haven’t even started!
Did you know that the architect, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, often used the phrase “God is in the details,” before the devil became involved at all? Somehow that has a more positive spin, so let’s go with that. And, God, you are most welcome to jump right in and help make sure that I don’t forget to do anything before my upcoming departure date.
The details that go into the preparations for a 2-month canoe trip are almost infinite, and yet they must all be finished very, very soon. And if not finished, then abandoned.
When we were camping in Vermont, Katina Daanen kindly brought me the materials to make a cozy for my cute little .6 liter Optimus cook pot. After watching a video or two showing how it was done, I gave it a try, with the results shown below. The pot cozy weighs just under 1 ounce and I was delighted to discover that it could fit in the drawstring mesh bag, along with the cook pot, lid, stove, and fuel.
Thought I’d share just one more detail: the all-important first washing of the Ex Officio underwear. (In case you are wondering, the most commented-upon topic on my blog so far has been my new underwear.). And now it is time to fine tune the packing and tying in of all of the gear. Our boats came home this evening to stay until we leave, with much gratitude to Ed and Carol Knapp for sharing their lakeside yard and dock on McCurdy Pond as home base for our canoes and paddling for the past month.