Archive for May, 2007

While this would be the shortest of the three days, this day had the potential to deal us our biggest challenges.  It greeted us with a thick fog over Forked Lake that eventually rose up and dissipated to reveal a somewhat sunny day.  I took the opportunity to take some artsy-fartsy type photos, and we then packed up and paddled the rest of the lake to the boat ramp at Forked Lake State Campground.  From here we walked 1.5 easy-rolling miles down the access road, and then down a narrower cart path to reach the Raquette River.  Here was one of the nicest lean-tos I have seen.  Sweet location, at the foot of some rapids, facing the morning sun.  We continued down easy quickwater and flatwater to the top of Buttermilk Falls. 

The carry around Buttermilk is by far the shortest of this segment and, unless you choose to carry around the rapids a half mile further on, also the toughest.  We took a light load the first time through.  The paths are steep, rocky, and multitudinous.  We took multiple trips to get around this beautiful beast of a waterfall.  It was so much work that, a half mile later, when we encountered the Class II rapids and found that the portage path was in no way cartable, it was an easy decision to run the rapids.  If you have any whitewater experience at all, these rapids are fairly easy with minimal maneuvering required to reach the clear channels. 

Then we hit Long Lake.  As we had progressed down the river we had noticed clouds coming in and a cooling of the air.  There was a decent wind on Long Lake, and it was of course blowing right towards us.  We generally stuck to the southeastern shore and toughed it out, paddling over steady waves and mild chop.   Nothing serious.  A light sprinkle began, our first rain of the trip.  But it was a minor irritation at best as we rode the euphoria of coming to the close of our first segment of the NFCT.  I could tell Mike was hooked.  He was already talking about needing to do a longer segment this summer.  Perhaps something up in Maine.  As we approached the bridge at the village, a seaplane landed to our left.  We followed it under the bridge, and headed right to the DEC boat launch where our car was located.  We took pictures of the Long Lake NFCT kiosk, bought some souvenirs, and headed towards Lake George to find a cheap hotel to hole up in for the last night and get a shower. Total miles today: 9.6Total trip miles for this segment 40.5Note:  The NFCT map claims that the total miles between Old Forge and Long Lake is 43 miles.  That is an overestimate.  My mileage was calculated on a GPS, and confirmed using Google Earth.

Slideshow of photos for the Segment 1 trip are here: http://travel.webshots.com/slideshow/559135704bcXTSI

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Our goal for this day was to make it all the way to Forked Lake.  In our way were two carries and notoriously windy Raquette Lake.  Fortunately, we were able to get the first carry out of the way first thing in the morning, a 1.3 mile carry to Browns Tract Inlet.  This was not easy.  Although it was all cartable, the path was rough and uneven in spots.  The canoe tipped over twice in transit.  We also had to lift it over a couple downed trees, one of which was right across the boardwalk about 250 feet from the river.  The boardwalk was particularly tricky since it was canted at an odd angle, and only about an inch wider than the width of the cart (although I understand that this boardwalk has been considerably improved recently).  But it was cloudy and cool, so we didn’t sweat too hard.

Browns Tract Inlet was a joyful small river to paddle.  We encountered a few beaver dams, but they were far easier to get over than the trees on the carry.  We quickly made it to Raquette Lake and were greeted with gentle breezes and gentle waves.  Our good luck continues!  We stuck to the west side of the lake for much of the traverse, paddling through Duck Bay to Antlers Point, and then heading towards The Crags across Beaver Bay, and thence threading the needle, so to speak, between Needle Island and Indian Point where we finally crossed over to the east side and Bluff Point, entering the narrow northeast arm known as Outlet Bay.  Here we encountered some curious loons. 

The canoe carry to Forked Lake was located easily.  Along it we encountered one of the most oddly located public phones ever, in the middle of nowhere, on North Point Road, at the corner of the access road down to Forked Lake.  I called the wife again.  The whole half-mile portage was easy rolling gravel, far easier  than the trail we walked earlier in the day. 

With the cloud cover making the daylight wane quicker, we continued along the westerly shore of Forked Lake, past where the Raquette River enters, and eventually located a nice lean-to to spend the night.  This lean-to also had a nice supply of firewood ready, albeit smaller than the last one, so we took some time to supplement it.  A fire was started in the large stone fire ring, and the Sailor Jerry appeared to supplement the warmth.  Loons serenaded the night.  Total miles today: 13.6.

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After we had unloaded the car at the boat ramp in Old Forge, and Mike had left to shuttle the car to Long Lake, I had a lot of time to think about what the hell I was doing.  It had been a couple decades since I had done any serious canoe-camping, and even back then it wasn’t too serious.  But I had just learned about the Northern Forest Canoe Trail, and it captured my imagination at a time when I was looking for a new challenge in my canoeing and kayaking life.  So I started working on my friend Mike, trying to convince him that lake paddling and portages really weren’t that bad, that multi-day tripping was a worthy challenge.  He agreed to accompany me on one trip to see how things would go.

So we agreed that our first segment to paddle would literally be the first “Map” of the trail, starting from the western terminus at Old Forge and paddling through the Fulton Chain of Lakes and a couple other lakes and rivers to Long Lake over the course of three days.  We wanted to avoid bugs (blackfly legends were, well, legendary) so we decided on a mid-April trip, but waited in vain watching the Old Forge Web Cam show day after day of ice.  A month later, in mid May, it was go time!

As I waited for Mike, the beach behind the visitor’s center started filling with boats.  This was the start of the Adirondack PaddleFest!  I got a few curious looks standing beside a canoe surrounded by camping gear.  Mike arrived with our shuttle driver from Mountainman Outfitters, we took the obligatory photos besides the NFCT kiosk, and packed up the canoe.  I took the bow position, and away we went!

The first section is very river-like, lined with many homes and docks, and it allowed us to quickly get into a paddling rhythm.  The skies were pretty gray and the air temp cool…perfect conditions.  As we passed DeCamps Island and entered Second Lake, shoreline development thinned considerably.  This remained the case until we got to the narrow channel connecting Third Lake to Fourth Lake.  Big Island provided a nice spot for a break before we continued across the largest lake of the chain, Fourth Lake.  We were fortunate not to encounter any serous winds, and made good time across Fourth Lake to the town of Inlet where a short paddle through another narrow channel (and past the only river-side Exxon station I’d ever seen)brought us to the small duck pond called Fifth Lake, across which was the beginning of our first carry. 

The trail led up a cartable gravel path that took us up hill to Route 28, and we stopped at the top of the hill at a general store for some lunch before crossing the road and taking the side road that led to Sixth Lake.  Our original goal for the day was to reach one of the lean-to’s  in Seventh Lake, but paddling conditions were so good that we reached the end of it with still enough energy to carry on.  We had seen no one else on any of the lakes, so figured that we could safely assume that the lean-to located at the far end of Eighth Lake would be unoccupied. 

So up on the wheels the canoe went again, and we rolled it easily over the paved camp road of Eighth Lake State Campground (no one there but maintenance folk) to another beach.  I made a quick side trip to phone the wife, and we paddled on to the end of the lake, where we indeed found the lean to unoccupied but located up a steep, washed out path that required multiple trips up and down from the shore to shuttle all the gear.  That pretty much finished us off for the day, but we found a bonus supply of unguarded firewood ready to go under the lean to, so we cracked open some beers and toasted to a successful first day.  Total mileage for the day: 17.3 miles. 

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