Sunday, July 20, 2008

NFCT Axton Landing to Saranac Lake

I left work early on Friday for the trip north to the Adirondacks to start my trip from Axton Landing to Saranac Village. On a very hot and humid day things did not start out well when my AC quit working about 2 hours into the trip. I went from cool and comfortable to hot and sweaty very quickly. I arrived at Raquette River Outfitters at about 5:00pm and after some last minute purchases and discussions we decided that the best shuttle plan would be for me to drive to the put-in at Axton Landing with a driver who would return with my car to Saranac Lake where I would end my trip three days later.

I quickly loaded up the boat and headed up the Raquette River a short distance to the mouth of Stony Creek and the NFCT. I wasn’t sure where I was going to spend the night but since I was alone I wasn’t really too worried. It was noticeably cooler on the water and the paddling up the creek was very pleasant. The sky was getting darker from storm clouds but it wasn’t too threatening. I didn’t hear any thunder and a breeze made it feel nice out.

The stream is supposed to be difficult to follow and I was advised to go left whenever in doubt. I found it very easy to find my way and the flowing grass was an obvious giveaway. I can see how finding the correct channel might be more difficult with higher water in the spring. I arrived at Stony Creek Ponds and headed to the north end to find a camping spot somewhere on public land. I hadn’t been to the Adirondacks for several weeks and I was happy to find that the water lilies and pickerel weed were blooming.

I was surprised to find an open campsite across the bay from Indian Carry. I set up camp quickly and put on a pot a water to get dinner started. I had planned to eat dinner in town but because of the shuttle situation I bought a single serving freeze dried meal, Pasta Primavera. It tasted pretty good but I really wasn’t too hungry; probably because of the heat. As I was eating dinner I watched some folks in kayaks and a couple fishing out of a canoe who were having some pretty good luck. Stony Creek Pond has only a handful of houses on it and I couldn’t see any of them from my site. I reorganized my stuff and made everything waterproof for the night. I climbed into bed and read for awhile. Right after dark there was a great set of loon calls, it cooled off quite a bit and I looked forward to a good night’s sleep.

Sometime in the night the wind picked up, the sky lit up, the thunder started up, and I got up to make sure everything was buttoned up. I wanted to lower the fly of the hammock to makes sure I stayed dry. As I was moving the guy lines I stepped on something soft and I heard a combination crunching and croaking sound.It’s not a good sound and sensation to experience in the middle of the night barefoot in the rain. I quick look around with the headlamp revealed a recently murdered toad. I went down to the lake and washed off my foot and headed back to bed a little bit wet from the rain but it felt good. Now when I tell the kids they always have to wear shoes I can tell them they might step on toad by accident

I woke up to a cloudy, foggy, humid, and warm morning. I wasn’t hungry at all so I made a cup of coffee and started to get things organized and packed up. A short paddle led to Indian Carry a 1.1 mile portage to Upper Saranac Lake. The first half of the carry is uphill and I was soon soaked with sweat. The trail is wheel-able but I still needed to work the cart over logs and rocks. After crossing Rte 3 the second half carry follows a gravel road to the put-in. I stopped to pick some wild strawberries growing along the roadside. The deerflies were horrible. I am not bothered much by mosquitoes and black flies but deerflies drive me crazy and seem to be strongly attracted to me. Maybe I resemble or smell like a deer although I certainly don't run like one. I was happy to put in on the peaceful and quiet Upper Saranac Lake.

I paddled steadily north past Corey Island, turned east at Chapel Island and headed down Huckleberry Bay. I stopped by a lakeside cliff to do a little fishing and caught a couple of small Smallmouth Bass. I passed a house on the north side of the bay that I should own in my next life. There are lots of beautiful housed on this lake that are built to blend into the surroundings. If people are going to build lakefront property I wish they could do it like this rather that built huge McMansions that scream “Look at me, I’m really rich”. As you get to the end of the bay someone has put up a 4X8 foot, not so subtle sign pointing to the carry. Probably a bit of overkill but there must be a reason behind it. When I got to the take-out it was a very pretty little spot.

Up the road, down the hill and left on a trail through the woods led to a deerfly infested put-in. As quickly as I could I was onto the Saranac River on my way to Middle Saranac Lake. When I got to the lake it was very smooth and there was little wind. I set a direct course down the middle of the lake headed for the outlet at the other end. The wind began to pick up and I headed south to be nearer to the shore and safety. I got to test my sailing skills with my new “WindPaddle” and was soon doing 4-5mph without having to paddle. By the time I got to Bullrush Bay and the outlet there were whitecaps and waves a foot to 18 inches high. I was glad to get into the river and off of the open water.

Up until now I had only seen two motorboats in the distance on Middle Saranac. While on the river I enjoyed looking at the water flowers but there were several motorboats headed in the other direction who did not. The speed limit is 5mph and I was the only one who was close to obeying it. After about a mile I came to the locks and had a nice conversation with the attendant as he efficiently did his job letting me down into Lower Saranac Lake.

It’s a totally different world on this lake, full of powerboats and lots of campsites. There were people everywhere, I still enjoyed my paddle through Lower Saranac and its many islands very much. Great views of the surrounding mountains. The entrance to the Saranac River is easy to find opposite Bluff Island and its 40’ south facing cliff, I decided that I was going to finish the trip that day rather than have to find a place to camp and listen to the motorboats the rest of the day. It was still early and I had some crackers and cheese for lunch, I also drank lots of fluids to try and stay hydrated. In my rush to get started the night before I had left my hat in the car and I was starting to get a bit of a sunburn now that the clouds had cleared. The section of river down to the lower locks was really pretty and I had a nice time following it downstream. Unfortunately there are lots of channel markers to look at and lots of boats going well over the 5mph speed limit. I suppose I expected it would be like this but I was hoping it would be a bit more peaceful. This would be a great trip if you could do this section midweek or in the off season when there are less people around.

Unlike the upper locks which are manually operated the lower locks are mechanized, the attendant was very friendly and we talked as he did his job from inside a booth. I did some more sailing down Oseetah Lake as I headed toward the narrows that lead to Lake Flower. These two lakes have lots of houses on the shore and there were lots of boats around. I passed three canoes with dads and kids headed up stream and upwind, they weren’t making great progress and they told me they were headed to Lower Saranac to camp. I wonder if they ever make it to their campsite? The Dads looked tired, their technique wasn’t very good, and they were about to round a corner into a strong headwind.

Paddling on north into Lake Flower and passing several buzzing jet skis led me to the take out left of the dam at the park in Saranac Lake just after 3:00pm. I wheeled the canoe down the street to the river walk and then to the town lot where my car was parked. I loaded up in the sweltering heat of the blacktop. I headed to Duncan Donuts for some coffee to keep me awake for the ride home.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

NFCT Upper Ammonoosuc West Milan to Groveton

In our summer goal of canoeing on the NFCT we chose to spend two days on the Upper Ammonoosuc River on the first week end in June. A few weeks earlier we had done the CT river section and ended up where we would finish our weekend on Sunday. We arranged for a local motel owner in Groveton to give us a ride back to our car on Sunday and got permission from the general store owner at the put-in to let us park our car overnight in their parking lot. The local folks have been very friendly no matter where we have paddled on the NFCT.

The kids ate an early morning ice cream from the general store in West Milan while we got the boats set and into the water. A short paddle under a bridge and we entered the Upper Ammonoosuc proper and we were off. The upper section of the river is very a enjoyable and peaceful paddle. Winding and tree lined it’s a beautiful section to canoe. The moderate current helps things move along at a pleasant pace and there are new things to see around each turn. At one point we were paddling along with a gentle breeze and there were thousands of maple keys gently spinning down from the Silver Maples that line this section of the river. It was almost like it was snowing. The keys would accumulate in eddies and the kids would quietly scoop them up and toss them back into the water and watch them float away. It was one of the most peaceful moments I’ve had in a long time.

This isn’t a wilderness river, we could hear the road now and then but the noise was filtered by the trees and wind. There are several camps and homes to pass and bridges to go under. We saw very little trash on the river; it’s an extremely clean section of water to travel on. There was none of the junk that one often sees on rivers, no cans, no Styrofoam, and other floating human reminders. I don’t think that the river sees a lot of use. We did see an occasional tire half buried in the sandy bottom and at one point we floated over a 10 foot diameter steel circle on the bottom. Right as we passed over it I realized that it was a trampoline that must have been washed away in a spring flood. The water was remarkably clear and since there was very little agricultural runoff I felt fine filtering it for drinking.

Our first stop was at the new Cordwell Campsite. We tied the canoes to some bushes on the river bank and Brad climbed the steep 6’ bank to get to the site. According to the log book only one group had used the site this year. Sally discovered the composting toilet and was fascinated by it. She has used outhouses before but never one with no walls or a door. We told the folks at The NFCT headquarters we would report on the site so we looked around and headed off downstream under the railroad bridge. Everything was in order and I hope more folks use the site. If you choose to camp here remember that a train goes by sometime during the night.

Mid morning we came two the first of two unexpected obstacles. The kids had a great time playing while Patty and I carried around the first strainer. In general I don’t mind portages but these were kind of a pain. We had to get out and scout a way to get the boats out of the water and up the bank, around the blow down, and back into the water. I realized at this point how hot it was. On the river it was a very pleasant temperature, generally we were in the shade and the cold water kept us very comfortable. Once out of the river it was very hot and humid. We had to unload the boats, ferry loads a hundred feet, and then get everything down the bank and back into the canoes. A lot of work for not much distance, it’s all part of canoeing.

We followed the meanders a while until we came to a nice sand beach suitable for a picnic. Patty brought cold cuts and tuna sandwiches with vegetables sticks. Nuts and M&Ms for desert. The kids decided to swim and had a great time in the current. There were lots of animal tracks on the beach for them to look at. Brad has a guide to animal tracks that he put to good use.

Back into the canoes after lunch and off again. We had to do one more carry around a second strainer and I started to worry that we were getting behind schedule. I’m not sure if the kids paddling helped or slowed us down. I knew we had several sets of rapids to deal with and even though they were easy I wanted to scout and hold open the possibility of lining if they looked to dangerous. I really wanted the kids to have a good experience and since they are only 6 and 8 I didn’t want to take any chances of going over in the white water.

The first set of rapids at the highway rest stop was short with a few big waves; it was exciting with a few ups and downs and one rock to dodge. Both kids loved it and were looking forward to more. A few more easy sets of rapids led us to a longer and more difficult set above Stark. The AMC guide rates this at Class II. Patty and I got out and scouted. We decided that if it was the two of us we would have gone to the outside of the bend on the left and tested our skills a bit. Because we were both paddling solo with a child and gear in each canoe we decided to play it safe and run the rapids on the inside of the bend in slower and shallower water. It was not a time to be aggressive and put our trip at risk. Patty has more experience in moving water than I do but both of us agreed that we should be conservative on this trip. The kids loved the rapids which get gradually easier as you get towards the famous covered bridge in Stark. I almost tipped when I let my guard down near the end and went over a rock that I should have seen and avoided. I was gawking at the cliffs above town when I should have been paying attention to the river.
There was a wedding at the church to the left of the covered bridge. The bride and bridesmaids were out having their pictures taken in front of a beautiful lilac bush in full bloom beside the river. Several of the guests were on the bridge, they waved and cheered us on as we passed by the wedding party and floated underneath them. The quick water continued on for a while and gently let up as we approached the sharp turn to the north that went under a train bridge and then to the Frizzell campsite.

The river changed markedly when the rapids start. I switches from clay and silt to sand and cobbles. There are more sections of quick water and rapids mixed in with some quieter sections. In general the water moves much faster once you reach the first set of rapids.
We arrived at the Frizzell site and it’s a great one. Not as good as the site we stayed at on the CT River but almost. The site is located out at the point of a big bend and is very well situated. With a nice place to land the boats and a sand beach close by for the kids it worked out great for us. Patty and I took care of setting up camp while the kids carried a load or two and then headed off to explore the surroundings. We’ve developed a routine on these trips that seem to work out well for us. While we keep one eye on the kids I set up the tents while Patty sets up the kitchen and begins dinner if the time is right. In any case she gets out a snack to hold the kids over until the meal is ready. The kids need the time to play especially if they have been in boats all day long. They chose to go for a swim and had a great time drifting down river with the current. I like it when they swim because it tires them out and they go to sleep easier. Other activities include tossing sticks in the river and throwing rocks at them, looking for frogs and slugs, and collecting rocks.

An added bonus at this site is a picnic table, someone must move it to higher ground in the winter or else it would surely get washed away by the spring floods. The campsite register said we were the first ones to stay this year and since the grass was thigh high I suspect it was correct. The bugs were only moderately bad, not nearly as bad as they could have been in early June. Soup for the appetizer and Ramen noodles with sautéed vegetables for supper. I took some time by myself and sat by the river and watched a bat fly over the water collecting insects for it’s dinner.
There are no fires allowed at this site so the kids had to have cold marshmallows before bed, they were not happy about this. The kids slept with Patty in the tent and I slept in a hammock in the woods. It was unbelievably loud with animal noises right around sunset. We must have been there right at the peak of courtship season for the birds as well as the frogs and insects. I was fascinating listening to all the sounds with the exception of the June Bugs bouncing off my hammock. At about 9:30 or 10:00 we all got up and went down to the river to look at the stars. It was a clear cloudless night with no background light so we got to see a lot more stars than usual before the bugs sent us back inside the mosquito netting. We even got to see a pretty good shooting star.

I slept well and woke up at dawn to the sounds of the animals again. It was really pleasant just lying there listening to the birds and trying to see how many I could identify by song. I have no idea what sounds frogs make other that bullfrogs and peepers. I guess things went OK in the tent aside from the usual amount of thrashing around that Brad does when sleeping. As usual I was the first up and made coffee. Sally and Patty were up a bit later. Brad sleeps as late as possible and on these trips and we don’t bother him until we have to, besides, he can sleep through anything. I took the fly off the tent without waking him.
After a leisurely breakfast we slowly pack up and get the boats loaded. The kids wanted to swim a little so we let them float down stream for a hundred yards or so. It was just far enough for them to get really cold and want to get into the boats. A beautiful cool June morning with a cloudless sky and great views of the farmland and mountains. We passed a few houses and then went through some pastures lined with big old maples and White Pines. The current was strong and we moved along at a quick pace as we enjoyed the scenery.

The river takes a large bend around a mountain and the current slows for a bit and then picks up again as you approach the beginning of a long stretch of easy rapids except for one tricky bend which is probably Class II. Patty had to land quikely in order to avoid getting stuck in a strainer and we had a brief few minutes of anxiety as we lined the boat around the danger. The river was braided at this point into at least three branches and none of them seemed to be the obvious one to take so we may have missed a better and safer channel. A long and very enjoyable stretch of river follows this section, Quick water and continuous Class I that we had a great time on and made very good progress.
The Upper Ammonoosuc eventually begins to braid a bit again and if you’re lucky you’ll choose the correct channel and not have to get out and drag your boat across the sand and rocks. This leads to Red Dam which according to the NFCT folks is being dismantled. We were supposed to portage on the left but I easily lifted and dragged my canoe over the remains of the dam. Patty arrived with the other boat and I ran along the dam to the other end to scout the chute on the right, It looked to be a short Class II wave train and Patty and Brad ran it and said it was fun. I had to run back to the other end and get Sally into the boat and paddle hard to catch up. Sally was very upset that she didn’t get to go through the chute as well.

The river after the Red Dam is backed up by the next dam downstream at the mill. We paddled to the carry which was not very enjoyable but it was short and straight forward. We were soon back in the water and on our final leg of the trip. After going under the covered pedestrian bridge in Groveton we arrived at the take out just upstream of the next dam. I headed back to the Sleepy Time Motel to get a shuttle back to my car while Patty and the kids organized gear and disassembled the PakBoat. They had time to walk to a nearby store for ice cream before I returned with the car fro the ride home.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

NFCT Saranac to Union Falls Dam 5/17/08

Sally and I went for an overnight canoe trip in the Adirondacks this weekend as our first section of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail.. We drove over Friday night in the pouring rain and stayed in a motel near our put-in. Saturday dawned sunny and cool, perfect weather for a paddle and hopefully the breeze would keep the early season blackflies under control. As it turned out the bugs were a non issue until I had to load the car at the end of the trip. We started at a local outfitters store right on the river and for a fee they even move your car to the take out for you.

The first mile on the Saranac River has two short rapids, one of them is an easy class II. Sally thought it was fun and I was a bit nervous because the consequences of a dump could be serious with a six year old. After that the river goes for several miles winding it’s way through a broad valley. It was very pretty paddling with great views of the nearby mountains. We saw lots of different ducks and heard lots of warblers singing for mates and establishing territory. The spring flowers were out and the apple trees were especially nice and very fragrant. The area we were in is all old farmland and at this point we were never to far from a road. We passed under a few bridges and passed by the occasional camp. The current is steady so we moved along at a nice pace without to much effort.

After about 4 hours there is a decision to paddle a mile of class II and III white water called Permanent Rapids or carry around it. We obviously chose the carry and I got to try out the new canoe cart I purchased earlier in the day. These carts are collapsible and if you have relatively smooth terrain make the portages wicked easy. The cart assembles in about 3 minutes and is strapped to the canoe, roughly in the middle. You pile all your stuff in, including a six year old if she wants, and off you go pulling the boat behind you. Without the cart I would have had to do the carry at least twice to get all my stuff to the other end. While I loaded the canoe back up Sally hunted for frogs. She missed two or three but I caught one and let here hold it, a great father daughter moment.

The weather started to cloud over but by this time it was getting towards dinner so we found a campsite on an island in Franklin Falls Pond. Sally continued her hunt for frogs while I set up the tent and the kitchen tarp, unrolled the sleeping pad, aired out the sleeping bags, organized and started cooking dinner. By this time it was raining lightly off and on. I tested the stove at home and it worked fine, now it was weak at best so after about 45 minutes of messing with it I started a fire and used it to boil the water and prepare the soup and freeze dried beef stew. I have had much better freeze dried meals. Sally entertained herself by poking at the fire and throwing rocks and burning sticks into the lake. We had Hershey’s bars for desert, Sally was mad that I forgot the marshmallows. We experimented with echos for a few minutes.

After dinner I cleaned up and field stripped the stove. I cleaned it and got it working to make us some hot chocolate for bed time. Sally couldn’t wait until dark because I gave her 8 little glow sticks of different colors to play with. A Bald Eagle flew by and we heard a Barred Owl but she was not impressed. We only saw one other canoer (how do you spell this) all day and maybe four or five people fishing. We went to bed at 8:30. I looked at the map until 9:00 and fell asleep listening to the light rain. There is nothing like having your children snuggle up to you in their sleeping bags while you are camping out.

The bird chorus woke me up at dawn. It was gray and very windy which is not a great thing when you have to paddle 10 miles of lakes in a solo boat. I fell asleep for an hour or two and woke up to a beautiful blue sky and a diminished wind. I let Sally sleep and fired up the stove for coffee. I took the tarp down organized the cooking stuff, filtered some drinking water, and began getting the boat ready. The coffee was great and Sally got breakfast in bed, instant oatmeal and hot chocolate. I cleaned up and she played in the water and looked for snails.

Eventually I got everything cleaned up, packed up, and into the canoe and we were off by about 9:00. The wind was still blowing but not as hard. After we got around the island I was a bit surprised to see whitecaps on the lake but it was a tail wind and I stayed close to shore for safety. Sally sang songs and after seeing a flag at a camp recited the Pledge of Allegiance about 15 times until I told her to take some pictures. We arrived at the end of the three mile lake quickly and loaded up for a .3 mile carry around the dam. Sally rode in the canoe for this portage much to the delight of the two or three passing cars we saw. Everyone was all dressed up so they were probably on the way to church in town.

The put-in was down a steep bank and it took me a while to ferry loads down and repack the canoe. I was very careful to distribute the weight in the boat for a tail wind. Sally was content exploring the shore. She found a dead fish and threw some rocks. I loaded her in and worked the canoe out into some deeper water before I got in. All I will say is that I need practice doing this, no one got wet but it was close. After a short class one riffle we passed the correct put-in which was about a hundred yards further down the road. It had a short slightly sloped bank and a sand beach. Oh well.

The final six miles were on Union Falls Pond. This is a beautiful lake that is oriented east west and has great views of the back side of Whiteface and its neighbors. The lake gets wider as you go east. The lake is formed by a dam at the eastern end and it is obvious that it flooded a forest because many stumps are still visible; it looks like it would be great fishing.

Sailors and other boaters use a term called fetch. It means that if you give even a small wind enough distance it can develop some big waves. Basically I had to paddle quite hard on this lake to keep the canoe pointed in the right direction. As I progressed east the waves got bigger, the upside is that we made very good time. I kept thinking that if I was in a tandem canoe with and adult we could have rigged a sail and done the whole lake even faster with a lot less effort. While I never felt we were in any danger I can see why people can get in trouble in open water.

We finished out trip at about 12:15. Sally played on the beach while I carried the gear about a hundred feet up a hill to the waiting car. We had essentially no bugs on the whole trip because they were waiting here in the woods at the car park. I kept Sally on the beach and brought here her bug shirt. She is a fair skinned little girl and the bugs love her. After several trips up the hill I got the car loaded up and got Sally away form the beach and into the car. While driving out I found the proper take-out about 100 yards down the dirt road. It could have driven my car to the windy shore and avoided the bugs in the woods and the uphill walk to the car.

T.F.T.D. Take a minute or two to look for the proper put-in and take out it could make your trip easier.

NFCT Long Lake To Axton Landing

Trip report Long Lake to Axton Landing 6/27/08-6/28/08

Patty, Brad, Sally and I arrived in Saranac early on Friday evening with enough time to visit St. Regis Outfitters who we arranged to have shuttle our car from Long Lake to our take out at Axton Landing. Great folks, very knowledgeable, and very easy to work with. They went over our itinerary with us to make sure we were both on the same page for the pick up and drop off. Of course the weather was beautiful on Friday; the forecast was for a chance of afternoon thundershowers on Saturday and the same on Sunday.

We arrived at the Long Lake put in at about 9:00am and immediately began assembling the PakBoat. The milfoil guard chatted with us for awhile and after about an hour we were ready to push off. Of course it began to rain, very gently, as soon as we put our paddles in the water. We only saw a few small fishing boats and one personal water craft the whole day: perhaps they knew something about the weather that we did not.

Long lake is divided into rough thirds buy two obvious islands that provided us a goal to paddle for. The first was Round Island. We have a GPS with us as well as the NFCT map and the much more detailed Adirondacks Paddlers Map. We could easily track our progress on the lake by our position in relationship to the islands. After about an hour and a half the rain changed from a pleasant drizzle to something a bit more forceful, not bad but we stopped at a lean-to for an early lunch and to change into rain gear.

The kids are used to rain and rarely complain, we make sure that they are at least semi comfortable and they just seem to accept it as part of the trip. They have some pretty good rain gear and good quality warm clothes to wear underneath. We have found it worth the expense to make sure they are warm and dry even if they grow out of the stuff in a year.

During lunch rain the got heavier but we decided that we were in no danger so we continued on up the lake. We did hear a few rumbles off in the distance but nothing ever got remotely close to us. With our sights on Camp Islands we paddled on though the rain, six year old Sally even took a nap! She had been to the doctor earlier in the week and we were told she had strep throat. She seemed fine so we decided to do the trip anyway, I was a bit worried but it was only a nap and nothing worse. We passed several more lean-tos and figured that we should keep on going because we were certainly not going to get any wetter.

Just as we got to the end of the lake and were deciding if we should call it a day the rain stopped and the clouds lifted a bit. Long Lake is 9.5 miles long and it rained hard for about 6 miles of it. It forced us to keep a steady pace and we made good time. We had a floating snack to get everyone spirits and energy level up and continued into the Raquette River. I will admit I initially went the wrong way and had to wade through some mud to get on route. Every route description I read said stay left, it’s no wonder I ran aground when I tried to cross from the right.

I don’t want to sound like we didn’t have a good paddle down the lake, we had several things working in our favor. We had no wind; I would rather have rain than a head wind anytime. We saw only one power boat on the lake once it started raining. It looks like this lake could be quite busy on a nice sunny summer day. The temperature was perfect for steady paddling I wore only a raincoat and tee shirt and was neither cold nor hot. Brad loves the GPS and kept track of our total mileage and speed as we went along and told us about landmarks that he saw on the maps. All in all it was a very enjoyable trip even though it poured rain for most of it.

Once we entered the Raquette River the bugs came out so we put on some bug dope and kept to the middle of the stream when possible. The river is very nice and there was more current than I had expected. I would have loved to have spent some time birding and fishing but we thought we should probably keep going to see if we could get a lean-to for the night in order to attempt to dry our some clothes. A side trip up Cold River looked interesting but will have to wait for another trip. We did let the kids get out and explore a little bit at one of the campsites.

Brad decided to do some fishing and caught a nice smallmouth bass. There are few things that make an eight year old happier that catching a fish. I wish we could have spent more time fishing but we had to move on to find a place to spend the night.

Due to a map reading error we went by the last lean-to thinking that there was one more between the us and the carry. We eventually discovered our error when it was way too late to turn around. We decided to push on and camp at the carry landing. At about 6:00pm the rain began to pick up again and this time was accompanied by much louder thunder. I could sense it was just a matter of time before we were hit by a storm and was very glad to see the signs for the carry. They would be very hard to miss. There were "no camping" signs at the take out so Patty headed up the trail to see if she could find a site or at least a place to wait out the storm.

She found the ranger and a father and son group camping at a site just up the hill from river and they kindly invited us to share the site with them. The storm was gaining on us so we did a fast set up of the tarp and got all the bags underneath as soon as we could. The kids were great and did a super job of ferrying some of the smaller items up the hill to the site. We managed to get the tent set up just as the meat of the storm hit. We shuffled the kids inside to get into dry clothes and draw in their journals. Patty and I started cooking dinner. She sent me filter water but the rain was coming off the tarp so hard I filled a six liter pot in about 2 minutes and then a couple of water bottles before the rain began to let up.

At one point a group of four in a Wenonah Minnesota 4 arrived at the carry. They were doing our two day trip as an afternoon outing. They had to take out for the thunderstorm but were still figuring they could make it to Axton Landing by dark. I was jealous of them, their trip something I would have done when I was younger.

We had a great dinner, a soup course followed by Ramen, olives, chicken chunks, broccoli, and cheese. Dishes were done and an attempt was made to organize our stuff once the rain stopped. Soon it was 8:30 and Patty read the kids some stories while I tried to figure out the best way to do the 1.25 mile carry in the morning. Usually I don’t sleep well on the ground and it was not helped by Brad who was next to me. He sleeps like a pin ball game.

I woke at dawn but waited till 6:00am to start the carry. On the first trip I took the PakBoat, all four paddles, and the adult PFDs along with some other stuff wedged under the seats. I did the carry with two stops, at one of them I watched a dear eating leaves along the trail. She looked my way several times and I moved a little bit to make sure she saw me. She seemed very comfortable with me so I rested a few minutes and eventually she ran off into the woods when I put the boat back over my head. At the far end I passed the lean-to and campsite where a group of college kids were just getting up. The walk back gave me time to take a good look at the trail, I was told not to bring a cart because the trail was to rough. I think I might have found the cart useful in all but a few spots. I’m glad I didn’t have a heavier boat. After a cool and pleasant walk back I found Patty just setting up for breakfast so I took my personal pack and the Wenonah Wilderness as well as some smaller things stuffed under the seats. No deer this time but a lot more action at the other end where everybody was up, cooking, packing, and complaining about the weather and the bugs. I spoke with Gary the ranger for a few minutes and headed back to the beginning again, hoping for only one more trip.

When we got to the put-in Gary the Ranger was there to talk to the kids and gave them each an Adirondack carry sign, one of those yellow disks that mark the carries. He’s a great guy and an asset to the park, I’ll bet he has some funny stories to tell. The camp group was just starting out for the day and looked like they might need a little work on their J-strokes. We packed up and headed out for the final 6 miles of our trip with the usual discussion of who got the GPS and maps.

Once again the current was stronger than I expected. I had read somewhere that the water was backed up to here from Setting Pole Dam so I thought there would be little or no current. After about ¾ of a mile we discovered that Brad had left his Fishing pole at the put in so we had to paddle back up stream to get it. I’m glad we are doing the NFCT in sections so we can avoid as much of the upstream stuff as possible. I have great respect for the folks that do the trail all in one direction and spend days going upstream in NH and VT.

We paddled lazily down stream with the added bonus of a tail wind. Brad and I tried to reconcile the GPS with the map and Patty worked on her sit and switch solo technique. At one point we spotted a Bald Eagle perched in a very tall White Pine that was leaning out over the river. It flew away before I could get the camera out. I think we have seen Bald eagles on everyone of our NFCT trips. The river changes a bit below the carry and the woods become predominantly silver maple, it must be beautiful in the fall. We stopped for lunch at a lean to and I nearly fell asleep as I worried about how my body would feel tomorrow after doing all the portaging this morning. I vowed to drink lots of water and took a couple of aspirin. The sun eventually came out and the kids did a bit of swimming.

The final few miles were uneventful, we passed a group of four canoes headed up stream, the only other paddlers we passed on the water in two summer weekend days on one of the most popular trips within the blue line. I made a mental note of the turn up Stoney Creek so I can find it when we return to do the next section. The bugs were bad at the take-out so we did a rush job stuffing the car and were soon off to find ice cream and coffee for the ride home.