Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Moss Lake

Hello and welcome back to my blog!  I took a couple of weeks off from writing, hoping all the while that I'd have a trip to share with you.  Well, we tried-- but mother nature did not cooperate.  However, I have photos from our "try" at kayaking Moss Lake, as well as a very few photos from another trip on this pretty but small lake from a few years ago.

Here is what the trail to the put- in looks like in the damp and rain of a Sunday in October.  (By the way, it was partly cloudy, with blue skies and nice sunshine when we loaded up the kayaks and headed to Moss Lake, which is near Eagle Bay, north of Old Forge.)  It didn't stay that way for long.

Moss Lake used to be the site of a girl's camp, so there is a trail all the way around the lake.  It was used back then for horseback riding.  It makes a nice, fairly flat walk.  But I wouldn't advise a stroll here in late May or June.  The black flies can be bothersome.

At the parking lot there is a sign explaining the history of the camp with a map of the trail as well.

Camping is allowed but I believe you need a permit.
Here is the put-in at the lake, less than 100 yards from the parking lot.

I'm sure you're thinking the photo is pretty washed out... well, it was.  But the color was not the problem.  It's RAIN and FOG that were the problem.   The lake has a pretty island with an osprey nest at the top of a dead tree.  Here is the island as seen from the put-in:

And a close up:

Does it look cold to you?  Well, it was.  The rain was drizzly at the lake and the temperature had steadily declined the further we traveled on our way to Moss Lake.  I think it was 42 degrees when we got out of our car and (quite smartly) decided to NOT begin removing the straps on the kayaks.  We went to check out the lake and to see if the weather showed any signs of improvement.

Before you get the idea that Moss Lake is a dark and dreary place, let me show you what it looks like in June when the sun is out and it's warm and bright! 

There are hills surrounding the lake, so it feels a bit secluded and as you can see, is a very pretty little lake.

I only have a few photos from our earlier trip to Moss Lake because at the time we went, I didn't yet trust myself to hang onto my "good" camera, so we used a 35 mm point and shoot, and I only scanned some of the photos into my computer.

Here is another photo from that trip in June:

Did you notice that I said "trip in June" yet a few paragraphs before that, I advised not paddling here in May or June???  Well, we didn't know the black flies would be so bad that day.  Our trip was not long because we found ourselves unable to speak, breathe or even sometimes keep our eyes open on the lake when we ran into a cloud of the pesky things!  It ended up not being a very pleasant paddle, even though as you can see, it started out fairly nice.  I think the wind died down, or maybe it was when we got closer to shore... not really sure when or why the black flies got so thick.  I just know I had them in my eyes and nose and that is not good at all.

If you paddle around the lake counter clockwise from the put-in, you will come to a small sandy beach which also has a deck area and a trail up to a separate parking lot for handicapped persons.  This seems to be a very nice place to go if you are in a wheelchair or would like someone who is disabled to be able to enjoy a view of the lake.  It is just a trail- not paved- but it looked to us as if it would be passable in a wheelchair, at least with some assistance.

About half way around the lake; continuing in the clockwise direction; is a footbridge.  This outlet is supposedly paddle-able, but we have not had the opportunity to find out yet.  You do have to get out of your kayak and lift over the bridge or go around it-- it's not high enough to pass under.

There are places along the lakeshore where the trail is very near, and other spots where the trail is a bit further from the water.  Since the weather did not seem to be improving, we decided to take a walk on the trail.  Here is a photo taken near the put-in before we got on the trail:

And one of a marshy area not far from the put-in:

Once on the trail, we crossed several streams winding their way to the lake.  Here is one:

And here is another:


As we walked around the lake, the drizzle turned into mist... it wasn't looking promising, even for a walk in the woods.  Here is the deck area at the sand beach which I mentioned above:

And here is the lake and the island from that area:

And a close-up of the island.  Do you see the osprey nest in the top of the dead tree?

Here is a photo of that same nest, taken on our previous paddle here, from the opposite side of the island:

If you look closely you will see the white head of an osprey just left of the middle of the nest.  Both parents were in the nest when I took this photo.  We were near the island and they were not happy.  One swooped down (even though we were about 70 feet below them, they still didn't like our presence) and let us know that we needed to go.  We obliged them, not wanting to upset them and understanding then that they must have babies in the nest.  Also, at about the same time the osprey momma or daddy warned us, I floated right into a cloud of black flies so thick that I saw black-- when I had my eyes open, that is.  I threw the camera in my lap and paddled like a madwoman, trying to get away from them!  We decided at that moment that we'd done enough paddling on pretty Moss Lake for one day in June.

Here is one more photo from the beach area:

And here are a few more photos of the area around the lake from our short walk.  It was very short because about 20 mins. into it, the misty rain became rain drops.  Rain and a temperature of 42 degrees is not pleasant, believe me, even in the woods along a nice trail.

We turned around and headed back to the car as the rain became steady, the drops bigger.  One thing about the gloom and the rain though, colors in the woods stand out.  Here is a fern I photographed on the way back to the parking lot:

So, I'd say that we've had some bad luck with Moss Lake.  We have friends who paddle here most every year.  It's a great location and so pretty, with easy entry from the sandy area at the put-in.  Don't let our experience with the black flies or the rain keep you from checking Moss Lake out.  You won't be disappointed.  I'll leave you with one last photo of Moss Lake from our June trip a few years ago:

Hopefully we'll get a chance to do an enjoyable full paddle of Moss Lake next season.  For those of you in the south or those who wear your spray skirts and dry suits, happy kayaking!  For the rest of us, kayaking season is over now.  (Yes, we've had snow here, though it only stuck on the grass for a few hours.)  I plan to blog every week or two on a location that we've visited in the past.  I have tons of photos, and many great memories, tips and descriptions to share with you through the dark days of winter.  So join me again soon!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Crooked Creek, part two

OK.  Back to Crooked Creek! Before I continue describing the rest of our trip, I'd like to back-track all the way to the beginning of part one.  Before I took the first photos, before we even had the kayaks off the car, we had a pretty neat experience.  I didn't have the camera out yet, so you'll have to picture this in your mind...

We had just pulled over near the bridge on Route 1.  My husband began untying the straps, and I started transferring our lunch from a cooler to a smaller carrier.  All of a sudden I heard something behind me and turned to catch the back end of a deer as it swerved away from me.  It almost ran right into me!  My husband saw the deer too, but too late to warn me.  The doe veered around the car, then up on the road and walked straight down the middle of the bridge, crossing and going into the woods.  Imagine the photos I could have had...  oh well...

So, we floated back downstream toward the bridge.  These rocks are in the area where the spotted sandpiper was hanging out.  There are places where you'll see both rocks and marsh areas juxtaposed, but not all the time, so it's interesting to see.

Although this next photo doesn't include much of the color of fall, the blues of the sky and water are so strong and contrast with the tan-brown of the plants that I had to post it.

We've now paddled back to the put-in at the bridge and are heading further downstream.  We didn't have much of a plan.  All we knew is that we were getting hungry, and that we did not relish a long hard paddle back against the wind and current.  The thought of this made us pay closer attention to the time as we headed downstream.  We did not want to get so engrossed in our downstream paddle that our trip back was no fun.  Around a bend in the creek, we saw a muskrat swimming toward us.  When he caught sight of us, he turned very quickly toward shore and was hiding in the reeds by the time we passed him.

As we paddled along and the wind died down, we heard a hawk's whistle.  Looking up, we saw one marsh hawk (Northern harrier) join another for a moment.  Then they split up again, and we only saw one.  He/she seemed to be enjoying the breeze, gliding around on the air currents.  We watched for a long time and at one point, he seemed frozen in place in the sky.  That was really cool to see.  I have watched a seagull do that once-- believe it or not, very nearby on the St. Lawrence River--  but had never watched any other bird just kind of "hang" in the air.  That was probably the highlight of the paddle-- well, maybe not-- the deer incident is close!

Here is one of the beaver houses we saw along the creek. This was one of the few spots on the creek where the current seemed weaker and the wind more calm.

Rounding a bend in this same calm area, we saw a great blue heron.  The photo isn't great, but they're such neat looking birds that I have to post his picture:

I have another shot of him as he flew off-- he was very shy.  I won't post that photo because it's all browns and grays like the one above.  Just imagine him flying away, off to the left...

This area was one of my favorite of trip.  It was around a big bend in the creek, marsh on one side, rocky shore on the other, and calm, shallow water with lilly pads.  We want to come back here and paddle in the summer to see everything green.
  I purposely put these similar photos near each other.  Which one do you like better?

There are more rocky areas on west/south side of the creek as you go along toward Route 12.  We like rock formations and thought the nature-made rectangular blocks were neat.               

Our bellies had been rumbling for about an hour, so we finally decided to pull off somewhere.  If you paddle here, keep in mind that there are not many places to get out of your kayak and stretch or eat your lunch.  Maybe in low water there might be some shore areas, but there weren't any as we paddled.  What we found was a rock ledge that looked like a possibility.  It took some maneuvering, but we were able to land here.  My husband is in the background, wearing MY hat.  Guess he thinks he's funny!  (Actually, he did look pretty comical, considering his hat of choice is a baseball cap.)

As we sat eating our lunch, I looked up over my shoulder and saw the gorgeous blue sky through the pine tree's branches and needles and had to go get the camera from the dry bag.  Here is the resulting photo:

The wind blew in gusts at times as we ate, convincing us that we would be in for a steady paddle back upstream.  The sun was also competing with the clouds.  I think I had hoped to make it to the bridge over Route 12, just as a marker to figure out how far we had gone.  But, we decided to head back instead of paddling further downstream.

On the way, we passed by just two camps downstream from the Route 1 bridge.  Both looked barely used or abandoned all together, but with it being October, we can't be sure they aren't just summer camps.  I forgot to mention that at the Route 1 bridge there are homes on that road, and several homes/camps upstream for less than a half mile.  After that we did not see any other buildings. (We went less than 2 miles upstream.)

Near one of the camps that looked abandoned, there was a man-made rock wall.  We paddle over to investigate and found this snake skin.  I thought it was the skin of a medium-sized snake, but look closely and you will see more of the snakeskin skin in the shadow between the first and second rocks, left to right.  Well, I guess the slang term "snake skin" isn't quite correct.  The term for shedding, wiki just told me is: ecdysisEither than or simply "moulting."  I did not find out what the "snake skin" is called, other than "shed scales."  At any rate, the snake must have been rather long, from what we could tell!  And obviously, this rock wall was a great home... or at least a good resting place!

Our paddle was almost over--clouds were blowing in over us and we were looking forward to getting off the water. Yet we were sad that this might be our last paddle of the year.  The clouds above us formed an interesting pattern so I snapped a shot:

Back at the put-in at the bridge, we did some more maneuvering to get out.  I managed by sidling up to the reeds and bank, using my paddle behind me to balance the kayak, and got out easily.  My husband did the same thing, with some extra balancing help from me while he got out.  No problem!  As I mentioned in part one, we're getting better at entries and exits.

Here is one last photo of Crooked Creek from the put-in as we were leaving.  It's such a pretty spot, with lots of wildlife:  deer, spotted sandpiper, ducks, muskrat, beaver (though we didn't see one,) and great blue heron.  This creek will be on our list of places to return to.  Next time, it'll be in the summer and hopefully without wind! 

 Here's hoping we get one more paddle in this weekend.  Cross your fingers for us.  And don't expect me to "go away" once our paddling is done for the year.  We've been to over 30 different places, and I've only blogged about 7 or 8 of them.  So I plan to fill you in on some of them!

Please feel free to use the "reactions" buttons if you don't have time to leave a comment.  Feedback is always appreciated.  Happy kayaking!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Crooked Creek, part one

Hello and welcome to fall in northern NY!  We had our first FREEZE on Saturday night, October 9th.  No, I was not thrilled... I admit to being one of those long time northern New Yorkers who manages to complain all winter about the cold.... I should be used to it after living here over 31 years...

Anyway, with frost on the ground and winter around the corner, flat water kayaking will be coming to an end very soon.  In fact, it could be over for us, but we're hoping to get one more paddle in next weekend.  Wish us luck!

Here is a photo of Crooked Creek from the put-in on Route 1:

Crooked Creek is in the northwestern part of New York and it empties into the St. Lawrence River at Chippewa Bay which is north of Alexandria Bay.  Wind for the entire weekend did not look good.  But, with only a few more chances to kayak, we decided to go anyway.  This makes the third paddle we've taken this season despite the wind.  I still don't recommend it, but compared to the other two times we paddled in wind, this one wasn't as bad.  Probably the main reason is that we purposely chose a creek rather than the openness of a lake.

As you can see, the put-in is not what we'd consider ideal.  But, it wasn't horrible, just not "easy."  The bank slopes down to the water and there are cattails and reeds once you leave firm ground, but there was an opening large enough for a kayak.  The bank slopes away past the reeds, so there is not a lot of shallow area. By balancing, we were able to get in with no problems.   This is a type of entry that we are getting better at, thankfully.  Also, it looked as if you could put in under the bridge, but carrying your canoe or kayak to the spot would be a bit difficult on the steep edges of the bank (though not impossible.)  Under the bridge though, there is not enough head room to stand up.  I'm 5'3" and had to bend over almost in half to walk under it.  So, I wouldn't recommend it, though we could tell that others had entered from here.

Here is another view of the creek at the put-in.  There are two other places to get on Crooked Creek, both are further downstream.  One is where Route 12 crosses, the other is at Schermerhorn Landing, even closer to the St. Lawrence River.  We chose to start at the Route 1 access, then paddle upstream for a while before going downstream past Route 1 and on toward Route 12.

And one more of the same area, these shots are all looking downstream from the Route 1 bridge.

As you can see, it was a beautiful day.  There was a breeze and there were gusts of wind, but the sun was out.  The temperature here was about 50 degrees when we got on the water, and after 3 hours, had warmed up to about 57.  We used our gloves and I put cotton in my ears since I'm bothered by the wind.  We began paddling upstream, not only against the current but also against the wind.  I forgot to mention that although the bridge is quite low for walking under, it was fine for paddling under!

Sorry about the tip of my kayak in the photo!  Sometimes my eyes are so focused on something in the distance I don't even realize there's an unwanted object in my frame!  The creek was rippled due to the wind and naturally, the more open the area, the more we noticed the wind and its effect on the water and our paddling.  We scared up a number of ducks-- at least 3 separate bunches/flocks.  Unfortunately, they were so timid that we were a long way from them when they took flight.  So, I have no photos of them, nor do I have any clue what kind they were.

If you've been following my blog from the beginning, you may remember my mention of the spotted sandpiper and how I had no idea that there were fresh water sandpipers.  Well, the spotted sandpiper (along with the wind!) has become one of the themes for this season's kayaking adventures.  We spotted (pun intended) one of these cuties on the short upstream part of our paddle. They are solitary birds and do not gather in flocks.  This is a zoomed in photo of him.  The bright sun combined with the waves on the water make this photo difficult to look at.  But it's the best shot I have of the sandpiper.

CORRECTION:  Thank you to one of my blog followers who happens to know a lot more about birds than I do!  She was (rightly) suspicious of my identification since sandpipers don't typically spend time swimming around in the water.  They are shore birds.  I knew this, but did not even consider it at the time-- which proves I have A LOT of improving to do in the area of bird identification!  This bird, based on its behavior (paddling around in Crooked Creek as we were doing!), photos I've now used to compare (thanks again to my blog follower/birder,) and with the help of said birder, is a Red-necked Phalarope! Apparently they are a rare bird to see in "our" area-- northern NY!  My birder friend tells me these birds breed in Arctic and subarctic tundra and winter chiefly at sea in the Southern Hemispere!  How cool is that??  I actually got a photo of this rare (for NNY) bird.  Believe me, there have been many times when we've seen something awesome and couldn't get the camera out in time.  Maybe because I thought it was a "mere" spotted sandpiper, that made the difference? Thanks once again to one of my blog followers for the correction and correct identification of this bird.  I appreciate it.

Here is a photo of the shore line and the trees in the distance, beyond the marsh.  Trees in this area are turning, but are not at peak yet.  They are past peak near me, thanks to all the rain and wind we received over the last couple of weeks.  Our leaves are on the ground!

The maple trees in this area seem to be at peak color near the St. Lawrence.  Here is a beautifully colored tree along the creek:

And a close-up of its leaves:

Crooked Creek is aptly named.  If you check it out on a map, you will see its many twists and turns through a marsh on its way to the St. Lawrence.  The creek's middle channel was full of water and looked fairly deep, but it was impossible to see the bottom with the wind/waves.  We DID see the bottom on the inside turns of the creek-- but not until we were already in a spot that was too shallow.  A word of warning:  if you paddle here and try to cut off some of the twists to save paddling time, you may be sorry!  Without calm water to help me see the depth, I ended up in muck twice.  Not stuck, but almost--and if you're an explorer-type of kayaker, you'll know what I mean when I say that stirring up the muck is very unpleasant to the nose!

In the photo below, you can see one such shallow area.  It's also clear that the wind is blowing strongly since many lily pads are sticking up.   Yes, I know what you're thinking-- lily pads are a very good indicator of water depth.  I agree!  But we've paddled many places where the lily pads have grown up from a bottom of say, 6 to 8 inches, rather than the 3 inches I found myself in twice!

This creek must be loaded with fish because we saw some great fisherman on the water-- we believe there were at least 3 different great blue heron eating their lunch at different points of our paddle.  They were just as skittish as the ducks.  Based on size and coloring, we're fairly certain we saw 3.  But, it's possible that it was only 2.  Bright sunlight really does wreak havoc on identification-- the white on these herons was blinding when at just the right angle.

Here we are taking a much needed rest as we turn and head back downstream.  We will go past the put-in and continue further downstream.  We "hooked up" so that we could float together for a bit down the creek.  Due to the wind and the current, this required a lot of steering, so our hooking up and our rest didn't last long.

The wind was at our backs, but not directly, so we had to correct even as we paddled downstream.  We have found that in most cases, the wind has a much bigger effect on our kayaks than the current.  I'm sure if we were in an extremely strong/dangerous current, that would not be the case, but we do not paddle in those types of situations.  The wind is an annoying part of flat water paddling, but it is welcome in the spring (black flies!) and also on a very hot and humid day.  For the fall, usually we have many calm days.  That has not been the case lately.  I wonder if anyone else in northern New York agrees that it's been a "windier" than usual season?  At any rate, we knew we'd be dealing with the wind and chose to paddle in spite of it.  We're glad we did.

Meet me back here for part two of this paddle in a few days.  And please feel free to use the "reactions" to send me feedback if you don't feel like making a comment.   Thanks, and happy kayaking!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Long Pond and Round Pond, part two

And now for the rest of the trip on Long Pond and Round Pond:

One other feature which makes us enjoy this destination is the short upstream paddle you can make on the Oswegatchie as it empties into Round Pond.  Here are a couple of photos of that area:

It's less than a half mile before the water gets swift and the river is filled with rocks and boulders.

We spent a few minutes battling the current, just to see if we could get further upstream.  It looks as if there is a possible path through the rocks, but there are tons of them just under the surface (notice the ripples in the photo above.)  It was fun trying, but the current was strong enough, the water shallow enough and the rocks plentiful enough that we didn't get far at all.

Here is a photo of the same area from a few years ago when the water was higher, causing more foam/bubbles as the water rushed over the rocks:

It was time to turn around and head back the way we had come.  There are a few beaver houses just off Round Pond on the river.  We caught a glimpse of one as he dove under and wondered if we really saw what we thought we did in the second or two his head was above water.  We're pretty sure since when we paddled by the beaver house, we heard him scolding us!

On the way back, around the top (north) side of Round Pond we stopped to stretch our legs.

This area is part of the FFA camp.  You would not be able to stop here if there were campers on the pond.  There are cabins in this area for those attending the FFA camp, and trails leading to the main buildings on Long Pond.  When there is no activity at the camp, we have stopped here for a quick walk to stretch our legs.  From past experience, I would guess that as long as you are only stretching your legs, you won't have any problems.  (Don't for instance, try to camp here.)

It's a very pretty area, here on Round Pond.  This is a view from the woods looking out at the pond:

Once back in our kayaks, we headed for the footbridge, scooted under and were back out on Long Pond.  By this time, those on the pond were waking up.  We heard a lawn mower, voices, etc. and knew that our quiet time on Long and Round Ponds was at an end.  A lone loon agreed with us.  We saw him/her on Long Pond as we were heading into Round Pond and looked for the bird on the way back.  He/she was no where to be found.

The paddle back didn't take long as these two bodies of water aren't very large.  It was a great way to start off a beautiful weekend morning and we enjoyed it immensely, as we usually do.

I will leave you with 2 more photos from an earlier trip to Long and Round Ponds.  Just seeing these photos  makes me wish we were going back again soon.  It's a beautiful spot. 

Happy kayaking!