Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Lake Durant and Rock Pond, part one

The weekend was not supposed to be great for paddling and Saturday was the only day we could go.  So even though it might rain, and even though the winds were supposed to pick up, and even though we never paddle when we are sure it will be windy.... we went anyway.  We also talked friends of ours into going as well!

Lake Durant and Rock Pond are beautiful.  I'm not sure you will get the full effect of their beauty in these photos since the sun was in and out all day, and by the end of our paddle, the camera was safely stowed in the dry bag as waves splashed over our recreational kayaks, driven by winds which made the paddle back strenuous.

But the question is, did we have fun?  Yes, of course!  Would we paddle with winds whipping at 15-20 mph (at least) again?  Probably not!

Lake Durant is a couple miles long with a state campground at the eastern end.  There is a boat launch at the trail marker area for Cascade Pond, just off Durant Road.  This is where we put in, rather than at the campground.  Here is a photo from the put in.

This put in (and from what I've read, the one at the campground also) had a nice gradual slope for getting in the water.  The bank was a bit high, but the trail was worn down so that putting in at the water's edge was fine.  We headed toward Rock Pond which is west from the put in.  Here is a shot looking in that direction:

We heard many birds, but I am not very good at identifying them by their sounds.  I know the calls and songs of those near my home, but I'm still learning about those in the places we kayak.  We did see a belted kingfisher almost as soon as we started paddling.  He wasn't diving for minnows, but was flying along the edge of the forest which butts right up against the lake on both sides for the majority of its length. I could identify chickadees, robins and chipping sparrows but there were many other forest birds singing away all throughout the day.

As we approached Rock Pond, we saw the footbridge that marks its "entrance." The guys beat the women to the footbridge and were checking it out as we arrived.

You have to take out here, as you can see.  There is no way around the footbridge, and although we've scooted underneath a few footbridges in other locations, that is not possible here.  We got out on the right and walked across the footbridge.

There is a very pretty but small campsite at the end of this footbridge, just to the right.  (This would be on the south side of the lake.)  Here is a photo of it:

There were some beautiful trilliums growing here.  I couldn't resist a photo:

Here is a view of Rock Pond from the hill above the footbridge:

This was just one of the many rocks that give Rock Pond its name.  Luckily, most are above the water so you don't have to be concerned (for the most part) about scraping your kayak on one that is under the surface.

The wind already had some strength to it less than a few hours into our paddle.  Our friends holed up in a sheltered area as we waited for the wind to die down a bit.  Did I mention that the wind made it quite chilly?  The temp. was around 50 degrees, but it felt much colder when the wind blew across the water and into our faces.  That's why Karen's got her hood up.  Gary is the one waving hello!  I've gotta give our friends credit-- they were game for this trip even though it was their first paddle of the season, the weather wasn't inviting (to say the least) and Karen was trying out her new kayak for the first time.

When the wind quit its onslaught, we paddled back out onto Rock Pond and around a few small boggy islands.  Here we saw some tree swallows flitting around overhead.  We headed west as far as we could go, looking for the outlet. 

This area was my favorite part of the paddle.  It was a bit protected so not as windy.  Plus, the sun came out for a while during the time we spent at this end of the lake/pond.  We got stopped by a beaver dam just past the water you can see in the above photo.  On a warm, sunny day, we would have carried over the dam to explore some more, but the cold and the wind were enough to keep us in our kayaks on this day.

Here's a photo of my fellow paddlers soaking up the sun while it decided to shine--partially:

And here's another. Blue Mountain is in the background of both shots.

We hung out here in this shallow area and relaxed, enjoying the sun, the birdsong and good company.  The four of us happen to have kayaks that are identical in make and model. They are wide, very stable recreational kayaks which we love.  They are not meant for cutting through whitecaps.  They are meant for the type of paddling we enjoy most-- lazy paddling on calm lakes and rivers, and exploring inlets and outlets, creeks and streams at a leisurely pace.  Perfect for the moment shown in the photo above.

Once we head back toward the footbridge, I had just finished saying I was surprised we hadn't seen a great blue heron when one flew from the edge of a marshy area, straight down the lake away from us.  We also saw a few ducks.  One was a mallard drake, but we're not sure about the other one.

One of the prettiest views as we kayaked was of Blue Mountain. 

I probably took way too many photos of Blue Mountain from the waters of Rock Pond and Lake Durant, but not every kayaking location affords such great views in the distance!

I'll be back in a few days with more on our paddle on Lake Durant and Rock Pond.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Moose River Convergence with Black River, part two

Once we were back on the river from the creek, we headed downstream on the Moose.  You can't go much further upstream due to boulders and rocks in one branch and swift water in the other.  If you like hopping around on rocks, looking for driftwood and that type of thing, the area with the boulders is accessible from Shibley Road.  Turn left after crossing the two bridges.  There are paths down to the area.  You can see a bit of the rocks and boulders in this photo below.

But what I was really trying to capture in the photo is the swift current coming from the southern/western fork of the river at this spot.  The area in front of the rocks is where the current was rippling and would have turned our kayaks right around had we tried to paddle in it without a lot of force behind our strokes.  As I said, we turned around and did not attempt to go upstream any further since it would have been less than a hundred feet before the dam stopped us anyway.

On the return, we stuck closer to the northern bank of the river.  We saw a couple of geese on a half-submerged rock, but no other water birds.  They aren't in this photo, but were in the shade so they blended in and were hard to see.

I like clouds, so I took a few shots of the interesting formations that caught my eye as we paddled back downstream toward the put in/take out.

The sun was getting lower in the sky and we were thinking about dinner, so we explored less on the way back downstream.  There are houses and camps on both sides of this part of the Moose, so as I mentioned,  it is not a secluded or quiet area.  Still, the sun was warm, the wind calm, and the water easy to paddle.  It was a treat to be out in the middle of the week, and this short trip kept us going through the cold and snowy Mother's Day weekend.   Here is one more photo of clouds and river that I took that day:

Since it was a short paddle, part two of this blog post is also a bit short!  I'll be back soon with another trip description.  Pray for warm weather this weekend!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Moose River Convergence with Black River, part one

Well, I'm a bit behind on my blogging this week.  But, I didn't have a trip to blog about because the weather was downright nasty last weekend.  High winds, rain, even snow... not what this kayaker wants to see, especially on the weekends.  Anyway, we were able to get a quick paddle in mid-week of last week before the weather took its turn for the worst. It was a gorgeous afternoon:

We went on a short paddle here but this trip can be extended up the Black River toward Port Leyden.  (Also, below the falls at Lyons Falls begins a flat water paddle that is over 30 miles-- all the way to the dam at Carthage.)

The put in at Lyons Falls where the Moose and Black Rivers meet is exactly the type of put in we prefer:  sandy with a gradual entrance into the water.  Please note that this is an area that I would not recommend in the early spring with run-off or after a very heavy rain.  I might give you a scare in a minute with a photo of this area during flood stage.  But, this time of year and especially in the summer, its a nice place to paddle.  One more word of "caution"-- this is NOT our favorite type of paddle.  It is hemmed in by roads on each side, bridges, and houses, so it is not as peaceful and serene as our favorite places to paddle.  That being said, you'll see by some of the photos, that the wooded areas along the river are still pretty to look at.

Here are two shots of the put in at Lyons Falls.  The DEC website shows boat launches for the Black River, but this one is not listed.  I'm guessing that's because it is not maintained by the DEC.  Here is the link if you're looking for boat launches on the Black River north (downstream) of Lyons Falls:

We headed right from the put in, which is the Moose River.  Heading left would have kept us on the Black River (and almost straight ahead is a huge waterfall/dam, so don't go that way!)  Going left on the Black,upstream, you can paddle about 3 or 4 miles until you reach another dam in Port Leyden.  We chose to paddle up the Moose since we didn't have a lot of time.  It's less than 2 miles upstream before you reach rocks and/or swift water from the dam.

And here is a photo of what the Black River looks like in the spring during the rains and heavy snowmelt.  This is a now abandoned paper mill, with water going over the falls/dam.  This photo was taken about a football field length from the put in area (and from a different direction.)

Here are a couple photos of the river bank on the southern side:

We heard blue jays as we paddled and later saw some type of hawk above us.  The photo is very far away, but shows his shape.  We think he is a Cooper's hawk, based on what we saw of him as he flew over us.  Naturally, I did not have the camera on him when he was the closest to us!  (Happens to me all the time.)

We paddled to a shallow area on the south side of the river and explored for a few minutes.

Remember in my post about Francis Lake, I mentioned we saw a spotted sandpiper but had never seen one before?  They are a stream/lakeside waterbird, so once we knew this, I was sure we had the right bird.  It just seemed odd that we never noticed the bird before.  Well, it must be a "good year" for spotted sandpipers because we saw another in a shallow, sheltered area of the Moose River on this trip.  I took his photo, but he's hard to see and was too far away.  These little guys are slender and they are about half the size of a robin.

Up near the end of our short paddle upstream, there is a creek on the southern side.  It is narrow and shallow, but I was able to navigate about 30 feet of it before a downed tree barred my way.

Here is a shot looking back out at the river from the creek:

I'll finish up the description of this short trip next time, and leave you with one of my favorite photos from our paddle that day:

Happy kayaking!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Francis Lake, part two

I found a photo of the esker itself on Francis Lake.  This was taken a few years ago, but gives you an idea of what an esker looks like:

I forgot to mention in my first post that we saw a sparrow fly up from a pine branch on the ground as we walked on the esker.  She/he was sitting on a branch above my head when I found her with my camera lense. The angle is a bit unusual because of my position beneath her, so I could be wrong about my identification of this bird.  From what I have learned, she is a white-crowned sparrow.  True, they don't hang out in NY, but I am thinking she was just passing through.  Here is the photo:

Once back on the water, we saw the resident loons again and entertained ourselves for a few minutes trying to guess where they would pop up next or how long they would stay underwater.  They kept an eye on us and often swam in the opposite direction we were taking with our kayaks.  As we entered an area near the southern shores of the lake I saw a splash in the water and watched a bird fly off-- a belted kingfisher!  I was very excited since I had never seen one dive.  My husband had at Stillwater Reservoir a few years ago, but I only saw the kingfisher as he flew away.  We watched this belted kingfisher for at least 10 minutes and he graciously showed off his diving skills 2 more times.  We were staying away from the shore so that he would continue to fish, so I don't have any photos of him.  After a while, the bird took off toward the southern shore where we were headed, so we followed.  And then there were 2!  We watched with binoculars (but it was difficult to keep up with them that way since they didn't stay still for long.) We are assuming they were a pair and were courting, based on the chasing and landing they did. We enjoyed their antics as well as their call, which I can't describe, but is distinct.  They put on a show for us that lasted more than 15 or 20 mins.  Then they flew further into the woods at the end of the lake, out of our sight.

Here is another photo of the lake taken that day:

As you can see, it was beginning to cloud up and the wind was creating some small waves. The waves weren't big and the wind wasn't too strong, but the cloud cover made us decide it was time to head for the dock.

On the way, we passed a shallow area on the western side of the lake with some boulders in the water.  We didn't explore this spot that day because some boys in a row boat were fishing there.  In the past, this is where we have seen a lone great blue heron.  Here is a photo of that area from the main part of the lake:

And here is one of my husband, paddling up ahead of me:


We had a great time paddling Francis Lake.  The boys in the row boat were the only ones around.  There are several camps and homes on the lake, mostly on the northern and western side, but the southeastern and eastern shores of the lake have no buildings visible, making it a beautiful place to paddle.  We really enjoyed seeing the wildlife and soaking up the peace we found here.

Since we've been to Francis Lake a number of times, I'll end with a few photos taken at other times in the past 4 kayaking seasons.

I'll be back soon with a description of our next paddle.  See you then!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Francis Lake, part one

Wow, we sure had a warm weekend!  I am NOT complaining.  It was great.  We were able to kayak on Saturday.  Although we got very little rain, the forecast sounded like the afternoon might be "iffy" so we planned a late morning paddle on Francis Lake.

We paddle Francis Lake at least once each season.  It's an interesting  lake and since there are only a few homes/camps on the lake, it's usually pretty quiet.  There are a couple of set backs, making exploring lots of fun.  There was a breeze most of the day which worried us when we first arrived since it felt like the rain might be coming early.  The lake didn't look too rough, and it was warm, so no worries.  The rain never did came until evening.  I have to warn any northern New York paddlers:  THE BLACK FLIES HAVE ARRIVED!!  We were very thankful for the breeze when near the shoreline.  Black flies are a part of life in northern New York (and elsewhere) in the spring.  Sometimes they're thick enough that you feel as if you can't breathe without one entering your mouth or nose.  Luckily, this was not the case today.  They are out, but we didn't have any clouds swarming us.  They also didn't do too much biting, but that may be due to the breeze more than anything.

The resident pair of common loons made an appearance about 45 minutes into our paddle.  We were happy to see them.  We have no way of knowing if it's the same pair from year to year, but we like to think so.  They sat very low in the water and spent more time diving than floating or paddling, so it was obviously "lunch time" for them while we were on the lake.  They are skilled at swimming underwater and have a very good idea of the direction our kayaks are headed.  Their instincts keep them safe--  Often we loose sight of them and look back to see them many yards behind us!  They are fascinating birds who can stay underwater for, I believe, up to 4 minutes.  Here is a photo, though all that's out of the water are their heads and necks:

I'm getting ahead of myself.  I planned to start with a photo of the lake, and then go back to the beginning of our day on the water and show you the put in.  It's a sandy area but also has a dock.  Only one section was in the water, the other one up on the bank.  We are guessing that the DEC pulled it out for winter and just hasn't placed it back yet.  I use the dock since it's very low and the water is fairly shallow, but my husband just scoots in from the sandy bank.  He uses the dock a bit for support.  It's not as convenient as a gradual sandy entry, but it's not bad.  Here is a photo of the partial dock:

We had such a great time on this paddle that I don't know where to start.  I think we were both surprised by the birds we saw because we often see only our loons, and once in a while, a great blue heron.  We definitely HEAR birds, we just usually don't see them much.  Our paddle this time was different.  I'll get to the birds in a minute, but first, I want to mention that turtles were everywhere sunning themselves. I am not sure if these are "painted turtles" or some other type, but they are common in NY.  I will have to make another attempt at identifying them.  We found it interesting that all of those we saw on Francis Lake were sunning themselves with their back legs out (for balance, we're guessing) and their front legs drawn in.  Here is a photo so that you can see what I mean.  Maybe someone with more knowledge of turtles will let me know why they might be doing this.

Here are a couple of photos of the set back we spent quite awhile exploring:

My husband is great at spotting things before me and was quick to point out a bird in the marshy area along the shore that I hadn't noticed.  I yanked the camera out of the dry bag and turned it on, hoping it wouldn't fly away before I snapped it's photo.  Neither of us had seen this type of bird in New York.  I was stunned to learn just how little I know about wading birds in New York state.  Did you know that we have sandpipers?  Yes-- those small (or very small) wading birds that you see on our ocean shores and estuaries.  I had no idea there were sandpipers in our neck of the woods!  I used my field guide to identify him.  This little guy is, I believe, called a Spotted Sandpiper.  Here is his photo:

We also saw a lone Mallard drake in this area.  We're not sure if the female was on a nest, or if the male was just passing through, but he was very pretty with his beautiful green head and bright white feathers.  I took some photos, but he was too far away and flew when we inched closer.

There is an esker on this lake and we decided to get out here to stretch our legs and have a snack.  An esker is a pile of gravel, etc. left behind when a glacier retreats.  So, it's a raised area, like a finger sticking out into lake.  Here are a few shots taken from the esker, looking back at the marshy set back we had just explored.

The esker is a great spot to view a couple sections of the lake with its vantage point about 8 to 10 feet above the water.  We took a walk along the trail on the esker's spine, our footsteps muffled by the thick covering of pine needles.  The spot is peaceful and perfect for a picnic lunch... as long as it's not black fly season and there is no breeze.  As soon as the breeze died down, we headed for our kayaks.

Look for part two of our Francis Lake trip soon!