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!