Thursday, June 21, 2012

South Inlet, part two

Welcome to part two of my description of our paddle on the South Inlet of Raquette Lake over Memorial Day weekend.  I had planned to give a general idea of the location of each place we paddle for those reading my blog who aren't familiar with the Adirondacks or Northern New York state.  I forgot in part one, so let me remedy that:  South Inlet empties into Raquette Lake's South Bay, and both are aptly named, being on the southern end of the lake.  It's about 2 miles from the put-in to the rocky area where you have to turn around on South Inlet.  If you were able to travel further south (upstream) you would eventually find Sagamore Lake, part of historic Great Camp Sagamore.  Raquette Lake is between Old Forge and Blue Mountain Lake on Route 28.

When the current is weak or negligible or we're on a lake and want to change positions, we'll stretch out our legs over the kayak, as my husband is doing here:

As you can see, the water is quite calm, the sky a pretty blue, and although there were bugs, none seemed inclined to bother us while we were paddling.

Brody seemed interested in the beaver lodge, so I approached it quietly,  and tried to listen for activity inside.  I didn't hear anything, and based on Brody's reaction, I don't think he did either. As you can see, he has already turned his attention to something else across the water.  I'm not sure what, but probably his "daddy" in the other kayak.

Here is a view of the calm water as we paddled upstream from the put-in.  Are you tired of Brody's butt?  Seems he's always in my view finder now and I'm not used to zooming in for a quick shot, but I'll have to get better at it.  Pretty scenery always gives me a sense of peace, and although I enjoy other types of photos, those of nature alone are my favorites.

Speaking of nature, did you notice I added a "Words of Wisdom" area to the blog?  I found a quote I love and placed it there.  I'll probably change it once in a while.  Right now it's John Muir's words:

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.  

 Let me know if you agree with John Muir's quote.  I really do.  I feel it when we're kayaking.  I feel relaxed and renewed, at the very least, each time we're on the water.  How do you feel when you're paddling?

The water lilies had not yet bloomed on South Inlet at the end of May, but here is a photo from a July paddle a few years ago.

We also saw only a few black ducks, but I believe they were there, among the grasses and reeds.  They are very protective of their ducklings and we saw a family moving their babies quickly out of the water and into the grasses as we paddled by.  Here is a photo of some black ducks from the paddle in July:

And one of a very friendly guy who came close to my kayak, also on the July paddle.

I have one more photo from a July paddle that shows a very pretty set-back filling in with lily pads.  When we paddled here in May, the area was not this pretty since the lilies were just starting.

I have to tease my husband each time we kayak here because of the great blue heron.  You see, great blue herons are very good at standing completely still, and often on one leg.  Their coloring is meant to blend in with the dead branches and grasses around them as they fish, particularly in the bright sun when anything that reflects the sun can seem light gray or white in color.  We do see a great blue heron or two whenever we paddle here.  But, my husband often sees something that he THINKS is a great blue heron.  Here is an example:

See that shape in the middle of the photos along the shoreline?  It could be a heron, right?  It might be...

Or not!  Oh, don't worry, I'm not going to lie and say I haven't thought I saw a bird that ended up being a piece of driftwood.  It's happened to me too!  I just enjoy teasing my hubby about it.  Thankfully, he's a good sport.  When we see something that is not a great blue heron, but looked like one from a distance, we call it "Dick's Great Blue Heron."  As in,  "Yes, right by that group of water lilies-- it's Dick's Great Blue Heron!  Did you see it?"

And here is a photo of an actual great blue heron, even though it definitely looks like it could be driftwood!

This is a photo of the same heron as he flew away:

Both of those heron photos were also taken in July, a few years ago.

**Well, as I was looking through my South Inlet photos, I found a few that will now make me eat my words!  Remember I mentioned never having seen a common loon on South Inlet?  Well, here is proof from my own photos that I DID see a common loon on South Inlet.

This loon is on his/her nest.  I have not yet discovered if they are "playing dead," (my guess) trying to get as low as possible, or if this is just how they protect their egg.  If anyone knows, let me know!  All I can tell you is that he/she is definitely alive.

So, there are loons on South Inlet, at least sometimes!  I can almost positively say-- but my mistake keeps me from saying "absolutely"-- that's the only time we ever saw one, and we've paddled here almost every year for 7 years.  (Though not always at the same time of year.)**

South Inlet isn't real wide, but it sometimes feels like a lake, only with some twists and turns.  As you paddle further upstream the openness closes in a bit and the water begins to look more like a river.

Around the bend, barely visible in the middle of this photo, is a take-out area that is also part of a trail that begins from bridge at the put-in.  The water cascades over rocks in what some call a waterfall, but I imagine a waterfall as something with more height and a top and bottom that are noticeable.  If the definition for waterfall is simply water moving over rocks, then this fits that description.  But of course, what really matters is that you cannot paddle upstream any further once you reach this point.

There are a couple of places on the northern banks to take-out if you want to stop for lunch or just walk for a few minutes.  The first area is along the bank where there are tree roots which you can use to scoot close to shore.  The next area is smooth rock, and then there is another indent in the bank that works well.  All of these are along the left side (if paddling upstream) and are close together.  Be forewarned:  the bugs can be bad here in the spring and sometimes even later.  Once we didn't get out, and twice we've eaten a hurried lunch.  But other times, especially in the fall, you can get out and walk along the water to an area with big rocks in the sun where you can sit and have a picnic.

Here is one of the put-in areas.  The trail is in the middle of the photo, running left to right.

This is what you will see at the end of your upstream paddle on South Inlet:

In this area, a flowering bush we call "Swamp Apple" grows.  I have no idea what the true name for this plant is called.  Whatever it is, it's very pretty, bringing a burst of color to the banks of South Inlet. 

Here is a view from shore after our quick lunch. The bugs were out in the forest and we hurried to get back on the open water where there was a slight breeze and many less bugs.

South Inlet is a great place to paddle.  Just pick the time of year, choose a day when there should be less people around (if you want solitude, that is) and go paddling!

Please leave a comment, particularly if you have any thoughts on the John Muir quote and/or how paddling makes you feel.

Thanks, and happy kayaking!

** marks the paragraphs correcting my statement about not seeing loons from South Inlet, part one.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

South Inlet, part one

This is the second location we paddled over Memorial Day weekend.  It's one of our favorite "short" paddles since it's easy to get to, the carry is short, and the put-in is a gradual sandy bank.  Since we've been here often, I didn't take a shot of the put-in this time, but I'll look for it in photos from previous paddles.

The photo below is once we're on the water and heading upstream.

South Inlet is the inlet for Raquette Lake.  It has a current, but usually it's not noticeable when paddling, until you reach the rocky area marking the end of the paddle.  Since this connects with big, beautiful (and popular) Raquette Lake, with its many camps, homes, people and motorboats, you may have to share the water with some smaller gas guzzling and smelly watercraft.  But, it's pretty easy to avoid these by coming early in the morning, weekdays, or before/after summertime when everyone is on vacation.  We usually see at least one canoe or kayak here, but only on a summer weekend did we see lots of paddlers.

I found a photo of the put-in from 2010.  As you can see, there is a bit of a hill down to the water and there are some tree roots, but it is not steep and we have no trouble navigating with the kayaks down to the water.  We do, however, take them one at a time since the path is narrow.

Here is another view of the put-in, also from our 2010 paddle, this time from the water.

Here is Dick, paddling upstream, with Brody squinting in the sun since I hadn't yet put his Doggles on him.  Our wide, stable Wilderness Systems Pungo 120's are perfect for the addition of our dog to the cargo!  He has plenty of room to sit.  Sometimes he faces me, but usually he's facing in the direction we're going.  He wants to see what's around the next bend as much as we do!

Here he is, later in our paddle, trying to catch a nap.

As we paddle upstream, there are marshy areas and no good place to beach your kayak until the end of the upstream portion of the paddle.  But there's plenty to see from your kayak, including a few beaver lodges.

As you can see by the photo below, it was a gorgeous day for a paddle.  Sorry about the tilt.  Hopefully the next time we kayak, I'll remember to double check the horizon-- Brody in my kayak makes me sometimes sit a little to one side or the other, as is evident in this photo.

We have seen kingfishers flitting among the trees along this waterway, but didn't on this trip.  We almost always see great blue herons here, but not one was fishing the day we paddled.  The other constant in the wildlife sightings on South Inlet is the black duck.  We saw these ducks and felt better since we were beginning to wonder where all the birds/waterfowl had gone. 

It's interesting that we've never seen a common loon on this waterway.  My guess is that there is not a suitable place for their nest which has to be very close to the water.  Common loons don't travel well on land, being much better swimmers than waddlers, with their legs being set so far back on their bodies.**Please see South Inlet, part two for a correction. I've marked the spot in the blog with these same red asterisks.**

Here is Brody with an eye on the black ducks beside and behind me.  He seemed very interested in them but I watched him close since when we were on Francis Lake, he thought maybe he'd lunge at them like he does our cats.  Thankfully, I still have pretty good reflexes and was able to grab him before he went in the water.  This trip, he was curious about them, but seemed less inclined to take a swim with them!

Well, I've been having some issues with the photo uploader, so I'll end this half of the description of our paddle on the South Inlet of Raquette Lake.  Please join me for part two which should be posted by the end of the week.

Thanks for reading, and happy kayaking!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Francis Lake, part two

Welcome to the 2nd half of my description of our Memorial Day weekend paddle on Francis Lake.  If you missed part one, please check it out-- we saw four bald eagles that day and I was able to photograph one of them!

The photo below shows part of the area where we saw the eagles.  I was trying to catch one last shot of the eagle flying away, but he/she was much too fast for me.  A dot in the sky is about all I got!  But at least this picture shows how shallow this area of the lake is.  When we've paddle here later in the summer, the water plants are so thick that you can't get through this part of the lake.

This is a view from the shallow area as well as an area with a few beaver lodges, out toward the main part of the lake. 

We heard a few bull frogs and Brody was quite intrigued!

We stopped at the esker for a quick stretch of our legs.  There isn't a lot of space to land your boat here, but it is possible.  This is a pretty spot, with lake on each side, a rise of about 10 feet from the lake's surface, the ground covered with pine needles...  I saw a group of pink ladies' slippers here.

Here is a close up of a few.  They are such pretty and unusual flowers, don't you agree?

From the esker, here is the shallow area where we saw the eagles.

And here is the deeper part of that same area where there are beaver lodges.

And this is the path back down to the water from the esker's spine.

Dick is waiting for us in his kayak at the end of the path.

Once back in on the water, it was time to head back.  We had planned for a short paddle our first trip of the season, and did not bring a lunch, just a snack and some water.  The eagles were gone and our bellies were empty.  So, we paddled back the way we had come.  We couldn't stop talking about the eagles-- all the way back to the put-in.

Brody found a pair of tree swallows very interesting to watch as they flitted back and forth on the lake shore, swooping down, then perching on a dead tree.  I wasn't able to get a good photo of them, but here's one of Brody as he watched them.

Francis Lake is a great place to paddle.  Check out my earlier posts concerning Francis Lake for more photos and descriptions.

I'll leave you with one of my favorite Brody photos of our day on Francis Lake.  If this one doesn't make you smile, nothing will!

Happy paddling!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Francis Lake, part one

Here's Brody, checking out the scenery on Francis Lake over Memorial Day weekend.  Although northern New York state had some very warm weather in March, it turned cooler and rainy through April.  May was better, with a few nice weekends but we had family obligations that made kayaking impossible for us until the holiday weekend.

This is my second set of posts about Francis Lake.  It is usually our first trip each kayaking season.  We sometimes paddle here twice in a season.  It's a beautiful lake, with only a few camps on it. And with a limit of  10 hp motors, it is a very quiet lake.  There are also a few shallow areas to explore, along with an esker, so there is a variety of plants, trees and wildlife.

The town nearest Francis Lake is Lowville.  State Route 12 runs through this town but you may find Stillwater Reservoir before you find Route 12 on a map.  If you do, look south and west and you may find Francis Lake.  (It'll look tiny compared to Stillwater Reservoir which is about 9 miles long.)

**NOTE:  In my last post, I promised you something awesome about our trip on Francis Lake, so keep on reading!!

This is my husband, Dick, just after we got on the lake.  As you can see, the lake is edged with evergreens.

 I didn't photograph the put-in this time, but if you check out my Francis Lake posts from 2010, you'll see the dock and a sandy area.  It is an easy entry from the side of the dock on the shore or you can use the dock as I do.

Brody is checking out a fellow boater who had been fishing on the lake.  We don't do much fishing, but we've heard from several people that the pickerel are plentiful.

Well, I DO have a photo of the dock.  Dick took this one of me and Brody with the dock in the background on the left.

Just starting out from the put-in, this perspective makes the lake appear very small.  But to the right of the private dock on the right, there is a lobe of the lake, and to the left beyond the darker trees in the front is another huge area with some shallows as well as some beaver lodges.  Not to mention that those trees in the middle are further away than they appear.

Here's Brody with his "Doggles" on.  They have UV protection which we thought would be a good idea with our trips on the water and his big bug eyes.  No, he does not keep them on constantly, but he'll wear them for stretches of time, mostly when he wants to look around.  He seems to know that they reduce the glare on the water.  When he's trying to nap inside the kayak, he usually paws at them until I remove them.  Then he relaxes and takes a snooze.  Just like our own eye glasses, they're not too comfortable when sleeping!

This island and rock are near the lobe of the lake on the western side. (right from the put-in.)  In this area we've seen a loon fishing and also a loon sitting on its nest.  But on this trip we did not see the loons in this area.

Brody's watching a bird that flew overhead in this shot.  We think it was a tree swallow, but we didn't get a good look at it.  Brody had the best perspective, and he wasn't inclined to name the bird!  We really do think he understands how the goggles help him see in the bright sunlight.  Many photos from last year's kayaking trips show him squinting in the sun.  He had goggles then but we didn't always remember to put them on him.   He looks pretty cute in them, doesn't he ?

This is a pretty view of the lake from inside the lobe on the western side.  I love the rocky islands full of trees.  It's typical of many lake islands  in the Adirondacks.  Francis Lake is on the western side of the Adirondack Park, near Beaver Lake and the Beaver River.  I can see by this photo that I need to pay more attention to the tilt of my kayak with Brody in it.  All of these horizontal shots are dipping slightly to the right!

After exploring this area, we paddled back out onto the main part of the lake and heard the haunting cry of a loon.  We looked around and found him/her sitting low in the water.  Another loon called back.  We're guessing one was on the nest.  The loon dove, gave its wings a ruffled wash, then dove some more.  True to what we know of these birds, it eventually took a long dive and surfaced behind us.  The loon was too far away to get any good photos.  If you're interested, though, I have posted photos of the common loon in the past.  Look at South Pond and/or Nicks Lake.

OK... here is the "exciting sighting" on Francis Lake!  Look closely in the middle of the photo near the edge of the water... I know... it's hard to see exactly what it is.  But I have better photos to show you!  This is just the "teaser."  Any guesses before I go on?

Here he/she is, flying away in the left-middle of the photo.  Yes, it's a bird. I know it's not a great photo, but what kind?

I know, I know, I'm not giving you a lot to go on, especially with the bright sunshine.  Does the photo below help at all?  It's far away, but very distinctive.  You should all have a very good guess by this time....

Yes, it's a bald eagle!  We were so excited to see this beautiful bird!  Where we live in northern New York, we see bald eagles along the Black River, especially in winter when the trees are bare and the river is open.  I know there are more of these majestic birds around than there used to be, but it's so wonderful to see them.  And this is only the second time we've seen a bald eagle while kayaking.  We were paddling on the Raquette River near Tupper Lake 3 or 4 years ago and saw one high in a tree, perched on a dead limb.  It was too far away to photograph, but we are sure it was an eagle, based on his white head and tail.  There really is no mistaking a mature bald eagle!

Here is another photo, the best of the bunch I took that day:

The best part about seeing this eagle, besides being able to get a few decent photographs of him/her is that this was not the only bald eagle we saw!  There were 4!  That's right, FOUR bald eagles on the edge of the water that day!  Three of them flew off as soon as we entered this part of the lake which is very shallow in one section (where they were) and is cut-off from most of the main lake by an esker.  The three eagles who flew away were all mature bald eagles.  They flew off into the woods as we approached.  By the way, we actually HEARD the eagles before we saw them.  They don't sound like hawks, their call is different than what you might expect.  We weren't sure what bird made that sound until we saw them, but we knew we should recognize it!

It's hard to see in the photo, but the bald eagle who stuck around, willing to be photographed, and putting up with our very excited whispers, has a blue band on his leg.  Whether he was rehabilitated or came from a nest that had been observed and was tagged before he left the nest, I don't know.  But we believe he was less skittish with us and our kayaks because he has had some contact with humans in the past, as the band proves.  The eagle didn't stay for hours, just a couple of minutes.  When I pushed my luck and tried to get just a tiny bit closer (we were still at least 50 yards away from him-- I have a 30X zoom on my digital camera) he decided he had been accommodating enough for one day and flew off in the same direction as his companions.

Wow!  It was quite an experience to come upon four bald eagles on the lake.  We've speculated about why they were all gathered there and the obvious answer is fish.  The water is so shallow that we could barely paddle and got hung up a few times in this area after the eagle left and we were turning around.  So, maybe the fish are easy pickings in that spot.  Pickerel are pretty large, so maybe they were sharing one and it slipped back into the water.  (We paddled near the spot to look for any remains of what they may have been eating.)  We don't really know.  But we sure do appreciate the rare opportunity we were given.  Hands down the best wildlife sighting in our short years of kayaking!

I found one more decent photo.  Here he/she is looking almost directly at us.

I have more to tell you about Francis Lake, so join me for part two.  It won't be quite as exciting as part one, but I promise to describe the rest of our paddle and post some more photos too.

Please use the "reactions" below to give me feedback on this post, or feel free to leave a comment or question.  Thanks for reading, and happy kayaking!