Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Forked Lake, part one

A few weeks ago we were able to get to a new kayaking location!  It was exciting since we weren't able to explore much last year. Plus, it's been a busy summer so we hadn't yet ventured a long way from home.  If you know where Raquette Lake is, then finding Forked Lake on a map is easy.  Just look north and you'll see it.  It's a bit more convoluted to get to though, since there are no roads that way.  (But you can paddle across Raquette and carry over to Forked.)  You need to travel further north from Raquette Lake on Route 28 to Blue Mtn. Lake and take Route 30 toward Long Lake.  The turn for Forked Lake is off Route 30.  There is a campground on Forked Lake, just a few miles off Route 30, but we chose to put-in at the other boat launch which is south of the campground on another road.  *note that the campsites are accessed by a trail or by boat.  Here is a link for more info on the campground:  http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/24467.html   This lake is a popular place.  But very pretty, don't you think?

Forked Lake (pronounced with 2 syllables:  Fork-Ed) is a large lake with, you guessed it-- forks.  I call the three of them "arms" or "branches" because on a map they are narrow (relatively speaking) and each goes off in a different direction.  One lies west, another east and one points north.  Because 2 of the arms lie west to east, the wind can get some decent sized waves going.  We encountered unusual (for northern NY) morning winds, creating rolling waves.  I was disappointed, having come so far.  The idea of paddling hard all day and being worn out was not appealing.  But, the winds were not howling, just blowing steady for 5 or 10 minutes, and then dying down.  We set out for the pennisula in the photo above.  I think it's called Squirrel Point.  There are posted signs on it.  From this point, we could see north, up that arm and there was another smaller set-back area behind Squirrel Point.

Here is the view looking west after we were on the water:

And the view looking north when near Squirrel Point:

And the view looking east:

As you can see by the photos, the sun and clouds were competing against each other.  You would think these are photos from 2 or 3 different paddles to this spot rather than all from the same day.

Because we weren't sure about the wind's chances of increasing, we did a quick look around from Squirrel Point.  I wanted to be able to say that I knew where each arm of the lake was.  Then I choose to go back to the western arm where there is an inlet.  With the wind, this area would be the most calm.  We'd still need to paddle back to the boat launch on the main lake, but at least we be rested from a relaxing paddle along the inlet and marsh area.

Brody, as usual, was up for the adventure!

Like most Adirondack lakes, Forked Lake is filled with rocks and boulders, both in the water and along the shore, sometimes lining the banks into the woods.

Below is a photo of the south end of the lake, our goal.  The highest rounded peak is Pillsbury Mountain, according to my guidebook.  In the middle of the photo at the waterline, do you see a line of white?  It's hard to see in this photo.  Anyway, the large light spots to the right along the water's edge are boulders and rocks, but in the middle is the marshy inlet, so no rocks there.  It's actually waterlillies, which from this distance looked like one line of white on top of the water.

Here is an example of the rocks in the lake.  The shoreline is also very jagged which makes it much more interesting to look at as you paddle along.

Brody certainly likes the varied scenery!  Whenever we get close to the shore, he stands up and looks intently at the woods.  I think he's hoping to see a chipmunk or a squirrel.

We heard lots of birdsong in the woods along the lake, but didn't see any birds flying.  I spied this dead tree in the distance and hoped I'd find some kind of bird perched on it.  No such luck.

I love cloud formations, and these just begged for a shot:

As you can see by the ripples in the water, the wind was definitely blowing.  At times it seemed strong, maybe 7-10 mph. but it luckily didn't stay that way for any length of time.

Here is Brody with the cloud formation as a backdrop:

I got a kick out of these trees.  They were taller than the trees around them and were a great indicator of the  wind's usual direction on the lake.

We saw two different groups of loons in this southern area of the lake  They all looked like adults, but there could certainly have been juveniles among them.  We were too far away to see much  except their heads sticking out of the water.  We counted 7 in one group and 2 in another group.  They called a few times, making Brody's pointy ears stick up just a bit straighter as he tried to see what the noise was and just who was making the racket.  There were places along the lake where sound would echo back-- confusing Brody.  We stayed out of the loons' way and they continued their fishing.

Here is another shot of cool cloud formations with Brody in the foreground:

We spied an empty DEC campsite along the shore before reaching the marsh area and inlet.  It had 2 different sandy banks to pull a kayak or two out on and the tent area was flat.  There was a picnic table and a stone fire pit.  We made note of its location so that we could stop there on our way back.  Lunch and a stretch of the legs were looking good by this time.

Another spot that would have been possible to land a kayak was here near the end of the lake before the marsh area.  We thought the 2 boulders looked like dinosaur eggs or something, just sitting on the edge of the lake.

I will leave you with my favorite Brody photo of this trip.  In fact, it's one of my favorites overall.  I'm using this one as a screen saver right now.  He's in the water lillies, which is where we will pick up part two of my description of our paddle on Forked Lake.

If you haven't checked out my website yet, please do.  It's full of useful information with 20 locations completed and another 18 yet to go.  Find it at:  www.quietkayaking.webs.com

Happy Kayaking!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Oswegatchie River near Star Lake, part two

In part one, I ended with a beautiful stillwater scene of the Oswegatchie.  The still areas are around sweeping bends in the river where the current flattens out.  In July, there are a number of spots along the river that are quite calm on the surface even with the current running underneath. 

I'll get back to our 2012 trip in just a few minutes, but wanted to share a few photos from our paddle in 2008.  All four of the following photos were taken then. 

Here is one with some pretty white flowering bushes (sorry I don't know what they are.) They seemed to be past blooming in 2012.

I mentioned that we did not see any ducks this trip.  I'm surprised since we saw many on our last trip.  Here is one of a momma black duck and her juvenile ducklings.

In part one I said that we had planned to paddle as far as High Rock but didn't make it.  In 2008 we did get as far as High Rock.  Here is a photo of the put-in area for High Rock's campsite:

 I know-- it doesn't look like a high rock at all.  But that's because my shot is just of the put-in area.  To the left, the rock rises.  There is a path around and up, leading to a flat area for a tent, and a clearing that looks back on part of the Oswegatchie just traveled.  Here is a shot from there:

No, it's not real "high" but it IS the highest going upstream, at least up to this point of the river.  So the vantage point is very nice, especially for looking back downstream.

OK.  Now back to my description of our 2012 paddle.  We stopped for lunch at campsite 42 which had a sandy bank area to pull our kayaks up on, and it looked like a decent primitive campsite, up from the water in the trees.

We sat on the grassy bank to eat our lunch.  It wasn't long before the deer flies found us.  (In the Adirondacks it seems like if it's not black flies it's deer flies!)  Brody was snapping at them constantly while we were swatting at them.  They weren't biting, just buzzing around us, doing a great job of annoying us while we ate.

When we began gathering up our picnic and reloading the kayaks, we had a visitor!  Yes, I jumped and probably made some kind of surprised and not-delighted noise when I saw this guy.  But, because I'm documenting all of our paddle adventures, his photo had to be taken.  So, here he is, Mr. Garter Snake.  He looked more than 2 feet long-- maybe 2 and a half.  He slithered right into the water and wriggled back and forth to the other side of the narrow river and up the other bank in a matter of seconds.  At least he didn't slither across my bare foot like the small one in my backyard did just a few days ago!


 Here is one of those inside curves with an exposed sandy bank.  This one looks large enough for a few kayaks to pull out onto, but the vegetation is just outside of the frame on the left and you would only be able to walk a couple of feet from the water.

Brody has his eye on his daddy in the kayak next to ours.  Whenever I try to get his photo, he completely ignores me. Treats work wonders, but I only have so many hands...

This tree amazes me.  Look how it's grown, despite it's angle.  It would be quite a tall tree if it were upright!  The river goes under the tree, so it's fun to look up at the sky from between the pine needles.

Below is a reflection photo.  As we headed back downstream we were pleased to note that in many areas of the river, the current would take us downstream without paddling.  But, steering was very important!  Then we'd reach one of these quiet spots and paddling was necessary.  We did so slowly, enjoying the reflections as we moved on.

The trip back downstream from campsite 42 took about half the time as paddling up.  Keep in mind that part of the reason was, of course, the current.  The other part of the reason is that I took less photos, and we were retracing our path upstream, so we'd seen most everything on the paddle up.  One of the best things about this up and back type of paddle is that you know where the rocks are (mostly) and you know which side of the beaver dam to paddle over, etc.

In the photo below is an example of the red cardinal flower that just seems to pop right out from the green vegetation.

And  here is is campsite 45.  It is the one closest to the put-in-- probably 2 miles or so upstream.  It looks like a good spot, with a nice area for pulling your kayak or canoe out.

We saw many butterflies long the river.  These yellow ones really seemed to like the Joe-pye weed.  I believe the butterflies are yellow swallowtails, but don't quote me on it!

Our trip up and down the Oswegatchie was almost at an end.  We found that there was more paddling than we remembered from our earlier trip.  My husband and I tried to figure out if we were just in better paddling shape in 2008 or if we'd really forgotten what a work out it was.  We've decided that the newness of our first trip probably accounts for the difference in our experience the second time.  But this is still one of the best places to paddle in northern New York.  It's in a wilderness area and there are no motors allowed.  Two great reasons to paddle the Oswegatchie.

I'll leave you with one last look at this gorgeous river, with half of our paddling party in the mid-ground, making their way back to the put-in.

Happy Kayaking!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Oswegatchie River near Star Lake, part one

Hello everyone!  I'm finally getting the chance to blog about one of our favorite kayaking spots!  The Oswegatchie is in the Five Ponds Wilderness Area.  It's popular, but since it's a river with many twists and turns, much of it hedged in by bushes and tall plants, it's pretty secluded feeling.  We kayaked here in 2008 and also just a week or so ago.  Both times were on weekdays in July and I think we saw maybe 10 people the first time and 8 the second.

I'll be using current photos for this blog post.  If I use something from earlier, I'll be sure to identify it that way.  This is the view once we got going on the Oswegatchie.  It's a prettier photo than the one I took of the put-in, so I wanted to start with it.  Gorgeous area, don't you think?

I would say that even though this is a great paddle, it's a bit different than most of our trips.  There is a current on this river and you paddle upstream from the put-in on Sunny Lake Road (dirt) off Route 3, just a bit past Star Lake.  For both trips we've done here we didn't get as far as we would have liked before turning around.  It's a lot of paddling and steering.  But the steering and the twists and turns are what make this such a fun river.  If you're a strong paddler and don't lolly-gag to take photos, give your dog a drink of water, or other such time consuming (but NOT time-wasting) things, then you will make it further up this river, maybe even to High Falls which is about 13 miles from the put-in.

Speaking of the put-in--  It is the best kind for us-- a gradual, sandy entry.  Rocks have been placed strategically so that if the current is on the strong side, you will still be able to enter your kayak or canoe without it floating downstream without you.  There was no danger of that, as the water levels (as are many places in the country this summer) are well below normal on this part of the river.

Here is a photo of the put-in from the water:

There's plenty of parking at the end of Sunny Lake Road, and there is an out-house down a short path from the parking lot.

The first stretch of the Oswegatchie is full of rocks, most below the surface.  In higher water, 2008, there were only a certain few that we had to watch out for.  But this year, the lower water level meant that we had to pay close attention, especially for the first half mile to mile.  There may even be places you will need to pull your boat along.  That happened to my husband since he sits lower in the water than I do.  I choose a different route and was able to paddle through the same area.  Two other kayakers in our party followed me and made it without getting out of their kayaks also. On our previous trip, no one had to get out.

There are many beaver dams on the Oswegatchie, from what we've been told by people who've gone as far as High Falls.  We encountered maybe three in the short piece of river we paddled (about 3 miles I think.) All of them had been breached to some extent or another and we were able to paddle over them.  One was quite a challenge though, with most of the water cascading down one 4 foot wide section which looked like our only chance of paddling through rather than carrying over the dam.  There was plenty of water, but the current tried its best to turn us onto some rocks a few inches beneath the surface of the river.  It took some of us a few tries to get up this section but no one tipped over or needed to get out and pull their kayak through.  If you're trying to picture this in your head, it wasn't anything dangerous.  The water was only about 2 feet deep and the worst that could have happened was a kayak tipping sideways and someone getting a bit wetter than they'd planned.

Brody has decided that he ALWAYS wants to kayak on rivers and creeks--  Especially narrow ones like the Oswegatchie.  He gets so interested in everything he sees and seems to enjoy the twists and turns and the changing scenery as much as we do!

We heard many birds and saw a few, but I couldn't get the camera out fast enough to catch them on this trip.
But, in 2008, I captured photos of a cedar waxwing and a catbird , both of which we also saw on this trip.  So here are those bird photos from 2008:

Here is cardinal flower that is just starting to blossom.  Every once in a while, there'll be a burst of red in the varied greens of the bushes and plants along the river.  Almost every time, it's a cardinal flower.

There are many interesting blow-downs on the river.  Some look to be old enough to have been from the micro-burst which hit this area in 1995.  The good news is that the DEC checks out these paddling/camping areas and will clear a path (albeit one just wide enough for a canoe or kayak) so that you don't have to get out and go around an obstacle.  It's a good thing, too, because there are not many places other than the campsites to actually get out.  Most of the vegetation is right up to the water.  There are a few "inside" curves of the river with a very small sandy bank in low water times, but these are usually covered.

Here is my husband, about to go through the rock-gauntlet.  The water was so low that most of this area was too shallow to paddle through.  He was ahead of me, so when I saw his trouble, I looked for a better route and found one.  He ended up getting out and pulling his kayak about 10-12 feet before getting back in-- not a big deal.

I'm not sure why, but we didn't see any ducks on this trip.  In 2008, around the same time, we saw quite a few.  It may be the time difference-- we got started later in the day this year.  Or, it could be that the ducks "ducked" out of the way when a canoe came downstream, shortly before we headed up the way they'd come.

But, we did see a whole lot of frogs.  They were soaking up the sun and were all very solitary.  Doesn't this guy look like a plastic toy?

I forgot to mention that the day we paddled here was one of the hottest we've had here in northern New York (although we've had some just as hot since-- maybe even a few degrees hotter!)  It was close to 90 degrees that day, and that's saying a lot for this area of the Adirondack Park.  That may be part of the reason why we didn't make it as far upriver as we would have liked.

This became Brody's usual pose for most of the trip.  On lakes he gets tired of the same view-- water, water everywhere.  But on the rivers and creeks, he stands up and swings his head back and forth, hoping to spot a duck or a bird.

We paddled around curves, twists, turns, and bends on our way to High Rock, which is a bit more than 3 miles upstream from the put-in.  When we began to see the marked campsites, I knew we were getting close, but each time we negotiated another bend, we still hadn't reached our goal.  It was past lunch time, and everyone needed a break and some food.  We ended up at campsite number 42 where there was a place to pull out our kayaks and eat.

Although there is a current on this river, there are many spots that are still as well.  This shot is somewhere before the place we ate our lunch, making this paragraph out of order!  But it is a perfect example of the beauty we encountered along the river.

Join me here again in a few days or so for part two of the Oswegatchie River, and I'll fill you in on the rest of our trip!

Happy Kayaking!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Long and Round Ponds 2012, part two

Round Pond is our favorite of the two ponds on this paddle.  It is more secluded and as I mentioned in part one, is not accessible to motorboats, though I suppose a small fishing boat with a motor might be able to slip under the footbridge as we do in our kayaks.

Here is Brody, checking out Round Pond as we entered it from beneath the footbridge.

Here is a representation of the pretty reflections found on Round Pond in the morning.  Round Pond also gets less wind, so the water is usually close to ripple-free until late morning.

This little point of land is near the entrance to Round Pond, where there are many lily pads.

Once on Round Pond, if you turn left and paddle across the pond, you will find the inlet.  It's in the northeast corner of the pond.  Here is Brody, checking out a nice reflection as we head toward the inlet.

And another of those wonderful reflections on Round Pond:

We enjoy paddling the inlet.  It's quiet until you hear the distant sound of water over rocks.  Sometimes it's a rushing sound, but with less water flow, it's more of a bubbling.  But either way, it's a calming sound. 

Along the inlet there are rocks on the banks, and also more Joe-pye blossoms:

The stretch of inlet that is paddle-able is less than a mile.  Once you reach rocks in the stream, you will need to turn around.  I know it looks like it's possible to maneuver around those larger rocks and get past them to another section of flat water, but it's not possible if you want to stay in your kayak.  There are many more rocks under the water's surface and those are the ones that you will get hung up on.  But it's fun to try, since the water is shallow.  (The current is strong enough here at times to turn your boat as you are trying to make your way upstream.)

On the way back-- downstream from the rocks in the inlet, I stopped long enough to take a couple photos of a dead tree whose shape I liked:

I was experimenting with the black and white setting to see if I any of my photos look better in black and white.  So far, I don't think I've done a great job with the black and white composition.  I think most black and whites look better with less in the frame and more contrasts than what I see when we're kayaking.  What do you think?

On past paddles to this area we've seen a muskrat or two and once thought we saw an otter swimming, but only for a second or two, then the elusive rascal went under water and we lost him.  So, we can't be sure it was an otter.

Paddling back to Round Pond on the inlet, this is the view:

We heard some splashing in the water once back on Round Pond and looked out across the pond to see a deer trudging the last few feet to the banks of the pond!  It was out of the water and bounding into the woods before I could pull the camera out of the dry bag.  But that was fun to see, for sure.

Brody enjoyed the lily pads:

He gets excited when there's something in the water.  We're not sure if he thinks he can get out and walk on the lily pads or if he just wants to eat them!

But whatever the case, he really seems to enjoy checking out the blossoms as well as the pads.

This is a set-back on the northern side of Round Pond:

And another great reflection from that area:

And Brody, surveying the set-back with curious doggy wonder!  (And more beautiful reflections)

He very rarely faces me in the kayak, being curious enough that he must see where we are going and what might be happening in front of us.  So, I grab the camera quickly when he turns around.  I held him in place for this shot.

So that I could also get this close up:

Here is another photo of the footbridge, reflections and all, as we head back to Long Pond:

I took many common loon photos, but none came out very well since the loons stayed far away from us.  This is the best of them and shows only one loon, but there were two, fishing together.

Here is the put-in as viewed from the water.  It's a nice, easy, gradual sandy entry-- the type we prefer:

Long Pond and Round Pond are small but beautiful.  Although access is off a dirt road, the road has been well maintained with grating each time we've traveled here.  We were a bit disappointed by the beer cans and trash at the put-in which is not at all usual, unless something has changed in the past year.  (We didn't paddle here in 2011.)  But, all in all, it's still a great place to take a short, quiet paddle.

I'll leave you with one more reflection photo of Long Pond from this trip. 

I hope you're all having a great paddling season!  Please use the reactions check boxes to make a comment if you don't want to type in something.  Thanks for reading, and happy kayaking!