Thursday, August 30, 2012

Limekiln Lake, part two

 We left off part one as we were approaching the peninsula on Limekiln Lake. This is a great place to stop for a picnic or just for a stretch of your legs.  Many paddlers stop here-- we've even seen a couple strap their folding lawn chairs to their kayaks and set up "camp" for the day.

The landing spot is all rock, even when the water level is higher, but there is usually enough level area to get out of your kayak or canoe without too much trouble.   Some industrious boaters have been adding to the pile of rocks that is usually present in some shape or form each year at the peninsula:

There is a clearing which looks like it has been used as a campsite, but it isn't an "official" campsite.  Perhaps its only used during the off-season, because we've never seen anyone here for the overnight, yet the clearing, logs and evidence of campfires suggests it's used often.


 The paths along the peninsula have a couple of spots where you can look out at various parts of the lake:

Brody and I took a walk. He found investigating the woods thoroughly enjoyable!

Here is another view of the lake from the woods as we walked:

I know this is a type of shot you've all seen before, but I really like the way the tall, straight tree trunks seem to almost converge in the middle.

I tried to get a photo of Brody from a different angle while we were taking our walk.  I used a wintergreen leaf to lure his head up.  I love how his ear(s) is(are) just as pointy as if he were looking straight ahead at something interesting.

This is the pretty view as you face the water near the end of the peninsula:

And here are the roots of the tree in the photo above, from the other direction.  I like the shapes and textures.

Once we ate lunch, we packed up our things and got back on the water.  We were on our way to the outlet in the southwestern corner of the lake when we saw one of the common loons we'd heard earlier on the lake.
And then, just moments later, this juvenile was paddling near us:

We were so excited to see this loon!  We've never, ever seen a loon at this stage while paddling!  It was almost full grown and had all of its white feathers, but those that will be black were brownish-gray.  We aren't sure why we've only ever seen chicks or adults (or at least those whose coloring and markings are that of an adult.)  Perhaps it's the early and warm spring we had?  We have no idea, but feel very fortunate to have seen something "new" to us when paddling.  It always makes our day to see something different.

The outlet is more open than the marshy area where we started our exploring but the water is very still at most times.  Beware of the barely submerged rocks!  There are many, many rocks in the outlet.  If you are paddling on a cloudy day, you may not be able to navigate well through the jumble without scraping your hull a time or two. 

The area is a favorite of black ducks, and in years past, we've seen a common loon sitting on a nest in this part of the lake.  Here are two black ducks on the outlet:

Brody was, as usual, very interested in the ducks:

The outlet isn't navigable for very far (less than a half mile, I'd guess) because of a rocky drop.  There is a dam which marks the spot to turn around :

On our way back out of the outlet, heading to the main part of the lake, I noticed a couple of maple trees (maybe sugar maple?) had already turned red...  autumn is not far away in the Adirondacks.

Limekiln Lake is one of our favorite places to paddle.  Although there is an area of development and the campground is there, we are still able to see wildlife and experience the beauty of nature all around us.  We think Brody likes it a lot too!  Here he is one more time, gazing with intent at the black ducks on Limekiln.

Happy kayaking!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Limekiln Lake, part one

A few weeks ago, we returned to one of our favorite paddle spots, Limekiln Lake.  It's north of Old Forge on Route 28.  You'll go through the village of Eagle Bay, and then the hamlet of Inlet. Limekiln is a pretty lake, having a peninsula, three tiny islands, and two marsh/creek areas to explore.  Even with some summer homes, motorboats and a state campground on the lake, the features above keep it on our list of favorites. You do have to pay for a day pass to paddle here since the boat launch is part of the campground.

 Here are the GPS coordinates for Limekiln Lake:  43° 43' 3.2952" -74° 48' 4.2726"  I'm sorry to say these aren't from my TomTom, as I forgot to plug it in!  That's what happens when you already know how to get somewhere, I guess.  Hopefully I'll remember to check the TomTom coordinates next time.  So, these numbers came from Google Maps and may not be quite as accurate, but should get you near the boat launch.

It was a chilly morning-- by this summer's standards anyway.  Again we had morning wind...  in the seven seasons we've been kayaking, we've never seen this many windy mornings.  I'm not sure if it's the overall weather pattern, a fluke that we're kayaking on all the windy mornings lately, or what.  The good news is, each time this has happened, (3  times) we've paddled to a more sheltered area and within an hour and a half or so, the wind has died down.  The ripples in the above photo don't seem to show how strong the wind blew at times, right in our faces.  Around the point to the left is an inlet which is sheltered, and that's where we headed.

Here is a photo as we neared the sheltered area:

This sheltered area with a marsh and sometimes a beaver dam, is in the northeast part of the lake.  From the boat launch, paddle left/east, past a bay where the private houses (and the motorboats) are and toward the three small islands in the distance (all of them are near the southeastern shore.)  Once near the smallest of the islands, which isn't much more than a big rock and some pine trees, head northerly to the scene in the photo above.

A lot more water plants, particularly grasses, were growing here compared to our last paddle a few years ago.  We're guessing the water level is lower, though that is really the only sign we saw of the dry summer here.  With a dam at its outlet, it's safe to say that when possible, the water levels are kept at a consistent level.

As we approached the inlet, we began to see many sets of eyes peering at us from the surface of the water.  I planned to post the photo, but there's no point since it's far enough away that you can't really tell what all the eyes are all about.  Let's just say that there were a gazillion frogs on the thick grasses in this area!  I'll get to their individual portraits in a couple of minutes.

We saw many black ducks, known to reside here.  They have never failed to make an appearance-- either in the inlet or the outlet.   Below, Brody sees the ducks and is, naturally, very interested.

Here are the ducks, having a late breakfast.  I love it when they go under to eat and leave their bottom halves sticking out of the water.  Sometimes they do it in unison, like synchronized swimmers!

As the wind blew the larger clouds away, the bright blue sky and sun lit everything up.  I like the wispiness (is that a real word?) of  the clouds in these two photos:

On our way into this area, we saw a kingfisher hanging out on the branch of a dead tree.  We hadn't seen one here before so it was fun to catch a glimpse of him.  Since we were headed his way, he didn't stay long and flitted off to another tree in the distance.

The inlet is the perfect spot for many marsh loving plants, including the Soapwort Genetian:

And the Pitcher Plant:

Look closely at the plant on the right and you will see a bee on its tip.  Chances are he'll end up in its liquid at the base of the pitcher plant, soon to become plant food.

The flower below is a mystery.  They grow on long, thin stalks, and those that I've seen fully open, look a bit like tufts of cotton, reminding me slightly of milkweed, but without the seeds (that I could see) and much shorter strands of cottony fiber.  The wildflower site I was so happy to find did not yield any results.  If anyone knows what this plant is, please let me know.

While trying to take photos of the many frogs on the lake's grasses near the inlet, I snapped this reflection shot of my husband:

Here are my Northern Green Frog portraits:

Which one is your favorite?  I'm not even sure myself-- it's a tie between numbers 2 and 3.

Once we'd had fun watching all of the frogs, who often stayed right where they were as we paddled by, we headed out toward the islands to look around.  This is the smallest island:

 The largest of the three has landing possibilities, but you need to have good balance if you're planning to get out.  We've seen others land on the rocky side (north) but there is an area on the southwest side that has some dirt and tree roots which make it a bit easier to get out.  We did not attempt it this time since the bugs seemed pretty thick as we neared the island.

Here is a shot of the largest island:

There is a rock sticking out of the water before you reach this island and this is what we found hanging out there:

Certainly not the first time we've seen a seagull on a lake, but definitely the first time we've seen one at Limekiln!  Pretty sure this guy is a Herring Gull.

We also saw a bird that we hear often when paddling and see infrequently.  It was a treat to actually get a photo of him/her.  A Cedar Waxwing.  He almost looks tropical with his various colors, doesn't he?

Oh, I forgot to mention that while we were in the inlet, I was intent on taking photos and floated up to some boggy plants in a group.  It apparently looked like "land" to Brody.  Since we weren't moving and we were up against "land,"  he decided that it must be time to hop out of the kayak.  Yup!  Right into about 4 inches of water.  Luckily, the plants held him and he didn't get anything wet except his feet and legs.  But the wind was still blowing so he was a little chilled from his adventure.  We called him "Swamp Dog" for days afterward.  He SMELLED like a swamp, believe me!  He got rinsed off once it warmed up, then had a real bath at home later on.  

Here he is with the evidence all over his paws  (and notice he's not too happy about it!):

From the islands area, we paddled to the peninsula on the southwestern shore, almost across from the boat launch.  I'll end part one with a photo of this area in the background, with Brody watching his daddy as he approached the peninsula.

Thanks for reading.  And Happy Kayaking!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Blake Falls Reservoir, part two

O.K. back to Blake Falls Reservoir and the finish of my description of our paddle there a few weeks ago.  See part one for GPS coordinates.  Below is another pretty view from our picnic spot.  Just to the right, out of the frame and across the reservoir, is the southern put-in.  Also, this view is facing south/southwest.

Once out on the water, we paddled along the eastern bank, bringing us into a quiet area where there was another good spot for pulling out a kayak or canoe.  But it wasn't as shady, so we made a good choice by stopping where we did.  (see part one)  Here is a photo of Brody and I in that area:

My guidebook mentioned seeing lots of wildlife on this reservoir, but we weren't so lucky.  We did hear cedar waxwings, crows, chickadees and sparrows (not sure what type.)  But we didn't see any birds.  I'm sure it was due to the motorboats.

The reservoir has some large rocks that may or may not be covered at other times.  We have never been here before, so I can't tell if the water level has been kept near normal by the dams or not.

As I mentioned in part one, this reservoir reminds me a lot of some NY rivers we've paddled on, including the Beaver River. This is a fairly narrow reservoir, making it only as wide as some rivers in the Adirondacks.  It is definitely a pretty place to kayak, with trees right up to the banks of the reservoir.

We paddled south past the put-in to check out the end of Blake Falls Reservoir.  The map shows the reservoir just ending, rather than trickling out, narrowing in size.  So, we were pretty sure one of the "arms" we traveled down would be an abrupt end.  On the way, this triangular-shaped boulder caught my attention:

We took the left hand (eastern) arm to see where it led, but knew we probably couldn't go far.  We had prior warning by a sign on a peninsula that said "Canoe Carry."  Also, I forgot to mention that we saw a number of signs along the reservoir saying "No Swimming."  I did not check into this further since we had no plans to swim, but it's something to keep in mind if you paddle here.  I wonder if it is allowed at the campground?

Squarish boulders lined the bank along this stretch.

Within a few minutes of entering that eastern arm of the reservoir at its southern end, we could see a dam area with gates and a building.  We turned around way before the area just to be on the safe side.  Although I thought the water would be flowing north, this area seemed to be flowing south.  I know nothing of the set-up of these reservoirs, so don't take my word for it! All I am sure of is that the Raquette River flows north.

Here is another shot of intriguing boulders in the water:

We paddled back up to the peninsula and took the other arm of the reservoir south.  There was a long skinny island in the middle of this arm and before we'd paddled halfway down either side (we tried both) we were met with a sign that said "Restricted Area."  So, our exploring of the southern part of the reservoir was over.  We headed back to the put-in.

 Along the way, more boulders, of course.  But I saw something on one that made me pause in my paddling and go over for a closer look.  It was bones.  If they had been fish bones, I wouldn't have given it a thought-- an otter, mink, eagle or osprey could have possibly stopped to eat on the boulder.  But these weren't fish bones. I am not good with bones, so I'm not sure what we're looking at.  My guess is a red fox or some mammal similar in size.  I have wondered if it was hurt and crawled up or something, but probably the best guess is that a turkey vulture, raven or other scavenger brought it to the rock to eat.  Maybe not-- it's just my best theory at the moment!

One more boulder photo for you, then I promise to stop!

This is another one of those photos that just come out looking different than you expected.  Here is Brody checking out a set-back on the southwestern side of Blake Falls Reservoir.  Yes, it was a bit shady, but it actually looks dark in this photo!  And once more, Brody looks superimposed.  Well, it wasn't in the plan, but it's kind of neat, anyway.

I think this is actually out of order and should go before the photo of Brody.. but we'll leave it!  This is the set-back before we entered it.

And this is the view as we approached the boat launch, facing north.  I just love the way the clouds are stacked up, don't you?

Before getting off the water, I was able to get one last shot of the clouds using my zoom.

By the time we got back, the small parking area and roadside was full of trucks and boat trailers as well as a few cars with kayaks or canoes.  It was about 1:30 on a Sunday and it seemed the warmer it got out, the more boats arrived.  As I mentioned in part one, if you want a quiet paddle, try a weekday morning, or very early on a weekend.  Of course, this is summer we're speaking about.  I'm sure it would be much more quiet in the fall or spring, as all of us who paddle in the northeast know.

That's it for my description of Blake Falls Reservoir.  A pretty place to kayak or canoe, but choose your time wisely for a peaceful day.

Thanks for reading and Happy Kayaking!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Blake Falls Reservoir, part one

A couple of weeks ago we decided to try another new kayaking location!  Blake Falls Reservoir is part of a chain of reservoirs on Raquette River between Route 3 and Potsdam.  The Raquette flows north, and these reservoirs include Blake Falls, Rainbow Falls and Five Falls.  We choose Blake Falls because it is narrow compared to the other two, making it seem more like a river than a reservoir.

NEW  I am going to start putting GPS coordinates for each location I blog about.  I'll also be adding the coordinates to my website.  Right now, I'm using Google Maps to accomplish this so the info could be a tiny bit off.  But I found out that my TomTom will give me this information. So any locations we go to from this point forward should have pinpoint accurate GPS coordinates.
Blake Falls Reservoir (the south put-in) is:  44° 28' 5.3472" -74° 45' 48.009"

We used the alternate put-in which is south of the campground where the main put-in is.  We were hoping to find a little more quiet by choosing this one.  Although there is a cement ramp for trailer-ed boats, just to either side is a grassy/sandy/partially rocky area which works fine for those of us with smaller watercraft.  Here is the boat ramp:

It took us a bit longer  to reach the reservoir than I thought it would, so we got a late start.  As you can see in the photos, there were some ripples on the water from the wind.  But it was a warm and sunny day, so we headed out, planning, as always, to enjoy the day.

If you're familiar with some rivers in New York state, the scene above may remind you of them -- Pine- edged waterway with boulders and rocks along the banks.  I thought of the Beaver River first when I looked out at Blake Falls Reservoir.

Brody was intrigued right from the beginning of our paddle.  He's still on the look-out for squirrels and chipmunks or maybe a duck.

The sun was bright, so we strapped on his Doggles for part of the trip:

Unfortunately, less than a half hour into our paddle, we had power boats and fishing boats zooming past us... on their way to where, we didn't understand.  The reservoir ends less than a mile past the put-in and although there was one "arm" on the map, it didn't look like it went far either...  So, we had to share the day with the occasional loud motor and the resulting wake as they went by.  That part is kind of fun-- rocking over the waves.  But that is the only plus for us, personally.  If you want less motors and more quiet, I would try a week day and/or early morning.  We didn't have that choice for this paddle. But if you're looking for a quiet paddle, you'd be more apt to find it then.  In the photo below, the waves are partly from the wind, but also from a passing boat.

I thought this big rock had an interesting shape-- sort of a mushroom-like top. 

 Then I thought I saw a face in it-- albeit, someone with low brows or a flat cap down over his eyes-- not to mention a very small, pinched mouth!


These flowers were growing nearby.  I looked up the name of these and have already forgotten it... ahhh... Soapwort Genetian!  By the way, I found an interesting site for wildflowers that lets you search by state, and then by color!  So, you go to New York, then select "blue wildflowers in NY" and you'll see thumbnails of all the blue wildflowers-- great for identification!  I am very excited and have bookmarked the page for future reference.  As an aside, I found out that a white "plant" I took photos of years ago because it was so interesting is called an Indian Pipe or Ghost Flower.    Here is the link for the wildflowers in case you're interested:

We paddle up toward a peninsula to have a look around it.  The campground was further up on the left (west side of the reservoir.)  Due to the motor boats, we decided to turn around and head back down on the east side, staying close to the edge (more fun to look at things along the banks anyway.)  When we approached an area across from the put-in diagonally, we were pleased-- there is a wooded area with a place to pull out our kayaks.  It looked like a perfect picnic spot!

Here is where we landed our kayaks-- nice, gradual sandy area:

The woods were level above this area and it looked like a great tent spot, but signs warned that no overnight camping was allowed.  I believe this land is owned by the power company, and is much like the Beaver River Canoe area in that only a few spots are designated for camping.  You are not allowed to camp where ever you please.

From our picnic spot, there was a pretty scene with the woods and the water:

We spread a blanket to sit on while eating our lunch.  Brody was tied to a tree root and did very well, assessing the area and waiting for any treats that might come his way.

With the warmth of the day and the cooling breeze, and the fact that we hadn't heard any motors for a good 20 minutes, we relaxed in the shade after lunch.  Enjoying our surroundings (and, of course, Brody.)

I took this shot looking up from my place on the blanket.  The curve of the trees from this vantage point fascinated me.

I found an almost perfectly round hole in these tree branches/needles as I looked up:

And I thought Brody would look very nice with the sky and the trees behind him, so I took a shot of him from the same vantage point.  Who thinks it looks Photo-Shopped?  It's kind of un-real looking, isn't it?  I'm guessing it's the flatness of the photo-- not much depth perception.  Still, it's a pretty neat shot of Brody, I think.

We whiled away a few more minutes in the shade and took Brody for a short walk under the pines, with layers of pine needles cushioning our steps.  And then it was time to pack up our cooler, don our hats and pdfs and return to the water.  We still had more of Blake Falls Reservoir to explore!

Join me here in a few days for part two.  And Happy Kayaking!