Killing Two Birds with One Stone - A Day in the Wilderness

PHOTO PROVIDED Kelly Moody laughs as she successfully entered her boat without sinking in the knee deep mud as Lori Clark awaits her turn. 

It’s hard when you want to be at two places at once. You want to paddle but you also want to hike. Luckily we live in an area that has the solution. Long Pond Mountain in the St. Regis Canoe area is accessible only by boat. Problem solved. Both the legs and arms would get a work out today.

Lori Clark, Kelly Moody and Bonnie Rondeau decided to join me on a day of paddling and hiking. There is a .3 mile carry from the parking lot to the put-in for Long Pond. Bonnie, owner of a heavy kayak, mentioned bringing wheels for the carry. My response, “Oh don’t bother with wheels, we can help get that down to the water.” Words I would later eat.

The day did not have a very good start. First, we had a mix up on the meet up time and then I had a close call almost losing my precious boat off the top of my van. Hopefully the day would get better. The 1 ½ hour drive went quickly and soon we were bumpity bumping along the washboard Floodwood Road near Saranac Inn.

Lori, Kelly and I had lightweight pond boats and Bonnie her kayak. Bonnie began to drag her boat along the .3 miles dirt path when Lori caught up to her. Lori with her own boat balanced on her shoulder grabbed one end of the kayak and the two of them portaged to the put in. Who would think that someone as tiny Lori would have such strength?

Long Pond can become very rough very quickly and today the sky was overcast but the water was as flat as a pancake. A quick check of gear - paddle, life jacket, food, water, hiking boots and we were on our way. There is a great put in for the boats as we launched on a sandy beach. I chuckled as Bonnie and Kelly each had a cushy pillow they put on their seat.

In the distance we could see Long Pond Mountain, 2 miles away, beckoning us. We followed the shoreline enjoying the stillness of the early morning. The pond was unusually quiet with the exception of the unmistakable call of a lone loon. Paddling at a steady pace, we checked out several campsites - some occupied and some not. The weather man had predicted some rain so I think maybe there were some sleepy heads. It seemed to take no time at all and we were at the bay leading to our mountain. Drifting by, we decided to check out the rest of the pond before hitting the trail.

Off to the right, a white sign indicated a carry to Slang Pond from which you can paddle to Turtle Pond and then on to a short carry to Hoel Pond making a nice day of pond hopping. (Just keep in mind, if you plan that trip, you have to leave a second car or a bike at the Hoel Pond parking lot in order to return to your vehicle at Long.) Another sign marked the carry to Nellie and Bessie - these are two fun ponds that if you have the stamina, you can make a loop starting at Hoel Pond and visit 13 different ponds, but that’s another story.

After sitting in our boats for quite a while and I could feel a case of numb bum coming on. We decided it was time to stretch our legs. I now know why those girls brought their cushy pillows and why smiles were now on their faces. We soon reached the take out for the trail to Long Pond Mountain and also the carry, if you want to paddle Mountain Pond. Where we exited our boats was not as nice as our put in as one wrong move and you would be up to your knees in Adirondack muck. One by one we made our way out from our boats with a little help from our friends.

It was now time to switch from paddling shoes to hiking boots - a welcome change. Lori pulled her boat away from the shore and quietly mentioned there was a snake there. We reminded ourselves that upon return to our boats, we should shake out our life jackets and check our shoes. Long Pond would no longer be peaceful if there was a snake in my shoe. Boats and gear off to one side, we began our hike. It was a pleasant half a mile to Mountain Pond as we followed a well marked trail following both yellow ‘carry’ discs and a red ‘hiking’ discs.

Soon, at the shore of Mountain Pond a sign indicated a right hand turn to the mountain. We stopped to take a few photos of some Indian Pipes which were scattered throughout our walk. Lori had participated with a group at Paul Smith’s College where she learned that unlike most plants, the Indian Pipes are white and do not contain chlorophyll thus not requiring sunshine. After the bud turns into a flower it raises its face to attract pollinators to ensure we have more of these unusual flowers to enjoy next year.

The sun had popped out and the day turned humid as we huffed and puffed and sweated our way up the wooded path which led to the summit. There was some blow down that we each navigated our own way. Some went under, some over and some around. It wasn’t long and we arrived at the rocky ledges of this small mountain. The mountain may be small but the views are spectacular. Down below you could view a plethora of paddling destinations of all shapes and sizes. The panoramic mountain view had high peaks and low peaks - something for everyone. Scouting the top, we found a path that took us yet to another lookout. With all that paddling and hiking we had worked up an appetite as we found a shaded area to have our lunch with a view.

The sunny, warm day must have attracted the dragon flies; they were everywhere. If you have never read ‘The Story of the Dragonfly’, it is well worth a read. It is a very short, lovely fable with the beautiful dragonfly being a symbol for those grieving a loss. After a short rest, some water and food we gathered our belongings and hit the trail.

It was a quick descent dodging tiny frogs and passing clumps of vivid red bunch berries. In no time at all, we were back at our boats. Turning them over we carefully checked for snakes or other creepy crawling bugs. Thankfully there were no hitchhikers. One by one, we each took our turn getting back into our boats doing balancing acts to avoid the mud.

Back on the water, we began to retrace our route. A single loon popped up in front of our boats every so often, escorting us away from its territory. Once out of the bay, it did one last dip and was gone. Paddling at our own pace, Bonnie commented, “This is one for the books.” Indeed it was, with an unending sky home to huge fluffy cumulus clouds, a pond that seemed to go on forever, a mountain as gentle as its trail and the company of wonderful, caring friends.

Heading towards our take out, we decided to take a quick detour to Pink Pond. This tiny pond does not have a sign but it is located near an island on the north shore. Once in the channel to Pink it was like a fairy land. There were giant purple pickerel weed towering over us as we paddled through yellow and white water lilies. After a quick visit, we pointed our boats to the sandy shore as our day of fun was coming to an end.

The paddle may have been over but we still had the .3 carry (partially uphill) to our cars. I decided to take my turn and help Bonnie carry her 45 pound (but felt like 80 pound) kayak to the parking lot. With me at one end and Bonnie at the other we began the climb. It wasn’t more than 5 steps and I admitted I couldn’t help carry as it was hurting my back. I looked at Bonnie grinning and said, “I don’t know why you didn’t bring those wheels.” I was already full from lunch but now I was eating my words. Luckily, Kelly was there to help her on the return trip.

Our day was done. It was a stellar paddle on a lovely pond and an awesome hike up a scenic mountain. Life is good.

Peru resident Joanne Kennedy is a photographer and writer who can be found exploring the many lakes and mountains in the Adirondacks or other wilderness areas. She enjoys sharing the unique places she visits in the natural world with her readers. Reach her at loonsrcool@gmail.com

 

IF YOU GO 

Directions: From Lake Clear, continue on NYS Rte. 30 to Saranac Inn. Turn right onto Floodwood Road and follow for approximately 6 miles. The parking area is marked and on your right.

 

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