Advice on an Adirondack Escape

CanoeKayak.com

PHOTO ESSAY: 5 tips for your perfect fall trip

Photos and story by Tom McCorkle

Last October I spent five days engulfed in the beauty of the Adirondack Mountains, paddling the lakes of the Saint Regis Canoe Area with a couple good friends. This was our first overnight paddling experience in the area; I came away with a few bits of knowledge to pass on to the next paddlers planning this perfect fall escape.

Frank and Adam around an early morning fire to warmup at Middle Pond, preparing for the paddle ahead.
Frank and Adam around an early morning fire to warmup at Middle Pond, preparing for the paddle ahead.

Fall in the Adirondacks is unpredictable. Be prepared for any weather. I wanted to be on the water at the peak of leaf season, which is hard enough as the target shifts annually with summer rainfall totals and temps. Plus with the higher elevation, the fall only sets in (and leaves) quicker. I planned for the last week of September, but my two paddling partners’ work schedules had us on the water the first full week of October—a slim seven-day delay that brought with it an incredible shift in the weather. The temperatures at our final destination of Tupper Lake (daytime highs in the mid- to upper 60s, with abundant sunshine and lows barely touching the 40s), dropped to highs in the mid-40s and lows in the bottom 30s, with only uncommon windows of sunshine between plenty of rain and wind to start of our week.

Pulling into the leeward side of Deer Island on Upper Saranac, after a windy, rainy mile of open water. If it looks miserable, that's because it was.
Pulling into the leeward side of Deer Island on Upper Saranac, after a windy, rainy mile of open water.

Do not underestimate wind on open water. Wind was our nemesis, especially with Adam and Frank’s 18-foot Kevlar Wenonah Minnesota II canoe plying the lakes’ open waters, most especially on Upper Saranac Lake. We had six miles of open water to cover on Upper Saranac, paddling against a prevailing headwind at 10-15 mph. I led the way in my more nimble, 13-foot Folbot Edisto open-deck folding kayak, hopping from island to island, hiding from as much wind as possible in the lee of the land masses.

Adam, with the boat, and Frank, with the rest of our gear, at the end of our portage. It was a learning experience, no one really talked, we just carried, load after load.
Adam, with the boat, and Frank, with the rest of our gear, at the end of our portage. It was a learning experience, no one really talked, we just carried, load after load.

Portaging is tough work. Allow extra time for it. We were all newbies to portaging gear along a trail. We quickly learned that it’s way more work than we had anticipated, especially on the 1.1-mile portage between Upper Saranac Lake and Stony Creek Ponds. With two boats and three people, we all made extra trips. We simply strung our drybags together with webbing and threw them over our shoulders. A portage pack would’ve been nice and will certainly be the next gear investment before the next trip.

The portage marker at the end of our portage, Stony Creek Ponds, letting us know how far we had just hiked with boats and gear on our shoulders (multiply by two).
Signage marking the end of our longest portage (or start, if you’re heading back to Upper Saranac Lake, like we did for a second round of gear schlepping).
Our first real glimpse of sunshine on Stony Creek Ponds, it felt so good.
Our first real glimpse of sunshine on Stony Creek Ponds—it felt so good.
Teamwork from the brothers. Paddling in calm water was so exciting after a six-mile battle against the wind and a long portage.
Teamwork from the brothers. Paddling in calm water was so exciting after a six-mile battle against the wind and a long portage.

Throw your bear bag immediately. Do it as soon as you make it to camp. It’s too easy to let this chore slip otherwise, especially once there’s a warm fire to sit around. We learned our lesson the first night out camping at Middle Pond, and made sure to get it done promptly at our next campsites. Finding an appropriate tree and throwing a rope over it is so much easier in the daylight.

Adam and Frank maneuvering Stony Creek en route to the Raquette River. Eighteen feet of canoe is a bit difficult to handle in a snaking little creek.
Adam and Frank maneuvering Stony Creek en route to the Raquette River. Eighteen feet of canoe can be a bit difficult to handle in a snaking little creek.
Greatest save of the trip, Adam and Frank almost capsized at the very end of our paddling trip on Tupper Lake. Somehow they managed to stay upright (by holding onto the bottom of their boat I assume).
Greatest save of the trip, Adam and Frank nearly capsizing at the very end of our paddling trip on Tupper Lake. Somehow they managed to stay upright.
Our small crew of Frank, myself and Adam at Moose Pond.
Our small crew of Frank, myself and Adam at Moose Pond.
Sunrise over Moose Pond on our fifth and final day.
Sunrise over Moose Pond on our fifth and final day.

— Check out St. Regis Canoe Outfitters if you need more trip-planning info on the area, gear and boat rentals.

— Read more on the 90-mile Adirondack Canoe Classic as well as the Cannonball “Outlaw 90-miler” canoe race along these same Adirondack waters.