Words and Photos by: Joanne Kennedy
On a crisp October day with clear blue skies, a slight breeze and past the pesky black fly season, Diana McIsaac and Carol Yarnell, top notch canoe racers and I more of a lily dipper set out on an Adirondack canoe adventure to embrace a pocket of paradise. I was slightly apprehensive of the compatibility of our group.
Our adventure extended through a 12.5 mile loop of twelve different ponds with many carries in between. We were paddling lightweight carbon fiber canoes built by our friends the Newman brothers. Each canoe was a different model but we were confident each would track well and remain stable in any type of water we would encounter.
At 8am we pulled into the parking lot at the put-in of Hoel Pond. Hoel Pond is not part of the St. Regis Canoe Area where motorized boats are not permitted, but it provided easy access to the ponds on our route. By 8:30 am our canoes were loaded with the basics - food, water and safety gear. Like a shot from a cannon, Diana (well known for her competitive spirit) plunged her paddle into the cool water of Hoel Pond and darted off across the pond. I again wondered about the compatibility of the trio, but upon catching up with Diana she explained that she had gotten cold on shore and was just warming up.
The fall foliage surrounding Hoel Pond was in full array with vibrant golds and yellows. A flock of Canada geese honked above winging their way south reminding us that paddling days were short in number. We navigated towards our first carry at the northwest edge of the pond where through the morning mist we viewed Long Pond Mountain. Soon we approached a culvert which connects Hoel to Turtle. I had walked my boat through the culvert many times but not this time as the water was too high and fast. We decided not to use our yokes (a padded device for carrying a canoe on portages) and proceeded on our first carry up and over a railroad embankment and into Turtle Pond.
The trees bent over the edges of Turtle Pond with mirror images reflecting in the water. As we approached the shallow channel connecting Turtle to Slang Pond, we chose to walk our canoes through the channel to avoid damaging the bottoms of our canoes on the gravelly floor. Once again in our canoes, we rounded a corner where a large loon greeted us with its unique mournful call before quickly diving into the clear water only to emerge again at the far end of the pond.
Again we observed Long Pond Mountain reaching out to the clouds dressed in a coat of many colors typical of a fall Adirondack landscape.
Following the left shore of Slang we pulled up to the carry for Long Pond where this time we attached our yokes to our canoes and began our traverse to our next pond. The hike was a quick one, but already we were thankful for our lightweight boats.
We carefully descended the root gnarled bank entering a sandy beach on the shore of Long Pond. As we reentered the water, we were relieved to see the gentle waves lapping the shores of Long Pond as winds have been known to pick up quickly on this pond. Hugging the northeast shoreline we approached the well marked carry sign for Nellie and Bessie. Once more, we viewed Long Pond Mountain from the pond it was named for and from which the only trail to the mountain is accessed.
Placing our canoes on our shoulders we began the lengthy carry to Bessie and Nellie. A few minutes into the carry we arrived at an area flooded by a beaver dam. Too deep to walk across, we popped our canoes in the water and paddled across weaving in and out of the tall dead trees reflected in the still water. A minute later we were back on the trail winding through a large stand of hemlock and white birch . Rain from the day before left parts of the trail mucky with slippery rocks to contend with. To the left we were afforded views of the ledges of Long Pond Mountain just before reaching Bessie. An old picnic table sitting by the pond provided a delightful spot for a rest and snack. Stashing our gear on the shore we enjoyed a short paddle of the perimeter of Bessie. After reloading our boats, we were on the trail to Nellie where we arrived 15 minutes later. To the left of our put-in, a massive rock wall rose from the water. Green and gold shimmered in the water reflected from the trees as we paddled by.