Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Bog River Flow

Hitchins Pond has always been a favorite place to paddle for me. It's a relatively small impoundment that can barely take a day to explore, but it's filled with wildlife including bald eagle, loon, beaver, heron, bear, and many others. We've personally seen all but bear on Hitchins. The rocky shores, narrow channels, marshy plains, mountain views and the meandering nature of Hitchins makes it a fun place to paddle.

Our weekend on the Bog River Flow was as good as it gets. Despite the packed parking lot at the put-in Friday night, there were few people actually seen on the water either paddling or camping.

We put in at 5am Saturday and paddled 17 miles by 4pm. Putting in at 5am is a lot different than starting a hike at that time. The water is so peaceful and combined with the mist makes your first strokes seem dream like.

I'd guess it's similar to making first tracks on a powdery downhill run after a fresh snowfall. You almost feel as though the water is waiting for you to break it's surface with a paddle stroke, while seemingly effortlessly gliding on the glassy surface. Hiking in comparison makes you work for every step from the start.

In the process of getting a full days paddling in and finding a campsite by 4pm, we secured one of the finest campsites on Lows Lake. A beautiful island covered in blueberry and raspberry bushes, with two sandy beaches and a view towards the western half of the lake, the mountainous north shore, and mid-summers northwestern sunset.

A weekend forecast that called for rain, but never dripped a drop, meant we had the entirety of the Bog River Flow to ourselves, aside from a swimming bear, and the loons.

Lows Lake has the second highest concentration of nesting loon pairs of any NY body of water. Something that became quite evident Saturday night as I watched the golden orange 1/2 moon set in the western sky while laying by the dying camp fire. It was like a loon party, with hoots, wails, yodels and tremolos coming from all directions.

Sunday after a late breakfast of fresh berries picked from the island, some lounging around and a family swim, we left our wonderful camping home and paddled across Lows Lake to Grass Mountain.

A steep 30 minutes later we were on the 2200ft summit of Grass Mountain, looking down at the lake, our boat, and out at the panorama of the Adirondacks, including the eastern High peaks.

While it can be said that the Adirondacks are no more than a weekend wilderness, the fact that there aren't any places to get away is misunderstood. I've heard people say, "the Adirondacks are no more remote than Ohio."

I have to disagree with that. Few places in the US are more wild today than 100 years ago. The state continually buys land from the big paper companies as it becomes available, and almost yearly a major conservation easement is signed opening up land for the public to use. The patchwork of public and private land that makes up the area within the Blue Line is getting less and less patchy.

Gov. Pataki's administration was able to secure over 800,000 acres of additional land during his terms (falling short of his ambitious goal of 1 million). Cell phones still don't work, many of the paddling routes never see a road or town, and there is the ability to string together large routes taking days or weeks to essentially navigate the whole park in a traverse.

While I would classify very few Adirondack adventures as truly remote, you definitely can be far enough from the real world to make it feel a whole lot wilder than it is. And certainly, the Adirondacks are no less remote than Algonquin in Ontario which is overused and over regulated.

Paddling into the Five Ponds Wilderness via the Bog River Flow is a perfect example. From Lows Lower Dam to the western edge of Lows Lake is a continuous 14.5 mile wilderness paddle, with only one short portage from Hitchins Pond to Lows Upper Dam. Another 3 mile portage takes you into the Five Ponds Wilderness and the Oswegatchie River where you can paddle nearly 16 more miles, all while gaining access to one of the more remote sections of the park.

The Five Ponds Wilderness is over 107,000 acres and contains some of the largest untouched old growth in the United States. I've personally never seen pines as big as those in the Five Ponds, where the White Pines are often as big as they can naturally grow. Having made it hundreds of years without the chop of a loggers ax, these pines are truly astonishing.

The Bog River impoundment which forms the Bog River Flow, includes Hitchins Pond, Lows Lake, and Bog Lake, can take several days to explore. It is ringed with rocky peaked mountains on the north shore which can be summited for excellent views of the impoundment, as well as views of the High Peaks Wilderness to the east.

While Lows Lake isn't necessarily my favorite place to paddle, the mountains and view points offer rewarding views not often part of a paddling trip. Getting out of the boat and hiking 1000ft to the summit of a mountain with a 300* panorama is a true reward.

From the Bog River Flow it is also possible to portage and paddle into the Whitney Canoe Area and Like Lila Primitive area via the Bog Lake. These areas all offer thousands of acres of wilderness paddling and 50+ additional miles of paddling if one continues down the Beaver River into the Stillwater Reservoir.

So while the Adirondacks might not be remote, they certainly are America's premier weekend wilderness.

Blogged with Flock

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Montreal - Just For Laughs

We usually try to get to the Just For Laughs Festival in Montreal every year. Unfortunately, the month of July is usually rainy and other than the first year it's pretty much been a rainy mess every year.

Next year, I'm taking a poncho and umbrella even if the forecast calls for sun all weekend.

We got a much later arrival than I planned. After starting out a bit later we made good time and even played catch at a rest area.

On the trip up both the Northway and I-15 was filled with popo's. An annoyance because not only were they frequent but they were using POP radar designed to defeat radar detectors.

Unlike last months smooth crossing we ended up with a long line at the border, followed by my Dad having to go into customs because he didn't have originals of the twins passports. Entering Canada without the mother is usually a production. After my dad convinced them that his passport and license matched the childrens birth certificates, he than had to show them emails from their mom talking about the trip.

After looking for parking and checking in it was 3pm. In the end it didn't matter. JFL's street performers started at around 2pm but by 3:30pm it was raining.

After spending a few hours at the festival we hopped on the Metro to go uptown (i think) to Ouzeri where we had dinner reservations, an excellent greek restaurant recommended by a Montreal local.

Following dinner we decided to walk back to Sherbrooke and perhaps the festival. There was a brew pub I wanted to check out on St. Denis.

We stopped off for some ice cream with hopes of the rain ending so we could enjoy some more of the festival. Not a chance, this is just for laughs and it rains. And that's no joke.

I had a 4am wakeup call for some photography in the Old City but of course the weather was less than spectacular. No blue hour, no golden hour, not even a real sunrise.

Below are some photos from this weekend:

Family Stuff:

technorati tags:, , , , , ,

Blogged with Flock

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Paddling South Pond

South Pond is an annual first paddle for us. It's a smallish pond about 1.5 miles N/S and E/W with no easily navigable outlets, but it's not small on scenery. Located right in the shadow of Blue Mountain and surrounded by a bouldery shoreline, it's a typical Adirondack pond.

The quirk with South Pond is the put-in. The pond is located about 50ft below the road, and the trail essentially drops straight down to the pond. After the initial shock of the steepness your realize it's well worth it.

75% of South Pond's shoreline is state owned, as are all the islands. Powerboats are limited to 10Hp and since there is no boat access you rarely hear or see a motor.

What you do hear and see are at least 2 nesting pairs of loons, lots of birds, a beaver lodge or two, and some indication of otter activity (fish bones on the rocks). And of course the woodpeckers and bullfrogs on Canibal Island.

It's really rare that such a convenient and pleasant place to paddle and camp is so peaceful.

The one thing our South Pond trip always includes though is rain. And without fail we had the same weather as always. One semi nice day and one rainy mess. Despite the rain, we had a great fire going Saturday night.

After a cloudy and occassionally rainy Saturday, we woke up to a blue sky Sunday. By noon though it was clear that the weather was turning for the worse. I really don't mind the rain because it keeps the fair weather paddlers and hikers at home, but I do occasionally wish the weather was wrong ina good way.

After a long swim with Caney in South Ponds clean, clear and cool water, we packed up camp just before the it started pouring.

We paddled around a bit, exploring the shoreline, watching the loons and bluejays as the rain pelted us. Only the loons didn't seem to mind, but they are weatherproof, and can escape the rain, even if only briefly, by going for a long swim under the waters surface.

technorati tags:, , , , ,

Blogged with Flock

Monday, July 9, 2007

2007 Valleycats Early Season Review

After the first two weeks of the season, it's clear this team isn't the solid fundamental team of last season.

While "The Joe" has had some nice crowds, several in the sellout range, the team on the field has been less than impressive, leaving the fans to sit on their hands.

The one bright spot of the season has been the introduction of our mascots father, Pappy Southpaw.

And of course the Price Chopper post game fireworks.

Offensively these guys look to be better than last season, but like the 2007 Yankees, baseball isn't purely about stats or talent, it's about timely hitting and making a big play when it counts. In several games this season the Cats have failed to score runners from second or third with less than two outs. Small ball and good base running have been missing almost entirely.

In the field the 2007 Cats have struggled making even routine plays, then at times they've made some slick plays. Unfortunately, a single bad play is usually the difference in a close game, and the hitting is either on or off.

While this is short season class A ball, it is still early enough that with a good run the Tri-City Valleycats can turn things around. Unfortunately fundamental baseball doesn't get learned mid season. Unless the Cats pound their opponents offensively with the big bats and speed they have, it might be a long season.

Some highlights of the 2007 season to date:

Blogged with Flock

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

I'd Like A Side Of Cloud Cover With My Mt Hunger

One of those days when a later or earlier start would have been better. This was taken on the descent after spending about 45 minutes on the summit waiting out (while eating lunch and messing with the camera) the fog/clouds zero visibility. There was a north wind and it was a bit cool. When we started it was 53F at the base at 1pm. On the summit my thermometer was giving me a 48F temp with wind, rain and some sleet. To give you an idea of how cold the north wind was, my hands were freezing, and I often don't wear gloves in the middle of winter while hiking when it is much colder ambiently. Typical northeastern US mountain weather. But for my money it was perfect July weather, and as good a day as any to be out hiking. Just no view for us.

Mt Hunger, is a smaller peak at 3500 feet, and part of the beautiful and ignored Worcester Range. Like all the smaller peaks it gets overlooked, but the views are great (when you're not in the clouds).

Beyond that it's a great hike on a fairly new and well built trail. It's also steep. 2000ft in under 2 miles. We logged 4600 feet gain and loss in about 4 miles of hiking (we went down the backside with brief thoughts of looping the white rock).

To give you an idea of how steep this trail is relative to a higher mountain, we actually gained and lost more elevation on little Mt Hunger than the people trotting up Mansfield via several different routes (vermonts highest peak and 800ft taller). And while we saw 15 people all day, on Mansfield we'd probably have seen over 100.

Some additional photos of our little trek up Mt Hunger:

technorati tags:

Blogged with Flock