Rochester, New York City Guide
Rochester, NY City Guide

© 1996-2015 Max Lent Communications




St. Regis Canoe Area

Max Lent 1996-2001
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Destination: St. Regis Canoe Area, Adirondack Park
Date: May 31 through June 2, 1991

How To Get There

From Rochester, NY, take Interstate 490 east to the NYS Thruway. Take the NYS Thruway east past Syracuse, NY and on to Utica, NY. From Utica, NY, take state route 12 north to state route 28 north to state route 30 north. The put in is between Tupper Lake and Saranac Inn.

Trip Narrative

No motorboats, no jet skis, no hotels, no private lodges, no highways, just water and quiet. That's what we wanted for our first wilderness canoe trip. We were surprised at how hard it was to find canoeable water that met these criteria in the Adirondack mountains of upstate New York. Maps of the area show many lakes, ponds, and islands. Unfortunately, most are nearly solidly ringed with private cottages, motels, hotels, camps, and recreational businesses. What we wanted was a more primitive experience. By doing a little research we found what we were looking for, the St. Regis Canoe Area.

We selected our destination as a result of reading Jamieson and Morris's descriptions of the St. Regis Canoe Area in Adirondack Canoe Waters North Flow . They describe St. Regis Pond as " of the most beautiful ponds in the Adirondacks." We can now confirm that they were correct.

The St. Regis Canoe Area is not large. The area that Jamieson and Morris describe is little more than 7 miles by 4.5 miles. It is dotted with ponds ranging in size from an eighth of a mile to a little more than a mile across. The ponds are connect by trails, also called carries or portages. Through a network of carries it is possible to plot a route that crosses more than 24 ponds. Our plan was to explore two ponds.

This was a trip of firsts for us. It was our first overnight wilderness canoe trip. It was our first attempt at portaging. We had never camped on an island before. This was, unintentionally, our first bad weather canoeing experience. It was our first proboscis to flesh encounter with north country mosquitoes. And we had never, before, drifted to sleep to the sounds of Loons calling across a lake.

After confirming promising weather reports for the Adirondacks from the newspaper, the cable television weather channel, and NOAA radio broadcasts we ignored the falling rain in Rochester. We loaded our canoe onto the top of our car and packed our car full of gear--too much gear--and drove off. We drove though blinding rain storms all the way to across New York state from Rochester to Syracuse, Utica, and north, up into the Adirondack mountains. Only after we drove through the towns of Eagle and Inlet did the rain start to taper off.

We stopped to look at the Moose River from Tickner's Outfitters store in Old Forge and planned a future day trip down the Moose. Our unpracticed packing had left us without a gardening spade for our toileting needs, so we bought one at an Old Forge hardware store. The cool temperature and the dark clouds stimulated a few hunger pangs just as we were driving by the Old Forge McDonalds, so we made, yet another stop. Driving into the parking lot we noticed several other cars topped with canoes.

Since we became interested in canoeing we have noticed many more canoes on car tops than we have on water. This has led us to believe that many people just keep their canoes on their cars to protect the car's paint from sun, acorns, or hail.

After lunch and on our way to our car we were met by a couple who asked several questions about our canoe and what we thought of it. These people reminded me of photography hobbyists who spend more time worrying about equipment than photographs. The questions and answers concerning our canoe were superficial. "What kind of canoe is that? What is it made out of? Do you like it? Is it easy to paddle? We have a Fiberglass canoe. What do you think of Fiberglass?" They didn't ask why we were canoeing, where we were going, or why we were going where we were going. There was no discussion about any topic dealing with aesthetics or friendship, just equipment.

Equipment seems to draw people together who might not otherwise talk to each other. I have often stopped at overlooks to photograph with my large 4"X5" or 8"X10" cameras and seen spectators pull off the road to investigate what I was doing. Some of the bravely curious have come up to me and asked what I was doing or what camera or lens I was using. Canoes, kayaks, and even skiing equipment are all that is needed to encourage a discussion of equipment with strangers.

Just as we judge each other by our clothes and appearance at home and in business we judge each other by our toys in the wild. Had we been sporting a Kevlar canoe with Kevlar paddles we might have been too unbelievably cool to even talk to. However, our standard green 16 foot long Old Town Penobscot canoe was just low or high enough in status to warrant a discussion. It could have been worse. We could have been asked if we were ecology radicals trying to cause trouble for motor boaters or snow mobilers.

We exchanged farewells with the curious couple and drove on toward the St. Regis Canoe area in fog, rain, and heavily overcast skies. When we were near our destination we nearly missed it because there were no signs marking the turn off from the highway except one for the Fish Hatchery. We back tracked for a mile and found the road leading through the Fish Hatchery and a turn off to a small badly rutted dirt road that led to the launching ramp which is also called a put in by canoers. Our car tipped severely from side to side as we drove through deep puddles. Rain drops were still falling from the overhanging trees onto the windshield. We were having second thoughts about continuing our trip.

The road ended abruptly as a metal ramp into Little Clear Pond. We peered out of the windshield and pondered whether or not we were really going to do this. Low dark clouds were rapidly moving overhead. The clouds to the northwest, where the weather was coming from, looked ominous. We could almost imagine the headlines. "RIT professor and spouse die of hypothermia in Adirondack canoeing accident." Even with these moments of indecision we knew we were not going to turn back. With a "let's-just-do-it" look toward each other we got out of the car. Opening the car doors was an act of assertion. We were launching ourselves into the adventure one small step at a time. We walked to the water's edge somehow expecting the water to either invite us or scare us off. It did neither. We had to make up our own minds whether we were going to leave the safety of our car and land. The emotion of "let's-just-do-it" was still strong so we just did it.

We unstrapped our canoe from its car-top carrier and placed it on the ground near the water. It no longer looked the huge cumbersome boat we kept on our front porch at home. Now, it looked small and fragile. We asked ourselves if this thing were really adequate for the trip ahead. It was.

Unloading our car we discovered that we had not thought through our packing strategy carefully enough. We had a huge pile of gear including an ice chest, milk crate, a very large duffel bag, sleeping bags, extra clothes bags, two day packs, two bags containing wheels and hardware for our canoe, and lots of black plastic garbage bags packed with who-knows-what. Amazingly, everything fit into our 16 foot canoe. Of course, there was no way that the two of us could lift or carry the canoe once all of the gear was loaded into it.

Our only problem thus far was that we had as flood inside our car. We had filled a 2.5 gallon soft plastic water jug with water before we left home. While unpacking the car we discovered that the jug had emptied into the back seat and into the spare tire well. The faucet on the water jug was easily moved from closed to open by just laying something on it or having it shift is weight during travel. The first lesson we learned was to never fill this type of container at home. Next time, we will wait to fill it until just before we need it, if we take it at all. In retrospect, a water filter would have weighed less and taken up less room. We still needed some fresh water to take with us, so I drove back to the Fish Hatchery and filled our jug from a faucet at the side of a building.

While we were loading our mountain of gear into our canoe another canoer arrived with a solo canoe. He was carrying everything, other than his canoe, in a single large backpack. We wondered to ourselves whether or not he knew something that we did not. Later, we found out that he did.

With rain drops making ever widening concentric circles on the water as they splashed, we shoved our heavily laden canoe into Little Clear Pond and began paddling. As we paddled away from shore we could see the clouds more clearly. They were darker than we thought and we began to worry even more about what we would do if our canoe became water laden. We thought, perhaps, it was just better not to think about it. We had good maps and we knew that we were only going a short distance, a little more than a mile, to our portage point, but as we reached the center of the pond we felt less than secure about what we were attempting.

Following our map, we made our way past two small islands and turned to the northwest and continued into a marshy area looking for our take out. Along the way two beavers swam near shore smacking their tails on the water. The map clearly showed the take out at the edge of the marsh. We paddled into the marsh until we could go no further and turned around. Paddling along the shore we finally found the take out much further away from the marsh than shown. After putting ashore we unpacked the wheel kit for our canoe.

This wheel kit was supposed to make portaging simple. All we were supposed to do was connect the parts which formed a bar, two foam covered wooden supports, and two wheels that were attached to our canoe with straps just under the center of gravity. Once the wheels were attached to our canoe we were supposed to be able to wheel our canoe through the woods as though it weighed nothing. This is another lesson we learned. The canoe carrier fit together perfectly. What it did not do was to transport our canoe easily. Our portage involved a modest elevation gain and loss of about 200 feet. The up and down parts of the portage were like stairs. Tree roots rose up in the middle of the trail to heights of 6-8 inches. Pulling the loaded canoe uphill over these obstacles severely tested the limits of my strength. Adding to the problem was the fact that our canoe carrier wheels would go out of alignment every few feet. This resulted in our canoe rolling at an angle, not a very good thing to have happen on a narrow trail.

We learned later that our canoe wheels were shipped to us with the wrong straps. We were tying the straps over and around the canoe's center thwart. The manufacturer of the canoe wheels had not anticipated that we might not have thwarts for and aft of the center thwart. We simply tied the canoe to the wheels with the strapping that was supplied. The manufacturer should have sent us much longer straps so that we could attach them to the seats and the center thwart. Supposedly, the new straps will add greatly to the stability of the canoe on land.

We made this portage during late afternoon, the beginning of mosquito feeding time. As I sweated and panted at the end of the canoe tow rope more and more mosquitoes showed up to feed. I liberally applied Deep Woods Off insect spray repellent every few minutes. Nevertheless, my continued sweating made the insect repellent ineffectual. Mosquitoes have no taboos. There is no place on a warm blooded animal they will pass up for a meal. When they started feeding at the corners of my eyes behind my glass frames I became incensed.

Frustrated and nearly exhausted, we reached the end of the portage only to find that a two board wide 30 foot long deck leading into the marsh. Only at the end of the deck was there water deep enough to launch a canoe. We wiped some of the smeared blood and mosquito carcasses from our faces and sleeves and contemplated our next move with dismay.

We discovered that our canoe carrier wheels, when attached to our canoe, were wider than the width of the boards. This meant that we had to unload our canoe and carry our gear the remaining distance and reload it while it was in the water. Although this was not impossible we could have done without the extra work. Carrying bags, boxes, crates, and other unneeded junk back and forth along the wood planks we saw huge bull frogs covered with the green slime they were sitting in. We saw dragon flies, damsel flies, butterflies and numerous other insects common to freshwater marshes. Just below the surface of the water we saw hundreds of tadpoles, small fish, and water insects. We also saw more mosquitoes.

I should mention how many mosquitoes there were along the portages. There were millions, no zillions, of mosquitoes hovering over the portage trail. Pulling the heavily laden canoe required many rest stops, but the rest stops were cut short because of the frustration of trying to ward off the swarms of attacking mosquitoes. Several times, I knocked my glasses off my head trying to keep mosquitoes from feeding on my cheeks and nose. Even talking was difficult since it resulted in inhaling mosquitoes. It was as though the mosquitoes on this portage were attempting to weed out the less serious back country paddlers. Those with less stamina or tolerance for discomfort would surely turn back at this point. We only saw mosquitoes swarming in these numbers one other time, just after sunset at our island camp. If the mosquitoes were not enough there were the leaches. We didn't see leaches, but we had been warned by signs posted at Little Green Pond warning swimmers about them.

With our canoe loaded, once again, we pushed off from the wood planks and headed toward St. Regis Pond. The sky darkened and the drizzle became a light rain. The questions, why am I here and why am I doing this, crossed my mind as they frequently do at the first sign of significant discomfort on a trek into the bush. I was concerned about our getting wet and cold. The dread of hypothermia crossed my mind. I felt unsafe, but that was part of the point of doing something like this. We wanted to face these challenges and overcome them as a way of becoming stronger in mind and body. Looking around, I answered my self doubts by what I saw. St. Regis Pond was beautiful, even in the rain. The islands spread across the pond looked inviting and mysterious. St. Regis mountain looked impressive as it was revealed and then hidden by swirling clouds. Even the water was calm and a joy to paddle.

Paddling around a point and turning northeast, reason began to overcome doubt. I began to feel safer on St. Regis Pond than I did in my neighborhood. Only a week or so earlier, we had been attacked by a gang of black youths who threw a steel bolt at us, as we drove through our neighborhood, for no other reason than the fact that we were white. They broke a window of our car threatened us an ran off into the night when the police were about to show up. I thought it interesting that this trip to the wilderness was going to cost us less than the damage our car suffered from a drive through our neighborhood. There were no drug dealers here. No teen-agers with cheeks full of cracked filled rubber balloons. There were no graffitied walls. There were no angry young men hanging around swilling booze from bottles wrapped in brown paper sacks. There were no radios pumping out sexist, anti-white, violent messages in the guise of music. All we could hear was the various sounds of rain drops splashing on the water, on our waterproof tarps, and the floor of our canoe. Each stroke of our paddles made gentle gurgling sounds in the water. Although we were being threatened by the weather and the insecurity of our skills, we felt a calming peacefulness. All we had to worry about here was keeping clear heads and exhibiting sensible logical behavior. We had to eat, drink, stay dry and warm. We had to protect ourselves from the weather. We had to learn how to enjoy what we saw and felt.

The rain toyed with our emotions. At times, it looked as though it were going to stop. Other times, the sky would darken and we thought we were in for a downpour. In fact, it just shifted back and forth from a drizzle to a light rain. We continued paddling across the pond to the eastern-most island passing a smaller island to the north. We saw a tent pitched on the far shore across the pond at the base of St. Regis Mountain, the only significant elevated land in view. We also saw where the solo canoeist ,who started out before us, had camped. He had already made camp on the western-most island. That meant that there were, at most, three other people on the pond besides ourselves. This was pleasantly different from the overpopulated lakes and ponds we had passed on our way to the St. Regis Canoe Area.

Paddling toward the eastern-most island we looked for the campsite defined on our topographic map, but couldn't find it. The campsite was supposed to be on the southwestern side of the island, but we didn't see it. We paddled on to the eastern tip of the island and found a clearly marked campsite with a fire pit and a cleared area fit for pitching our tent. We made for shore, beached our canoe, and quickly set up our tent. We wanted shelter if the rainfall became heavier. By the time we had fastened the last corner of the rain fly to the frame of our tent and tossed our sleeping gear inside, the rain stopped. We were out of danger for the time-being.

Next, we prepared a snack of crackers, cheese, and summer sausage to restore our energy. Slowly, after a the first few bites of food, mosquitoes began drifting out of the island's forest began to hover around us. Once they accumulated in large numbers, then they began to attack. The weather that we had worried about on the way to and on the ponds was now coming to our rescue. This time it was the mosquitoes who were suffering the effects of the weather. The cool air made them sluggish and slow. We could hear that the frequency of their wing beats was lower than earlier in the day when the air was warmer. They would land and we would kill them. They increased in numbers, but not in effectiveness.

Sitting on logs pulled up around the fire pit and munching on our snacks we surveyed the lake and shore within our view. There were no signs of humans anywhere within our range of sight. We thought to ourselves that we had done well to make it to this camp all in one piece. We were content that we could still smile about our poor planning and the stormy weather.

Before us was a what the guidebooks and the maps called a pond. We viewed it as a lake. Ponds, in our minds, were small. Small enough to skip a stone across. St. Regis Pond was more, of what we consider, a lake. It would take us a couple of hours to paddle across it on its long axis. In the San Gabriel mountains of southern California there is a place called Crystal Lake. Crystal Lake is not as large as our island sitting in the middle of a so-called pond. On the other hand, St. Regis mountain would be considered a hill in most mountainous areas of the west. Ah, relativity.

We saw nothing but mixed deciduous and coniferous forest and water across our horizon. From our vantage point the world was rendered in shades of green and gray. The forest was fully leafed and with the recent rain, shiny. Every leaf and needle was glistening saturated colors from being wet. We smelled rotting plant life all around us. It was pungent and strangely appealing. We commented that the smell reminded us of green houses. The earth around our campsite had been packed hard by past visitors. The wetness of the drizzle was just enough to keep dust from rising as we walked around. The only sounds we were sensitive to, at that point, were the most obvious, the little waves lapping at the shore and the whispering of a light wind passing through the evergreen trees behind us. As we calmed down and began to fully perceive our surroundings we became more sensitive to the sounds of the pond and the forest. It was bliss.

Feeling partially restored, I gathered twigs and sticks and started a fire. Building a fire may be a polluting, ecologically unsound act, but there is a primal satisfaction in it. The warmth of the fire was satisfying as was its smell and color. An open fire is inefficient. Most of the heat goes straight up. However, we enjoyed the sensation feeling some of the fire's heat on our faces. The coolness of our backs made the fire seem even warmer by contrast. I can't express why a campfire is essential part of camping in the wilderness, but I can say that camping without one is not as pleasurable.

Dark cloudy days have a color that tends toward the blue and ultraviolet, a cold light. The glow of a fire radiates the opposite end of the spectrum, the red and infrared, a warm light. By building a fire on such dismal gray day some of the red is restored to our visual environment. At the time we weren't thinking about the physics of this phenomena, we just warmed our bodies and inhaled the aroma of pine. The fire also warmed our spirits. Seeing it burning before us gave us a feeling of well-being and security.

Actually, before we built the fire we ignited a couple of Coughlan's insect repellent coils. We were careful to set the coils so that their smoke drifted over the logs were we planned to sit and near the tent door. Within minutes our camp was clear of mosquitoes. The coils lasted for hours and restarted even after being left out overnight in a heavy dew. To turn them off we just broke off the ignited ends of the coils. If there is one product we would recommend for camping in mosquito infested areas Coughlan's Coils would be it.

I unpacked our mess kit and filled at pot with water from the pond at the end of a log which extended away from shore. We used our GAZ propane camp stove to boil the water. We use a propane stove because of our, probably unrealistic, fear of gasoline, leaky stoves, and bottled gas. Also, we have been using the same propane stove for more than twenty years and we probably won't replace it until it breaks or fuel is no longer available for it. Sensing the water was going to take a while to come to a boil we explored our island instead of watching the pot.

Our island was an eastern forest in miniature. The island was populated mostly by conifers with a few birch trees here and there. The forest floor was covered with ferns, mosses, and occasional fungi on fallen tree trunks. What became most obvious to us was the lady slipper plants. Rising up from the forest floor nearly a foot on a single stem the bulbous red and white flower was the most colorful plant in our little forest. Our island was the only place where we saw lady slippers. The only sign of mammalian wildlife we saw was some old deer scat near the top of the island. Our exploration of the island revealed another campsite just above ours and two others on the western end of the island--ones that we had missed as we canoed past them. Ours was the sunrise and moonrise campsite. Campsites at the other end of the island got the best sunsets, strong afternoon breezes, and was most likely hit hardest by storms. We liked our campsite best, mostly because we were not about to pack up all of our gear and move. We were not to find out until later how special our campsite really was.

We returned to camp to find that the water had only begun to simmer. Since it was getting late and we wanted to eat soon, I built up the wood fire and transferred the pot to it. The camp stove had been running out of fuel and didn't maintain a high enough flame to boil water. The water was for cooking elbow macaroni to go along with our homemade frozen chili. Tina used some of the water to make a steamy cup of tea. The reward for our labor of transporting a 48 quart ice chest to our island was that we had lots of fresh good hearty food to eat. That evening we ate homemade chili over macaroni with grated cheddar cheese and chopped fresh onion on top. We even had a two gallon jug of ice water and plastic containers filled with Gatorade to help us moderate the hot spices of the chili. For desert we had home made chocolate chip pecan cookies.

Adding food to our stomachs encouraged us to dispose of wasted fuel. Following instructions on toileting in the woods, we made our toilet pits well away from the pond and campsites. Using a plastic trowel, we dug pits as deep as root tangles allowed us. In the middle of the island the mosquitoes were numerous and aggressive. Baring sensitive body parts in these conditions was not a matter taken lightly. The mosquito coils saved us again. We carried a mosquito coil with us into the forest until we found a good spot. We watched the smoke rising from the coil to see if there was a breeze and to detect its direction. We then set the coil upwind so the smoke would pass over us as we performed our toilet. It worked, neither of us suffered mosquito bites on our buttocks, backs, or legs.

Sunset was impressive that first evening. The clouds just got darker and eventually turned black then split up and nearly cleared from the sky. Loons began trumpeting their calls shortly after the sun was gone from the sky. I had read numerous descriptions of Loon calls, but most fall far short of describing the experience. Authors often admit that it is a sound that is not describable in words. Once you have heard it you will never forget it or mistake it for any other bird call. It is eerie, strange, foreign, sorrowful, and beautiful all at the same time. And, it is loud. We heard some Loons call from a another pond more than a mile away. Their sound echoes off the trees and water to reverberate across the pond.

We practiced the ancient ritual of watching our campfire die to glowing red embers then to black. Our eyes gradually adjusted to the night as the fired died away. By the time the fire was out the last rays of twilight were also gone. We could still see across the pond and make out major objects along the far shore. We could also see stars and planets overhead. Tina, who seemed to constantly have a cup of hot tea in her hands, wondered if it were really dark since she could still see so well.

A large Bull frog frequented the shoreline just beyond our fire pit. Just after sunset it began to croak. Tina thought that it sounded like a Moose. After it croaked several times answers came from both directions along our island shore. After total darkness fell on the pond the croaking diminished and later stopped.

We sat quietly waiting for more noises or movement around us. It was if we were at a seance and didn't want to disturb the spirits with our talking or unnecessary noise. Even when we decided to go inside our tent to sleep we found ourselves whispering to each other.

Entering our tent was an experiment in speed and agility. We wanted to get in and zip up the mosquito fly before any mosquitoes followed us in. Having practiced this procedure hundreds of times over many years, we were quite adept at it. Once inside we arranged and adjust our Thermarest self- inflating pads to just the right firmness, rolled out our summer weight sleeping bags, and scrunched extra clothes or whatever was handy into stuff bags to use as pillows. Within minutes we were both asleep.

I never sleep well on the first night out camping, nor on the night before. I guess that I am always just too excited on the first night to rest easy. A wind woke me up after an hour or two. It was fanning the embers in our fire making them flare up briefly. Being concerned about embers being blown onto our tent or into the woods I sat up and inspected the fire from the tent. Everything looked safe, I went back to sleep. A little while later I was awakened by light on the tent. Again, I sat up and peered out of tent door. The moon had risen directly across the pond from us. There were a few clouds around it, but the moonlight was brilliant. The scene was spectacular. The pond was completely calm so the moon reflected from the surface as a stream of light. I woke Tina and asked if she would like to see the moonrise. After a couple of grumpfs she sat up put on her glasses and looked out with me. We sat silently looking at the moon each enjoying it in our own way. Without much comment we laid back down to sleep though the night.

Our first morning on the island was dismal and gray. There was some drizzle in the air as we emerged from our tent and started a fire and put a pot of water on the camp stove. I also re-lit the Coughlan's insect repellent coils. We felt uncertain about whether we should leave or stay. If we left for home we might miss being soaked. If we stayed we the weather might clear. We weren't going to make a decision until after we ate so we prepared breakfast.

We had pre-measured cereal portions into Zip lock bags at home. We dug into our ice chest and pulled out a quart of ice cold milk and poured some over our cereal. We opened a can of peach slices and added that to our cereal. When I mentioned earlier that we brought lots of food I wasn't exaggerating.

Sitting on our log around the fire pit we watched small areas of blue sky emerge in the middle of the clouds then disappear. Our moods changed as quickly as the changing sky. First we were going to leave and then blue sky would make us decide to stay. Over the course of breakfast more and more blue sky appeared and we eventually decided to stay another day. The longer we sat the more the sky cleared and the air warmed.

Encouraged by the improving weather we began to talk about our plans for the day. We consulted our map, carefully examined the surface condition of the pond, and tried estimate what reserves of strength we had left. After some discussion I suggested that we attempt a paddle and portage to Green Pond to our east. Tina agreed, so we unloaded our remaining gear from our canoe and launched ourselves into St. Regis Pond again. This time we were in better spirits. The canoe was empty except for a small day pack containing our lunch, a camera, and a few other personal items. The sun was warm on our faces and the air cool as we paddled directly across the pond to the Green Pond carry. The canoe, being lighter, was a joy to paddle.

Our take out was directly across St. Regis Pond from our camp. We reached the far shore within minutes. Tina jumped out of our canoe as we glided to shore. She then pulled our canoe further ashore so that I could easily walk out of our canoe and onto shore without getting wet. I then pulled our canoe completely onshore and turned it over. Lifting one end of our canoe was easier than lifting the whole canoe over my head. So, I lifted one end and walked underneath our canoe until I was directly under the middle yoked thwart. With little effort I had our canoe balanced on my shoulders and ready to transport to the next pond.

The canoe books I had read were correct. Carrying a canoe by balancing it my shoulders was not difficult and much less difficult than pulling it when it was attached to wheels. A further frequently described phenomena was also correct. The person portaging our canoe sees little of the portage other than the trail beneath their feet.

Jamieson and Morris were once again correct in their descriptions. Green Pond looked different than St. Regis Pond and the difference was more than just size. The deadfall was different and the trees lining the shores looked different. There was less beach along the shore and more dead trees laying in the water. We put our canoe on the pond and paddled to the east. On our way to the middle of the pond we decided to continue on to Little Long Pond. I was feeling strong and secure after having portaged from St. Regis pond to Green Pond and wanted to take the longer portage from Green Pond to Little Long Pond. Tina agreed.

The approach to shore was more difficult than others we had seen. There was no beach. The take out was more of a bank with many tree root entanglements at the water line. Tina managed to go ashore without a problem. However, when she tried to pull our canoe onto the bank she tipped it a little too far and tossed me into the water. I was, at first upset, but soon enjoyed being cooled off by the water. Tina was apologetic at having dumped me, but the apology was unnecessary. Since this trip was a learning experience we discussed what the dumping would have meant if the weather and the water were colder. Without dry clothes I would have been susceptible to hypothermia. We decided to always bring an extra set of dry clothing for just such an emergency.

Being that my head was covered by our canoe there is little I can report about the portage from Green Pond to Little Long Pond except to say that it was longer and that it was more hilly than the portage from St. Regis Pond to Green Pond.

We put our canoe on Little Long Pond and started paddling. At about the middle of the pond we turned northwest and paddled toward St. Regis mountain to investigate a small tributary. We then paddled southeast to the middle of the pond. We noticed another canoe along the south shore and later saw that it belonged to two fishers. Their camp was higher on the shoreline obscured by foliage. At the middle of the pond we turned east once again and paddled past a point with a small beach facing westward into the afternoon sun to easternmost shore and the take out for the Bear Pond portage. Instead of portaging to Bear Pond we touched shore and turned around and headed back across Little Long Pond to the beach we had noticed earlier.

We ran our canoe ashore on the beach near the middle of the pond. Pulling our canoe completely ashore we turned it upside down so that we could use it for a backrest. We then sat in the warm sun of the beach and ate lunch. Our lunch experience was slightly marred because we had forgotten to bring anything to drink. We thought about portaging to Bear Pond and on Upper St. Regis Pond so that we could get a cold soft drink or water at the ranger camp at Upper St. Regis, but didn't. The pond water was potentially dangerous because of the possibility that it contained Giardia parasites, so we did not drink it. The longer we sat in the sun the lazier we got. We put suntan lotion on and just quietly sat and watched the fishers as they drifted around the pond casting their lines. We didn't see them catch any fish.

We didn't have a watch with us so we had to guess as to how late it was when we asked each other if we thought it was time to head back to camp. The beach faced West and we could see that the sun was no longer overhead, but not below the tree line, so we estimated the time at mid-afternoon, about 3 p.m. Time to leave.

We canoed and portaged our way back to St. Regis Pond passing the fishers on Green Pond. They still weren't catching anything. About halfway between shore and our island we stopped so that Tina could take a series of panoramic photos of the island including St. Regis Mountain. The automatic camera we were using gave us underexposed negatives. The island was back lit and the water was brightly reflective, so the automatic light meter was fooled into believing there was more light than there was being reflected from the island. Back at camp we check the time and discovered that our guess was correct to within half an hour.

The beach at the West end of our island tempted us as place from where we could watch the sunset. We started walking toward the west end of the island and discovered that we were no longer alone. Another couple had set up camp on the western beach. Not wanting to disturb them, we quickly turned around and returned to our camp. We were a little disappointed that we no longer had our island to ourselves. There was more than enough room for all of us to camp without infringing on each other, but it would have been nicer to have the island all to ourselves.

Mosquitoes suddenly appeared in droves just before sunset. We were briefly panicked as we frantically started our mosquito coils again. We had to stop lighting the coils every few seconds to swat and brush mosquitoes off our faces and arms. Once the coils began to smolder and send off their insect repelling smoke we were again peaceful.

Dinner was a mixture of Lipton Chicken Noodles, canned mushrooms, and canned white chicken. It tasted much better than it sounds. We had, of course, fresh milk, with which to make our noodles. We also ate carrot sticks, Hickory Farms Beefstick, and chocolate chip cookies.

After dinner the sun was about to set so we discussed whether or not we were up for taking our canoe out once more to see the sunset and paddle around our island. With an oh-why-the-hell-not attitude we again launched our canoe and paddled off into the sunset. About half way around the North shore of our island Tina saw a Loon between us and the island. It swam around for a minute or so and dived into the water. We waited for minutes, looking all around, but didn't see the loon surface. Continuing westward we watched the sun slip behind the mountains. In the twilight we paddled around the West end of our island and past a smaller island before turning East along our island's South shore.

Back at camp we made a small fire and quietly watched day turn into night. Our Bull Frog croaked for a while and was answered from both directions along the shore. Loon calls echoed around the pond. A bat passed overhead. The pond was perfectly still and shone like a mirror. Two ducks flew into view and circled our island once and left. A few minutes later they returned, circled our island, and landed on the pond twenty or so feet from where we were sitting. They oiled their feathers and fed for a little while then swam out into the pond and flew off. We felt honored that they felt safe landing near us.

We had been sitting so quietly that when decided to break our silence and speak we found ourselves whispering softly to each other. After a while the fire died down and the sky turned dark enough for stars and planets to become visible. Still, there was a glow from the western horizon. A beetle flew from a bush between our fire pit and shore into a nearby tree. As it flew we could see glowing eye spots on its back. Other beetles made buzzing sounds as they flew around in the bushes along shore.

Tina was waiting for total darkness before going into the tent. It never came. We could still make out large features of the far shore after 10 p.m. We felt ourselves adapting to our new environment. Our night vision was becoming better, we were guessing time with greater accuracy, and we were getting stronger from transporting ourselves in our canoe and transporting our canoe. We were getting that we-can-canoe-anywhere and do-anything feeling derived from intense self reliance.

Once again, the moonlight shining on our tent woke me up so, I woke up Tina to show her the moonrise. Like the night before, it was beautiful. What better thoughts could one have in their head than a beautiful moon rising while falling asleep.

Dripping sounds woke me up the next morning. Water drops were falling on our tent's rain fly. My first thoughts were that the weather had changed and that we were going to have to leave as we had arrived, in rain. I pulled my sleeping bag up around my head and went back to sleep. When I could no longer avoid the inevitable I sat up and looked out at the pond through the mosquito netting of our tent door. I couldn't see anything but gray. The far shore was veiled in fog and mist. The campsite was damp and water was falling from the conifers overhead, but there was no rain falling on the pond. The water dripping on our tent was from pine and spruce needles catching the fog and collecting moisture and then releasing it on us. I put on my pants and crawled out of the tent to look around.

What I saw was a fairyland of shifting swirling fog and mist drifting over the pond. The pond surface was a mirror of smoothness. The sun was just visible through the mist and reflected on the surface of the pond. The reflection of the sun was nearly identical to the actual sun making the real relationship ambiguous. I scurried about relighting the mosquito coils which had been left out overnight. Surprisingly, they lit immediately and started generating their smoldering relief from mosquitoes. I also put a kettle of water on our camp stove for tea and for Tina's contact lens ritual.

Once my chores were done I grabbed our camera and started photographing the pond with the mist drifting over it. Since our campsite faced the sun it was difficult estimating a correct exposure. As it turned out, the camera's automatic metering worked best. Most negative films have exaggerated ISO numbers. So, I compensated a little by under valuing the film's ISO number by half a stop as a safety precaution. As time past the mist slowly rose revealing the far shore. From our vantage point it appeared as though the mist migrated across St. Regis Pond in the direction of the foothills of St. Regis Mountain where it rose in swirls and curtains. Because the mist was constantly changing and evaporating there was not time to carefully select vantage points. I walked along the shore near our campsite and looked for the best opportunities for picture taking. The photos that came out the best showed some of the near shoreline with dead trees extending into the pond. The evaporation of the mist took about an hour from the time we first noticed it.

As the last wisps of mist curled up into the sky toward St. Regis Mountain a breeze began to disturb the smoothness of the pond surface. Once the mist was gone the breeze began in earnest.

It was time for us to leave. We knew we had a hard portage back to Little Clear Pond. I had been thinking about different schemes of tying our canoe to its wheels from time to time since we arrived at out island. The best solution I could come up with was to tie the straps around the center thwart to help keep the wheels centered under the canoe. I was to find out that my solution was ineffective.

We rolled up our sleeping bags and stuffed them into nylon stuff bags. We deflated our Thermarest sleeping mats and rolled them into tight bundles. We picked up our tent and shook out the bits of debris we had tracked into over the last couple of days. Having owned both free-standing dome tents and guy line supported A frame tents, I can say that I greatly prefer dome tents. Being able to pick up a dome tent and move it is a great advantage, especially for cleaning. Looking around our campsite we picked up every scrap of paper and refuse we had created and some we hadn't. We collected a can of beer floating in the pond at the edge of our campsite. Someone left it in the water, probably to keep it cool. After consolidating all of our camping equipment and packing the canoe it was time to leave.

We paused for a moment to look at our campsite, perhaps to indelibly imprint it's image in our memory. There was also that background fear that we would never be able to come back here again. It wasn't as though we anticipating dying the next day. It was because we have camped at so many beautiful places that it is unlikely that we have enough years of our lives left to visit them all again or in the same way. This was it. This was real. We wanted to suck it all in and feel it in the extreme, if just for a moment.

With a shrug we prepared to launch our canoe. Tina climbed into the bow. I lifted the stern and shoved the canoe farther into the water. At the last moment, before the canoe left shore, I jumped in and began paddling. A little distance off shore we turned and looked at our campsite for the last time. I was already missing this little paradise. I wondered if we would ever come back and if we came back would it be as wonderful on the second visit. A strong breeze blowing across the pond was at our backs making paddling a pleasure. Steering was a little difficult because of the changing direction of the wind, but it was more of a fun challenge than a chore.

We paddled past our island retracing our original route. When we rounded the point to our south we were paddling at cross angle to the wind. We compensated by closely following the eastern shore. This time our portage point was easy to find. We saw the board pier through the cattails. Unfortunately, we still had a lot of gear to portage. We attempted to solve the problem by carrying all of our easily carried gear from take out to put in. Unfortunately it was only a partial solution. With our canoe partially emptied it was only a little easier to wheel it up and down the hill in the middle of the portage.

We loaded our canoe for the last time launched into Little Clear Pond. We had the wind to our backs and a bright sun for this segment of our trip. Even though our canoe was not well packed and very full we made great time crossing the pond to the launching ramp. After pulling ashore we looked back across the pond and were surprised to see two foot waves with whitecaps. We felt strong and brave. We certainly would not have launched our canoe into those conditions, but we were proud to have navigated them.

Ending our trip made us a little sad and disappointed. We were just getting into shape. Our muscles were just starting to feel strong. Our paddling technique was just getting to the point where we were efficiently moving our canoe on the water. When we have hiked in mountains for several days we often felt that our legs and lungs were just getting acclimated when we got into our car and drove home. What we had left to discover was whether our feeling of well-being really told us more about of our lack enthusiasm for returning home.

We unpacked our canoe, packed our car, and signed out at the registry. Within minutes our petite adventure was over. We were, once again, just another car driving through the Adirondacks with a canoe on its roof. There wasn't much we could do about who we were or where we were going so we concentrated on more immediate needs like where we were going to eat lunch.

In retrospect, we made many mistakes and worked harder than we needed to, yet we learned many lessons. We learned that we should not count on innovations like canoe wheels. We learned that we could have a better time by only bringing along what we could carry in our packs and that our packs should be waterproof.

We had a wonderful time and saw more beauty than we had seen in some time.


Our car didn't suffer as much rust as we expected from the leaky water container. A little rust preventative paint sprayed in the spare tire well solved the problem nicely. The manufacturer of the canoe wheels, in answer to a letter, sent us an updated version of their mounting hardware and a new set of straps. They said that we were not using the correct strapping method to hold the canoe on the wheels because we hadn't been supplied with adequate instructions or enough strap. The new mounting hardware lifts the canoe higher above the tires. If we ever use the canoe wheels again, I will add my observations on it here.

Suggested reading

Order these books right now.

Rich and Sue Freeman GuidebooksComment:  If you don't own copies of Rich and Sue Freeman's guidebooks, you are missing out on the best places to hike, bike, canoe, or tour in the Finger Lakes of Upstate New York and the Bruce Trail in Canada.  Their books are well written and their directions easy to follow.  Highly recommended. 

Quiet Water Canoe Guide, New York. John Hayes and Alex Wilson. 1996. Published by the Appalachian Mountain Club, Boston. MA. ISBN1-878239-51-1.


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