Over 50 Miles Paddling & Hiking in NY Wilderness
While the Washington DC Metro area suffered under blazing heat and humidity, five Venturers and three adults from Crew 128 spent five days in the cool wilderness of New York's Adirondack State Park and Sabattis Scout Reservation's Seton Trek Center.
Crew 128 paddled, literally, from the most western shore of Lows Lake to the most eastern shore (9 miles), and from the northern-most bank to the southern-most bank (5 miles). In other words, we did the WHOLE lake. We also reached other bodies of water like Bog Lake.
The lake is remarkable. On the first day we "discovered" a bog island, i.e., an island that actually floats on the surface of the water. It is made from soil that rose from the lake bed due to its high loam/peat content. It supports vegetation and even large Venturers who had to cross a narrow portion of the smaller island near the eastern side of the lake. In the center of the lake is a much larger bog island that actually supports small trees.
Other wonders included beaver dams and islands. As to the dams, we saw at least one beaver dam every day on our trek, and one dam prevented our passage to Lake Lila on the second day. As to the islands, Lows Lake has 30 of them, and several have Scout-only campsites. We used such a site on Pole Island on the first night.
Bushwacking to High Cliffs
On Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, the crew would canoe in the morning to establish their campsite. The afternoons were devoted conquering the many mountains that surrounded the lake.
While these mountains were not the famed high peaks in the Adirondacks, they posed their own challenges. First and foremost, there were no trails to follow. Instead, using pure orienteering skills, the Venturers navigated with compass, maps, and landmarks to reach their goals. Even that posed unique challenges due to the high iron content in the rocks. At one point, everybody's compass pointed in different directions, and one compass was permanently repolarized so that North read South for the rest of the trip!
The hike on Wednesday was, by far, the most challenging and rewarding. We hiked for over 8 miles toward the very high cliffs that overlook Grass Pond. (See Google Earth Link!). The views were stunning, but the hike from the top involved some serious navigating around high cliffs and large boulders.
Thursday featured another unique hike to "ice caves." To be honest, we found crevices, not caves. While some say there is actually ice in these formations even in July, all we saw were some calcium deposits. But we certainly felt the cool air rushing from the entrances of several crevices that we entered. (Note: If we had found real caves, we would not have entered to avoid contaminating bat habits, and because we did not have the proper equipment for spelunking.)
On Friday, after returning to base camp, we took it "easy" by using a trail to ascend Graves Mountain for a rewarding, last look at the full view of Lows Lake and thousands of acres of forest surrounding it.
Our campsites offered unique beauty, some challenges, and some lessons.
We arrived a day early, and the staff at Sabattis Scout Reservation ("SBR") allowed us to spend the night "on our own" at one of their campsites. This was a special accommodation that we really appreciated considering the long drive from Virginia. The advantage, of course, was that we were fresh for the planning activities, swim tests, etc. that we conducted on Sunday. It also gave us our first taste of nighttime in the Adirondacks -- 40 degrees in July! Only our cold noses stuck out of our mummy sleepy bags.
We spent our first evening of the actual trek on Pole Island. Camping on the island had one significant advantage: no bears! That meant that we could relax a little regarding bear bags and cooking some distance from our sleeping area. Nevertheless, we remained mindful that mini-bears (a.k.a. squirrels and other small creatures) can sometime create havoc with gear just like the big critters.
Our next campsite taught two lessons. First, strive for a campsite with lots of open access to the lake. This enables the breeze from the lake to blow mosquitos away. The second lesson was one of flexibility. The site had lots of pine trees, but absolutely no good limbs to hang a bear bag. So we improvised by making a "bear boat." In short, we placed our water-tight bear bags in one of the canoes and left it in the open water, tied to a tree on shore and a stump out in the lake. It was a clever solution, even if we say so ourselves.
Our favorite campsite taught us the value of a good beach and reminded us to look out for "widow makers." This campsite featured a beautiful, sandy beach with a nice lake bed stretching far into the water. It was perfect for a "hygienic swim" (no soap or pollutants) that refreshed our souls with cold water and cleaned our bodies enough to tolerate each other while in our backpacking tents. The widow maker lesson reminded us of the importance of not camping under rotten trees. At 3:37 AM, during the middle of a rain storm, a nearby tree i fell with a deafening crash. Had a tent been under it, well ... we can only imagine.