“I’m from Canajoharie, the others from Albany and Catskill,” a women said when I saw her with two friends on Boreas Ponds last week.
“We met through the Facebook page ‘Paddling in the Adirondacks’ and we’ve been going on trips together ever since,” she said, “often driving hours, as we did today.”
These three middle-age women in their colorful kayaks were among the twenty or so paddlers I saw on the a trip to Boreas Ponds on a partly sunny, 60-degree Fall day.
There were many Hornbecks, other kayaks, two tandem canoes, and a guideboat on the water that day. Wheeling or carrying that guideboat for the .8 miles must have been quite a job, as they weigh around 60 or 70 pounds. At the age of 80, I knew I could’t handle my 15-pound Hornbeck, even with wheels, so I talked my 82-year-old friend Monique Weston in joining me in hiring Cloudsplitter Outfitters in Newcomb to schlep our two Hornbecks. Not only did Dave Olbert, the co-owner, help with our boats, he provided tidbits of history of the ponds and the area, as he was a teacher in the local schools and spent his childhood at the Upper Works, before the town of Adirondack was moved to Newcomb.
At the put-in to the ponds, I was surprised to see a woman carrying a Spitfire boat. I also own this model made by Placid Boatworks and know it weighs around 24 pounds. She wasn’t even using wheels. “I didn’t mean to carry it the whole way,” said this 64-year-old woman. “I wanted to put-in and paddle for a while on LaBier Flow as I heard that could shorten the carry.” What she did not know was that the put-in for LaBier Flow is earlier, alongside the road at the dam. The takeout is where she thought was the beginning. Two men we saw at the start of our trip had made the same mistake. More prominent signs to show this alternate route would be helpful.
The Spitfire woman was from Burlington, Vermont, as was a man we met later. A woman from Keeseville rode by on her horse.
Boreas Ponds was on Monique’s bucket list. And mine two, even though I had been there years ago with the Nature Conservancy. I wanted to paddle in my solo canoe, alone, to explore the open waters and the shoreline. I basked in the middle of the ponds overcome and inspired by the expanse of the soaring mountains in the distance. Many people have photographed these ponds and mountains, wrote about their experiences, but none can do justice to the awe that overcame me. The scene was more spectacular than I remembered. Monique couldn’t wait to get home to paint the scenes.
The ponds are large enough to afford a feeling of solitude even with a number of people sharing the waters.
I stopped near the shore to speak with a couple from Brant Lake, each in their own Hornbecks. “Henderson Lake is my favorite, still is,” the man said, acknowledging this was the first time he’d been to Boreas. “Henderson used to me my favorite,” I said. “Now it is Boreas. Henderson second.” It’s wonderful to have choices to experience the wildness in the Adirondacks.
The small world of the Adirondacks reared its head early on as we were unloading our boats in the parking lot. A red pickup truck pulled up behind us with three kayaks jutting out the back. It was Beth and Tim Rowland from Jay, and Tim’s brother from Plattsburgh. “We just rented these kayaks from Cloudsplitter,” said Beth. “Tim is writing an article on Boreas for the Explorer.” I’ve spent lots of time with them over the last few months as they’ve been helping to edit my new book on a women’s commune in the Adirondacks.
Those of you who are regular readers of the Almanack may remember that I’ve written about how I struggled, as did others, with finding a way to provide reasonable access while maintaining a wilderness bhav. Generally these goals have been met. There are two accessible parking spots .2 miles from the pond. Others, such as myself, may not qualify for permits to these accessible spots, but still need assistance. “I’m 80 and my husband is 84. We gave up our Hornbecks last year,” a woman from Lake George told me after we arrived in the parking lot. They decided to walk the .8 miles to the dam to view the ponds.
This is a good alternative but nothing compared to being on the water. Would they have welcomed help in transporting boats to the put-in? I don’t know but assume many of limited mobility would.
This post provides a snapshot of the people who visited Boreas Ponds on a mid-October day, just a short while after it opened to the public in September 2019. We were establishing a relationship to place with minimal human impact on this Adirondack treasure. We found joy in this immersion. We honored the place.
Terry Tempest Williams, a lover of the Adirondacks, said of our national parks, “I believe we are slowly learning what it means to offer our reverence and respect to the closest thing we have to sacred lands.” We are learning that of our Adirondack Park.
Photos, from above: mountains and trees at Boreas Ponds; Dave schlepping boats with Monique; Monique and mountains at Boreas Ponds; and Dave, Tim and Beth at Boreas Ponds.