The state’s proposal to attract more visitors to the Essex Chain Lakes by allowing lakeside campfires had the effect of immediately attracting two visitors recently: me and my son.
We’ve been planning to get our canoes into the Adirondack backcountry at some point this summer. Upon hearing how uncrowded the lakes south of Newcomb are, we decided to carry them into this primitive area for a look around. We were not disappointed.
These lakes are teeming with wildlife, from deer and bald eagles to belted kingfishers, great blue herons and, of course, loons. We heard loons throughout the night and then had a close visit from a pair in the morning, when they swam within about 35 yards of our camp.
I left there with some mixed feelings. I’m as mesmerized by a campfire as the next outdoorsperson, but I’m not sure one would have added to my experience. For one thing, I absolutely did not need any added weight to haul in there. For another, I’d hate to see the tangle of uprooted trees that lines much of the waterways be scavenged for campfires. And if we’d started a fire, we probably wouldn’t have thought to crouch by the water with a flashlight and admire the nocturnal lives of crayfish and their neighbors swarming the submerged rocks. I have no strong opinion about the proposed management amendment — maybe it’s a good idea — but I do wonder whether that alone would attract more campers. Maybe it’s the remoteness, and not the fire ban, that limits use.
I also wonder whether more use is necessarily a good thing. I understand the desire to spread people out and away from some of the park’s overused zones. I just hope it will always be possible to paddle down a lake’s shoreline with nightfall approaching and be confident in finding a place to pitch a tent, as we did.
Editor’s note: This originally appeared in Brandon’s weekly “Explore More newsletter. Click here to subscribe.