Friday, April 23, 2021

Geezers Make a Raquette at the Falls

A hike to Raquette River Falls

(All photos are property of the author)

Raquette Falls walk

Since it is difficult to determine what the weather and conditions will be like in early April, the car was loaded with all manner of equipment. Snowshoes, crampons (spiky additions to boots), two flavors of hiking boots, hiking poles, and a sled filled the hatchback, along with the usual packs full of necessities.

Raquette Falls was the goal. A view of the cascade on a beautiful September day caused Jim and Randy to wonder what the river would look like during the spring runoff.

Snowshoes and sled remained in the car. The lack of snow was surprising. There was more snow in the woods in the southern Adirondack foothills than in the Raquette River valley near the High Peaks. Even so, the crampons came along, because one never knows for sure. But it soon became apparent that fluid was the preferred state for local water.

Thankfully, a lean-to was a short distance from the trailhead, so dump and go was the order of the day. Hiking without major weight on one’s back is much preferred.

Though ice prevailed on short stretches of the trail, all the snow was gone. And it was a splendid sunny spring day of the kind that makes one want to leave his coat behind. But that’s a rookie move on any significant hike, since the noontime assumptions of continued warmth can go terribly wrong later in the day.

raquette river

Joy is the emotional descriptor of a walk in the woods on a warm and dry spring day. Just joy. Joy because the footing is good. Joy because one can see far into the woods and get the lay of the land in a manner impossible when the trees and undergrowth are leafed in. Joy because the air is pure. And not at all least, joy because one’s knees and lungs allow such a walk to happen.

frozen pond

A still-frozen pond along the way. That rock is about 30 feet tall

On the way back, Randy told Jim, “Yep. This is where the cabin goes.”

flooded trail

Ooops. The trail is submerged.

About 3 miles in, they ran into a small setback.

At first glance, the water, hemmed in by rock ledges, seemed insurmountable.

“Jeez,” said Jim. “Can you imagine coming all this way and not being able to reach the falls?”

Randy did not answer, and started following the shoreline. Before long, they were back on the trail.

They reached their goal and found the falls to be more of a steep rapids than a waterfall. As far upstream as one could see, the whitewater thundered down the channel.

raquette falls

The photo does little justice to the awesome power of the water. Click HERE to see the more demonstrative video. With audio, no less. (Maybe there is something worthwhile to this fad of moving pictures.)

raquette falls in the fall

September comparison picture. Standing in the same position in April, these lads would be washed away.

There were a few small hills on the trail. They barely noticed them on the way in, but on the way back, the slight elevation provided several opportunities to catch fine views. And breath.

The last bit of most significant hikes is generally completed without much conversation. This is trudge mode. It’s just putting one foot in front of the other until the journey is complete. Mile 9 fell into this category.


At the lean-to, after dinner, Randy said, “You know, Jim, we could have done this hike and slept at a motel.”

“But hotels don’t have campfires.” Jim moved a bit closer, and flicked his cigar ash into the less-than-adequate blaze.

“Nor do they need them.”

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Randy Fredlund enjoys hiking, paddling, and taking pictures of the area around his camp on Stewarts Landing. He is happiest when breathing Adirondack air.

9 Responses

  1. Alan Jones says:

    I had just finished the carry around Raquette Falls some years ago to find that the ranger had just fished two guys from the deep pool I can see in your photo. They had a white-water canoe, and based on second-hand information, thought they could shoot the rapids. They cased the upper rapids but not the lower one. Their audio equipment didn’t look like it survived. I had seen them at the foot of Long Lake the night before and warned them about the falls. They were not impressed.

    • Randy Fredlund says:

      Alan, That Ranger is a saint! Not that I’m smart enough to always heed the good counsel of strangers, but really? Not casing the entire whitewater? Laziness in conjunction with stupidity. Thanks for augmenting the story.

  2. I enjoyed your article. It seems that much of my Long Lake history research takes me to Raquette Falls but it is one place I have not seen. Thank you for the great photos.

  3. Ross Morgan says:

    Thank you for the return to the Falls article. I worked in there for the Bryans in 1965, a few years before it was sold to the State, and before the old log lodge burned. My job was summer caretaker and helping guests who came to fish, hike and paddle, but that year Mr. Bryan was ill and later passed on; he wrote “The Raquette, River of the Forest”. He and his wife, Mary, spent many summers there but not that one. Few guests came that summer, and i spent happy hours wandering into Cold River, and fishing the ponds and river. Gene Freeman, a guide from Coreys and Martha Clarkson, who cooked and kept the cabins clean, was from Tupper, were really in charge. I was temporary help. Part of me is still there, listening to the constant flow of water, although i have not been back in decades.

    I used to walk the carry trail after supper to check for canoeists about to be stranded by dark, and help with their loads. One time i carried three canoes over, mostly in the dark; it was a childrens’ camp, and there were sick who could not function. It was raining and i was pooped after three trips. I cherish the place. Its memories kept me awake on guard duty in southeast asia shortly after, when i would recall from memory every turn and twist, every name and story of the river from Axton Landing to Dog’s Head Rock.

    • Randy Fredlund says:

      Ross, Thanks for augmenting the story with your memories. And I’ll bet those were very heavy canoes!

  4. Sally says:

    Very true

  5. Cynthia says:

    Loved this story

  6. Alisha Kahuria says:

    lovely read!