Looking north across Essex Chain’s Third Lake. Photos by Author.
Geezers Paddle The Adirondack Essex Chain Lakes
“Is that rain or water bugs?” was the question upon arriving at the 3rd lake put-in, after walking a mile or so from the trail head.
Walking is not quite the right word. Carrying is more accurate. I am very glad I don’t carry an extra 60+ pounds all the time. A canoe and pack for a little over a mile is more than enough. And thank you, Peter Hornbeck, for keeping the canoe portion of the poundage to a minimum. May God rest your soul.
The gout is in retreat, but the large knuckle on my left foot’s big toe is still sore. Perhaps the modified gait to baby that joint was the reason for missteps, but twice I was happy to be wearing above-the-ankle hiking boots. The boot saved a rolled ankle both times.
Resting at the put-in, I didn’t feel a drop under the canopy, but either the water bugs kicked it up a notch or we were getting a shower. It was time to pull out the poncho.
With a canoe on my head, even on the open sections of the trail, I’d been unaware of the sprinkles. The others in our party, pulling their loaded canoe along on a pair of wheels, knew of the impending downpour.
I’d like to say this compelled them to don their rain gear early.
When the downpour slackened, I embarked on a poncho-paddle to find a campsite. The others followed soon after. The rumored lean-to, on one map, but not another, was actually not fake news, and quite serviceable. Not only that, it was the nicest lean-to we’d ever seen.
“Look at this! There’s no graffiti on this thing.”
“Of course not. It’s brand new.”
“How about that. Always thought they came pre-graffitied from the lean-to factory.”
It rained on and off for the remainder of Tuesday and Tuesevening. Thankfully, there was a break just after we landed, so we could set up camp prior to the next bout of wetness. Though the lean-to was available, tents are better for sleeping without insect interruptions.
When the fire in the nicely constructed fire pit burned down to coals, we threw our pre-constructed Hunter’s Stew onto them. Thanks, Jim. No one spent the night hungry.
That fireplace was the reason we came to the Essex Chain Lakes. When initially opened to the public, campfires were not allowed. It would have been good to be there, but telling tall tales is just not the same around a cookstove.
Numerous loons serenaded us during the foggy evening and into the night.
How do you know when your tent mate has risen for the morning? You no longer hear snoring. The night was tolerable, but there was more night music in the shared tent than was requested. And, of course, I provided no harmony. Russ was the smart one, performing solo in his own tent, pitched outside the concert zone.
Coffee and egg bagels preceded our launch. The weather cooperated, and we were off on a tour of seven of the eight lakes in the chain.
Lake number eight is beyond a marsh, without a clear channel, so we decided to forgo seeing that body of water.
We didn’t paddle lake number one, either, since a large beaver dam created a drop necessitating a carry. We’d had enough carrying the previous day, and knew an encore performance would occur the next. But we walked the short trail to get a glimpse of the small lake downstream.
It’s interesting to ponder just how much water is being held back by beaver engineering. The height of the dam times roughly the surface area of lakes two through seven, since they are all connected without any carries. That’s a lotta liters, copious cups, and a glut of gallons.
We paddled back to relax a bit before dinner. Lunch at a campsite overlooking Sixth Lake was wearing off, but we stretched our legs with a short walk to get a peek at Jackson Pond. But a peek was all it was. Thick underbrush did not encourage getting close.
We settled into our camp chairs after dinner and sunset. The bats put on a nice show. So nice to see that the bats are back after all but disappearing due to white nose disease.
As the sky darkened and the bat show backlight faded, the stars appeared, with the big dipper directly in front of us. We had the usual discussion about the ancients, wondering what possessed them to visualize the big scoop as a bear. Later, the fire faded out, and so did we.
The next morning, we took our time getting up and out. There was no disconcerting realization that others have one foot in their canoes before you leave your sleeping bag. Another fine performance by coffee and egg bagels made packing an almost pleasant chore.
The paddle to the trail was not any problem except for the mother loon who went left when her chicks went right as we passed by. But the carry back to the parking lot was mostly uphill, contrary to our way in. Funny how that works. Thankfully, our burdens were lighter due to food and fluids consumed.
We loaded up and headed out. Shortly after, it poured. Two days older and wiser, our timing had improved significantly.
I’m amazed how much heavier my kayak has grown!
Boats and people usually gain weight as they age.
Very well written ,.,., my new knee is almost ready for an Essex chain trip.
My old knees held up pretty well on the portage. It’s not a difficult one … just a little longer than one might like. But I am looking into getting a litter with four porters.