Thursday, July 28, 2022

Stoney Creek & Us: Proof you are never too old to paddle


I saw a friend at the farmer’s market the other day who asked if we still paddled. “Sure, three of us went out Friday,” I said. She remembered that I wrote about hiring guides to help our group of aging canoe buddies continue to enjoy the waters of the Adirondacks. Sometimes younger friends come with us to help schlep our boats.

When we are without such help, we select trips that have shallow beaches to launch our solo canoes, do not require carries from one pond to the next, and lack beaver dams and other obstructions we have to maneuver over and around.

Not this time, though.

On Friday, Marcia Mosey, Monique Weston and I decided to launch our Hornbeck canoes at the Axton Landing beach, paddle a short way up the Raquette River, and explore Stoney Creek, something none of us had done. 

We found the entrance to the mouth of the creek easily as there was a large white sign at the confluence of Stoney Creek just a short distance up the Raquette River. Marcia had with her Dave Cilley’s “Adirondack Paddler’s Guide” where he writes “Stoney Creek is not really the way it is pictured on most maps — most maps show a flooded spring-time view.”

Even though it was mid-July, not spring-time, we were pleased that the creek water flowed smoothly over submerged boulders allowing our canoes to easily navigate the waters as we paddled upstream. Grasses swirled underwater, indicating that yes, at lower water levels these perennial grasses grew along the banks.  I was fascinated watching these submerged grasses gracefully swirling in the current, still rooted. I imagined this remarkable phenomenon as hair growing from the core of the earth, greener and thicker toward the roots and lighter green, almost yellow, and smaller, at the ends.

stoney creek grasses

We followed Cilley’s suggestion to stay left as the Creek took many turns, thankful that we did not encounter any beaver dams as he warned the readers of his guidebook.  Unable to carry over such dams, we would have needed to turn around. Looking at the map, Marcia was concerned where it said, “Stream not passable here.” This warning, however, was for a feeder stream, not Stoney Creek. We passed a couple in a tandem canoe who had paddled from Stony Brook Ponds.  They said there were no obstructions ahead and there was a sign pointing to the Ponds at the confluence of the feeder stream.

After almost two hours on the water, we approached the first pond and stopped and ate our lunch in a shaded spot at the shore, still in our canoes. I was disappointed we didn’t find a beach where we could get out of the boats, stretch our legs, and swim. Taking a dip in Adirondack waters is a favorite of mine. Most of our trips offer such opportunity. But not this one.

We had an easy paddle downstream to the Raquette River and the beach at Axton Landing, thankful for another amazing paddling trip on Adirondack waters.

stoney creek shore

“Do you want help?” a young man on shore approached Marcia as she was attempting to get out of her canoe at the end of our three-hour trip. “Thanks, but ‘no’, I like to do it myself while I still can,” Marcia said. “I’m 86.” 

He looked at her with his mouth wide open, in shock. “I have friends who are 40 and think they are too old to camp,” he said. “I’m 45 and just spent a week at the Adirondack Loj.” On his last day he was paddling up the Raquette River for three miles to Raquette Falls.

Not to be outdone, I said, “I’m 83.” Monique was still on the water, so I said, “And the woman still paddling is 85. Say ‘hi’ to her on your way out.”

We helped each other exit our boats on the beach. Only one of us took an unplanned swim.

Photos by Monique Weston

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Award winning author Lorraine Duvall's newest book contains stories about where she has lived in the Adirondacks for the last 24 years, titled "Where The Styles Brook Waters Flow: The Place I Call Home." She writes of her paddling adventures in the book "In Praise of Quiet Waters: Finding Solitude and Adventure in the Wild Adirondacks." Some experiences from her memoir, "And I Know Too Much to Pretend," led her to research a woman's commune north of Warrensburg, resulting in the 2019 book, "Finding A Woman's Place: The story of a 1970s feminist collective in the Adirondacks." Duvall lives in Keene and is on the board of Protect the Adirondacks.

10 Responses

  1. Mike Douglass says:

    Good for you Ladies !

  2. Beth Rowland says:

    You guys are such an inspiration and I love this piece beyond words!

  3. Mary Lou Giuliano says:

    I hope this will be me someday; still able to enjoy it all!

  4. Kelly says:

    Interesting post, I’m glad I came here.

  5. Jan Irvin says:

    Love this article! Reinforces my belief that we older guys and gals don’t have to give up everything we love, especially paddling!

  6. Kathleen P says:

    I am very inspired by you and your friends!

  7. Ginny Alfano says:

    Such an inspirational story! I just had a visit with my orthopedic specialist regarding serious shoulder pain. I had an MRI done previous to our meeting. Turns out I’m bone on bone in my shoulder and they want to do an x-ray guided cortisone shot. If that doesn’t work there’s not much else that can be done. I asked if I could get a shoulder replacement. Well, she said, we usually stop doing them at 75 years old! I was incredulous. I said it should be done by the person and not the age. I’m 74 and love to paddle, hike and camp. Why should I have to give all that up? Why can’t we do the replacement instead of wasting time with the shot? Simple answer – insurance won’t cover it without prior efforts of alternative methods. So, I asked, if the alternative methods are done while I’m still 74, shouldn’t I be able to get the replacement? Hmmmmm – I’ll have to look into that. Over the years I’ve had disc and thumb joint replacements just so I could continue my favorite outdoor activities. I’m NOT going to stop now! Your story just added to my determination 🛶⛺️.

  8. At 67 I canoe every day March to November ( over 200 days/ season). One thing I have learned over my long paddling career is that no one ever expects to capsize…and it is nearly impossible to put on a PFD once you’ve dumped. We always, always, always wear a PFD. No one ( dog or himan) gets into our canoes without wearing a PFD.

  9. Greg Meyers says:

    Do you know roughly how many miles you paddled? I hope to do this with my son later in August. He has a disability which limits his stamina. It would be helpful to know.

  10. Lorraine – you need to go into second pond for a beach. There are several ones there. Inlcluding the one we would vacation at for many years.