Monday, July 8, 2024

1959 Canoe Trip: Old Forge to Blue Mountain Lake

Map, Old Forge to Blue Mountain Lake

Barbara and I were married in early June, 1958. For our first anniversary, we decided to take a canoe trip from Old Forge to Blue Mountain Lake. Even though I had spent six summers in the Adirondacks, I had never been there in May or June – black fly season.
Using telephone and mail, we reserved a canoe at a boat livery in Old Forge. We first drove to Blue Mountain Lake where we asked at the gas station at the intersection of NY routes 28 and 28N if we could leave our car in their parking lot for a few days. They were fine with that.

We then began hitchhiking back to Old Forge. It was a dreary day without many people around. A couple passed and indicated with their hands that they would like to pick us up, but their car was full. After a while, a man stopped and offered us a ride. As we headed south, we asked him if he knew the weather forecast. He turned on his radio but couldn’t get any reception. He pulled to the side of the road and asked me if I would put his antenna up. As I got out of the car, Barbara came piling out saying she would help me. She was sure he was planning on driving away with her in the car. I said I didn’t need any help.

As we approached Old Forge, he took a side road down by the lake to show us a pretty chapel. We picked up a 15-foot Grumman canoe and headed up the chain of lakes. We spent the first night on Alger Island on Fourth Lake. A ranger came out to the island to check us in. The next day we paddled through the rest of Fourth Lake and through tiny Fifth Lake. As we beached our canoe on Fifth Lake preparing for the carry to Sixth Lake, an elderly gentleman appeared with a set of wheels which he offered to rent for $0.25. Feeling like that would be cheating, I turned him down and carried the canoe out to Route 28 to the put-in on Sixth Lake.

As we were paddling through Seventh Lake, a man called from the shore and motioned us over. He and his wife were stewards on Seventh Lake. Years later I told this story to retired Forest Ranger Gary Lee. He said they would have been the Yegars. They invited us to see their setup. What I remember most is them showing us how they had large jars of food items on shelves with the front of the shelves blocked with wooden slats. They said that one night a raccoon got into their tent, reached its paws through the tiny opening above a slat, unscrewed the lid of their cookie jar, reached inside the jar, and extracted every cookie.

We canoed on to Eighth Lake. We spent the night at the north end where the carry to Browns Track Inlet begins. In the morning we carried the canoe to Browns Track Inlet and went down the Inlet to Raquette Lake. As we paddled across Raquette Lake to the Marion
River, we were attacked by black flies. They were relentless. They flew around our heads and bit our ankles. Barbara had scars on her ankles for six months. We paddled up the Marion River to the carry to Utowana Lake where we hoped to spend the night at the lean-to near the foot of the lake.

However, when we got to the lean-to it was occupied by two men. This lean-to was easily accessible from Route 28, making it very available to people from the road. The State has since moved this lean-to across Utowana to the other shore making it accessible only to boaters. We were running out of water. We asked the men if they thought the water in the lake was safe to drink. They said they didn’t intend to try it since they had plenty of beer.

We paddled on to Blue Mountain Lake, retrieved our car and drove to Golden Beach Campground on Raquette Lake. We could not find a person to check in. In fact, we didn’t see a single person camping there. I suspect this was because schools were still in session, and it was black fly season. We went into the campground and found a site. As we were fixing dinner, a black bear came walking down the road and took a drink from under a water faucet, glanced at us, and continued on its way.

Between the black flies and the black bear, we decided to drive back to Blue Mountain Lake where we rented a cottage at Steamboat Landing using that as our base for the last days of our mini vacation. I have to admit that 20 years later I took our son on a fishing trip to a stream in the southern Adirondacks during black fly season. He couldn’t handle the black flies, so we moved to Big Island on Raquette Lake that had no black flies.

Many years later we realized that the Adirondacks was our favorite place to camp in the summer. Our favorite activity while in the Adirondacks was to canoe on the rivers and clean lakes. In 1966, Barbara’s brother, Keith, introduced us to Rollins Pond, which became our favorite place to camp in the Adirondacks. At least one of our three children and, sometimes, all three joined us in the Adirondacks each summer. More recently our granddaughter has joined us. Our three siblings and our nieces and nephews from Georgia, Colorado,
and California joined us at least once and some many times in the Adirondacks.

Photo at top: Map, Old Forge to Blue Mountain Lake. Google Maps image.

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Alan Jones came to the Adirondacks for the first time to attend Camp Onondaga on Long Lake in 1947 when he was 10 years old. He continued coming to the camp for five years and then came back in 1957 as a counselor for a group of 10-year-olds in the same cabin he was in in 1947. After marrying Barbara and having three children, the family began camping at State campsites in the Adirondacks – primarily Rollins Pond. In 2019, Alan and Barbara retired to California to be close to their two daughters.

2 Responses

  1. Eric says:

    Love the content

  2. Peter Jennings says:

    Great story and thank you for sharing!
    Greens Farms Ct

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