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.
The Adirondack Forest Preserve is celebrated as one of the world’s best-protected wilderness reserves, but of course this is New York State, not the distant, untrodden surface of Venus; with precious few exceptions all of the lands that are now “forever wild” were once privately owned, and many parcels were developed to one degree or another before the state acquired them for the Forest Preserve. If you’ve enjoyed any of the Adirondack Park’s “blockbuster” purchases over the last quarter-century, such as Little Tupper Lake, Round Lake, the Essex Chain of Lakes, Boreas Ponds, or Madawaska Flow, you have explored land that was once populated by dozens of modest hunting camps.
I was an early visitor at all of these properties, exploring their secrets while the ink was still wet on the deeds. In 1998, just weeks after the “William C. Whitney Area” opened to the public, I found a small cabin on the north shore of Little Tupper Lake that even DEC staff didn’t seem to know about. At Madawaska Flow in 2004 and Round Lake in 2006, I ventured into recently abandoned cabins that stood on expired leases, quietly awaiting their demolition. These structures reminded me that what I had come to explore as “wilderness” had been perceived and used as something slightly different a few years earlier.
Because of these experiences, as well as my interest in Adirondack history, I have never been deluded into thinking our wilderness is a people-less place; it may be the natural landscape that attracts me and fills my daydreams, but I am also familiar with (and fascinated by) the human story that haunts the Forest Preserve.
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