These classic song lyrics from Gordon Lightfoot’s “The Wreck of The EdmundFitzgerald” haunt the forefront of my mind as I put pen to page in an effort to somehow capture the events of this true Adirondack Outlaw father/son canoe mounted duck hunt survival story.
My non-hunting brother uttered those words, as he sat dining fireside one early September lake evening.
Taking advantage of the special early NYS military/veteran’s waterfowl hunt, I had experienced success, and bagged several ducks. What good is hunter’s bounty not shared? So, I called up my brother;
“If you want a “Camp Chef” duck dinner, meet me up on the lake. I’ve got my spices, some olive oil, butter, and an onion already. Bring a frying pan, spatula, some scallions, and a fork. I’ll kindle a fire. When you get up this way, just look for the smoke.”
I didn’t have to ask twice. There were no leftovers.
Those famous lyrics may have meant one thing when they helped propel the 1970’s band Deep Purple to worldwide Rock n’ roll stardom, but to someone paddling a canoe on a wilderness lake in the Adirondacks, they quickly took on an entirely different meaning, as a group of young canoeists was about to find out.
It was the summer of 2012, and the Monroe family, as has become tradition over the past 40 plus years, once again established camp at our favorite spot near the mouth of the river flowing from the middle of the chain of Saranac Lakes, the site officially designated on the DEC reservation web page as “site 63”, but affectionately known by the locals as “Bull Rush Bay.”
Having grown up in the Adirondacks, worked, hunted and hiked the high peaks, done a stint in the Army’s 10th Mountain Division, graduated Army Ranger School- I take pride in my hardiness and skills in the woods; nights spent alone under the stars, packing only an Adirondack woodsman’s most essential tools, matching wits with Mother Nature, the elements, and high peaks terrain.
I can recall a time when there were still tent platforms on all the prime spots along the shores of Lower & Middle Saranac lakes. Despite being built on state land, they all had “POSTED” signs. Engraved family signs hung on the doors of what had originally been intended as public camping sites. Many had docks, propane tanks, generators, all the trappings of private camps. Some had been occupied by the same family for more than a generation. Many of them had become quite elaborate.
I remember our orientation day visit to Paul Smith’s College with our son RJ as he prepared to enter his freshman year as a Wildlife Sciences major there.
It was August 2017. RJ had been accepted into Paul Smith’s Wildlife Sciences program. He wanted to follow his grandfather’s footsteps and become a Forest Ranger. My wife and I were so proud.
We had visited the campus several times prior to that day. RJ had fallen in love with it from the start. So had we, as his parents. Who wouldn’t? It was perfect. A small college campus nestled in the heart of the Adirondacks, on the shore of a lake. A place where students could bring boats, kayaks & canoes, go hunting, hiking or fishing, study trees, fish & wildlife, learn to make maple syrup, where they could simply open their dorm room window and smell that cool mountain air balsam breeze.
July 28th-8am-My cell phone rang. It was Ray. “Hey- got a call last night from my neighbor- he’s camped on site 66, just above us. He said “BEAR!” Came about 4am. He says they tried yelling at it, but it completely ignored them. So they shot fireworks at it- That’s all they had. He said he thought there might be two. They saw the small one. I’ve got the chickens and the pontoon boat- what’s the plan?”
“Robin, Mom and I will meet you at the State Bridge at 11. We’ll go cook chickens. Anyone staying with you tonight? You’re gonna have bears.”
Courtesy of: Your Friendly Neighborhood Adirondack Outlaw
Greetings! As I made a quick trip out from camp for a food/water re-supply before heading back in for a long stint in camp through the Memorial Day holiday with our family, I thought a quick scouting report might be something folks find useful as they prepare to head into the Adirondacks for the upcoming Memorial Day weekend.
St. Regis Canoe Outfitters has published two new waterproof maps for paddlers, one covering the three Saranac Lakes, the other covering the St. Regis Canoe Area.
The color maps cover some of the same territory as the Adirondack Paddler’s Map, also published by St. Regis Canoe Outfitters, but the new maps are more detailed and, being smaller, easier to handle.
They’re also less expensive: $9.95 versus $19.95 for the Adirondack Paddler’s Map (which is four times as large).
“Many first-time visitors are going to grab a $10 map before they grab a $20 map,” said Dave Cilley, owner of St. Regis Canoe Outfitters, which has stores in Saranac Lake and Floodwood. » Continue Reading.
If you ever wanted to plan a multi-day paddling trip on some of the Adirondack’s best water routes, the next few weeks are a prime time. Only fall-foliage season beats early spring for sheer perfection.
You’ve got long, sunny days. Even the most popular lakes around, such as Long and Lower Saranac lakes, are mostly free of power boats. And the bugs won’t come out in earnest for another two to three weeks.
After multiple canoe trips this time of year, I’ve found the only thing I miss are the leaves, which had not yet budded during an early-May trip to Long Lake. Having done a trip a few weeks later, where we had leaves but also black flies, I think I’d take the bare trees. However, know that even if it’s the heart of black-fly season, if temperatures are cool enough the bugs will not be a problem. » Continue Reading.
Over the weekend of August 8th and 9th three of the more experienced 4-H Adirondack Youth Guides participated in a special trip offered only to active 4-H Guides who have reached Intermediate level or above. This year’s trip included a 14-mile paddle in canoes from Lower Saranac Lake to Middle Saranac Lake and a hike up Ampersand Mountain. The three youth guides spent several weeks preparing for the trip. They met for three weeks to plan the menu, itinerary, and logistics. They secured the camping permit and then acted as the guides for three adults during the entire journey. The trip began at the Route 3 DEC Ranger Station on Lower Saranac Lake where participants paddled to Bluff Island for lunch and then through the Saranac River to a campsite on the Northwestern edge of Middle Saranac Lake. The Youth Guides planned and facilitated educational programs on aquatic life, wild bird identification and astronomy and used GPS units in a team building exercise. On the second day the group paddled back to Lower Saranac and then climbed Ampersand Mountain.
The 4-H Youth Guide Program is offered to any young person age 12 and over with an interest in acquiring outdoor skills and experience. For more information contact John Bowe or Martina Yngente at Cornell Cooperative Extension at (518) 668-4881.
Photo: 2009 ADK Youth Guide trip participants; Top – Ben Hoffman, Sabrina Fish and Michaela Dunn; Bottom – John Bowe 4-H Team Leader, Martina Yngente 4-H Community Educator and Tabor Dunn- chaperone.
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The Phoenix Rises! Celebrating a restored lean-to
From the ashes of our beloved Bull Rush Bay lean-to’s old cedar logs, life rises anew!
Meet “The Phoenix”
» Continue Reading.