Two years ago, when all we had to worry about was one cavorting little kid near the water's edge, we went camping in Lower Saranac Lake (full report here). So good was the time we had that we vowed to go again every year until we died. As fate would have it, though, a second cavorting little kid came into our lives the very next year and the vow was broken. (Also, I got way too involved with building a deck.)
But now, with a year's worth of worldly experience under CLK2's belt (and with the deck fully built and stained), it was time to revisit our vow. Reservations were made in January—almost too late, as it turned out—and friends were contacted soon after. A plan materialized, July finally rolled around, and we jumped into action!
(J = forward / K = backward)
Formally speaking, a proper trip to Saranac Lake should begin with a meal at the Lakeview Deli. I, of course, indulged in a Gobbler. Bread-Beak here had ham on wheat, dry, with alfalfa sprouts and olives.
The week before our trip, Pops, the kids and I went on a scouting mission. We'd reserved two sites out on the peninsula next to Lonesome Bay. (See red circle above.) It was clear that paddling over from the boat ramp next to the State Bridge on Route 3 was going to be a long haul, especially with gear. We checked in at the marina in Crescent Bay, but they didn't seem to want us parking there unless we were renting one of their boats. However, the dude working at the marina suggested parking near a swimming spot I'd heard about recently. There was an unmarked dirt road leading down to the Caretaker's Cabin and this turned out to be the perfect secret spot!
On the day of the trip, we unloaded all of our gear and carried it down the trail a couple hundred hards to a semi-accessible break in the trees at the edge of the lake. Carting our mountains of crap through the branches was a bit of a pain in the ass, but we managed and soon reaped the reward: a short, easy paddle, right across Lonesome Bay to our campsites!
(My original, stupid plan, was to drop of Sarah/kids, then gear, then paddle back to the car, drive over to the boat ramp, and paddle back to the car. When I went back later in the day with Sean T., he convinced me that it would be much smarter to leave the car near the caretaker's cabin, bring back the last load of firewood, and be done with it. Boy was he right!)
A clue! In addition to some broken glass and a couple of large, rusty cables heading mysteriously out into the lake, I found this old padlock at our firewood dump site.
First load: women and children and tents, oh, my! Third mate Juniper enjoys the ride.
(Note the rocks in back of Sarah. There were a couple of gulls stationed on the flatter of the two and when Sean and I went back for firewood, it started swooping us pretty seriously! Must've been a nest on there or something.)
Approaching our private peninsula, I was a little concerned that we'd have less fun, seeing as how we weren't on an island. But once you were in the campsite, you couldn't tell the difference. Roll over the image to get a better sense of the lay of the land.
Time to get cooking (on a jury-rigged grill)!
In addition to traveling out to the ’Dacks, all the way from Texas, Sean and Abigail offered to make everyone chili the first night! I brought a pot, some salsa, and cornbread. Pops and Oma brought the firewood. A beautiful collaboration.
My instinct for the trip was to try to arrange all of the meals for everyone, but Oma talked some sense into me. In the end, though, I ended up bringing way too much food anyway.
The Night #1 Gang. L to R: Pops with Scotch, Chili-Tending Sean, Juniper the Human Dirt-ball, Chip-Eying Sarah, Buoyant Nathan/Otis, Observing Oma, Entertainment Abigail.
Oh my god...
There was a medium-sized, semi-submerged rock out in front of Site #60. There wasn't anything on it when we'd paddled past the week before, but now there was a miniature henge. Maybe the druids that camped out here before us meant to make them bigger?
We set up our giant tent. Then we realized we'd made a mistake: the door flap was facing away from the lake! Once the boys/girl lost interest in tent moshing, we took out the heavy stuff, grabbed the four corners, and swung the whole thing around 180°.
Dusk. PJs. S'mores.
No time for s'mores. Just marshmallows.
Since we weren't on an island, Pops suspected there might be bears on the prowl. He asked a ranger and they made a well-it's-possible face. We had way more food than bear box/bag volume, so we canoed our grub out to the newly-rechristened Pantry Island every evening and picked it up in the morning. No pic-a-nic baskets for you, bears!
The previous picture captured a rare moment when this gull wasn't perched in this exact spot on this exact branch on Pantry Island. He was almost always there! Gus the Guardian Gull kept a close watch on our food while we slept soundly in our tents each night. If anyone came too close to his tree, or anywhere else on the island, he'd unleash a furious barrage of chirps: "brp brp brp... brp brp brp..."
Twilight on Lower Saranac Lake.
While stocking up at Walmart, I noticed several small boxes of Funky Flames: "Change up the colors in the flames to your campfires or bonfires. Just add one pack of Funky Colored Flames to your fire and you will be amazed at what happens next. These colored flame crystals burn blue, green, and purple when added to any wood burning fireplace or campfire. Perfect for camping trips, backyard fire pits, campfires, and more." (They probably take a couple years off your life every time you breath nearby too.)
...and neatly stacked boxes of chow. Gus oversees.
July 4 detritus in the water near camp. Celebrate the independence of your nation by leaving your garbage around in its beautiful parks!
This grumpy fish didn't seem to care too much.
Lakeview Sarah with a rare glimpse of the photographer.
This must've been taken just after June was rinsed off in the lake. I don't have many memories of her looking so clean on this trip. Despite my comments, Juniper had a blast! I don't know how many sticks and pine needles she ate, but she was perpetually grinning from ear to filthy ear.
When Sean O. arrived, on Day 2, he told me that humans have a deep-seated urge to build cairns. We decided to verbify the word: "Somebody was doing some serious cairning out in front of the campsite!"
Slightly less misty view of Pantry Island, this time with Sean and Abigail on breakfast retrieval duty.
See? (Note the gull.)
I went out to the island myself for a quick pre-breakie swim. (Note the gull AND the big contrail "A" in the sky!)
When I got back, some folks had decided it would be fine to just go for a swim right out in front of the campsite instead of paddling over to a more civilized spot like the island. Savages.
This was right before the Great Poop Disaster of 2018. June was splashing around at the water's edge and Pops decided she didn't need to be wearing so many clothes. June seized the opportunity.
Cheeky little bastard!
Team Texas takes off! (Hard to tell, but I do think there's a small gull-shaped dot in the tree in the background.)
Glad I got this telephoto lens...
Pops and Oma have upped their swimming game over the last two years. Ask them about these floats they tow behind them. They'll gladly tell you about how there's almost no noticeable drag as the buoy floats along in your body's own eddy. (What I wanna know is how easily they unbuckle in the event of need to dive under an inattentive idiot in a motorboat...)
Another Sean (this time from nearby Canton) and his awesome sons! Here they are at the edge of the eponymous bluff on Bluff Island.
Otis wasn't satisfied with the easy trail up the backside of the bluff and wanted to explore the steep, cliff-side path on the front. It was pretty dicey! (But not so dicey that I didn't think it would be appropriate to busy my hands with taking a picture instead of bracing to catch a falling four-year-old.)
I tried to get a shot of this family passing one of our boats, but couldn't get the camera out in time. Oh well.
The final set of co-campers arrived on Friday evening: Lenore (observing the fire and glow-stick show in the background), Megan (receiving glow-stick jewelry from Otis), and Andrew (not pictured, up to some inane mischief). I'd never seen the headlamp on a water jug trick before!
Otis, out for an early-morning paddle.
Back at camp, I cooked up some breakfast sausage/egg/cheese burritos. One of the snags was hot to trot!
Otis and I had gone for an exploratory paddle around Eagle Island on Thursday afternoon and found this lovely little cove. I proposed it as a destination for a Saturday excursion. Good choice. Nice picnic spots, warm-water sandy cove, more mysterious cairning. There was a little too much high-speed boat traffic, but otherwise this was the perfect spot!
Clear water and a sandy bottom!
Juniper had a terrible time.
So did Andrew.
On the first night in the tent we heard loons calling from dusk until morning. I was pretty tired and didn't record the sounds. "I'll just record it tomorrow night," I figured. We heard more loons over the next three nights, but it was nothing like the first night. Damn. Well, I did at least get a picture of one of these magnificent greasy bastards swimming around near our campsite!
Juniper, who used to be content in her little, private tent-in-a-tent, gradually took over more and more of our gigantic tent mansion. She got better at sleeping through the night over the course of the trip, but only after she'd run her poor parents out of their zipped-together double sleeping bag.
The week before our trip was blazing hot. The week after had downpours every day. Our time on the lake, however, was perfect. Well, right up to the last day at least. We didn't get any serious rain, just a few drizzly drops on Sunday morning as we were packing up.
After some debate (and me going back and forth on possible plans in my head), we decided to try and make it all in one trip. Andrew and Megan had a bunch of extra room in their rental canoe, so we put whatever didn't fit in ours into theirs. Then we headed out into the storm. I got a little nervous on the way back. We were sitting pretty low in the water and the waves were getting bigger in the growing wind. I kept the boat headed right into the weather for fear of getting swamped. (I almost told Sarah to put on her life jacket!)
We made it, though. Sean and the boys did too, after a lee-seeking detour behind Sable Island. We unloaded our gear, retrieved the car, and loaded up with seconds to spare before a nuclear tired baby meltdown. (Well, maybe we went a little past that deadline...) By the time we'd gotten our ducks in a row it was just about the lunching hour, so back to Lakeview we went! I cannot imagine a more perfect and matching bookend to the trip than another Gobbler!
(Also, on the way back, I noticed the canoe moving around a little bit on the roof. I pulled over in the Donnelly's lot and who should we run into but Sean and the boys! They had cones and when we mentioned that all of our cash was packed deep in the back of the wagon, Sean produced some bills and financed an ice-cream treat. I am forever grateful.)