In which we return to the Saranac Lakes for the fifth installment of our Canoe Camping Capers.
Having seen what Middle Saranac had to offer last year, we set our sights on a trio of islands in the middle of the lake. From this stronghold, we figured we'd have a pretty strong command of the entire body of water. As it turned out, the mid-lake positioning of these isles brought vulnerability to an unexpected threat from the east. A cold and windy threat...
But fear not, reader! For our heroes are a hardy crew! Though some of them were new to the lake, they were seasoned adventurers all.
(J = forward / K = backward)
Every good trip begins at home. My cooler technique this year was inspired by Denise's Yeti packing. It worked pretty well! I don't think we had any issues keeping things refrigerated.
Having recently said goodbye to our beloved Outback, Terry, we weren't sure how we were going to lug all our stuff down to the lake. On a recent trip to Stockbridge, Larry offered his Audi wagon and we took him up on the deal. When it came time to load it up, though, we found that despite the shape of the car, there was actually very little cargo space.
We'd recently bought a roof rack for Shark Car (our Prius V) and thought, "why not?" I moved everything over to what we thought was the smaller vehicle and was shocked to discover that there was just as much room in here as in the Outback! It felt a little sluggish on the hills, but otherwise performed admirably.
Despite being "with Gobbler," grumpy Sarah frowns at the camera. (I think it was just a mild case of pre-trip jitters.)
As we discovered last year, the parking area at Second Pond is full of delicious berries. Nobody else seems to realize this, because there are always plenty within easy picking range. That didn't stop Berry Boy from requesting a lift to a nearby boulder to get the good ones nobody else could reach.
Plenty of Queen Anne's lace too. (If you ever see one of these flowers, pull it up by the bass and smell the roots. It smells just like a carrot! Sarah taught me that.)
Holy moly, it's Steve! STEVE!! And Anicia, too!!! WHAT A TREAT!!!!
After a couple years of folks renting boats at the Saranac Lake Marina, we've decided that it's a much better plan to get canoes at St. Regis Canoe Outfitters instead. The boats are much nicer and they even help you load it onto your car.
Turns out this was a year of gets. Not only did Steve make his debutante appearance, we also got Doug and Russ! Doug's been wanting to come for years now and it finally came together.
Here, a Gatorade-stained Russ and spear-obsessed Otis commence the pyromania.
One of the nice things about bringing kids on an island is that once you set them loose, they immediately recon the whole vivacity. Good thing, too. They found a sweet sunset spot and we made it just in time of the first night's colors.
It's a lot of boxes, sure, but we do use everything. There's always a sense that maybe we're going overboard when Andre does the second entirely-gear trip, but I think it's worth it.
(OK, maybe we didn't need two Coleman stoves...)
Gotta make sure the other campers know that we mean business.
This was the welcoming committee waiting for us on the hangout rock. It's hard to tell the scale from the picture, but this sucker was bigger than I would've expected. No pinches so far, though.
Elegant, silky, and treacherous. If unloading a canoe wasn't tricky enough, there was plenty of slippery aquatic flora to keep things interesting.
In a stunning victory, we managed to snag three islands this year (thanks to Ol' Bullet-Fingers Anicia)! Pictured here is Second Island with First Island behind it.
First Island at one point had two campsites on it, but they must've decided that made the population too dense, so they decommissioned one of them. So, Pops had his own private island to get away from all the noise, noise, noise, noise.
The rest of us set up shop on Norway Island, which, despite being much larger, had far fewer inhabitable tent sites. We made do.
Same view, but blurrier and with more bubbles. ART!
Slug race track?
Just in case Steve's beard wasn't enough to put my pathetic adolescent peach fuzz to shame, Doug brought his as well.
(I think that's Ampersand Mt. hiding behind the clouds, by the way.)
The weather wasn't terrible, but it wasn't the blazing sunshine I always hope for. There was a stout breeze most of the trip too, but fortunately for us Norway Island provided a pretty substantial wind shadow over most of the prime activity areas.
A LOON! (Sure doesn't look like it has a green head to me.)
The view from the crapper was pretty nice. (They could cut some of these trees down, though...)
Since everyone was poopin' with the door open, we needed a system to communicate when the ba�o was ocupado. The sleeve for June's cartoon-bear-themed quad chair was just the ticket.
We brought a bunch of fishing poles this time and almost everybody took a turn hauling these magnificent bastards out of the lake.
And Otis caught his first fish!
Norway Island had a big, mostly flat hangout rock that was a lot like what we'd enjoyed on Halfway Island in years past. Excellent for swimming and loading/unloading (despite the aforementioned slime).
Second Island is pretty much just a big rock and turned out to be a killer hangout spot, even if it was a little goose-poopy.
June may not have worn the best explorer shoes... But she didn't fall to her doom, so I guess Crocs for the win.
Stevenicia worked on their tandem technique...
...and did a lap around the island.
The best way up to the top of the rock (and back down).
Continuing our expedition to First Island, we checked out the now-defunct Site 73. From the looks of things, they haven't been using it for a while. I didn't see any suitable spots to set up a tent. The kids named this Mt. Dumbington (after George Dumbington).
Up at the top of Mt. Dumbington, a picture of a dog was nailed to a tree. Did this dog die in the line of duty on a canoe camping trip? Did its ghost haunt the island? Is that why they don't let people reserve 73 any more? This excursion brought more questions than answers.
Also on First Island, we found a bunch of loose bark on old dead tree. This, of course, had to go, the children decided. So into the drink it went.
Sunset number two. This time we made it in time to see the eponymous sun.
Anicia gave us this little inflatable, solar-powered lantern a few years ago. It has provided light on every camping trip since. And it's fucking bright!
Kids giggle, Sarah and maybe Anicia lurk nearby.
It ain't a party without Funky FlamesTM.
Headlamps are a good idea even if you're pretty sure where you're going.
This warty weirdo was watching me take a leak.
I guess all the weirdo come out at night. Down at the rock, we found some fish sleeping in the cracks.
All the better to see you with.
(It occurs to me as I write this that the Big Bad Wolf ends his sentences with prepositions.)
Tent Gang. Counterclockwise from top left: Sarah, June, Tootsie.
Pops and Doug, chewing the fat before breakfast. (Well, by the looks of that bowl, "before breakfast" for some people.)
Oma wasn't physically in attendance on this trip, Pops having abandoned her at the post in Acadia. She was spiritually present, however, in the form Oma Activities. Here, Pops and Otis try to start the morning campfire with a pocket magnifying glass supplied by Oma. They got some smoke, but the tinder must not have been tindery enough.
It's possible that Pops and I snuck off for an ice cream cone at one point. Possible, but there's no definitive evidence.
I thought it was a treat just having Anicia and Steve on this trip. The real treat, however, was the Cokes they brought. CAMPING COKE?!
Alright, so, me and Anicia fucked up. In our reservation frenzy, we ended up with way more sites than we needed. We weren't sure which sites were going to be best and we weren't sure how many people were coming. (One of Sarah's work friends, for example, was talking big, but ended up being busy.)
So... In addition to First, Second, and Norway Islands, we also ended up with Bartlett Island. When we finally settled on dates and attendance, it was too late to cancel and we ended up spending a few hundred bucks on sites we didn't use.
We decided to make the most of it and designated Bartlett Island an official picnic destination. Fine by Otis. He immediately mapped out a network of tunnel-like trails on the more densely vegetated side of the Island.
We snagged some fire starters from the Shit Shack on Bartlett...
...and paddled home.
Do these kids know what they're doing? Do they know how cute they're being?
I think they do.
When Steve tells me to take this picture down, I will.
Of course we did some capsizing practice. (If you don't push your boat to the limit, you'll never know where the limit is! That's what I always say.)
Sarah enjoyed sunset #3.
I can see why.
The final member of the crew arrives! Uncle Jeremy!
(I don't know what was going through J's mind at this point, but for the record he did not end up reenacting the famous crappie scene from our youth.)
Pops and the kids, off to First Island (with semi-camouflaged/overloaded fishing boat nearby).
Final sunset. Pretty, but not as dramatic.
As Pops retired to his private island for the evening: disaster. Jeremy's phone went straight into the lake. This one had some un-backed-up data on it, so Jeremy went straight into the lake after it.
We got him a pair of goggles and put a bunch of headlamps in a doubled up Ziploc bag. They didn't do much good once the muck got kicked up. There was zero visibility. We even tried calling the phone to see if that would light it up and make it easier to find. No dice.
Jeremy looked around for twenty or thirty minutes. Then we sent in a relief diver and managed to find it! Miraculously, it was in perfect working order and even received my call under all that water! All's well that ends well, right?
It's always a bummer when it rains on the last day. But it is what it is. Otis didn't seem to mind. (He only put on a raincoat because we told him to.)
June didn't seem to mind the weather neither. Of course, she's looking pretty dry in this photo.
The Brilliant Tarp Solution of 2019. Works like a charm!
The important thing to note is that this water is not falling on me.
I told Otis I'd give him a nickle for every piece of trash he could find on the island. We quickly discovered that the amount of micro-trash was going to clean me out of nickles pretty fast. So we devised a sliding scale based on the size of each piece of trash. If I recall correctly it went from a quarter for the largest pieces down to pennies for scraps.
Here's his haul. In the end, we called it five bucks even.
We brought a lot of jugs of water. To conserve space in the trash bags, I stomped and crushed.
Thus were born the jug shoes.
If it takes two trips to get out, it takes two trips to get everything back to the car, too. After one more windy/dicey paddle with a slightly overloaded canoe full of kids and gear, I did a second trip. The weather started clearing at this point and I was kicking myself for the timing of everything.
Seeing as how we were in Middle Saranac this year, we didn't use the usual parking lot and boat ramp. Instead, there's a special put-in a little further down the road. It worked pretty well! And the bonus was that instead of paddling down a busy waterway with lots of powerboats, you accessed the lake via a meandering creek with lots of lilies and other flowers along both sides.