This latest adventure was my first foray into the Adirondacks, an alluring place for all lovers of the American outdoors. Think mountains with treeless crowns, lush hardwood forests, quiet lakes and mile after mile of trails and rivers to explore.
The Adirondacks sprawl over a swath of New York’s Appalachians, where parkland is interspersed with small towns and farms. Managed by the state of New York, Adirondack Park covers 3 million acres. Apprehension over the long-term future of the range, primarily timber and watershed concerns, led to the park’s establishment back in 1892. (Ironically, this preservation of New York’s forest indirectly led to the harvesting of the Southern Appalachians. Timber interests turned their eyes south when New England’s forests were cut over or preserved.)
Joined by longtime Tennessee friend Ken Ashley, now a Vermont resident, and two other Vermonters — Fred and Ted — the four of them, along with Fred’s dog, Bear, entered St. Regis Canoe Wilderness, in the eastern Adirondacks. The clear, cool and sunny day felt like I imagined a New England fall day would feel.
Fred knew a great campsite on Little Long Pond, so we paddled and portaged to the site, setting up camp in towering pines. A chill wind contrasted with the warm sun. We gathered plenty of wood for the nippy evening, cooking steaks for dinner. It went into the 30s that night. That was a little colder than I expected a New England fall night would be.
A chilly morn turned cloudy as we four paddlers took a day trip to Ochre Pond. We fished a little, but ended up catching some brook trout on another unnamed pond, where Fred had developed a technique of trolling with lures. Around and around and around we paddled in circles, but kept pulling up fish. So who was I to argue with Fred’s technique? The best discovery was a great campsite on nearby St. Regis Pond, which we went to the next day. It also included a three-sided Adirondack shelter.
We set up camp on St. Regis on a dark day. Golden needles carpeted the point that opened to colorful St. Regis Mountain above. I went fishing solo, determined to catch fish the “Tennessee way,” which didn’t include paddling in circles. Luckily I saved face and returned to camp with a 22-inch lake trout, while Fred and Ted went and nabbed some more brookies circling and circling and circling Fred’s pond. We enjoyed another great evening by the fire on an idyllic fall evening. Fred regaled us with stories of his life as an independent solo logger. His long beard made him look the part.
From St. Regis Pond, we took a day trip to Fish Pond. This trip entailed a couple of pretty challenging portages, carrying our canoe over land between lakes — crossing hills, bogs, streams and more. We were using a canoe with no dedicated portage yoke, so that made carrying the canoe atop our shoulders a little tougher. The air was still and the colors fantastic on Fish Pond. After returning to camp we cooked a mess o’ trout for supper in a spitting rain. Ted was a fantastic chef the whole time but Fred added his skill as well. A hard night-long rain fell that fourth night.
Next day, Fred and Ted paddled back into civilization while Ken and I decided to do a little hiking, taking a lakeside path. We explored Grassy Pond and went back to Fish Pond on the all-land route. Our last night was mild. We watched a full moon rise over St. Regis Pond. Loons called in the distance and the fire crackled nearby, making for a fitting final evening.
A big wind blew on the way out, but with less food, Ken and I made our way with ease. Big rains hit just as we exited the canoe area, and the two of us were grateful for their good timing and drove back to Ken’s Vermont home. I was fortunate enough to fly back to Tennessee and experience fall again.