After completing the 30-Miler in August 2008, the racers (Jack, Tom, Bill and Erin) and the support team (Mary and Jan) left the finish line in Tupper Lake and repaired to the clubhouse on peaceful Kimpton Road in Saranac Inn.
The rain finally let up a few hours after the race and Jan and Tom returned to nearby Rollins Pond Campground to break the camp they had established the night before the race. Meanwhile, Bill and Erin returned home.
The plan for the next day, a Monday, was to canoe camp at Little Tupper Lake in the William C. Whitney Wilderness Area. It was raining, however, when they woke up, and the forecast was poor, so they decided to postpone camping until Tuesday. Once again, the clubhouse temptress had her way with the NCMCers.
It cleared up fairly quickly on Monday, and the foursome that was left in the Adirondacks (Jack, Tom, Mary and Jan) took a lovely two-hour paddle in the four-man from Follensby Clear Pond (which should be closed to motors!) to the Semlers’ access on Upper Saranac Lake. At the take-out, they ran into a preacher and his wife who owned a home on “Upper Sar,” as it’s called. They were doing work on their waterfront home. It’s a small world, and the preacher, who ministered in Toronto, had actually gone to grammar school in Buffalo with Bill. A ridiculously large and inappropriate mansion was being constructed on the waterfront nearby, and Jack asked if the minister and his wife ought to join him in torching the place. That brought a nervous laugh from the wife, but no plan to burn the monstrosity down (one more step against global warming, perhaps). The other afternoon activity was a trip to Mac’s canoe livery to discuss the possibility of installing tractor seats in the four-man in place of the two cane seats in the middle of the boat, which were too low and lacked the support and leverage provided by tractor seats. It was hoped they could accomplish this renovation of the boat in time for the September 90-Miler. This visit to Mac’s by Jack and Tom was during a brisk bike ride they took that afternoon. Jack hoped to complete a century ride in the Adirondacks in the coming weeks and was training on the bike as well as paddling for the 90-Miler. All this activity had allowed him to shed 15 pounds, an unprecedented weight loss through training and dieting for the NCMC.
The weather was better on Tuesday, and Jan and Tom, who had packed for the camping trip before leaving Connecticut, left early for Little Tupper, at which they had camped in 2006. The Semlers were to follow after finishing their own packing.
At the put-in for Little Tupper, Jan and Tom were pleased to see only about a dozen cars in the parking lot. They brought their gear and 18-foot Sundowner to the water and had a chat with a Ranger (not Keith of Lake Lila fame!) about how rainy the summer had been and how more campsites on the lake were now graced with toilet boxes, a welcome feature to both campers and the environmental quality of the campsites.
Jan and Tom headed out in their gear-laden boat up the lake. Campsite #2, in which they had camped for four nights in 2006, was taken, as was their next choice, Campsite #6, on a nearby point. They paddled on and eventually came to Campsite #11, which they had inspected on their earlier trip. It was unoccupied and claimed by the NCMCers. Camp 11 is a fine site on a rise overlooking the lake that provides a 180-degree view of the lake and its shoreline. It faces east for the sunrise and, because the land drops away from the back of the site, it also features late afternoon sun.
Jan and Tom set up camp in a leisurely fashion. Within a few hours, Jan spied a canoe heading up the lake and Tom, grabbing his monocular, identified the occupants as Jack and Mary. His confirmation was the fact that he could see that the boat had a number affixed to the bow from an old canoe race.
Jack and Mary soon arrived at the campsite and unloaded their Sundowner. Tom was impressed by the relatively small size of the Semlers’ kit in comparison to all the stuff the Conroys had hauled into the woods. The Semlers added their tent and other gear to the campsite. Jack soon realized that one of the reasons why his kit was light was that he had left his and Mary’s sleeping bags at home. No matter; this gave Jack and Tom an excuse to paddle speedily in an empty Sundowner back to the put-in. Tom went along with Jack in the canoe on the condition that Jack would eschew checking his email when he returned home. After reaching the take-out, Jack drove home while Tom took a swim in the cool, clear water of Little Tupper and then lounged on a bench to read The Wild Trees by Richard Preston, a compelling account of the scientists and arborists who climb and study the giant redwoods on the west coast (A Jack Semler Book Club selection). Jack returned with the sleeping bags and they sped back to the campsite with a high stroke rate.
Equipped with all the gear they needed, they spent Wednesday and Thursday paddling and hanging in camp. There were regular visits by loons in the waters in front of their campsite and a pair of bald eagles also showed up one morning. The first eagle landed at the top of the highest tree that stood on the island directly across from their campsite. The eagle moved to another tree and a second eagle appeared in glide over the lake. This eagle began a lazy spiral downward to the water and, flicking its talons at the surface, came away with a big writhing fish. It flew to a nearby tree to perch and the first eagle soon joined it for a meal. The two eagles, both adults with white tail and head, spent a long time perched in the NCMCers view before flying off.
On the third day of the trip they traveled up the inlet to the lake, passed over a beaver dam, saw a giant snapping turtle sunning itself and a deer taking a drink, made one portage and paddled into Rock Pond, a beautiful and quiet body of water. They lunched on an island in the pond and went swimming before heading back to Little Tupper.
Meanwhile, back at the clubhouse in Saranac Inn, two nice kids from Lake Clear were taking care of Sammy, who is too long in the tooth and sore of joint to make camping trips. The kids kept a log of their dogsitting, and here are a few representative excerpts of Sammy taking care of business:
Tuesday, 8/12, 6 p.m.: Sammy trots to the street, takes care of business, saunters around, trots back, gets petted, enjoys treats, curls up on couch.
9 p.m.: Sammy trots down the street, does business, comes over for attention, trots back to house, comes in, gets treats, eats a little bit of food.
Wednesday, 8 a.m.: Spent 10 minutes trying to convince Ms. Sammy she should got out. Guess she’s not an early riser. Will try again later.
10 a.m.: Sammy came up the stairs to say hi, went out, went down to road, does business, says hi to woman walking, comes back, received treats, gets petted, eats a little bit of Kibble.
4:02 p.m.: Sammy sleeping when I arrived. After waking up (took a few minutes) climbed off couch, went out, goes to the bathroom, sniffs around, comes back, gets treats, eats a little bit of food, curls up on the rug under the table.
Thursday, 8:04 p.m.: Sammy came out to greet us, went pee and came back, and received treats.
The Editor thinks that perhaps there is the potential for a popular blog about Sammy, complete with webcam!
Meanwhile, getting back to the doings at Little Tupper, the Editor can report a stunning break with tradition on the trip; the campers actually ate dinner before full darkness and took leisurely paddles after dark, including one lit by the full moon. As they coursed quietly over the glassy surface at night, bats regularly fluttered by the bow just a few feet above the water as they tracked insects.
On the new gear front, Jan and Tom brought their “bear vault,” a large plastic barrel with a locking top. They put their food in the barrel and put the barrel at night among the fruit-laden blueberry bushes (which they plundered for their pancakes) that surrounded the camp. It’s hard to say if the barrel is bearproof or if it keeps the food odors from wafting about, but it seemed to do the job. Jack treed his and Mary’s food supply, using his well-developed system of ropes and pulleys, and throwing a few carabiners into the mix that may or not have been essential to the operation. Mary called the carabiners “the paperclip of camping.” It was not an endorsing statement.
They saw a few paddlers each day, but the general experience for the NCMC was of a big, empty lake that the NCMCers and the loons and the eagles had to themselves. Two paddlers of the male persuasion did spent a night camped on the island across from them and went swimming in the late afternoon in a “clothing optional” manner, a fact confirmed by Jack and Tom with the use of the binoculars and monocular.
The NCMCers’ last morning was a Friday, and the lake was preternaturally calm long after daylight, when a breeze usually develops that produces ripples on the water. As they began to paddle out, they chatted with a ranger on patrol who told them he had never seen the water so calm. They glided to the take-out over water that eerily matched the somewhat overcast sky. And they only had a 45-minute drive back to the clubhouse for another night in the Adirondacks!
Gallery: Little Tupper 2008