The North Country Men’s Club made its first-ever canoe camping trip to the St. Regis Canoe Area of the Adirondack Park in early August 2000.
Jan, Tom, Matt and Russell were the club’s representatives on the outing. The four had, in the summer of 1998, spent three nights camping on Follensby Clear Pond just on the fringe of the Canoe Area, and resolved this time to get into the famous paddling wilderness itself.
Paul Jamieson, editor of the Adirondack Reader and author of Adirondack Canoe Waters: North Flow, succinctly states the attraction of the area in the latter book:
“The 15-minute St. Regis map shows over 150 lakes and ponds ranging in size from a stone’s throw to eight-mile-long Upper Saranac Lake. To canoeists, this generous display of blue nudity is the centerfold of Adirondack topographic maps.”
The Canoe Area is northwest of the village of Saranac Lake, not far from Fish Creek state campground (where the NCMC camps on the Saturday night of the “90-Miler”), and the NCMC put in on a Monday at Hoel Pond, off Floodwood Road.
Using a Sundowner and an Advantage to carry themselves and their gear, they paddled north across Hoel Pond to the carry that would lead them into Turtle Pond, which is in the St. Regis Canoe Area, where motors are prohibited. At the end of Hoel, Matt came up with the timesaving and back-saving idea that the group could avoid the carry by walking the canoes through a culvert that drained Hoel Pond into Turtle.
The idea proved sound, as the campers walked through the dark, four-foot high culvert leading the laden canoes, which floated in several inches of water running through the culvert. It was a bit tricky to drop the boats down a couple of feet into Turtle, but no harm was done to the hulls.
They padded through Turtle Pond and entered Slang Pond. At the end of Slang they had a short portage into Long Pond, which was their camping destination. In Long Pond, they inspected two campsites, and opted to establish camp at the larger of the two. It was a beautiful, large site on a point with a fine sandy beach for swimming and hauling out their boats.
They pitched their tents and established their cooking area and rigged the ropes for treeing the huge amounts of food they had brought for the five-day trip. Jack Semler has always been the food-treeing expert of the NCMC, and the campers noted that he would have been most impressed by how high they were able to hoist the many pounds of food they had brought. There was nothing resembling a bear pinata on this trip.
The morning after their first night in camp was clear, and they resolved to climb Long Pond Mountain. They paddled to the portage to Mountain Pond, but left their boats at the beginning of the carry, since they would not be paddling across Mountain Pond. After a nice walk in the woods to Mountain Pond, they began their climb up Long Pond Mountain.
Jamieson, in Adirondack Canoe Waters: North Flow, describes the Mountain and its vantage as follows:
“The ascent from the pond takes about one hour. The summit is an elongated open flat of grass and bedrock. The two ends and the middle unfold different views through an arc of about 300 degrees. The ponds of St. Regis, Saranac, and Raquette drainage radiate outward in sparkling lanes through the forest. One lane leads to the big glitter of Upper Saranac Lake. The whole of the great oval basin is spread out below in startling detail as on a relief map. Beyond the basin lies the blue serrated ridge of the High Peaks. For the moment at least you are convinced that you are looking at just about all of the best part of the good earth.”
Jamieson is dead-on, as the NCMCers learned upon attaining the summit. It is a canoeist’s mountain, as its base really cannot be reached without paddling for part of the trip.
After absorbing the summit views, the group headed back down. As they had on the way up, Matt and Russell went ahead, and reported their progress back to Jan and Tom via walkie-talkie.
The next couple of days were spent paddling about the Pond, and fishing (Russell caught a couple of nice smallmouths) and swimming. They NCMCers took scouting trips during which they hiked the two portages out of Long Pond that lead to Floodwood Road. One portage connects Long Pond to Floodwood Pond, meaning that anyone camping at Rollins Pond state campground (where the NCMC camped after its trip to Lake Lila a few years ago) could take a nice day paddle from camp to the St. Regis Area. The weather was so good that Jan and Tom availed themselves of the solar-powered Sun Shower.
A family of five loons spent most of their time near the NCMC encampment, so the campers had plenty of opportunities to watch the parents teach their young how to fish. The pond was also home to a number of osprey.
The Editor can find little wrong with the trip, except for the fact that Jan brought a box of Franzia wine rather than Peter Vella, which is the club’s official vintage. The boxed wine was a “burgundy with natural flavors,” whatever that means. Franzia claims that one out of eight glasses of wine consumed in America outside of restaurants is its product. The NCMC is more egalitarian than elitist, but no one should go lower than Peter Vella. “Roughing it” means different things to different campers, but unlike this group’s trip to Follensby Clear Pond two summers earlier, there was no lager brought to the St. Regis Area. Yes, because of the need to portage, no cooler of beer was hauled through the woods. Upon reflection, however, Tom thought that a case of beer on ice could have easily been carried by Matt and Russ down a portage. Heck, they’re a couple of strapping six-footers and would not have broken a sweat!
On the Friday after the Monday that they entered Long Pond, the group packed up and paddled back out to Hoel Pond. There are other nice ponds in the Canoe Area to satisfy the tastes of the NCMC, including St. Regis Pond, which should be on the list of waters to explore on a future trip.
Gallery: Long Pond 2000