Leave a Lantern Burning
Crying loons, the spectacular view from Long Pond Mountain, and delicious steaks cooked over a wood fire made for happy campers on the 2001 North Country Men’s Club spring canoe trip to Long Pond in the St. Regis Canoe Area of the Adirondacks.
Tom and John Conroy, Jack Semler and Jay Tillotson made the trip May 4-6. It was the first such outing for the NCMC since a 1997 trip to Forked Lake. The spring canoe trip is timed to put the NCMCers on the water and in the woods in the short period between ice out and the emergence of the black flies that can drive one nuts.
Not as sacrosanct as the annual NCMC winter camping trip, the spring canoe trip appeared to be unlikely when Tom called Jack in April to see if there was any interest in an expedition. Jack, busy with his job, his school board duties, touring colleges and other matters, said he did not think there was. Soon after their conversation, however, Jack called Tom to say that Bill Webster had inquired about a trip. Jay then said he would go, and the first weekend in May was selected as the date.
Jack, who was in Montclair, New Jersey, at Easter a few weeks later, encountered John and asked him if he would like to go on the outing. A veteran of past trips to Algonquin Provincial Park, John expressed interest and later decided to join the party.
In the week before the trip, Billy said he could not go, but apparently only gave vague reasons to Jack.
A Few Stops on the Way
On Friday, May 4, Tom and John rendezvoused in Albany, purchased non-resident fishing licenses at Department of Environmental Conservation headquarters, left John’s car at a Holiday Inn, and motored onto the Northway. Upon reaching the Keene Valley, home of the Adirondack High Peaks, they made the obligatory stop at the Mountaineer, checked the weekend weather forecast, and made a few token purchases.
Heading on to Lake Placid, they stopped at Jones’ Outfitters to pick up some flies. Showing restraint, they did not even enter the Eastern Moutain Sports store or any of the other outdoor shops.
From Lake Placid they continued west to the village of Saranac Lake, and picked up a few more provisions. They did not stop again until they reached the parking lot on Floodwood Road at the trailhead to the put-in for Long Pond.
Because Jack and Jay would not be arriving from Buffalo until that night, and planned to paddle into camp in the dark, Tom and John had the lion’s share of gear and began to haul it down the carry to the lake. Canoe and paddles, a cooler of beer and food, two tents, and large gear bags carrying stoves, fuel, pots and pans and other items were brought to the put-in, which was about a five-minute walk from the parking lot. They loaded up the canoe and pushed off, heading to the far end of the lake in hope of securing the campsite that NCMCers Tom, Jan, Matt and Russell had occupied for four nights in August 2000 (see Trip Report).
They passed one occupied campsite and checked out several empty campsites as they headed north up the lake. Passing through a narrows in the pond, their coveted campsite came into view, but they could see tents through the tress and knew it was occupied. They found a good, site, however, on the south side of the pond and claimed it for the NCMC.
After unloading their gear, they set up the two tents and had cold Busch Light and cheeseburgers for dinner. It was cool, and a steady strong breeze from the north came off the pond into their camp. After dark, while listening to the loons on the pond, they discussed what to do about Jack and Jay. It seemed unlikely that Jay and Jack would find their campsite in the dark, so they decided to paddle back down the lake and try to find them. With the near full moon occasionally lighting their way when the clouds permitted, they paddled to the take-out and walked through the woods to the parking lot. Jay and Jack had not arrived. Despite their aversion to using cell phones in the woods, they tried to call Mary. The connection was weak, but they heard Mary say that the two Buffalonians had not left until after 5:30. Tom left a note on his car informing Jack where they were camped. Jack had suggested the day before that a lantern be left burning to signal where the camp was along the dark shoreline, and the note promised that a lantern would be visible at the campsite.
John and Tom paddled back to camp and went to sleep. A few hours later they awoke to voices and paddles banging against gunwales. The lantern that had been left burning near the shoreline had not gone out, and Jack and Jay had arrived. The late arrivals unloaded their gear, had a brew and went to sleep.
A View for the Ages
The next morning was clear, bugless, breezy and cool. They had a leisurely breakfast of pancakes with their coffee (made in Jay’s infamous Euro sock) and hot chocolate. It was not until noon that they took to their canoes, John and Tom in a Sundowner and Jay and Jack in a Jensen, and paddled north for the cove where they would find the trail for Long Pond Mountain. They had been able to see 2,500-foot Long Pond Mountain to the north of their campsite. It would be about a 900-foot elevation gain from the pond to the top of the mountain. Tom had climbed it last August and he knew the view on a clear day would be spectacular.
They paddled to the cove, found the take-out, and beached their canoes. Tom decided to hide his paddles in the woods, but Jay said all one had to do was turn one’s canoe upside and no one would ever look under it. Tom thought about how he would act if he were a thief, and decided that an overturned canoe would not deter him, particularly if the canoe was lightweight kevlar and could be turned upright with little effort. He hid his paddles in the woods about 50 yards from the canoes.
The group walked about a mile through a conifer forest to a small pond. There were still small patches of snow here and there in the shaded forest. Upon reaching the pond, they began a mile and a half climb toward the top of Long Pond Mountain. There were still almost no leaves on the trees, and they occasionally stopped to look through the limbs at the landscape below them to the south. They could see lakes sprinkled in the forest below them, and the Adirondack High Peaks in the distance.
At about 2 p.m. they made it to the top, which had a promontory of bare rock. An incredible view lay before them. Numerous lakes of all different sizes and shapes were visible in the distance. It was a vista to make any paddler drool. The sun was out, and the lakes showed blue amid the brown and green spring woods. The horizon along the entire view was made up of bluish peaks, some with snow clearly visible on the summits. They could see Whiteface Mountain, Marcy and many others. In the distance to the west they could see the ski trails on the mountain near Tupper Lake. They could have sat there for a day drinking in the view and not have felt full.
Here is the description of the view from the summit by Paul Jamieson in his book, Adirondack Canoe Waters: North Flow:
”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.”
Not only is there a great view looking south from Long Pond Mountain, there is also a wonderful vista looking north. This was discovered by Jay when he walked north from the summit through some woods. Jay returned to tell his fellow NCMCers, and they went to enjoy the extensive view from the north-facing side of Long Pond Mountain. Like many great Adirondack views, the land spread out beneath them to the north from the mountain looked very much as it would have appeared centuries ago.
Tom caught a glimpse of some birds that appeared to be white-winged crossbills, but he did not get a good enough look to make a positive identification. Having never seen a crossbill, he was sorely disappointed that his birding integrity did not allow him to claim those beautiful birds for his lifelist.
Beef, Brew and Spuds
In the late afternoon, they hiked back down the mountain to their canoes, tossing a few snowballs on the way that they made from the remnant snow under the hemlocks. They paddled back to camp, popped a few Busch lights, and John and Tom fished a bit from the canoe, but only caught some shiners. Jay made his customary fire and dinner was baked potatoes cooked in the wood coals and steak grilled atop them. Jay even brought sour cream. Much to the campers’ surprise, the steaks turned out tender and tasty, and there was little need for the A-1 sauce that Jay had brought. Loons calling about the lake and an after-dinner moonlit paddle polished off the evening.
Sunday morning was sunny, but the lake was totally obscured by swirling mist. As the mist burned off they had coffee, scrambled eggs and sausage. A pair of loons glided silently by the campsite, perhaps inspecting the shoreline for a possible nest site. As they prepared to break camp, Tom, Jack and Jay discussed Bill’s failure to come on the trip. Their discussion led to the following report, which appeared after the trip on the NCMC website:
For the first time in its history, the NCMC has disciplined a member. By a vote of 3-0, the NCMC Tribunal decided to reprimand Bill Webster for his failure to participate in the May 4-6 outing to Long Pond in the St. Regis Canoe Area of the Adirondack Mountains. ‘It is with great sadness that we have to announce a reprimand of a club member,’ said founder Tom Conroy. ‘It is even more difficult when the NCMCer is a founder.’ The unanimous vote by Conroy, founder Jack Semler and honorary founder Jay Tillotson was taken at Long Pond during the outing. Club member John Conroy witnessed the voting.
The NCMC Tribunal is the body that considers allegations of wrongdoing by club members and decides if discipline is warranted. The Tribunal is made up of the founders and honorary founder, and it can act as long as three of the four members agree. After the vote, Jay said he would ‘break the news’ to Billy in person, or at least on the phone, figuring it was more decent for him to hear it in person than to read it on the website. Under the reprimand, Billy’s name will no longer be in ‘CAPS’ until he goes on an NCMC outing that would qualify for that mark of distinction under the membership rules. Although it does not technically qualify, the Tribunal will consider whether participation by Billy in the ‘Round the Mountain’ canoe race later this month will get his name back in CAPS. That leniency could very well depend on whether Billy takes home any hardware from the 10-mile race.
The reprimand for Bill, who is known as ‘Captain Call’ to his close friends in the NCMC because of his similarity in demeanor to the taciturn Texas Ranger from Lonesome Dove, was due to his failure to provide a decent excuse for backing out of the trip after initially pledging to participate. The NCMC Tribunal considered a harsher penalty, such as suspension or stripping him of his founder status and the perks that go along with that, but Jay noted that it was Bill who had suggested the trip in the first place, and therefore they owed the good time they had on the trip to Billy. Tom added that too harsh a penalty might also provoke Billy to quit the NCMC. ‘He might just say, ‘Who needs your stinking club anyway?’ Tom reasoned.
John Conroy’s only observation during the Tribunal’s deliberations was that he was surprised that the Tribunal’s members drank beer while considering such an important issue. It was light beer, however.
The colorful link from Billy’s name on the membership page to a fire truck putting out a fire will remain intact during the reprimand.
The Bottle with Two Names
With the sad business of reprimanding Billy done with, the group packed up their gear, drowned their campfire and paddled down Long Pond in the sunshine to the take-out. They carried the gear back to their cars and hoisted the canoes onto the roofs. Tommy made the mistake of leaving a Nalgene water bottle he had stolen from Jay on an earlier trip on the ground near the cars. That shouldn’t have been a problem, but Jay has a penchant for writing his name with indelible ink on his various items of gear. Tom had crossed out Jay’s name and written his own on the bottle, but Jay’s name had been insufficiently obscured. Jay picked the bottle up off the ground, saw that his name had been crossed out, and reclaimed the bottle.
The unanswered question from the trip is whether John will return for another outing, and perhaps even take the plunge and enjoy the comfort of an Adirondack lean-to on a frigid January night. If he finds that his sleeping bag isn’t up to sub-zero temperatures, Lucky Webster will be only too happy to get in his bag and help him keep warm.
After the trip, Jack Semler said, “Billy is aware of the reprimand. Repercussions are still reverberating around the Queen City of the Lakes. He is threatening reprisals as we speak.”
Jack also reported that, following the outing, he made the mistake of complaining about the cuisine, suggesting that pasta would have been preferable to T-Bone steak, and that Budweiser would have been preferable to Busch Light. Jack apparently cannot get enough of Jay’s carrot soup and wonderful pasta concoctions.
Jay took great umbrage at Jack’s complaint, and declared to Billy that Jack is “high maintenance.” Billy shared this observation of Jay’s with Jack, apparently hoping to sow seeds of controversy among the NCMC founders. . “I think his hope is to prompt one of us into committing an offense severe enough to incur the wrath of the board, from which he has received a reprimand and demotion of his name from Caps to lower case. It is getting ugly,” Jack reported.
Jack also praised the Conroys for picking out a good destination and campsite, setting up tents and providing breakfasts and snacks. Proper gratitude like that can go a long way to earning one favorable coverage on the NCMC website.
Tom’s take on all this is that his tireless work to make the trip to Long Pond a success should make NCMCers forget the little amount of work he did on the 2001 winter trip to St. Regis Pond. He has made a note to do particularly little work on the next outing.
Gallery: Long Pond 2001