• Happy Birthday, Simon Fraser (1776-1862)! 🧭🏞 4️⃣9️⃣

Late September 2022 Whitney Wilderness Loop, Adirondacks.

Jul 16, 2022
Reaction score
Cleveland, Ohio
A group of four of us just returned from a rather leisurely trip around the Whitney Wilderness loop in the Adirondacks. In spite of often less than ideal weather conditions, a wonderful time was had. Our group consisted of my 74 year old father in law, our 59 year old female friend recovering swimmingly from a back injury, my wife and me (mid 40's). My wife and I are avid wilderness travelers, expert backpackers and frequent canoe trippers with recent week long trips to Boundary Waters, Killarney, Algonquin and a different Adirondacks trip under our belts. My wife and I are also runners. I just completed a marathon in the last couple of months. I mention those items in order to put our experience in perspective; we aren't new to wilderness travel and have a level of fitness that allows us to take on hard, long days.
We spent the Friday evening before our trip's beginning (September 23) at Selkirk Shores State Park on Lake Ontario in order to split the drive from Cleveland, OH a bit. Saturday morning, we completed the drive on to Saranac Lake and picked up our rented kevlar 16.5 Wenonah boats from Adirondack Lakes and Trails Outfitters. I've had wonderful experiences renting and obtaining trip advice from this outfitter and I heartily recommend their services. We then drove on to the very full parking lot at DEC Little Tupper Lake Headquarters. I think we filled the final parking spot. Two groups were loading canoes on the beach. As I signed the register, it was clear that the vast majority of these folks were staying on Little Tupper Lake. This suspicion would be proved during the course of our trip. We loaded up and hit the water about 2:15 PM under clear, but breezy skies at about 62 degrees.


The NNW breeze kept us hugging the north shoreline of the lake. Campsites on LTL appeared to be full. It was a gorgeous day to paddle. The waves never threatened to break over the gunnels, but we remained cautious nevertheless and used the wind shadow of the island guarding the lake inlet to secure safer passage traversing the lake. Up the inlet we went pulling over two beaver dams along the way. We spotted some loons, a couple of eagles and great blue herons on the trip over. The river sites, 23 and 24, were unoccupied; but I wanted to get a portage, however short, under the belts of this crew. The portage over to Rock Pond is only a couple hundred yards, but my wife and I carried it three times. We had some work to do with the rest of our crew. In their defense, our packs were HEAVY with 7 nights worth of food, fuel and a few spirits. We made campsite 25 by 5:15 PM. It appeared one other party occupied the pond on the island. Skies remained clear through the evening as temps dropped into the low 40's. We ate our dinners, shared a couple bottles of wine (to lighten the loads!) and did a bit of fishing. I reeled in a 14" bass from shore. The stars were incredible, we spotted numerous meteorites, had a small ambiance fire and all dropped off to bed by 11:00. It was a grand first day.


Up about 6:30 AM, we ate a leisurely breakfast, with our hot beverages and packed up our shelters. A word on gear here: We carried our technical backpacks that we use in the mountains and packed gear inside in waterproof stuff sacks. I made this decision based on our heavy starting weights and the crew we had. This decision was a good one. Portage packs just don't carry as comfortably with a load. I chose to bring my MSR Dragonfly mountaineering stove that runs on white gas due to it's reliability and efficiency in the cooler temps. I carried 64 oz. of fuel to start and would use all but 8 oz as we cooked meals for 4, made generous numbers of hot drinks and even a few hot water bottles for the crew on cooler nights. My wife and I shared a Big Agnes Copper Spur UL 3. The other two had solo tents including a Big Agnes Copper Spur UL 2 which is an incredibly light and weather worthy shelter. We also carried a Noah's Tarp 12 which was integral with the coming weather. It comfortably shelters 4 with a running stove and food strewn about. I also had a waterproof Patagonia bag to carry excess food. This bag carried two canisters that did not fit in packs of our companions. As the trip went on, we moved gear into these food cans and they went into the packs. The Patagonia bag was empty by day 5. We had three fishing rods and five paddles between us.

We were off to a bit of a late start- about 9:45. We made the short paddle over to our first significant carry over to Hardigan Pond. Clouds were forming, but temps were still in the 60's. Prior to kicking off the carry, I even took a short swim. Everyone else took off ahead of me with whatever gear they could carry. I caught them at the first beaver dam traverse. There were three of these and other boggy terrain that caused some challenges. In some places, we sunk above our knee in mud. There was just no avoiding it. It began to rain about halfway across and this rain became fairly heavy as temps dropped. I carried my HEAVY pack and a canoe for most of the portage and then went back to retrieve the Patagonia bag and second boat. My wife and I hopscotched the gear the rest of the way to Hardigan Pond. By the time we got all the gear there, it was raining hard and it was lunchtime. We pitched the tarp and took a long lunch out of the heaviest of the rain. It was so nice to sit dry and snug under the tarp to eat. Finally, about 2:30, we packed up and hit the water in a drizzle. We made the paddle across Hardigan Pond. It was beautiful in this weather. I'd like to pause here to thank Barry Rains. His report on this loop from last fall was integral at this, and many other stages. We made directly for the carry trail and made the short, easy carry over to the Salmon Lake outlet. The outlet down to Little Salmon Lake was a beautiful paddle made a bit slower by a number of pulls over beaver dams. All of this was accomplished in a steady drizzle, temps in upper 40's. It was about 5:30 when we settled on the primitive site at the NW corner of Little Salmon lake right at the carry. Initially, we had concerns about the comfort this site would afford but, as we settled in, it worked very nicely for our three tents and tarp. We set up in the rain and retreated under the tarp for a long dinner and hot drinks to chase the damp out. The rain became heavy in the evening as we drifted off to our tents by around 9:30. No fire tonight.


It rained on and off all night, but had largely stopped by morning. Tree rain kept us under the tarp for breakfast where I made pancakes and we celebrated a birthday. I had carried a canoe across the portage the previous evening. This is a fairly easy portage accomplished mostly on good, dry trail. There is a sharp right turn just above a beautiful cascade on the outlet that can be easily missed, as a member of our crew can attest to. We made the carry and paddled across Lilypad Pond, another beautiful little body of water, before 10:00. The put in and take out of Lilypad Pond must be waded in mud that is sometimes mid thigh deep.

This brings about another note on gear: We all decided on trail runners/hiking shoes and a pair of technical sandals. I used my sandals where deep mud was present. My heavyweight Tevas offer enough support to carry gear and boats for stretches of a couple of miles with no damage. I managed to keep my shoes mostly dry and wore these for most of the carries. The Tevas would be my camp shoe with a waterproof sock on my foot. My father in law had a pretty good setup doing most of his paddling in Tevas with a neoprene sock over smartwool socks. This made the pulls over beaver dams much simpler.

Completing the paddle across Lilypad, we then made the carry over to Shingle Shanty Brook. Rain had come again and it rained heavily at times. But then it cleared and we actually had some sun. The clearing brought cooler temps and some breeze as we made the incredibly winding paddle down the brook. There are a few beaver dams to clear in this section and the paddle is MUCH longer than it appear on the map as the brook winds along. We had the time though and really enjoyed the brook paddle. The colors were breathtaking. It seemed that autumn colors were rounding into peak shape. We hit Lake Lila and noted some white caps. We hugged the shore of the widening brook catching as much wind shadow as possible and then headed directly for Spruce Island. We made the island by 1:00 and had thoughts of stopping for lunch. To our shock, site 21 on the island was occupied. As far as we could tell, these were the only other humans on the lake. So, we paddled north and made a short open water traverse over to site 4. Our initial thoughts were to eat lunch here. However, as we landed, the skies opened. We pitched the tarp, ate lunch and the rain continued. We made the decision to stay and went about setting up camp. About 4:30, the rain stopped. We paddled around the corner and did some fishing landing a few smallmouth. We also gathered a bit of shoreline wood. We had our usual leisurely dinner and small ambiance fire. It was much cooler now. I think the temps got down to around 40. The skies cleared beautifully and we spotted all the constellations over the lake, meteorites and the mysterious and startling SpaceX satellite string. We didn't know what that was until the conclusion of the trip. It created a lot of conversation and theorizing in the coming days.

It rained heavily overnight. But the timing was pretty good. It did continue on and off and we breakfasted under the tarp. We had a beautiful campsite and a gorgeous lake and I was angling a bit to stay another night in light of the raw weather we were greeted with. But to my surprise, the rest of the group opted to travel today. The day was raw, breezy, cool and wet all day. But we were just fine all geared up in rain jackets, rain pants, pack covers, etc. We paddled past Canada Island to the short carry around the rapids to the outlet and the paddle down to Harrington Pond. This carry had some deep wet holes as well, but we made it intact. The weather was bringing out an array of colorful, delightful fungi that was becoming especially noteworthy on this carry. We also spotted quite a bit of bear and moose scat and moose tracks along this carry. The paddle down to the pond was beautiful. I really enjoyed these bits of river paddling. Here, we made a mistake that I'd like to draw attention to that cost us about 20 minutes. We blew past the left turn into Rainer Brook to the start of the long carry and paddled into Harrington Pond. In our defense, the beginning of the portage is neither marked on the map or on the water. We surmised that the carry along the railroad tracks must begin at the brook, so we backtracked and, sure enough, there was the bridge carrying the railroad over the brook. We scrambled up the slag to the railway with gear and boats and set everything well off the tracks. The rain continued to spit at us. I found the railroad carry to be very easy compared to the carries we'd been doing and took my extremely heavy pack along the track along with a canoe to the spot, perhaps 1.25 mile down, where the carry trail split from the track. Here, a truck on track wheels carrying four men came barreling down the track. I dropped my load and hiked back, passing my companions, for the second canoe. The rail crew had stopped at the bridge to make track repairs. They were the only humans we'd see for a 5 day period. The trail portion of the carry over to Clear Pond is an easy one. We had lunch on the southern shore of the Pond and then made the paddle over to the carry on the north shore. This carry begins on a roadway before it heads into the woods to Bog Lake. This is another easy carry. The raw day continued and Bog Lake was a bit rough. The paddle through the rough section was short though and we made the river unscathed. We witnessed an eagle catch a fish here, saw many geese and other waterfowl and thoroughly enjoyed this section of paddling. However, the raw weather continued unabated. At around 3:45, we made site 35 on Low's Lake across from the famous floating bog. This site faces east and was nicely sheltered from the weather. We set up and then a few of us actually braved the weather some more to paddle over and check out the fascinating and colorful bog. We even caught a few fish and gathered some shore wood. Back to camp for our leisurely dinner and ambiance fire. No stars tonight though.


It rained heavily at times overnight and the morning arrived foggy, cool, breezy and raw. We breakfasted under the tarp and discussed staying another night. However, the group wanted to move down lake some. The wind was coming out of the north and the lake appeared rough offshore of our camp. We had a long talk about strategy to get out into the lake to the north shore and the wind shadow and discussed what we would do in an emergency situation. We hit the water about 10:15 and paddled hard to the bog where the water was calm. I never saw any waves come near to breaking over the gunnels, but the waves were big enough to keep me digging to the wind shadow. From here, the lake was calm as the wind persisted out of the north and we hugged the north shore. Colors were astounding and there was an interesting fog lingering around us. We took our time traveling down lake pulling into campsite 13 by noon. There was plenty to see: Loons, eagles, ducks and no people. Campsite 13 is a premium site. We set up our shelters, ate lunch as it sprinkled on and off and decided we were staying two nights here. Three of us piled into one boat and went out fishing for a few hours. We circumnavigated Gooseneck Island and caught about 40 fish! Fantastic fishing. We stopped in site 17 to get out of the worst of the rain. This is another really nice campsite. We made our way back to camp and had dinner together and another ambiance fire we had gathered on our fishing trip. It was getting cooler and temps would drop below 40 as the evening progressed.


It rained overnight and continued to drizzle a bit in the morning. We were staying, so it was another leisurely pancake morning. We took a long hike around our island exploring to campsite 14 and the esker along the north shore astounded by the variety and color of the lichens and fungi. Back to camp for lunch and then the same three of us piled into a canoe to fish and circumnavigate the island we were staying on. It remained breezy today, but the skies cleared. It never got above 45 degrees. The sun came out full force and every cloud disappeared. The fishing was still good, but not as good as yesterday, probably affected by the clear skies and breeze. We got back to camp about 6 and had dinner and hot drinks as we had caught a bit of a chill out on the water. Another ambiance fire and sky full of stars. Our best sunset of the trip happened tonight. It lasted about an hour and a half from the west facing campsite. It was incredibly memorable and amply documented with photos.


We had made some decisions the previous morning about how we'd finish this trip. The morning was barely above freezing. We had hot drinks and breakfast and broke camp hitting the water by 9:30 under sunny skies, no wind and warming temps. Today was a perfect day. Yesterday, the traffic really picked up. We saw our first people in a while and numerous parties swung by our site looking to occupy it. Many of these folks would be happy to see we vacated today. As we paddled down lake, we saw about 30 boats coming in for the weekend. Today was Friday, after all. We enjoyed the leaves and the calm water. We made the carry around Low's Upper Dam dodging people coming up the other direction. I was very tempted to take the hike up to the ridge, but my wife and I had a long day ahead of us. We did have a long chat with the ranger stationed on the shore of Hitchens Pond. The paddle from here to the Lower Dam is just gorgeous, but it was busy. This was a bit of a frontcountry shock for us. We made site 1 by about 1:00 and had lunch here. My wife and I left most of our gear here as the other two members of the party would handle camp set up and do some fishing and day hiking. My wife and I would finish the loop from here with just daypacks and a canoe. We hit the water at 1:30 and made the carry around the upper dam. Then down the beautiful river we went. We ran the first rapid. The second class II rapid looked too shallow to run without beating up our rental boat, so we lined around river right. We had difficulty finding a carry trail around Split Rock Falls, so this became a bit of a bushwhack, and then made the bridge at Pa's Falls. This bridge and bridge above Round Lake Outlet have been reinforced, apparently for skiers. We found the carries exceptionally easy, if long. The total carry is about 4.5 miles. We had fresh moose tracks on the trail with us for about two miles of it. The Round Lake Outlet is beautiful as it cascades along. We stopped occasionally to take it in and get some photos. We made Round Lake and paddled directly across to the inlet. The lake was busy with many campsites occupied. It was deadcalm, as was Little Tupper Lake; very different from our experience on it a week ago. We made the take out/put in by 5:30 and loaded the canoe. We drove up to the Lower Dam parking area and paddled back to campsite 1 by 6:30. We enjoyed a wonderful final night out. Starry and calm, we had a beautiful campfire and celebrated by sharing a couple of bottles on wine.


We were up fairly early. We carried our packs to the parking lot through the woods and then paddled the boats to the dam. We loaded up, stopped for beer and lunch at Raquette River Brewing and returned our rental canoes before we made the drive straight home.

We had quite a bit of rain; more than I remembered as became apparent after I wrote and re-read this. But, like most trips, I don't remember the rain. Our quality gear is certainly a part of this. I think we caught the colors at their peak. The trip was full of incredibly scenery, great fishing, abundant wildlife and fantastic company. This is a must do. I love paddling the Adirondacks. The mountain views and side hike opportunities are difficult to match with other paddling destinations. This route allows you to get away from the crowds and have a truly immersive wilderness experience.

I'll attempt to get some photos up here shortly.
A smattering of photos


  • 9820B8AD-D590-406C-89E6-AAD1801857A6.jpeg
    154.3 KB · Views: 64
  • 138F8BC8-28BB-49AD-B5D2-2575ACC1CFB7.jpeg
    158.6 KB · Views: 64
  • 3B46EECD-3D40-426E-9452-5B26E0445AD0.jpeg
    85.4 KB · Views: 63
  • B62B2631-0BD7-4871-82F7-66CD5CD0713C.jpeg
    115.8 KB · Views: 63
  • 872F096D-C79E-4A17-92A5-B2B77D362AE5.jpeg
    298.5 KB · Views: 65
  • 8B51BB81-FB74-49E4-B16E-7CCFEC089DBC.jpeg
    266.4 KB · Views: 66
  • F1E57E41-CC79-4884-BA8A-E2951D97723F.jpeg
    315.6 KB · Views: 66
  • E999D95A-4250-4C6D-8EE8-CB4FFB1C4CD4.jpeg
    68 KB · Views: 68
  • C682DFDA-7F0C-4D46-86B1-C8C453B386F1.jpeg
    136.3 KB · Views: 69
  • E832DD32-488A-4870-87C5-01641A75C002.jpeg
    120.5 KB · Views: 67
  • CDD3B9EB-2E32-4541-95F2-E46EFF984960.jpeg
    91 KB · Views: 67
  • AD327CCD-0214-4253-9570-D11149883649.jpeg
    225.4 KB · Views: 65
  • 4E10ED2B-78E8-47AC-98E8-85BD5698ACB4.jpeg
    195.9 KB · Views: 65
  • E0182BC6-429D-4EBD-A320-C3FE96D1374C.jpeg
    254 KB · Views: 63
  • 9F3C7ED4-CA01-4100-A95E-3E8BA9B26F15.jpeg
    196.2 KB · Views: 63
  • 5BCEF509-1330-4B1C-9AB0-718787CACE1A.jpeg
    203.6 KB · Views: 65
  • CD09598E-6B86-4EAB-BCB1-B01548311A41.jpeg
    271.8 KB · Views: 64
  • 297242A2-3182-43DF-A78D-25A81BDD7988.jpeg
    295.4 KB · Views: 63
  • 1A18E7D8-BADE-44B9-82FB-E55A60573142.jpeg
    166 KB · Views: 66
Very thorough trip report and nice photos. Thanks for sharing your experience. Who were the tandem teams, or did you switch around? It's hard to tell from the photos with the rain gear.
Thanks guys.
We switched things up pretty regularly. I’d paddle with Jodi (my wife) where I was comfortable with wind and waves or that we had no beaver dam pulls. Otherwise, we split up to ensure our crew had a good experience and minimized chances for out of boat experiences.
Thanks for the trip report, and especially the photos...I felt like I was there!
Each time I've gone from Lila to Lows, I paddled to Harrington Pond and took a short scramble to the railroad tracks, saves a few steps compared to a Rainer Brook carry.
Aww, you should have climbed Grass Pond Mountain, fantastic views and some fun scrambling near the top. Maybe next time, right? Hitchins Ridge is a cheap substitute, the views are almost as good, again, maybe next time.

Gotta be tough driving from and back to Cleveland, but at least your halfway between the ADK's and Boundary Waters.
Glad you all had a nice time, despite the unfriendly skies.
I've always said that (for me, at least) there's no better combination of water, mountains, and history than in the Adirondacks! The loop you took traversed a ton of historic sites. One of my favorite things, history you can touch...
We had a great time. And we’re fortunate to get lots of good views on trips, but will be sure to take those recommendations next time. The fishing was so good, we had trouble leaving the water! The drive isn’t terrible either!
Awesome trip report. I did a similar trip in August with my wife and kids, except at Lows we portaged to the headwaters of the Oswegatchie. We celebrated a birthday on the trip as well. We also found the portage on the railroad to be almost the only place we saw people, except two guys doing the traverse backwards. We also saw plenty of moose scat, but that was on the Hardigan Pond carry, unfortunately no moose though.
Straford... I was just there myself. I recognize your photo as the put-in for Shingle Shanty Creek after the carry from Lilypad Pond. I had a whirlwind 3 days on the Whitney 'C'; Little Upper Lake to Low's Lower Dam. I made a couple of navigational errors and encountered significant wind on Lila and Low's Lakes, so the trip was no walk in the park for sure. Trip report to follow relatively soon...
Straford... I was just there myself. I recognize your photo as the put-in for Shingle Shanty Creek after the carry from Lilypad Pond. I had a whirlwind 3 days on the Whitney 'C'; Little Upper Lake to Low's Lower Dam. I made a couple of navigational errors and encountered significant wind on Lila and Low's Lakes, so the trip was no walk in the park for sure. Trip report to follow relatively soon...
Hey - did you happen to notice if there was a cast iron spike/spear at hardigan pond? My kid made it and I think it was left near the fire ring at hardigan - if its there i might find a way to go back and get it. 2 foot long with sharp point! Made in a intro blacksmithing class-looking forward to your trip report - will be doing one soon too!