Little Tupper Lake 8/1-8/3

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On August 1-3, I took my 3-year old Airedale Terrier, Berkeley, with me to Little Tupper Lake in the William Whitney Wilderness Area in the Adirondack Park.

Berk has been canoeing with me on day trips before, but I had never taken him tent camping before. Like many dogs I have owned, Berk sometimes has a habit of aggressively scratching at his bed before going to sleep. Needless to say, I was nervous that this would be bad for the floor of my tent. Before leaving, I set up the tent in the backyard to see how Berk would react to being in it with me. The experiments were during the day and only for an hour or two, but seemed promising enough to give it a try.

Tent test passed, on Thursday, 8/1 I loaded up the car with Berk and the gear, threw my cedar strip canoe (A Slow Boat to Nowhere) on top, and made the 8.5 hour drive from Gaithersburg, MD to the Whitney Headquarters, arriving around 3 PM. The parking lot was depressingly crowded. I got one of the last 2 non-handicap parking spaces and, a few minutes later, a pickup truck with a group of 3 guys and a couple of canoes arrived to take the last space.

The log book confirmed what the parking lot indicated: the lake had many groups overnight camping on it. These campsite are not reservable. Everything is on a first come-first-served basis at Little Tupper, making finding an empty campsite a crap shoot on a busy day. Since I was getting a late start (it was 3:30 by the time the canoe was packed and ready) and I didn't really want to be looking for a campsite or setting up/cooking in the dark, I decided that I would give myself an hour or so to try to find a nice site and then would take the first available.

Before going on the trip, Mike Mcrea mailed me a chart he had put together ranking all twenty-something campsites at the lake based on numerous factors -- from the quality of the views, to the ease of landing, to bug levels, to quality of swimming, to wandering opportunities, to capacity. Thanks to Mike for his willingness to share of his wealth of knowledge. (Who knew OCD could be so beneficial?) Based on Mike's rankings my hope was to camp at site 6, on a prominent rocky point, or site 3 -- a nice island site.

The horseflies were attacking Berkeley and me at the put in and the little bastard stayed with us as we paddled down the lake to the campsites. Berk is a so-so canoe dog. He's not into swimming so I don't have to worry about him jumping out. But he will jump up with his front paws on the gunnels if a canoe passes in the other direction and talk to him ("what a good boy", etc.). He also likes to wedge himself up next to me and sit between my legs, making paddling a little awkward. But with the horseflies, Berk was snapping at them and the canoe was rocking a bit.

As we paddled down the near shore, site 1, which Mike had given pretty good marks to, was empty. But I decided to press on for the greener pastures of sites 3 and 6. But sites 2-6 were, alas, full. So I turned around and paddled back to site 1 and claimed it. A somewhat rocky landing, and a somewhat steep trail led up to the campsite. But the campsite was a very nice smaller campsite. I set up camp and fed Berkeley. But I was tired from the drive and not feeling the least bit hungry, so I passed on making dinner for myself. I turned in soon after dark. To my pleasant surprise, Berk settled right down in the tent and did not show any interest in going through his usual scratch-his-bedding routine. Instead, he flopped down immediately with his back up against my air mattress and snuck his head up on it. We both fell asleep pretty quickly, listening to the sounds made by the small nocturnal animals as they went furtively about their business in the leaf litter.

About 1 AM, however, Berk and I were woken up by a sound I had never heard before. Like a loud huff. Then several very loud steps, snapping twigs and more huffs. This animal was not shy about announcing its presence. Berkeley was sitting bolt upright, staring into the woods without moving a muscle or making a sound. I have an acre and a half of woods behind my house in Maryland and deer are frequent visitors. When Berk sees or smells deer, he goes from Berkeley to "Berserkly". He barks, whines and scratches to get outside and then chases them off. Whatever this was, Berk didn't smell or see deer and he had no interest in getting out of the tent to investigate it.

After a few more huffs, I decided I had better to get out of the tent. Before leaving for the trip I had made a last minute decision to buy bear spray and now I was glad I did. I climbed out of the tent with my flashlight and bear spray. Berk just sat in the tent, staring, which was fine with me since I didn't want him to become a bear's hors d'oeuvre. Searching the woods with the flashlight, I found two eyes reflecting back at me from about 30 yards in the woods. And these eyes were facing front in a binocular orientation (unlike the many reflected deer eyes I have seen). At this point I was convinced that I had a bear outside my camp.

I heard it walking from my right to left. More huffing and foot stamping. At this point I took the safety off the bear spray. While I practiced this maneuver once before, I must have been nervous/jittery this time and slightly depressed the trigger lever, and a tiny amount of spray was discharged onto the front of my flashlight. D’oh! This stuff smells acrid as hell!

I decided to start a campfire and also talked to the bear (I read somewhere that you should do that) so I gave it a calm “go away, bear” or two.

I got the fire started but it was pretty pitiful. I hadn't gathered firewood, so this was just a twig fire -- amounting to just a little mood lighting for the bear to dine al fresco by. (But hopefully not “Al” fresco dining.). I also grabbed my new small forest axe. The bear spray seemed like the better choice to deter an attack but I thought if the bear was intent on an attack (which I kind of doubted given that it hadn’t come into camp yet), the axe might give me a fighting chance if I got lucky.

The huffing continued on and off for another hour or so. But eventually, thankfully, I heard the bear moving off.

When I was confident the bear had left the area and wasn’t coming back, I climbed back into the tent with axe and bear spray. It was then that I realized that my nose and upper lip were getting warm. I must have used the hand that had been holding the flashlight (that I had accidentally bear-sprayed) to absentmindedly wipe my face at some point, and like a careless cook cutting jalapeños, I had transferred some of the capsaicin residue to my face. Luckily it was pretty minor. Glad I didn’t get a full blast of it! About 10 minutes after that, however, just before I nodded off back to sleep, I realized another part of my body was getting warm. Oh, shit, I also used that same hand when I took that piss just before climbing into the tent....Fortunately it only got mildly warm.

I maybe got 1 or 2 hours of sleep before sunrise. I fed Berk, made myself breakfast of eggs, sausages and coffee . As much as I liked what campsite 1 had to offer, there was no question of sticking around for another night of playing chicken with a bear. So I packed up camp and we headed out.

Campsite 3 was still occupied. Campsite 6, which had canoes on the shore the evening before, looked unoccupied in the morning (no canoes) and so I checked it out. Unfortunately, back in the woods where the site was I found a tent up even though no one was around. I now realize they were out scouting for a different site and hedging their bets by keeping one tent up -- the equivalent of keeping one’s finger on a chess piece while you contemplate whether you really want to make a particular move. Site 7 was also occupied, as were the more distant sites I could see down the lake on the same side.

Crossing the lake, site 22 was also occupied. Site 21 was empty but Mike had it ranked pretty low and, after checking it out myself, I had to agree. I decided to see if there was anything better. A bunch of young campers and two counselors were leaving site 20. They told me they had already set up their tarp at 18. I could see boats at site 19 (and at all the campsites along the beaches across the lake). So site 20 it was. Not a great site, small buggy and shady. Very rocky landing. Site 21 might have been the better choice. But at least the prior campers has collected a lot of firewood, so it had that going for it. I considered going further down the lake, but a tandem canoe had passed me at site 21 and that meant there was one less site available if any. So I decided to stay at 20.

I set up camp and, at 2 pm I had a very early dinner/late lunch, cooking up a dry rub steak over my newly purchased Purcell trench grill. Yummy! But by 5:30 I was totally exhausted from the previous night's doings and decided to feed Berk his dinner and to take a short nap. Some short nap: I woke up at 7 AM!! I never sleep more than 6 hours at home so I must have been totally wiped out. Berk must have been exhausted, too, because he let me sleep in an hour later than his usual breakfast time!

Berk was terrific company and well-behaved around camp. He was off leash the entire time and stayed close to me for the most part. When he did wander off into the woods, he returned immediately when called.
I'll certainly not hesitate to take him with me again. Although I may shoot for cooler/bug free weather for his sake.

Originally I planned to stay three nights on Little Tupper. Just before I left, however, a friend texted me to say he was up in Keene (about an hour northwest and a few miles from Lake Placid) where he had bought some unimproved property a few years ago. He was up there and and asked me to drop by to help him build a shed on the property so he could store his tools in preparation for building a camp. He sweetened the pot with an offer of lots of good beer and a paddle around Middle Saranac Lake after getting the shed up. With the better campsites on Little Tupper all taken, I decided to take him up on his offer. So on Saturday morning, 8/3, after making breakfast (pancakes, sausages, coffee, I packed up. After canoeing a bit more of the southwestern end of the lake, I returned to the HQ and drove out having spent only two nights on Little Tupper,

Very pretty drive from there up to Keene. After helping my buddy with his shed project, on Sunday, he, his adult son and I went down to Middle Saranac on Monday 8/5 and paddled around that lake (friend's son and Berk in my canoe; friend in a kayak) and into the even prettier Weller Pond. Very beautiful area with more mountains in the background than at Little Tupper. Middle Saranac does have a a few private cabins along the shore but these are well hidden and don't spoil the lake. However, Middle Saranac allows powerboats, unlike Little Tupper.

Our weather throughout the trip was perfect. Highs in the high 70s/low 80s and lows in the mid-to-low 50s. Lot's of sun, low humidity and not a drop of rain. Winds were not an issue either. In short, perfect canoe camping weather!

I'll certainly be back to visit and paddle the Adirondacks again.

Pictures to be added later.

Best,

Al

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At the put in/takeout.

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The landing at Site # 1.

IMG_0708.JPG - Click image for larger version  Name:	IMG_0708.JPG Views:	1 Size:	121.7 KB ID:	96144The view from Site # 1 across to the far side of the lake.

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IMG_0711.JPG - Click image for larger version  Name:	IMG_0711.JPG Views:	1 Size:	546.5 KB ID:	96146Just a quick nap....

IMG_0712.JPG - Click image for larger version  Name:	IMG_0712.JPG Views:	1 Size:	635.6 KB ID:	96147Paddling out.

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Me and the good boy.



Site # 1 video tour.


Site #20 video tour
 

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O my .. You write very interesting trip reports!! :) Was that the same tent that swam in the only appears twice in a lifetime rapids? Site 6 is lovely. Shearwater got goosed by something at site 9.. Kind of interrupted his hammock rest.. after that I sold my hammock! Next time try Round Pond Site 4.. McOcd ought to have that on file.
 
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Was that the same tent that swam in the only appears twice in a lifetime rapids?

Nope. That was the humongous REI Kingdome 4. Since it looks like most of my trips will be solo or solo plus dog I bought a REI Halfdome 2 Plus. It's sized perfectly for that.
 

Glenn MacGrady

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Great write-up and visuals, Al. Gave me inspiration. I saw the tripod and wondered what kind of video camera were you using. It wasn't adjusting well to the light in the second video. My parents had two Airedales and one of them was an unfriendly monster with strangers. Berkeley seems quite civilized.

I'll have to remember to ask my sarcastic friend Mr. McCrea for his ranking of sites on Lake Superior.
 
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I saw the tripod and wondered what kind of video camera were you using.

Hi Glenn. The video camera is really a camera that also shoots video, including in 4K. It's a Panasonic Lumix TZ90/ZS70. Has a 24-720 equivalent megazoom that fully retracts and let's me carry it in a pocket. Only complaint is it isn't waterproof. Stays in a very small Pelican case out on the water. https://www.cameralabs.com/panasonic...0-zs70-review/

My parents had two Airedales and one of them was an unfriendly monster with strangers. Berkeley seems quite civilized.

This is my fourth Airedale. Grew up with one and have had three of my own. They've all been sweet but this one (Berkeley) is the sweetest and best behaved of all. None could swim.
 
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Great write up, and pictures. Perhaps too many other people, though. On the other hand, Kathleen and I met other paddlers every day on our two-week trip on the Yukon River this summer. Very much enjoyed sharing stories, and, on three occasions, even sharing camp.
 
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Great write up and pictures! Thank you for sharing! The one picture I enjoyed the most was of you and Berkeley what you labelled Me and the Good Boy! Ya know that ol' saying about a dawg and it's master resembling each other? ;-) A compliment! I'd print that out and hang it in the workshop!
 
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Looks like you really got lucky with the weather!! Little Tupper can get pretty rough sometimes.
Great pics and even better TR, thanks, it's almost as good as being there.

Nice boat too, was that a kit? ;)
 
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Nice boat too, was that a kit? ;)

Not a kit. Built from plans in Gil Gilpatrack's book, Building a Cedar Strip Canoe. Everything built from scratch. Cut my own forms from the plywood. Made my own strips from rough cedar boards. Made gunnels/seat frames/yoke from rough sapele boards. Even cut the maple plugs in the gunnels.
 
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Great trip report of a fun trip! Berk sounds like the perfect canoe mate. Loved the vids and photos!

ps . Cool to see the NYETI in action.
 
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G

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Wonderful trip report and photos. That appears as calm as I have ever experienced that lake. When Little Tupper gets windy rocking it is absurdly choppy for a mere 6 mile long lake, and I’ve had wave crashing difficulties disembarking at some rocky landing sites.

I love Little Tupper as an easy canoe camping venue, especially when visited some 1-2-3-4 combination; (1) less-crowded morning launch, (2) off-season, (3) mid-week, (4) after school is back in session. We first camped on Little Tupper the year after it opened to visitation, when it was little known and less visited, and it remained so for some years.

It has gotten progressively more popular for canoe camping and day paddling every year, and any summer date or weekend afternoon put in can get nuts. Even leaving Maryland pre-dawn for a noon-ish Thursday or Friday launch has sometimes seen the parking lot distressingly full on arrival, but at least a fair number of those are day paddlers.

Not just parking; that is not a spacious launching beach, worse when folks have boats and gear strewn hither ands yon. Next off-season trip to Little Tupper I may finagle a Wednesday put in, and sleep-over truck camp Tuesday night somewhere within a few hours striking distance, for a near-dawn early AM launch.

It was then that I realized that my nose and upper lip were getting warm. I must have used the hand that had been holding the flashlight (that I had accidentally bear-sprayed) to absentmindedly wipe my face at some point, and like a careless cook cutting jalapeños, I had transferred some of the capsaicin residue to my face. Luckily it was pretty minor. Glad I didn’t get a full blast of it! About 10 minutes after that, however, just before I nodded off back to sleep, I realized another part of my body was getting warm. Oh, shit, I also used that same hand when I took that piss just before climbing into the tent


Apologies for taking mis-remembered liberties with your burning loins. Please don’t absently mindedly finger the trigger with anything that goes KA-BLAM!

Alan pointedly alludes to “a careless cook cutting jalapeños”. OK, I had shared this tale of jalapeño misfortune with him when I heard of his capsaicin episode.

I remember impressing a girlfriend by making her my special nachos in her kitchen. Cutting up Jalapenos and taking a leak in her bathroom without first washing my hands. The sound of me yowling made her open the bathroom door only to discover me running cold water over my junk in her sink. We had not known each other that long, but she took it well.

It was a hot date.

Paddling out.

I still think you need a bigger boat to fit everything in below the gunwale line. Tandem with Berkeley and NYETI ain’t happening.

I know a guy with a well outfittted solo/tandem Cronje. Someone who is amenable to offering friends & family discounts.
 
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I still think you need a bigger boat to fit everything in below the gunwale line. Tandem with Berkeley and NYETI ain’t happening.

I know a guy with a well outfittted solo/tandem Cronje. Someone who is amenable to offering friends & family discounts.

Yeah, much as I love it, my homemade “NYETI” cooler is too big. I built it big enough to provide fresh food for 2 adults for a week. That was either overkill or overly optimistic or both. I think my future trips are likely to be solo or solo plus dog trips and more like 3-4 days versus a week. In any event it is too big for my canoe A smaller NYETI project is in my future, I’d say.

The Cronje is tempting.....
 
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What sayeth Berkeley about the cooler?

I haven't heard him say anything. :rolleyes: But since he eats food we make and freeze for him (raw diet of hamburger, ground chicken wings, ground chicken hearts/gizzards and kale) he needs some kind of cooler for his food if he continues to trip with me. His frozen food makes a good "icepack" in the bottom of the cooler for my fresh food.
 
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Yeah, much as I love it, my homemade “NYETI” cooler is too big A smaller NYETI project is in my future, I’d say.

Somewhat irrationally my wife wanted a new cooler, specifically something hard sided in the 25 – 30 quart range, with a convenient carry handle and a drain plug. Like we don’t have enough coolers already, but this one is too big, and this one too small, and this one doesn’t have a carry handle and that one doesn’t have a drain plug and that one melts ice too fast.

In the 25 – 30 Qt volume the only coolers I could find that met all of those criteria were Yeti or Yeti-style knock-offs, which dozens of manufacturers now make.

Every one, while well constructed and well insulated, was eliminated for one of a several reasons. Reason #1, most of them were absurdly heavy. Reason #2, most were very thick walled, so while the interior dimensions were 30 Qt the exterior dimensions were massive. Reason #3, most were $300+. For a cooler???

It was a long search and I eventually found her something close, with a carry handle and decently fitted/latched lid. No drain plug, no super insulating 3” thick walls, but it doesn’t weight 20 lbs empty.

I have largely settled on using one the DIY dry bag coolers that fit conveniently inside a small day pack. They are well insulated inside and out with at least two wraps of ensolite foam on the sides and bottom and they rolltop seal nearly air right. The day pack provides convenient shoulder straps (and a less obvious cooler disguise) and ice retention tests showed them to perform very well in comparison to other coolers.

The 10L dry bag is perfect for day trips and the 20L works well enough for my cold needs on most trips.

Today’s project, design removable Reflectix covers for them for some in-canoe sun protection. It won’t be much of a cooler disguise wrapped in a Reflectix coozie, probably look like a portable meth lab.
 
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Nice trip report and pictures...I've had a similar bear experience not too far from there, back in the Scout Camp Sabattis. They're persistent, for sure.
And Berk sounds like a cool companion!
 
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