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Paddlewhacking in the Adirondacks

Oct 5, 2012
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Genesee Valley, Western NY
August 12-16, 2013
Paul Conklin(Curtis Mayfly)

I had visited Crooked Lake before but only as a day trip, which, didn't allow sufficient time for exploration of its environs. On this adventure, I would base from Crooked itself and have four days for proper discovery. Access would be from the south via the Red Horse Trail, which terminates at Clear Lake. From there it is only a short paddle with a half-mile bushwhack to reachCrooked. With an early departure, I was able to leave my home in the Genesee Valley and comfortably attain a base of operations with time left over for an evening circumnavigation of the lake.

On day two, my sights were on Little Crooked but threatening clouds caused a delay. I had hopes of clearer skies for the paddlewhack north. To occupy time while waiting for Mother Nature, I looked south and headed for tiny Covey Pond, too small of a pond to warrant the canoe.

It was an uphill bushwhack fraught with hobblebush, dense spruce and downed trees. I wanted to hold course as Covey was a small target. My technique for maintaining a straight line through the woods is to take frequent compass sightings targeting a destination, usually a unique feature on the landscape. Upon reaching each goal, a new destination is plotted.

As if I knew what I was doing, I busted through the last thicket of spruce entering an area of relative openness caused by the sun-blocking canopy of large Hemlocks. Covey was visible before me. I do love to sit amongst hemlocks. I pray that our northern winters will keep the woolly aphid at bay. It was time to fill a bowl and have a nip from my flask in celebration of conquering Covey.

When back at the lake, skies were less threatening and the conquest of Little Crooked commenced. From the north bay, I took a northwest heading. It was a slow and difficult go, I often turned the Mayfly on edge to allow passage through the density of vegetation. With perseverance, I prevailed and emerged on the middle of the south shore.

There was a great deal to captivate my interest on Little Crooked, large boulders, a unique pine and the mysterious soda bottle. While pausing in a shallow cove, I observed some Golden-Crowned Kinglets flitting about. I thought it a good moment to try a bit spishing. Spishing is a thing birders do to rouse the attention of dickey birds deep in the bush. One simply makes a spishing sound; it is much like the hush of a librarian during study period in high school. It sometimes helps to throw in a few squeaks and kissy sounds for diversity. Within seconds of my first spishes, before my lips had a chance to purse for a round of squeaks a dozen Kinglets popped out of the spruce. They were joined by as many Black-Capped Chickadees. I thought if they like my spishing wait until they get a load of my kissy sounds. I proceeded to slobber a shower of spittle to the delight of an increasing audience of avifauna. Common Yellowthroats, Yellow-Rumped Warblers, a Brown Creeper, White and Red-Breasted Nuthatches and a Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker were the ones I could identify. There may have been another half-dozen species lurking within the commotion. I really must invest in a lightweight bushwhacking binocular. It was the greatest spishing moment of my life!

I had hopes of having lunch on one of the large flat rocks on the north shore but dark clouds forced me to seek the greater shelter of the woods. The precipitation lasted through lunch but I stayed relatively dry under the Mayfly that was propped against a crotch of a tree.

I took an alternate route back to the big lake. Itwasn't any easier, just different.
There was a second rain delay. This time I took shelter in a prone position, it afforded
about 30 minutes of rest.

Beyond Crooked's western bay lies a long, linear pond. In my book, it classifies as a significant body of water and will be counted as an independent pond. It is unnamed but I shall give that matter some thought when compiling my list of visited ponds. Perhaps some reader of this report will know of a colloquial label for this body of water.

I toyed with the thought of bushwhacking further west but deemed the remaining daylight insufficient for a safe return. The remainder of the day was spent in Crooked's south bay scouting for the next day's adventure. I returned to camp, did my best at drying some wet clothing, cooked supper and was in the hammock by 7:00pm.

Wednesday morning did not hold the promise of a dry day, so as before, I started with a walking bushwhack sans a canoe to yet another pond. This one was about a half-mile northeast of Crooked's eastern bay. The going was rough and when I reached the unnamed pond's inhospitable shoreline, I was glad to have left the Mayfly behind. I do believe that east of this pond one might have a reasonable avenue of travel through the lowlands to Hitchins and hence the environs of Oven Lake.

I returned to camp where I brewed my second cup of coffee. There was no change in the weather. I set out for the south bay wearing full rain paraphernalia. The goal was to travel as far south on the inlet as time and enthusiasm would allow. I vowed that the rain would not play a role in the day's decision-making. It was bound to clear up shortly.

Beyond the navigable portion of the inlet lies a wide wetland that was a most enjoyable traverse. At worst, the water was only ankle deep. Obstructions were few and it was efficient to drag the Mayfly along behind. I followed a critter path through most of the wetland and dreamed about having my first Adirondack moose encounter.

There were four unnamed ponds I hoped to explore. Until I learn differently, they will be defined by their elevation above sealevel. These numbers are indicated on the USGS 1:25000 scale topographic maps. The first to fall was #622.

I believe the small canoe is the appropriate method of exploring these ponds. They all lie within an area known as the Carpet Spruce Swamp of the Middle Branch Oswegatchie. Vegetation is thick but the Mayfly made it easy to get from shore toshore. Terrestrial circumnavigations of these ponds would be a formidable task. I did it with comfort, taking a nip from my flask as each pond was conquered... #620, #623 and finally #607.

I gave the notion of completing a loop by whacking my way east from #607 to emerge in Crooked's west bay serious consideration. The weather that was bound to clear,hadn't. The day was a series of sunny moments followed by burst of rain. If I retraced my route through the ponds, I might chance upon some moments of sun for better photo documentation of the journey. The loop option entailed a half-mile bushwhack of Carpet Spruce Swamp. I allowed the prospect of improving weather to sway my decision and retraced the journey through the ponds. I was back at the Crooked camp by late afternoon, supper and it was soon bedtime. During a late night urination, I looked to the heavens and saw a star filled sky. My prediction that it was bound to clear was correct.

With all that I hoped to accomplish at Crooked complete, I broke camp early on Thursday. Before leaving, I spent two more hours paddling the lake to enjoy the sunrise.

I made a thorough paddle of Summit Pond on the way back to Clear. It too was circumnavigated. I stopped at the south inlet and followed it west to another unnamed pond. My total of new ponds visited was at nine and my flask was nearly empty. I thought of adding the Higby Twins to the list but believe they will be best saved foranother adventure, which was already formulating in the back of my mind. I opted to spend the night at Witchhopple where I enjoyed an evening paddle to Beaverdam.

I was up early and did not dawdle, I wanted to be at Trout Pond in time to beat the wind the Reservoir is famous for. I was successful in this and arrived at Stillwater Village before nine. The parking lot was full and all the sites on the reservation board were occupied. In a conversation with an assistant ranger, he claimed it was the busiest week of the year so far. I told him that on my journey north of the Reservoir, I had been aware of exactly one individual and he was a fellow Paddlewhacker.

Photos: https://picasaweb.google.com/114267878012874538920/PaddlewhackingTheEnvironsOfCrookedLake
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Conk, it is always a pleasure to read your trip reports. Best savored in the morning over a cup of coffee, or, once the day’s shop work is done, sipped over a beer.

Fortunately the abundance of ponds and lakes in the Adirondacks should keep you busy for years to come, and I’m looking forward to the next exploration.

(I got a “404 Not found” on the photo link though, and your photos are always an excellent accompaniment to your writing)


Gosh, I love this pond hopping thing. It’s easy to believe you’re the first to set eyes on those shores. What a difference the weather makes! Leaden grey skies make the ponds and woods look sullen and moody. When the sun breaks free, it all looks bright and inviting.
I know the birds you saw Conk, as I used to go birding occasionally. I’ve never heard of spishing. I did all my birding by sight, sound, and happenstance. If only I’d known, I could have beckoned them to me! Seeing a “new bird” is like bringing a dull 2D ornithology page to life, a thrilling moment of Eureka!
Thanks very much for sharing the trip, and for goodness sake, don’t leave any ponds off the list. I want to see every one.
Thanks again,
Nov 23, 2012
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Western Adirondacks
I was in the same area of both crooked lakes about 4 years ago, hoping to return farther north to Oven Lake that I have visited a couple of times before, though this time with a Hornbeck canoe. But the remnants of the blowdown of 1995 created such a thick mass of thick new sapling growth and tall ferns completely obscuring a continuum of wet logs that I abandoned the effort at that time. I fully intend to go back, maybe this fall, more likely next spring to try a different route.
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