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The Whitney 'C': ADKs William C. Whitney Wilderness

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A partial solo transit of the Whitney Wilderness 'Loop'; starting from the DEC headquarters on Little Tupper Lake and traveling around 32 miles to Low's Lower Dam take out on the Bog River Flow. Also, this would be the first overnight canoe trip for the Island Falls Willow solo canoe I restored almost exactly one year prior.

Day 1: The Marathon- October 8, 2022

I like road trips. I especially like trips heading north to the Adirondacks and New England where I've spent so much of my life hiking, climbing, camping, and canoeing. As has become my habit, I rose early and left home precisely at 4:00am with roughly 8 hours of driving ahead of me. I had loaded my canoe and gear in the truck the evening before and needed only to drag myself out of bed and get moving.

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An uneventful ride brought me to Exit 20 on the Adirondack Northway where, for me, the fun starts. The familiar sights of the rising foothills of the Adirondack mountains raised my excitement level on the roadway I had first travelled in 1967, shortly after the road opened, on the way to Expo '67 in Montreal.


Soon I was heading off to the northwest through little villages dressed in perfect Fall foliage, and finally arriving in good time by 11:15am at the Little Tupper Lake DEC headquarters to drop off my canoe near the launch site. I still had lots to do prior to pushing off into Little Tupper Lake. I unloaded and left my canoe, paddles, & gear cable-locked behind the sign in board, and then drove 13.5 miles over to the Low's Lower Dam parking lot where I would leave my truck. There, I pulled out my bike and briskly pedalled back to the canoe, arriving at 1:30pm, ready to go. Unfortunately, I had made two mistakes: in my haste to begin pedaling, I left my sunglasses in the truck even though I had purposefully set the case on the dashboard so I wouldn't forget them. This error would come back to haunt me later, and secondly, I forgot to lock the truck! Fortunately the truck was never disturbed in my absence!
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I signed in to the register, noticing that our fellow forum member RickR had been there just the day before- small world! After carrying the canoe and gear down to the sandy beach landing,
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I set off directly into a stiff westerly headwind which was to dog me the entire way to Rock Creek, the outlet of Rock Pond, my intended destination for the day. Leapfrogging from islet to islet along the south shore to minimize the headwind I finally arrived with relief at Rock Creek where the wind was reduced. Here I encountered the first of many beaver dams to come on this trip. My lightweight little canoe was easy to drag over the dam.
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I thoroughly enjoyed the transit of Rock Creek, and the short carry leading to Rock Pond, and as the evening was nearing I paddled on hoping to set up at site 26, nearest to the carry to Hardigan Pond. Unfortunately, while the rocky landing was picturesque, the site itself was a dismal, tiny clearing hacked out of the woods- not a level spot in sight for my tent.
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Disappointed, I made the quick decision to go for the carry to Hardigan Pond despite the fact that it was already 5:30pm with the prospect of dusk arriving soon. The carry to Hardigan has the reputation of being wet & arduous and I found that to be accurate! Consequently, I didn't take any photos and did my best to make good time with the little light I had. Unfortunately I had to don my headlamp to follow the path and had some trouble finding my way when the path made turns onto an old logging road. I nearly went off-trail several times and had to backtrack to find the way in the gloom. Eventually I made it to the small but adequate site on Hardigan Pond, though I didn't have the energy to go back and finish carrying the canoe from where I had left it at the end of the last boggy bit. That could wait for morning! I quickly set up my tent, made a bit of supper, and gratefully got in the sack at about 8:30pm- seen here the next morning.

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Totals for my marathon day: 412 miles in the truck; 13.5 miles on the bike; 7 miles by canoe; 1.8 miles on foot; 15 hours continuously on the move!
 
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Must be nice to have all that energy, long day.

I use those shoulder pads too. Looking forward to the rest of the trip.

What a great picture, the canoe looks beautiful in that setting.
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Thanks Robin. I assure you, there was no gas left in the tank that day. It was a portent of what was to come the next two days as well...
 
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Wow, that was a big day Patrick. I hope you recovered from it quickly.

Are those portage pads the clamp on type or did you drill through the thwart? If you drilled, what is the spacing?
 
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Al, pretty much a blue-collar style rig I made up with carriage bolts, washers, and wingnuts! Backing plates are 5/16” plywood and could use some non-skid applied to the contact surface to keep them in place. They work fine on the sculpted Island Falls type yokes as well as the straight center thwart on my Chestnut Chum, pictured here (the canoe is upside-down on sawhorses).tempImageTbBuoi.png
 
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Glenn MacGrady

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Great report and pictures so far, Patrick! A couple of trivia questions: Where and how was the bike secured while you were paddling? Did you have to use water ballast in the bow, as you once considered?
 
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So, in practice, my 'kneepad/yokepad' idea actually worked on my recent Adirondack paddling trip. However, donning the stuck-together velcro tab kneepads was a pain in the ass each time I had to gear up for a carry. Reflecting on the actual use of the pads, I decided to try my hand at making a more traditional set of pads to bolt onto a straight thwart instead of using the sculpted yoke thwart I had been using. Here's my result:

I found some cast-off velour fabric in my wife's sewing materials pile. Admittedly, not waterproof, but this is just a first try so I am not worrying too much about long term durability, but rather, satisfying my curiosity about how this might work.

This 8.5x11 paper sample serves as the idea for how to lay out the fabric. In my case the wood blocks which support the padding were cut from some leftover 3/4 plywood, sized at 3.5"x7.5". Once the fabric is marked on the back side, I folded the corners inward along the 45 degree dotted lines and machine sewed on the solid line so that the solid lines aligned with each other. Then the folded over fabric was cut off about 3/8" from the stitching.

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Here are the two sewn; one inverted, one right side out, with the pre-drilled wood block behind.

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Test fit of the padding (two pieces of 2" foam).
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Foam padding fitted, blocks with carriage bolts installed.

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Assembled. The fabric was simply wrapped around like a Christmas wrapping and stapled to the back of the wood block.
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And, bolted to the straight thwart, though not installed on the canoe yet. I used a couple of flat steel plates with predrilled holes meant for U-bolt muffler clamps as the backing plates around the thwart. If I like the arrangement I will swap the machine nuts for wing nuts for ease of installation. I don't know if I will like having these pillow pads always there in view as I'm paddling. I may remove them between carries/portages just because aesthetics are important to me ( I know, I'm more than a little wacky about appearances!).

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Though I haven't mounted the thwart yet, I can see that I may want to make the backing boards longer, or offset them forward so the back of my neck doesn't hit the thwart. I'll comment once I've given them a fair trial.
Al, here’s my original post about these pads.
Great report and pictures so far, Patrick! A couple of trivia questions: Where and how was the bike secured while you were paddling? Did you have to use water ballast in the bow, as you once considered?
Thanks Glenn. A DEC employee at Little Tupper allowed me to lock the bike inside their open-sided woodshed, so it was under cover and out of sight. Kind of him to suggest it.

No, I never did use the water ballast idea. Turns out it wasn’t really necessary in spite of the relatively high stems on this canoe. Out of the four w/c canoes I have it’s the ‘tallest’ at 4” taller than my Chestnut Chum. I had dangerously high wind conditions on Low’s Lake and managed OK with desperation-paddling and a well-tightened PFD!!
 
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Great trip report! I admire your drive and stamina. Days like that are behind me. I can manage a 5 hour drive and about the same paddling in one day. Thanks for sharing.
 
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Great trip report! I admire your drive and stamina. Days like that are behind me. I can manage a 5 hour drive and about the same paddling in one day. Thanks for sharing.
After a lifetime of working in residential construction, with a goal-oriented personality, I find that I can just "put my head down" and work until the job is done. It's when you stop that you realize how dog-tired you are!
 
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Day 2: The Long Day

With advanced age, I need to get up multiple times and "mark my territory" outside the tent, if you know what I mean.... My oldest veteran outdoors friend swears this is the best way to deter critters from nosing around camp too much! This, coupled with my fatigue from the day before made for a late exit from the tent and consequently a late start. The day was beautiful already, and after quickly boiling water for coffee and oatmeal, I set off to collect my canoe left mid-carry the night before. Falling leaves had covered the bottom of the canoe (which I probably should have turned over) and made for a picturesque scene of the Willow waiting for her erstwhile owner to return.
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Once reunited with my gear I set off into Hardigan Pond at the ridiculously late hour of 11:00am! Hardigan Pond is rather small, and even with dawdling along looking at a beaver lodge and the Fall colors, I arrived about 10 minutes later at the landing for the carry to Salmon Lake, which as others have noted, is a bit of a misnomer. The carry actually ends at the outlet stream from Salmon Lake, below Touey Falls.
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I paddled upstream briefly to see the falls, then headed back into the wetlands which connect to Little Salmon Lake. I quickly reached the junction with the outlet stream from Hardigan Pond and briefly (wrongly) headed this way as the stream seemed the widest in this direction and therefore the way I should go. I soon realized my mistake and headed off in the correct direction. The paddling from here to Little Salmon was perhaps my favorite stretch of the entire trip. The sun was out, the surroundings were interesting, and the couple of beaver dams I encountered were both impressive and easy to drag over due to their solid nature. These dams are wonders of engineering and I admired the beavers' tireless work & ingenuity.
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I soon reached Little Salmon Lake and the short crossing to the carry to Lilypad Pond. The carry was easy and soon I was pushing the canoe through the muck and mire of the shoreline about 50 yards to where it was actually deep enough to launch.

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Again, the transit of Lilypad Pond was brief owing to it's tiny size. I hadn't been exploring much due to the late start and the distance I had to cover, so I did not look at any of the campsites between Hardigan Pond and Lake Lila. The landing to enter Shingle Shanty Creek at the end of the Lilypad Pond carry was a somewhat daunting, eroded affair. At the point where one enters the creek there is a sign posted to keep trespassers out of the privately owned portion of Shingle Shanty Creek between Lilypad Pond and the carry landing.
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Truthfully, I think if one were to paddle the whole way through the private land on Shingle Shanty Creek, you'd be pulling your hair out due to the monotony of negotiating all the twists and turns of the creek! The portion I paddled was enough on it's own in that regard. There's little to see since the water is well below the grasses, so the view is of endless mudbanks and vegetation. At one point I did startle what I believe were deer, since I heard their thundering hooves running off, but I never did actually see them.

At long last I saw the end of the creek and one last beaver dam to cross, and it was with some trepidation that I approached Lake Lila as it has a reputation for wind.
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I could see that the surface was wind ruffled but thankfully, not rough. Here, at the end of Shingle Shanty Creek I'm looking northwest from the mouth of the creek at the shoreline where sites 18,19,20 are located. By this time it was 4:40pm and I should have exercised good thinking (huh? Remember Mad Magazine... "What, me worry?) and elected to stay at one of these sites but I was hoping to stay at island site 21 on Spruce Island which was easily within reach. Since I hadn't seen a human since I started this trip I erroneously assumed I would find the site empty, but just as I pulled up to the landing I spied a tent set up on the site and my hopes were dashed. So, disappointed, I paddled out past the rocky western point of the island where I saw the occupants sunning themselves in the setting sunlight.... the sunlight into which I now found myself directly paddling! Remember on Day 1 where I forgot my sunglasses in the truck? In spite of the bill of my cap which shielded me from the sun overhead, there was no relief from the reflected sunlight on the water. It was brutal. Because of that sunlight I just blindly headed for the western shore, foolishly bypassing site 14 on Buck Island. On reaching the shore I couldn't orient myself until I paddled partway up the Beaver River which drains Nehasane Lake and located site 12 along it's banks. I wanted to camp closer to the carry to Harrington Brook, so I re-entered the lake and paddled along shore until I finally landed at site 8. One note here, the DEC Whitney Wilderness map showing campsites might give the impression that campsites are close to one another. This isn't really the case as the distance between sites 12 and 8 was probably more than a mile, while on the map it's only an inch (hah!). I reached my site at 7:40, just as the full moon was rising over the placid waters of Lake Lila.
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A carbon copy of the previous night found me setting up camp in the dark, on a thankfully grassy, open site. I enjoyed a small twig fire for company and wolfed down a Mountain House Chili Mac dinner with a cup of tea, then I was off to dreamland.

Roughly 9 miles travelled, but seemed like more! 8:40 hours on the move.
 
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Day 3: The longer, harder day

The third morning of the trip dawned clear with a lovely sunrise to greet my entry into the water. I was fortunate to get an early start (for me anyway) as I knew I wanted to get close to Low's Upper Dam to camp, and I had a lot of distance to cover.

7:15 on the water:
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A short, pleasant paddle over to the Harrington Brook carry landing took me past a brilliant display of Fall color
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and soon my arrival at the .3 mile carry to Harrington Pond outlet. Pictured here, I'm entering the pond above the outlet for a pleasant paddle into Harrington Pond, unaware that things were about to go south...
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I blithely paddled forth, enjoying the placid surroundings and the dramatic sky heralding changing weather forecast for the next day. As I paddled I was thinking about the upcoming carry to Clear Pond which begins with a trek along the Adirondack Scenic Railway and soon found myself in Harrington Pond above it's outlet stream. Now, I began looking for the creek which would lead me to the railway bridge which would alert me to the carry landing. Well, having not fully paid attention to the previous trip reports I have read, I had unknown to me at the time bypassed Rainer Creek and the aforementioned bridge and landing. Looking at the DEC Whitney Wilderness map, I noticed two tiny creeks north of the pond, the leftmost of which trended near to the RR tracks. I decided to pretend I was an explorer and pushed my way into the maze of little tributaries that characterized "the creek', soon finding myself wading, dragging, and occasionally paddling for 10' or 15' at a time, dragging over tiny beaver dams, and generally regretting my decision to explore. At one point I heard a track maintenance vehicle go by but couldn't see it even though it couldn't have been more than 150 yards away. After about an hour of this;
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I decided to just cut my losses and drag/carry overland to my left until I hit the tracks. Couldn't go wrong, and I didn't want to drag north too far and miss the carry trail which leaves the tracks for Clear Pond. Along the way I came across this random machine part deep within the wetlands resting alongside a tiny beaver dam. Must be a relic of old logging days!
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Eventually I encountered the RR tracks after having dragged the canoe, sometimes needing to turn it sideways to get between trees, and gladly emerged onto the RR grade. I discovered that I was only 50 paces south of the Clear Pond path! So (tongue-in-cheek) I sure was glad I had bypassed that awful level walk along the rails...

The balance of the carry to Clear Pond was pleasant and at the end of the carry I had a brief lunch and reflected on the fact that now, with what I knew was ahead, I couldn't possibly lose my way.

My lunch buddy:
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Launching into Clear Pond, a short paddle brought me to the carry to Bog Pond, the start of which is found about 200 yards uphill along the woods road adjacent to the Clear Pond shoreline. The transit of Bog Pond was very brief as it crosses the eastern end of the pond which is relatively narrow, and owing to the ferocious tailwind I experienced. I barely paddled and focused my energy on not broaching in the surprisingly tall chop, while surfing down the waves passing under me. I was glad to arrive at the outlet into the Bog River and could enjoy the placid waters within its' path. By now it was about 1:30, and with lots of distance to cover I kept a steady pace hoping to arrive at Low's Lake in good time. The DEC map shows two campsites along the Bog River prior to it's junction with Low's Lake but I never saw them. They must be well concealed. I imagine that in bug season they would be unpleasant so perhaps only ideal for shoulder season occupancy.

I eventually reached the landmark of a woods road culvert through which I would have to paddle, and thereby I could identify my precise location on my map.
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I was within 1/2 mile of site 29 at the entry of Low's Lake. Hurrah, all I had to do was get to that point and turn right.... At 2:00pm, I was there. At this point my usually good sense of direction left me. Looking right, I thought I was looking into a bay and decided to continue 'straight' ahead. I now encountered the same winds which sent me surfing across Bog Lake- but now directly in my face. Once in the grip of what was now a headwind, I just aimed the bow of the canoe off wind to my right side, and paddled desperately, hard, needing no correction strokes since the wind was holding the boat from yawing left. All sense of direction became irrelevant as the sun was clouded over so I didn't realize I was paddling west; in pretty much exactly the wrong direction. All I cared about was not dumping, and reaching the promised land of a small peninsula dead ahead where I could see the dividing line between waves and gentle water. Once I reached that blissful smooth water I found a campsite sign and realized that I was at Virgin Timber Landing. This wasn't a name which I recognized and looking at my map I discovered my horrible mistake. I had been battling my way AWAY from my destination! I quickly decided to head NNE in less tempestuous waters to the quiet waters behind Parker Island where I could hide from the wind and go quite a distance east in relative peace. Much nicer! I re-emerged into the main lake near site 26, and soon after Pole Island. From there, south of Gooseneck Island and hugging the right shoreline I just put my head down and paddled, tired as I was, hoping to make site 8 or 9 within sight of Low's Upper Dam. The only picture I took during the debacle of my transit of Low's was of the narrow floating bog passage at 5:20pm. Are you sensing a timing theme emerging here?


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As I came within sight of the Upper Dam, and pulled out onto the dock
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it occurred to me, masochist that I apparently am, I might as well beat myself up a little more and carry the rest of the way to Hitchins Pond and find a campsite there; which I did. I eventually stayed at site 6, arriving at 7:20pm.

Yet another in-the-dark tent set up followed, this time with the addition of a fly over the tent. The predicted rain would make packing up in the morning less than enjoyable, so under the tarp I could at least keep my gear dry until fully packed, then the wet tarp could be struck and stuffed into it's waterproof bag so as not to make other gear within the pack wet. A quick boil of water for tea and a cup of instant Ramen soup, followed by an oatmeal cookie my wife thoughtfully threw into my food bag and this tired boy was off to sleep.

Totals for the day: 16 miles walking and paddling, 12 hours on the move.
 
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Glenn MacGrady

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Continued great write-ups, sense of humor and photos, Patrick. I wish I could still do solo what you are doing. If I may make one aesthetic comment, a green or brown canvas pack, even if beat up, would look traditionally better to me than blue plastic in that beautiful wood interior with the wood paddles.

How is your paint holding up to all that dragging over and through branches and logs? The paint on the bottom of my Morris seems to be too easily flaking off where I've gouged it against some underwater rocks.
 
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Continued great write-ups, sense of humor and photos, Patrick. I wish I could still do solo what you are doing. If I may make one aesthetic comment, a green or brown canvas pack, even if beat up, would look traditionally better to me than blue plastic in that beautiful wood interior with the wood paddles.
I cannot disagree with you in regard to the Sealline pack. I do have the same thought as I paddle along! I have been studying more traditional portage packs, but having never seen in person a Duluth or Monarch, for example, I don’t know if I would be happy using one. The practical advantage of the Sealline pack is that I have no concern about rain or spray while in the boat, or needing to protect the pack overnight in camp. But yeah, there’s a case to be made for aesthetics.
How is your paint holding up to all that dragging over and through branches and logs? The paint on the bottom of my Morris seems to be too easily flaking off where I've gouged it against some underwater rocks.

Paint? What paint; there‘s none left.

No, the truth is there were several spots where paint was chipped off down to the filler. Nothing larger than a quarter in size. I did leave a little paint on submerged rocks, but no bad, canvas-ripping, leak-inducing scrapes. Plenty of superficial marks from some old dude dragging it through the woods too!
 
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Sorry for the delay in finishing this!

Day 4: The last, easy day

Day four dawned fully overcast. I had set my phone alarm for 5:00am planning on an early start to hopefully beat the heavy forecasted rain. What I hadn't thought about was the fact that at that hour it was still pitch black! I didn't relish paddling out into unknown territory by headlamp, so I rolled back over to sleep but the anticipation kept me awake. I guess I had had enough sleep anyway since I was probably out cold by 8:30pm the night before.

Gear packed up and stowed in the canoe, standard breakfast of coffee & oatmeal down the gullet, and I shoved off shortly after 7:00am to a dramatic sky and sunrise. Couldn't get my directions wrong this time... all I had to do was head east into the sunrise!

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The outbound paddle was uneventful, though beautiful in the calm, early morning light. I passed one group at a campsite along the river. Those folks were busy packing their gear and smoke from their fire was rising straight up- testimony to the calm conditions. A simple wave between us sufficed for conversation.

After the broad expanses of water that I had crossed- with difficulty in places- the river gradually narrowed until the final rocky constriction just above the dam and my takeout. Of course, I left a little paint on the last possible submerged rock as I passed through.

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Shortly after, around 8:15am this tired guy beached the canoe which had performed admirably in her first wilderness trip with me, and I made the short carry to the parking lot. Oh, and that forecasted rain... it never came until I was tying the canoe on the truck rack! Perfect timing.
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Last item to check off the list was to drive over to Little Tupper Lake headquarters and pick up my bike, sign out of the register, and head home. Not long after I got on the road, driving through the little town of Long Lake I spied a breakfast joint and pulled over for a hearty platter of eggs, bacon, potatoes, toast & coffee... a welcome refueling before the long trek home to Pennsylvania.
 

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Terrific report and photography, Patrick. Thanks for posting it on our site.

Some questions.

I almost bought a used Willow or Willow Wisp (I forget which) a couple of years ago. Would you say yours has a roundish bottom and is somewhat tippy? Second, what is the dimensional difference between the two paddles you brought and which one did you use the most?
 
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Thank you Glenn,

The Willow (15' overall vs 14'6" for the Wisp) has a distinctly round bottom. Quite tender/tippy; so much so that tiny shifts in paddler position make significant changes in the athwartship 'tilt' of the hull. Oddly, when day paddling, it requires core muscle control to avoid unexpected, swift shifts in hull roll but when I spent many hours in the canoe on this trip I guess my body subconsciously adjusted and I could relax. And again, oddly, when confronted with wind and waves the canoe performed admirably. In spite of having to pay close attention to my position relative to the wind, she shipped no significant water and was always controllable. It's the kind of canoe where I can't turn and look fully behind myself because the twist in my torso makes the canoe misbehave. I seem to recall a post by Robin where he had this same experience which resulted in getting wet!

The paddles... I took two, both of which I made myself. A one-piece cherry beavertail and the pieced-together modified otter tail (blade copied from a Turtle paddle).

I used the otter tail exclusively in deep water, and the beavertail in marshes/shallow water.
 
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