Monday, August 2, 2010

2010 Paul Smiths Canoe Trip - Venture Crew and Troop 28

The Adirondacks beckoned the Croton on Hudson Venture Crew and Boy Scout Troop this summer to tour the St. Regis Canoe Wilderness Area and Hamlet of Paul Smiths. We spent a week paddling and hiking in the area, enjoying the outdoors and learning the skills necessary for extended primitive camping.

Our first experience at Summit Base was with our Voyager guide, Bri, who instructed us to eliminate fully 50% of the belongings which were packed by the scouts, as they were unnecessary. Of course certain members of the trek crew snuck in several bottles and containers of cosmetics and toiletries which remained unused during the entire trip. Shockingly enough, you can go a whole week on two pairs of underwear. Tommy realized that he probably shouldn't pack his three pound bean bag pillow, which took up half his dry bag. It was either the pillow of three days of food, the food won.

On Sunday, after repacking several times to accomodate a weeks worth of food and crew gear, and having Russ, the experienced senior Summit Base volunteer, give a color commentary on who to pack a bag, and extol the virtues of his experience as a Boy Scout, we ate a hearty dinner and bedded down with great expectations of the trip to come.

Monday - 6am came way too fast for some. Up early, we attempted to back our bags... again... and load up the trailer in time for 7am breakfast at the Summit Base pavilion. Bri was the only Voyager without a crew at her table. Not a good start. After eating, we loaded up the van and trailer, and with Tommy trailing behind, we departed for a 90 minute ride to the put in point on Little Clear Pond. Lanie, Russ's wife, did a magnificiant job of driving the van. She really is deserving of her nickname, lead foot Lanie. Of course just as we pulled in, the rain started, which would come to be a daily event. We unloaded, packed the canoes and put in. Some of our crew paddled around in circles enough distance on the first pond to make the crossing several times over. I guess it shows the importance of having someone in the rear seat who has actually paddled a CANOE before, as a kayak handles much differently.

The rain continued as we reached the far shores of Little Clear, and took our first carry into St. Regis Pond. During the carry, we had several boughts of pounding rain, thunder and lightning, which caused us to pause in the middle of the carry and get to know one another quite well. We ended up camping at a less than optimal but servicable site on Monday night as the threat of thunder and lightning kept us from putting in the water again. It was a good chance to receive instructions from Bri on how to put up a dining fly, set up the stoves, and sort through the next day's food.

Tuesday had us in the water by 8:30, a bit late of a start. We were aiming for the "Great" Lean-to on Lower St. Regis Lake. This lake is reached by traveling through several small ponds with short carries to Upper St. Regis Lake, through Spitfire Lake, and onto Lower St. Regis Lake . Upon reaching Upper St. Regis Lake, we encountered... Sun.... and some amazing historic camps built in the late 1800's and early 1900's. See pictures. The Great Lean-to was occupied, so we paddled on to another lean-to on Lower St. Regis, which was deemed uninhabitable, due to the amount of trash left by the last occupants. Being service minded, we cleaned it up and piled the rubbish for us to retreive on Thursday when we would be passing by again. We continued on and camped on the middle branch of the St. Regis River, finding the "hidden" lean-to, so named because it is not on the map. Camp was set up and we took a much needed swim break in the river. Of course the fisherman who decided to fish where we were swimming was not too amused by the amount of splashing we were doing.

Wednesday was our hike day up to the top of St. Regis Mountain, a 2,874 foot summit, with a 3 mile hiking trail and an approximate 1,100 vertical rise on the trail. Of course, being that we were up to the challenge, we took the long route from the campsite and turned the 6 mile round trip hike into a 10 mile hike due to the infrequent use of our compasses while hiking on a trail not listed on our maps. After our extended morning hike, and finding the summit trailhead, the crew voted to make the climb, provided we stop for lunch at 12:30. Lunchtime found us still on the trail up to the summit, so we stopped for a quick creamcheese and jelly on a baaagel (Bri's pronounciation, which was also highlighted the following week on the kayak trek with the Rushden UK scouts). Of course just as we finished lunch, the rain started, for the third day in a row. Picking up on our hike up to the summit, we continued for a brief 15 minutes and found ourselves alone at the top of the mountain. We were alone, because nature had decided to produce a light show using special ground to cloud static electricity discharges, commonly known as lightning. After a quick look around, we hightailed it back down the trail, through heavy rain, mud, and newly formed streams. Back at the lean-to, an executive decision was made to stay put for the evening due to the weather and threat of lightning, which would have kept us off the water. Tarin finally got to dry out her shoes and clothes, and Cecelia enjoyed some peace and quite.

Thursday had us padding for two days worth of mileage. not a big deal because the Wednesday portion was short. The first carry on Thursday was through the campus of Paul Smiths college, which provided a break to use the bathrooms and stock up on snacks at the bookstore. Chris bought a Paul Smiths sweatshirt, which he had been talking about the whole trip, Kristian found new uses for toilet paper, and Tommy and Tarin spent $5.00 for a bagel. The cashier felt bad and only charged them $2.50. We got rid of our lean-to garbage and made the carry through the college onto Church Pond. Through several more ponds and we stopped for lunch. Tommy got to examine duct tape up close, even was able to smell and taste the adhesive. During this experience, the rest of the crew was able to enjoy 45 minutes of silence. Of course we experienced another day with some rain, just to make things interesting. We also had to carry around a beaver dam, where Chris, ever the gentleman, let Tarin stay in the canoe while he jumped out and pulled the canoe over the beaver spillway. Unfortunately for Tarin, no beavers were sited. Nor to my dissapointment, were any moose. We did see several grey herons, loons, turtles, frogs, a swimming beaver, and a cuban. Tarin remarked that her dad makes a loon call, however he sounds nothing like the real thing.

The last carry was Thursday afternoon, and was the longest and most rewarding, since it was the last one, at 0.75 miles, onto Rainbow Lake. It was so rewarding that some of our crew did it twice. Our campsite on Rainbow Lake was found around 4pm. Billy earns the Crew Navigator award by navigating the entire for the crew, for all of the Paddling on Thursday.

On Thursday evening, we took a night paddle out into rainbow lake for some quite reflection on the trip. Kristian took an evening dip in the water, twice, thanks to Chris's deft handling of the canoe. Kristian managed to wake up the entire population of campers at the lake by announcing that Chris was the biggest moron ever. Kristian was a trooper by participating in the night paddle with a canoe a quarter full with water and clothing that was dripping wet.

Friday brought an extra half hour sleep and the final paddle to the take out point at the Buck Pond camping area. We arrived about 30 minutes before our van. When the van arrived, it was piloted by both Russ and Lanie, which provided Tommy some much needed fodder for a bought of laughter. The trip back to camp broke all records by exceeding 3 hours in duration, while only being 4 miles longer than the trip from camp to our put in point on Monday. It was combined with a 30 minute bathroom break at a Stuarts Shoppe, which apparently was the only bathroom available for the whole town of Long Lake, judging by the line to use it. Tommy managed to sleep for most of the trip, only waking up when I announced that Russ was in charge when I left the van to use the Stuarts bathroom.

We arrived back at Summit Base around 3:30, unloaded, showered and prepared for the Friday afternoon BBQ.

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