The sun is shining, The air is warm, and the streets are full of people out enjoying this hint of summer……. on March 18th! Weather like this is unheard of along the Adirondack Coast. This time of year we would normally still be planning winter hikes, ice fishing on lake Champlain, or skiing. This years lack of snow has made many of us snow lovers longing for more snow, but on a day like we had this weekend, our longing quickly disappears in favor of the summertime activities we love.
It is still ill-advised to be on the water considering the still cold temperatures. The air is in the 70s, but the water is still bone chilling cold. On this note, kayaking Lake Champlain is still dangerous. The air temperatures would be very welcome in the event of a rollover if you are able to get out of the water. I was prepared with a dry sack containing a blanket, a bilge pump, and the always essential life vest. I did not go alone! I wouldn’t risk the cold waters without having another person available to help me if I needed it. Fortunately neither of us did.
On this March 18th, the sun was shining bright in a nearly cloudless sky. We were paddling with the sun directly on our faces keeping us toasty for our trek. There are many places all along the Adirondack Coast to put in a kayak. This day we were poised to go on a trip around Valcour Island. Our launch site was to be the Peru Dock on Route 9 south of the City of Plattsburgh. I had walked down to the shore to assess the water conditions and was rather discouraged by the number of whitecaps I could see. The whitecaps would mean nothing if it were July or August, but knowing the water temperatures were still unsafe, I was concerned. There were some anglers from Quebec pulling their boat out just before 10:00 am. I asked them how the conditions were on the eastern side of the island. They responded with a very discouraging “waves are hitting 6 feet”. Options number two was to journey north to Point Au Roche, but since I was ice fishing there recently on thick ice, I figured the ice would still be there. Option three was to take off from Port Douglass beach.
Port Douglass was protected from the southern winds and was fairly calm. We put in there for a paddle further south to our proposed lunch spot in Willsboro Bay at the train trestle. Just a few days prior, my paddling partner and I were in Connecticut paddling the Mystic harbor into the Long Island Sound. Today we were on Lake Champlain experiencing many of the same conditions. Rolling waves, some chop, and a fairly steady wind in our faces. In short, It was magnificent! Paddling slowly along the cliffs and rocky points, looking at all of the closed up camps that will surely open up early this year, and loving the experience of being on Lake Champlain in march!
The Train trestle in Willsboro bay is a popular stopping point for swimmers, sun bathers, and boaters looking for a sandy shallow place to wade in the water. Today we had it all to ourselves. The area is boat-in only. We were the only boaters in the bay this day. The warm temperatures had the falls roaring quickly under the trestle and the sandy area that is normally exposed was covered by the snow melt from the high peaks. We stayed for a while to relax our muscles and enjoy sandwiches and chips. We had plenty to talk about, but seemed to spend most of our time quietly enjoying the sound of the falls, the waves, and the one train that traveled overhead. The trestle served as the perfect lunch spot on a perfect day.
The trip back moved quickly. I have never had a kayak trip where one way is not easier than the other. The breeze had calmed drastically, but the waves had not. Each stroke with a paddle was equal to ten as the waves pushed us along. We were back to Port Douglas in what seemed like no time at all.
This was the end to my first trip of the season on Lake Champlain, but definitely not my last. I will be paddling Point Au Roche, Valcour island, Schuyler Island, Ausable Point, the list is endless (too bad my time is not). Although ill-advised by many because of the water temperatures, I’m glad I didn’t listen this time. Aside from missing out on the ten-mile trek around Valcour Island, we still found ourselves a perfect day on the Adirondack Coast from Port Douglass Beach to Willsboro Bay. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a beautiful summer where it only rains overnight and the sun shines all day. Wish us luck! The bigger boats should be in the water soon. Thank you Mother Nature for giving us an early spring after the intense flooding spring of 2011.
How do you find Port Douglas Beach? From the City of Plattsburgh head south on Route 9 to the village of Keeseville. In the village turn left for 9N. Pass through the first stoplight and turn left at the second light. This takes you straight to the beach at the end of Port Douglas Rd. From interstate 87, take Keeseville exit 34. Turn right on Route 9. Right at the first light, right at the second light, and left at the first light you come to. This will take you directly to Port Douglas Beach at the end of Port Douglas Rd.