What I did today on the Adirondack Coast……. Paddle around Valcour Island

The conditions on lake Champlain couldn’t have been better. the weather forecast called for a zero percent chance of rain, light breeze, and no possibility for heavy chop. Valcour Island has claimed a reputation for turning on you quickly, but not today. In some places the water was like glass, only disturbed by our kayaks, and in others there was a crystal clear view to the lake floor about ten feet down.

The calm waters of Lake Champlain.

My good friend and kayaking, hiking, skiing, fishing, snowshoeing, and all things outdoors partner and I started out early knowing that the best of Lake Champlain can be enjoyed early in the morning. lake Champlain has gained a reputation for being unforgiving when the winds whip up, but this day we were looking at a zero percent chance of rain and a mild breeze.

Near the southern tip of valcour Island

Valcour Island is the fourth largest island on Lake Champlain, and the largest island within the New York boundaries. Valcour is entirely within the Adirondack Park and partially within the borders of the town of Plattsburgh and the town of Peru. The Island is maintained by the Department of Environmental Conservation and consists of many day use sites, first come first serve camping sites, and bird sanctuaries. The many inlets along its shores have provided boaters with safe refuge since the early days of exploration. Valcour is famous for its role in the Battle of Valcour Island on October 11,1776, but is now used solely as a recreational destination available only to those with access by watercraft.

The Peru boat launch was buzzing with people this Sunday morning all excited to be getting out on Lake Champlain. many of them were on their first voyage of the season. This Sunday was the unofficial beginning of summer for our northern friends living in Canada and they couldn’t have asked for better Victoria Day weather as many of them traveled the short distance to the coast to bask in the sun, take in the views of the Adirondack and Green Mountains, and enjoy all of the offerings of Valcour Island. Each of the bays held in them sailing vessels used as a home away from home while some of the campsites were occupied by the more rugged sorts. The unofficial start of summer in the United States has always been considered Memorial Day. Memorial Day is only one week away and yet the warmth of this Victoria Day, May 20,2012 brought out many anglers, hikers, campers, and recreational boaters like ourselves.

Sailboats finding comfort in the natural harbors of Valcour Island.

The beauty of kayaking Valcour Island’s 6.1 mile circumference  is your ability to hug so close to the cliffs that there’s barely room between you and the rocks. Floating gently along and watching the trees, rolling waves, and listening to the sounds of the birds. kayaking is often a silent experience enjoyed together, but discussed later. Few words were shared aside from our occasional bit of sarcasm along the lines of “who would ever want to visit this place?” and “this is crap”. Both of course can be translated here as “this is beautiful”‘ and “I can’t believe more people don’t know how amazing this place is” .

Valcour Island diving into Lake Champlain along the eastern shore.

We pulled into a cove on the Eastern side of the Island to cook up some breakfast in a way I had never heard of. Of course anyone knows me also knows my love for bacon. Learning how to cook it in a paper bag just makes it easier for me to add bacon to my outings. We started a small fire on the rocks and got out our brown paper bags, lined the bottom with bacon, and cracked an egg inside. I thought a brown paper bag and fire would be a terrible combination for breakfast, but in fact this paper bag on a stick served as an awesome treat! Cooking slowly over the heat we chatted about the beauty of the Island and the perfect conditions of the water. The distant view offered sailboats, speedboats, and views of the Green Mountains of Vermont.

Cooking up our bacon and eggs

Bellies full of our paper bag breakfast, we crawled back into our kayaks and continued the rest of our voyage. The lake conditions never changed as we rounded the northern tip and back into Valcour Bay. Before returning to the Peru boat launch, we paused for some photo opportunities below the Bluff Point Lighthouse situated up on the cliffs of the island and enjoyed the views of the Northern Adirondack Mountains. Our remarkable trip was coming to a close, but never going to be forgotten. Valcour Island is a real treasure of a place that should be on every visitors list.

Bluff Point Lighthouse
Our trip around Valcour Island

How do you get there? Peru boat launch is the nearest access point for all boats. The boat launch is located only a few miles south of the City of Plattsburgh and easily accessibility from interstate 87 by way of exit 35 (Peru / Port Kent) on Route 9. From the City of Plattsburgh, take United States Avenue (Route 9) south. The Peru boat launch is located along the only part of Route 9 that is within a 35mpg zone not far past the Bluff Point Golf Course on the left hand side. from exit 35 ( Peru, port Kent) turn left on Bear Swamp Rd. Follow Bear Swamp Rd to its end on Route 9 and turn left. The Peru Boat launch is a few miles north on the right. there is ample parking available. The launch is clearly marked with a DEC marker as “Peru Boat Launch”.

want to kayak to Valcour for a day trip but haven’t got a kayak? Call ahead to the Kayak Shack (less than half mile from the launch site) to reserve some kayaks for the day. you can reach the kayak Shack at (518) 566-0505 or online at http://www.kayak-shack.com

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