As the temperatures cool down I begin to work my way from Kayaking to hiking. For me the hiking season begins when the leaves begin to fall from the trees. The higher elevations of the Adirondack Mountains are at their peak foliage this week. I am going to try to make the transition to hiking as my primary outdoor treat slowly. My kayak partner and I packed up our gear and headed out for a paddle and a hike in the St. Regis Canoe area for a magnificent fall foliage adventure.
It’s only about an hour drive from Plattsburgh to the 19,000 acre St. Regis Canoe Area’s many ponds,rivers, and streams. The St. Regis Canoe Area is perfect for a day trip, or a multi day trip with some camping at one of the many primitive sites. Today my paddling/hiking partner and I were set to paddle Long Pond and hike up to the 2,874 summit of Long Pond Mountain. With the paddle/hike plan set and dinner plans back in Plattsburgh, we were off.
The drive was breathtaking. The red, orange and yellow hues were set apart from the gray sky background. I love this time of year when the Adirondacks get their new paint job. The excitement of getting out in the middle of this beauty was setting in. This brief yet incredible display of color change from ground to sky brings a brilliance that only Mother Nature could create. We spotted fields filled with wild turkeys and one lone fox running along the roadside. The drive to the Long Pond entry point brings us down a narrow dirt road with that quintessential Adirondack back country feeling under a canopy of color. The parking area for the Long Pond access point is on the right hand side not far from the railroad crossing. The parking area has ample parking and is clearly marked at the road with a DEC marker.
Our luck should have it that we stepped out of the car and felt the first raindrops land on us. The rain drops didn’t stop there. They were with us to stay for the duration of our Tuesday adventure. We arrived at the parking lot just behind another hearty soul out to do some fishing before the season ends. After signing the guest book, we carried our kayaks along what seems to be about 1/4 mile path to Long Pond. The water was placid with only the disturbance of the raindrops on the surface. The falling rain and low fog obscured the foliage behind the mist. We shoved off from the sand/mud shore toward the inlet where the Mountain Pond Canoe carry can be found. Even with the rain I had my camera poised and ready (ish) as I snapped off photos of my surroundings. By ready (ish) I mean I managed to miss most of the wildlife we were to see. On the trip to this point we had seen countless turkeys and a fox. only about 1/2 mile into the paddle while I was focused on the foliage, a Bald Eagle took flight from its perch above me. He disappeared slowly gliding over the water with his tail to me. Photo opportunity missed.
We paddled the calm water, through the rain, two sets of Loons off in the distance and one Heron standing on the shore added to the list of wildlife for our trip (photo opportunity not missed). We headed deeper into the inlet and for a brief moment the rain lightened enough to snap some reflection photos of the foliage on the mirror-like water. Long Pond Mountain was visible over the treetops with the summit hiding in the low cloud cover. We paused to enjoy the brief moment of mild precipitation and soak up the view.
The Canoe carry is marked by a bright white sign for Mountain Pond. There is no marker for Long Pond Mountain. We were not going to paddle Mountain Pond so carrying our kayaks along the 1/2 mile trail was senseless. We left them at the canoe carry marker and headed on. At the end of the carry, along the shore of Mountain Pond ,we turned to our right and began our ascent. Long Pond Mountain trail is a well-marked narrow path. The climb is easy with a bundle of level areas to stop and relax if one is in need of a break. We only paused once to investigate a small red-brown frog that was hiding among the fallen leaves, and adding to the days wildlife tally. We climbed through the mixed wood forest deep into Mother Natures palette. The colors of autumn surround you from the ground to the sky and brought with it that familiar sweet smell of the season mixed with the pungency of the pines.The short hike took just under an hour to the treed summit. We reached a bald rocky area at the summit with what I can only assume provides great views over the canoe area and beyond. For us the view was filtered through the clouds as they moved across the terrain below us. Although my intention was to look down over a sea of color, the slow-moving cloud cover was incredibly beautiful. the rain was a fine mist that had really soaked us. Standing still in the breeze was proving to be a bit chilly. We stayed long enough to take in some nourishment and water before we moved on to warm up.
We reached our Kayaks and I snapped one last photo before my camera informed me that the battery had been exhausted. We all know what this means. Every time your camera loses power something incredible and photo worthy will most certainly happen. My paddling partner was also sitting on an “empty” battery. We joked about the incredible events that could occur that were so far from believable only a photo could prove it happened. Would you believe that moments later a Bald Eagle landed on the nose of my kayak with a fresh catch? Can you believe that a loon swam along side while I paddled back only a few feet from me? Probably not because the only people who witnessed these phenomenal events had two exhausted cameras.
The Loon left my side, the Bald Eagle finished his meal, and the rain carried on. We paddled back to the carry to pack up and plan for the next adventure. The leaves are expected to be at peak for the weekend, so another fall foliage paddle is definitely in the works. Soon enough the leaves will be gone and the first wet snow will cling to their naked branches. It’s time to knock the dust off my winter gear and get ready to ring in the next season.