SEP 2015 - PADDLING & HIKING
Gone to the Dogs
By Joe Moore
Having lived with dogs my whole life, I’m fairly certain they can read our minds. Not just sometimes, but most of the time.
And not only can they read minds, but they actively influence our behavior. Everything from the “Jedi mind tricks” they employ – sitting politely and staring alternately at the treat cupboard, then us, then back again – to the seemingly prescient, high-alert level they achieve the instant they get the slightest whiff something fun might happen soon.
Our three-year old chocolate lab, Maverick, is no exception. The normally calm Mav was on to us long before we even began to dig out our canoe camping gear. His excitement was palpable. Something fun was going to happen with me and my wife Jan, and he wasn’t about to miss it!
No use trying to disguise the packing. It would have been futile anyway, as we dug through what seemed like endless stacks of plastic totes filled with dry bags, tents, camp stoves and tarps that we hadn’t looked at since we picked up a small, used popup camper a few years ago. All this while being closely monitored by our very attentive friend. And the monitoring certainly didn’t stop when it came to packing the cooler – he’s a Lab, after all.
Finally, it was time to stuff all of the gear into the back of the car and head out. Jan and I split the tent, bedding, food, firewood and cooking gear proportionately between our Placid Boatworks 12-foot SpitFire and 15-foot RapidFire canoes, balancing the loads fore and aft. The 80-pound Mav would ride in the bigger boat with me – or, would allow me to chauffer his canoe for the weekend. The goal was to paddle across Hoel Pond into Turtle Pond and set up camp before it got dark, or rained, or both.
As I told Mav to “hop in” and he settled onto his foam pad behind me in the canoe, I remembered back to his first spring. He was about six months old and had recently experienced swimming for the first time amongst the last remaining ice chunks in the Chubb River.
Shortly after that, Jan and I trained him to get into the canoe; he was reluctant at first, but didn’t want to be left behind. When he refused to get into the boat initially, a couple of short laps around the pond while he was left chasing us up and down the shore, convinced him he didn’t want to miss out. Some treats to coax him into the boat and onto a comfortable pad sealed the deal, and we were off. Back then, we kept the treat bag in the boat at all times to help ensure compliance with “boat rules.”
The trip across Hoel, although a bit choppy, went smoothly. The RapidFire was loaded with about 400 pounds total; Jan’s SpitFire had around 200 pounds – nowhere near its capacity. Did I mention we don’t travel light? The portage up and over the railroad tracks between Hoel and Turtle ponds was uneventful, though not accomplished in one trip...
And we would have beaten the rain and the dark had we not built a fire upon arrival at our site and sat around having a cocktail. Well worth the trade (one man’s opinion, anyway!). Regardless, the tent was dry and cozy that night, with Mav taking his portion of the bed out of the middle.
The plan for the next day was to paddle through Turtle and Slang ponds, carry to Long Pond, and paddle across to the start of the carry to Mountain Pond. There, we would leave our boats, switch from sandals to hiking boots, walk to Mountain Pond, then climb Long Pond Mountain for some terrific views – and, hopefully, some ripe blueberries. Day-trippers can easily access the Mountain Pond carry from the Long Pond put-in off of Floodwood Road.
As we approached Mountain Pond after a short hike, we saw some folks swimming and fishing. When we got closer, I realized it was Paul – someone I used to race bikes with 20 years ago and who I hadn’t seen in years – and his family. Of all the places to meet! We hung out and caught up for a while, and then Jan, Mav, and I headed up the mountain trail.
The trail to Long Pond Mountain, like many Adirondack trails (and many of its people), is fairly straight and direct. There are several steep sections that cross topo lines at 90 degrees, mud, and some switchbacks. At 1.6 miles, it’s not a super long or difficult trip, but it has its moments. Several blowdowns with short bypass trails add to the fun.
But reaching the semi-open summit was well worth the effort. Since this small mountain stands in the middle of the flattish St. Regis Canoe Area, the views from the summit are long and spectacular, extending to the High Peaks – and including all of the lakes we had paddled across. It was like looking at a real-life version of the Adirondack Paddler’s Map. There are great views to the west, too.
We took some pictures, poured Mav a big bowl of water, and soon were joined by Paul and family, who decided to hike up after all. We hung out for a while, chatting, eating lunch, and even finding some late blueberries. What a great way to spend a summer day! I imagine a colorful fall one, too…
As the shadows began to grow, we decided it was time to head back down. The hike down was uneventful, and we reached the canoes with plenty of time to stop for a cool-off swim in Long Pond before carrying to Slang Pond, then paddling to Turtle Pond.
When we arrived back at camp and were relaxing, Mav sat on the bank above the lake, and watched attentively as a group of canoes and kayaks passed. As we watched Mav watching them, a mature bald eagle landed in a tree directly across the narrows from our site, and watched us all – a perfect end to a perfect day.
Gear to Bring for Your Four-Legged Friends
Plenty of food, water bottles, collapsible food/water dish, canine first aid kit, plenty of treats, collar with name and phone, towel, sleeping pad (or they’ll “share” yours!), and dog pad for the canoe.
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