I journaled meticulously during my 52 days on the trail - sometimes to log boring details and other times to record my story. What you are reading is my word-for-word account, logged directly from the two notebooks I filled during my time paddling the NFCT. Some days are short, others are lavish and detailed. There are mistakes, it may not always make sense, but it is certainly a true account of the experience. Enjoy!
It was another chilly morning. I woke to fog over the lake - beautiful!
I had a stocked fire with an easy light that I had built last night, I knew I'd take off soon so my worries of drawing attention to myself went out the door. I decided to light it up and have a morning fire.
Right across the pond from the island was my take out. After breakfast, I doused the fire, paddled over and set up the cart for my first carry of the day. It was time to test out the new wheels!
The boat settled in great, that is until I tried to lock down the straps and they broke so I settled with using the ones I'd saved from my old cart.
I carted the whole 1.1-mile portage even though the book says only the second half is cartable! The cart tipped, and spilled the boat and my belongings four different times after hitting rampant roots. I am great at keeping a good attitude so I never let it get to me. I jammed out to tunes the whole way.
I eventually put in at the south end of Upper Saranac Lake and paddled to Chapel Island where there is indeed a chapel which shuttles/boats people over for Sunday service. I missed Huckleberry Bay and had to use my GPS to see where I was - it is so handy! The wind was starting to pick up but it was coming from the rear so it was helpful. Bartlett carry was quick and painless with the new cart! I put into a swampy Middle Saranac after. Middle was cool - it seemed like I was the only one on the entire lake. I paddled the lake’s length to the beach in the SE corner.
What a beautiful lakeside beach - and I had it all to myself. I was able to talk with Moose on the phone. It was hard leaving the comfort of the sandy shore for more paddling after I ate my lunch. I had a hard time finding the outlet to Lower Saranac Lake, tall grass disguised the entry which I only found with help from the GPS and some pontoon boaters. I saw an eagle upon entry and passed a deer shortly after. After a slow and low channel I made it to the Upper Locks which was pretty cool!
Upon entry, you are gated in and lowered or raised depending on which way you are headed. I got locked in with an older couple in a small fishing skiff. As our water drained they asked me questions about what I was doing and where I was going, they were impressed. The gatekeeper told me “good luck!” as I left the locks.
I proceeded through slower channels until I reached Lower Saranac Lake which opens up to a beautiful and giant rock cliff face, known as Pulpit Rock. All of the Saranac Lakes had been beautiful, all remote with great mountain views… but Lower was on another level! There were so many cool rocky islands to explore! It reminded me of the Boundary Waters in Minnesota - except there was an Adirondack backdrop - much busier, too.
I stopped at Bluff Island which is a popular picnic area. I hiked the trail to the top of the massive rock ledge/cliff that the island is popular for. A couple of teenagers were up there, as well as a pair of grandparents with their grandchild. The lady offered me a cookie- I said yes, it was delicious!
After enjoying the views, I hiked back down and resumed my paddle on what was now a fairly rampant, wind-blown lake. The waves were fun, it reminded me of the ocean and made me smile.
First and Second Pond were slow and marshy. I found camp on the left shore at the state-run lean-to (this was the only spot in the whole area unclaimed by the Saranac Lakes Island Campground - which is paid and by reservation only). This was the only place that worked logistically for me since I needed to go into Saranac Lake Village the following day, so I had to stop a bit earlier than desired.
I was off the water early, but I did accomplish some chores with this extra time. I took inventory of my perishables and made a list of things I would need to get the next day to cover me till Plattsburgh where my next resupply drop would be. I also found a home for some loose and unused gear.
I cooked a Pasta Side for dinner to switch it up a bit. I tested out my other solar panel (which hadn't been functioning properly) in the waining afternoon light and it worked for my phone. I listened to a Dirtbag Diaries podcast to keep myself company then struggled to sleep - my sleeping pad is uncomfortable without a second one next to it. Pack of coyotes raised hell just down the river bank through the night. Still loving life!