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Nine Carries (St. Regis Canoe Area) 7/10 - 7/11/21

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  • Nine Carries (St. Regis Canoe Area) 7/10 - 7/11/21

    I've paddled the St. Regis Canoe Area's Seven Carries canoe route more times than I can count off-hand. As a student trip leader at Paul Smith's College, it was a route that I would take freshman students on every September. It's a perfect route for such a purpose- it can easily be done in a single day at a somewhat casual pace, and it's a great introduction to the broader Paul Smiths/Lake Clear region, including time spent on some backcountry waters in the vicinity.

    Despite being on my "to do" list for years, the more remote and more challenging Nine Caries route was something that I did not get the chance to undertake until the past summer. A friend and I decided to tackle the route over two consecutive days, paddling west to east, with a single night spent camped in the backcountry.

    As with the Seven Carries, the name "Nine Carries" is a bit of a misnomer. Both routes traditionally started or ended on Little Green Pond, but as one can drive past Little Green and on to Little Clear, it's possible to shorten the number of carries by one. Beavers have also added a short paddling stretch to the Nine Carries route, which splits what was once a single portage into two. And there's a bit of "choose your own adventure" inherent in exactly what route you take in the more remote stretches of the route.

    And so a late Saturday morning saw us making the couple-tenths-of-a-mile portage from Floodwood Road down to the southwest end of Long Pond, and setting out across that body of water.

    Long Pond is pretty well named- it's a long and somewhat twisting stretch of water, and on most parts of the pond it's impossible to see more than a small section of the overall water body. The pond has almost a secretive nature to it- while traversing Long Pond, it always feels as though there's something fun and interesting hiding just out of sight around the next bend.

    As we paddled up the pond, at times we caught glimpses of the fire tower on the summit of St. Regis Mountain to the north.

    As we paddled, I also took the time to glance into some of the designated campsites along the shore as we slid past. Long Pond is clearly popular at times, and the sites were visibly well used- even when viewed from afar.

    In spite of the appropriateness of the name, we over estimated a bit just how far along the twisting and winding bends of the pond we needed to traverse. The start of the first portage is not quite at the furthest end of the pond- and suddenly, with a flash of recognition from a previous winter visit across the ice to climb Long Pond Mountain, I'd realized we'd paddled too far. A quick bit of backtracking brought us back on route, and soon we were at the portage.

    This first portage originally went all the way to Nellie Pond. In recent years, however, beavers had flooded a short stretch of the portage near the south end of the carry. The flooded stretch isn't very far across, but the water is deep enough that it necessitates getting back into the canoe for the few seconds it takes to cross the pond.

    Beyond the beaver pond, the portage to Nellie Pond begins in earnest. This is a long portage- the sort that makes you want to grin and bear it and try to get everything through in one trip no matter how much you'll pay for it later in back soreness. We started with everything and made it about halfway through before we elected to drop my friends heavier canoe for round 2.

    The portage trail was generally in good shape but there was a stretch of mud about halfway through that was a bit difficult to deal with. One could see that this area had once been traversed by bog bridging the but the bridging was old and rotten and pretty much useless.

    I missed the turn-off for Bessie Pond during my first trip through (I blame having my canoe over my shoulders). On our return trip with the heaver of our two boats it looked like a nice and quiet body of water from what we could see through the trees. According to the DEC map for the St. Regis Canoe Area, there is a designated tent site at Bessie Pond also, although we did not get a chance to look for it.

    Nellie Pond was also nice, although quickly traversed. My friend had some difficulty launching- she managed to set out behind a half-sunken log before realize there was no way around it onto the main body of water.

    After Nellie Pond came a short portage to Kit Fox Pond, which was similar quiet and serene albeit quickly crossed.

    Ever since leaving Long Pond, we'd been chasing the tail end of a summer camp group. We caught up to (and passed) them at the far end of Kit Fox Pond. It was a group from Keewaydin Dunmore- a summer camp for boys based in Vermont. I've been known among my friends to carry a lot of extra less-than-necessary camp comforts with me, but holy cow was this group loaded down with gear. Most impressive were the heavy wooden chests they carried on their backs, with straps around the forehead for extra support. I hope at least one of those chests had ibuprofen in it.

    Beyond Kit Fox Pond, those tackling the Nine Carries route have a choice- they can make a short portage to Little Long Pond, followed by a short paddle, and then another short portage to Fish Pond. Alternatively, a longer portage trail exists that circumnavigates Little Long Pond entirely and provides a direct route to Fish Pond. With her larger canoe, my friend elected to take the portage-paddle-portage route. My setup was a bit lighter so I chose to carry across the longer portage trail straight to Fish Pond. We both arrived at Fish Pond at the same time, so neither route is really any quicker.

    In contrast with the relatively small bodies of water we'd traversed thus far (or in the case of Long Pond, narrow if not small), Fish Pond is fairly open and broad.

    Fish Pond has two lean-tos- one on the north shore, and one on the south shore. Our intended destination for the evening was the lean-to on the north shore- the Blagden Lean-to. We made a beeline straight across Fish Pond for the lean-to, and were quite happy to find it unoccupied. The lean-to is set back off the water a fair bit and in a beautiful clearing in the forest. We quickly began unpacking and moving in.

    It was early yet in the afternoon so we spent the next several hours relaxing and enjoying the surroundings. As near as I could tell, there were only two other groups camped on the lake- both summer camps, and both occupying tent sites. The lean-to on the south shore appeared unoccupied. With it being a Saturday afternoon, I kept expecting other groups to show up and figured we'd have a decent chance of sharing the lean-to with others, but the pond remained quiet. Clearly the added portage distance to reach Fish Pond from other water bodies (which themselves also necessitate portaging) keeps the use levels relatively low in this remote part of the Saint Regis Canoe Area.

    As the afternoon waned, the winds started to die down... and the mosquitoes started to pop up. They never got very bad but they were still obnoxious enough that we chose to get a small smudge fire going.

    And soon enough, afternoon turned into evening. With the arrival of dusk, our smudge fire turned into a small proper fire for light warmth against the evening chill as we cooked and dinner. Before long, we'd turned in for the evening.

    The next morning dawned chilly, and we were up with sunrise to get an early start as one of us had an afternoon deadline to meet. With the arrival of daylight, we were greeted by morning mist on the pond as we set out on our journey back to civilization.

    At the east end of Fish Pond began our first portage of the day- a relatively short and easy one to Mud Pond. We arrived and set out across that body of water just as the last bits of mist were dissipating from the surface. The day was quickly turning warm and humid.

    The Mud Pond to Ochre Pond carry is also a fairly lengthy one, and it would take us a couple of trips to get all of our gear through. When I hiked back to help my friend with her canoe, I was greeted with a look that said, "how the heck did I let you talk me into this?!?"

    Still, the portage to Ochre Pond was beautiful. Along the way it passes first the outlet of Monday Pond, and then Monday itself. The DEC shows a designated tent site on Monday Pond but it's across the pond and I unfortunately didn't get a chance to look for it.

    Ochre Pond was accessed via a bog bridge out into some swampy terrain. It too was a beautiful body of water that felt remote. There are a couple of campsites on Ochre Pond- we saw the site on the north shore as we paddled by. The fire pit area did not look particularly flat but it also appeared as though there was better tent space in the woods a bit further uphill.

    Continued in next post...

  • #2
    Continued from above...

    Beyond Ochre Pond was the carry to St. Regis Pond. This carry isn't nearly as long as the carry from Mud Pond but we still elected to make it in two trips just to save our backs.

    As with Fish Pond, St. Regis Pond is one of the broader bodies of water in the St. Regis Canoe Area, and as we paddled across the views really opened up and we were treated to nice scenery.

    We did make a quick pit stop to check out the St. Regis Pond Lean-to, which is situated on the south shore. A lean-to that (at the time) I still needed to camp in for the lean-to challenge. (As it would turn out, I'd be back a few weeks later to bag this lean-to... but that's for another trip report.)

    At a glance, it was immediately obvious that this lean-to gets more use than either of the lean-tos at Fish Pond. The area was well impacted, and there was a number of discarded odds and ends lying about inside and outside of the shelter.

    To reach the portage trail connecting St. Regis Pond to Little Clear Pond necessitates paddling a short distance up a twisty, windy inlet through boggy terrain, to a dock on the shore that facilitates access to the portage trail.

    The portage to Little Clear was also only of "moderate" length, and again we elected to use the "out-back-out" method to portage our gear across. Not the most efficient method of two-timing a portage trail with two people, but for a traverse of this length efficiency wasn't particularly high on our list of priorities. Soon we were crossing the final body of water for our trip- Little Clear Pond.

    Little Clear Pond is used for fish stocking by the nearby hatchery- and accordingly camping is prohibited on Little Clear. The pond nevertheless has some beautiful scenery. From the north end of the pond, we got some nice views of Ampersand Mountain and the Seward Range to the south.

    And while paddling down the pond, one passes by (or in our case, between) two picturesque small islands on the pond.

    All too soon we were at the boat launch on the south end of the pond, taking out and packing up gear. While unloading the canoes on the beach, our canine companion Owen was quite quick to remind his mother than he'd been promised Donnelly's Ice Cream on the drive home.

    All in all it was a fun trip. Again, the Nine Carries specifically- as well as a paddle expedition into the more remote stretches of the Saint Regis Canoe Area generally- has been on my "to do" list for a while now and I'm glad to have finally had the opportunity to undertake it. Our short timeframe didn't give much leeway for poking around, though, so at some point I'd love to head back to really explore the area. There's even more remote bodies of water than where we dipped our paddles- Lydia and Little Fish- and even an alternate approach by way of Hoel, Turtle, and Clamshell Ponds.

    And for particularly intrepid paddlers, the Nine Carries and Seven Carries can be linked into a longer trip- which in turn can even be further extended in either direction for even longer trips, including itineraries that may take up to a week or longer!


    • #3
      Very nice!

      I think if you look in the dictionary under the word "dank" you'll find that Fish Pond Lean-to on the south shore. The one on the north shore is infinitely better, and as far as I could tell, far more used!

      Bessie Pond (not much different than the rest):

      A not-so-great pic of the campsite:

      It seems like its right in the middle of the portage trail, but I think people just get confused here and head right to this site, then have to backtrack to get to Nellie. That's not our group - these were some serious hulks (and I'm pretty sure that's Sophie Turner on the left), although maybe not so much as the group with the wood trunks!

      I remember on one of my trips out there, I took a look at the lean-to on St. Regis with the thought I might stay there... I moved on pretty quick. I must have been out at a great time on that one because I went around the whole pond, and the island, before finally settling back at the large site on the point almost due south of St. Regis Mtn.

      That site is probably the second most trampled of any on the pond, besides the lean-to, but it's so flat, and has the perfect amount of open airiness to it, you just can't pass it up. All the other times I've been out there I've seen tents there.


      • #4
        Yeah, I've visited the lean-to on the south shore of Fish Pond a few times over the years, always via the truck trail. Even camped there once, but it was when I was a trip leader with a girls youth group, so I slept under a tarp back in the woods away from the lean-to while my two female co-workers shared the lean-to with the kids. Doesn't count for the lean-to challenge, of course (the only exception where a lean-to "counts" even if I don't sleep inside of it is if I pass out drunk on the ground in front of it), so at some point I'll be back to camp there again.

        It is in dense hemlock/pine forest and doesn't get a whole lot of direct sunlight. It's still a nice spot, though.


        • #5
          Photo of the lean-to on the south shore of Fish Pond from one of my visits there:


          • #6
            Thanks for the photos -- I love that area! I paddled out from a few days there, on the day you started. I was going the other way, a Little Clear to Hoel loop.


            • #7
              Thanks for another great trip report. Great read on a rainy January morning!


              • #8
                Cool Report.

                St Regis is a neat area. I should spend more time up there.
                "There's a whisper on the night-wind, there's a star agleam to guide us, And the Wild is calling, calling . . . let us go." -from "The Call of the Wild" by Robert Service

                My trail journal: DuctTape's Journal


                • #9
                  Thanks for the report and pictures. It's a beautiful place and it's nice to think of summer now.


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by rickhart View Post
                    Thanks for the photos -- I love that area! I paddled out from a few days there, on the day you started. I was going the other way, a Little Clear to Hoel loop.
                    Do you mean you started the same day as us? If so, we must've passed each other.

                    Or do you mean you ended on the same day we started?


                    • #11
                      :Yes, I meant that I was paddling out of the SRCA and going home on the 10th. But that took me from my campsite on Slang out to Hoel, so we wouldn't have crossed paths. The day before, I was roaming around Long Pond & Pink Pond, but not on the 10th.