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Old 02-14-2021, 04:11 PM   #2
DSettahr's Avatar
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 5,298
Continued from above...

My arrival at the west end of Rock Pond heralded the first major portage of the trip. At 1.75 miles, this carry would be the second longest I'd face out of the 11 total portages across my route. For the relatively short portages I had no qualms about making multiple trips, but for longer carries such as this one, I was determined not to backtrack any. And so onto my back went all of my gear, plus the canoe (with a few lighter odds and ends dangling from the thwarts).

The portage was in OK shape. Much of it follows an old logging railroad grade, and so the route was generally obvious. I didn't see much in the way of markers however, and parts of it were starting to get a little bit brushy. There has also been some beaver flooding along the portage- nothing major (and certainly nothing worth getting back into the canoe for), but nevertheless there were a few spots with muddy and uneven footing.

My original tentative plan had been to camp at the designated tent site at Hardigan Pond. However, it was still only early afternoon when I arrived there. The site looked alright- it was fairly open and flat and appeared to get some regular use, plus Hardigan Pond itself was quiet and serene- but at the moment of my visit it was also absolutely teeming with deer flies. If those factors weren't enough to convince me to continue on, the massive anthill on the edge of the campsite that I'd accidentally stepped on- sending biting ants swarming up my legs- made up my mind that I was better off camping elsewhere.

I also discovered that someone had forgotten both a water bottle and a PFD at the Hardigan Pond end of the portage. Oops... I certainly hope they didn't regret in particular leaving their PFD behind. That'd be a rough thing to absolutely need in such a remote area, with little hope of any sort of quick rescue.

The paddle across Hardigan went quickly and soon I was starting the portage to the outlet of Salmon Lake. This portage also followed the old logging railroad grade and despite also being brushy, was short and easy. Soon I was paddling down the outlet.

I realized belatedly (several miles downstream) that there were falls a short distance upstream on the outlet. Ah well, something to entice me into making a return visit into the area.

The outlet of Salmon Lake also traversed open and marshy terrain, with nice views. I also passed a few more beaver dams that forced short exits from the canoe to haul it up and over the woody debris. Just before entering Little Salmon Lake I hopped out to check out site #32. This was also a small and pretty infrequently used site, judging from the accumulation of organic material in the fire pit. Nice enough otherwise, though, in a pleasant stand of balsam and spruce.

Like Hardigan Pond, Little Salmon Lake was also full of solitude- quiet and serene. Site #33 on the north shore was situated atop a small hill on the edge of the pond, with beautiful views- although also small, and somewhat lacking in flat ground to boot. Room enough for a solo camper without too much difficulty at least, and I was tempted to stay there, but decided to press on at least as far as the next site, site #34 at the start of the carry to Lilypad Pond. I figured I'd maybe set up there for the night and at least haul my canoe over the carry that afternoon so as to facilitate an easier start the next morning.

Within 30 seconds of seeing site #34 I'd made up my mind to continue on to Lake Lila, however. The site itself was OK- brushy and with room for only one tent (or maybe two tents if they were both small). But it was also right smack in the middle of the portage trail to Lilypad Pond. Granted, this is not an area that sees high levels of use- and the odds of anyone coming through while I was camped there were slim to none- but it was just such poor judgement on the part of whoever decided that this was a site worth designating that I found myself unable to condone it by staying there. And since the 150 foot thing isn't an option until one reaches Lake Lila, I was out of luck for finding my own spot off in the woods somewhere.

The portage to Lilypad Pond was fairly straightforward. As with the previous portages, it was also brushy and not well marked but the route was nevertheless pretty obvious. At this point, I was starting to think about remaining daylight, and so when I got to Lilypad Pond I didn't really do much poking around. Both the put in and the take out at Lilypad Pond were also a bit muddy.

Next up was the infamous carry to Shingle Shanty Brook, a moderately long traverse at about three quarters of a mile. There was also some noticeable elevation gain along this portage (in contrast, all of the previous carries had been pretty flat). Nothing major, however, and to be honest... judging from the map, I suspect that this carry is still the faster route than paddling the long way around.

Shingle Shanty itself is a twisty, windy traverse through what feels like endless marshes. I don't doubt that the paddler traverses at least 3 to 4 times as far as what the crow can fly along this stretch. There was also some element of trial and error involved, with a few false passages along the way that petered out into thick, endless grasslands. Naturally, there were also a few more beaver dams to negotiate along the way.

I made it to Lake Lila with a bit more than an hour of solid daylight left, and immediately began scoping out the campsite situation. What I saw was a bit discouraging- I'd expected that since it was a Thursday, while maybe the choicest sites would already be occupied, I'd have little difficulty finding something quickly. Too my surprise the lake seemed just about filled up to capacity. Sites #17, #18, #19, and #20 on the east shore were all occupied, as was site #21 on the island. Further across the lake I could see boats pulled up on shore near sites #15 and #16, and there was obvious activity on the west shore where the lean-to and sites #7, #8, #9, #10, and #11 all lie.

I decided to try my luck on the north shore. Sites #4 and #5 were both occupied, but as I rounded the peninsula into the bay I found site #3 empty. I was quick to call dibs- I could see a few other boats out and about and I think some of them were looking for open sites as well. (And while I'm not opposed to sharing a site if and when necessary, I'd rather not be the second comer who has to awkwardly ask if it's OK if I move in.) Darkness was fast approaching, and with my late arrival I didn't have the luxury of afternoon breezes to keep the bugs at bay, so a smudge fire was necessary to be able to enjoy dinner before turning in for the night.

Day 3 dawned noticeably more humid than the previous two days had been. My goal for the day was only Lows Lake, but after seeing how crowded Lake Lila and been- and knowing that it was the start of the weekend- I was eager to waste no time getting there so as to give myself plenty of time to look for an open campsite. I was packed up and on the water before I'd seen much in the way of movement or activity from any the other occupied sites on the lake.

It was only a relatively short paddle down the lake to the start of the portage to Harrington Brook, adjacent to the private road along the north shore the lake. As I was taking out and getting ready to begin the portage, I happened to notice that the culvert through which Harrington Brook flows into Lake Lila is actually a massive old boiler. What purpose this boiler served (or where it came from, if indeed it were even located locally) are anything but apparent, but it was neat to think about the potential history involved.

I'd heard that the Harrington Brook portage was a bit rough in spots. Even though it was close to half a mile, I elected to traverse it twice- once with the canoe and once with gear. For the most part, it wasn't that bad, but there was one stretch in the middle, for perhaps a couple of hundred feet, that could use some work. Not only was the tread uneven- small boulders piled against each other, with plenty of gaps to trap the ankle of the uncareful- it was also well hidden beneath a carpet of grasses and ferns.

In any case, even with the out-back-out method of traverse it wasn't long before I was launching again on the still waters of Harrington Brook and paddling upstream towards the turnoff to Rainer Brook.

The next portage, to Clear Pond, follows a stretch of the Remsen-Lake Placid railroad for a bit. Taking out requires first climbing over yet another beaver dam before scrambling up a steep embankment adjacent to a bridge over Rainer Brook- and honestly, this was probably the trickiest takeout of the entire trip. After following the railroad for a bit more than a quarter mile, the portage trails turns off to the west (at a junction that is easy to miss with a canoe over one's head, I managed to wander about a tenth of a mile past it before realizing my mistake), and from there follows old logging skid trails to Clear Pond.

Honestly, both this portage and the previous one (Lake Lila to Harrington Brook), sort of felt like afterthoughts... possibly even portage trails that first formed through use, rather than the product of any explicit managerial intent to facilitate a paddling connection between Lake Lila and Lows Lake. Both could use some improvements- the ankle grabbing rocks on the Harrington Brook portage, and the steep gravelly climb up and out of the water at Rainer Brook.

Clear Pond was small but nice. I did take a few minutes to check out the designated tent site on the north shore- it was set back a bit from the water but otherwise nice, with plenty of flat ground. This site was pretty obviously once the location of a hunting camp.

I'd heard the roar of jets during portions of every day of my trip so far, but it wasn't until I was on Clear Pond that I happened to get a good glimpse of them. Two military fighter jets, directly overhead, engaging in a mock dog fight with each other. As disruptive as it was on the wilderness experience, it was pretty neat to watch for a few minutes... and then they disappeared back into the clouds and the roar once again became just plain obnoxious.

Continued in next post...
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