Niagara Whirpool, Niagara Power Plant, Fort Niagara, Lake Ontario

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Niagara Whirlpool.

After a long drive to Buffalo, we were itching to get out and see what the area had to offer. The Whirlpool was really awe-inspiring – you perhaps have to see and hear it moving to get a proper impression of it’s massive power.

There were numerous large birds of prey circling overhead and, not for the first time, I regretted the lack of my superzoom camera.

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Whirlpool Rapids.

Captain Matthew Webb, the first man to swim the English Channel unaided, died here attempting to swim across the Whirlpool. Foolhardy doesn’t even begin to cover it.

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Niagara pano.
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Cable Car over the Niagara Whirlpool.
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Hydro plant visitor centre.

The visitor centre at the Robert Moses Niagara Power Plant had all sorts of interactive demonstrations, quizzes and games. It was a big hit with the younger members of the party. I enjoyed the history of power production in the area and of the rivalry between Edison and Teslar over AC and DC supply.

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Two hydro plants – Canadian and American.

I think this was the day we ate lunch at an amazing cafe right by the river which served enormous sandwiches.

We were packing a lot in and by the time we got to Fort Niagara it was already quite late in the day. We did a whirlwind tour of the museum, but didn’t have time for the film, which young M assured us was a great loss.

Never mind, the fort itself was fascinating.

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A Tower at Fort Niagara.
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Cannon!

I’m always a sucker for any kind of battlements and was particularly taken with the top of these roofed towers.

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Tower view.
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Another view from the tower.
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River Niagara flowing into Lake Ontario.
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Reenactors.

I assume the man on the left is dressed as a member of one of the local native American peoples. An Iroquois?

The man on the right was demonstrating the loading and firing of a musket. I think his uniform is French. His talk was entertaining and informative. The main thing I remember is the huge weight of wool he told us was in his uniform. He must have been sweltering. It was hot.

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A Red Coat.
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Inside the Trading Post.
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A barrack.
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The chapel.
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Lake Ontario. If you squint, Toronto is just about visible behind the sailing dinghy.
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Another tower.
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More cannons.
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Nesting swallows.
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Another tower view.
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Fort Niagara Lighthouse.

The fort was closing as we left. Just one last thing to squeeze in…

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Lake Ontario paddle.
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A huge Cricket in the Prof’s garden.
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Niagara Whirpool, Niagara Power Plant, Fort Niagara, Lake Ontario

Little Whiteface Mountain and Ausable River Swim

Adirondacks Day 11

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Whiteface Mountain and the ski station at the top of the gondola.

Our last day in the Adirondacks, for the foreseeable future.

We cheated and took a gondola up Little Whiteface. Under normal circumstances, that would have given us a launch-pad to ascend Whiteface itself, but the trail was closed due to drainage work being carried out in preparation for this winter’s ski season (which, I’m reliably informed, has now begun).

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Lake Placid with Moose Island and Buck Island. Moose Mountain on the right.
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Posing on the top of Little Whiteface Mountain.
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Which is imported.
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A novel use of a viewing scope.

Later, we drove to Prof S’s cousin’s place outside Keene for a family get together and picnic.

Later still, we had a bit of a swim in the Ausable River…

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The Ausable River near Keene.
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The Ausable River.

Prof A was doing a great job of organising various competitions and challenges for the two sets of DBs, involving leaping into and swimming under the water. I tried swimming upriver, but the the large boulders in the water made progress quite difficult, so eventually I abandoned that plan and had a wander up the riverbank instead, to see what I might find.

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Could be Hemp Agrimony.

And what I found, I think, was a number of wildflowers from Europe which have naturalised in the US.

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Orange Balsam?
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An Aster? This one might be native.
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Tansy?
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Purple Loosestrife – or something very like it.

I hope you’ve gathered, over the last few posts, that I really fell in love with the Adirondacks. I don’t know when I’ll be back there, but I really would like to visit again.

Fortunately, we still had a few more days of our trip to go, we’d yet to see our hosts new home in Buffalo. More to follow…

Little Whiteface Mountain and Ausable River Swim

Hanging Around II

Adirondacks Day 10 (Sort of)

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Meadowhawk Dragonfly. There are several species – I have no idea which this is.

Almost at the end of my Adirondacks posts now. These photos were actually taken on several different days, but represent the 10th day well, because I didn’t stray from the house and garden that day. In the morning, the others went off somewhere; you’d have to ask them where. In the afternoon we were all back at the house, shooting the bb-gun, gardening, loafing, generally pottering about.

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Teneral – or newly emerged – dragonfly. Maybe another Meadowhawk.
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This was nearby – could it be the larval case?
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Harebells?

I remembered spotting the discarded exoskeletons of Cicada nymphs last time we were in the States. We didn’t hear Cicadas to the same extent here, but I was aware that they were out there and decided to check out the trees near the house to see what I could find. The first three trees I checked each had a shucked-off Cicada skin clinging to its rough bark.

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The shed exoskeleton of a Cicada.
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The nymph will climb a tree to emerge in its winged adult form.
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Here’s another one.
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A shy deer. There’s another one back there somewhere.
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Fishing-spider. I think.

I think this must be the same kind of spider which featured in an earlier post. This one wasn’t as large, although still quite big. It was sheltering on the underside of one of the paddle-boards.

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The small ball is the silken egg-sac which the spider has carried around, until her brood hatched. You can see her tiny offspring here too.
Hanging Around II

Ampersand Mountain

Adirondacks Day 9

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TBH on Ampersand Mountain.

Time for another family hike.

We parked in the same place as we had for our first swim from Ampersand Beach. The route was very straightforward – up and back on a well-marked trail.

Initially, the going was fairly level, and the path crossed several small streams.

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One of three rickety bridges on the path.

The bridges seemed a bit superfluous, but I suspect that, at other times of the year, the streams have a great deal more water in them.

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Toadstool.

Eventually, the gradient rapidly increases and in some places the going was very steep…

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Steep and rocky.
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TBH on tree-root steps.
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Tantalising glimpses.

As we approached the top, there were glimpses through the trees of the views to come.

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Large fungi.

Also, close to the top, there is a jumble of huge boulders, which were too much to resist for the DBs (it’s fair to say that the DBs ranks had swollen to five)

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Clambering on huge boulders.
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The path skirts beneath one of the boulders.

At one point, there was a very small rock step, maybe 10′ at most, which had to be climbed. TBH and I used tree roots again. It can’t have been that difficult – Prof A had challenged the DBs to get to the top without using their hands and they managed it some how.

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The last part of the ascent.

The final part of the climb was steep and rocky again, but still just a walk.

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The view over the Saranac Lakes.

The views were amazing. I think that this was the day when Prof A pointed out the Green Mountains in Vermont. In honesty, I’m not sure how far away they are, but it felt like we could see forest, lakes and mountains stretching on for ever.

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More views.
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Pano.

It was really pretty warm in the sunshine. Too much so for Coco, who doesn’t generally seem to be very fond of water, but clearly needed to cool down on this occasion…

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Coco cooling off.

Ampersand has a second top and Prof A was keen to head that way for a quiet lunch spot. We could see that there was nobody on the other top, but to get there we had to drop down another small rock step. I was confident I could get down safely, but not at all sure I would drag myself back up again, so, unfortunately, had to veto that plan.

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Lunch stop.

Still, our lunch stop had great views.

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Another Pano.
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Ampersand Lake. Seymour Mountain, Seward Mountain and Donaldson Mountain beyond.

Ampersand Lake supposedly resembles an ampersand sign. I can’t see it myself.

South of the lake lie four of the 46. They look very remote, but apparently they can all be knocked off in one day by keen baggers.

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Ampersand Lake pano.
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Retracing our route.
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Another rickety bridge.
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More interesting fungi.

Once again, I took far more fungi shots than have made it in to this post. Most were blurred as usual. I also took some blurred photos, under the trees, of a Scorpion Fly and a Broad-leaved Helleborine, or at least, in each case, something very, very like the species I see close to home. I’m not sure why I was repeatedly so excited when I encountered something which seemed familiar, or which I could partially identify due to its similarity to something I see at home. Perhaps its because I didn’t really expect the things I’ve learned over the years, plodding around my home patch, to be applicable in any way elsewhere.

It was no surprise, on the way down, to find that TBH and I were left even further in the wake of the rest of the party than we had been going up. The others were all keen to cool off with a swim and/or a couple of cold beers at Ampersand Beach….

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Another swim at Ampersand Beach.

The boys had found a plastic box full, I think, with floats and were having great fun ‘fighting’ over it and tipping each other into the water. You can see it on the right of the photo above. I chose to avoid the horse-play and swam out far enough to get out of my depth, which turned out to be quite a long way.

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Dead Man’s Fingers. (I think).
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More fungi.

We didn’t climb any of the 46 whilst we were in the Adirondacks, but Ampersand Mountain is one of the Saranac Six. I think we’re duty bound now to go back at some point and hike the remaining five? That must be a rule, surely?

Ampersand Mountain

Ampersand Brook and the Raquette River

Adirondacks Day 8 Part 2

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The Raquette River

If Rock Pond was my favourite venue for a dip, and it was, then this was my favourite paddling trip. We took the usual motley flotilla of canoes, paddle boards and a kayak across Stoney Creek Pond, and then down Ampersand Brook to its confluence with the Raquette River.

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Paddling down the Raquette.

I didn’t take any photos until we reached the Raquette, despite the fact that I thought the Ampersand Brook and its surrounds were absolutely stunning. I think perhaps I was concentrating on following the bewildering meanders of the Ampersand and not getting lost down one of the many side channels.

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Ampersand Brook approaching the Raquette.

Once we’d landed, I had a wander around the banks and took lots of photos. We stopped for quite some time, had a swim, drank a few cool beers and did a bit of fishing, I think a few tiddlers were even successfully landed (but not by me – I was very good at catching weed).

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The confluence.
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The brook flowing into the river – note the signpost giving directions.
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Narrow-leaved Gentian (I think) on the banks of the Raquette River.
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Cardinal Flowers on the banks of the Raquette.
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Camp ground.

There seemed to be a couple of camp grounds by the river here, with the usual small ‘outhouse’ toilets, but in this case with this covered platform in addition.

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A spot of fishing. (And a cold beer).
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Heading back. This road bridge is on the track we’d driven down earlier to reach Rock Pond.
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Paddling in Ampersand Brook
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Paddling in Ampersand Brook

We did see a handful of other paddlers – actually I think we may have seen the same small group twice – but it was very quiet and peaceful. It felt much further on the way back, although I don’t think it was actually very far at all, in either direction!

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Stoney Creek. Listing badly.
Ampersand Brook and the Raquette River

Rock Pond

Adirondacks Day 8 Part 1

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Rock Pond

Just south of Stony Creek Pond there are two smaller ponds – Pickerel Pond and Rock Pond. On this particular morning Prof A and his lads were busy (I’m afraid I can’t remember what they were busy with) and Prof S had work to do, so we had a little family trip out together.

It was (or should have been) a simple affair: drive along a dirt road to a small parking area…

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The dirt road.

Walk about a half a mile along a path through the woods…

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Fungus.

Each day seemed to bring an even greater variety of shapes, sizes and colours of fungi. This day in particular seemed to yield some very bright specimens in reds and yellows, but once again many of my photos are blurred.

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Weird looking fungus.
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Big fungus.

When we reached the lake a very faint path turned along the shore to the left.

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Rickety ladder.

Although we didn’t see any other people whilst we were out, we did see this ladder as evidence that other people do come here. We were a bit puzzled by it as the water around the boulder seemed a bit shallow to jump in to.

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The Rock Pond rocks challenge.

Prof A had challenged the DBs to get out to the farthest boulder without getting wet, which proved to be impossible since some of the stepping stones in between were submerged.

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Rock Pond.

The pond is well named since it is surrounded by large boulders, with a lot more boulders in the water too. It was an idyllic spot, which, as I say, we had completely to ourselves. Amazing. B and I had a swim to the prominent boulders which you can perhaps make out in the photos above on the left-hand side. TBH and S chose to sunbathe instead.

And that should be where the story ends, except….

As we walked back, B and I waited just after we had turned away from the water, to see if TBH and S would attempt to take the non-existent path straight ahead along the lakeside. They did. I should have taken that as a warning.

For some reason, TBH lingered as we walked back and the DBs and I arrived back at the car without her. We waited. We waited some more. And then I went into full-on panic mode and ran back along the path shouting every few yards. When I say ran, I mean jogged obviously. As fast as I could manage, which is to say just a bit quicker than the boys who followed me at a walk. Nothing. Neither sight nor sound of TBH. Somehow she had managed to wander off the path. Fortunately, as we made our way back she heard us and disaster was averted. Phew!

Anyway, Rock Pond is a stunning spot for a swim and I hope I shall go back there some day. Next time however, I shall make a trail of breadcrumbs.

Rock Pond

Party Boat on the Saranac Lakes.

Adirondacks Day 7

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Our home for the day.

For our relatives a summer trip to the Adirondacks is as regular a summer fixture as our own visits to the Llyn Peninsula are for us. One tradition they’ve established is to rent a Pontoon, or Party, Boat and to spend a day on the Saranac Lakes.

Saranac Lakes Map.

This map gives some idea of the complexity of the Saranac chain of lakes. I liked this hand drawn one, because it picks out the Saranac 6. Incidentally, the body of water south of Ampersand Mountain is Ampersand Lake, which allegedly resembles an ampersand sign and hence gives its name to all of the many ‘ampersand’ features in the area.

To be honest, I’m a bit sketchy about our itinerary for the day, but I think we started at the marina on Lower Saranac Lake, travelled through First and Second Ponds and the lock on the Saranac River into Oseetah Lake, briefly into Lake Flower, retracing our route then into Middle Saranac Lake, via another lock, for lunch at Ampersand Beach. I’m not sure whether we ventured into Upper Saranac Lake or not. I do know that we stopped off at several islands for a bit of swimming and leaping into the water.

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Captain A at the helm.

Don’t let the blue skies fool you, there was a strong wind blowing and for the first time on our trip it was really quite cool.

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B takes the wheel.

It was great fun steering the boat and I think we all took a turn. It was safest when I was driving, not due to any nautical prowess on my part, but because that meant I wasn’t blundering about elsewhere on the boat. A couple of times I stood too close to the front, which over-balanced the boat, plunging the front under the water and leaving us all ankle deep. The boat seemed to handle that indignity with ease, but it was a bit alarming.

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‘Little’ S takes charge.

I didn’t take any photos of the locks sadly, each of which we had to go through twice, partly because I was steering on some of those occasions and partly because it was ‘all-hands-on-deck’ when we went through to ensure we didn’t bang into the locks, the lock walls or any other boats.

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W steering.

Given that the boat was essentially a very well-appointed raft, it was surprisingly nippy, although not when I was steering.

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Bluff Island (on the right).

The boys had been hearing all about Bluff Island, and potential feats of derring-do, ever since we booked our flights, but initially we took a look and promised them that we would come back later.

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Mist rising off the water – en route to First Pond.

Mist was rising off the Saranac River in a very atmospheric way, my photos don’t really do it justice.

A Bald Eagle flew along the channel ahead of us. It is in the photo below, but it’s so tiny you can’t really see it.

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Bald Eagle – honest!
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In a channel.
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Mind those buoys.

All of the channels, and some parts of the lakes too, are marked out with regular buoys to show where the water is deep enough. Never-the-less, some sections were very shallow, and that, combined with submerged rocks in places, meant some real caution was required at times.

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A view to Ampersand Mountain?

The boat had a fishing sonar and we had rods with us but I can’t recall anyone actually catching any fish at any point. Fishing was a regular activity during our trip. The boys did occasionally catch something, but not often. Their success rate was probably roughly on a par with Whitehouse and Mortimer, who seem to catch a solitary fish every episode.

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Lakeside Properties.

There were lots of amazing lakeside properties and speculating on how much they might cost became a keen topic of our conversation.

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Living on an island – oh boy we’re having fun.

Some of the properties were on their won private islands. In the photo above what you can see is the boathouse, the house itself is behind in the trees. The people sat outside in the sun on the patio looked very relaxed.

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Captain A’s dream home?

I remember that my brother-in-law was very taken with this rather trim looking island property.

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Lake views.
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Benches – very comfortable unless Mischief decided to share.

The boat was very comfortable. In the early part of the day lying down on a bench meant you were out of the wind, a definite bonus.

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More islands.

After we’d had lunch we came back to this island. There were people picnicking there so we anchored next to one of the adjacent islands and me and the boys swam to have an explore. The island had a couple of campgrounds – they seem to be dotted all over the area. They each have a fire-pit and a toilet and can be rented out.

The picnickers moved on, so we then swam to the rocky little island and I think the boys found some spots for jumping in.

Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself, before we did all that, we landed at Ampersand Beach for lunch. The water is very shallow there and Captain A kicked the DBs overboard to tow the boat ashore…he may have been a pirate Captain in a previous existence.

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Towing the boat through the shallows to Ampersand beach.
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Ampersand beach and Ampersand Mountain?

In some ways this photo is one of several which neatly encapsulate our visit to the Adirondacks: stunning scenery, beautiful beach, nobody about.

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Beached.
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More Lake Views.
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And more.

We’d promised the boys a trip to Bluff Island and we made good on our promise, despite some misgivings. The next two photos are actually videos, if you click on them you’ll be able to watch them on flickr.

First, W and M jumping from a great height…

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The mega leap.

And then the DBs leaping from far too high…

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The mega-mega leap.

This seems to be a very well known spot, but not a challenge many take on. The DBs gathered a bit of an audience of other boatloads when they jumped.

After doing this jump a couple of times each, the DBs declared themselves satisfied. We motored a short distance to a spot with some rather more sedate opportunities for jumping in, tame enough that even I gave it a go.

We had a deadline for returning the boat, and all the other rentals must have been working to the same timings because as we headed into the marina there was a bit of a race to get in and secure a berth.

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Heading back to the marina.

An absolutely fantastic day which will live long in the memory.

Party Boat on the Saranac Lakes.

Big Crow and Little Crow Mountains

Adirondacks Day 5 Part 2

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B enjoying the views.

Time for an afternoon stroll.

“While steep in spots, this short hike to the summit of Big Crow offers one of the Adirondacks‘ best views for the least effort.”

This from the Lake Placid tourist website. I’m always keen for a Small Hill with Disproportionately Good Views. Having said that, at 857 metres, Big Crow probably wouldn’t count as small in the UK, but the point is that the car park, Crow Clearing, is at 670m so the ascent is not huge. On the drive up to Crow Clearing I started to lose faith in our phone navigation app when the surfaced road gave way to a dirt track, but I needn’t have worried, we were in the right spot.

The woods here seemed to be particularly well stocked with fungi of a wide variety of shapes and colours, but once again my photos were not very successful.

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Odd looking fungi – seemed to be a Big Crow speciality.
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Leaf miner patterns?

Leaf miners are the larval stage of various insects which live inside, and eat, leaves. The patterns are very common, but I don’t recall seeing any as aesthetically pleasing as these before.

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Steep in spots.
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A flowering shrub.
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Hurricane Mountain (dead centre). Giant to the right (I think) and…?

The views will have to speak for themselves. They really were superb, with ranks of high hills all around. Cascade and Pitchoff are relatively nearby so I ought to be able to pick those out, you’d think, but I can’t.

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Hills, hills…
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…and more hills.
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Pano.

Not only were there hills in every direction, but woods too stretching as far as the eye could see.

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The hill in the foreground here is Little Crow Mountain.
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Having a rest.
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Hurricane and Giant.

Hurricane Mountain was the closest hill, with a route also starting from Crow Clearing (a much longer route admittedly). Back at the house, Prof A had a book of walks in the Adirondacks which I had a very thorough peruse of. The author listed her top ten walks in the area, and the ascent of Hurricane Mountain was one of those. So one for next time.

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Hurricane Mountain pano.
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‘Little’ S and TBH.

TBH and Prof S took Coco the dog and turned back for the cars, whilst the rest of us took a different route down, over Little Crow Mountain.

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Descending towards Little Crow Mountain.

It was steep. Very steep in places.

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Little Crow pano.
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Looking back to Big Crow Mountain.
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Leaving Little Crow.

If I remember correctly, there was no view at all from the summit of Little Crow Mountain, but on the way down we had more views again, due to the rocky ledges we crossed.

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Gathering clouds.

Many of my photos from our stay in the Adirondacks show quite cloudy skies. I suppose we did have some mixed weather, but generally the weather didn’t really impinge on our activities. But this time it was evident that rain was imminent.

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‘Little’ S photographing the clouds. They were much more dramatic than my photos suggest.

We did eventually get caught by the rain, but under the trees it wasn’t as bad as it might have been, and the heavens didn’t really open until just as we emerged on to the road, where TBH and Prof S were waiting for us in the cars.

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Clouds clearing.

They took us to the home of Prof A’s aunt, who lives nearby on a hillside above the village of Keene. This is the view from the balcony as the rain clouds cleared and the sun was setting.

Big Crow and Little Crow Mountains

Hanging Around I

Adirondacks Day 5 Part 1

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The House.

Every holiday needs a bit of down time, a chance to relax and do nothing much. It’s a forte of mine. One morning, the rest of the party upped-sticks and headed out to do…..something energetic no doubt. I opted to stay at the ranch and read my book. I’d been reading ‘Freedom’ by Jonathon Franzen, but I think by now I had switched to ‘Anathem’ by Neal Stephenson, which was equally brilliant and enjoyable but in a completely different way. Like the other books of his I’ve read, it was very thought provoking, but at the same time a ripping-yarn. Anyway, I was intending to read my book, but I was distracted by a flock of Bluejays which were flitting about in the trees surrounding the property and occasionally venturing onto the lawns. I have several very odd photographs of patches of lawn, a wheelbarrow, trees etc which if you stare hard enough reveal a small, distant patch of blue which, with imagination, might just about be a bird.

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Japanese Beetles.

There was always something to see around the house. The Japanese beetles were always about. Likewise damselflies and dragonflies. There were a large variety of toadstools…

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Fungi.

…both on the lawns and beneath the trees. Squirrels could be heard chattering in the trees most of the time, and we occasionally saw them; diminutive, red squirrels which seemed to be permanently angry about something or other. There were deer about too, although they were quite elusive in the trees. One memorable, moonlit night we heard a cacophony of coyotes howling. It’s probably a cliche to say that the sound was eerie, but…well, it was eerie.

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Harvestman.

Harvestmen were ubiquitous, particularly on the garage doors for some reason. Butterflies would occasionally flutter by, but I very rarely managed to catch up with them. This was a rare exception…

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A Fritillary.

It’s obviously a fritillary, but which kind? I thought a quick bit of internet research would help, although given how difficult I’ve generally found fritillaries to identify in the past, I’m not sure why I thought that. It turns out that in the Adirondacks there are three fritillaries – the Aphrodite Fritillary, the Great Spangled Fritillary and the Atlantis Fritillary which are very difficult to distinguish between. I think this was one of those.

When the others got back from whatever they’d been up to, TBH was keen to take the dog for a short walk along the track.

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Stony Creek Pond.

Prof A had already warned us that the track over the bridge was private, and in case we weren’t sure roughly every two yards, on both sides of the track, there were lengthy notices pinned to trees warning of the dire consequences of trespassing. However, TBH wanted to see the view from the bridge and once she has an idea in her head there’s not much which will deflect her. She assured me that injunctions on the signs were, improbably, against leaving the track and entering the trees. So we went to look at the view from the bridge. The top photos shows the channel linking the different parts of the pond. On satellite images it looks like a narrower stretch of the pond, but when we paddled through it, perhaps because of the vegetation growing in the water and the obvious flow, it felt more like a river or stream joining two separate ponds.

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Stony Creek Pond. Looking North.

At the back of the pond here you can see the island we had paddled beyond, and which B and I had swum to.

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Another butterfly patient enough to be photographed from very close range. Eyed Brown?
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B and M taking the canoe for a spin.
Hanging Around I

Pitchoff Mountain and Balanced Rocks

Adirondacks Day 4

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The steep initial start to the trail.

The rest of the party were heading for a tree-top swinging, zip-line soaring adventure, not really my scene, so, having listened to a few recommendations, I opted for this shortish route. TBH and I had driven through the pass where I needed to park on our way back from Massachusetts the night before, so I was well aware of the many set of roadworks on the route, but parking was at a premium and, having failed to find a spot, I still managed to get into those roadworks and then had to drive through three sets of lights before I found a lay-by where I could pull-off and turn around and come back through all three sets again. When I did eventually manage to pull-off the road and park I was very close to the trailhead. Unfortunately, I didn’t know that and walked a long way back along the road, in the wrong direction, looking for the path. Still, I eventually got started, into the deep shade of the woods.

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False Solomon’s-seal.

My friend the EWO, once told me, decades ago, that he didn’t like walking in woods because of the absence of views. He may well have revised his opinion by now. Anyway, I suppose the lack of views made me focus even more than I usually would on the plants and fungi growing under the canopy. I was struck, for instance, by how much this plant resembled our own Solomon’s-seal. Obviously, I’m not the first to have noticed.

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False Solomon’s-seal.
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Fungi.
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Fungus-mungous.
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Chipmunk.

I think I saw about five Chipmunks during this walk. It was a bit of a fool’s errand attempting to photograph them with my phone, but that didn’t stop me trying.

Obviously vistas of any kind were a bit of a rarity, but at one point the path was close to a steep drop and the views opened up.

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Cascade Mountain.

Perhaps because views were far and few between, when they did come I relished them all the more. I took a lot of photographs of Cascade Mountain that day. It’s apparently regarded as the easiest of The 46 – the mountains in the Adirondacks of over 4000′. Of which there are, you’ve guessed it, twenty-seven. Just joshing – there are forty-six of course. Ticking-off the 46 is just as much an Adirondack preoccupation as Munro-bagging is in Scotland.

Something about this ‘wasp’ made me suspect that what I was seeing was actually a moth, a wasp mimic.

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Raspberry Crown Borer Moth.

I now believe that it’s a Raspberry Crown Borer Moth, a clearwing moth whose larvae bore into the stems of brambles and raspberry plants, causing a lot of damage to fruit-crops apparently.

Parts of the climb were very steep, with one short section bordering on scrambling, on very loose ground where the best hand and footholds were exposed tree-roots. Eventually however, I reached the broad ridge and turned right – which took me downhill and onto an open rocky area with sudden expansive views.

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Cascade Mountain.
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Cascade Mountain pano.

Continuing down the rocky ridge a little way brought me to Balanced Rocks…

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Balanced Rocks.

I’m not sure if they look it here, but these were pretty big boulders. The views were superb and, initially at least, there was nobody else about. I briefly chased a Monarch butterfly again, and some large grasshoppers, and a pair of chipmunks, in each case without any photos to show for it, before settling down to eat some lunch and enjoy the views.

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Round Lake and the Mount Van Hoevenberg Olympic Bobsled Run.

Somewhere over that way is the small town of Lake Placid where the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympic Games were held.

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Balanced Rocks pano. Cascade Mountain on the right and…lots of other mountains!
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Another pano.
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And another – Cascade on the left Pitchoff on the right.
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Pitchoff Mountain. You can see the steep drop at the edge of the rocks here.

I followed a large dragonfly along this edge, trying to get a photo whilst, at the same time, trying not to lose sight of the drop and fall off.

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Balanced Rocks.
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Round Lake – the open areas are the summer camp which our nephews attend.

Eventually I had company, an all male group (my guess, two brothers and their sons) whom I had passed on the steep approach to the ridge. Here they are on the boulders…

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Balanced Rocks with figures for scale.

It was nice to talk briefly to them. They were blown away by the views, whooping and hollering in a very American way, and their enthusiasm was infectious. I took some group photos for them and then dragged myself away and turned back up the ridge.

I still hadn’t decided whether I would return directly to the car, or continue up the ridge to the top, but when I reached the path junction, I didn’t have to deliberate for long – I wanted to continue up the ridge to the top.

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Toadstool and slug.

Immediately, the path was narrower and evidently less well-used.

The other very obvious difference was the presence of lots of clumps of…

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Indian Pipe.

It was very common along the ridge. Like Toothwort, which pops up in the woods at home in the spring, this is a parasitic plant which has no chlorophyl, hence the completely white stems, flowers etc.

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Liverworts?
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Another toadstool.

The summit of Pitchoff Mountain has no views at all, being crowded by trees. But a very faint path continues along the ridge to another, lower top, so I followed that to try my luck.

This top had a rocky edge, giving clear views in one direction only – you guessed it, toward Cascade Mountain again…

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Cascade Mountain from the Pitchoff Ridge – Pitchoff summit on the right.

Now, it was just a case of retracing my steps back to the road. I was surprised by how tired I felt. When I reached the place on the descent where views opened out to Cascade, I seem to have found a better spot to take a photo. I think I was a bit less circumspect about the exposed drop.

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Cascade Mountain and Upper and Lower Cascade Lakes.

It had been a really superb day, but it didn’t end there. I’d arranged to meet up with the others in the town of Saranac Lake which, of course, sits on the shore of….Flower Lake! (Which, to be fair, is connected by waterway to the complex of Lakes which include Upper, Middle and Lower Saranac Lakes – of which more to follow.)

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Flower Lake, Lake Saranac.

We were there to get pizza. Do a bit of fishing…

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B fishing.

Have a wander around the town (well TBH and I did anyway).

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Dragonfly sculpture.
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Monarch butterfly sculpture.

And enjoy a free concert. I think the band said they were Puerto Rican, so I guess the music was Puerto Rican too. Wherever it originated, it was very good.

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Free music.

The concert was the last in a series of free summer concerts in the town. It was one facet of the very favourable impression of Lake Saranac I came away with.

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Lake Saranac sunset.

The town even has its own bagging challenge, to climb six local mountains: Ampersand, Baker, Haystack, McKenzie, Scarface and St. Regis. For hardy souls there’s a winter version of the challenge too, which I presume would have to be done in snow-shoes. Apparently, the winters are hard here; the lakes and ponds all freeze over and the ski-doo becomes the practical mode of transport.

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Flower Lake moonrise.

Anyway, the Lake Saranac Six sounds like a more manageable target than The 46 and I’d love to come back and climb them all. (Spoiler alert, we did climb one of them – more to follow!)

Pitchoff Mountain and Balanced Rocks