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.
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.
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).
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.
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!
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…
Walk about a half a mile along a path through the woods…
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.
When we reached the lake a very faint path turned along the shore to the left.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Given that the boat was essentially a very well-appointed raft, it was surprisingly nippy, although not when I was steering.
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.
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.
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.
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.
There were lots of amazing lakeside properties and speculating on how much they might cost became a keen topic of our conversation.
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.
I remember that my brother-in-law was very taken with this rather trim looking island property.
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.
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.
In some ways this photo is one of several which neatly encapsulate our visit to the Adirondacks: stunning scenery, beautiful beach, nobody about.
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…
And then the DBs leaping from far too high…
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.
An absolutely fantastic day which will live long in the memory.
“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.
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.
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.
Not only were there hills in every direction, but woods too stretching as far as the eye could see.
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.
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.
It was steep. Very steep in places.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
…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.
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…
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.
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.
At the back of the pond here you can see the island we had paddled beyond, and which B and I had swum to.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Continuing down the rocky ridge a little way brought me to 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.
Somewhere over that way is the small town of Lake Placid where the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympic Games were held.
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.
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…
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.
Immediately, the path was narrower and evidently less well-used.
The other very obvious difference was the presence of lots of clumps of…
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.
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…
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.
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.)
We were there to get pizza. Do a bit of fishing…
Have a wander around the town (well TBH and I did anyway).
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.
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.
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.
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!)
Here’s B taking his turn with Prof A’s latest toy – a BB gun. Many coke cans were injured in the making of this post. I avoided joining in until pressed, and then, inevitably, was absolutely rubbish. Still, I’ve never felt threatened by coke cans, so I’m not too worried by my repeated failure to shoot one from very short range.
We fancied a short outing; Prof A suggested Panther Mountain, which was both nearby and a suitably easy stroll.
The roadside verges were resplendent with flowers. I think that these might be Chicory, which came to America with European settlers. Apparently, each flower is actually an inflorescence – a grouping of flowers, and each ostensible petal is in fact five fused petals and a flower in its own right.
The woods, wherever we went, were full of toadstools of various sizes and hues and I took no end of photos. Sadly, most of them came out rather blurred, I’m not sure why, perhaps due to the deep shade under the trees?
It didn’t take long to get to the top, from where there were partial views. Looking at the map now, I can see that Panther Mountain sits by Upper Lake Saranac, but we couldn’t see that at all.
As you can see it was quite cloudy. We were below the cloud because Panther Mountain is of modest height, about 2200 feet, which makes the climb roughly equivalent to climbing Arnside Knott, given the height of the surrounding countryside. Perfect for a short morning walk.
There was a Monarch butterfly flapping about, I think the first I’ve ever seen. I chased after it with my phone, with no success. Not to worry, I did come across…
…these Fox and Cubs, which have made the opposite journey from the Chicory and pop up in our garden. I was perhaps disproportionately pleased to find them in in their home environment.
Some things don’t change: whilst I was pursuing a butterfly, the DBs and their cousins found a boulder to take it in turns to scale…
The boys were persuaded to play hide and seek with their cousins. Meanwhile, my butterfly hunting had brought me down hill to a rocky edge from where I could just about see Panther Pond below…
And an expanse of misty woods and hills…
Prof A was very good at naming the hills we could see from the hilltops we visited, but without written notes I have no hope of remembering what he told me.
Another thing which doesn’t change is B’s observational skills.
“Have you seen the weird dragonfly on this bush?” he asked me.
I felt reasonably confident that this was more likely to be a wasp than a dragonfly; I was put in mind of the Sabre Wasp I once spotted near Leighton Moss. And so it turns out: this is a female American Pelecinid Wasp. She uses that long abdomen to deposit eggs on grubs living underground. A single egg on each larvae. Her offspring, when they hatch, burrow into the unfortunate grubs and eat them from within.
I suspect that this is Dog Vomit Slime Mold, or Scrambled Egg Slime. I’ve seen this near home too. Apparently it has an almost worldwide distribution. Like other slime molds it can move in search of nutrients.
After our walk, and a bit of lunch, we had a little time before we had to take A back to West Stockbridge. Down to the pond obviously.
M doesn’t stand for mischievous, but it easily could; he was always keen to deposit the others boys in the water at every opportunity.
TBH and I kept our distance from the high jinx in a canoe.
During our stay the boys came up with various challenges to try. Here S is attempting to back somersault into the water. Or back flip? I’m not sure which.
This handsome frog was sheltering under the paddle boards by the shore of the pond the next morning. I thought it might be an American Bullfrog, but they’re huge, up to 8 inches I’ve read. I think this is the very similar, but smaller, Green Frog. The dorsolateral ridges running from the head down the sides of the torso are a distinguishing feature apparently.
I think that this is a male, because the ear – the tympanic membrane – is larger than the gorgeous golden eye.
TBH and I needed another shortish outing because of our plans for the afternoon.
So we took to the water again.
Here’s the pond…
We were staying on the north side of the southern most bulb – we canoed northwards, past a beaver lodge, under the bridge, which required a bit of care, up beyond the little island almost to the northern extremity of the pond.
We were heading for this little beach. The lake bed here was firm and sandy – perfect for swimming. By the boathouse the lake has a deep layer of very soft silt, which makes getting out for a swim a bit awkward, without a paddle board.
The trees to W’s right are growing on the small island, where there was a Bald Eagle nest. Prof A challenged us to swim to the island and, I think, was a bit surprised when B and I accepted the challenge. It wasn’t all that far, maybe a 500m round trip, at a guess. The island is private, so we didn’t quite go the whole way. We didn’t see any eagles, but we had a good view of the nest.
Once back, I had a bit of a wander. Close by there was a picnic table and a fire-pit – I think this was one of the campgrounds which seem to be scattered around the area – they can be rented at relatively low cost I believe.
There were dragonflies and damselflies of various sizes and colours about. I took numerous blurred photos of a mating pair of damselflies, the male was a lovely combination of royal blue and mauve. I failed too with an orange dragonfly and an electric blue damselfly similar to those I see close to home.
I chased this dragonfly along the edge of the lake, but at least I got some relatively sharp shots. I’m reasonably confident with my identification, although online descriptions say that the markings on the body are ‘orange triangles’, whereas to me they look like red hearts.
Which reminds me of a blogger I once knew who found heart-shapes everywhere.
I was fascinated too by the plants and fungi under the trees. Although they were all unfamiliar, I was trying to figure out their place in the ecosystem by analogy with the things I see around home. For example…
This plant with its single layer of large leaves and what must have been a single central flower put me in mind of our own Herb Paris.
Time was marching on, and I turned to go back along the fringe of the lake to the boats when I was startled by this monster…
In retrospect, it perhaps wasn’t quite as big as it seemed, but it was still, by some distance, the biggest spider I’ve seen in the wild. Feisty too: it kept waving two of its legs at me in a very aggressive fashion, or, at least, it seemed that way.
I think it’s a Striped Fishing Spider, Dolomedes Scriptus. There’s a very similar species, the Dark Fishing Spider, Dolomedes Tenebrosus, but although this spider looks dark, I think that may be more to do with the fact that it was in the shade.
Fishing Spiders don’t use a nest for hunting, but the female carries her eggs around in a silken sac before building a nest for her brood when they hatch. That probably explains the aggression. This nest was pretty big. They are also one of the species of spider which practice sexual cannibalism, with the female devouring the male after mating.
I gather that, as the name suggests, Fishing Spiders can hunt in or under the water, eating tadpoles, small fish and insects which live in the water or on the surface. They also hunt in the woods surrounding the lake however.
Talking of hunting…
…this damselfly has fallen prey to this fly, which is not too dissimilar from the one in my previous post. During the damselfly’s death throes the pair of them landed on my hat.
The reason we needed a short outing, was that TBH and I had a long drive in prospect. Our daughter A was also in the States, working as a Camp Counsellor at a Summer Camp in West Stockbridge, Massachusetts. A was keen to see her uncle, aunt and cousins whilst she was stateside. She could get a 24 hour pass and somehow TBH had convinced herself that West Stockbridge was about an hour-and-half’s drive from where we were staying. When we looked it up again, our app was giving three-and-a-half hours. Each way. And that was before the many wrong turns we took. It was a long day.
This was the only photo I took in West Stockbridge. The following day, when we had to repeat the long journey to take A back, TBH and I had a wander around the wonderful Turnpark sculpture park, which was closed, but not locked-up. It was fantastic and I really should have taken lots of photos. Next time!
Whilst we were shouting at the satnav, Prof A took the boys bouldering. Or perhaps that was the next day, maybe they were shopping for a new toy. Or playing with that toy?
After a longs day’s driving, and with more mammoth drives in prospect, we were after a chilled day of catching up and getting in some swimming. It was cooler than it had been in New York, but still plenty warm enough.
We took a canoe, a kayak and a small flotilla of paddle boards across the pond from the north side and into the stream which heads off to the south-east – to be honest I can’t remember whether it was flowing into or out of the pond.
Prof A thought that the dam had probably been destroyed by canoeists who wanted to get their boats through.
Our nephews were keen to show their cousins this local venue for a bit of jumping in.
Although the area around us was heavily vegetated, I had the impression that it was probably pretty wet.
The canoe here was mine and TBH’s favoured mode of transport. I loved paddling it. Very restful. During our stay I tried to perfect my J-stroke, but without much success.
I found what I think was another Fowler’s Toad near to the house.
As you might imagine, with lots of trees and water, this is a great environment for the kind of nasty critters which like to bite. I gather that they can make early summer pretty unbearable. We wore lots of repellent, and still got bitten, but it wasn’t as bad as I had thought it might be.
These beetles were plentiful on the plants growing on the fringes of the lawn around the house. By coincidence, I’ve been reading about them since I came back from the US:
“Japanese beetle, a rather attractive copper and emerald-green scarab beetle…spend most of the year as grubs underground eating grass roots. The adults live for just a few weeks but nibble the leaves and petals of many ornamental plants, and also have a particular taste for vine leaves.”
‘The Garden Jungle’ Dave Goulson
The latter appetite has led to authorities in California organising a mass eradication programme where homeowners can see their gardens regularly and forcibly sprayed with a cocktail of pesticides. Apparently, one of the pesticides used has a half-life, in the soil, of up to 924 days, so that with annual applications the pesticide will accumulate in gardens. Nature has no chance.
Later, we took a short drive to have a swim at Ampersand Beach….
This was a spot we visited several times. It was great for a swim, although the lake bed shelved very shallowly so that you had to wade a long, long way out to get to the point where the water was deep enough. Ampersand Beach is on Middle Saranac Lake. More about the Saranac lakes in a later post.
You may have noticed that the map above shows an Ampersand Brook (of which more later), there’s also an Ampersand Mountain locally (of which more later), and an Ampersand Lake, which allegedly looks like the ampersand symbol, but which has no public access, so we didn’t visit that.
Even later still, this large toad was sat on the stone step by the back door of the house. It has a pale dorsal line, which I think makes it an American toad, although, if it was, I think it was a relatively large specimen.
After a long journey by tube to collect a car from the airport, and then, frustratingly, driving back through New York to queue for a long time to get across George Washington bridge and, briefly, into New Jersey, we had a lengthy drive to get to Stony Creek Pond in the Adirondacks.
We drove past signs pointing the way to the Adirondack Visitor Centre hours before we arrived at our destination. I started to get really excited when we drove through the small town of Long Lake where there was a proper old wooden store with a large wooden bear standing outside. The road signs warning of Elk crossing also had my imagination running wild, not that we were to see any Elk. New York State, it turns out, is vast and the Adirondack State Park covers one third of that area. Stony Creek Ponds (there are several linked bodies of water and they looked like lakes to me) are between the towns of Tupper Lake and Saranac Lake. If you’re getting the impression that the region has a lot of lakes, then you are absolutely correct. Lakes, woods and mountains, stretching as far as the eye can see.
We were there for a few days, and barely scratched the surface of even the immediate vicinity, but even on that brief acquaintance I know that I’ve found my new favourite place.
We were staying with TBH’s brother and his family, in a house which belongs to my sister-in-law’s family. It’s thanks to their enormous generosity that we could manage this trip at all.
The wooden house was built in the 1930s and is simple but beautiful inside, the only fly in the ointment being the well water, which is full of iron and has a very metallic taste. Since there were always cool beers to sup instead I never found this too much of a hardship!
We had great company, a lovely view, the ‘pond’ to swim in, canoes and paddle boards down in the boathouse. We filled our days messing about in boats, swimming, and climbing hills. What more could you want? More to follow.