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.
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Ampersand Brook and the Raquette River

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.

Panther Mountain

Adirondacks Day 3

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Don’t shoot till you see the whites of their eyes.

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.

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Harvestman – an arachnid, but not a spider. They shed legs to escape predators which is presumably why this one is missing one of its very long limbs.

We fancied a short outing; Prof A suggested Panther Mountain, which was both nearby and a suitably easy stroll.

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Setting out.
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Just 0.6 miles!
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Chicory?

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.

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Woodland fungi.

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?

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The summit of Panther Mountain.

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.

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Partial views.

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…

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Fox and Cubs.

…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…

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King of the Castle.

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…

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Panther Pond.

And an expanse of misty woods and hills…

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Adirondack woods.

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.

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More fungi.

Another thing which doesn’t change is B’s observational skills.

“Have you seen the weird dragonfly on this bush?” he asked me.

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American Pelecinid Wasp.

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.

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Descending.
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Scrambled egg slime?

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.

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B and M sharing a board again.

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.

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A swimming away from the chaos.

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.

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S somersaulting. It’s a video: if you click on it, you can find out how successful he was on flickr. (You’ll also hear me lying through my teeth, most unusual.)
Panther Mountain

Exploring Stony Creek Pond

Adirondacks Day 2

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Green Frog

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.

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Green Frog.

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.

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B and M share a paddle board.

So we took to the water again.

Here’s the pond…

Stony Creek 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.

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Little S taking it easy.
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Prof A.
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Our destination – a tiny beach.

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.

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W arriving.

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.

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Calico Pennant Dragonfly.

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.

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Calico Pennant Dragonfly.

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…

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Berry.

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…

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A Fishing Spider.

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.

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A nursery net spider. Notice all of the ghostly baby spiders in the nest.

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.

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A beady eye.

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…

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A damselfly becomes a meal.

…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.

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West Stockbridge Shaker Mill.

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?

Exploring Stony Creek Pond

Swimming Expeditions

Adirondacks Day 1

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What you got there B?

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.

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A snake skin!

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.

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Stony Creek Pond.
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Entering the stream.
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A former Beaver dam.

Prof A thought that the dam had probably been destroyed by canoeists who wanted to get their boats through.

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‘The rock’.

Our nephews were keen to show their cousins this local venue for a bit of jumping in.

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You first B.
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Now you W.
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Little S demonstrating good form with his pike.
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Last, but not least, M’s turn.
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Fowler’s Toad?

Although the area around us was heavily vegetated, I had the impression that it was probably pretty wet.

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Setting off back for lunch.

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.

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Water lilies on the pond. You can see the boathouse on the left. The house is hidden in the trees. The house you can see is one of the neighbours.

When we got back, I spent some time traipsing around with my phone taking lots and lots of mostly unsuccessful photos of toadstools, pine cones, damselflies, dragonflies etc.

I found what I think was another Fowler’s Toad near to the house.

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Unidentified insect – I think there might be a lot of those amongst my photos.

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.

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Japanese beetles.

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.

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Japanese beetles.
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Japanese beetle.

Later, we took a short drive to have a swim at Ampersand Beach….

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Ampersand beach pano.

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.

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American Toad

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.

Swimming Expeditions

Stony Creek Pond

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Our home for the next few days.

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.

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One of the Stony Creek Ponds.

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.

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The Boathouse.

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.

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The Boathouse from the water. Also the DBs and their cousins messing about.

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!

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The boys on the water, from the Boathouse.

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.

Stony Creek Pond

Sweet Bird of Truth

Or New York Day 2, part 2.

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USS Intrepid pano.

Hard-by where our boat trip docked at Pier 83, is the Intrepid Air, Sea and Space Museum at Pier 86. It’s another of the attractions available on the City Pass, and it made sense to combine a visit with our boat trip.

We had a pre-booked entry time, so we’d allowed ourselves some time to return to Hell’s Kitchen for a quesadilla lunch (very nice); passing people cooling off in a fountain on route (it was very hot)…

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Playing in the fountain.

And also spotting this advertising board, which I appreciated…

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Safe, secure, protected, with minimal charges. Just like Prince Andrew.” Does that count as heckling? I’ll probably get charged with a breach of the peace now.

The museum is housed on the decks of USS Intrepid, a former aircraft carrier. How do I feel about a museum stuffed full of military hardware? Well, this is not something I generally admit to, but as a kid I was obsessed, for quite a long time, with an ambition to enlist in the army. I loved all things military and would have adored a museum brimful of war-mongering gear. Fortunately, of course, I eventually realised that being short-sighted, asthmatic, overweight, over-opinionated, cowardly and bolshie, in both senses, I would make a woeful soldier. But some of my youthful interest remains and I’m not averse to some sleek de-commissioned jets, choppers, subs etc.

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All hands on deck.

Sadly, unlike the rest of the family, whilst I liked looking at all the exhibits, and took loads of photos, I didn’t pay much attention to the accompanying information boards, so I’ve very little idea what the various bits of kit in the photos actually are.

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Urgent warning plane?
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Spotted Laternfly.

This on the other hand, is a Spotted Laternfly, a species which is native to China, but which has been spreading and has now arrived in the US, including New York. Apparently, it’s a bit of a nuisance. Nice to look at though, with very striking bright red underwings.

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On the bridge.
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Planes and choppers.
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MiG planes.

I was quite surprised to see these two Russian built MiG planes in the museum, the like of which, I think I’m right in saying, were used against the US in the Korean War.

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Space Shuttle Enterprise.

The most eagerly awaited exhibit, as far as I was concerned, was the Space Shuttle Enterprise, which is housed in a large structure on the Intrepid’s flight deck. Years ago, TBH and I visited the Kennedy Space Centre at Cape Canaveral in Florida, so I’ve seen a shuttle before, but I was still thrilled. The rest of the exhibition with all sorts of related artefacts, models and information was very absorbing.

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Concorde.

I never flew on Concorde, but I did once sit in the pilot’s seat during a visit to British Airways maintenance facility at Heathrow. That’s a completely different story, but if you know someone who can pull the right strings and arrange a visit, it’s an amazing experience.

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M*A*S*H.

There was a large area of hands-on exhibits and the boys were in their element – they were keen to try, sit-in or on everything, so we were there for a while. We even played draughts in a mocked-up submarine mess room.

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Space Cadets.
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You press the green thingummy, I’ll twiddle this knob.

We ended our visit with a tour of the former Nuclear submarine USS Growler.

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USS Growler.

As expected, it was highly claustrophobic. I believe the crews could be away for months at a time, and submerged for several consecutive days. It must have been hard.

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USS Growler interior pano.

All very fascinating, and our day wasn’t done yet.

Oh, and the title? It’s a song by The The, the only song I could think of that is unequivocally about flying a military plane, although I’ve often thought that R.E.M’s ‘Orange Crush’ might arguably also be on that theme.

Sweet Bird of Truth

Feeling Groovy

Or: New York Day 2, part 1.

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America’s Favorite (sic) Boat Ride.

Our second morning, clear, bright and very hot. We’d walked through Hell’s Kitchen to get to Pier 83 on the Hudson River for the Circle Line cruise. This was another of the attractions available through our City Pass. I don’t think the boat in the picture is the one we travelled on, but it’s certainly very similar. We’d been told to arrive promptly for 10 o’clock, or risk missing the boat, but once on board, having elected to sit on the open top deck, found ourselves with a substantial wait whilst fully exposed to the hot sun. We’d also managed to leave the hotel with out any sun block, but fortunately a French couple in the seats in front of us let us have some of theirs, otherwise this might have been a much less happy experience.

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Manhattan Skyscrapers – with the Empire State Building in the distance.

The cruise goes down the Hudson to the Statue of Liberty, then ‘up’ the East River (you can’t go ‘up’ the East River, because it’s not a river, but a stretch of saltwater connecting Upper New York Bay to Long Island Sound), then through the Harlem River (another tidal straight, also partly a ship canal) back to the Hudson. It’s a fair old trip, taking, I think, about two and a half hours.

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While everybody else was admiring the Manhattan skyline, I liked the look of this barge. I think that’s Hoboken behind.

We had a very informative commentary from a native New Yorker and radio host, whose name escapes me. It was highly enjoyable, not least because it was full of the sort of Manhattan (or American?) hyperbole which labels this America’s Favorite (sic) Boat Ride. Really, aren’t there probably a number of contenders for that title? Anyway, everything was biggest, fastest, shiniest, tastiest etc, which I found very amusing. Except, of course, that Manhattan doesn’t have the tallest skyscrapers any more, which I think must really rankle.

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Jersey City skyscrapers.
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Ellis Island.
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Statue of Liberty.
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Statue of Liberty and looking back to downtown Manhattan.
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The famous Staten Island Ferry.
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Downtown Manhattan. The tallest building here is the One World Trade Centre – New York’s tallest.

We were asked to stay in our seats so as not to spoil anyone else’s view. Most people managed that simple task, but the two ‘gents’ in the photo above stood up for pretty much the entire trip. I assume they paid extra for their tickets. Or they could just be selfish w*****s. Or, I suppose, possibly both.

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More tall buildings. And ships, and stuff.
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Brooklyn Bridge.

We went under a lot of bridges. I took pictures of most of them; possibly all of them, but I shall restrain myself here. Apart from anything else, it was quite hard to get a decent view of some of the lower bridges over the Harlem River.

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Manhattan Bridge.
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Williamsburg Bridge, with the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge in the distance.
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Tall buildings, including the Empire State Building.
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More skyscrapers.

I didn’t think I was particularly a fan of skyscrapers, but I have to confess I loved the views from the Hudson and East Rivers. The wonky joined towers in the photo above (just to the right of the Empire State Building) are the American Copper Buildings. Luxury apartment blocks apparently. I wouldn’t want to live there, luxury or otherwise, but I think they look fantastic.

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United Nations offices.

The green United Nations Building is pretty striking. The immensely tall tower behind the Chrysler Building is One Vanderbilt, New York’s fourth tallest. It’s also seen on the right of the previous photo.

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The Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge. Also known as the 59th Street Bridge.

Growing up we had a handful of records in the house which I graduated to from my treasured Disney albums; Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, The Everly’s. Pat Boone’s versions of ‘Stagger Lee’ and ‘Running Bear’ both made a big impression. But my favourites were Simon and Garfunkel, and in particular the 59th Street Bridge Song, so I was very excited to pass beneath this bridge, even though I couldn’t really connect the song and the structure.

Hello lamppost, what’cha knowing
I’ve come to watch your flowers growin’
Ain’t you got no rhymes for me?
Doo-ait-n-doo-doo, feeling groovy
Ba da-da da-da da-da, feeling groovy

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59th Street Bridge again.

The cable cars are the only way to access Roosevelt Island in the East River. TBH was very keen to make that journey, but it was one of the many things we never quite got around to.

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I have no idea what this building is, I just liked the look of it.
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The same applies to these two.
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Henry Hudson Bridge.

Now, whilst I really enjoyed this trip, in the interests of full disclosure, I have to confess that the Harlem River section was, well, a bit tedious. And extremely hot. The Hudson had a sea breeze, but now we were enclosed and it was seriously warm. We did pass Yankee Stadium, home of the New York Yankees, but I found myself unmoved by that experience.

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Hudson River and New Jersey Palisades.

Fortunately, back on the Hudson, we got the breeze back and a view of the New Jersey Palisades.

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Squinting selfie.

I don’t often take selfies. You can see why. For some reason, on this boat trip, I broke my usual habit and took several. Believe it or not, this is the best of a bad bunch. The effort of taking a photo and smiling at the same time was too much for me. I’m squinting or otherwise pulling a face in all of them. In most of them I have my glasses on the top of my head. At least B looks almost happy.

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George Washington Bridge.

We twice queued for hours in traffic jams to cross this bridge in our rental car, but it does look handsome from the river.

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Hoboken? pano.
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Another Manhattan view.

I was very struck by the triangular building here; or properly, I suppose, tetrahedral building. It’s Via 57 West, apparently.

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Almost back. The cruise ship is Carnival Magic.
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The USS Intrepid, former aircraft carrier and now an air and space museum.

Great trip. What to do next?

Feeling Groovy

On and In the Tarn

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Inevitably, we hired kayaks and had a paddle down the Tarn.

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Andy demonstrates that you don’t have to be young to be bonkers.

The Tarn is a bit more racy than the Dordogne, with some shallower, fast flowing sections and lots of places to stop for swims and for the DBs to throw themselves into the river.

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The scenery is amazing, the water beautifully clear and very inviting.

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The beginning (I think) of Les D├ętroits – the straits.

You can perhaps see, in the photograph above, that there are a lot of people congregated on the shingle bank downstream. They are examining a fast-flowing section which we had been told we should portage around. In fact, everybody seemed to be canoeing the little rapid quite successfully, so we did the same.

The section through Les D├ętroits was quite odd – suddenly we were fighting a strong, chilly head-on wind. Once the steep cliffs either side of the river receded the wind calmed down again.

Our route took as past the campsite (I think we stopped for ice-creams) and then past the mushroom rock, just after which there was another small fast-flowing section. Having successfully navigated that, I was upended by one of the flat-bottomed commercial passenger boats which ply the river with, it seems, almost complete disregard for the many canoeists also on the water. Somehow, I didn’t lose either my hat or my glasses, and only my pride was hurt, but I was infuriated and may have hurled a few choice Anglo-Saxon expletives after the departing boatman.

On a couple of occasions, later in the week, we drove a little down the valley to swim in the river in an area where a substantial rockfall in the past has left the river choked with huge boulders.

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It was a fascinating spot. The water was very deep and, in places, where side-streams issued into the Tarn, the water was bracingly cold. Upstream, the water flowed through narrow little channels and forcing a way upstream became both challenging and exhausting, but highly enjoyable.

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The big boulders in and by the river provided numerous opportunities for big jumps into the water. Even A joined in. Me too, but nothing too ambitious.

It was a great find, enlivened, for B at least, by the radar speed sign on the road above the river – which he found he could trigger by running along the road.

On and In the Tarn