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

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

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

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

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