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Canoe Trip Through the Oswegatchie Wilderness of the Adirondacks

A simply incredible, adventure filled, challenging trip, filled with wildlife, wilderness, and the majestic beauty of the Adirondacks. What more could a Crew want out of a canoeing trip?

May 31, 1998

The Crew ready to set offAfter an incredibly long drive in the rain the two mini-vans arrive at Inlet. We meet the forest ranger on our way into the launch; he warns us of tornado warnings in the area and takes down our names and route. Finally the seven crew members climb out of the vans and begin unloading. These members are Tracy (mate), Julian (assistant mate), Paul (quartermaster), Kevin, Joanna, Francois, and Assad (all squires at the time). We prepare the three canoes and red kayak and the sun breaks through. We say goodbye to my father and Kevinís brother and friend and set out on our adventure.

We paddle upstream to the first nice campsite and set up camp. We are not nearly as far as we had hoped to be, but we plan to make the distance up the next day. The blackflies swarm around everything, buzzing and biting, and being incredibly annoying. Only the slight breeze saves us from being eaten alive. After eating supper (and many flies) we sit around for a while. Someone asks, "who signed the register at Inlet" we all look around, assuming the other had signed it. Well, no one had. After some discussion we decide it would be wise for two people to make the hour trip back to Inlet, so the ranger knew we were on the river. We all then hit the sack, but only after watching the sun set on the river.

June 1, 1998

High FallsJulian and I wake up at 4:30am and paddle back to Inlet. We see a beaver up close; he gets annoyed and swims up to the canoe slaps his tail and then swims off. We also see many Great Blue Herons, Common Mergansers with ducklings, and Hawks. We sign the register, and return to the campsite for breakfast. After eating we begin our long journey to High Falls. We paddle along the winding river, wadding through shallow sections, towing the canoes over beaver dams, and enjoying the scenery. We pass many campsites and the landscape is constantly changing from forest to marsh and back again. We stop for lunch on a sandy beach and enjoy the first of the delicious sausage that was so graciously donated to our food reserves. After struggling with one particularly hard set of rapids (especially to be paddling up!) Paul, in the kayak, tows the canoes up. We are all exhausted after eight hours of paddling, but we still havenít reached High Falls. Finally about half an hour later the winding river straightens and opens up into a gorgeous set of waterfalls that span the entire river and stretch 15 into the air. We enjoy the luxury of the lean to and after a good supper we settle into our tents, set on sleeping in.

June 2, 1998

The Crew on Cat MountainWe wake up reasonably early, considering the previous day. The weather is nice so we decide to forego the canoeing for the day and hike. We shuttle everyone across the lower part of the Falls in one canoe and two trips, slightly overloading the canoes. At 12:00 we are on the trail. It rains a bit and clouds over, but remains fairly warm and the hiking is certainly interesting. At 2:30, after climbing over under and across dozens of fallen trees we arrive at our destination, the summit of Cat Mountain. The view from the top is a sight to behold. The wind reaches incredibly speeds and the clouds are very low, but other mountains in the Adirondacks range are visible in the distance along with Cranberry Lake. We eat under the shelter of a rock and then begin our descent. The sun comes back out as we are crossing the area flooded by beavers. The trail marker still remains, now on a tree standing in the water, the floating log has become the trail. Everyone relaxes and spends some time to themselves before supper, some sleep, some explore the falls and the river, and other explore the forests. The sky has cleared and the sun is shining but it is only a while before the sky darkens. The elevation and location of our campsite provide us with a 280-degree view of the sky from the shelter of the lean to. We all sit in the lean to after supper and are witness to the most spectacular lighting storm I have ever seen. Then the rain starts. It pours all night and Joanna and I discover that our tent is not as waterproof as we had hoped. The night is long, uncomfortable, and wet for the two of us.

June 3, 1998

High Falls CampJoanna and I wake nice and early only to find that there is more water in our tent than outside. We hang everything out to dry. It is sunny, but freezing cold outside, winter tuques are a popular thing this morning. Our plan was to canoe above High Falls this morning, however, Francois and Assad are not keen on going, and Julian, Paul, and Kevin (all in the same tent) have woken up dry, but with colds. After looking at the log book of canoers in the lean to and seeing that the group that had attempted to go above High Falls two weekends before us came back completely covered in leeches, and seeing how cold it was outside, we decided not to canoe above High Falls. We spent the morning packing up, and ate the first of Paul and Assadís prized ration packs for lunch. Mmmmm. After lunch we begin our canoe, heading downstream towards a new campsite. It is sooooo cold outside that the rain turns to hail and we are pelted with ice cubes. I am in the kayak and I am forced to take cover under the tarp used to cover the gear in Paul and Assadís canoe. We canoe on in the rain and stop at a beautiful campsite by a pond with a nice lean-to. The weather clears for a while, long enough to watch the Herons in the swamp and start a nice campfire. We head to bed early and the rain comes down again. This looks like a good place to camp

June 4, 1998

The planes (F-18ís and A-10ís) are still flying by up above every once in while, they make an interesting sight to behold in a wilderness area. We wake to a nice morning with few clouds. I even venture to put on shorts under my pants. We continue on our journey downstream after breakfast, paddling over dams we had to wade up, and making very rapid progress. We stop to have lunch at our first campsite and stay to build a fire and cook the remaining ration packs. The wind has turned bitter cold as we continue along. We arrive at Inlet just before the rain begins. We decide to canoe past Inlet to check out the section of whitewater that is between Inlet and Wanakena. We banked the canoes when we heard and saw the rapids, and hiked for the first time down the portaging trail. We scoped out the rapid situation and then paddled back upstream to camp at Inlet. The rain continued as we pitched the tents, but cleared during supper and left us with a beautiful double rainbow above the clearing. Some people went to bed early, the rest of us stayed up for a while to roast marshmallows on a (once again) amazing fire.

June 5, 1998

Tracy and Julian hit the rapidsThe day begins with a calm paddle down the first part of the river. Julian and I then take three empty canoes down the first rapids, the "surprise rapids," not marked in the guidebook. The gear is portaged around by the rest of the crew. We then put the barrels and cooler into the canoes and canoe down a white water section, once alone and once with Joanna and Kevin behind us. The kayak spends more time in the forest than it does in the water. The canoes are then beached before the "big mama" rapids and later portaged. Everyone stops for lunch before a long afternoon. After lunch, Jules and I, in the smallest orange canoe attempt to paddle the section below the "big mama." Bruised knees, rattled feelings, and one too many close calls force us to abandon the idea of paddling this section and make the portage very long. The water is simply too low to make it feasible. This leaves us about halfway to Wanakena, with the first canoe. The portaging of three canoes, one kayak, and gear over two miles of muddy, rocky, hilly, unkept forest terrain is grueling. From under the stern of the 18í canoe Julian finally sees the Road Bridge to Wanakena. We stash the gear by the side of the road and head towards the local depanneur, owned by someone who could definitely pass himself off as Bill Mason. After a quick visit with civilization we are off again. Just as we are all ready to leave with the canoes all packed I notice my paddle is missing; it is still in the forest! Everyone pushes onto the next campsite; Kevin and I stay behind to return to the "big mama" for the paddle. We finally find it and make our way back to the beach. We find Francois waiting for us in the kayak. When he knows we are safely on our way he races ahead towards the campsite. Kevin and I begin the long paddle. The sides of the lake are lined with giant pine trees that stretch towards the sky. The daylight fades, leaving the sky streaked in blue and gold. Kevin and I paddle on, until we see the glow of Paulís orange rainsuit on the dock of our campsite. We head for shore, glad to have found them. We eat around the fire and admire the calmness of the lake. We all head to bed, tired, sore, but happy ... planning to sleep in.

June 6, 1998

Old Growth TreeWe all awake at our own pace, some of us early to admire the lake and others later on. We eat breakfast, pack up, and head upstream, back to visit the first growth pine trees we past the previous night. We tie up the canoes and hike into the Forest Ranger School forest to see the gigantic trees. We find one enormous tree in the beautiful forest, so large it takes four of us to span the trunk of the tree. After a quick lunch we set off downstream past many cottages. We put up a sail made from hoochies and wave to the first motorboats weíve seen as we sail by. The wind is very strong and we relax in our four-boat catamaran. We reach the end of the river and take out the maps to orient ourselves on Cranberry Lake. After some discussion we head off towards Joe Indian Island, our next destination. We stay close to the shore, to explore and also to stay out of the wind. The sky is overcast, but holds no rain. We arrive at one tip of Joe Indian Island; an island covered in hemlocks hanging low over the water, and rocky lookout points. Francois and Assad head inland while the rest of us continue around the island in the canoes. We stop at a beautiful site at the other tip of the island, only to discover a root fire in progress. We send Joanna in the kayak to fetch the pot set and trenching tool to help put out the underground fire that has spread to the treeís larger roots. After much digging and watering, the fire finally stops smoking and the embers within the earth go out. We decide to camp at the campsite to keep an eye on the fire. After cleaning out the fire pit (a garbage bag worth of junk!), we start a nice fire and some of us head out to explore the island. Julian encircles the island in the kayak, Kevin does so by foot, and I explore the coastline by rock hopping. We all sit down to a very large supper to, eat most of the leftover food. And then head off to bed, sad that this is our last night at camp, but excited to be heading home.

June 7, 1998

The endThe two squires ready to be invested wake early. Everyone else wakes around seven, to warm water and a fire. We all have breakfast and pack up. Joanna and Kevin, after completing their journey, community service, and other investiture traditions are invested, barefoot, in the wilderness. They are now Rovers and Wayfarers in the full sense of the words. We leave the campsite, the root fire had been put out completely, and head for the Cranberry Lake boat launch. The wind is with us once again and we cross the immense lake (third largest in the Adirondacks) in no time flat. We arrive at the boat launch, our pick up point, with an hour and a half to kill. So we paddle into the Town of Cranberry Lake to check out their depanneur. We return to the boat launch a short while later to unload the canoes and wait for Kevin and Paulís parents to arrive. They do in short while and we all load into the minivans and head for home. An amazing trip, a first for the Wayfarers Rover Crew has come to end, with everyone safe and sound, with much gained from the experience.

Tracy crosses a swamp on a log bridge

Tracy Arsenault
The Wayfarers