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Canoe Trip Down the Raquette River

After much preparation and scrambling about, two canoes and a canoe trailer were found and generously lent to us by Lindsay Place High School and Cedar Park School. This miraculous discovery of canoes and trailer enabled three members to embark on their journey: a 26km voyage down the Raquette River in the Adirondack mountains, New York State.

On Friday October 3, 1997, after a much delayed departure from Montreal (traffic and people who canít pack), we were finally on our way. As we crossed the border, Julian driving, we were received by a puzzled Customs Officer who, after several moments of deep thought, asked where our canoes were. After explaining that the canoes were coming in a separate car, he let us go. The canoes were about an hour behind us being towed by an incredibly kind Mr. Arsenault (who had fully recovered from his bout with the tree.) As we drove along through tiny little towns, it grew dark. The sunset was incredible, but when it gets dark in the Adirondacks, itís really dark. We finally reached the stretch of highway (after about 2Ĺ hours of driving) on which the boat launch was located. What we failed to notice was that there were three boat launches on this stretch of highway. After a bit of confusion we finally located the Axton Boat launch, (behind the wild ranch with all the Christmas lights.) We drove into the campsite, got out of the car, lit the lantern and had a look around. The parking lot was adjacent to the campsite, so we set up our two tents fairly close to the car. After checking for the boat launch (more like a sandy beach), we started supper. It was a bit late for supper but the three of us were famished. Soon after Mr. Arsenault and his son Michael arrived with the canoes. Just after he arrived our first "little friend" arrived. Julian had the pleasant experience of having a furry creature crawl off the water jug and onto his arm. We later discovered that our furry creature was a pack rat, ate rice, climbed tents, loved turtle necks, and only looked cute. Mr. Arsenault left soon after. The three of us were left on our own, to complete our journey. We packed away our food, and cuddled into our sleeping bags, exhausted, but also excited for what lay ahead.

We awoke Saturday morning to discover that we had pitched our tents among the most beautiful stand of tall pines trees that had gone unnoticed in the darkness. The sunlight was streaming through the mist around the trees. It was a clear morning, and exceptionally warm. We had a breakfast of porridge, eggs, and hot chocolate, packed the tents and prepared to head off. After unloading the canoes and chaining the trailer to a tree we set off. Since we were only three people, one person canoed solo. We rotated this person throughout the weekend. We set off with Tracy in the solo canoe, and Julian and Paul in the double. The paddling was fairly smooth although there was a slight wind blowing. We paddled past a group of kayakers on a large rock at lunch time. As we passed them, one of their kayaks slid into the water and we rescued it. When we finally stopped for lunch it was at a bend in the river. We ate a lunch of delicious soup and Ramen and napped in the warm sun in our canoes. When we set off again, Paul was in the solo canoe. As we paddled we admired the leaves, although the wind had taken a good part of them away. Every once in a while, the sound of running water would be interrupted by the honking of geese. As the afternoon passed, we made good progress. Near three oíclock it began to show signs of raining. We began to search for a campsite. Many of the lean to campsites were already taken. We passed one very nice campsite, but, looking at our map, continued on in hopes of claiming the one further down stream. It began to rain as we reached the other campsite and noticed it was already taken. As we made a mad dash back up stream for the first campsite the shower let up and the sun poked out for a while.

We set up camp in a very pristine forest on a high bank that overlooked the river. The canoes were portaged up the bank and stored under a tree until morning. We made supper, cleaned up, hung the food, hung up the our damp clothes and built a fire (and were very good at estimating how many minutes until dark). As the sky grew dark we lit our fire. It was the first fire I have ever seen that didnít like oxygen. The fire lasted only long enough to roast a few marshmallows and for us to discover that another furry creature lived in the tree near the tents. This one was scared of us though. After the fire died, we watched the stars, and then hit the sack, planning on a good nightís sleep. We awoke in the middle of the night to the sound of thunder and the most incredible lightning storm. Paul was to say the next morning "At first I thought the lightning was a leader coming to check on our tent with a flashlight". The lightning was followed by rain that drenched the tents, and the clothing that we had hung outside. We all managed to fall back asleep and sleep until morning.

Sunday morning we awoke to a beautiful sunny day. The forest was perfect, you could almost imagine all of the fairy creatures living under the rays of light that managed to shine through. After breakfast, (mmm pancakes), we packed up. That is when we discover that our furry friend also liked to eat wet blue turtle necks hanging on clotheslines; nothing is safe from the pack rat. Paul used duct tape (what else!) to patch the hole that had developed in the solo canoe; it wasnít a real hole, simply a spot where an old patch had come off. After the repair job and some picture taking, we packed the canoes and headed out. The River was different on the second day. Houses bordered one side of the river, and the channel markers became quite visible. It was still beautiful and presented us with adventures. We discovered the "ox bow" shortcut and after some wet feet and slick paddling we succeeded in coming out the other side of the secluded passage. We explored under an overpass, and chatted with a duck. The land on both sides of the river is private property so we made do and ate lunch in the canoes rafted to an island where the Raquette River forks. After a very relaxing lunch, (and some amusing rowing by Julian), we set out for Simon Pond. In a short while we arrived at the entrance to the very large (lake size) "pond" only to discover that there was an incredible wind blowing. We set out to cross the pond; we were being picked up on the other side. The double canoe had little difficulty travelling in the wind, but the solo canoe was very hard to control. Julian was in the solo canoe, and Paul and I looked back to see him drifting further and further away with the wind. After some quick thinking, we tied the stern of the double canoe to the bow of the solo and were off again. This solution worked perfectly, we couldnít lose the solo canoe, but at the same time, the solo canoe was easier to paddle because it was out of the direct wind. On the other hand, the white caps were big enough to soak the leg of my pants in the front of the double canoe. After a final push for shore three proud, but exhausted canoeists stepped onto solid ground having been the first Wayfarers ever to complete their journey.

Shortly after we were picked up by Mr. Arsenault (isnít he great?), went back to get Julianís car, and set off for home. As we drove through the Adirondacks we admired the autumn leaves and couldnít help but sing to "The Obvious Child". We were only three, but we had been knitted together by our weekend, a journey we will never forget.

Tracy Arsenault
The Wayfarers