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Old 08-20-2017, 01:35 PM   #1
Join Date: Oct 2008
Posts: 71
Sunshine and Pepperbox Ponds

I am late with this because of computer difficulties but things are now running smoothly and I wanted to share a report of an Adirondack adventure into the Pepperbox Wilderness from early this month.

I overslept on the day of departure. This delay had the fortunate consequence of placing me in the city of Oswego (my normal breakfast stop) at 6:00 am. The highly touted Wade's Diner was open for business. I have friends who grew up or attended university in the small city, they all praise the establishment as an Oswego must but until this day, their doors had always been closed on my trips through town. Friendly folks, homemade bread and clean restrooms were enough to garner approval but the three varieties of hot sauce at each counter station was enough to push Wade's score to eleven, on my diner endorsement scale.

Two hours after breakfast I was at the Stillwater boat launch ready to begin my adventure. The goal was to camp near Sunshine Pond and make a day trip through the Moshiers, west to Duck and Pepperbox Ponds. The Reservoir was high, about two feet above the historic average for the date. I paused only to fill my pipe en route to the Shallow Pond Carry. On a previous visit to Sunshine, I utilized an unofficial trail north of Raven that went west to Muskrat. I then bushwhacked to Sunshine staying north of a height of land between the two ponds. To be different, on this trip, I would stay south of the same height of land, traversing a large open bog and some beaver ponds west of Raven. I arrived early in the afternoon, established camp and went about reacquainting myself with the environs of Sunshine.

The next day I awoke well before sunrise. A full moon invited me to have breakfast from the seat of the canoe. I enjoyed coffee, biscotti and cheese grits while parked in the large bay in southeastern Sunshine. The night was quiet. I heard nothing but the snorting of a whitetail deer and a tail slap of a beaver, upset by my intrusion of his nocturnal domain. I circumnavigated Sunshine in the moonlight before beginning my trek west.

It was 6 am when I set out for the day's adventure. I was in the first unnamed pond south of Deer when I detoured to the southeast for another unnamed pond that looked worthy of exploration. It was a large shallow beaver pond with an active lodge in the middle. I paddled its shoreline before resuming the journey west.

I encountered some pink granite streaked with lovely veins of quartz so I stopped for coffee. I like to maintain schedule but sometimes a natural feature will demand a break, time spent so that you can live in the moment and possibly better remember the experience.

On with my journey I discovered a camp and an old wooden rowboat before reaching the Moshier outlet. In the northwestern corner of Moshier, I located the outlet of Duck, stashed the canoe and began a walking journey to Duck and Pepperbox Ponds. Duck was a short easy climb through hardwoods and when I arrived, I lamented that I hadn't carried the canoe. The lament soon faded as I began the steep climb to Pepperbox. Nearing the top of a hill, I found myself in a deep channel about 50ft wide flanked on both sides by walls of granite. Fracture lines in the stone sometimes resembled the work of the Inca people of South America. At the beginning of my decent towards Pepperbox, the weather suddenly started to change. No time for raingear, I sought shelter in an opening of the rock wall. I felt very primitive living in the moment, warm and dry lying in my cozy cave. The rain did not last long. I crawled from my shelter to blue skies and sunshine. The wet vegetation glistened in the sunlight refreshing my spirit as I resumed the journey.

I soon arrived at Pepperbox Pond, a large diamond shaped body with a mile of shoreline. I knew I could not afford the time for a terrestrial circumnavigation. I took photographs, observed some waterfowl and commenced retracing the way back to Sunshine.

Back at camp, I had time for a refreshing swim before cooking supper, a concoction of tortellini, instant potato and cheese, garnished with deep fried onions, a recipe that will be included in my paddlewhacker's cookbook.

The next morning I was again up early to experience a sunrise. A floating log near shore would provide some interesting foreground for a photograph. I needed to park the canoe in the grass for a stable, dim-light exposure. Rushing to be ready, I backpaddled into a grassy patch hoping the stern would wedge itself between two hummocks of grass, instead the keel rose up on a fallen log lifting it out of the water initiating an unplanned swim. It was an opportunity for the first test of my new waterproof camera. The photo turned out better than expected in that, from the water, I was able to use the full length of the Mayfly in my foreground composition.

At camp, I spent more time living in the moment waiting for my underwear to dry. The rest of the morning was a walking reconnaissance of the south end of Sunshine hoping to find a better pathway to Raven. I have read where a trail exists but it was not found. I paddled to the north and made my way east through another open bog staying north of the height of land. It was about as pleasant as a bushwhack can be until reaching the shore of Muskrat Pond, which, was down about three feet due to a breached beaver dam. I was able to utilize a fallen spruce log to traverse the 30 or more feet of pedal sucking mud to launch the canoe. The unalluring shoreline of the pond settled the question of whether I might spend the night there. The thought of a soft mattress and cooler full of beer in the truck was enough to hasten a return to Stillwater Village. I spent the night at one of the roadside camps on the Big Moose Road.

In the morning, I was off to climb Stillwater Mountain to experience the newly refurbished fire tower at the summit. I stood in the cab gazing north and reflected on many journeys made in the Five Ponds Wilderness.

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Old 08-20-2017, 02:19 PM   #2
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Join Date: Oct 2011
Location: Niskayuna, NY
Posts: 406
An enjoyable and relaxing read. Beautiful photos. Thanks for posting it.

What is the new camera that you are now using?
My YouTube channel
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Old 08-20-2017, 03:32 PM   #3
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Join Date: Nov 2004
Location: Western Adirondacks
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That unmarked trail begins at about the middle of the western shore of Raven. Unexpectedly open, when I was there a couple of years ago it was marked with yellow and red plastic squares. Another begins from the NW side of Raven heading toward Muskrat.
"Now I see the secret of making the best person, it is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth." -Walt Whitman
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Old 08-20-2017, 05:50 PM   #4
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Join Date: Jan 2016
Location: Syracuse NY
Posts: 69
excellent TR and nice pics, you have a good way w/ words!
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