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Old 05-10-2019, 12:42 AM   #1
rickhart
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Whitney Loop converted to a Whitney C

Whitney Loop converted to a Whitney C – May 2-8, 2019

I did the Whitney C recently. I planned to do the Whitney loop, which I had done in summer 2014, but cut the trip short at Low’s lower dam, as described below. The forecast was for a number of cloudy/days and cool temperatures; in the end, there were a couple of warmer, sunny days, but the last couple of days got much colder, with night temps in the low 30s.
So – some things that might be of interest to others planning to be in the area, or are interested in it. I’ll try to do some photos when I have time.

I started down Little Tupper late morning on Thursday, which cleared & became a beautiful afternoon. Since I’ve been more often on the east side and I had plenty of time that day, I decided to ramble along the west shore & check out some campsites. Site 7 was interesting; one of the fanciest landings, complete with pillars. It was the site of some kind of house or lodge, and still has standing chimneys & some old equipment. On the way up the Rock Pond outlet I saw two moose – my first Adirondack moose. It was a mother & yearling calf. I gradually edged closer, until the older female lowered her head a bit, cocked it to one side, stared, and moved a couple of steps toward me. I quickly retreated. I’ve seen them running & they can move fast with those stilt legs, even in shallow water. I camped that night on the island in Rock Pond.

The new take-out towards Hardigan is a big improvement on the last one. Also, in a couple of places on the carry, there was better signage or disk-ing. Otherwise the route was much worse than in 2014. The older beaver works at the Louie outlet is still there, and not too bad – but it’s followed quickly by a newer one which is messier & wetter. Even worse, the woods roads which were delightfully flat & clear before, are now clogged with deadfall: bunches of smaller branches, fallen trees, leaning small trees. A real obstacle course. Again, the Hardigan take-out is better, but the route is still wet & messy. I camped at Little Salmon as planned – at site 32 which the paddlers guide described as being on an island along the stream just before the lake. Sounded fun, but it was an adequate but unimpressive site. Just enough room for the 2-person tent I use on canoe trips, but not even a rock or log to sit on. Of the three sites, the middle one on the lake was best, but none were great.

The woods road part of the carry to Lilypad was also clogged with deadfall & leaning trees. And the put-in was awful. In 2014, the trail led out into the marsh around the lake, and dumped you there. Now it ends in a small clearing even further back, with the stony rapids of the Little Salmon outlet on your left, dense swamp vegetation & rocks in front, and more swamp on the right. What used to be the end of the trail is now pools in the swamp to the right, and barricaded by branches. After paddling across Lilypad I came to the old carry which the Brandreth property owners claim is a good alternative to the Mud Pond route. What a joke. The Paddler’s Guide says it starts with “some swampy ground” and goes northwest with “some wet areas”. In fact the mud was intense at the take-out; I sank in to my thigh on one step. The next section was not only wet, but overgrown so I was at the same time negotiating pools and maneuvering through bent-over alders. And then it angles through a large burn area growing in but still quite open. Here my challenge was that I was one of the first people through, maybe the first, this season. Since the trail isn’t too worn, and the entire ground was still covered with leaves & dead meadow plants, there were places where it was very hard to follow the sparsely-marked trail. I lost it twice on the first pass (I do double carries, the boat & some stuff on one, and the rest of the gear bags on a second) and actually lost it again on the way back for the second load. This happened several more times on the rest of the trip, when it was a trail with lighter tread and deciduous trees. Basically the trail, in the burn area, tends to slant to the left & slightly up. The Lilypad to Shingle Shanty carry *was* loaded with piles of moose scat, newer & older, but I didn’t see one. If you’re quieter than I was being, you might have a good chance of a moose encounter. The take-out at Shingle Shanty is steep & muddy. I did not see a campsite there, even though older versions of the map showed one. The woods are open enough to find a place, but you’d have to be careful to do so on the north side; the Brandreth property line is right at the carry. Shingle Shanty was running high, and I had to paddle harder than usual at the curves (the endless curves). Lila was weirdly empty; I didn’t realize the gates there and at the lower dam on Low’s were still closed. (In fact I didn’t see another person for five days, until I saw a couple paddling out, just after I passed the floating bog.) I camped on Canada Island which is a glamorous site: sandy beach with custom-made stone steps up into a grove of giant pines & hemlocks. My guess is that it’s hard to get that site, in season. That night I listened to a couple of distant Barred Owls and a much nearer Long-eared Owl.

Harrington Brook was also vigorous, but fun. The railroad part of the carry was OK, but the sign for where to turn off had fallen with its tree. I tried to move it to show better but the tree was too heavy for me to do much. The trail up to Clear was also hard to follow because of dead leaves, but in spite of losing it a bit in both directions, it wasn’t too hard to re-find. I camped at the Bog Lake put-in site, which is a fun area but the campsite isn’t much to write home about. Way back from the water, in a grassy clearing (grass often looks soft but tends to be lumpy). There was at least one rock to sit on in front of the small fire pit, for those who have campfires. I used it as my dining chair.

Bog Lake & its outlet is another neat area. There were 3 beaver dams but I could paddle over all of them – in fact, I only remember one time in the whole trip I had to get out at a dam, the streams were all running so strong. I checked out the 2 campsites near the entrance into Low’s Lake proper. The one nearest the esker was poor, a clearing back from, and lower than, the lake; very sandy soil like a pine barren (tent stakes would be loose); no other good features. The other is even worse: a steep landing with no place to put anything, and a small clearing above. I moved on, appreciating the tree-root “sculptures” that seem esp. prevalent at Low’s. The floating island had moved out so that I could paddle right along past the great campsite there, and not have to paddle all the way around the “island”. The floating bog is about the same: paddle in on one side of the river, zig, and out on the other side; the downstream side it was necessary to get out & drag the boat over some mud. I breezed past the upper dam and camped at site 2 not far short of the lower dam, where I’ve stayed before.

I had a hard decision. Having seen how high everything was running, and knowing from a text message I got on Low’s that the next couple of days were supposed to be much cooler, with nights down to 33, I was having doubts about the lower Bog River. I’m a flatwater paddler. The other time I did the loop, it was later in summer and the river was calm. But I remembered that besides the rapids & falls with carries, there were also many rocks and a riffle or two. I didn’t feel sure that I could be safe in my small pack canoe, loaded with stuff for a 7 day trip, and me by myself. Even a small chance of capsizing and being miles into the woods, after that water temperature and the cold air, with possibly some or most of my gear gone, didn’t sound good. What were the other options? I didn’t have time or supplies to paddle all the way back to Little Tupper (and the thought of the carries between Rock & Lila was daunting). But I realized that I could walk out the lower dam access road and down 421 to Rte 30, and probably get some kind of lift at least to the Sabattis Circle Road, and then if needed walk to the DEC headquarters to retrieve the car. So I did that on Tuesday, with extra clothing & food in the pack in case of bad luck & no quick ride, prepared to take the whole day. In fact, a nice guy who was camping & fishing at Horseshoe Lake drove by and stopped, and ended up giving me a ride all the way to Little Tupper (I spent the rest of the day intermittently sending him wishes for endless fish).

Since I now had an extra day, on Wednesday I paddled back to the upper dam, and hiked up to Low’s Ridge, which I’ve never done. True to the other hiking parts of the trip, I lost the leaf-covered trail near the start and couldn’t re-find it, so I just bushwhacked to the top. (Despite what you may be thinking, I’m actually not bad at following trails…) It’s a beautiful spot & I wish I’d gone up there before. The trail down was clearly marked and it was interesting to see the spot I’d lost it, where it turned up a slope but there was no marker, and meanwhile a herd path continued straight for a while.

The shortened ending actually made the trip more relaxed. Overall a great week. I saw eagles, osprey, harriers, ravens, loons, and various ducks a number of times; and other species once or twice. Beaver, and the moose. At Site 2 the last couple of days I was frequently serenaded by a Bittern with its lovely “song” (if you don’t know it, go to www.audubon.org and look up American Bittern and you’ll see what I mean.) In the water edges the leatherleaf was blooming, and two things I’m not sure about. One looks like some kind of dwarf alder or birch, with red & yellow flowers that produced an orange wash over the area. And the other was a small, wiry shrub with dark stems and tiny, puffbrush red flowers. And information on what they are would be welcome! On land there were thousands of blooming Trout Lilies, with some early yellow violets and spring beauties mixed in.
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Old 05-10-2019, 10:03 AM   #2
stripperguy
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Sounds like a great trip, nice TR. I anxiously await your photos.
When my gang passed through into Lows from Bog Lake (same time of year), the peepers were deafeningly loud, it was a surreal experience. There should have been daffodils in bloom too, at the former Lows complex.
Very cool that you saw to moose.
Oh, and on Canada Island, my gang was considering staying there last fall, but it was too small for out group. Did you happen to notice the "bees" spelled out in stones at the base of some pines at the designated camp spot? I've wondered about that for many months...


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Old 05-10-2019, 12:42 PM   #3
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Congratulations on the Moose and Long-eared encounters, two species that are still on my wish list. I have heard the call of the American Bittern many times. It is interesting yet understandable that Hennery David Thoreau mistakenly believed the sound was made when the bird drank water.
I anxiously await your photos, especially of the orange wash mystery plant.
Thanks for reporting!
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Old 05-10-2019, 11:57 PM   #4
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Here are some photos from the Whitney paddle. Once in the photo gallery, I think you can select for a slideshow by clicking on the arrow right over the photo. When I tried to copy the slideshow link for here, it left out the photo captions. (?)

https://rickhart.smugmug.com/Whitney-C-May-2019

Last edited by rickhart; 05-11-2019 at 12:10 AM..
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Old 05-11-2019, 07:15 AM   #5
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I had done the trip solo when you could paddle the entire loop. It was in May some years ago. I like to get our early before the black flies come calling and had a pretty good track record of getting the jump on them until this trip. After spending three hours battling those LTL headwinds (late start) I found myself wind bound on Eagle Point for the nite. Tremendous progress to be sure.

So I set out for Rock Pond and that little double-port to Hardigan and presto - instant black flies. I was unaware they crave head nets but they surely do. They were so bad I gave up - they were in my food and water and I just consumed them. Rolled through the trip and never made one cast for a fish.

Finally at the lower dam, where I thought I might also hitch a ride back to LTL, I was unable to because everyone with a modicum of common sense had stayed home. I was not going to complete the loop unless I had to. Pacing back and forth by the dam I got a very faint cell signal and called Raquette River Outfitters. Lost the signal several times but eventually arranged to have them pick me up in about 3 hours. Very happy to see their driver show up and a rather striking young woman saved me. For all of my outdoor adventures this one - to date - was the worst. I only hope it stays that way.
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Old 05-11-2019, 10:11 AM   #6
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[Stripperguy}: Did you happen to notice the "bees" spelled out in stones at the base of some pines at the designated camp spot? I've wondered about that for many months...

I did see some rocks like that at the base of a pine, but the letters weren't legibly organized any more. I was slightly curious, and now you've partly answered it....
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Old 05-11-2019, 10:15 AM   #7
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{Viking} Yes, there's almost no signal around the lower dam. I discovered on this trip that there IS a pretty good one around the upper dam area.
I like to do a spring paddle trip about this time for the same reason: that window after ice-out but before real blackflies.
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Old 05-12-2019, 10:37 PM   #8
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Thanks for the report, it sounds like a neat trip. The mooses sound especially nice, and I'm glad you were able to get a ride when you needed it. I'll be paying my first visit to the Lows Lake area this summer if all goes according to plan and I'm looking forward to it.
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Old 05-12-2019, 11:42 PM   #9
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By the way, the shrubs I asked about were identified by a Northeastern US plant forum I'm on. They are both Sweetgale (species: Myrica gale), which has male & female plants, with different-looking flowers. Apparently they're another favorite food of beavers, like alders. The beavers in the Adirondacks must be very happy...
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