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Bog River Flow to Oswagatchie Traverse – Adirondack Canoe/Hammock Camp

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Got my friend Ron to join me on a canoe camping trip in the Adirondacks. This time we tackled the Oswagatchie Traverse.

We dropped my keys off 9am with Anne at Raquette River Outfitters and signed paperwork for them to shuttle the vehicle from Low’s Lower Dam to Inlet.

After admiring the beautiful shop of gear n goodies and fleet of boats we drove the 20 minutes past the free sites along the south shore of Horseshoe Lake and on to Lows Lower Dam to begin the paddle on Bog River Flow.

  

The flow meanders for 3 beautiful miles or an hour or so through curves where one must watch the current to stay out of the slow go zone of aquatic vegetation.

 

It works its way to Hitchens Pond where a juvenile bald eagle squawked at us as if to proclaim ownership over the pond. At the far end of the pond is the short portage over Lows Upper Dam.

We stopped at site Hitchens Pond Site #6 to chat with some friendly paddlers and talk boats. They were paddling Slipstream wee lassie solo boats and just out to enjoy a camp for a few nights. Although I had been to the flow once before, it was fun to recognize some of the campsites from the BushcraftUSA Autumn Adirondack Meet-up thread and member Robin Lauer’s Youtube Channel

 

Once beyond the upper dam the curves cease and the paddle begins in earnest 13+ miles to the end of the flow beyond the floating bog at Lows Lake or for us the end was the north west bay known as Grassy Pond where we had planned to end night one.

We made a few stops along the way to check out the sights like this Northern Toothed Fungi (Climacodon septentrionalis) and consider its edibility. Better not though, maybe a wilderness canoe trip isn’t the best time to try a new to me fungus.

We also had to scoot left around two bogs before getting out towards Lows Lake. Stepping on the bog was like walking on a trampoline covered in pitcher plants, spider webs and frogs.

I recently picked up a new life jacket and clipped a few items inside. These are items that stay put and act as doubles in my kit but should I get separated from the boat and gear. Included: Lighter wrapped in ducktape, flashlight, whistle, compass, thermometer and of course the life jacket itself which I do my best to actually wear.

One of the upgrades recently added was a proper whistle as my pea whistle wouldn’t work efficiently when wet. I tried it in my sink and yes the old referee type whistles would be all but useless when soaked.

We stopped to check out a few campsites along the way.

I had multiple sites in mind from recommendations found here and there but we ended up with an unmentioned site, #32, and I here proclaim it to be the best around. It was nestled at the base of the cliffs (seen in the background of the picture above) and in a pine grove overlooking the pond. While it didn’t offer a view of the sunset that was ok as we prefer to be fishing during that magic hour anyway and the view over the bow of a canoe is indisputably the best way to see the sun rise and fall (well maybe from a hammock).

 

We setup camp for the evening, made some quick soup with the solo stove, caught and released a bass on a kastmaster, watched the loons dance and sing, cooked some brats and knorr rice, watched the stars and took sleep in our hammocks.

  

Ron was in his Warbonnet Blackbird with the wind sock and Superfly tarp while I was in my JacksrBetter Bear Mountain Bridge with a Superfly tarp.

 

I brought along my 0f under quilt and top quilt and was glad to have them as the temps dipped to about 36f. The weight is negligible and the comfort is appreciated so I always pack for lower temps. Temp ratings sure vary anyway per the person, wind, humidity and wear n tear of use. If you are looking for the best quality and coolest color combos check out Loco Libre. I’ve been impressed and have only heard positive things.

 

We had a mix of knives and axes including a Mora Classic, Adventure Sworn Classic, Gransfors Hunters Axe, Swiss Army Farmer and two buck saws.  As a result wood processing and fish cleaning was an easy task.

That night we rested well from a long first day that started with a 1am take off from New Jersey and a 4:30am stop for a nap at the Warrensberg McDonalds. So day two began after a good nights sleep at around 9am. The day looked perfect with 65F high forecasted, mild overcast skies and minimal bugs except a few along the portage trail.

We paddled from Grassy Pond to Site #1 and began our .8 mile portage to Big Deer Pond. The portage trail was well marked and clear along the way.

The put in at Big Deer Pond was choked with Purple pickerel weed and pond shield plants. The pond was pretty and full of loons but lousy with aquatic plants at this point in the late summer. Our casting along the way didn’t produce anything other than snags and surprisingly a tadpole that must have hitched a ride and got lifted into the boat.

 

After paddling across Big Deer Pond we were set to begin our 2.2 mile portage to the headwaters of the Oswagatchie River. I had built this trip up in my mind many times while thinking to the future outing. It may sound like a lot of portage but the reality was the trail had minimal elevation change and just continued with undulating ground like that of a golf course.

To make matters even easier my paddling partner Ron insisted on carrying the canoe for a portion of the trail and so we switched off and tackled the portage together in one carry completed in about an hours time. It being late August the bugs were minimal so long as we didn’t stop in one place too long.

About half way was an old mail box with a registration notebook inside. We signed in and took a moment to relax and make a few tenkara casts on a tiny little beaver puddle that had a few small fish that nipped the fly but didn’t hold.


Prior to the trip, I had reached out to my friend Snapper whom is an experienced Adriondack Traveler should he have any notes on his experience to share. He made mention of canoe rest rack half way down the portage and how it was an unusual site in the Adirondacks. We did not see it so maybe it has gone the way of time. Guess no “sissy bar” remains in these parts.

Now the headwaters is the destination. It’s all to be enjoyed but the headwaters was where the deeper wilderness was truly at. At the opening at the end of the portage trail you look out on a beautiful open scene where the river snakes through joe-pye weed, elderberry, goldenrod, alder, service berry and many other beautiful native plant species before a background of spruce, hemlock and pine. (must have filmed a bit of it but no picture).

At the put-in on the left is a bubbling spring of ice cold water that is viable as long as water levels are not far above average.

We began our paddle down the Oswagatchie and through or up and over the many beaver dams. Each curve in this upper section held its own backwater and pool of gorgeous trout. Not trophy trout in size but surly in color, pattern and fashion….and taste. The Brookies hit on a mix of lures including chartreuse rooster tails, gold and silver kastmasters and old school mepps and bucktail spinners that I recently picked up from an ol tackle box at a garage sale.

 
They mostly hit on the drop as long as you didn’t spook them although some followed and hit especially after we added a soft plastic minnow/grub on one of the hooks to add even more action. I did try a little tenkara here and there but did not have any results and the fish had no interest in top water.

We ate well that night. Trout fried in kerry butter with adobo cooked in the cold steel fry pan.
Served with a side of knorr rice.

We fought over who got to eat the jowels and cleaned em down to the bone Garfield style.

  

We enjoyed the evening feeling great after a big day of wilderness travel.

 

and woke the next morning ready for another full day on the Oswagatchie River.

 

Day 3 continued with a bit more paddling on the Upper Oswagatchie above High Falls. as we continued down river the water seemed to darken with every stroke and as it turns out Oswagatchie reportedly means “Black water” in the aboriginal language.

We made it to High Falls and considered staying put for a moment but I had wanted to get a bit more paddling in to make the paddle out easier and also had plans to camp around site #25 so we could hike into the Five Ponds Wilderness. So we decided to make some PB wraps and portage past the falls.

Well that was the plan and I’m cleaning up our garage sale as to not clutter the portage and chatting with the first folks we’ve seen in awhile and here my pal @pilsburythrowboy12 is supposed to be making us these PB wraps and helping with the portage down below the falls but turns out he sneaks away with my rod and newly tied on old school mepps bucktail spinner and casts into the deep pool below.

and BAM!

 

Screaming like a maniac for me and I don’t yet know why. I thought he had been swept down the falls. Cause of death.. he slipped in his yellow crocs but instead he had hooked into a healthy trout on cast #1.

This fish appeared much much bigger in real life. True story. I swear it. It wouldn’t have fit in the fry pan without doing some fish yoga.

He had hollered wanting me to get a stringer to keep this trout fresh for dinner. So after much bickering about who should get a stringer and who should fish, I ran back up the falls and on my way back down watched as someone, no names, decided to give the fish a little oxygen…well the fish got a little too much oxygen ..slipped away into the black waters and went and told all his trout friends what happened and there after not so much as a look did we get from a trout the rest of the day.

Well, we made it down to site #25 which had a few choice trees on which we could hang our hammocks and walked over to check out the natural spring behind site #23 that was gurgling out of the hillside.

 

and we took a hike on the trail behind the sites to check out the Five Ponds Wilderness Area and made it over to Big Shallow Pond. Shallow it was but the hike sure was pretty and we needed the exercise after all the rice the camp chef was force feeding us.

 

It was terribly muddy in spots and included some crossings along beaver dams that added some adventure to an otherwise beautiful peaceful forest walk.

We slept well again with cold comfortable temps at night and not much left on the agenda other than paddling out past High Rock to Inlet where our car had been shuttled to.

Well about 11am just before High Rock we had the pleasure of watching a black bear swim across the river 30 feet ahead of our canoe. Without so much as a glance at us it just kept moving.

High Rock was a terrific stop with a beautiful overlook of the river. there were very few people out that Sunday but those that were seemed to gather round for a moments time and just share in the appreciation of all the beauty we were surrounded with.

 

Many thanks to my friend Ron for joining me on the trip. I like to research and set a trip plan and tackle as much of the life of it as possible. It’s good to have a tripping partner full of positive spirit, energy, know-how and ability to get things done. Together we’ve camped at Harriman, Cedar River Flow, St. Regis, Pharaoh and I’ve got more trips planned so just getting started.

The car was in the lot at Inlet and started right up. We had our gear packed and got on the road in no time with a 5+ hours drive home and work the next day.

On the way home we pulled over to check out “The Natural Basket Shop” and were quite impressed by the mix of authentic north woods items around. The owner Yvonne sure knew what she was doing, it wasn’t chotsky but real items.

I picked up a pair of Woolrich red plaid pants for 15$ and large Faber snow shoes with leather binding $69 and two small cold handle style pans for $2 each. All of which I’m excited to use this winter just as if I purchased them new from a catalog 40 years ago.

If you made it this far many thanks for following to the end. Hope this trip report helps if you are here researching the same paddle trip or motivates you to get outside on another one.

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Putnum Pond & Pharaoh Lake Wilderness Area – Spring Trout Fishing and Backpacking

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There are so many places to visit that often making a decision on a destination can be the hardest part of a trip. This time the chosen route was to the justly popular Putnum Pond and Pharaoh Lake Wilderness Area.

Our first night we found ourselves at the Grizzle Ocean lean-to. Despite having plans to put some more miles on and hike further along the trail, we decided to stay put when we found the accommodations to our liking. After noticing some fish carcasses at the waters edge it became clear someone had success and so I snapped my fishing gear together and began casting. While I didn’t have luck yet on the fish, I did come across a patch of wild cranberries while stepping out to the edge looking for solid footing on which to take a cast. The cranberries went right into the Foraging Pouch with hopes that it would be added to a trout for the nights meal.

We made camp and began to settle in and later went back out for the magic hour in hopes of hooking into a brook trout. Ken saved the day with a licorice flavored egg that was weighted to the bottom of the pond not more than 15 feet out from shore. It caught a good size trout and allowed us to add some calories beyond our dehydrated meals.  I had mostly brought spinners as they had worked well from a canoe on previous trips.  Turns out many of the ol’timers use worms aka “Adirondack bacon” and even dip them in garlic scent before weighting them to the bottom of the ponds.

Back at camp, we added the cranberries to the trout and some spice and wrapped it in some heavy duty tinfoil before placing on the coals. It was delicious. Maybe the best trout I’ve had period. Although hunger is the best spice and also meeting a trip goal on the first night made it all the better. It was followed up with some Chaga Tea collected on the trail and venison tenderloin carried in for the first nights dinner.

After a long drive and hike with fully packed gear it was time to hang the bear bag and get some sleep.

We woke around 8am for breakfast and coffee and a few more casts before we hit the trail toward Pharaoh Lake.

We arrived about 2pm at a lean-to after two scout leaders who had settled in. They had taken a different hike than the scout troop which was climbing the nearby peak of Pharaoh Mountain with some challenging vertical gains of very tight topo lines. They graciously shared the space with us as Ken and Scott slept in the lean-to and Ron and myself setup our hammock rigs.

Lucky for them they were camping with bushcrafters and we had wood processed and a big fire going in no time to dry and warm us all up. After the heavy rains in the last few days, it took some scouting to find proper dead, down and dry materials that wouldn’t need to be babied all evening.

This crew has been great to camp with..everything from fire to food to water purification just happen with minimal communication necessary. I feel lucky to find a few friends who are as into these adventures as I am.

Off to enjoy some sleep after a fun long day and I think we all slept well minus some snoring and bodily sounds and smells going on in the lean-to.  Glad I had my hammock and the sounds of loons to lull me to sleep.

We hit the trail and hiked along some beautiful creeks and classic Adirondack scenery. All the camping sites and lean-to’s provided excellent accommodations with beautiful views, water and fishing opportunities.

We ended up hiking for most the day and finally made camp at Little Rock Pond.  With some other groups out and about some of the sites were taken limiting our choices but this worked well with our plan to have a shorter hike out on Sunday knowing we all had 4+ hour travel time to get home.

Little Rock was a beautiful spot full of the sounds of spring peepers, barred owls and bitterns. Scott hooked into a trout big enough for supper and so Ron cooked it in a pot with butter cooking it to perfection.

The trip came together wonderfully with some excellent camping, hiking, fishing, scenery and friends.

Now it’s time to pick the next destination and find a free weekend.

Groomsman Gifts: Helle Viking Knife Blanks

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Last year with the help of a friend I had purchased Helle Viking Knife blanks from Ragweed Forge to make into groomsman gifts for a commission. We visited Dixon’s Muzzleloading Shop to pick-up gun stock scraps of tiger maple for the handles and scraps of leather to make into sheaths.

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We shaped the handles and hand sanded with 220 grit on the wood and 400 at grit on the bolster edge.

We then raised the grain on the wood 3x. The process was the apply water to the wood with fingers, use a propane torch to rapidly dry the wood to raise the grain and rub the wood smooth again with 0000 steel wool.

Next the Aquafortis acid stain was applied with a dauber to all handles. The torch was used to oxidize the stain and the heat turned the wood reddish brown. This was started at the bolster because the brass acts as a heat sink and a yellow ring will form at the wood below the bolster if not enough heat is applied.

The torch heat was then passed over the whole handle with just enough heat to make the stain oxidize. If the wood became scorched it could be rubbed out with steel wool. The heat was passed over gently trying to remove any sections with a yellow cast so all was oxidized.

This process was done again starting with a second coat of stain.

The acid was finally neutralized with a mix of 8oz water and couple teaspoons of baking soda, all applied with a dauber. A light bubbling action resulted.

With the wood still warm, it was rubbed with 0000 steel wool and boiled linseed oil. This allowed the oil to soak in and also remove any scorching while bringing up the grain and highlighting the beautiful striations within the wood.

More coats of boiled linseed oil were applied over the next few days allowing the wood to absorb as much as possible.

The knife handles were left to dry before finally packaging in brown grocery paper with a Ballistol wipe and care instructions and wrapped with jute string.

Winter Hot Tenting in the Adirondacks at Good Luck Lake

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I’ve been reading a lot about winter trekking and hot tenting this past year and finally had an opportunity to get out for a few nights to a place called Good Luck Lake.  We did some ice fishing, snowshoeing, star gazing, a lot of fire wood processing and plenty of camp cookery.  Now I’m back to day dreaming about the next one and hopefully will find the right place to hot tent and pull some trout through the ice!

 

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We do not go to the green woods and crystal waters to rough it, we go to smooth it. We get it rough enough at home; in towns and cities; in shops, offices, stores, banks—anywhere that we may be placed—with the necessity always present of being on time and up to our work; of providing for the dependent ones; of keeping up, catching up, or getting left. “Alas for the life-long battle, whose bravest slogan is bread.”I am talking … to those of the world’s workers who go, or would like to go, every summer to the woods. And to these I would say, don’t rough it; make it as smooth, as restful and pleasurable as you can.” – Nessmuk -Woodcraft & Camping 

Autumn Canoe Camping in the Adirondacks

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My friend Ron and I had a great trip in early October to the St. Regis area of the Adirondacks. We hit the autumn colors at peak, portaged to hidden ponds, caught brook trout for dinner, had a crayfish boil, lounged in our hammocks and just enjoyed the incredible beauty and peacefulness the wilderness area offers.

 

It’s wonderful to return to an area you’ve been before but have a completely new experience based on hitting a few side ponds, staying at different campsites and going in the “off” season. We could have counted the people we saw and heard on one hand.  The video sums up the trip nicely and shows a mix of it all including some bushcrafty skills mixed with modern gear.

Wilderness First Aid – Case Study

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This past weekend some bushcraft and outdoor skills came together when an evacuation of a friend at a backwoods campsite became necessary. He had an accident with a Trail Hawk Axe while processing firewood when a glancing swing come back and hit him in the shin.

He explained, “Why it happened is easy. I was dumb. I broke the rules and paid for it. After we arrived at camp and said our greetings, I started to collect fire wood. Since doing a day trip, I only brought my Trail Hawk and an Opinel folding saw, not a buck saw, which was what was needed. The major mistake was that I was using the hawk in an unsafe manner. I was cutting a branch about chest high with axe. If the hawk missed, there was no safe backstop like the ground or another log to stop it. Just me. I’ve done it a hundred times with no problems, but this time I didn’t get away with it. That’s my stupidity.”

We benefited well from having multiple people with EMT and Wilderness First Aid Responder training including the patient himself who stayed calm and expertly directed his own care with our observation and questioning. Each of us had packed medical kits should we have to deal with such a situation and we had a mix of bandages and wraps to apply on and compress the injury.

It became clear quickly that he would not be able to hobble the mile long rough uphill terrain out of the forest so we reassembled a bushcraft campchair into a stretcher using cordage and lashings.

Luckily we had 5 guys on scene to assist with the evacuation as our best exit was an uphill route that began in a dense forest of saplings. At this stage it was easiest to carry our patient at waist height to best navigate the brush.  As we made it onto an old logging road and the forest began to open it became far easier to carry at shoulder height and rotate positions to alleviate stress.

It took us almost two hours from the incident to get to the cars before travel to a hospital.

Time to reevaluate the first aid kit for the next trauma and to remember that complacency can be the most deadly environment we find ourselves in.

Lake Lila, Adirondacks – Whitney Wilderness Canoe Trip

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My wife, dog and I took a trip to Lake Lila in the Adirondacks to explore part of the Whitney Wilderness Area.  We portaged in and paddled around the lake exploring the surrounding nature and camping for three nights. I had a chance to have some fun working on my advanced wilderness bushcraft skills as part of Bushcraft USA and also paddle our new kevlar Mad River Explorer Canoe.

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