Sneak In an Early-Season Paddle

Meacham Lake in Adirondacks

Meacham Lake by Flickr user Enoch Ross

On the last days of April, ice—ranging in size from a beach blanket to a parking lot—still lingered on many Adirondack lakes. On Sunday a friend and I launched in Lake Durant in our pack canoes, hearing the season’s first loons and listening to the crinkly, tinkly sound of ice crystals disappearing under our paddles.

The canoeing was effortless (except for one instance of “the Titanic Effect,” when I got stuck on a floe and had to carefully scoot off using my bare hands). The breeze barely riffled the water; this would not have been the case on Raquette or Little Tupper Lakes, which can whip up wild and windy in a matter of minutes.

Besides the calm and the quiet, there was not another boat in sight, even pulled up on shore and hidden by last fall’s leaves. Visiting Adirondack campgrounds when they’re closed to overnighters but still accessible to hikers and paddlers is a rare treat. There’s no admission charge, you can launch right from the swimming beach and there’s often nobody else around. In the off season you can freely scout a campsite for summer or pick a picnic rock for the next visit.

On my short list of campgrounds for preseason paddling are Lake Eaton, near Long Lake; Buck Pond, near Onchiota, which also has a nice, easy hike on an old railroad bed; and Taylor Pond, near Au Sable Forks, with spectacular Silver Lake Mountain looming above. Though Meacham Lake is much bigger than these waters, it’s such a pleasure in springtime to have the bald eagles, blue herons and kingfishers for company rather than motorboats.

But you’ve got to seize the day to beat the paying customers. All state campgrounds in the Adirondacks will be open for business on Friday, May 17, and after that the day-use fee of $12 applies.

Looking for more kayaking and canoeing adventures? The 2013 Annual Guide to the Great Outdoors from Adirondack Life, is available at newsstands and as a complete digital edition from by May 21. You’ll find ideas for where to hike, mountain bike, camp and explore this great six-million-acre park.

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