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PostPosted: June 25th, 2013, 12:28 pm 
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Joined: October 27th, 2006, 5:51 am
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Location: Montreal
This was as much a wet hike as a canoe trip. We car-camped and explored for 2 days.


Trip report:

Nature lovers in Watson's East Triangle Wild Forest

This summer my wife Sylvie and I plan a vacation centered around nature study, specifically wetland ecology, which when you start to think about it is a pretty huge study subject. Over the past months we've built up a small library of field manuals and text books on a variety of interesting subjects, including the biology of soils.

This weekend was a long one for us so we packed up the car and headed west from Montreal to Ogdensberg then south down rt. 812 (AKA Indian River Rd.) and turned southeast onto Eerie Canal rd and proceeded to penetrate Adirondack State Park from the west. We were looking to explore Watson East Triangle and after hours of map study and internet research study I had a plan to get us started. National Geographic Topo was up and running on the laptop while Sylvie drove. I had several routes showing on the screen and we followed one that was activated in my GPS to guide us along on the dirt roads. We went directly to a camp site on Wolf Pond and set up. Wolf Pond looked like it might have what we were looking for which was:

direct access from car camping spot to water (very handy when studying wetlands)
navigable water leading to swamps, marshes and flooded lands
freedom from motor boats

Wolf Pond has an outlet that runs east then north about 200 yards and empties into Wolf creek so off we went to explore. Before long we encountered a plank bridge which showed on the map and we hauled the canoe up and over. Here the outlet became a “remote stream” shown by a fine blue line on the map. We encountered a beaver dam, then a tangle of big trees, then fallen logs and another beaver dam in quick succession. We were getting out, staggering around in knee deep water and hauling the canoe up and over a little too frequently for Sylvie's taste so we left the canoe perched atop yet another stringer, grabbed a paddle each for balance and made our way to Wolf Creek.

It took a while walking in swampy terrain, zig-zagging around flooded channels and the like but we were eventually rewarded with a nice wide peaceful channel that stretched unimpeded in both directions as far as we could see. The area was absolutely beautiful and one got the impression that it went on forever. Thunder rumbled continuously all day and we returned to the canoe by hugging the forest on dryer land and then cutting over to it. Then we had to haul the canoe up and over the same obstacles all over again.

We explored Wolf Pond in falling rain, headed back to our campsite and sat comfortably under the tarp, ate lunch and talked about our study area while perusing our library and trying to identify shrubs and bushes that grew around us and the tiny birds that flitted quickly through the shrubbery. We mused that if we were going to stay in the area for a few days it might be worthwhile carrying the canoe overland to Wolf Creek and leaving it there until we were ready to leave. On the map an old woods road shows that runs fairly close to Wolf Creek. After supper while walking along the main woods road to the plank bridge we saw this other road where it split off and decided to explore it on foot the next day. I also spotlighted a Green Frog in my headlamp and got a nice picture. Speaking of frogs, we could ID three different sounds: a single gulp, a deep, rumbling wah-wah-rooom and thirdly, a sound like a stick being dragged along the teeth of a comb. It made for an incredible ruckus all night long.

The next day, after a leisurely breakfast with coffee pond-side we struck out with a bit of gear and walked the old road that follows Wolf Creek downstream. After about a mile it split in two and we followed the one that led downhill to the creek. At this point the creek was clearly not navigable by watercraft so we decided to creek-whack upstream and discover where it opened up. This was very, very slow and thoroughly enjoyable for both of us. Things got even better when we reached the open water and saw far-reaching vistas. We could walk more easily through the boggy terrain. We saw some Blue Flags (an Iris) Bog Laurel in full bloom, a pair of Common Yellowthroat Warblers (that was a big moment) a Marsh (or Sedge) Wren and a great many black-winged Damsel Flies that we couldn't find in our book. Their bodies are colored a beautiful phosphorescent greenish-blue.

We were pleased that the walk along open water went on for a good long while as the river bent and did nearly a 180 degree turn. We weren't all that pleased with the various horse and deer flies that assailed us constantly.

We found a decent route for an overland canoe carry but it was still a fairly steep bushwhack and Sylvie said there was no way she would carry a canoe down (and back up) it and I didn't argue.

Back in camp we had lunch and spent some time looking things up in our books. Our species list was growing by leaps and bounds and Sylvie wrote everything down in her notebook. Then we got in the car and went exploring for perhaps a better campsite for future reference. We drove to Buck Pond but didn't like the campsite as much and it was quite limited regarding our needs so we ended up taking a most blissful 2 hour walk up and back down the middle of the West Branch of the Oswegatchie River, which is not navigable at this time. The sun beat down hard on our backs and the wind kept the bugs at bay some of the time at least.

Back at camp we chilled by the water's edge having a late afternoon snack and we watched a flock of Bank Swallows as they wheeled and turned, presumably feeding on insects. The books, once again, were consulted and the species list grew some more. We had a Magnolia Warbler come right by our camp, gleaning insects non-stop from the spruce branches. A half-dozen Cedar Waxwings perched in the top of a pine before moving on and a Belted Kingfisher perched briefly, cackled and flew off.

We made plans to drive to Sand Pond (In the Croghan Tract) on our final day and as we lay in the tent a Barred Owl called out “Who cooks for you” a few times. Earlier that day we saw numerous turkeys roadside and a Hawk flew past right in front of the car. After breaking camp we drove over and explored via canoe every nook and cranny of Sand Pond. Directly in front of us an Eastern Kingbird flew up from a broken stump. I noticed a tuft of grasses on top so we paddled over to it and sure enough, there was a nest full of babies. Continuing along we were visited by a beaver who swam in tightening semi circles around the front of the canoe, getting closer and closer until we moved on. We entered a dead-end swampy channel and noted that some of the swamp grasses were round in section and full of pith and air cells, while others were triangular and yet others flat. The pithy air cells probably function both to support the stalk and to channel oxygen down to the submerged roots. Mats of slimy algal colonies floated, insectivorous plants grew on floating logs, red-Winged Blackbirds whistled, a pair of Loons called, frogs caught flies and tiny fishes created ripples as they fed on water striders. Life was everywhere.

On the sandy NW side of Sand Pond we noticed a series of many bowl-like depressions on the sandy bottom. We wondered if fish made them to lay their eggs therein. Just then we noticed a massive school of 6-inch long fish that had green-tinged lines that ran vertically from belly to back.

Finally, we had a picnic roadside before packing everything up and driving back to Montreal. Now that we've had a good introduction to the area and an excellent shake-down trip we're ready to get some more gear and continue researching this fine area.

PostPosted: June 25th, 2013, 8:32 pm 
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Joined: December 29th, 2002, 7:00 pm
Posts: 6248
Location: Bancroft, Ontario Canada
Interesting read, Neil, thanks for writing... lots of detail and closeups.


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