A Weekend on Long Lake, Part 2 of 3
(If you haven't read Part 1 yet, follow this link to read Part 1)
I had left you last week as we laid our heads down for the night at the end of a "Long Lake" day. Sleeping that night was a chore, we were plenty tired enough to take on the task, but the humidity was thick and we seemed to do nothing but stick to our sleeping bags. Tossing and turning, eventually we succeeded, but this also caused us to have a late breakfast. We didn't have a long day ahead of us, more of a relaxing outing with a bit of paddling and a bit of hiking, so not a big deal at all.
After I choked down my oatmeal, because honestly, I am over the "oatmeal in the morning before a hike" phase, we set off along the trail to Buttermilk Falls. The trail is not so much designated a hiking trail but a canoe carry trail. Well stomped down by dozens of paddlers every year, it's very easy to follow. This carry trail is also part of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail.
About 5-minutes up the trail we happened across a rather large group of youth camp paddlers heading down to Long Lake; they had planned to finish the day at the Long Lake Beach, after having started earlier that morning at Forked Lake. We didn't chat too much as their overnight packs and canoes looked rather heavy, not an appropriate time to drag on a conversation. We continued our hike over the well rooted trail. The forest was dark, well shaded, keeping the roots and small boardwalks a bit slippery under our feet. Aside from a few stumbles we were no worse for wear. We soon found ourselves at the location of a launch area, but more so, it is used as a docking area to start a portage to Long Lake. Since very few people paddle this section of the river, upstream, I feel it's safe to say it's not a launch but an exit point. From here the carry trail ends and becomes a path, similar to that which a fisherman might create over several decades. The path was a bit indeterminate and there was much more mud. By the time we got to the base of Buttermilk Falls we surely could use a dip in the cool waters. Not only did the humidity continue through the morning, but we had a nice layer of mud on our lower legs. We relaxed for a half hour or so before we started back to camp for a quick lunch by the waters.
A Paddle & A Hike? Owl's Head Pond
Once back to camp, and after a healthy snack, we decided to check out an obscure location, unsure what we would find. An outlet of Owl's Head Pond drained into the lake, it had caught my eye and I wanted to see if we could paddle it and then maybe hike up along its shore to Owl's Head Pond itself. We jumped into our kayaks and set off back down the lake. We once again found ourselves amongst the pond lilies and the ducks. We reached the small bay where the outlet of the pond ran its cool waters into the lake. Here we were visited by a playful otter, whose curiosity of us was just as strong as ours of him. A great blue heron swooped in with a loud flap of his wings, landing a distance off. Hidden within the tall grasses along shore we could not see the large bird, but soon it took off with a fish in his beak, then landed proudly near the top of a dead snag aside its nest. Before us we almost came to a dead end, as a small beaver dam crossed our path. Contemplating our fate, we decided that each of us needed to do a dismount onto the top of the beaver dam and regain our boats on the other side. To our surprise - not one mishap, we all managed to stay upright on the dam and once again on the opposite side, not an easy task with such deep water around us.
We paddled only a bit further up the outlet, through sharp oxbows to where it narrows to the point where a boat could not pass. We were then welcomed by a lovely waterfall before us, its waters gently cascading down the solid rock slide. We pulled our boats up on shore and put on our hiking boots to see if hiking the remaining distance to the pond would be worth our while, we soon found out it wouldn't be. The shore of the outlet was thickly covered in brush and bramble, not allowing for easy access. Several small wetland areas also made passage tiring and slow. We made it about a half mile or so upstream before we all looked at each other with a sort of cross-eyed wonder that said it all, we needed to turn back. The day was getting old at this point anyhow, and it would have been unclear if we would make it back to the boats in one piece, or if I would even survive, being the one who suggested this little venture and all; it was better for everyone.
S'mores, A Campfire & A Lean-to: The Perfect Ending to A Summer Paddling Day
We ended our day on the lake with a lazy float back to the campsite. We paddled along the shore, splashing each other with our paddles and even laughed about how horrible that idea was to try and hike back to the pond. We then settled in and collected our firewood for the evening. The flames grew tall and hot before us as they produced the needed coals for cooking our Boy Scout dinners. Cooked almost perfect, we dined and then finished off a bit later with s'more s'mores. The flames stared us in the eyes, hypnotizing us into a deep sleep; we finally gave up and crashed atop our sleeping bags with not a care in the world. Day three would be our exit to the weekend, so please come back again as I finish off our adventure with a paddle back to town and an interesting side trip up a seldom visited peak.