A road trip of traditions and seasonal transitions

Adirondack seasonal transitions occur as summer gives way to the fall, and the fishing season segues to the annual big Game Hunting Season; as traditions and transitions blend in the chill of the Great South Woods.

Road trip through the seasonal transitons

Last week, with nothing pressing on the day's agenda, I decided to hop in the car for one last fall foliage outing. Although I still had a few days left in the trout season, I really just wanted to cruise the backroads in order to capture a few shots of the vibrant autumn colors, which had already progressed well-past peak in the northern Adirondacks.

After jamming as much gear as possible in the trunk of my car, I set off on Route 3 west to Tupper Lake, where the foliage had already muted into what I describe as the "mellow, yellow stage of autumn." While the forested scenes remained breathtaking, with yellow monotones of birch and poplar backed by long, tall stands of towering white pines; I was on a mission to find the crimson, orange and fiery scarlet shades that only sugar maples can provide.

Fall in the Moose River Plains
The Moose River Plains area appropriately named, as the vast wild lands provide an ideal environment for the Adirondack region's steadily growing moose population.

As a result, I decided to head south on Route 30. After passing through the village of Tupper Lake, I stopped on the outskirts of town at a parking area near the Moody Bridge. The location provides an intimate view of the Great Marsh of the Raquette, with a backdrop of the expansive Tupper Lake. I stayed just long enough to capture a few shots of a Great Blue Heron hunting for food among the cattails and cotton grass, before setting off again towards the Great South Woods; the heart of the Adirondacks.

On to Long Lake & Blue Mountain Lake

Although I truly enjoy the expansive wide-screen, panoramic, lakeside scenes, it often feels that I'm only getting half of the picture, as I can't see what is below the water's surface. It may simply be the result of my constant pursuit of piscatorial pleasures, but for some reason there is no setting more enveloping and engaging than entering a deep, dark, old-growth forest. Unfortunately, such opportunities are rarely available anymore, as hamlets mesh with villages and eventually the trees can no longer see the forests.

Fortunately, there are still a few fully forested sections of highway left around, and the 'Seventeen Mile Woods' section of Route 30 is one of the finest. Driving south from Tupper Lake, motorists travel on a long, relatively straight stretch of undeveloped highway, that doesn't include a single house, building or manmade structure. Nothing but woods!

'Seventeen Mile Woods'
'Seventeen Mile Woods' from Tupper Lake to Long Lake (M. Clement photo)

The pleasant stretch of tarmack lead me to the quaint village of Long Lake, where I stopped to see Tom Helms of Helms Aero Service. For over 50 years, the company has been flying hunters and anglers into some of the most remote and inaccessible areas of the Adirondacks. Unfortunately, Tom was taking off just as I arrived, so I continued heading south towards Blue Mountain Lake, a small community with a world class museum. It also offers some of the finest outdoor sporting opportunities in the region.

In addition to a wide array of backcountry brook trout ponds, the 1,300-acre Blue Mountain Lake continues to attract anglers with a variety of sporting species that include huge smallmouth bass, acrobatic landlocked salmon, and some truly impressive lake trout that annually provide the brood stock for state hatcheries.

Then Raquette Lake

Nearby Raquette Lake is truly an historic body of water, both socially and biologically. Many Robber Barons of the Industrial Age spent summers in plush Adirondack Great Camps along its shores, and this is where the NYS Hatcheries Commissioner introduced the first batch of smallmouth bass into the Adirondack watershed. Planted in the early the 1890s, bass were to be found as far north as Potsdam by the turn of the century.

Raquette Lake is located on the traditional trans-Adirondack paddling route. In addition to a healthy population of bass and northern pike, the lake also holds lake trout, and brook trout. In 2009, the lake actually produced a NYS record 5lb. 4oz brookie that measured 21" long, with an incredible 15" girth. It was truly a speckled football! The current NYS Record brook trout taken in May 2013, by angler Rich Brauchamp in May 2013 comes from Silver Lake in Hamiliton County's West Canada Lakes Wilderness Area.

After stopping for a quick cup of coffee, I continued my road trip deeper into the enveloping woods of Hamilton County in the Central Adirondacks. Encompassing more than a million acres of wild lands, it is the most sparcely settled county in the state, with a human population that's easily eclipsed by a resident population of moose, black bear and whitetail deer. 

The Moose River Plains in Autumn
The Moose River Plains area provides travelers with a diverse range of foliage, varying vistas and unique topography. The Plains also offers over a hundred primitive campsites, where many Big Game hunters maintain Base Camps for the duration of the hunting season.

The lack of a large human presence, and the ease of access to the wide-ranging state forest lands truly make the place a sportsman's and woman's nirvana. And it isn't just the fish and game that make it so attractive. For many, it is also about a sense of community that comes with sharing the pleasures and treasures of being part of a small town. Whenever I'm down that way, the evident sense of community is palatable in the restaurants and on the street. It's sort of like that old song on Cheers!, "where everbody knows your name."

However, there is no mistaking the allure of the attendant wild lands and waters that continue to attract the many hikers, bikers, climbers and cavers, as well as the skiers, paddlers, hunters and anglers that regularly make their way "back to the woods." Although I was focused on the non-consumptive pursuit of leaf-peeping during my recent trip, I've also enjoyed many of Hamiliton county's numerous outdoor adventures while rafting the mighty Hudson's whitewater, mountain biking in the vast Moose River Plains, flyfishing for trout in the Cedar Lakes, exploring the caves on Chimney Mountain where ice can be found year-round, hunting white-tailed deer in the backcountry woods, and more.

I'll Return real soon...

However, I returned from my most recent trip with nothing more than a few photos and a wide smile. With hunting season upon us, a road trip through this unspoiled region is just what I needed to transition my mindset from rod & reel to hunting rifle in anticipation of heading back into the Adirondack's Great South Woods real soon.

Back to the Hunt
A hunter rests his rifle against a tree in the

This week in related ADK news:

From taking aim to tastings, tree stands to trinkets, the Adirondacks offer a variety of hunting activities.