I purchased my first kayak, the same one I still use today, when I was nine years old. My older brother and I had recently gone paddling for the first time during an Adirondack vacation. My parents, who were used to paddling all four of us around in a heavy aluminum canoe, were excited at the prospect of family paddles on nearby lakes and rivers — especially if we were going to be sharing in the work! Our family boating days began from there, and for years we spent sunny days on the water, my brother and me in our kayaks, my parents in their canoe.
At first, I struggled to keep up, especially on rougher water. But in time, my strength, ability, and confidence grew. I remember fierce races with my brother, who would occasionally let me win to boost my spirits. My parents, seeing how much fun my brother and I had in our zippy little boats, eventually got kayaks of their own. But, as my brother and I moved away to college and then off to pursue our own careers, family paddling days became few and far between. When I realized that we were all going to be free and in the area on the same weekend, I suggested a family paddle reminiscent of the old days. Everyone jumped at the chance.
We met at the public beach and boat launch in Inlet, my parents and brother coming up from the south, and me from Saranac Lake. After a walk down to the water followed by a stroll through town to grab some iced coffee at Adirondack Reader and Café, we split into two cars and caravanned our way to Limekiln State Campground, where Limekiln Lake can be accessed from using their day use area. We had camped at this campground when my brother and I were very young, but had never explored the lake. With fall colors just beginning to pop out of the trees, it seemed like the perfect place to enjoy a day on the water.
After we unloaded our boats and parked the cars, we divvied up the picnic supplies and took to the water. The morning was cloudier than the weather had called for, and a stiff breeze made for choppy water. While my brother and dad have keels on their kayaks, my mom and I do not. They charged ahead with no trouble, but we had to keep paddling so as not to be spun around by the frequent gusts! To shield ourselves from the wind, we set our sights on a couple of islands tucked into a bay on the far side of the lake. As we paddled, we recalled some of the fun family days we spent together in our boats.
Before long, we reached the smaller of the two islands. Thick with brush and rocks, there wasn’t a lot of room to get out and walk around. We were starting to get hungry though, so I hopped out and climbed an upturned ball of roots on the face of the island with hopes of getting a better vantage point. The larger island next to us appeared to have a rock outcrop perfect for our picnic. I climbed back into my kayak and we all started to paddle away. The clouds had drifted away and the wind had died down. All of a sudden, it was the perfect day.
Re-energized by the bright sun, we made our way to the rock outcrop on the larger island. The sheer cliff provided no access though, so we continued along the shore, looking for a way in. My brother and dad both found small trails leading toward the center of the island and disembarked to explore. They discovered that the rock could be accessed from these trails. Trail is maybe an exaggeration. It was a worn path through thick shrubbery and over fallen trees. But, nevertheless, it easily led us to our destination.
The rock perfectly fit the four of us, and offered beautiful views of the lake, the smaller island, and the surrounding trees. Fall was just starting to paint a brilliant picture on the hillsides, with deep, dark reds, and we all remarked on how amazing the view would be in a few short weeks once fall was fully underway. We spread our blanket and unpacked our lunch: local cheeses and farm fresh tomatoes I had brought from the Saranac Lake Farmers Market, and crackers, nuts, artisan jam, and New York State wine we had brought from home. It was a feast fit for kings and queens, and atop our rock, we felt like royalty.
We spent close to an hour there, picking at our picnic, sharing stories, and exploring what else the island offered. We watched families ride by in motorboats and on jet skis, and saw a few other paddlers as well. Full and happy, we headed back to our kayaks and pointed our bows out of the bay and back toward the way we came. We had heard of a small lagoon on one end of the island, and we had our hearts set on finding it. It was well hidden, and our search led to some skepticism and a lot of goofiness on the way. My family has always had fun together, some of it very silly, and that hasn’t changed as my brother and I have aged.
Just when it began to seem like this lagoon was a myth, we saw two kids paddling out of the tree line. Sure enough, tucked into the far back corner, there was the entrance to the channel. Smaller waterways are my favorite places to paddle. As you wind around the bends, you feel like a great explorer. There’s always the unspoken (or sometimes, spoken) hope that you might turn a corner and catch a moose or some other wildlife by surprise. The habitat itself is also fascinating. Thick with water lilies and pitcher plants along the shoreline, there is so much to discover in the vegetation alone! Before long, the little lagoon ended abruptly in a manmade dam. We turned and paddled back out as the smell of campfires from the shoreline campsites wafted by and the happy squeals of children filled our ears.
By this time, the sun was getting low in the sky and the clouds and wind were starting to roll back in. We decided to call it a day and headed back to shore. The boat launch was easy to spot, and as we paddled back to it the call of a loon lulled us all into a comfortable silence. We disembarked, all remarking on what a spectacular day it had been, and loaded our boats back onto our cars. With a final stop at Northern Lights Creamery in Inlet to cap off the day, we parted ways. Time spent with my family is always fun, but this trip was especially memorable. It was a return to the old days, and a blissful escape from our everyday adult lives. Any time of year the Adirondacks are beautiful, and it was so nice to share that beauty with my family. Hopefully it won’t be long before we share another day out on the water.
Start planning your trip today. Paddling is a great way to spend time with family and friends!