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Weather: Mostly sunny, some clouds, minor rain, temps low 40s to low 70s.
My husband and I have both fallen deeply in love with paddling the Adirondack Park lakes, ponds, and streams over the past few years. With every trip, we find new things about the Adirondacks to enjoy and appreciate, and we sharpen our canoe camping skills.
This trip to Follensby Clear Pond and surrounding areas was our 2nd trip to the Adirondacks this year, and a repeat of last year's trip to Follensby. On this trip, we focused on testing our carry (portage) skills on day paddles. We also wanted to return to explore the area more fully.
If you haven't been there before, Follensby Clear Pond is a beautiful lake with a thickly wooded, irregular shoreline. There are several islands to camp on or explore, as well as a few canoe carry trails into other ponds. Primitive, free campsites are found by looking for openings in the trees on the shoreline, and are not numbered, and often hard to see from the water. Luckily, we had our paddlers' map with the campsites marked. As we were one of only 2 cars in the launch parking area, we knew we wouldn't have to look hard to find a good campsite.
We paddled to several empty sites, but decided to keep looking for our perfect site. We saw only 1 other site occupied while searching, and finally settled on a campsite on a large, pine tree covered island near the Green Pond portage. Our site had a tiny cove to easily land the boats, and a campfire ring directly overlooking the lake.
With our departure date set at Monday morning, we now had 5 leisurely days to explore and relax. In retrospect, the days always blur together, and I can't differentiate what we did each day. I can, however, recall the best parts of the trip.
During our stay, we explored Follensby Clear Pond extensively. We paddled its irregular perimeter, walked the shady, wooded portage trails, and checked out the other campsites. A few of these campsites had unusual "enhancements", such as a hanging "table" made of sticks held together by twine (slung between 2 trees) that looked like a xylophone. We saw a fire ring that was part of a fireplace dated 1960, a wooden spool wheel propped up on a log to make a bar-like table, and a lean-to on an island. The lean-to was the only campsite with a picnic table, which was well-worn, and carved deeply with names. All sites sported the small circular yellow DEC "Camp Here" tags, all had rock fire rings, most had out-houses, and none we saw had thunder boxes.
Almost every day, we saw beautiful skies, with subtle pink, yellow, orange, and purple sunsets, and even a daytime rainbow reflected in the water after an insignificant sprinkle.
In the mornings, we awoke to a lake blanketed with a light, low-hanging fog. A group of 6 loons passed by our campsite on a regular basis, calling at all times of day and night. A frog let me take his photo close-up without hopping away. Ducks unabashedly splashed in our tiny cove. One duck even followed Dave on Fish Creek, perhaps calling in duck-speak, "Are you my mother?"
Both nature and people observations kept us busy during our paddles. We saw a birch tree with a black marking that looked like a painted-on arrow, and a red water plant that reminded me of a poinsettia. We met and conversed with several paddlers, including two young women from Canada, an older couple from NYC, and a New Jersey fisherman who had converted his Current Designs kayak into a stable fishing platform.
As planned, we carried (portaged) our canoes on a day paddle from Follensby Clear Pond into Fish Creek, then paddled past Square Pond, into Floodwoood Pond, and then returned. On this paddle, we met several canoeists and kayakers along the way, as well as a couple of Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers in the bow of a Swift Kipawa. We assume many of these paddlers came from the Fish Creek campgrounds. In contrast, we saw very few people paddling on Follensby Clear Pond. However, we always enjoyed the brief chats with the passing paddlers, as all were quite friendly.
We also carried the boats over the portage trail for a day paddle into Polliwog Pond. We paddled to the next carry trail, Middle Pond, then beached the boats, and simply walked the trail. This was a nice hike for us. Admittedly, we were not up to carrying our 2 (heavy enough) Swift canoes that far. Maybe next year.
Meals by hubby Hopsing were, as always, excellent. We enjoyed dinners of fish, steaks, chicken, fresh cucumbers and tomatoes, augmented by backpacker boil-in-bags of green beans, peas, and pasta. Lunches were simpler: tuna packets, granola bars, fruit cups, crackers, canned chicken salad, and apples. Breakfasts were bacon, eggs, omelets with salsa and black beans, blueberry pancakes...however, Hopsing learned the hard way that blueberry MUFFIN mix is not the same as blueberry pancake mix.
I had fun playing with my Swiss Army volcano stove, which works great to boil water, but is sticky and messy on the outside of the pot when one uses pine as the fuel. It kept me busy heating water for hot chocolate in the mornings, while hubby was still sleeping.
The nicest memory I have of Follensby Clear Pond is sitting by our warm campfire at night, under a dark sky peppered with stars, cranking up the NOAA weather radio (which, by the way, did not receive even one weather station). We listened to NPR's Prairie Home Companion on Saturday night, sitting silently side by side, contented, just two old folks happy to be there.
I have other memories of Follensby Clear Pond, too. Unfortunately, they are of noises that intruded into this beautiful setting that looks like a remote wilderness, but really isn't. We heard trucks passing on the nearby main road (Rt 30), heard and saw float planes buzzing over the lake, and heard but did not see what we assumed were army cargo planes overhead (Fort Drum is not too far away). This was slightly annoying, but not so bad that it ruined our stay. We knew the road and even an airport was nearby, and had expected it.
As much as we enjoyed it, we probably won't return to Follensby Clear Pond and surrounding area next year, only because we'd like to find a different area in the Adirondacks to explore. Nonetheless, we enjoyed our time there, and have wonderful memories that will last a lifetime.
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