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Heading up lake, Diane and Cooper tandem in the Penobscot 16, Tyler in a small sea kayak and me in the Reflection we noticed a kayaker in green cutting across the lake on an intercept course and paused for an anticipated ranger greeting. After a brief fires-bear bags-designated campsites routine we continued uplake, aiming for our favorite site, #10, Bocce Greens.
Site #10 is, in our opinion, the nicest of the 31 designated sites on Little Tupper or the adjoining Rock Pond. We have now seen and scouted every site at Little Tupper, seen most of the sites several times in fact, and have rated them on a seven-criteria scale (tent capacity, landing ease, views & water proximity, bugginess, swimming potential, site wanderability and sun/shade) and Bocce Greens has it all.
Unoccupied too. Our little slice of heaven. Site occupancy at Little Tupper continues to be less than expected for such a beautiful place. Although the ranger told us that the parking lot was full on the July 4th weekend that is to be expected; he also told us that only three other parties were camped on the lake as we paddled in. Away from the major holidays, and especially with a mid-week put in, the site pickin' is easy.
With a palatial camp set up beneath the open understory of the conifer forest the boys flew to the water for some Adirondack swimming, and Tyler picked up the first leech of the trip. I'm trying to imagine the reaction of other kids at finding a leech sucked onto their leg - I'm envisioning revulsion, cries of anguish, fear of swimming. Having already spent a lifetime camped with mosquitoes, flies, leeches and ticks Tyler and Cooper are inured to an environment where everything stings, sticks or stinks.
As evening drew on the campfire was set (downed wood is plentiful - by the following day we had a woodpile cut and split to last us our entire stay) and a rousing game of Botticelli was underway. Turning in early we discovered one mistake in our campsite architecture - our tent was erected directly downwind of the smoking campfire. Something else to consider in the arrangement of backwoods bedrooms and kitchen.
Thursday morning Tyler and I took a short day paddle to scout out site 12 (Big Haven), another site on the A list. Back in camp we commenced a spell of site clean up - collecting a very small bit of trash from previous campers and disposing of a large pile of green or sodden Birch squaw wood left behind by overly optimistic sawyers.
Little Tupper sites are still amazingly clean and untrammeled. In part this is because the area was only recently acquired by the Adirondack Preserve from the Whitney family, in part because backwoods campers in general have a better sense of ethic and in part because there is scant reason to visit Little Tupper other than to paddle. The fishing is all catch & release, and poor at that, thanks to the State's protection of Little Tupper's strain of heritage brook trout. The absence of stocked bass or other game fish has kept the fisherman at bay and the oft-omnipresent snarls of monofilament line, bait containers and Budweiser cans are nowhere to be found. Let's hear it for the Little Tupper Brookies!
Cooper and I took a short day paddle down to check the beaches at a cove, finding footprints of deer, raccoon and bear in one secluded spot and paddling within 30 feet of a perched bald eagle before he took flight. Back in camp a bushwhacking hike lead us to an unnamed pond and bog to our west, which we christened Moss Hopper Pond for obvious reasons.
Friday dawned gray, windy and intermittently rainy. A perfect day for lingering, dawdling camp life. A morning campfire that was sustained all through the day. Reading, writing, wandering, wood carving. Playing backwoods poker and all-terrain bocce with the boys. Glancing at the whitecaps on the lake occasionally before retreating back to the fireside. I do dearly love camp life.
Saturday saw us heading out for a daylong exploratory paddle. Up to the north end of the lake, up Charlie Pond outlet to the Red Trail footbridge, up the Rock Pond outlet, across the portage trail and onto Rock Pond. All into a serious 25 knot headwind. A workout that left us thankful for yesterday's rest and relax.
Between the outlet streams we scouted out one of the few sites we had not yet seen, Camp Bliss. We decided that Bliss is actually BLISS, an acronym for Bugs Love It, So Sorry. The maddening hordes of deer flies of course accompanied us off site as we paddled up the Rock Pond outlet stream. Bliss if you are a Kingbird maybe.
Paddling in to Rock Pond we espied a small flotilla of canoes headed downstream. The Keewaydin boys in a beautiful collection of 30's and 40's wood canvas canoes loaded with wannigans and tumplines. We paused to watch them paddle past, feeling something akin to viewing a passing parade of classic cars.
Traversing the portage trail we entered Rock Pond just as a storm brewed up and quickly pulled into Site 30 (Open Field) for a sheltered lunch break. Post lunch the storm passed and we continued on to scout the remaining sites on Rock Pond. The Island site, #28 and the site nearest the portage trail (#25) are the nicest sites on the pond and well worth a hump over the portage trail.
Heading back to camp, our raging headwind having now abated (unfair!) we checked the topos to discover that we covered 12 miles on the day's explore, 6 of them into a strong headwind. Not to mention traversing the portage trail twice. A delightfully tiring day that concluded with an evening of campfire games; more Botticelli and a hilarious round of charades in which Tyler acted out what appeared to be an unlicensed Disney parody "The 100 Wounded Damnations"
Sunday saw some bits of blue sky and more day paddling. Another trip to footprint beach, and then Tyler and I paddled across the lake to reevaluate sites 18 through 21 (#19 is the best of those). As the breeze abated that afternoon I treated myself to a long solo paddle up the Charlie Pond outlet, over several beaver dams to the boundary of the Whitney Wilderness.
Monday broke warm and sunny, and we decided to take our time packing camp and grab as much Little Tupper time as possible. Sunny swimming, a long friendly visit with the roving Ranger (Bruce Coon, today double blading his personal Bell Wildfire instead of the State's kayak), a leisurely paddle back to the take out with a lunch and swim stop on site #2 (good deep swimming spot...bring a mask and flippers). Lunch was a smorgasbord of leftovers and assorted remains. Kudos to Diane's food packing experience - six days of meals and snacks for four people and we came out just right
The haul out was easy thanks to the portage cart. As we were wheeling back to the van we encountered the Keewaydin girls (Songadeewin) with their wood canvas canoes and wannigans hauling down to the lake. One of the counselors inquired about sites on the lake and we shared our now complete site-rating sheet with her (she kept laughing about some of the names we'd given sites, especially the bad ones - Proboscis Point and Mal Lodgment and Mud Camp).
En route home we finally managed to hook up with friend Mike for ice cream and boat taking and an impromptu gift exchange. We'll hope for a longer visit next time Mike, and maybe a tour of your cabinetry shop. As it was we rolled home well after midnight, having successfully eeked out every minute of Little Tupper time we could.
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