Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Dead Creek in the Adirondacks is full of life

It has been a few weeks since I have added to my musings. We spent a week in the Adirondacks, camping at Rollins Pond Campground and hiking, canoeing and botanizing from that base of operations. It never fails: as a vacation approaches, I do frantic research to eke out the best of the best places to see so we can make the most of the limited time we’ll have.

After all the studying and note-taking, it often turns out that you don’t know what’s best till you get there. After seeking out a birding area I had read of, we discovered it was closed, not to open until the day after we left the Adirondacks. After turning back and heading the way we had come, we whipped over into a parking area that caught my eye along Rt. 3. It was an access to Dead Creek (one of several “Dead Creeks” in the Adirondacks!), a quiet meander through a swampland. We put on and started upstream.

Around the first bend I found our first cardinal flowers in bloom. I snagged a few shots of them, then headed toward the groan I heard from Charlie. As I rounded the next bend, he sat forlornly looking at a downed hemlock tree blocking the stream in front of his canoe. We mulled it over for a moment, then pouring on the paddle power, I rammed onto the spit of land beside it. The momentum carried me far enough that I could step out, pull my little 12-pound Sairy Gamp over, and step back in to continue upstream.

But around a few more bends and it was Charlie’s turn to respond to my groan. A beaver dam. Not being the sort to destroy something so intricate and complex, we discussed it briefly before turning back the way we’d just come. Ram back up on the spit, pull the canoes over, step back in and paddle back toward the put-in.

I had our waterproof map of the region and after poring over it, we continued downstream under the Rt. 3 bridge and headed to the Raquette River. Although the sound of the highway traffic stayed with us for awhile, the chirps and whistles in the swamp soon caught all of our attention. Along here we saw Great Blue Herons, Waxwings, Swamp Sparrows and signs of beavers and muskrats. I explored several side channels that were cut by beavers en route to the stream. On the bank of one channel I found a muskrat scent mound, and two large beaver lodges were cleverly placed behind shrubs so that they were very well camouflaged. Several dead snags provided hunting grounds for woodpeckers.

We paddled along for 50 minutes, crossing a few shoddy beaver dams built as if the beavers were of a lazy tribe. They yielded to the canoes and sprang back into shape afterward as if we hadn’t been there at all. Eventually we floated out onto the Raquette River itself and paddled a few hundred yards upstream. But signs of human occupation—cottages, campsites—urged us to turn back the way we’d just come. Although it felt like we’d paddled a few miles, in reality it was only 9/10 of a mile from the Rt. 3 access to the Raquette. The return trip, minus the side channels and long looks at birdlife, only took about 15 minutes.

As we relaxed that evening at our campsite on Rollins Pond, a grand sunset lit the sky and led us into twilight. The perfect end to a perfect day.

No comments: