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Exploring Lake George, NY, October 17th


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Lake George has always been a favorite place for me; in my earliest kayaking days I often came here in the spring and autumn, on camping trips out of a tandem with my boy when he was around 8-10 years old. I hadn't been to Lake George in years so I planned to paddle there for several days during a week of peak autumn foliage. These plans did not materialize due to weather and other obligations , but I was able to paddle there for a day on Friday of last week,

Lake George is 32 miles long, a deep block fault set amidst the outer fringes of the Adirondack mountains. Because of its depth and steep, rocky shorelines there is relatively little purchase for vegetation so the lake is oligotrophic : little aquatic vegetation, and the water is very clear. Like Winnepesaukee, it is a magnet for vacationers and boaters, but before Memorial Day and after Columbus Day the lake is sparsely traveled, and seems virtually uninhabited in big parts, perfect for kayaking and exploring.
The eastern shore is largely inaccessible except for a few roads which wind through the mountains from Rte 22 north of Whitehall. It was this eastern shore and the uninhabited middle third of the lake that I aimed to explore

I set off from Huletts Landing Marina, (a bustling place in the summer but now almost a ghost town) at 9AM and paddled southward, down the eastern shore, past Burgess and Noble Islands, the first of the many state-owned islands I would encounter. After about a mile I was past the last road extending from Huletts Landing, and now into Adirondack Park, so for the rest of the day I encountered only a few boats and no dwellings save for a couple of remote cabins on the western shore. I passed two canoes with paddlers wearing traditional clothes, perhaps historical re enactors, returning from a traditional style camping (canvas tents, wool blankets , togues etc) The lake is steeped in history dating back to the French missionaries and explorers of the 17th century (it was first named Lac Ste. Sacrament ) , and the French and Indian War ( the Seven years war between England and France extended to North America ) and attracts historical buffs and re enactors.

I paddled into a 11-12 kt wind which funneled up the lake all day, promising a fast ride back in the afternoon, in about a mile I was amidst the Mother Bunch islands.

I meandered a bit and stopped on Coopers island to boil a thermos of tea at a campsite that was typical for this area.
I then threaded my way past Black Mountain Point to Paradise Bay and Red Rock Bay, my turning-around points .From here I was inspired to cross the lake to French Point , in the shadow of Tongue mountain , where I have camped many times.

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I first traveled here around 1975 , and was intrigued by the Tongue Mountain range when I encountered a big robust timber rattlesnake crossing the road. On almost every subsequent hike along the Tongue Mountain range I encountered rattlesnakes . It was now too late in the year, however, to hope seeing any of these splendid creatures.post-100369-0-84570400-1414414873_thumb.

I explored the shore along French point and stopped at Dollar Island for some lunch,then paddled onward in the shadow of French point mountain and fifth peak on the Tongue Mountain range.
It has always captured my imagination that by far the grandest spectacle in the long history of human activity on this lake was over 250 years ago, In 1758 , when a huge British army under General Abercrombie traveled the length of Lake George, from Fort William Henry, in hundreds of boats, for the disastrous attack on Fort Ticonderoga, then Fort Carillon.


(Sorry for cluttering this report with historical minutiae , but kayakers seem to share a fetish for most things Scottish so it seems fitting to include here) This was where the 42nd Royal Highland regiment, the"Black Watch ", entered into legend when they were mired in the vast French abatis of fallen trees and sacrificed in the attack on the fort
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From St Sacrament Island I spotted an odd-looking chapel like-structure about two thirds of a lie away on Harbor Island , a place of interest as the only two power boats I saw all day stopped there to take photographs before roaring off.
I crossed over to have a look- see , then paddled back across to the west shore via Steere Island, explored a few camping spots, then crossed back again to Vicars island before returning to Huletts landing at about 4PM.

After sorting out my boat and gear I lounged on a bench by the marina to savor the late afternoon sun.

This fine trip has inspired me to return to Lake George for a camping trip of a few more days, probably in the autumn and in the remote Mother Bunch Islands, or perhaps along the shore of the Tongue Mountain range .

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yes, wind can be an issue. With a pretty significant southwest-northeast fetch, and the lake being flanked by mountains , winds from the south can funnel right up the lake, and create quite a train of wind waves. There's a predictable pattern, I'm told, of south winds building in late morning to mid afternoon, then dying down. This has been my experience as well .

In the summer, it gets crazier, when the huge number of power boats on the lake actually create their own conditions, and the whole lake can become a mass of confused seas midday. the disparity between the bustle of the summer months and the tranquility of the off season months is amazing.

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