Some of my first and best memories as a child are the lakes and mountains of the Adirondacks where I have visited often since a youngster. The Daks is where I spent my first time on the water, first time paddling, and it instilled a deep love for wilderness and adventure in me. I had just spent 5 weeks nursing a slightly torn MCL and was starting to feel better enough to want to push it just a little. A family trip to the Daks for a long weekend felt like the perfect opportunity to get back on a SUP and maybe even sneak in a little rock climbing.
Driving up Route 28, the green leaves of Central NY started to change yellow, then orange, and red as we got deeper into these ancient mountains. After a quick sandwich in Old Forge, NY my wife Christian and I set off for some rock climbing at the base of Bald Mountain. My knee still caused some pain so I didn’t yet feel confident doing most activities but thought rock climbing might be good for it considering the doctor told me to strengthen my thigh and stretch my knee. It will be just like PT I thought.
The knee was a little sore on the 15-minute approach over some rough terrain but it felt so good just being able to move through the crisp air. At the base of the climb Christian and I sorted out our gear and roped up. We hadn’t really climbed in about a year so after 15 feet I went to place my first piece of gear and needed a few deep breaths to dust off the mental cobwebs. I moved up and right locking my fists in a beautiful hand crack placing cams at rests with my knee feeling strong. 80 ft. up perched on a ledge overlooking peak foliage and the Fulton Chain Lakes I tied in to the spruce tree anchor. With my feet hanging over the edge I watched Christian dance up the hand crack cleaning the gear. We shared a few moments soaking in the view so high above the water and fall colors before rappelling back down to solid ground.
We drove 20 more minutes to our cabin on the east end of Fourth Lake and were just in time to catch an unbelievable sunset. The magic of this place started to sink in as the sky grew dark and the fire crackled. The next day the temperature dropped 20 degrees, it rained and we took it easy. With a few hours of daylight left we layered up with our Polartec fleeces, Tropos Otter Jackets, and Centurion PFDs and headed off into the cold rain on SUPs. Being warm and dry out on the water in cold wet conditions makes all of the difference in the world. It had been 5 weeks for me without paddling on a SUP. Gliding over the water with the mountains covered in a thick drizzle I realized again how awesome it is to just be out on the water. Bringing our SUP’s back up to the cabin I could smell Mom’s sweet lasagna and enjoyed the company of family around a hearty meal.
The next day after a quick hike and Onewheel lesson with the family we launched again from our cabin in the cold this time exploring the lake further -heading up a creek from the lake where the town of Inlet gets its name and then through town into the tiny and hidden Fifth Lake. We spent the day hiding from the wind enjoying the wilderness, peak fall colors, and classic Adirondack style. After a long warm summer it was fun to experience our first cold weather paddling of the year and I couldn’t believe how comfortable I was in the Kokatat layering system.
On our last day in the Daks we joined my parents for a hike up Rocky Point Mountain. Hiking up the steep trail over the grey granite rock with colors bursting from the foliage I found a whole new appreciation for the simple things, like time with family, hiking, and paddling after 5 weeks of immobility. Standing on top of the familiar peak overlooking Fourth Lake laid out before us was some of the best foliage we had ever caught in the mountains.
On our way out we stopped again in Old Forge and launched for an amazing paddle on the Moose River right from the back door of one of our favorite gear and paddling shops – Mountainman Outdoor Supply Co. Cruising through the meandering still water was the perfect ending to a long weekend in the mountains and still just the beginning to getting back into the water.