Sunday, June 7, 2015

Two Visits to Henderson Lake

I had had Henderson Lake on my must-see list for a few years, ever since I acquired my single-person Poke Boat.  Located fourteen miles down a mountain road, and nearly half a mile beyond the road's dead end, this lake is considered the actual beginning of the Hudson River.  The Hudson's source is high up on Mount Marcy, at Lake Tear of the Clouds, but the majestic Hudson, as a river, begins here.

(a bright paddler on a dark day)

Henderson Lake is also famous for its views of some of the highest peaks in the state, and Wallface, a formidable rock cliff.  My father has a picture of himself kayaking on Henderson Lake, and told me that he felt like he could almost touch Wallface.  I wanted to see for myself.

(Where are the mountains?)

Last September, I was one of the committee that organized 52 outings over three days as part of the Adirondack Mountain Club's Fall Weekend in Keene Valley. Each of us on the committee  would have time to participate in one of the outings.  As soon as I saw that Skip Young was leading a trip to Henderson Lake, I registered for it.

Besides fitting perfectly into my schedule of responsibilities for the weekend, the Fall Outing's location in the northern Adirondacks was a plus.  I would already be close to the Henderson Lake trail head.  One of my stumbling blocks to paddling this lake had always been that it is nearly a two-and-a-half hour drive from my house in Albany.

(early fall foliage lights up the shore)

Another complication was the 4/10ths of a mile carry from the parking area to the lake.  Even though my boat weighs only 29 pounds, carrying it for any distance, along with my lunch and other gear, would not be easy.  As the September weekend approached, I bought a kayak cart, wheels that would go under my boat so that I could easily pull it on a trail.  I practiced walking it like a pet, around my back yard.  Now, I was ready in every way!

(even this gray day offers serenity)

Unfortunately, when the day arrived and about ten of us set out on the water, heavy clouds covered all of the mountaintops.  A muted beauty gave the views a solemn aspect, but Wallface and the other peaks were completely hidden.

"You'll have to come back," Skip said. "And when you do, send me a picture of Wallface, so I know that you saw it."

(taking my boat for a walk to the lake on a perfect June day)

Thanks to Skip's guidance, I felt comfortable offering to lead a trip to Henderson Lake this spring. When I posted the outing, I wrote, "the weather has to be perfect or almost perfect or I will cancel the trip, because the drive is very long."  Every day I checked the forecast for the Newcomb area of the Adirondacks, and every day it never waivered, 70 degrees with a full sun.

(the Hudson River, all riled up)

Three participants and I met in Latham to begin the journey up the Northway.  In Pottersville, we picked up three more, who were coming from their Adirondack summer homes.  And at the trail head, we rendezvoused with another, making a nice group of eight for this outing.  Everyone was prepared with wheels or had boats light enough to carry for the distance.

(the same view as the first, but so different)

We could not have asked for a better day!  Each of us mentioned how fortunate we were, but I expounded, as I often do, over and over.  Finally, I said to those nearest me, with a sheepish grin, "I will probably say that this is a perfect day about fifty times--don't feel like you have to respond."  I couldn't help myself.  I was in heaven.

(I chose this picture to send to Skip)

We spread out, heading north along the lake shore in bright sunshine under a cloudless sky.  High visibility enabled us to almost count the rocks on the mountain summits...and below, we could see far into this water, so recently melted from the deep snow and ice of the past winter.

(Virginia meandering through the marsh)

As we approached the northern end of the lake, Wallface came into view, round-topped and rugged beyond a marsh and tall spruces.  Often, it would be impossible to explore further, but heavy rains of the day before had raised the water level, allowing us to follow twists and turns through the marsh's partly-submerged shrubbery.

(a little bonus, thanks to unusually high water)

A few people took off, going farther in.  As the rest of us waited for their return, I said, "I hope we aren't missing anything."  I'm always worried that I might miss something that could be good.  When they returned, two of them said, "We found a beautiful stream. It won't take long.  I'll take you back there."  Three of us took up their offer.

Aware that we would rarely have water deep enough to explore this far into the woods, we appreciated the variety that the little creek paddle offered.  "This is the kind of paddling I like best," one woman said.

A rocky section with shallow rapids forced us to turn around.

(waiting their turn to dock at the lunch spot)

By now, we were all hungry.  Henderson Lake has a few lean-tos and campsites. Most are difficult to reach, because the shoreline in front of them has been washed in with debris, providing no easy place to pull a boat in.  One, set high on a promontory, beckoned.

We found an easy docking spot, just big enough for one of us to pull in at a time. When the first person's boat was completely out of the water, the next person could brings theirs in.  Soon we all clambered up the hill and sat on a soft bed of hemlock needles to eat our lunch and visit.

What would it be like to camp here, and wake up to this view in such a remote location?  Should I begin a new Henderson Lake must-do list?

(lunch time doesn't get much better than this)

Before long, we set off for the south end of the lake.  Here, too, were marshes to explore, huge rocks gracing the shoreline and dipping into the deep blue water, framed by the dark greens of hemlock and spruce.  King-fishers, hawks, and turkey vultures, glided overhead.

(a paddler dwarfed by a white pine)

Faced with a strong head wind, when we turned back north towards our starting point, this panoramic view of Wallface, Algonquin, and Colden, greeted us.  After hours of circumventing the lake, paddling against the wind was hard.  The opportunity to enjoy this view for quite a while, was the reward for our slow pace.

(Wallface, Algonquin, and Colden)

And when we rounded the point into the cove where we had first begun, we immediately faced this spectacular view of Mount Colden.

To postpone the long drive home until morning, when we would be fresh and rested, I had offered my participants the option to stay overnight on a campsite at nearby Lake Harris State Campground.  Only one person took me up on the idea, while others chose to take a little extended Adirondack vacation, or spend the night in their nearby second homes.

I found a pretty lake site, set up my folding chair, and opened my Adirondack Explorer, a publication to which I subscribe and especially like to read when I'm actually in the Adirondacks.  Engrossed in an article, I hardly noticed a loud buzzing nearby, even though it seemed to hang around.  One darn big bee, I thought, and decided to look up.  About ten inches from my face, a ruby-throated hummingbird, suspended in mid air, peered at me.  I guessed that it had been attracted to my pink fleece. We checked one another out, eye to eye, for just a few seconds, before it zipped away.

What a way to top off a perfect Adirondack day.

(view from campsite at Lake Harris State Campground)

(Many thanks to Charlie Beach, who took three of the photos in this post.)

1 comment:

  1. This looks amazing! Looks so remote and relaxing. I'm looking forward to getting back in the woods!