Trip Report: Adirondack Mountains, New York

Bog Pond portage

Bog Pond portage

I returned home late Sunday night after eight days spent in New York’s Adirondack Mountains. This was only my second trip to the state of New York; my first visit was about seven years ago, when I spent one week technical rock climbing just outside New Paltz at the climbing-historical cliffs of the Shawangunks. That first trip was phenomenal, this was even better.

Martin on Little Long Pond

Martin on Little Long Pond

My March 2009 workshop client, Martin Stankiewicz, a resident of Chappaqua, New York, graciously invited me out to backpack the High Peaks and canoe the Adirondacks wilderness waters with him. This being my my first trip to the ‘Dacks, I fell in love with the place. We simply do not have this abundance of water in the west, and nowhere is it possible to paddle for miles and miles, with short portages between
Pond Circles

Pond Circles

ponds, bogs, and lakes (their naming conventions make no sense to this westerner!) and backcountry camping right on the shore next to your canoe. Martin assured me that by now the infamous black flies would be gone. Alas, ‘Dacks temperatures have been cool this summer, and the rain has been continuous. Thus, there hasn’t been the necessary heat to
Scott Pond inlet, morning light

Scott Pond inlet, morning light

wipe them out. Our first night of backpacking, spent at Scott Pond, found us being ravaged by clouds of black flies, mosquitoes, and deer flies. Instead of being repelled, they all seemed to have a great fondness for DEET and Martin’s natural repellent. Only a flame-thrower would have worked, because the almost non-existent breeze did not.

Flume Falls Jumper

Flume Falls Jumper

We spent a couple of nights base-camped at Lake Placid, enjoying the town while it geared up for another well-attended Ironman event on Sunday the 26th. While visiting Flume Falls, we ran into a group of bold Ironman staff members who were making wild thirty-foot+ jumps into the turbulent froth being spit out below the falls. It looked nearly suicidal but outrageously fun from my cliff-top vantage, and I enjoyed shooting many frames of them (I’ll be sending them a CD of images).

Martin and I had the great pleasure of meeting and visiting with Mark Hobson one night in Lake Placid. Mark authors the respected “The Landscapist” blog and guides gourmet backcountry canoe trips in the ‘Dacks. After a number of years of email exchanges, it was great to finally meet him in person. Having met and philosophized with Mark, and having spent time myself in the ‘Dacks, I now have a much greater appreciation for the man and his photography. Not surprisingly, our minds are very alike when it comes to nature, wilderness, and conservation (you can read what Mark writes about our meeting here)

One of the ultimate highlights of the trip for me was seeing and hearing at close-range a common loon in breeding plumage. These are Northwoods birds; we don’t get to see them or hear them looking like this in most of California (we get some of them in southern California only in their duller winter plumage, and they’re silent). Their calls and cries are haunting and reverberate throughout the forest and off the waters. In the darkness of night (they continue talking until about midnight), you might swear that you’re hearing rutting elk, wolves, or coyotes. This was a truly magical experience for me (here’s a YouTube video. Crank it up).

Michael photographs in waist-deep water

Michael photographs in waist-deep water

As an inexperienced “water” photographer (my first time paddling with professional photography gear), my gear took a beating on this trip. My Canon DSL-R was often damp, wet, or thoroughly covered (inside and out) with condensation due to high humidity levels and high dew points (many of my digital photos have visible water spots and a ‘dream-like’ look due to the condensation on/in the lens). The worst beating came when I was stuck on a log in shallow water while seated in my canoe. I tried to push off using the paddle, and instead flipped the boat and into the drink I went. My entire large format kit was in my pack and on my back (the dry bag was back in camp!), and my D-SLR was slung over my shoulder. Never do I use single-word expletives at such high volume in wilderness settings! As far as I knew at that moment, all my gear was soaked, covered in muck, and a total loss. Martin continued on in search of photographs, and I quickly paddled back to camp to assess the damage and start drying gear. Miraculously, no water entered the Canon. The lens was filled with water and I wrote it off as a loss. No water had entered the battery or CF card compartments, and I’m happy to report that the camera is working fine today. The great thing about large format gear is that most of it can’t really be harmed by water, camera included. In fact, my LowePro Mini-Trekker kept out the water, and only did things get marginally damp inside via wicking. I suffered no loss or damage to the large format kit.

I had an utterly fantastic trip to the Adirondacks, and it will not be my last visit. I sincerely thank my friend Martin for graciously bringing me out and showing me his favorite stomping grounds. I had a blast, Martin!

You are visiting the blog of fine art photographer Michael E. Gordon. For additional photos and information, please visit his official website.


9 thoughts on “Trip Report: Adirondack Mountains, New York

  1. Thank you for joining me Michael. I had a great time. My offer to come back for the autumn foliage still stands.

    I just got my negatives back from the trip and should have them posted on my site shortly.

  2. Thank you, gentlemen!

    Dan: the same paradox exists here in California. We’ve got some of the biggest roadless Wilderness in the lower 48, just north of the 20 million people or so that choke the Los Angeles Basin. I can be deep in the John Muir Wilderness and amazed that I am not far from the mass of humanity just to the south.

    Laurent: I had to FedEx home my film, so I do not even currently have my negs. I should have something to show in the next couple of weeks. I’m most excited about that tree you see me photographing while waist deep in water!

    Martin: Thank you! I look forward to seeing what you’ve got. I sure hope I can come back (schedule permitting), but this time I’ve gotta bring Shauna. She would love it there. I would like to discuss the idea in more detail with you after I return home from my workshop. Thanks again for an incredible adventure.

  3. Way to go; MG! Must have been a blast. Last time I was there was when my grandmother passed; I was in Yellowstone at the time and had to fly to upstate NY. Took a day to myself to photograph the Adirondacks and just loved it. Glad you had such a great time. oh… and one “Yo!” just for good measure.

  4. Ron: north of Manhattan, most of the state is a virtual forest gushing with water. It really is beautiful, and most of the towns are historic and quaint. It truly is nice in upstate NY. As for the jumpers, there were about eight of them, and most of them jumped based on the assurances of one individual that the holes were safe 🙂 Trusting friends!

    Gary: 😉

  5. Sounds like your trip was great and I can’t wait to see the images! Especially the one of the tree in water. I loved the loon clip. Listening to the track reminded me of hearing them 15 years in the Sierras with my dad. He told me it was big foot and I hid in the tent. lol. What a treat for you to hear them close 🙂

  6. Thanks, Amber. The tree in the water is my big prize from the trip. The digital version looks great; can’t wait to develop my film and work with the negative.

    Not only did I get to hear the loons up close, I had them very near my boat on several occasions. If you’re still and quiet, they’re slightly curious about you. Paddling out of the Bog River, we were treated to a real showcase by three of them: singing, flapping, swimming. It was incredible.

    Thanks for your comment!

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