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2017 Adirondacks: 

The Whitney Loop was to be our first big trip with our new Hornbeck boats and the first time we ventured this far into wilderness together. This trip is described as "strenuous" in outfitters' guide books and it was indeed strenuous.

Located in the William C. Whitney Wilderness Area, the Whitney Loop includes passage through Round Lake, Little Tupper, Lake Lila, Bog Lake, and the Bog River through Lows Lake to Lows Lower Dam Access, finishing at Round Lake. This loop can be modified to leave out the whitewater section of the trip, turning the loop into a C and necessitating the use of a shuttle, which is what we did.

Though taxing and challenging at times, the trip rewarded us with moments of utter quiet and peacefulness, starry skies, still water and more. This trip goes down in my book as one of the top five best trips I've ever taken.

The following maps, photos and text come together to try to summarize the trip, though it was very hard to choose what to include and what to leave out. As with some of my other posts, this includes sketches from my journal as well as excerpts shown in italics. Enjoy!

The Whitney Loop

Day 1 / Sept 7: We arrived at Round Lake at about 4 pm, after stopping by Hornbeck Boats for an expensive treat - the most lightweight paddles I could imagine. 

Round Lake served primarily as a place to sleep before we started on our big adventure tomorrow.

A stiff headwind met us as we paddled into Round Lake - a big lake! We found our way to Site 9 under cloudy skies and light rain. The campsite was located near a seep in the ground and footing was dicey with slippery downed logs to avoid.

Day 2 / Sept 8: Paddling back out from whence we came this morning, we saw two canoes each with two paddlers heading into Round Lake.

We stopped at the car to get more food before leaving the parking area for the Whitney Loop, just in case it took us much longer than anticipated to finish the loop.

We paddled into Little Tupper Lake which, despite its name, was really quite big! We encountered fierce wind and whitecaps, from which we found some temporary relief along the shoreline in little inlets.

We pitched our tent at an un-numbered site on Little Tupper - most likely Site 5 or 6. There was a climb up from the shore to a well-worn site under white pines and hemlocks. There were lots of pits and mounds in the surrounding woods.

We discovered our site had a poorly constructed pit toilet - sit down and the big wooden lid crashes down onto your back - ouch! Glen found a way to prop the lid up while we were there, protecting us from further injury.

Day 3 / Sept 9: We left our site on Little Tupper Lake after a leisurely breakfast and breaking down of camp. 

We paddled through Little Tupper, with her waters calmer than they were yesterday afternoon.


We arrived at Rock Pond and camped at Site 29. A large fallen tree with a massive root system marked the entrance to our site.

From our site, we had a very pretty view of an island and the setting sun.

Day 4 / Sept 10: When one reads about the Whitney Loop - or other such trips in the Adirondacks or elsewhere - there seems to be undue emphasis on how quickly one can "do" the trip. And in fact, we've run into plenty of fellow travelers over the years who like to boast about how many miles they "did" in any given day.

We take a contrary approach, seeing how long we can possible milk a trip without running out of food. It was in this spirit that we opted to stay on Rock Pond for a second night, keeping our tent set up in Site 29.

We paddled over and found the portage we were to take the following day and did a sort of test run. We portaged our boats to Hardigan Pond where we dropped off a bear bag and canister, lightening our load for the next day. We then returned to Rock Pond. The portage was 1.75 miles - or 3 1/2 miles round trip. Phew!

Day 5 / Sept 11: Rock Pond was entirely socked in with mist when we awoke. It was a beautiful sight as the sun very slowly burned off the mist, with the island gradually coming back into view.

Thus began the day that included our longest slog, from Rock Island to Hardigan Pond. Glen and I may have logged the slowest portage ever as we spent nearlly two hours messing with our gear and trying to figure out how to carry everything including our boats in one trip.

We finally settled on carrying the two boats side by side, with Mary in the front and Glen in the back. I wouldn't have made it any other way! We found our bear bag and canister un-touched at Hardigan Pond, and settled into the most scenic campsite yet. The only campsite on Hardigan Pond was located pond-side and was so quiet. Once settled in, we took an afternoon paddle around the pond - delightful!












We had the ickiest supper of all time. All our suppers have been fantastic until tonight.

Day 6 / Sept 12: We woke at Hardigan Pond... impossibly quiet. There was a heavy mist on the pond, with the sun breaking through slowly. 

Once we breakfasted, we broke camp and set out for Little Salmon Pond. But first, Glen bandaged his blisters as we prepared for "deep mud" at the beginning of the next portages (as described in The Adirondacks Paddler's Guide).


Turns out the portage location had been relocated, but there was still plenty of mud for all. The beavers keep the landscape constantly shifting, flooding, draining and shifting again. 

We side-by-side carried the boats to the put in on Salmon Pond Flow.  It was an absolutely stunning day. There was sun, no clouds, and dry with a light wind.

Paddling through the sedge and reed lined flow, we encountered four beaver dams, about one foot in height each. After nearly cracking our boats trying to "run" the first dam, we got out and pulled the boats over the other dams.

We arrive on Little Salmon Pond and lunched at Site 32. We then paddled over to what we think was Site 33 - it was un-marked.

In spite of a hilarious projectile vomiting incident involving Nyssa (whose vomit thankfully made it out into the water and not onto Glen or his boat), it was a truly wonderful day.

Day 7 / Sept 13: How today could be better than yesterday is hard to imagine, but here we are sitting at the edge of Lake Lila on a sandy beach, with Mount Webb and Mount Frederic to the west. The lake is as still as lightly shimmering glass.

We were up early this morning, leaving Little Salmon Pond. We had an easy-ish portage to Lilypad Pond and paddled on through to Mud Pond. With another relatively easy portage, we put in on Shingle Shanty Brook and took a three-hour meander (think of the shape of ribbon candy) to Lake Lila.

Great blue heron kept us company on our travels, along with frogs, black ducks, red cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis), swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), Joe pye weed (Eupatorium purpurea) and much more.

Once on Lake Lila, we took the first campsite (16) to the west of Shingle Shanty, which is where we  watched the sun set from the sandy beach.

Glens new motto: Every ounce counts! We will have to do an after-action report to assess where we (Glen) can lose ounces...think wallet, gadgets, extra rain coat, heavy shoes, etc.

Day 8 / Sept 14: A layover day on Lake Lila at Site 16. It's another incredible day with fantastic weather and glassy water, making for wonderful paddling.

We paddled to the east end of Lake Lila, following the shoreline. A cold stream flowed into Lila near Site 24, where we spent some time exploring. I was able to walk barefoot on the sandy beaches - boy, I've missed doing that! 

I had the great idea of getting rid of the bear canister and every non-essential item Glen has been carrying to try to alleviate Glen's back pain. We stashed what amounted to about eight pounds of gear in the bear canister, hung from a tree away from any campsites. We hope we remember where it is when we return for it at the end of the trip! Mary also carried all the remaining food - which we usually divide in half - to also give Glen's back a break.

Trees noted at Lake Lila: Red maple (Acer rubrum), white pine (Pinus strobus), red pine (Pinus resinosa), showy mountain ash (Sorbus americana), Tamarack (Larix laricina), black spruce (Picea mariana),  and a few white birch (Betula papyrifera).

Day 9 / Sept 15: We woke to another spectacular day on Lake Lila. Anticipating the energy needed to do the second longest portage on the trip along with another shorter portage, we got an early start, leaving Site 16.


We paddled the western perimeter of the lake on to Canada Lake and then the portage to Harrington Pond - not to be confused with Hardigan Pond.

It took a bit of looking around to find Ranier Brook off of Harrington Pond. A couple of beaver dams later, we took out at the railroad tracks that run through this remote, wild part of the Adirondacks. It's so jarring to see the tracks in the middle of such beauty.

The portage, said to run along the railroad tracks according to the guide book was, in fact, right on the railroad tracks! In the beating down sun and unseasonably hot weather, this was an extremely exposed setting.

What a sight we must have been, had there been anyone to see us in the wilderness! And what a fricking hard portage! But we did arrive at Clear Pond, which was clear, as advertised. Unfortunately, after many days of blissful silence, we could now hear the sound of a wood chipper. 

It turns out Clear Pond was adjacent private land and someone was cutting and chipping trees nearby. Oh well.


As I write, it is now silent. Hopefully it will stay that way. It's a really pretty evening, mosquitos aside.


Food notes: Love the dehydrated breaded eggplat slices as snacks. Walnuts and dried fruit do NOT cut it as lunch. 

Day 10 / Sept 16 We were up early and found we were completely misted in at Clear Pond. After breakfast, we packed up and put into the pond, where Glen filtered three bottles of water.

There was the low sound of a motor and, when we came ashore at the other end of the pond, we could see two guys in a small boat with an outboard motor, out fishing. Technically, not allowed in these parts, but who's going to report them?

The carry to Bog Pond was mercifully easy. Thanks to Glen for adjusting my pack yesterday so it was more comfortable and easier to carry my gear.

We put in on Bog Pond, another stunningly beautiful body of water, lined with mostly red maple in their autumn glory, and evergreens. We looked a bit for cranberries, but no luck. From Bog pond, we navigated into the Bog River, paddling along and contending with a couple beaver dams.

Nyssa, after being restless as she sometimes can be in terms of staying seated or lying down in Glen's boat, jumped ship altogether. From my vantage point downstream and around the bend a bit, I could make out Glen in his boat and Nyssa firmly planted in the tall grass on shore. After feigning paddling away without her and then coercing her with snacks, she finally got back in his boat.

We ended our meandering paddle down the Bog River, gliding into Lows Lake and grabbing the first campsite, Site 39. We set up camp, looking out over a massive floating bog which was just 20 feet or so away from shore. 

We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the perimeter and nooks and crannies of the bog, and paddling out and back to the north arm of the lake. A good night's sleep was had by all, with the sounds of loons, owls and coyote drifting into our dreams.

Day 11 / Sept 17: Sitting near the put in with views to the east and south, we enjoyed a relaxed breakfast. After more than an hour, the sun burned off the mist and we were presented with yet another summery September day.  We draped the soggy tent fly and various other belongings on trees on the edge of our campsite so that the sun could dry them. 


Once our gear was dried and packed up, we set out again, ending up at Site 16 on Lows Lake. This was after paddling much of the day, exploring the areas near and around the esker. Glen had hoped for Site 18, on the recommendation of a friend, but it was occupied by a couple of people with two very barky dogs.

While Glen was checking out Site 17 - before we decided upon 16 - Nyssa had another "episode". She refused to get into his boat and refused to come when called. Glen thought he'd teach her a lesson by pretending to paddle away, but that did not work. Glen paddled back and coerced his beloved dog into his boat.

Supper was wonderful, with a stew comprised of potatoes, corn, tomato and Glen's homemade tempeh, along with chili seasonings.                       out of four stars. Maybe it was  the fact that Twyla stuck her foot in the stew that added just the right umami.

Tonight, after the fabulous stew and all-round excellent day, we sit and look at our map, serenaded by loons.....

....What a surprise - Nyssa rolled in something extremely stinky. This was after Mary remarked about something smelling and then asked Glen multiple times to keep Nyssa on leash. Argh! Glen took Nyssa to the water and washed her as best he could and then Nyssa came to the tent to sleep - wet - and on Glen's side of the tent.

Day 12 / Sept 18: We woke to a tent covered with leaves. All night, there were the soft sounds of red maple leaves making their whispered flights down from the trees. And the sounds of owls and loons, and the chip, chip, chip of some nocturnal bird. 

The agony of a much-needed nighttime exit from our warm tent was balanced out by the view of the sky chock-full of stars. Thank you Father Sky. Thank you Mother Earth.

In the morning, we left, heading east past another floating bog on the Bog River (taking a couple short steps out of the boat to bypass the two narrow spots in the river.

bald eagle flew overhead and toward the rocky ridgeline, as we paddled east on the Bog River, reveling in the glorious autumn reds and golds. The striking geometric shapes of the stones in the river just a little bit west of the dam were worth the trip, in and of themselves.

Paddling our boats over to the little dock upstream from the dam, we took out at Lows Upper Dam, where construction was underway. Motorized vehicles, humans and was invevitable our stay in the wilderness would have to come to an end.  

After the short portage to Hitchins Pond, we had a great lunch at an actual picnic table (most campsites have only a fire ring and a pit toilet, so a picnic table was a luxury). We decided to finish this part of the trip today, unless a campsite on the way out really caught our eye. None did, although the paddle on Bog River was quite pretty. 

We took out at Lows Lower Dam, and were happy to find our car awaiting us, having hired St. Regis Outfitters to shuttle our car earlier in the week from Round Lake to our final destination. We made it!

After packing our gear in the car and our boats roof top, we drove a couple of miles to Horseshoe Lake for a low-key evening. We did make a side trip to Tupper Lake - about seven miles away - so Mary could get a bottle of wine and an extra canister of fuel at Raquette River Outfitters. Back at Site 11 on Horseshoe Lake, we made plans for a dawn paddle.

Day 13 / Sept 19: True to our plans, we took a dawn paddle on Horseshoe Lake, with Glen locating the stream that technically goes to the Lower Dam. We were able to paddle just a little way before encountering a culvert.

Once back at our site, we ate breakfast and re-packed and re-supplied in preparation for another five days out.

We returned to Raquette River Outfitters where we bought a personal flotation device (PFD) for Mary, trying to satsify her ongoing search for a PFD that doesn't drive her crazy. I thought it was great but, after paddling in it for a while, I'm not so sure. At least it seems better than the silly, huge PFD I've been wearing. While in town we also bought some tasty veggie sandwiches, chips and drinks at Well Dressed. 

Returning to Lake Lila, we portaged in and paddled around a bit, checking out a few sites. We ultimately settled on staying on Snell Island, which has just one campsite. It's a pretty setting, if a bit overrun with use. I wondered if the powers that be regularly close campsites for a season or two to give them time to regenerate.

I'm sitting at the east end of the island wtih Twyla at my side, sleeping. Glen is scrubbing his new pot, after having made supper with his new stove. Thank you, Glen.

It's so peaceful to be back at Lake Lila. We will likely stay here for our last four days, taking day paddles and not much else. We will need to retrieve the bear canister we stashed on the far shore before leaving.

Day 14 / Sept 20: We spent a cool and enjoyable night on Snell Island last night. We did not use the tent fly, so we could see the pines soaring overhead and the star-filled sky.

Twyla staged an early morning jail break from the tent, compelling me to get up ad go out with both dogs so they could do their business - then quickly back to the tent.

Now we are sitting on the east end of the island having tea and breakfast and talking about the upcoming day. We think we will retrieve the bear canister and then go explore Shingle Shanty. 

While out paddling around, we checked out Site 17, which was very nice with a long beach and good views. After encountering a beaver dam almost immediately after entering onto Shingle Shanty, we decided to instead go get the canister and then head to Beaver River. Site 12 on the Beaver River served as our lunch spot. It was pretty and secluded. 

The Beaver River was quite scenic. We paddled to just after the line where the land turned from wilderness to private land. The fact that we had been paddling with the wind at our backs and paddling downstream convinced us it was time to turn back. In fact, it was a challenging paddle back with the wind now in our faces.

Day 15 / Sept 21: Another misty morning greated on on Lake Lila. We had breakfast in the woods near the tent.

We paddled out to the beach and stowed our boats, then walked out to the car with the bear canister and other extra things so that our final portage out would be easier.

After visiting the car, we took a walk along the dirt road - about three or four miles round trip - to another access point to Lake Lila. 

Seeing the number of folks arriving this morning to paddle into Lake Lila, we are opting to leave in the morning.


We had a wonderful long wilderness trip, but it's time to head home. So tonight will be our last night.

Day 16 / Sept 22: I woke several times to the sounds of owls calling. Often when that happens, I say to Glen very quietly "did you hear that?" And often times he is also awake listening to the same nocturnal calls.


After our last breakfast in the great outdoors on this trip, we broke camp one last time, packing the tent with its soggy rain fly into our packs and readying ourselves to shove off.


We left Snell Island this morning. Some paddler will be surprised and grateful to find the site available.

We made the final carry back to the car, and wearily packed up gear and boats, snapping the dogs into the back seat.

What a glorious trip!

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