Next> | <Prev | ^ToC | End

Nessmuk's Adirondack Letters

By George Washington Sears ("Nessmuk") (1821-1890), 1880-3

Cruise of the Sairy Gamp, 4

Forest and Stream, Aug. 23, 1883

JUST for one day the rain held up, and a brighter morning never dawned on Raquette Lake than the one on which I paddled out for a cruise across the lake. The water was like a mirror, the air was perfect. It was a day to be marked with a white pebble. I had several invitations to visit private camps, and I availed myself of them pretty largely. I found several of these camps most delightful; gotten up with the utmost care and in excellent sylvan taste. I had occasion to note that venison and trout were always forthcoming, in moderation, though the close season for deer was not quite over.

But a game constable whom I interviewed rather had the idea to my notion. He said, "I ain't here to spoil sport, but to save the deer and help sportsmen to a good time. If I catch a man slaughterin' or crustin', I'll make it red-hot for him. But if I meet one of the boys with a party who has been two or three days on the side lakes and ponds floatin', I ain't goin' through their pack-baskets." Few sportsmen kill deer enough to hurt the increase of deer. Most of the breech-loaders brought into the wilderness never perforate anything more sensitive than an empty tin can. But, if there were no deer, and no fishing, how many would come to the Northern Wilderness?

And on the glorious day above mentioned, I had a taste of genuine, healthy, woodland pleasure. For once it did not rain, and I was dry--no small item for a man who runs too light for even a change of clothes, beyond a blue woolen shirt and a pair of yarn socks.

I left the Raquette for Forked Lake, and the demon of storms resumed his sway once more. I was detained by bad weather again at Fletcher's, the only compensation being a full supply of venison and the best of black bass. The latter have become more abundant, both in Forked and Raquette lakes, and the pure, cold water assures the quality.

On the first morning when it did not rain, I got an early start down the lake and the Raquette River for Long Lake, via the rapids and Buttermilk Falls--since Adirondack Murray's book, called Phantom Falls. And, as on a previous occasion, I spent an hour watching the dashing, foaming water and footing up the utter impossibility of any man or boat ever tumbling over those ragged boulders and coming out anything but corpse and kindling wood.

I made the river and the three carries, sighting one deer and chasing a flock of ducks for a mile. The deer walked leisurely off. The ducks kept just ahead for awhile, and finally huddled into a little cove and let me pass them within thirty yards. I carry no breech-loader through the woods. My only weapon is a jackknife, and that not loaded. Deer and ducks were safe from me.

A mile below the last carry I turned in to land at the new camp of Dave Helms, erst guide, and now landlord of a most pleasant camp or hotel (all the moderate sized hotels are camps here). I found his site beautifully chosen, on a piney, breezy, sandy point, high, dry and healthy, his charges very moderate, and, no slight item, good hunting and fishing in easy reach. Parties came across the woods from Blue Mountain, complaining that charges were high, no fishing or hunting; nothing to do but loaf around the stylish hotels or row on Blue Mountain Lake. I recommended them to try a week or two with Dave.

When a morning came that promised well, I once more paddled out, my destination being the Platt camp, three miles from the foot of Long Lake. This time I had a pleasant breeze and no rain, the wind being dead aft, a most desirable thing with a double-blade. I found Senator Platt in camp, and a pleasant visit, fish, venison with open bark camp and huge log fire in front go far to compensate for the almost daily soakings I have caught since leaving the Forge House.

I ought to mention that Helms' camp is only twenty-five rods from the house of John Plumley, "Honest John," Murray's guide for several seasons.

It goes without saying that I made his acquaintance, and asked him some leading questions concerning his work as Murray's guide. He said, "Murray was a good woodsman. He came in with his wife, and guided himself sometimes. He could take his boat over the carries as well as I could. The big trout? Oh, yes. He caught a good many large trout. The one he caught in his 'Nameless Creek' was not the largest I saw him take. He was a capital hand with the flyrod. His 'Nameless Creek' was the inlet of Shallow Lake. It was just boiling with jumping trout that evening. As to his shooting Buttermilk Falls, any fool who takes one look at the falls knows better. But we both did run the rapids, both the upper and lower. It is a little risky, but is often done. Sometimes a man leaves all but his seats and oars, but I never broke up a boat there. I don't think Murray meant to say that he ever ran the falls. Yes, I am on the guide list yet. Have got a party as soon as I can get my hay in."

And so much for honest John Plumley, one of the experienced guides who can paddle you up to a deer by night, or put you on to a springhole where big trout abound, with the best.

On leaving the Platt camp my good luck on weather deserted me. It was ten and a half miles to go by lake, river and carry to Mother Johnson's. The last three miles were made in a soaking rain that left me without a dry thread. The next morning, being once more dried out, I swung out in the little Sairy for a seven-mile paddle down the Raquette and up Stony Creek Ponds to the Hiawatha House (Dukett's). For once I had dry weather and a pleasant trip, though the wind was high. After dinner I carried over to Corey's (three-quarters of a mile) and spent the afternoon examining some models of Adirondack boats, interviewing guides, boat builders, etc., and looking over the Upper Saranac, which looked altogether too rough for the Sairy. So I decided for once to relieve tired muscles by a ten-mile ride on the little steamer that navigates the lake.

I had already paddled more than the distance from side to side of the wilderness, and if it looked like dodging to avoid water on which the canoe could not live, so be it.

Paul Smith's, Adirondacks.

Next> | ^Top