By Jelane A. Kennedy
Camping in State campgrounds in New York has been a challenge the last few years. There have been unclean bathrooms and campers that come to party rather than commune with nature. So when we embarked on this adventure we were skeptical but hopeful. What would the Saranac Lake Region hold?
Earlier in the day we had gone into Saranac Lake to scout out information at the Saranac depot about the new rail explorer experience. (A little pricey for our tastes for such a short ride so we opted out.) We also found the Adirondack Carousal and enjoyed examining each of the carved and painted animals of the Adirondacks that were created by local artists. Each animal is decorated with local flora and fauna. They also have a ladybug somewhere in the design. It was an incredible community project. It reminded us of visiting the Empire State Carousal at the Farmer’s Museum in Cooperstown.
First night was Meadowbrook Campground in Ray Brook, New York. In many ways it was what might be termed an urban campground pinned between a Ford dealership and the “Tail of the pup” restaurant. As we looked for a campsite away from the music we wondered what the night would hold. To our surprise the evening quieted down and we were able to tuck in with our books and the night sounds of crickets.
The next day we returned to Saranac Lake to have lunch with new friends. It was a wonderful time to connect and begin to learn more about each other. After lunch we headed for Fish Creek Pond and Rollins Pond Campgrounds. We decided to first look into Rollins Pond to gain entrance we had to drive through Fish Creek campground. Rollins started as an overflow campground for Fish Creek but it appears that folks loved it so much it became it’s own campground. At registration they gave us a list of campsites to check out and indicated which one’s were on the lakeshore. We wanted to find a place where we could launch our new wacky inflatable kayak! Little did we know that many consider the two campgrounds as the crown jewels of Adirondack camping.
Low and behold on a little peninsula we found the site that caught our fancy. We returned to registration and booked for the two nights available. We were slightly apprehensive because the campsites are pretty tight, but we found out that we were not to worry.
In a short amount of time we realized that we had found a place where real campers come! The whole ambience was that of rest, relaxation and rejuvenation. Everyone was respectful and the camp staff was responsive (our campfire pit was full of ashes and when we registered we requested that someone come to remove the ashes since there appeared no place to do so nearby). We had a lovely evening that included paddling with our new kayak (and we modified the paddles – we used one half side of our kayak paddles so it was like a canoe paddle making it more manageable to handle compared to our earlier excursion when I thought I might by accident hit Eileen in the close quarters), a campfire stew and a nice swim. The campground was quiet at 10 pm and the next morning it was after nine before we heard much of anything.
My favorite memory of that evening was when we went out to observe the stars and decided to hop in our kayak; we moved our seats around so we could recline into the kayak. We were tucked into an inflatable bed, rocking gently by the waves marveling at the stars. With no light pollution, from nearby Saranac Lake, we saw layers upon layers of stars in the sky and it was amazing!
We took full advantage of our campsite the next day. We decided after breakfast to walk around and check out the rest of the campground. See what campsites we might be interested in for the future. We could tell this was a great campground for us. After lunch we hit the water and spent the afternoon paddling our tandem inflatable kayak. We had a blast. At one point we got out at a vacant campsite and took a little swim. Because Rollins was a swallow pond most of the people out boating are in canoes, kayaks, paddle boards and row boats. Any motorized boats are usually with a small trolling motor. Paddling and swimming was peaceful, what a paradise.
After dinner we bemoaned the fact we would be heading out the next day. But we did make plans to get one more paddle in before we had to vacate our campsite. One of the advantages of Abbey, take down and set up are not hard, so if we stay organized we can usually squeeze in more fun time out of our stay. (While looking up material for this blog I found a commercial website dedicated to Fish Creek & Rollins Pond that was created in 2006 by a Canadian couple who fell in love this campground, this tells a lot about people’s love of this place, we met a family near us who have come for generations and this seems typical (FishCreekPond.com).)
The next morning after our final paddle, we chatted with our neighbors, collapsed the kayak and tucked it away. With each time we use our inflatable tandem kayak we get faster with the process. It is amazing how quickly it inflates and deflates!
Since we needed ice we decided to drive a different way than we came and headed back to Saranac Lake, we had discovered the that Tops carried block ice and with the hot temps we didn’t need to stop and get ice as often if we used block ice. Our plan was to rotate our partial block from our drinks cooler to our other cooler since it was a size issue. We were not using the refrigerator with electricity but as an icebox after discovering a power issue. Got to go with the flow!
We stopped at Donnelly for an ice cream; we heard it was a favorite of many. We weren’t too impressed with the ice cream, it was OK but not quite our Martha’s in Lake George or the Stewart’s in Saranac Lake we enjoyed our first night. For lunch we swung around to Lake Colby for a swim, not as warm as Rollins but still fun.
For last night out we headed partially back home and decided to go back through Long Lake rather than Keene. So we decided to stay at Lake Eaton Campground . Again we found another wonderful campground!
Our campsite was again right on the lake. We didn’t have as easy access to launch the inflatable kayak but the beach was a short walk. After we got settled into our campsite we took the walk to the beach. The wind was a bit stiff and the waves were strong. While at the beach we noticed another inflatable kayak that someone had moored nearby. So we checked it out. It looked similar to ours but with better seats and a thicker material. We wondered who the owner was! That night we had a great campfire and enjoyed a beautiful sunset on the lake. It was another peaceful evening in the Adirondacks.
The next morning we decided to stay after our reservation ended at 11 am to take advantage of the beach. So we broke camp and moved Abbey to the parking lot of the beach and got out the camp chairs and the kayak. By lunchtime the waves were picking up but we decided to see how the kayak would respond. We were amazed at how it took each wave rolling right through better than the expensive canoes that struggled to make headway. While out on the water we saw the other inflatable kayak so we decided to paddle out to meet the person, Joy was out hanging at one of the buoys enjoying the sun. We met up and chatted about her kayak and she told us she had had an inflatable since she was 10 and had never had any other kind of boat. We learned a lot from Joy. After a while the two boats casted off from the buoy and we road the waves back to the shore. How cool was that – not paddling required!
It was now time to head home after our three-campground adventure with our wacky inflatable kayak. What had started out as a whim had turned into a serious new way to enjoy the water. We loved the ease of set up and how fun our new little boat was. We also discovered that we needed canoe paddles rather than kayak paddles to get better maneuverability. With some tweaking of the seating, (the clamshell seats provided were totally worthless) there was more fun to be had.
The campground adventure was successful we had found new campgrounds where people still camped to enjoy nature. Unexpectedly we now had a new boating experience to explore more seriously. We came a way from our trip with fond memories and a renewed love of the Adirondacks, ready to explore more. Another great feature of all the campgrounds we visited was that they had Day Use, so if you didn’t want to camp you could still come and enjoy the fun on the water.
© 2015 Jelane A. Kennedy and Eileen A. McFerran