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Loon greeting on Rollins Pond loop

June 13, 2018
By JUSTIN A. LEVINE - Outdoors Writer ( , Lake Placid News

It was a little late to hear the call of the loon by the time Jason and I hit the water, but within a few minutes of paddling, a pair of the black-and-white birds were straight ahead, diving in tandem and silently resurfacing just a few feet apart.

Although the railroad tracks of the Remsen-Lake Placid Travel Corridor were visible to the right, along with a bunch of camps sporting beat-up row boats, we were alone with the loons on Floodwood Pond, the first of five waterbodies we would hit on our route.

The plan was to do the Rollins Pond loop, recommended by St. Regis Canoe Outfitters, which begins near the business on Floodwood Road near the Saranac Inn Golf Course.

Article Photos

Sunlight makes its way through the trees as Floodwood Pond comes into view near the end of the Rollins Pond paddling loop.
News photo — Justin A. Levine

Watching the loons, Jason and I paddled his canoe south, and as we neared, one of the loons began a half-hearted takeoff, running and flapping across the surface of the water. It settled in again in front of us, and continued to make leisurely dives as we paddled past.

After a mile, we saw the white "canoe carry" sign that would lead us to Rollins Pond, a large pond that is also home to the state Department of Environmental Conservation's Rollins Pond Campground, one of the largest in the state. Making the 0.14-mile carry to Rollins, we just left the boat loaded and walked it up a slight hill and then back down to the water. The carry was in great shape, and we eyed the small stream that connects the two bodies of water, wondering if we could have just paddled it. But as we put in on Rollins, a bunch of boulders in the mouth of the stream made it seem like the short carry was likely the best option.

We continued south on Rollins Pond, spying the occasional tent or camper on our left. Although there were plenty of canoes and kayaks lining the shore, we found ourselves alone on the pond, except for one loon which swam past in the opposite direction, maybe 50 feet away.

After nearly two miles of light mist lifting off the pond, we saw the boat launch at the campground and ran the canoe ashore on the sandy beach. Again, we left the boat loaded and carried across the campground road, being sure to stay quiet as we passed the assistant caretaker's cabin.

For the first time, the bugs became bad, and the launch into Whey Pond became more of a semi-panicked hustle to get away from the mosquitoes. Once out on our third body of water, the breeze picked up and the bugs fell away, and we marveled at the green-tinted clearness of Whey Pond. We pulled the canoe up on the east shore after paddling east-northeast, and with a steady wind blowing to keep the bugs down, we enjoyed the sight of a king fisher flying around over the water.

For the carry to our next pond, we unloaded the boat and Jason shouldered it while I carried paddles and dry bags. The carry to Copperas Pond was in surprisingly good shape, but so were the mosquitoes and black flies.

After a 0.34-mile carry to Copperas, we again hurried our launch to get away from the biting insects. We tossed our stuff in the boat, and I grabbed the bow to put it in the water. I stepped into the accumulation of dark and dead leaves at the waters edge, and to our chagrin, a cloud of mosquitoes erupted from near my foot. I'm glad no one was around to witness our ugly relaunch, but am quite proud of how quickly we got back onto the water.

Copperas was the smallest of the waterbodies on this trip, but with the sun overhead and the neon green of new spring growth surrounding us, the pond opened up and we took our time heading northeast. Within a few minutes, we could tell where our exit from the pond was, as a small wetland provided a hint.

A very short stream flows from Copperas into Fish Creek and just as we entered the paddle-able but shallow flow, Jason spotted a bald eagle flying off to our right. The eagle disappeared behind some tall pines and was not seen again.

The little bit of flow taking us into Little Square Pond made for a quick paddle, and as the pond opened up to our left, we went around a sandy point and and started heading north and then northwest against the current of another stream that flows from Floodwood to Little Square. We were concerned before the trip that this part might turn into a carry, but the water was just high enough to keep us afloat.

Working against the current wasn't that hard. It felt like paddling through some sort of primeval forest as the trees closed in and the sunlight was largely blotted out. Although there were trees, stumps and rocks, we never had to get out of the boat. However, this part of the trip and the float from Copperas to Little Square could be tough in a low-water year.

After about three-quarters of a mile on the stream, Floodwood Pond became visible ahead. A few boulders blocked the way, but were easily avoided.

"Ha, look at all the paint on that rock," I chuckled as we passed a barely-submerged boulder with flecks of green, blue and white on it, obviously from other boats hitting it.

"I can't believe we managed to not hit a single rock all day," I declared triumphantly.

"Seriously, we're getting pretty good at this," Jason responded.

"I just can't believe ..." I began before a loud grinding noise made its way down the entire length of the canoe, from bow to stern. We had finally found a rock, but luckily all it did was make us laugh at ourselves.



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