Peter Macfarlane's 2013 Solo Through-Paddle of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail
in a Cedar-Strip Canoe by Otter Creek Smallcraft

NFCT's Map of Overall Route Peter & Sylva completing the NFCT

Day 2

39.3 miles

Monday 20th May

Raquette Lake - Stoney Creek


Day 2 route on Google Earth imagery

During the night I was awakened by the call of a barred owl. And then, on a number of occasions, I heard the almost silent rustle of feathers that can only have been an owl, swooping in and out of the tree immediately in front of the lean-to. Something must also have disturbed a beaver, whose tail smack resounded around the cove.

Raquette Lake under leaden skies

Carry to Forked Lake

I am up by 5:00 am, and have soon made tea and cooked oatmeal over the woodstove. Packing doesn't take long, and I am underway by 6:15 am. Leaden skies are hanging very low, but so far it is dry. A moderate tailwind blows me down Outlet Bay to the Forked Lake Carry. I'll no doubt have to pay for that sometime, but will accept the gift for now. On the carry, the blackflies make their first significant appearance. This is going to try my patience.

On Forked Lake the rain starts in earnest, and the carry through the State Campground is a wet one. Even though a canoe makes a wonderful umbrella, the rainwater slides off the hull, down the hands, and up the sleeves, even with well fitting cuffs. There's a little rock dodging on the way to Buttermilk Falls, and then another short carry around these. Farther downstream there are some boney looking rapids which I choose to portage around, and soon I have emerged into the southern portion of Long Lake.

Rock dodging on the Raquette River

Long Lake Village is not long in appearing, and I set off in search of a hot drink; it's been a chilly day so far. Long Lake doesn't seem to have woken up for the season yet, and my search is in vain. So is my search for the sign-in box at Raquette River Outfitters. Despite searching all round the building and along the waterfront behind, there is no sign, so I content myself with a photo in front of the building. The other sign-in box – at the NFCT kiosk – is very much in evidence. On opening the book to add my mark, I'm perplexed to see a mention of Otter Creek Smallcraft. On further reading, I see that Viveka, on her way home, planted a message that reads “Paddle happy”. It's perfect and, as I contemplate it, I realise that I am indeed “paddling happy”. There's a freedom to this style of travelling that resonates with me.

Signing in at Long Lake

The iconic view down Long Lake

Following a lunch of trail mix and water, I head down Long Lake. It's now warmer and humid, and very still. There's nothing on the water's surface to give any indication of its presence, so I spend time staring beyond to the reflection of the clouds a few hundred feet below. It's almost as though I'm suspended between the sky above and the sky below, and after a while I sense a touch of vertigo, so snap out of the reverie. Somewhere near Plumley's Landing I suddenly paddle into a totally different air-mass with refreshingly low humidity, and at Island House lean-to I stop for a dip in the lake. It's cold, but a bit of basic hygiene is welcome.

A slight wind now riffles the water, and, as I stare back up the lake to where I have just been, I notice that my hull has flattened the riffles, but in time the wind once more has its way, erasing any trace that I was ever there.

In the Raquette River I can see the bottom, and this gives a sense of speed, no doubt aided by the small current. It's in contrast to the lake where progress is harder to gauge. I carry past Raquette Falls – it's a carry I've done several times before, so I know what to expect. I'm toying with the idea of pushing on to Upper Saranac Lake to camp at Indian Point, the camp site where I first learned of the NFCT from Darrin Kimbler. It would be great to bring this full circle. But in the end time does not permit.

I aim for the lean-to at the entrance to Stoney Creek, only to have my hopes dashed as I see a party ahead of me turn round and head back downstream. Sure enough, they've chosen to stay at the lean-to, but are happy to share the site with me, so I find a place to hang the hammock, gather enough wood and tinder for dinner and breakfast, briefly talk to Viveka until the signal fades, spend time talking with my neighbours, and retire to bed under a now clear sky with a half moon. Now it's definitely a camping trip.

Camping at the entrance to Stoney Creek


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