Hoel Pond

Another pond with access to other bodies of water and free primitive campsites along it is Hoel Pond. Hoel Pond is another large pond with some nice views of neighbouring mountains. This is one pond I recommend you travel to with a friend.

Location

Hoel Pond is in the Adirondack Mountains of New York. It is north of Follensby Clear Pond and southwest of Lake Clear and Upper St. Regis Lake.

This sign is small and back from the road a little. It is easy to miss.
How to Get There

From State Route 30 you take Floodwood Road west until you reach Hoel Pond Road. Turn onto Hoel Pond Road and right after you pass the golf course, on the left side of the road turn left. There is a dirt road there that looks like it is part of the gold course, but it is not. It has the little sign pictured above, but it is easy to miss. If you miss the road on the left and continue on Hoel Road it then becomes a private road. You will know you went too far as you are in an area with houses and it is passed the golf course and into a wooded area. The dirt road winds down to an area near the pond that has parking spots and some primitive campsites.

Boat Launch
I recommend you go with another person because of the steepness of the steps leading to the boat launch and the canoe carry to Turtle Pond.

This was a tough launch for me by myself. I think it would be much easier for two people to carry a canoe or kayak down these steep steps. This was the reason I recommend going with another person. There is a small sandy beach area below these steps to launch your kayak from. Motor boats owners can not launch from the state boat launch.

It was a very windy day and once I kayaked across to the point then hugged the land is was a much smoother paddle.

Turtle Pond

This sign at the other end of the Hoel pond marks the canoe carry to Turtle Pond. It is a narrow path up to the site of an old train tracks and back down to the other pond.

Because the carry down to Turtle Pond was steep I did not feel comfortable carrying the kayak down this hill.

When you cross over the hill to Turtle Pond you enter the St. Regis Canoe Wilderness.

Turtle Pond. From here you can paddle to Slang Pond. From Slang Pond there is a canoe carry to Long Pond. Again from this point you are in the St. Regis Canoe Wilderness.
Looking at Hoel Pond from the Turtle Pond side.

There is a culvert pipe under the railroad tracks leading to Turtle Pond. It appears to go slightly downhill. It is a small pipe and the water level is low in the pipe. You should not try to kayak through it. On the Turtle Pond side the water level is about a one foot drop from the pipe. Some kayakers say they were able to send their boats through the pipe on their own to Turtle Pond. I think you should have two people for this with one waiting on the Turtle Pond side to catch it. Otherwise you run the risk of it drifting into the pond or being damaged from the drop off.

Picnic

I always recommend bringing plenty of water and food with you on long trips. I stopped to eat lunch on the other side of the pond where the canoe carry was. I bring an insulated lunch bag with ice packs inside tied to my kayak but accessible. On that day I ate a veggie wrap from Nori’s on Church Street in Saranac Lake. I took it along with me to enjoy. This was my second kayak trip of the day. I started with Mirror Lake earlier in the morning.

Veggie Wrap from Nori’s in Saranac Lake.
That may be St. Regis Mountain with the fire tower on top.
The weather improved a bit on the return trip.
Looking towards the east side of the pond with privately owned land. I did not see a motor boat on this body of water, but I understand only those who own private properties can have a motor boat. It is not possible to launch a motor boat from the state boat launch.
Camping
This was a group of young women from Gordon College in Massachusetts. They were doing an orientation/ experience for their college that involved two weeks of canoeing and camping in the Adirondacks. They were staying that night at one of the free wilderness primitive campsites.

There are free primitive campsites along most of the lake on land that is forest preserve. Many sites are only accessible by walking or by boat. There are additional free campsites along Turtle, Slang and Long Pond. These campsites are first come first served. Usually you can only stay three days and after that you would have to get a ranger’s permission to stay longer.

This was a nice pond with nice views of the neighbouring mountains. However, because of the boat launch and canoe carry conditions, I recommend you do not do this alone, but with another person. Safety first. Get out and enjoy nature!

Kayaking Blue Mountain Lake

Are you looking for a lake in the Adirondacks to kayak or canoe? Do you want one with free campsites? Are you looking for one with access to other bodies of water? Blue Mountain Lake will fit the bill.

The boat launch is located on State Route 28. It is a public beach and boat launch. Route 28 has parking spots on both sides of the street. This May weekend I was the only one launching from the beach. I did not see another kayak or canoe on the lake. This site has a pavilion with changing rooms that were locked. Maybe they open when it is warmer or they are still following a COVID protocol.

No one was on the beach, so I launched from there.
Appears to be docks on the other side of this park.
I believe that is Blue Mountain in the background.

Blue Mountain Lake is accessible to other bodies of water. It connects to Eagle Lake and from there you can paddle to Utowana Lake. For those who want a very long journey you can access Raquette Lake from the Marion River at the end of Utowana Lake.

A little cabin or boathouse near the shore of the lake.
I stuck the the edges. When I decided to go towards the middle I was surprised by how strong the wind was. It gave me a real workout. A local told me it is common to be very windy in the middle of the lake.

This lake has some free campsites. It is first come first served. There are 4 primitive sites on Long Island and 1 on Osprey Island. Bring your gear on your kayak or canoe. As with most Adirondack free sites there is a three day limit unless you get permission from a ranger to stay longer.

The beach I took off from.

This lake gives you some nice views of the neighbouring mountains. It is close to other lakes, so you could even hit Long Lake , Indian Lake etc. by car in the same day after kayaking. I highly recommend this lake if kayaking or canoeing. You may want to stick the the edges to avoid the wind.

Nearby Attraction

The Adirondack Experience is very close-by and worth stopping at. They also have marvellous views of Blue Mountain Lake from their cafe patio. The Adirondack Experience is a museum with several buildings including cabins, cottages, and camps of the past brought to the museum. You get a feel for what life and pleasure was like in the Adirondacks in yesteryear.

Go their their page here: https://www.theadkx.org. Click on exhibits.

Wildlife near the Hudson River

I went kayaking again starting on a creek that empties into the Hudson River. The river is thriving more than in the past and there are a lot of different kinds of birds and other critters to see along its banks.

This creek has a lot of heron.
Off towards the river
I have no idea what this eagle brought up from the creek.
They were holding onto something.
A juvenile eagle came looking to snatch away whatever the adult caught.
Another adult came to chase the younger one away.
There are a lot of herons in or near the river.
I did not see whom this osprey was trying to impress, but he kept flying around me with the fish. I’m sure it was not me, but he still gave me the opportunity to get some shots off.
Heron flying over the river.

Get out and enjoy nature! It is amazing what is just outside your door.

First Kayak Trip of the Year

The weather cooperated. It was time to take my first run of the year. I went to a body of water that empties into the Hudson River. Lots of men fish along it in various spots.

There is an abundance of wildlife along this body of water. Eagles from various local nests come here for sticks , mud, and grass. They also pop in for some fish. Many nests have eaglets this year and most are not quite ready to fly, so the parents use this location as there go to home supply store and supermarket.

First, I saw Great Blue Herons nesting. There were actually several herons on this creek. Some may have been stopping by or lived here. There was a nest above this nest in the same tree. There is also a pile of sticks near the bottom of this tree on the water that looks like a huge nest.

An eagle flew over me while on my way towards the river. I wish I had seen him approaching. Maybe next time. There is a nest on private land where this body of water meets the river. I had a view from my kayak and saw one eaglet and one adult. Being closer to the river I could not get a steady picture with my kayak moving around so much.

All of these photos were taken at quite a distance away with a zoom and heavily cropped.

At the end of my trip one of the fishermen came over and helped me load my kayak back onto my car. Something that is typical at this small boat launch area from what I have heard. It was a good thing. My arms were tired at the end of this trip.

Get out an enjoy nature and stay safe.

Lake Eagles

I see one of the parents perched by this lake on my way to work. On the way home I stop by sometimes to get a glimpse. It looks like this nest may have the latest born eaglets in the area. I am guessing these are less than 2 weeks old.

Proud parent on babysitting duty.
Sibling conversation
Sticking his tongue out at me or was it pleading for food?
Is that a hawk? This was the day before the other pictures when the sky was more clear.

Get out an enjoy nature! Stay safe!

New Year, New Life

The Eagles in New York are doing well and in fact throughout the country. Several newspapers including the NY Times reported that the American bald eagle population has quadrupled since 2009. This was based on a US Fish and Wildlife Service report. In 2009 there were about 72,000 bald eagles in the lower 48 states, while now researchers say the population is above 300,000.

Local nests are seeing new life. This week two babies hatched in one nest. Good timing for me as I had some days off this week. The weather may not have been the best, but I will take it.

Incoming! Duck! One parent bringing in a stick. You can see two wee eaglets hatched during the past week. They are the little grey heads sticking out to the right of the parent in the nest.
One parent eyeing one of the eaglets.
You can see what appears to be a bit of fish in the parent’s mouth. Two eaglets in the picture below the parent’s head.
Noticed me for a second.
Bit of fish?
The other parents arrives with more sticks and dirt. Today was nest renovation day.

Go out and enjoy the great outdoors!

Backyard Visitor

Sometimes doing a good deed leads to danger. I feed the birds behind my place in colder weather. I put out seed this morning and did not hear them. I wondered what was going on. After I looked out the window a few times I saw this hawk. It appeared small to me. I am guessing it is a Copper’s hawk as they are known to hang out by bird feeders and a neighbour has a feeder out as well.

He may have looked in my direction here, but he totally ignored me.
Eying a squirrel jumping from branch to branch, but he did not go for it.

I don’t think he scored any of the local wildlife. About a half hour later he was gone and the birds were back to eating the seed. With the pandemic, my travels involve places to see wildlife within a few hours. Hopefully, things will slow down soon with the vaccines coming out. Stay safe and stay healthy!

Behaviour Around Snowy Owls

One way to avoid spooking an owl is to not approach it rapidly. If you see someone watching it safely from one side, go slowly to the same side person is viewing it from.

I was planted in a spot. The owl was looking pretty content. These are cropped a lot.
The owl turns her head when two people approach quickly from the opposite side from where I was planted.
It spooked the owl and it turned back towards me and flew off.

So the moral of the story is do not approach the owl quickly, or surround it.

A second way not to spook a snowy owl is do not talk loudly or yell around wildlife, not just snowy owls. I saw someone do just that and the snowy owl flew off. I had the opportunity to follow a barred owl family spring through summer last year. If you are quiet, they will allow you to observe from a safe distance. Whenever other people were talking in the woods or were walking a dog you had less luck seeing them.

This was after a man was yelling. It spooked the owl and off it flew. I would rather have pictures of it sitting on a dune.

In addition, if it is known there are snowy owls on the beach do not walk your go there. Two beaches I found snowy owls on had signs saying no dogs. However, that was not being followed. Not sure if it only applied in the warmer months. I saw an owl spooked a third time because someone walked a dog not far from it. The owl took a few short flights to avoid the situation.

Also, keep a distance where you are not stressing the owl. If the owl is stressed back away. Jones Beach had signs saying keep at least a 100 feet away. Those signs were down last time I was there. I would say that is a good distance to be safe.

Snowy owls are beautiful birds to watch. Respect the animals and other people, and you will enjoy the experience.

Owl Catch

Cats take pride in being a predator. They are known to sneak a mouse or two inside as a trophy to impress the human caretaker of their house. Do owls try to impress humans with their hunting prowess?

It sure felt that this owl was trying to impress me when I was watching. The owl kept circling overhead holding onto its prey. I even think he was trying to insure I got a good shot of his kill.

The weather has been mostly cloudy and dark. We had 50-60 mile an hour winds last night. Hard to get good shots when you need to have your ISO up to very high numbers. Wishing for some sunny days in the week ahead. Merry Christmas everyone or Happy New Year! Stay safe!

Short-Eared Owls

Many animals migrate to warmer locales in the winter. Many leave behind northern states for southern ones. Do any animals winter in New York? Yes! One such animal is the short-eared owl. For these birds who come down from northern Canada or Alaska, New York is a warmer change of scenery.

I found 4-5 of these owls in a grassy fields surrounded by farmland. Short-eared owls prefer grasslands, fields, tundra, and marshes.

Short-eared owls nest on the ground. That makes them susceptible to predators such as coyotes, foxes, cats, and dogs. I heard someone talking at this location an they said a dead owl was found. They mentioned possibly a coyote got it.

I found them active in the afternoon. They may hunt in the daylight to coincide with vole activity. They prefer voles, but also eat mice, rats, small birds, and insects.

Short-eared owls arrive in New York around December and leave to return around March. Some areas of northern NY near the Canadian border have them residing there year round.

Flying low
They were talking to each other and flying about each other. Could they be a pair?

I just have a good amateur camera and lens and these birds were quite a distance away. Most images are cropped a lot. The big lens that people near me used made me envious. Hopefully, on another trip I may witness them closer with brighter skies. Regardless, they were fun to watch.