Hackensack River Canoe & Kayak Club

paddling for over a third of a century

A Portrait of a Canadian Kayaker as a new member of the HRCKC on a trip to Saranac Lake
by Christine Slaunwhite

October 5-8, 2007

It was a superb autumn day as we set out to Saranac Lake, NY to join up with our fellow canoe and kayakers of the HRCKC. After the presidential flotilla welcomed and directed us, and campsite arrangements were settled, we packed up and we were on our way. It was hard to wipe the smile from my face (an affliction I suffered from all weekend as it turned out) as we paddled our kayaks amongst the awe inspiring scenery.

After setting up camp we settled in to our surroundings; for some this meant taking a paddle in the late afternoon sun; for others it meant taking advantage of the warm weather to take a relieving and relaxing swim.

Our campsite became the main gathering site for the evening campfire. I got to meet a few more members and felt so much at home you would have thought that I had always been a member. Harris introduced me to the Mingo concept (which was a good thing as I would have been quite lost later on as it was referenced quite a few times). Our Club president, Jeff regaled us with his unique vocal styling (yes us Canadians have a tendency towards diplomacy). The evening was full of great jokes and informative stories which included the history and origins of the Club.

After a peaceful night’s rest; we awoke the next morning to an awesome morning sunrise over a misty lake and mountains. Trips were planned and the group I was with decided on a paddle to Middle Saranac Lake. The weather didn’t quite turn out quite as glorious as was anticipated, but it did nothing to dampen the enthusiastic spirit of our group. As we gathered together to get the trip underway, our trip’s ever intrepid sweep, Charlie, decided to prove the hypothesis “it’s not if, but when you fall out of your boat”. After a successful return to his boat we were underway. Martin was our crusader against thoughtless motorized boat operators using the ever-effective scatological verbal method with a good threatening paddle shaking thrown in for good measure.

We proceeded to the lock to Middle Saranac. As a lock virgin, I was expecting more considering I was cautioned to hold on to the ropes (strange how this seemed eerily familiar) but it turned out to be an experience nonetheless. We encountered some considerate boaters until we came across some duck hunters who I thought were returning from a successful morning of slaughter. Obviously not, as they
chose to open fire VERY shortly thereafter. Thank goodness none of us remotely resemble a duck (even after a few beers). We then stopped for lunch and our exploration of Middle Saranac and its campsites ensued thereafter. Even in the drizzly mist, I was awe-struck by the beauty and tranquility of the area.

As we were proceeding down the lake, a distant rumbling was heard and it was decided to start to make our return back to home base and try to beat the impending storm. The swiftness and cohesiveness of the decision-making within the group was remarkable. We did end up taking a timely and safe respite at a put-in due to a short but intense burst of rain and thunder but we were on our way again shortly.

We returned to camp just in time before the rain started in earnest. I got to meet some more members of the Club and had some more fun and informative conversation over at Jeff, Martin, Harris and Brice’s campsite. I also did some quick note-taking on the construction of their impressive tarp set-up while I was there. I also got to meet our fellow campers Robyn and Phil at site 39 who were kind enough to supplement our supper with some delicious beer bread and brownies. What a great ending to a tremendous day.

The next morning seemed to promise a sunnier and warmer day and it did not disappoint. The trip I went on that day was with a smaller group consisting of myself, Charlie, Jeff and Ken, to Lower Saranac Lake (or at least we tried). The pace was leisurely and prompted the gentleman to engage in some deep and philosophical conversation (no really ladies, I’m serious). The scenery and atmosphere certainly was inspiring to that end!!!

Jeff suggested we stop for lunch at what can only be described as the “Perfect Lunch Rock” which gave us a chance to practice our rock climbing skills. Jeff had the idea for a really great photo op from atop the rock (it still has not left my background of my laptop). Time had pleasantly passed so we made our way back without reaching our final destination (I don’t think anybody particularly noticed or cared). I got to try a bigger kayak than I am used to and was pleasantly surprised that I was skillful (?!??) enough to use it. Jeff fishing efforts were finally rewarded although we did not get an opportunity to photograph the event. The day was positively gorgeous. Tranquil and content is an understatement to my feelings at that time but wished I could carry them with me indefinitely.

After considerable deliberation Charlie and I decided to break camp and head back to civilization. We made our good-byes. I have never felt more at ease and welcomed with a group of people in such a short time. We made our way into the setting sun and got to drink in more of the wonderful tapestry and genuine soulfulness that is Saranac.