A lot of people go a little wild on Friday night. The pressures of the work week; a desire to milk the weekend for all it's worth are often cited. Last Friday Gwenne, Holly and I joined a group of Glens Falls area paddlers to go wild in the best sense of the word. This loose knit band of adventurers organized by Maureen Coutant usually gather every other Tuesday evening for conversation and outings on area waters. Friday's trip was a weather reschedule with Jayne Bouder and Tim and Mary Ward graciously acting as guides for a tour of the South Bay of Lake Champlain in the Town of Dresden in northern Washington County (W. C.).
The Adirondack Park boundary follows the western shoreline then cuts across the bay and up the opposite hillside southerly along the border between Whitehall and Fort Ann. A big chunk of West Mountain between South Bay and the Route 4 corridor has passed from the Nature Conservancy to New York State, becoming a State Forest, but apparently not Forest Preserve since it is just outside the Blue Line. Tim says there are 12 miles of trails here and he highly recommends a hike to North Saddle for the views and the delicate "Japanese Garden" forest communities of its steep rocky cliffs. Other points of interest are Devils Den, a canoe camping spot on the eastern shore and Death Rock up on the ridge crest.
This evening our destination is to paddle as far towards the head of the bay as time allows. We find a narrow channel through the rice marshes and note that the water here has cleared, fed by sparkling Mt. Hope Brook as it tumbles off Putnam Mountain and becomes South Bay Creek. We've been fighting a headwind, sweaty and a little worked when magically someone turns on the air conditioning. Just like that a cool, refreshing breeze slides down slope and tells us "we have arrived." We are directly beneath the towering cliff of The Diameter with its chaotic talus apron. Tim explains that this is Cold Spring where an icy trickle comes out of the rocks. There are usually a few cans of beer chillin' here, leftovers from the last fishing party. Water and air are kept cold by ice that builds up in the jumble of boulders at the cliff's base.
From previous visits I remember a clean, winding stream if you go beyond Cold Spring. There were silver maple and ostrich fern swamps, beaver dams and trees across the stream until all but the most obsessive turn around, sated with the verdant aliveness of the place.
Tim and Mary live in a hand crafted rustic house nestled above the bay, commute by canoe and are great sources of information about the area. Thanks to them and Jayne and Maureen for a memorable trip.