The Crooked Canes Journal


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A Paddle on the Kunjamuk ~ Jun 17, 2015

Journal entry by Ray Bouchard



Since the weather forecast was sunny with only a slight breeze that only left the current as the big unknown. It had rained just about every day, including the day before our trip, so I knew the water level would be high, and it was, but everyone seemed to manage the current well. I was aware of 15 beaver dams from previous trips, but the 9 brave souls that joined this little adventure only had to get out of their vessels once. We had barely entered the river when we heard the sound of water rushing over the first dam, still hidden from sight. I thought to myself, “Self, this is not a good sign”. It wasn’t as bad as it sounded though and it was really fun watching Claire try her best to climb up and over that damn dam, but to no avail. She would get almost up and over and then gravity and the force of the current would invariably push her back down. I’ll have to admit, she handled reverse gear quite well. Luckily there was a small chute on the far right so I was able get out of my kayak and slide everyone up & over it with minimal effort. Dam #2 however was more of a challenge. Once again we were able to locate an overflow/rivulet on the far right, but this time conditions required that both Jack and I step out into the 18”+ deep water, clear away the protruding branches with my saw, and slide 8 kayaks and one canoe over the mini-dam, sans occupant(s). 2 beaver dams, versus 5 or more was a pleasant surprise. It’s not that the other 13 had vanished, but rather they were covered by between 1 and 2’ of water. We stopped as planned at the first bridge so everyone could visit the famed Kunjamuk Cave if they wished to. It’s very small as caves go but it did add a bit of interest and lore to the trip. French Louie, the Adirondack guide and hermit, is said to have hung out there from time to time and I’m sure a few other lesser known individuals have spent the night in it too. It would be easy to stay warm by building a fire under the hole cut out of the ceiling. Most seem to agree that it was created by humans, but no one seems to know when or by whom. By the time we reached the second bridge it was already 1:00 and we had at least another mile to go before reaching Elm Lake so we decided to stop and eat our lunch. I believe it was Jack who interrupted our meal with the word “Fisher”. It all happened so quickly that only a fortunate few actually saw the furry, dark brown creature zip across the dirt road 100’ or so beyond us. I’m afraid I wasn’t one of them and unfortunately no one had a camera at the ready to record the event. It didn’t take us long after that to reach Elm Lake, our final destination. Some swam (guess which two), and some explored the shoreline, but I decided to paddle over to the middle cabin so I could chat with the occupants who were outside enjoying themselves. Basically I wanted to know if I could rent one of the 3 cabins spread out along the shore line for a week or two, but my hopes were quickly dashed when he said you had to buy it from the paper company then lease the land from them. The gentleman I talked to said he and 5 other guys purchased their camp from International Paper (now Lyme Lumber) about 30 years ago. They use it primarily as a hunting camp in the fall, but in the off season they’ve set up a system so they can take turns vacationing there with their families. The water level at the lake was so high that we probably could have followed the river further upstream, but by now it was getting late and everyone was eager to make the 5 mile journey back to the cars. This time however, we would be paddling with the current :-) . As you must have guessed by now, we were actually looking forward to the dams as a source of fun rather than something to be concerned about. We shot the chute when we reached the first one and ran the last one, which left us with a short paddle to our cars and a lot of pleasant memories. Dave mentioned that the Cane’s use to paddle the Kunjamuk several years ago but for some (dam or damn) reason it hasn’t been scheduled in a long time. That’s too bad, it’s a real gem. By the way, if you like to mountain bike, the man I spoke to said there is a bike trail in the area. If you are interested, Google “Mountain bike trails in the Speculator, Kunjamuk region” to learn more about it. Thank you Dave & Mary, Jack & Lenore, Joanne, Neal VanDorsten (a relative new comer), Gail, Fran and Claire for making this such a delightful trip.

13 photos



Assembled and eager to paddle across Kunjamuk Bay into the river. From L to R: Dave, Mary, Claire, Fran, Neal, Jack, Joanne, Gail and Lenore.



Joanne followed by Gail scooting over a submerged beaver dam. The current really picked up at spots like this.



Lenore leaving the riffles behind her.



Mary and Dave made it through the quick water with ease.



Gail was cruising so fast she created a wake.



Joanne, moving right along.



The new signage makes it easy to find the cave via a short trail through the woods.



A view of the entrance to the cave.



Camp #2 on Elm Lake. For those that have been here before you will notice that their beach (my usual lunch spot) is under a couple of feet of water.



Gail chose to relax on the lake, and soak up the rays.



Jack, on the other hand, chose to soak his bones in the cool water.



Claire and Fran are returning from their scouting trip to the far end of the lake.



Swamp Alders were in bloom on both sides of the river. A few wispy clouds have started to move in signaling a return to damp weather in the next day or two.



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