Family fun time on Moose Pond

The Labonte family of Saranac Lake enjoys a paddle on Moose Pond near Bloomingdale last week. (Enterprise photo — Justin A. Levine)

I’ve been doing a lot of paddling this summer, but very little (or none) of it has been with my family. So when my friend Jason suggested we do a family paddle on an early July afternoon, I jumped at the chance.

My wife, 10-month-old baby, 12-year-old stepson and I loaded up the canoe and a kayak and made the short drive to Moose Pond off of River Road in Bloomingdale.

Jason, his wife Karen, and their four kids were already waiting on the sandy shore near the boat launch, and within a few minutes our little fleet of three boats was on the water. We put in at the very northern part of the lake and ventured out, first heading east to a little island, where Jason’s eldest hopped out of the canoe and ran across the top of the island before getting back in their boat.

With a bit of wind, we ventured to the western shore to get some calmer water and made our way south along the shoreline, where a dog at a backcountry campsite watched us intently as its owner napped in a hammock.

The south end of the pond is made up of two bays, and after exploring the western (and larger) one, we made our way back to a little point that has a backcountry campsite on it. With no one camping there, the 10 of us disembarked and ate lunch, while the kids caught and released tiny little frogs in between stealing bites of food from us.

Audrey and Hudson Levine, of Vermontville, enjoy a family paddle on Moose Pond in Bloomingdale (Enterprise photo — Justin A. Levine)

Having done plenty of paddles together, Jason and I hopped in a canoe and went to check out the other, smaller bay while the wives and kids finished lunch and ran around in the woods.

This smaller bay is where Moose Creek begins, draining Moose Pond. The outlet was strewn with full-size trees in a pick-up-sticks pattern, and the little stream leading away from the pond was shallow and full of rocks. On the plus side, we did see a pine marten scurry away — Jason’s second such sighting in as many days.

After picking up our stuff, wives and kids, our flotilla paddled to the eastern shore to check out what looked from a distance to be a decent beach. My stepson threw a line in the water, but struggled to paddle his kayak while holding a fishing rod. We offered to tow him with the canoe, but he felt a need for speed and just stuck the rod inside the kayak before taking off.

By this time the baby, who had enjoyed his first-ever canoe trip so far, had fallen sound asleep on a bed of towels, with the head part of his life jacket acting as a pretty decent pillow. Nestled in the bow, I tried extra hard not to hit my paddle against the side of the boat, because the last thing we wanted was a screaming kid who didn’t get enough of a nap. As it turned out, he slept for an hour with no problem at all.

The beach we had spied turned out to be just as nice as it looked from a distance, with dark sand lining the shore. As we got closer, my paddle suddenly hit bottom, even though we were still probably 100 yards out. This would be a great place to bring a bevy of kids and let them splash around, but we kept going up the shoreline for another 15 minutes or so.

Pretty soon, with Jason’s family in the lead, I noticed we were heading back to shore even though the boat launch was more to our left. But then we noticed a sort of beckoning oasis on the shore, a bright green patch of sun-dappled grass with a stone fire place and a little state Department of Environmental Conservation “Camping” sign.

We couldn’t believe the site was unoccupied on the Friday before July 4th, but it was to our benefit. With the baby still asleep in the bow of the canoe, Jason and two of kids, along with Baylor and myself all jumped in the shallow water and enjoyed a quick swim. There was no beach here, but the sand seemed to stretch forever under the clear but brown water, and with the breeze still going, the water was warmer than the air. My wife kept a hand on the canoe and walked around to keep the baby asleep while the rest of us played.

After a few minutes, we got back in our boats and set out for the launch. It had been an easy afternoon, covering maybe three miles in a few hours, but watching the kids play and catch frogs, swimming and getting bitten by mosquitoes made the time fly.

Once we were back at the launch, the boats were unloaded and we made plans for dinner that night. The baby was still asleep, despite the unloading, talking and the group of campers who were preparing to set out.

We decided to let him sleep a few more minutes, and carried the canoe by the handles up to the car, while little Hudson continued to nap. After getting situated, we finally had to pull the trigger and wake him up. He picked his head up and instead of crying, met our eyes with a big smile. It may not have been much of a paddle, but all of us ended it the same way.