Paddling and battling Lake Placid

Conditions on Lake Placid can become treacherous, even on days when the weather appears to be innocuous. (Provided photo — Spencer Morrissey)

Paddling on Lake Placid is never dull or the same twice, and that’s mainly due to confusing Adirondack weather patterns that even the professionals can only assume. The lake is big enough and choppy enough where it can be considered unsheltered “big water,” and even a bit dangerous under the wrong conditions.

Of course, that doesn’t even take into consideration the motorboats on the lake, and for that reason I tend to be overcautious. The last time I was on the lake was during a unique climb of Eagle Eyrie, but that’s a different story all together (maybe I will bend your ear one day with that bedtime story).

We put in at the state boat launch site and were rather surprised by how warm the water was in the shallows. We still had on our life vests and had them secured tight. Our emergency gear was lashed to the kayak for easy access.

With our paddle in hand, we pushed off and started a path toward Whiteface Landing. The waters were pretty calm for this early afternoon paddle, with hardly a ripple over a few inches. I could now feel the cooler water on my hands as it dripped from the paddle, and could only guess it would be much colder if I was immersed. With that idea in mind, we decided to do all we could to remain vertical.

It didn’t take long before we reached the base of Pulpit Rock and lingered for a bit in the dark waters that settle there. At this point, one of those odd weather patterns moved through, and mostly sunny became mostly cloudy.

It was getting pretty nippy and that wind associated with the advancing front was churning up the water. The waves were starting to kick up quite a bit and the temperature seemed to be dipping fairly quickly, surely that 20% chance of a thunderstorm was about to reach 100%.

So, rather than chance too much open water on this side of the lake we changed course to the west and decided to paddle through Shelter Straight then loop around Buck Island back to the boat launch through Sunset Straight.

The straight was a bit more shielded but not much. It was kind of a fun ride navigating the waves, even a pair of loons were playing about.

As we made our way around the west side of Buck Island, the waves were not as ruthless. We decided to stick close to shore anyhow — better safe than sorry. That way if we did tip over, we would be like Gilligan but with our own island.

We continued moving at a decent clip to get back sooner and rounded into Sunset Straight on the southwest side of Buck Island where we were hit head on by the frigid wind and waves like no other in my experience.

Our only shelter and ray of hope was to hug the shore of Brewster Peninsula until we popped out onto the main portion of the lake. The only problem was: between us and the boat launch was a ton of open water, over a half-mile to be a bit more exact.

I’m not going to lie, I was a bit edgy but I had to do it. Corenne took it in stride. I didn’t want to hug shore all the way through Paradox Bay — that would seem endless. We just went for it and tried to ignore the rumbling in the background (which was not my stomach).

We sat up tall, squeezed our core and paddled as hard as we could into the wind and tried the best we could to skip the waves that were coming at us and avoid getting caught parallel to them. We had the angle right and were making decent time. At least the boat launch wasn’t getting farther away.

Waves splashed the hull, splashed our jacket and covered our goose-bumped arms, but we held strong and took advantage of every second of every break in the wind. As we neared shore the waves diminished a bit and then pretty much disappeared altogether as we coasted into the concrete dock and soon after coasted right into the pub.


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