Into the wilds!

Wilderness camping!

Lisa Sciacca


Last summer when Alison mentioned she was going on a wilderness camping trip in September on the Oswegatchie River, it perked the interest of Peggy, Cathy, and myself. We wanted to do a trip! Unanimously, we agreed Alison would be a great leader. Alison agreed to be our guide. We agreed to paddle Lows Lake and spend one night. I was very excited; I have paddled Lows many times, but never made it to the end! Perhaps, I would see the end of the lake and do other exploring as well. Unfortunately, Cathy became ill and would not recover by 8/4, our scheduled date. Alison then inquired if Peggy and I would be willing to go a night earlier and spend two nights, we agreed.

Alison had prepared a list of items and emphasized that we needed to keep it light. The list included: tent, sleeping bag, air mattress, change of clothing, flashlight or head-lamp, a fleece shirt, UPF shirt, shoes, socks, rain gear, dab of toothpaste, pieces of dental floss, food, a spork, microfiber towel, wheels, and our toiletries — we wore our water shoes. Alison carried the single burner stove, medical kit, and water purifier; Peggy and I also carried bottled water, tin mugs, and collapsible bowls. A friend loaned me two bear canisters and a light weight tent, which Peggy and I shared, and we rented air mattresses from Raquette River Outfitters. Being that we do car camping, we have tents and air mattresses, however they were not suitable for wilderness camping as they are too big and heavy.

Lesson number 1!

Peggy and I had decided not to take the wheels, as Alison had suggested. That was a huge mistake! The portage across Lows Upper dam is flat and not that long, however when carrying loaded kayaks it seems like it is miles! Lesson number one: go by the leader’s list! Alison did offer to help Peggy and I with the portage going in and going out, but we declined; it was our self-induced hardship so we did not want to burden her with our load! On the morning of our departure I picked up subs from Shaheen’s Deli. Three subs, cut in the middle, condiments on the side, with each half wrapped separately and labeled with our names — Jim Shaheen did a great job! The subs would serve as our lunch and our dinner. Lows Lower Dam parking lot was full and there was a very long row of cars on the right side of the road, my guess, 20-plus! On the water we learned that 90 Boy Scouts were camping on the wilderness sites so between the cars, the scouts, and the paddlers coming from other directions, we were a bit concerned about finding a site.

Finding our home!

We did not stop for lunch, as we had launched much later than expected, but we snacked along the way. We passed some open sites, but we wanted to get towards the end of the lake. Site number 21 on a peninsula was open! It had a wonderful beach, nice tenting areas, a deep fire pit, and a privy - thunder box! (Sorry, I wanted to take a pic of it, but forgot! Lucky you!). Our first course of action was to eat our dinner.

Our beach at campsite 21!

We devoured our lunch, then Peggy organized the food in the bear canister while Alison and I pitched our tents. Alison put the bear canisters in the woods in a bag tied to a tree.  

Peggy organizes the bear canisters!

Later, Alison gathered the evening's firewood and Peggy and I organized our gear. At the campfire we relaxed with our tea. Alison talked about some of her wilderness camping experience; one trip was 8-days long and covered 123 miles! I mentioned my wilderness camping experience, which was limited to one-night stays, and I only recalled three. This was Peggy’s first wilderness experience. She makes me laugh, continually! One time as she was crawling out of the tent she stated, “Now…tell me…why are we doing this?” I laughed so hard I cried!

Alison our cook and our fearless leader!

Our first breakfast was a real treat! Alison prepared an egg, bacon, and cheese wrap for each of us. They were delicious!

Alison's bacon, egg and cheese wraps - yummy!

Alison suggested that we paddle towards the end of the lake and take a detour into Grass Pond and then paddle to the opposite side of the lake and maybe into Bog Lake, depending on the time and our endurance. There were two floating bogs where we had to exit our kayaks for a short time in order to get around them, the third we were able to paddle around as we headed in to Grass Pond. We saw many nice campsites; some occupied, some vacant, none of them were close together.

Fantastic views! This was taken at Grass Pond, a section on Low's Lake!

We were surprised to see a camp on a point not far from the entrance to Grass Pond. We did not paddle into Bog Lake, but paddled near the entrance. We wanted to take a swim, rest, and gather firewood prior to our dinner.  


After swimming, Alison and Peggy read and I gathered firewood. Alison had the only reading material, a second-hand book which she had purchased for $1.00, so she tore the book in thirds, each of us could read! We then walked a trail to the other side of the peninsula and saw the pine cone tree monster!

The book!

Pine cone tree monster! (use your imagination!)

We prepared our dinner consisting of dehydrated meals. Simply add a couple of cups of water, re-seal the bag, wait about 10 minutes, and eat! After dinner we enjoyed our campfire and tea and hit the ground around 10 p.m. The forest was silent except for the sound of the loons. In the morning we were awakened by the loons and a variety of birds singing.

Alison shortens her carry! The hill doesn't look as steep as it actually is!

Alison shortened her portage on the way out by carrying her light weight boat down an embankment into the flow below the dam. She floated down into the lake, the floating looked fun — the carrying, not so much! 

Do it again?

Still smiling at the end of the trip!

When we were ready to head back to Lows Lower Dam, Alison suggested we do an alternate route behind some islands. We would be out of the wind once we crossed the lake and we would see more of Lows! Besides having 3 bogs, Lows is spotted with many islands of various sizes, beautiful beaches, 40 campsites, and awesome views! Per Alison's GPS we had paddled 9 miles the first day, 8 1/4 miles the 2nd day, and 9 miles back.

We are ready to do another trip!

We all agreed it was a great trip and next time we would camp three nights with a couple of changes: 1) take the wheels if there is a portage, and 2) separate tents. The Tupper Lake region has many primitive camping areas. Maybe we will camp on the Oswegatchie or the Raquette River or in the St. Regis area. Those are just a few of our choices, there are numerous places to enjoy a wilderness camping experience in our beautiful region of the Adirondacks.