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Horseshoe Lake

I'm going to tell you something that might surprise you. Paddling in the Adirondacks, whether by canoe or kayak, is an awesome activity, but there is no one spot that is epically, quintessentially Adirondack. There are thousands of lakes in the Adirondacks and each one has some quality of beauty that is uniquely perfect. What does make a paddle perfect is simply having the most fun you possibly can, enjoying your time surrounded by nature with someone awesome you can share it with.

In pursuit of a perfect paddle, my boyfriend and I recently visited Horseshoe Lake, located southwest of the village of Tupper Lake.  We started with doughnuts from The Washboard Donut and Coffee Shop, one of our favorite stops and soon to be yours, as well. On the way to the lake, we stopped at Bog River Falls, a super scenic spot where the Bog River tumbles into Big Tupper Lake.

Located within Horseshoe Wild Forest, Horseshoe Lake is very quiet, incredibly scenic, and overall a simply lovely place for a relaxing paddle. Although there was a small town here once, all that is left now are railroad tracks, a small camp or two, and a lot of wilderness. The quiet and sense of peacefulness is wonderful. On the southern shore, their deck overlooks the water and is wheelchair accessible. It's also a good spot for a picnic or a little bit of dock fishing.

We set out in "The Silver Chariot," our trusty aluminum Starcraft canoe, following the shoreline south, around the outer edge of the lake's horseshoe shape. I tend to prefer staying close to the shore for the simple reason that it is usually beautiful, no matter what lake or pond I'm on. I love open water, but it doesn't have quite the same magic for me as a densely wooded peninsula or a marshy outlet.

The mountains and lakes of the Adirondacks were shaped by glacial movement which began about 80,000 years ago. Horseshoe Lake features beautiful reminders of this, particularly on the western shoreline. Much of the shore is rocky, with glacial erratics — boulders left behind by the retreating glacier — providing prominent ledges for many types of plant life to grow on. Spruce and white pine trees are abundant here and when there is a breeze, the scent of the trees wafts out to the lake. You can’t help but want to enjoy that scent forever.

We paddled leisurely, with no set destination in mind, dipping in and out from the shore, listening for birds. Near the southwestern corner of the lake there is a small outlet and we paddled into it, meandering through mats of white and yellow water lilies. Dragonflies buzzed around us, on the lookout for tiny insect snacks. A frog croaked in alarm as we approached and a blue jay squawked noisily. It was wonderful.

As we eventually turned to make our way back to the launch, a dragonfly landed on my knee and rode along with us for a while. I could see in detail its shimmering, segmented wings and tiny bluish eyes. Shortly after that, we saw two loons swimming and diving, separated by a few hundred feet of water. The second one called repeatedly in a distinctive wail, a call loons use to alert other loons to their location.

After our paddle I couldn't help but poke around on the shore, where I found a pretty dime-sized flake of mica. I watched butterflies and bees flit around milkweed flowers. Wading into the water, I retrieved a nearly whole mussel shell, wondering who or what might have eaten the tasty morsel that was once inside the shell. We had our own tasty morsel with a powdered doughnut, a wildly delicious way to top off our adventure.

We truly did have a perfect paddle. We had fun on a beautiful lake, interacting with and observing wildlife, experiencing moments we wouldn't have had anywhere else, at any other time. We were the only boaters out, so our ride was quiet — except for my gabbing — and peaceful. I'll tell you something else: our next paddle will probably be perfect, too. I just hope there are doughnuts involved.

Getting there: From Tupper Lake, travel roughly 8.6 miles south on Route 30 to Route 421 on your right. Shortly after turning on to Route 421, you will pass over the scenic stone bridge at Bog River Falls. Be sure to stop here to view the falls. The western launch area (there are three spots and this is the farthest) is 6.3 miles from the intersection of Routes 30 and 421.

Round out your own perfect Tupper Lake paddling adventure with an overnight stay at a cute cottage or retro motel.

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