2022 Friends and Family Chowderfest

Prior to the pandemic, Paula and I looked forward to the Saratoga Chowderfest, held the first Saturday in February each year. You would walk through Saratoga, sampling various chowders at $1 per small cup. We would end up at Jacob and Anthony’s having a drink, sitting next to their outside fire pit.

The Chowderfest was not held in 2021. So we did our own, for our family and friends. It was a hit.

Sunday was our second annual Friends and Family Chowderfest. Last year’s was our first full family gathering since the start of the pandemic, so this is a special event for us. Paula made mugs and aprons for all participants. The winner gets a gold ladle that is passed on to each year’s winner.

I was in the lead to win with my Manhattan Crab and Sausage Chowder (my own recipe). But I got disqualified even though I had the most votes. My chowder got 25 votes, but when Paula tabulated the results, she noted that there were only 11 people voting, that my ballot were filled out with a red pen (nobody else had access to a red pen) and had clearly been copied on a laser printer (which is in my office).

We also had Michigans, and corned beef Reuben sliders. One of the chowders was a corned beef and cabbage chowder. Paula also made pretzels with beer cheese dip, corn bread, and Irish soda bread.

Late Winter Storm at Loon Lake

Woke up this morning to 3 inches of new snow. We have a Winter Storm Warning for 6 to 9 inches through 1 AM Sunday. This always happen when I start to pull together my Trout fishing equipment in anticipation of April 1st.

Will delay firing up the pizza oven until Sunday— better than cooking in a blizzard. We did something different last night— Paula made a shrimp, scallop, chicken and rice Paella— in the inside fireplace. It was just awesome.

Fireplace Paella

This snow is welcome— a couple of grandkids showed up last night and want to go sledding. The sledding hill was bare yesterday, even the icy base was mostly gone. They should do fine (once they get up…) with the new cover and additional snow we are expecting.

This is the hardest time of the year for me at Loon Lake. I am ready for the snow to be gone, followed by the ice on the lake. Can’t rush Mother Nature.

Snow!!!

Friday’s storm dumped 6 to 10 inches of snow on us, up here at Loon Lake. It snowed steadily throughout the day. Spent most of it watching it snow, next to the fire. I had to snowblow a path for the dogs to use when they went outside.

Unfortunately, below the snow, we have about 2 inches of solid, glare ice. Everywhere. Prior the storm, the ice had melted a bit, and then refroze, creating a skating rink like effect.

So be careful. Micro spikes or stabilicers are essential. Edges on your skis, and crampons on your snowshoes.

While snow blowing down a slight grade yesterday, the blower began to just slide downhill, faster than the wheels were spinning (letting up on the auger created a snow brake).

The snowmobile clubs are encouraging folks to stay off the trails, until they can be groomed. There are areas where the thaw created flooding and open water still exists. The new snow over ice creates a dangerous situation. I recall a few years ago, coming down our road onto the Point under similar conditions, with the sled just spinning in circles.

I took a spill late Thursday night, falling backward, slamming the back of my head on the ice. Mild concussion. But doing fine, now.

All that being said, we have family arriving today to enjoy this wonderful Winter weekend. I will fire up the outdoor pizza oven later, and hope to take a walk in the woods this morning, if I get clearance from Paula.

Enjoy!

Grouse Hunting

I love Grouse Hunting. The long season starts in Late September, and closes the end of February. It is an excuse for me to get out in the woods and walk, almost every day. It gets me into areas of the woods around Loon Lake that are not frequently travelled.

Grouse are elusive and smart. They may roost in a tree, hide in a bush or downed tree, and burrow under the snow. More often than not, your hear the grouse as they fly off as you approach. Occasionally, you see the grouse as they fly away from you. For me, I might get a possible shot at a grouse about every fourth bird that I see. They are shot on the wing, which means you need to anticipate where the bird will be.

Early season hunting is difficult, as the leaves on the trees and ground mask the grouse and announce your presence. Grouse would rather run than fly. November is tough, as you share the woods with big game hunters, who don’t appreciate your walking through the woods where they have been sitting silently for hours.

I like late season hunting the best. Snow covers the ground, and you see all the tracks of the animals and birds traveling through the woods. The woods are wide open. Most times, I am wearing snowshoes, unless I am traversing a well packed logging road or trail.

The late season is also something I have always done solo, given snow depth. I lost my hunting dog this past Fall, which took the joy out of hunting for me. He died a day after our first grouse hunt of the season. I miss him terribly.

The thing about snowshoes is— it is hard to get lost. So I tend to push further into the deep woods, exploring new areas. It is also a good workout, so most trips are, at most, only a couple of hours.

I ventured into a new area this past weekend. Over successive days, I built and extended my snowshoe track. Yesterday, I flushed four grouse. The first I heard fly from a roost. The second blasted up from under the snow, startling me, as I watched it fly off. The last two emerged from under a downed tree and flew. I shot one, and did not even try for the second, saving one for seed.

There still is a week left to grouse season, but it is over for me. I will leave the birds in peace, and thank them for getting me out in the woods, and for lessening the pain of the loss of my best hunting companion.

So we will have grouse for dinner tomorrow, prepared like Chicken Marsala.

Presidents’ Day Weekend 2022

As of this past Thursday, I thought it would be a bust. Temperatures reached the high 40s, with high wind, and a driving rain. Our road out onto the Point turned into a sheet of ice. Water pooled on the lake, and on the snowmobile trails. Streams and brooks were (and still are) running high. All our expected guests cancelled postponed their visits until the following weekend.

Thursday we headed into Plattsburgh to resupply.stopped in for lunch at the Twisted Carrot. *****. The Corned Beef Rueben with Brussel sprout slaw was excellent. As was the Ausable Brown Ale.

Friday morning we received about an inch of snow. Just enough to provide some traction on the icy road. I went for a walk in the woods— all the wildlife and birds were hunkered down, not moving.

Saturday morning— what a difference. Woke up to a gentle snow. Three more inches on the ground. Gorgeous and silent; a blanket of snow on the ground and the trees covered as well. We have a good enough snow base over the ice for sledding. Not sure what the lake is like. The Snowmobile clubs are recommending that folks STAY OFF the trails until they can get the groomers out. Snowshoes will likely get a bit bogged down in the heavier wet snow— but that is no excuse not to go out.

Areas up here are experiencing significant flooding. Ice jams have formed on the Ausable River, flooding some homes, and washing some vehicles downriver. If you are out in the woods, you may find some brooks and streams impassable.

So I find myself confronted with a long weekend, no guests and pretty good conditions out there. I think I will put another pot of coffee on and contemplate how best to spend my time.

Happy Winter Carnival!

Saranac Lake is hopping this weekend. The Winter Carnival Parade was Saturday and did not disappoint. Good music in the bars. Carousel running. A good time.

Doing Pizza for lunch on Sunday, as our weekend guests were at the Carnival yesterday. At the moment, it has warmed up to one degree above zero. No real wind today, though— yesterday was brutal.

Looks like Franklin is back! Only seems to be missing his hat. Franklin is the giant snowman, at the house next to the Franklin Town Highway Garage in Vermontville.

Walking one of the dogs last night, we startled a snow-white Hare, who blasted across the road. Rabbit tracks are everywhere on the Point, but this is the first one I have actually seen out here in 20+ years.

Snowmobiling is at peak season. Lots of activity, and excellent conditions. I have also noticed several snowshoe tracks (not made by me), including going up Crusher Mountain. It looks like someone has established a cross country ski track around the perimeter of the lake. An ice fisherman was out off Washbourne Bay on Saturday. It’s mid February; the sun is higher and feels warmer, and we have great snow conditions. No excuse not to get outside.

We have about two feet of snow in the woods, covered with a crusty layer. Good for skiing and snowshoeing— but can be a pain if you break through the crust. While out for grouse, I saw deer, moose, rabbit, coyote, squirrel, otter, turkey and grouse tracks. All fresh.

If you are up here— get outside and enjoy!

Winter has settled in at Loon Lake

You know it’s Winter here when you shrug off another Wind Chill Advisory for 40 below temperatures and just go about your business. We finally have a good base of snow— at least a foot to 18 inches. Unfortunately, the NorthEaster heading up the coast will not reach us.

I finally fired up one of the vintage 1998 snowmobiles and took it for a run yesterday, after work. The trails around the lake are in great shape. I like to ride when it isn’t too busy as I tend to go slow. As I ride solo, I only go as far as I am willing to walk back. Did not see anyone else riding while I was out in the late afternoon. Last night, however, the power line trail turned into a major thoroughfare for sleds. It finally quieted down around 11:30. My guess is people went out for a run after work, given the cold temperatures predicted for today (Saturday). Charlie’s Inn in Lake Clear and Jessie’s Supper Club in Mountain View are popular destinations.

Looks like a solitary sled traversed the lake from end to end. My sled cannot handle a snow pack of over 8 inches, given its old short track, so I tend to stay off the lake and out of the deep snow. I did watch a solitary skier and their dog use the track across the lake. Both appeared to be having fun.

Ice fishing has been good, but not much activity. Had a report from someone who would know that they had caught a Largemouth Bass and a Walleye. Neither is native to Loon Lake. Not sure who introduced these. Loon Lake used to hold trout, until DEC introduced Smallmouth decades ago. Now Smallmouth Bass are the preeminent species. Walleye have the potential to similarly decimate the Smallmouth population. The two folks that (in my opinion) might have stocked the lake are both gone— one died, the other has moved away.

Paula has been staying quite busy with indoor activities. Baking, soldering stained glass, making flannel PJs, building more storage shelves, making a great dinner….and that was all just one day. I was working — but did manage to head into the woods after grouse on my lunch hour. Lots of tracks— Moose, Deere, Coyote, Rabbit, Grouse, and Otter all on the move.

Not sure what is on the agenda for today— I do know we will be making pizza. Which means I will be splitting wood to keep warm while tending the outdoor pizza oven. I consider it a major accomplishment if I can finish a bottle of beer before it freezes.

MLK Jr. Weekend at Loon Lake

What a great weekend. We definitely had a variety of weather.

I took a break from work on Friday and got out into the woods. We had a nice crust of icy snow on top of a 6 inch base. I walked into the Plumadore Brook Easement land . Came across the track of a snowmobile trail— a definite no no.

We had family up for the long weekend. Was not sure what to plan for activities, given the weather forecast.

Saturday started quite cold— 25 below. Luckily, the expected wind never materialized; neither did the anticipated 45 below wind chill. We did keep the grandkids inside. It is amazing what a new box of crayons and new play-do will do to keep them occupied. We celebrated a birthday with spaghetti and meatballs, homemade bread, and Super Mario Cupcakes. Somehow I managed to polish off a great bottle of Cabernet during the course of the day.

Even without wind, Loon Lake lost power Saturday night. I called National Grid. They asked how I knew the power was out all around the lake—. It is actually easy; you just go outside and listen for the back up generators. Generac should film a commercial out here.

Sunday was a great day. It warmed up to zero. I went out hunting, and came across fresh snowshoe tracks, again in the Plumadore Easement area. They had gone out on Saturday, and actually crossed over the Brook. If you are reading this— what’s on the other side? A trail? I opted not to cross the Brook. I was not wearing snowshoes, and it was not clear where stream bank ended, and the ice over the brook began. A moose had used the snowshoe track for a bit, and the tell tale track of a beaver dropped down out of the snow and into Plumadore Brook.

Around 10 all the kids on the Point converged on the hill below our camp and went sledding. Paula too, on her custom Flexible Flyer, with waxed runners. She smoked the kids going down the hill. Our heated garage served as a warming hut, but was not really needed as the kids warmed up during the climb back up the hill.

Given the forecasted blizzard on Monday, and the frigid temperatures of Saturday, we opted to make pizza for lunch on Sunday. I prepared the oven and split down firewood while the kids went sledding. I try to keep about three weeks supply of firewood prepared, always working ahead.

Given the anticipated blizzard our guests and some others on the Point cleared out late in the day on Sunday. We had a nice quiet evening at camp.

So far Monday morning we have received about 4 inches of new snow, and it is still coming down, hard. Predicted to continue all day.

Been keeping an eye on our new neighbors as they spend their first two weeks in their new camp. They appear to be acclimating nicely. They sure are getting a taste of Winter at Loon Lake….

Winter at Loon Lake

It’s a good day to stay inside, next to a fire….

Wish someone had told me that,

At the moment, a mixture of sleet/rain/snow is coming down, and we have fairly high winds out of the West. We have a Winter Weather Advisory until 7 PM.

This week we received about another 5 to 6 inches of snow. Enough to sled and ski, not enough for snowshoes. The snowmobile trail along the power line is open from Lake Clear to Malone, and saw heavy use on Saturday, as it one of the first trails to open in the area. Trucks and trailers parked along Goldsmith Road, already, today. I also saw someone unloading a fat tire bike. That made me feel like I wasn’t the only crazy person out and about.

It has warmed up today from a low of 14 below Saturday morning. We get more below zero temperatures next week.

I did head out early, for grouse, but everything smart (everything except me) is hunkered down, waiting out the weather. I debated running out to a friend’s house just off Rt. 3 as Rt. 26 seemed questionable. As I approached my turn to home, a Town Plow came by, spreading sand, so I did make the run out.

I have mentioned elsewhere that 58 Moose were spotted recently in a single helicopter overflight of the conservation easement lands that border on Loon Lake. These areas are actively logged using sustainable forestry measures. As such, forests are very healthy and support all sorts of wildlife (including Moose and Grouse). We are fortunate to have access to these resources, here at Loon Lake.

We could really use a big dump of snow. We are making do with “just enough” for now. Would be nice to be able to use snowshoes, rather than post holing through the woods….

Happy New Year!

What a strange year 2021 has been. Weird that I remember all three dates of my Covid Vaccinations. The drive though site in Plattsburgh was surreal. We have been so fortunate to be able to escape to the lake, where we socially distance by choice, routinely. We were fortunate enough to pull off both Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve with our immediate family.

There is just enough snow here at the lake to make it feel like Winter. But not enough yet for good snowshoeing and backwoods skiing. Could use a good solid foot of snow.

The grandkids have cancelled out on their plans to come up this holiday week. Not enough snow for sledding….they would be inside, watching movies or playing video games. They can do that at home.

I have been out in the woods everyday. Wildlife and signs of wildlife abound. There are tracks of moose, deer, coyote, rabbit, squirrel, turkey and grouse everywhere. Several times I have been accompanied by a pesky Blue Jay, flitting about and announcing my presence.

We tried a new restaurant up in Plattsburgh— Sip at 14 Margaret Street. Great menu, good food (and drinks). Stopped in when we made a grocery run. Actually, Plattsburgh has a great selection of restaurants, many right downtown.

Looking forward to the New Year. Paula and I have been planning out our next projects. Getting back in shape, losing the weight gained since the Covid Lockdown of March 2020 is top on my list.

So, Happy New Year! Hopefully we can continue to build on the successes achieved in 2021. Stay safe— please mask up and get vaccinated.