Camping on an island is better than any other kind of camping in existence.
Yuuuup, it's a bold statement. But I stand by it.
Here are my reasons:
Paddling is one of my favorite summer activities, and the Saranac Lake area is one of the best places in the world for it. So any camping weekend that necessarily includes paddling is okay by me!
My boyfriend Andy and I had a great time a few years ago when we made island camping our priority for the summer. (Since then, we have adopted an adorable puppy who loves being outside, but isn’t too great at calming down enough in a canoe to pack any gear in the boat too. One day, we hope to be back out on islands hanging out all together!)
There are both reserved and first-come, first-served island campsites in the Saranac Lake region. But it was always so much work loading up all our stuff and canoeing with it that if we were going to do island camping, we wanted a reserved site that we paid a few bucks for rather than risking relying on finding a site that was open and arriving to find that it had already been taken.
So we reserved a few ahead of time, but we also found out that if you stop at the Second Pond boat launch, there’s a little booth that acts as the headquarters for the Saranac Lake Islands campground area where they have usually reserved a few sites for day-of walk ins. We got some of our best sites giving that a try!
We would head to the appropriate boat launch, usually the South Creek launch on Route 3, which brings you to Middle Saranac, our favorite. It takes both of us to pull the canoe off the car and put it in. Then we get to work on the Tetris game of fitting all our gear into the canoe in the best way possible.
We do not travel light. I’ve seen people do this kind of thing with much less, or at least much more well-packed, gear. Our gear is not the fancy kind that packs down light and small, it’s all been cobbled together over the years and we make it work. It just takes up a little more room in the canoe.
We have to be careful to distribute the weight evenly throughout the canoe, or else the canoe will be extra tippy or it’ll lean in one direction and force you to paddle harder the other way. Which isn’t fun! So we pay close attention to how we’re packing things in.
And then we set out. An intense feeling of relaxation floods over me each time I finally get out on the water. Now is the part you get to enjoy! Keep an eye on where you’re going, but don’t forget to enjoy the ride.
And eventually, you’re there!
2.) The sites
When you’re camping on an island, you’ll pretty much always have waterfront. You’d have to search fairly hard for a camping spot on an island that doesn’t have some water access.
We pull up and immediately start hauling everything out of the canoe. Then we walk the site and check out potential spots for the tent. Once we decide on one, that goes up first. Then one of us sets up the bedding in the tent while the other goes about setting up the rest of camp.
An awesome feature of island camping is that you don’t have to worry as much about wildlife. In most campgrounds, you should be aware of the possibility of bears, deer, raccoons, and at the very least squirrels and chipmunks — don’t underestimate these food thieves! But on an island, especially if it’s a tiny island, it’s mostly just birds and insects you have to watch out for.
Which means (though I’m sure the DEC would advise against this) that you don’t have to be quite as careful about stashing your food when you go to bed or are off doing activities. We usually bring a table and make sure our food is packed up neatly in a bag on or under the table, but we don’t wrap everything up super airtight or get concerned about a little spill or food smells or anything like that. And if you leave a few marshmallows out at night, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll wake up to someone furry munching on them.
I love the fact that when I’m on an island, I can wake up in the morning and sit down and read a book, and I know I’m not going to have to deal with people stopping by wanting something from me, or expecting me to do anything, or making demands of my time. It’s beyond relaxing.
So when we’re island camping, I try to get up before Andy so I can have an hour or two of total seclusion to myself. Then when he gets up and we spend the day together, it’s nice for us to have alone time without everything else in the world getting in the way and distracting us.
We usually go for a few swims, take a few naps, play a few games, and go out for a paddle or two to check out the area around us. To be sure, you can’t really go hiking on an island, so if that’s what you like to do when you’re camping, this probably isn’t the way to go. But for me, it’s perfect.
And in the evenings, after you’ve roasted some hot dogs and had a few beers, there’s almost always a great sunset to watch, because you’re always on the water! I’ve seen some of my favorite sunsets from an island on Middle Saranac.
And then you can stay up late, laughing and joking around the campfire, and there’s no one to bother around you.
There’s really nothing like a weekend of island camping. Hopefully we’ll get the dog out to an island this summer. Happy camping!
This week in ADK news: Pitch it!