Little Tupper - Lake Lila Trip Report

-- Last Updated: May-31-04 9:39 PM EST --

Sandy and I set out for the Whitney Wilderness in the Adirondacks of NY on Thursday afternoon. Our original plan was to start at Lake Lila and carry over to Rock Pond then Little Tupper Lake, shuttle biking back to the Lila parking lot and our car. We were dissuaded from going in this direction by Ranger Zulik (sp?), who said that unusually high water levels would make the trip difficult going upstream from Lila to Hardigan Pond. So we changed our plans and decided to go the conventional route from Little Tupper Lake to Lake Lila. Here’s a link to the trip map showing the portages in red, paddle path in blue and bike path in green:

After a series of travel navigation mishaps, we finally arrived at the Little Tupper Lake Headquarters a little before 7PM, an hour behind schedule. There were only 3 cars in the parking lot, which meant we’d have the lake pretty much to ourselves. We drove on past to our take-out point, the Lake Lila access parking lot, 9 miles away to the west and dropped off the shuttle bikes chained to a tree. By the time we returned back to the put-in it was after 7:30, so we decided we would head for one of the first campsites for the night (#2), which is almost a half hour paddle away. This would give us plenty of time to set up camp before dark. We set out into a light breeze and an empty lake. Temperature was warm and there were a few nasty bugs even out on the water to pester us, especially near the shoreline. We arrived at site #2 & set up camp for the night, just in time for dark. The White Merlot I brought in bota bags went well with dinner as we sat around the campfire and relaxed listening to loons out on the lake.

During the night the wind came up and the temperatures dropped. We awoke the next morning to dark, cloudy rain-threatening skies and it stayed that way all that day. After breaking camp we headed down the lake toward Rock Pond, a couple hours paddle away. As we set out the wind miraculously dropped to a steady breeze and it started to rain lightly, a reasonable compromise. As we paddled down the lake to the Rock Pond Outlet entrance we saw no other paddlers or campers the whole way. Crossing the final bay to reach the outlet was, as always, a chore as the west wind kicked up the customary rollers and whitecaps. We reached the sheltered waters of the outlet and paddled on peacefully toward Rock Pond. A dozen or so tree swallows darted and dove around us in what seemed a vain attempt to clear the air of bugs before us. The water levels were so high we were able to paddle over the only beaver dam that barred our way. We reached the carry trail around a rapids and set out on foot, to find that we had to wade through a long stretch of ankle deep water as the trail was flooded quite nicely at the Rock Pond end. Rock Pond was deserted, we had it all to ourselves, so we headed toward our favorite site on the only island in the middle of the pond. The plan was to set up camp, wait for the weather to clear up then head out and do some day trips to Bum and/or Louie ponds, or paddle up the inlet on the south shore. The weather never let up, alternating brief drizzles with dark bands of clouds that promised of rain. It was a dismal, dreary day so we ended up biding our time the whole day resting up for the next day’s adventure into Lake Lila.

During the night the temperature dropped to near freezing and that coupled with the stiff wind on the exposed island made for a really cold morning. The only relief came from the heat of the campfire we quickly started and some good hot camp coffee. The good news was the bugs were non-existent the rest of the trip. After breaking camp, we paddled through whitecapped rollers toward the Hardigan Pond carry trail on the west shore and shelter from the persistent wind. The trail access was flooded, and after a couple steps on dry ground we had to wade through muddy shallow water that covered the trail for 50 yards or so. Once the trail rose carrying was easy, me with my light pack and canoe and Sandy with most of our gear in her backpack. The trip to Hardigan Pond is about 1.5 mile of good solid trail and we made good time. We put in at Hardigan and paddled down to the outlet at the western end. We attempted to float on the outlet a short ways then gave up, taking the canoe overland to the carry trail which was deeply flooded and muddy. Luckily the intended trail was marked with blue ribbon and we slogged and sloshed our way through that mess and eventually to higher ground. The trail proceeded about a half mile to the Salmon Lake Outlet, where we could see a nice falls to the left a short distance upstream. There was quite a bit of flow and the trip downstream was really nice. We passed a nice campsite (#31 I think) on the left and eventually came to Little Salmon Lake, where there was another decent site (#32?). Not knowing what lay ahead, we decided to paddle down the outlet of Little Salmon into Lilypad pond, a mistake we would soon regret. We passed another campsite on the right as we entered the outlet, and I wonder now if that is where the carry to Lilypad was supposed to start. The current quickened to a pretty fast clip as we floated over two dams of some sort; there was so much flow there were standing waves on the downstream side, our first experiences with anything resembling whitewater. We quickly came to a mess of rock gardens and more white water rapids until we reached a tree down across the stream with only enough room for the canoe to pass under. We got out into the knee deep water after stopping on some rocks and carefully passed the boat through and reentered on the downstream side. A short distance later a tree completely blocked the way and on the other side was a raging rapids with a steep drop where a trail road crossed over a culvert. It would not have been a good situation if that log had not been there to prevent us from being swept over that. We took out there and headed up the bank toward the carry trail that we should have taken in the first place and carried the rest of the way into Lilypad Pond. The wind on Lilypad prevented us from relaxing and enjoying the scenery; we were wet and cold and the wind just made things worse. We were in a mode where our intent was to get to Lila as quickly as possible, find a camp and get warm and dry. We found the final .7 mile carry trail to Shingle Shanty Brook and carried through to Shingle Shanty, following the well-marked but very unused and rough trail, wondering the whole way why they chose the path they did. It was really odd, the trail in places wound through a path of young pines while to either side was open field. We put in at Shingle Shanty to find it really well over its banks, at least a couple feet I’d guess. We saw our first fellow paddler in 2 days, someone out on a day trip from Lila. We passed down Shingle Shanty’s maze of twisting, convoluted pathways and our fellow traveler told us there were big waves out on Lila. So what’s new, I thought. After about an hour or so of wrestling with Shingle Shanty Brook we came out into a really stiff wind on the lake, which really made us feel a lot colder and we knew it was time to find a campsite soon. What made things worse was the water was a mess; the wind had really churned up some steep swells with a lot of breaking whitecaps. Lila is a popular lake and there were no sites open along the way in the counter-clockwise direction we chose. We knew of an unofficial (non-designated) site we’d used several years back, so headed for that out of desperation. It took us a while to find it, but when we did we quickly set up shelter from the relentless wind and changed into dry clothes, made a fire and coffee and warmed up. It had been about 5 hours since we set out and we hadn’t really stopped to rest or have lunch so were really exhausted, much more than we should have been but the wind and cold can take a lot of you. We set up camp and spent the rest of the day there hiding from the wind, which finally subsided near evening. That wine really hit the spot that night, a little well-deserved reward for the day’s efforts.

We awoke the next day to beautiful, sunny skies and no wind to escort us on the final leg of our journey. We broke camp after coffee and breakfast and headed for the takeout on the north shore of the lake. It was harder to find than usual, normally there’s a good stretch of beach at the end of the boardwalk, enough for a dozen boats or more. All there was there was enough sand for our canoe only. We carried out the .3 mile trail to the parking lot and our waiting bikes. All that was left was a 9-mile bike ride back to Little Tupper Headquarters. This took us a little over an hour with the dog running alongside us. We loaded up the bikes at the parking lot and drove back to Lila to get the canoe and gear and make the trek home, tired but happy. It had been a nice trip but would have been more enjoyable with better weather and normal water levels! Next time I do this trip in reverse and take take the carry trails!


Lake Lila Trip
Nice Report. Is that the new Adirondack Paddlers Map? Do you know where I could get a copy of that map?

Little Tupper to Lake Lila

– Last Updated: Feb-25-05 10:59 AM EST –

We did this trip as an overnight the last weekend in July a couple years ago. The weather was more cooperative, we had lots of blueberries to eat and there was a lot of bear scat and tracks. We camped at the 3rd site you saw, right at the Outlet and took the portage trail the next day. You were right in recognizing that as the trail you missed.

I thought the campsites left something to be desired and certainly wouldn't accomodate large groups. But, we really enjoyed the trip as it gave a real backcountry feel, despite the logging artifacts.