Escape the Urban Book Review: Adirondack Paddler’s Guide

28 Aug

Author’s Note: As you know from my last column, I just spent four days canoeing in the Adirondacks. I did not have the time in this shortened week to do that story justice, so here is another tease that’ll help your own planning.

In the outdoor writing biz, the easiest, hardest, and most frequently asked question are all the same: “where should I go _______?” That blank is filled by all modes of natural immersements: hiking, canoeing, backpacking, camping, whitewater rafting, etc. One could argue that the entire industry of travel and outdoor writing is based on answering that question. I’m honored when someone asks me – not only are they trusting me with their scant time and resources, but they are implying (at least) that I have an authoritative answer. I take the recommendation business seriously.

So if you asked me where you should go on a long distance canoe or kayak trip, I’m likely to refer you to the Adirondacks. Its a safe and popular answer. The ‘Dacks do contain some of the best flatwater in the world, and they are closer to Buffalo than you think. But the truth is that I haven’t provided much practical information you couldn’t get off the simplest Google search. The Adirondacks are a big place. So are the other likely answers to that question: the Minnesota Boundary Waters, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Algonquin Provincial Park, the North Forest Canoe Trail. When you ask where to go, you are looking for some specifics. A guide to the choicest spots. A clue to keep you from fumbling around in the (metaphorical and literal) dark.

I seek my own recommendations from own circle of experts: my fellow river guides at Adventure Calls, Tim Reed with local tour provider Adventures in Fitness. But at the end of the day, when its time to make solid plans, I pull out a map and guide book and “talk” to the expert of Adirondack water: Dave Cilley.

Dave did yeoman’s work and a great service to the outdoor community when he recently penned the definitive guide to pond and river hopping in the ‘Dacks. I love pouring over maps and guides anyway, especially in the offseason. But this set is special. Dave’s paddler’s map is the epitome of definitive, and his accompanying guidebook not only provides the play by play of each lake, stream, historical oddity and ecological wonder, but it also recommends trips of various lengths for each section of the park, gives ground truth practical logistical information, and lays out tips and tricks for all levels of paddling experience. The book and map combined provide sufficient resolution to plan nearly every inch of your trip: camping sites, portages, terrain features, currents and wildlife. I am a stickler for detail, and the map granulates every bay, inlet, side creek, lock, dam (man-made and beaver), elevation change and contour line. Dave is a river Yoda, and decades of dipping his oar in every inch of the Adirondacks led to this book.

If it sounds like I’m a bit familiar with Dave, its because he helped me muscle a 19 foot Old Town Penobscot 186 on and off my van this week, bookending my excursion at hopeful start and smelly finish. His company, St. Regis Canoe Outfitters in Saranac Lake, rented me my canoe for my recent four day trip. They’ll also sell you all manner of paddling gear, provide lessons, lead tours, pick you up or drop your off at either end of a one-way journey, and fully equip your multi-day adventure (including tent, sleeping bags, food and everything else) if you have none of your own kit. I only needed the canoe and a couple paddles for the boys, but our story of s’mores and thunderstorms will have to wait for another day.

2 Responses to “Escape the Urban Book Review: Adirondack Paddler’s Guide”

  1. RaChaCha August 28, 2011 at 2:30 pm #

    This is great! The more information that’s available like this, the more people are likely to head out to explore their world with this kind of sustainable, wholesome adventure. Closer to home, a guidebook for canoe treks on the Buffalo River exists, but too few take advantage of it, or know where to find it. Hint:

    Moose pix coming soon–?

  2. Diane Chase August 30, 2011 at 2:31 pm #

    Paddling is just one of many activities to do around the Adirondack Park.  My first Adirondack Family Time activity guidebook highlights over 300 activities for the Lake Placid, Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake, Jay, Keene and Wilmington area with over 33 short hikes, 19 swimming holes, historic sites, performing arts centers, trivia and gps coordinates.The goal is to provide ideas for people to get away from TV and spend time together. For a list of bookstores go to  

Contribute To The Conversation

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: