Updated 20220705 20:12 – added pictures.
What’s a great way to enjoy a sweltering summer day with 90 degrees, drinkable humidity, magnified sunlight, and a chance of fast-moving wild thunderstorms? Do a creekwalk!
It is a style of bushwhacking. Instead of working through trailless woods, you work up or down the middle of a creek, brook or river. It is your route, but not a trail. Rain? So? You’re hiking in water. Don’t let the weather tell you what to do.
Bring a hiking stick for navigating occasional slippery rocks and logs, ankle-challenging rocks, all manner of blockages, and muddy stuff. That makes it sound bad. No, that’s just the less easy parts of the fun.
Wear suitable footwear such as “water shoes” or “canoe shoes” with knobby rubber soles. Maybe add a gel insole insert to add comfort on coarse surfaces. Wear socks. It makes the water shoe cling better. I’ve had to scramble after a shoe tumbling downstream in rapids, yelling, “Shoe overboard!” (Six years in the Navy.). They don’t float, either.
Don’t use canvas sneakers. They have lousy grip on wet, slippery surfaces, hold too much water, and wet fabric shoelace knots often don’t like to be untied. I don’t use them anymore for anything but weddings and funerals.
Wear a few other things besides footwear. Add bug spray (mine is Picaridin 20% … only the 20% strength, no less), water, apples, granola bars, peanuts, and raisins. A sturdy hat does wonders when you have to push through brush. In buggy situations, I often wear a bandana draped caddy-corner over my head under my hat, treated with bug repellent. I usually wear long sleeves and pants, for sun protection and to reduce bug repellent usage.
Consider bringing the famous “Beaverstick Sandwich.” Peanut butter and raisins on a single slice of multi-grain bread folded in half. It is named for the destination of hike to the secret hide-away that I showed my best friend / non-blood-related brother in 2018 during his visit here from Wisconsin. We were tossing together some food for the hike and accidentally landed on this fun, healthful snack.
Click for much better view of this satellite image.
BEAVERSTICK is a secret place on a local river. The beaver presence in this refuge is their engineering work on a dam across a flow that goes around an island. (Photos of the dam and pond to come in another post.) In the main river flow, there is a little island of rocks and tall grasses, slightly downstream from a swimmable pool up to five feet deep. Swimmable, that is, if you can swim against the current. There are often a couple of beaver sticks on the island or stuck along the river banks nearby. So, “Beaverstick.”
The hike begins on a trail, but the second half is pure bushwhack. I found it on a “deep wander.” Buddy was with me then. I have good “bird sense” and I usually research the lay of the land before going to a new area. I carry a compass and topographic map. Nowadays I add GPS, but I will never give up my compass.
My bird sense was working okay, but I was a little confused on my way back to the trail, because I could not see a landmark I had identified on the way in. I followed Buddy. He was always out ahead anyway. We had never been there before, but he went directly to that landmark. He knew the exact route we took going in. What a nose!
I doubt anyone but rare intrepid anglers and hunters have seen Beaverstick. I’ll write more about it another time. Oh, the stories that Beaverstick and that area hold.
Back to the Beaverstick Sandwich. I asked my friend if he wanted to bring peanut butter and bread. I was going to bring raisins, too, as I often do. Then, I got the bright idea to sprinkle the raisins into the peanut butter. I was about to make a sandwich with two slices of bread, when he said, “Nah. Just slap it on one slice and fold it.”
Later, he named our destination on the river, “Beaverstick.” Subsequently, he named the Beaverstick Sandwich, which is now famous along rivers throughout the boreal forest around the world.
Canadians tend to prefer rye, especially in Winnipeg.
In Siberia, many people use naan bread, a flatbread with yogurt as one of its main ingredients.
Alaskans dunk theirs in beer at picnics. They call it a nutty. “I’ll have a nutty and a Molson, thanks.”
In the State of Washington, they prefer golden raisins, chunky peanut butter, and fresh baked rye.
My hiking partner says that in Wisconsin, the Menominee Indians took to making it with cinnamon, and they dunk it in peppermint and honey tea. I tried it. Fantastic!
In Maine, famous for its wild blueberries (as is Balsamea), they use blueberries instead of raisins.
Balsamea has loads of wild blueberries. They are getting blue now. In a week or so, I can start harvesting, and continue well into August.
If you are not familiar with them, wild blueberries are a third to half the size of big cultivated blueberries. You have to be patient to pick a pint of them.
Some silly person in Maine renamed the Beaverstick Sandwich the Katahdin Crush, after Mount Katahdin (Maine’s highest, at 5,269 ft.) combined with the way the sandwich becomes a pulpy mass of squashed bread, peanut butter and blueberries after knocking around in your fanny pack, backpack or pocket. Remind me to make make a Katahdin Crush and post a picture. No, YOU make one and send me the picture or put it in a comment here. Now, I expect to get several from all around the world. Yuh.
DO NOT suggest to me or anyone in Maine that we use big cultivated blueberries.
Push me to write some day about the secret river retreat, Beaverstick, maybe as part of a series on that entire river-hosting forest area, which is a special combination of conservation easement and state land, a favorite stomping ground of mine for many years.
When I do write about it, I may include a map, with a GPS track through the bushwhack, and release the secret. I don’t want to give up the secret, but it’s highly unlikely the place gets more than one or two more people per year just because of my report about it.
It won’t get far. I believe these scribblements are just letters to a handful of people. That’s generally how I think of it while writing and choosing the pictures. Now and then I kick around the idea of a “Private Balsamean” site for members only. Candor could prevail. Could be a big waste of time, too. I’m open to suggestions.
I do hope that my handful of actual readers (versus “subscribers”) will tell others about some things they learn here, when worth learning, especially in things like the Ukraine posts, which are a bit more than scribblements.
When I reveal the secret, I will feel good knowing I shared Beaverstick. People need it. Sadly, most don’t know they do.
Everybody needs nature immersion, now more than ever in our time, and getting to Beaverstick is an immersive experience. Being there includes a swimmable section of what is otherwise a shallow river, plus a beaver dam about 250 feet long with the most beautiful beaver pond I have ever seen, two brooks feeding the river, a stone’s throw away upstream and down, thousands of acres of public land, and hundreds of things I’ll never get around to tellng you. I intend to publish reports — letters — on a few more trails near there, and a few more parts of the river.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation says that this stretch of the river is among the best trout fishing locations in the state. Hundred-year-old newspapers say so, too. Part of my immersion there includes researching the history of the ghost town. Less than a mile down the dirt road, which has no electricity, there was a thriving logging town in the late 19th Century. Just a few resort cabins, now.
See? No utility poles on the road. These snowy road scenes are near the entrance to the trailhead. In this case, it was a snowshoe outing. It was fresh snow too deep for Buddy. We had a little campfire, then a car tour. (Click to open the gallery.)
Notice that big tree branch extending alone across the road, way overhead.
Until I get around to writing about Beaverstick, here are a few pictures, out of scores that I have saved:
Click a picture to open the gallery.
In some of my visits, I take a dunk in the pool at Beaverstick. Typical visits include walking across shallow areas for hikes on the other side, bushwhacking much of the territory along both sides of the river and the brooks, around the beautiful beaver pond, and explorations in several portions of the surrounding public forest land.
Each hike has pictures and stories to tell. I shoot the pictures intending to tell the stories, then rarely do. I am trying to get some of them told while I still can, before American society collapses and the planet gives us rapidly increasing numbers of very different kinds of nature immersion.
Today I saw a CNN report on YouTube about a poll taken by highly respected pollsters, a Democrat and a Republican, saying that far too many Americans of Left and Right think it’s time for a violent overthrow of the government.
Meanwhile, take refuge in Mother Nature’s arms while you can.
(Click to open the gallery.)
Now look at what a fine mess you’ve led me into. I proposed a sandwich for you, and got distracted into Beaverstick instead of what I sat down to show you in the first place: Cold Brook North Branch Creekwalk.
I’m blessed with massive parcels of state forest preserve and conservation easements in and around this town, all of which are 30 to 60 minutes’ drive from the overrun tourist places, like the High Peaks (so-called) Wilderness Area, Lake Placid, etc.
Rarely do I see anybody else in these relatively unknown public lands in my neighborhood, especially because I go to parts of them unused by even intrepid hunters, since they don’t hike up the middle of brooks such as this one.
The photos below are from a creekwalk on June 20, 2016 in an unnamed brook tributary to Cold Brook, in the Chazy Highlands Wild Forest’s 14,000-acre Lyon Mountain tract, on Standish Road, in the town of Saranac. Cold Brook is named on maps, and there is an East Branch Cold Brook named. There is another branch that is not named on maps. I call it North Branch Cold Brook.
I feel confident saying that nobody has ever seen these sights before, for three reasons:
1. Nobody would approach them from this direction, in or out of the water, at this distance from the road, in this terrain.
2, The adjacent terrain along the sides of the brook at this point makes it almost senseless for anyone to cross the brook here, especially because it is not near any trails.
3. I want to believe this badly enough to bet on it. I want to believe this is my discovery. I want to believe it is virgin.
When I say nobody, I mean humans. The animals love it at least as much as I do, and make smarter use of it. That’s what they keep telling me, that they are smarter. I agree.
Shortly after this point in the brook, I could not continue upstream. It led into a deep, narrow gorge filled with dead-fallen trees cross-crossing the brook like a pile of matches. From the topo map, I could see that this ravine was not going to get any easier, even if I climbed out and tried to get around it. That makes it unlikely anyone would have entered the brook from upstream of this photographed site.
I probably shot more than 100 pictures that day. These are the only ones I kept.
Click on any picture to open full-screen, then click it again to zoom.
I don’t know if these photos of this place do anything for you, but here, six years later, the place, the experience of it, getting to it and back, exploring along the way in and out of the brook, left it embedded in me. While immersed there, conscious of little else, only this place and I ever existed. It is almost a transcendent experience.
Studying things with the camera often enhances these experiences. It focuses my attention on big and small views as I look around for interesting things to shoot, from sky to creek bed. It also helps me recall details as I re-experience the place from memory.
I recall standing there, looking up at a giant erratic (big boulder, usually standing alone) at the top of the gorge, and thinking that not terribly far in a bushwhack through the woods on the other side of the boulder, lay a trail I knew.
I pondered going back to look around north of the brook, beginning at this scene, to find a connection to what I have named Bear Trail, a partly overgrown old logging road that ends at a few trees with long bear scrapes on them. That would be the nearest trail, and it runs rougly parallel to the brook. Maybe I’ll do that soon.
If this blog does nothing else, I hope it encourages you to explore deeper connections with nature.
I have taken to first-thing-in-the-morning pre-coffee strolls barefoot in the wet grass, and usually also into the pine needle beds, deep moss, rocks, leaves, roots and twigs beyond the yard, in the great healing world of the trees. Barefoot in the woods elevates mindfulness of your connection with the earth. There is no doubt that trees help our physical and mental health, well established in science.
Take my word for it. You know better than to doubt me. As my mother said not long ago about me, “When he says he knows something, don’t argue with him.” So there. Take her word for it.
She and I almost died together in childbirth due to a stubborn connection around my neck that stumped the doctor so badly that he told my father he could save only one of us. My father made the right choice of which one to save, having two other children at home at the time who needed their mother. Nobody would miss me, but they certainly would miss her. The doctor did better than he expected.
Some might say he made a big mistake. Even so, he could not have known that I am a better human when immersed in nature. Unfortunately, you don’t get to be with me there, where you might like me better.
Science says that the mental and physical benefits of forest immersion can linger for days or weeks. I guess it depends on the duration and intensity. It also can have cumulative effects. It makes me more tolerable.
Do the world a favor. Get out into nature and just hang a while. It may be that the effect on you causes a positive impact on others, and who knows how many other positive things may spring from it farther down the line. You could cause some child to become a Nobel Prize winner, if the planet lives long enough. Maybe that kid will invent the technology to save the planet.
Ever do a creekwalk exploration?
Was there a special place that felt like it was made for you?
Go get one! Get another one!
As I often say, I blog for my entertainment. Hope you have fun, too. If you smile a bit while reading, or while looking at images, or if you occasionally give up a tear as some say they do, or if you learn something, I am honored that sharing my hobby touched you in a pleasant or useful way. Thank you for sharing that experience with me.