ADK 2021: Sweet Sixteen on Upper St. Regis and Spitfire Lakes

When Steve and I first started to entertain the possibility that we might be able to pick up our fifteenth-anniversary touring kayaks while up in the Adirondacks over the summer, I started making a list of places to paddle if we actually managed to get the long dreamed-of boats. I stopped list-making almost immediately, realizing that if I got too invested in dreaming of paddling spots, it would prove an irresistible temptation to Fate and we might never get kayaks. But list or no list, one Adirondack paddling destination was stuck in my mind – Upper St. Regis and Spitfire Lakes. If we did have something to paddle, this was the top of my list.

You all know how it worked out – we left the Lake George Kayak Company with two gorgeous new boats lashed to the roof of our car and immediately started planning a week’s worth of paddling. I told Steve that Upper St. Regis and Spitfire were my top priority – billed as the perfect combination of pristine, unspoilt nature and classic Adirondack architecture. We agreed to save the two lakes (which are connected by an inlet) for a special morning’s paddle on our sixteenth anniversary.

I’d never been to the St. Regis lakes before, even though they’re less than an hour’s drive from Lake Placid. (But my cousin Jocelyn later told me that she and her husband, Jason, spent their honeymoon here after their pared down exchange of wedding vows in June 2020 – I can see why; this was a perfect place to unwind and enjoy being together.)

Ready to paddle!

There is only one public launch spot on Upper St. Regis, and none on Spitfire, so we had our route pretty much set. We launched in the secluded little bay reserved for public car-top boats, and paddled out onto the open lake.

The water was as clear as crystal. And Steve spotted a loon! Seriously – how perfectly Adirondack can you get?

While we would have loved to explore every nook and cranny of Upper St. Regis, our time was limited and we were determined to get to Spitfire, so we made straight for the little inlet connecting the two lakes.

Spitfire is famous for having some of the most beautiful examples of classic Adirondack Great Camps in the park. Almost as soon as we cleared the inlet connecting Spitfire to Upper St. Regis, we saw this stunning camp and made our way to the shoreline so we could appreciate the architecture from close up.

Can you imagine spending summers here? I was in heaven just looking at the place.

We bobbed around admiring for a few minutes, then continued on down the shoreline. Steve announced: I see a castle! A closer look revealed: yes, definitely a castle.

It was actually Camp Cobblestone, a famous Great Camp built in 1906 and recently lovingly restored.

Don’t look now, but some of the buildings had HOBBIT DOORS. Can you even?

Oh, and almost every boathouse had at least one classic wooden speedboat, most of which were proudly displaying American flags. I mean. It was like something out of a Kiel James Patrick catalog. I love classic Americana, so I was dying.

We could have stayed out on Spitfire for hours, and then spent hours more exploring Upper St. Regis. But again, work and reality beckoned, so we reluctantly headed back to the boat launch, bound for the car and then our laptops. But we had a post-work hike, followed by a dinner overlooking Mirror Lake, to look forward to – so anniversary celebrations were far from over.

And I really couldn’t think of a better way to kick off sixteen years of marriage to the very best paddling buddy.

Next week: an anniversary afternoon hike.

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