Adirondack Lake Trip 2022

At the end of the summer, I went camping with Caitlin on a beautiful, pristine lake deep in upstate New York. It’s one of the largest lakes in New York and there are campsites all around its shores. The thing is, the majority of these campsites are only accessible by boat.

We would be crossing the lake in kayaks to get to our campsite.

We had done a trip like this a year before, so we knew that in order to get to our site it would be about a 5 mile paddle. We also had a good idea of what we would need and how to pack it. We knew how much stuff we could fit in our kayaks without going over their weight capacities, and we knew that we had to pack everything in dry bags.

Despite doing this before, it still took a few weeks of meticulous planning to make sure we were ready. These trips take more time to plan than almost anything else, simply because you’re limited on space and weight.

We could only bring exactly what we needed—nothing extra. We packed the bare minimum of clothes, plenty of food, and all the essential gear we would need (knives, lighters, stoves, water filters, etc.) to survive in the wilderness for six days.

The Trip

Day 0 & Day 1 – Monday & Tuesday

We drove about six and a half hours to get to the lake. It’s pretty far north in the Adirondacks, so almost half of that was spent on windy roads through mountains and valleys. We got there at sundown and spent the night in a cushy campsite (the kind with real bathrooms and showers) near the boat launch.

We knew there would be rain this night—and there was plenty of it—but we got our tent up without getting soaked and stayed dry throughout the night. The rain didn’t let up, and in the morning we woke up to a downpour.

The same thing happened the first time we did this trip a year ago. On that trip it poured during our paddle out—we were hoping for better conditions this time. So, we waited for a few hours, hunkered under our canopy and hoping for a break in the weather.

Around 10 am the rain started to let up and we saw brighter skies. We made for the boat launch as quickly as we could. By the time we got there, the rain had cleared and there were even a few patches of blue sky! We parked and started scrambling to unload the car and get everything in our kayaks.

My kayak, fully loaded for the trip to the campsite.

The sky was still a bit ominous but we decided to go for it anyway. By 11 am we were on the water and ready for the two-hour paddle to camp. We made our way past lake houses and docks, then began crossing the expansive body of the lake. We made a beeline for the opposite shore and within an hour, we were surrounded by wilderness.

Rest stop on the paddle to the campsite. Photo: Caitlin

We had been lucky with the weather up to this point, but then the wind picked up. What started out as a glassy lake quickly became a choppy mess, but it was manageable. Our kayaks handled it beautifully—my 13-foot Ocean Kayak Prowler was an absolute beast out there. We were more than halfway to our site by the time the wind picked up, and that gave us plenty of motivation to keep moving.

We got to the campsite after about two hours on the water and it didn’t rain! It was incredibly peaceful once we got there, but the sky still looked like it could open up at any second. We pulled into the small cove behind the campsite and began to unload as quickly as we could.

We set up a tarp lean-to first just in case the weather decided to surprise us. Then, we set to work picking a good spot for our tent. Within an hour, we had our boats unloaded and our tent set up. Then, we sat down for an incredible lunch of oatmeal with peanut butter and apples. We were starving.

The view after we arrived at camp. The rain was so thick across the lake we couldn’t see the opposite shore—but miraculously, it didn’t hit us.

This campsite is a prime location. It sits on a small peninsula jutting out into the lake with big, flat rocks at the water’s edge on all sides. I took a few casts from the rocks in front of camp once we were all set up and caught two small bass. It felt nice to get a few to start the trip, even if they were small!

As it got later, we made sure we were ready for dark then took a swim in the cove next to camp. This cove is another reason this spot is so good—you can walk straight out from the campsite on a sand bottom and swim just off the shore. We got clean, got dry, then got ready to make a fire and some dinner.

Throughout this first day, the sky constantly looked like it would open up without warning. All around us, seemingly on every side of the lake, we saw rain and dark clouds. It was truly unbelievable that it never rained on us. But that would change during the night.

Day 2 – Wednesday

At some point in the very early morning of day 2, we woke up to a torrential downpour. The sound of the rain hitting the leaves around us was so loud it kept us awake for what felt like an hour. Thankfully, we had a really good tent (and we picked a good spot for it) so we stayed dry. It was incredible to be out there, in the dark, in such a heavy rainstorm. Eventually, we both fell back asleep to the sounds of the rain.

When we woke up, we were still dry! We slowly got up and checked on our camp. I was sure our gear under the tarp would be soaked, but I was wrong—all our stuff was dry too! It was a small miracle to start the day.

We talked over breakfast and decided we would paddle all the way to the end of one of the flows feeding into the finger of the lake which we were camping on. A flow is where a creek runs into the lake, and there were several in this area. We wanted to explore them all! We hit the water just before noon and paddled slowly, fishing our way down the bank. I got one small bass, but that was all.

Eventually we came to a big log which Caitlin had luck fishing during our previous trip. We hung out there for a while and took plenty of casts. No takers though, so we continued on.

A bit farther on we came to a small rocky island very close to the marsh at the end of the flow. We pulled up there to take a break and have some snacks. This island ended up being a really cool spot which we would return to almost every day. We named it Rock Island since it didn’t have an official name on any of our maps.

Caitlin, checking out the view from Rock Island.
Another view from Rock Island.

We left Rock Island and paddled to the east, right at the opening of the marsh. We fished near the weeds in this area and both caught a bass! This one was probably my best bass of the whole trip. We fished for a while longer, then decided to head back to camp.

My best bass of the trip, caught in the grasses near Rock Island.

Back at camp, we started cooking up one of our wilderness specialties: couscous and black beans with canned chicken. If that sounds bland to you, trust me it’s not. We brought plenty of spices and Tabasco sauce to liven it up. Besides, anything tastes amazing after a long day on the water.

Once we had eaten our fill, we paddled out to an amazing swimming spot about halfway across the lake. It’s a clear, sand-bottom section about knee to stomach deep that extends for hundreds of yards around a small island. We relaxed in the water there for a while and enjoyed the late afternoon sun.

Relaxing in the sun at the sand flats.

After that, we came back to camp and got ready for nightfall. We made a fire and ate a small dinner, then spent the rest of the night looking at the stars from a big flat rock next to camp. We could see the Milky Way and thousands of stars with ease!

While we were out there, we both saw what we agreed was the best shooting star we’d ever seen. It appeared just above the trees and it wasn’t that typical green color—it was orange and red as it burned through the atmosphere. It streaked across the sky for what looked like a quarter mile. It was a special moment.

Once we had our fill of stars, we came back to camp, stashed the food and crawled into the tent. We were passed out in less than five minutes.

Day 3 – Thursday

We got lucky again with weather this day. I say that because since day one of this trip, the weather had been all over the place. When rain was predicted, it didn’t come. When rain wasn’t predicted, we would see it all around. It would come in waves, or be just far enough away to never reach us. We always felt like the conditions could change on a dime and do something that no forecast had predicted.

So, it was truly a stroke of luck that we woke up to a sunny morning this day. Our plan was to go back to the area we had explored the previous day, but go deeper into the marsh at the end of the flow and explore it as much as we could. We were on the water by mid-morning and paddled back to Rock Island with more food and plenty of water.

By the time we got to Rock Island, the sun was beating down. We took a break there but decided to explore the marsh first, then make our way back for lunch. We fished a bit in the opening to the marsh (with no bites) then decided to just paddle.

We had to follow a narrow channel to get through the marsh.
The channel narrowed quite a bit as we neared the end.

It was an incredible place to be! It was completely still with no humans for miles. We saw wildlife all around—birds, bugs, frogs and fish. We took our time and paddled slowly through a narrow passage in the weeds. As we went farther on, it got tighter and tighter until we reached a small beaver dam which blocked our way.

This was as deep as would could go into the marsh in our boats.

It took us almost an hour to get to this point. I spent some time tying on different lures to fish the grass while Caitlin explored a bit more. We stayed at the end of the marsh for a few minutes then began to gradually make our way back towards Rock Island.

We had the current at our backs for the paddle out of the marsh thanks to the creek at the end of the flow. It was just enough to push us slowly back through the grassy channel. I barely paddled, letting the current take me as I took casts all around.

At this point, the sun was getting really hot. We eventually decided that we should start moving faster to get some shade and some lunch. Neither of us had any luck fishing in the marsh, so we felt that it was the right time to call it for this part of the adventure. Still, it was incredible to be in such a pristine, natural place.

We got back to Rock Island by mid-afternoon and enjoyed a surprisingly good dehydrated meal. These things are great because all you need to do is boil water, add it to the meal bag, stir and let it sit. After about 15 minutes you have a full meal! This one was chicken soup and it was just what we needed.

Caitlin, resting at Rock Island.

We stayed at Rock Island for a while and made our plan for the rest of the day. We were both having a pretty frustrating dry spell with no fish taking our baits, so we wanted to fish more. We paddled south from Rock Island around another much larger island, hoping that there would be some good spots in this area.

There were plenty of grasses, weeds, and stumps around that island—places we thought would be good fishing. We both had a bunch of bites, but still no takers. Eventually, we gave in and made our way back to camp.

On the way back I couldn’t resist casting at the stumps near camp that had given me some luck earlier. I had so many bites, but still I got nothing. It was frustrating after such a long day and so many casts, but I knew it was time to start thinking about nightfall. I went back to camp and shifted my focus to more important things.

While I was fishing, Caitlin had grabbed some more wood—we now had plenty stockpiled for the next couple days. We got the fire ready, then went for a quick swim in the cove at camp. We lit the fire once we got out of the water and let it warm us up.

Once we were dry and comfy, we settled down for an amazing dinner of leftover couscous/beans/chicken with some avocado. We mixed it all up in some tortillas and made possibly the best wilderness burritos I’ve ever had. I had two of them and they were amazingly filling.

To end the day, we made s’mores then went back to look at the stars. It wasn’t as clear this night, and we knew there was supposed to be rain tomorrow. Still, we could see quite a bit. We stayed there stargazing for a while then went to bed.

Day 4 – Friday

The lake had an ominous feel on Friday morning. Photo: Caitlin

This day started out sunny but we knew there was rain in the forecast. We made sure we packed rain gear and kept everything essential in dry bags as we prepped for the day’s adventures.

We planned to explore a different area of the lake this day. We went to the opposite shore from our camp to check out the other campsites in this area. Along the way I tried to fish, but it was too windy and drifty, and I got snagged and lost my bait. After a short paddle we got to the first campsite.

Campsite 1 was an awesome site on a bluff. There was even a cove behind it where we could easily pull our boats up. We explored around the site a bit—it had tons of room for tents, trees for hammocks, easy places to get to the water, and a privy (aka a primitive toilet, essentially a hole in the ground with a seat). The site was also connected to a trail that went around the entire lake.

We stayed at this site for a while to make lunch. We had another one of those dehydrated meals, this one a beef stew. It was delicious! I spent some of the down time retying lures. When the food was ready, Caitlin and I sat in the sun on a massive boulder and enjoyed our hot meal.

The sun was out while we ate lunch, but that wouldn’t last. Photo: Caitlin

Once we were done with lunch, we got back in our boats and moved farther down the bank. We stopped to fish in a cove near site 1 and got plenty of bites—but again, no takers. As we were fishing there, the sky darkened and it started to drizzle lightly. We kept fishing until we could hear some much heavier rain approaching from across the lake.

At this point we realized it was time to get off the water. We paddled hard over to campsite 2, just a short distance away on the next bluff, but this site was no good. It really wasn’t much of a campsite at all. We had to bushwhack from the boats to get to two small clearings with a tiny fire pit—it was barely big enough for one tent. We knew this wouldn’t be enough cover to wait out a heavy rainstorm, so we got back in the boats and paddled furiously back to site 1.

Our view from site 1 as the rain drenched us.

That turned out to be an excellent move because within ten minutes, the sky fully opened up and the thunder was booming all around us. We hunkered down under some thick tree canopy and it actually wasn’t too bad. We had rain jackets on, but we were already soaked and we embraced it.

While we were there, some backpackers came into the site from the trail. We spoke briefly–they had been hiking for a couple days and wanted to camp there for the night. We told them we would leave when the rain let up, and we hoped it would be soon! Luckily it wasn’t more than a half hour until the thunder and lightning stopped.

We got back on the water under ominous but dry skies and headed to the next campsite, a bit farther down the bank past campsite 2. This one was another good site. It also had some big clearings, plenty of tree cover, a privy, and trail access. The only problem was, it was in a very swampy area which wasn’t great for swimming. It was also swarming with bugs.

We left campsite 3 and went looking for the final campsite on this stretch. We found it just a short distance to the east on another bluff. We saw the marker on the tree from across the water and went right up to it with our boats. I jumped on land and quickly realized that this one was even worse than site 2. There was almost no clearing at all and the brush was quite high. The fire ring was just a tiny pile of rocks. We got back in the boats and paddled around to the back side, thinking there was another way in. We were wrong–the whole of campsite 4 was basically just a patch of weeds and a pile of rocks.

The sky was still looking pretty ominous at this point, but we didn’t see any immediate rain. We talked about it for a minute, then decided we would continue farther down this part of the flow. It was incredibly calm and still down there. The water was like a sheet of glass. We took it in for a few minutes, then I started to get worried. We were a solid half-hour paddle from our camp and it was a few hours before dark. If the sky opened up again and didn’t let up, we might get stuck somewhere for the night without any supplies.

This sky was the reason we decided to hurry back to camp. Photo: Caitlin

We paddled fast (thanks to anxiety) and made it back to camp without getting rained on. When we did finally make it back, that’s when the rain started again. I went into survival mode—the first priority was making a fire since we were both wet. I knew this was our best chance at getting something going, so I quickly built something I hoped would burn.

I filled the bed of the fire with a ton of flammable stuff—paper, wood shavings, birch bark, and dryer lint (yes that’s right, it goes up like crazy). I built my fire around this, then lit the bed with two big pieces of birch bark. It worked brilliantly…at first.

For a few minutes we had a good burn going, but then water started to drip from the trees. The fire wasn’t yet big enough to shrug this off so Caitlin and I hovered over it, constantly blowing to give it more oxygen. We crouched next to that fire for over a half hour until we were confident it wouldn’t go out. It was touch and go at times, but we kept it going.

As a reward, we went for a swim as the rain let up just before dark. We dried ourselves by the fire, got comfy for the night, and made dinner. Thankfully, the rain did not return.

Day 5 – Saturday

The view from the tent on Saturday morning. Photo: Caitlin

We awoke on Saturday to the most gorgeous morning we had seen yet. It was an incredible relief after the previous day. We slowly crawled out of our tent and prepared for another day of exploration on the lake. The plan was to go back down the flow we had fled from the previous day—this time, we would go as far down it as we could.

The paddle down towards the flow was sunny and easy compared to any of the previous days. There were almost no clouds and the wind was calm—two things that are very rare out there. We paddled into the cove near campsite 1 after about 20 minutes of paddling. We stayed there to fish for a bit since we had so many bites the previous day, but still we caught nothing.

We continued farther east down the flow. After about 20 minutes, we were near the end of it. We knew there should still be one more campsite down there, but we weren’t sure if we would be able to access it from the water. We rounded a bend at the end of the flow that we could barely see until we were right on top of it—and there was the campsite.

Standing at the bank in front of campsite 5.

We stopped at campsite 5 to rest, eat some snacks, and retie some lures. But before all that, we explored. This site was also quite large with a few big clearings and a privy. It even had a picnic table! This site also connected to the main trail as well as several other trails. It was extremely satisfying to finally see this in person after pouring over the maps for so long.

We left campsite 5 after about 20 minutes and headed deeper into the flow. At this point, the flow became an actual flow—essentially the outlet of another creek feeding into the lake. We paddled upstream as far as we could until the rocks got too shallow. Caitlin wanted to explore a bit more, so she beached her boat and went ahead on foot. I stayed in my boat and enjoyed being on the water in the sun.

Caitlin’s view from the top of the flow. Photo: Caitlin
My view of the flow from the kayak.

Once we turned around, we again had the current at our backs. We floated slowly and silently, then turned around to fish as we drifted back towards the lake. Caitlin got a nice bass right at the mouth of the flow—her third of the trip.

Caitlin with her 3rd bass of the trip.

We kept fishing as we made our way out of the flow. The water was so clear, and with the sun out we could see tons of tiny fish attempting to swallow our baits even though their mouths were too small. We kept fishing the flow and got tons of bites. I got a small bass, and later Caitlin got a decent crappie.

Caitlin holding the crappie she caught in the flow.

I also had one big bass take my bait, but it didn’t hang on very long. We fished this spot a bit more but had no luck. Even so, it was a beautiful couple hours of exploring and fishing. We were both ready to have some lunch, so we headed towards Rock Island.

It was incredibly peaceful out there in the flow.

Once we got there, we had another lunch of a dehydrated meal. It was so satisfying after the long morning we had. We stayed at Rock Island for a while, then got back on the water. I fished a bit more near the marsh (with no luck) and Caitlin started back towards camp.

A little while later, I followed Caitlin back towards camp, stopping to fish along the way. I still had no luck, so I eventually gave up and went back to help her get firewood. We both collected a ton of driftwood from the shores of the lake for a big fire that night. Our boats were so loaded that we had logs dragging in the water!

By the time we had the firewood unloaded, it was just a couple hours until dark. We quickly got changed and headed back towards the sand flats to go for a swim. We swam and got cleaned up as the sun was setting.

We made sure to build the fire before we went swimming, so when we came back to camp all we had to do was get a lighter and spark it up. We huddled around it to dry off, then got ready for our last night in camp.

We made some dinner and finished up with s’mores, making sure to keep the fire roaring the whole time since we had a surplus of dry wood. Pretty soon, we had a massive and scorching hot bed of coals. We were both really tired after a week of being in the wilderness, but we still stayed up way too late watching the fire and the stars.

Day 6 – Sunday

This was our exit day. We would be paddling back to the boat launch, loading our car, and driving back home—it was going to be another long day.

We slept in a bit and got a late start. After breakfast, we slowly started to pack up camp. Tear down was simple because we didn’t bring much, but it still took time.

After a few hours, we had everything ready for the boats. But there was still one thing I wanted to do. When I woke up that morning, I knew it—I was going to propose to Caitlin.

The only thing was, I didn’t have a ring. I had an idea that maybe I could make one using things I found in nature, but I had no real plan for how I was going to do this.

I started looking for some twigs I could use to somehow make a ring. Previous campers had left some firewood at the campsite—we burned all of it except for a few pieces that weren’t quite dead. I grabbed one of the branches and broke off a couple small pieces to see if I could twist them into a ring. It worked! I got two good pieces wound around each other in about a quarter-sized circle.

That felt good, the ring was solid and wouldn’t fall apart. After that I knew what I had to try next. The other day at Rock Island I had grabbed a tiny pinecone (they were everywhere). I thought it would be perfect as the diamond on top of the wooden ring.

This part was a bit harder to pull off. I grabbed some fishing line and started to slowly wind it around the base of the pinecone. The petals were tiny and I was worried I would break a few off as I kept going, but it seemed to work. Then I wound each end of the line around the ring in opposite directions and tied them off.

The ring came out so much better than I expected, and Caitlin loved it.

When I was done, the pinecone stood straight up on the ring. It worked perfectly! And I was ready to give it to Caitlin. I called her to come over and meet me on the rock one last time before we left. When she met me there, I took her hand and we talked for a couple minutes. Then I got down on one knee and asked her to marry me.

She said yes! It was one of the happiest moments of my life. We stayed there for a while, took a few photos, and embraced. Neither of us wanted to leave, but we knew we had a big paddle ahead of us and several hours of driving. We had to get going.

We did have time for a few photos before we left.

We loaded the boats and were on the water just before 3 pm. The sun was out, but there was a pretty decent headwind. We paddled straight into it back towards civilization. Luckily, both our kayaks could handle the little waves that were tossing us around.

We made good progress despite the wind, and we made sure to enjoy it. We stopped a few times to fish and take a break, and we each caught a small bass. It made the trip back feel a bit less like hard work. After about two and a half hours (a half hour longer than our paddle out) we made it back to the boat launch.

We were exhausted, but the proposal had given us both a ton of energy to get through it. We began the slow process of unloading the boats and packing the car. Once we were done, we went for a swim to cool off then got on the road.

We stopped to get food and by the time we were actually heading towards home it was after 8:30 pm—and we still had a six hour drive ahead of us. We finally got home around 3 am, unloaded, showered, and fell asleep around 5 am.

It was an exhausting but incredible end to an amazing week! Truly, this was one of the best weeks of my life. I know we’ll be back to this lake soon and it will always be a special place for Caitlin and I.

Story Behind the Shot: June 21, 2022

There’s a lot of cool stuff out there deep in the woods, but the best stuff is hard to find and it wants to stay hidden. That pretty much sums up the ordeal Caitlin and I went through to find this beautiful waterfall. Ok, maybe ordeal is a strong word, but this was not a leisurely stroll in the woods.

We had some simple directions to this spot. When I say simple, I mean the directions were basically, “turn on this road, park in the lot, and hike down the trail.” We figured that was enough. But once we got to the road, we quickly realized getting to the falls would not be that simple.

A few miles in, the road ended. A small, bullet-riddled sign told us that the next stretch was “abandoned highway” so drive it at your own risk. We thought it couldn’t be much farther to the parking area, so we drove on. Almost immediately the road became a rutted, rocky off-road track.

We were driving a Subaru Forester—not really an off-road vehicle, but it was capable enough. We crossed nearly every obstacle we came to without issue until we got to a rocky mud hole. We got out, scoped it, and decided it wasn’t worth the risk to cross it in the car. We were too far out there with no cell service and no way to get the car out if we got stuck. So, we turned around and parked about a mile back at a lone, deserted state campsite.

Caitlin had fun ripping her Forester down the off-road track, but we decided to play it safe so we turned back and parked here.

This was the last day of the trip and we had already been denied from one waterfall, hidden deep in the wilderness, when the trail turned out to not exist—so we didn’t want to give up. We decided to hike back down the “road” and look for the trailhead. And we did find it, less that a quarter mile farther down from the mud hole.

The “parking lot” was little more than a clearing in the woods where the track ended. The trailhead had no markings but based on our map, we knew this was the route to the falls. We set off, hoping that somewhere out there was the waterfall we came to see.

After hiking for about 2 miles, we spotted a waterfall at the bottom of a steep ravine to our right. The route down to it was barely a trail, winding steeply to the base of the gorge. We hiked down to a small landing no more than 40 feet from the top of the ridge to get a better view.

Our view of the falls from the top of the ridge. Photo: Caitlin

The trail looked absolutely gnarly. It had been raining on and off all day so everything was soaked. But, we really didn’t want to get denied again and felt we could get down safely. We got our trekking poles out and slowly began working our way down.

When I say this was barely a trail, I mean it was a broken collection of tracks linked together by several completely vertical sections. We took every step cautiously, making sure our poles dug in and our footing was solid. Did I mention I was carrying a 25 pound pack with camera gear?

After a slow and steady descent, we made it to the bottom of the ravine. A quick scramble over a few logs and we were at the base of the waterfall. It was beautiful, pristine, and completely secluded. It felt like the kind of place that almost no one ever reaches.

Once we scrambled down the ravine, this is what we found. Video: Caitlin

I began to setup my camera gear. To capture the water with that silky-smooth look I had to set my shutter speed slow, so I couldn’t hold the camera by hand. That meant using a tripod, one reason why my pack weighed so much. I began taking photos from a bunch of different angles. As I did, the rain came back—and it came back heavy.

We knew we had to get back up the ravine before the rain made the trail too slippery. I took photos for about five more minutes, then setup a quick self-timer shot of Caitlin and I. Luckily, we got it on the second attempt. I packed up as fast as I could.

Self-timed long exposure attempt #2—nailed it.

We started climbing the muddy track to the main trail as the rain intensified. It was a borderline mudslide at this point. Every step was slow and careful. Every vertical section was a calculated move. We watched each other and took it one step at a time. Eventually, we made it back to the trail.

Once we were back on the trail, we stopped and thought about the whirlwind that just occurred. Everything had been leading up to this point—the wonky directions, the abandoned road, the rain, the sketchy descent—and in the end, we got the goods.

We made it back to the car without a hiccup. We celebrated with some MRE desserts, peanuts, and some dried fruit. It was glorious. After all that, we finally got what we came for. The weather only made it more special. We drove out of there with fresh energy, ready for a long drive back home.

Back home, I dumped my memory card onto my laptop and we pulled up the photos. Miraculously, quite a few actually came out good—not a guarantee when your lens is broken so you need to manually focus every shot, in the pouring rain, while the feeling that you need to get out of there constantly nags your brain. It was an amazing reward for what turned out to be quite the adventure.

Another one of my favorites from this spot.

There were plenty of moments on this day where I got discouraged, fearing that we would never find the waterfall we came to see. But I was determined that we would not be denied again. The struggle made the reward so much sweeter once we finally reached the falls. The photos I was able to capture were the cherry on top.

I guess the lesson here is probably something corny like “never give up” or “don’t let anything stop you from reaching your goals.” While those do apply, I have a bit of a different takeaway: the best things in life take hard work. That’s the price of admission to things like this waterfall. You have to put in the work if you want to get there! We were glad we did, because the feeling of a reward like that is indescribable.

Story Behind the Shot: January 3, 2022

This shot is a screen grab from the GoPro on my head during a long, snowy hike at Kicking Horse with my cousins Dawson and Ryan, and their friend James. These guys knew that there were some pretty sweet zones just outside the resort boundary, so we took the lift up then set out on foot.

The hike wasn’t incredibly long but it was steep in spots. It was also -20°C (-4°F) plus wind chill and we were a bit exposed which made it less fun. But it was all good, especially with the sun out and that expansive view of the mountains all around. We hiked for about 30 minutes until we came to the spot pictured at the top of this post.

Dawson on the steepest part of the trail with James looking on from above. That rope didn’t help.

Just after that, we arrived at the base of this steep pitch. This was definitely the crux of the trail, a near-vertical section where you had to scramble up what was basically a ladder made of snow. There was even a rope put in here by ski patrol, but it proved useless.

Big props to my cousin Ryan for this bit. James, Dawson and I were all on snowboards—Ryan was on skis. That meant Ryan couldn’t use his hands when climbing this stretch. I watched him balance the skis on his shoulder with one arm with his poles in the other while carefully calculating each step on his way to the top. He made it no problem.

Looking down from the top of the crux as Ryan gets ready to start climbing.

We hiked on for another 20 minutes until we got to the top of the ridge. The view alone was worth the hike. From there, it was just a few yards farther to cross the resort boundary. We stopped there to rest for a while and have a quick safety meeting, because what came next was the real test.

The view from the top. We were all exhausted but still ready to shred.

From this point forward, we had our beacons on and moved deliberately. We hiked out to the edge of the ridge and James tested the cornice. It was solid, so we made a plan to drop in. The order would be James, myself, Ryan, then Dawson. I dropped in about 20 seconds after James and followed his line.

We knew the snow was pretty good, but this was still the backcountry. We moved as a pack and stayed away from risky spots. It turned out to be an absolutely epic descent with tons of untouched, deep powder.

Unfortunately, I got very little footage of that epic descent. I had the GoPro on and off during the hike—in total about 10 minutes—and by the end of the hike it was frozen solid. I tried 2 other batteries and nothing would work. I even had a backup GoPro and that failed too. I’m glad I got the footage and photos from the hike, but definitely bummed I didn’t get to capture much of what followed.

The footage I did get is in the Instagram post below. I got some great shots on the hike (1st clip), and I did get one video on our ride down as we came out into a wide open snowfield (2nd clip). The snow had be ridden, but it was still epic. This was definitely one run I won’t forget. I’ll be back there again soon.

Story Behind the Shot: June 23, 2021

This video was captured on a pristine, remote lake in Vermont. This is the kind of lake where, if you get out there far enough, there are no other humans for miles. We spent a week camping on its shores and saw more fish than people in that time.

We took a canoe and a few kayaks across the lake for about 5 miles until we got to our campsite. The spot we picked was on a small peninsula with a sheltered cove just behind it and plenty of good trees for hammocks.

The weather was gorgeous for the first day but things quickly got rough. We endured a few rainy days and a few very cold nights before waking up to this beautiful morning. This was our 4th day out there and we were all ready for some sun.

We hit the water and fished for hours. There were ideal spots all around our camp filled with hungry bass. In one spot, I had 4 bass blow up on my lure in a row! It was the best day of fishing I think I’ve ever had.

I had a couple GoPros with me and shot some video while we were out on the water. I think this video gives you a solid idea of just how good the fishing was. I still can’t believe what happened that day.

Story Behind the Shot: May 2, 2020

Same as the last story behind the shot, timing is everything in surfing – timing and patience.

I woke up around 6am on this morning and checked all my usual spots. Nothing seemed to be working right. It was smaller than it should have been, the mix of swells was all jumbled up, and the tide was wrong. I spent a few hours watching the waves at a bunch of different beaches and ended up going back home to eat breakfast a little after 9am.

By 10am I was back on the beach and the tide had just switched. I felt like the low tide push would help things out, but at first it seemed to be a bust again. I drove around for a while and shot this photo at one of my stops. I didn’t actually surf this spot though and ended up back at the first spot I checked, which was now fully firing! Surfed there for over three hours and got a wicked wetsuit hood tan. It was a good day to say the least.

Story Behind the Shot: April 14, 2020

This swell was churned up by the previous day’s storm (and crazy wind) and by 6am on the morning of the 14th, the buoys were reading over 10 feet! The swell was south which is good for most breaks in this area. Low tide was early, around 7:30am. Low tide can also be great around here, but for some reason early on this morning it just looked dumpy and weird everywhere I looked for the first two hours. Between my usual spots either not breaking, closing out, or just looking pretty damn tricky to surf, I decided to stay on the beach for a bit.

A bit later, almost 3 hours after I left the house on this morning, at a spot I almost never surf, I saw this wave. It was one of the last waves of a real standout set that I somehow witnessed just as I walked up the beach. Call it luck, but it was really just great timing – when it comes to surfing, timing is everything. I came back to the beach right after I shot this and scored fun waves for the next few hours.

Story Behind the Shot: March 7, 2020

After the Cold War Surf contest, I met up with a couple friends a bit further north on LBI. They’re locals and knew the area really well, so I knew the spot they suggested would probably be firing. Turns out it was! Unfortunately, I didn’t have any gear with me to surf, so I stayed on the beach and shot a few photos. That turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

The current on this day was absolutely ripping out of the north. I stood in one place and watched as countless surfers went drifting past me – the current seemed to be moving even faster than anyone could paddle. That said, the conditions were stellar and I also watched countless perfect lefts go unridden with a few lucky guys getting sweet barrels.

I shot a lot of photos while I stood there watching, and got some shots I really liked. I feel like this one kinda captures the mood of the day – endlessly walking back up the beach, exhausted from fighting the current, watching as perfection goes by just out of reach. I bet these two guys were both thinking the same thing – damn.

Story Behind the Shot: Cold War Surf 2020

This year’s Cold War Surf contest (@coldwarsurf) was held on March 7th at one of the most well-known surf spots on Long Beach Island. As with every year, the contest is team-based with Sam Hammer (@hammered_sam) and Andrew Gesler (@gesler) each leading hand-picked teams of local pro surfers. The rosters are the who’s who of NJ heavy hitters so you’re pretty much always guaranteed to witness some top tier surfing.

Timing is everything in surfing and for this year’s contest, the timing was just right. The morning of the 7th saw chest- to head-high surf with a few larger sets sneaking in. The shape was a bit jumbled thanks to a mix of a few different swell directions and periods, but there were definitely some gems to be had. As heats were run and the day continued, the surf actually grew – by the end of the contest there were head-high to 1-2’ overhead sets.

This photo was taken during the last heat of the day. I think it was the gnarliest wave of the entire contest – just look how thick that lip is! Sam Hammer dropped into this one and somehow came flying out as the chandelier and foam ball surrounded him. If I was a judge this would have been a 10, but it wasn’t enough and Team Hammer ended up losing the contest. Still, it was a great day all around with some epic rides from both teams. Check out the full sequence of photos on my Instagram.

Story Behind the Shot: September 20, 2019

This swell was was courtesy of one of many lucky storms we got in Hurricane Seasons 2019 – lucky in the sense that we got solid swell but didn’t get steamrolled by the storm itself like so many other places did. The storm was Hurricane Humberto. It produced very solid East swell and by the morning of this day, max buoy readings were around 8-9ft at 12 seconds. Since this was a major storm, forecasters were tracking it for quite a while and as it approached, the forecast certainty was pretty good – we were going to get swell.

Judging by the predicted conditions, I knew there was really only one spot in my area that would be able to handle the energy. Problem was, most other surfers knew this too. I didn’t check anywhere else and drove right to this spot. I pulled up around 8am and shot this photo during my initial surf check. The crowd was surprisingly light at that time, but it wouldn’t stay that way for long. Conditions were definitely best early with the tide and swell size – waves like this were seemingly everywhere for the first couple hours. The swell slowly died over the day with conditions deteriorating as the tide filled in, but overall it was an epic day. I surfed for almost 5 hours.

Story Behind the Shot: April 27, 2019

Full disclosure – I did not take this photo. It’s probably the best photo anyone has ever taken of me while surfing. It was taken by local photographer Tony Costa (@astronautjonesnj). Thank you Tony for the amazing capture and for sending it my way!

The spot where this was taken is probably one of the best, but also one of the most fickle spots in my local area. It needs very specific conditions to work right, but when it’s on it absolutely fires. It’s one of the closest things to a righthand point break we have here. On this day, things lined up just right – the tide was low and buoys showed a 10ft at 9 second south swell the morning of this session. The wind was gusting hard offshore which made for very hollow but somewhat challenging conditions.

I surfed at this spot all morning and actually ran into an old friend, Kyle Latch, out in the lineup. We used to surf together during our college days but he moved away after graduation. It was crazy running into him at one of the old spots! He was helping coach a few surfers with Robbie Nelson, owner and head coach of Pro Surf Coaches (@pro_surf_coaches_official). Robbie is a staple in the water around here and is a good guy, always stoked and always sharing knowledge.

In total there were five of us in the water – shockingly, no other surfers came out despite the amazing conditions. We surfed this spot to ourselves until the wind came up too much and our arms stopped working. Robbie claimed this was the best he’s seen this spot in a few years.