A big brookie and a moose sighting

Two weeks ago, I wrote a column, “In search of moose and fish at Massawepie,” about an afternoon excursion to the Massawepie Scout Camps.

During that particular trip, I was unsuccessful in my endeavors. I didn’t see the moose that had frequented the area and only caught a small trout. Since then, my luck changed, and I have had more fruitful trips.

The most recent occurred Monday, when I went on a hike up Loon Lake Mountain, where the state Department of Environmental Conservation had recently opened up a trail.

The Loon Lake Mountain area is known to have a high concentration of moose, at least in Adirondack terms, so I knew heading into the trip that the potential for seeing them existed. This even influenced my camera gear selection. Had there been no chance of seeing one of the large animals, I would have likely only brought my small point-and-shoot camera and left my DSLR camera with a zoom lens at home. However, with the possibility of seeing a moose in mind, I brought both cameras – even if the chances were very slim.

The hiking trip to the summit of Loon Lake Mountain is about three miles and starts from a trailhead located on county Route 26, which can be found off state Route 3 about 16 miles east of Saranac Lake.

The first part of the trip starts on the Kushaqua Tract Conservation Easement Lands and is mostly on two old logging roads that lead to a smaller foot trail in the Debar Wild Forest. The easement lands are great habitat for moose because they are logged, which provides the animals with lots of food. Moose are browsers and like to feed on leaves, twigs, and buds of hardwood and softwood trees and shrubs.

While walking on one of the logging roads a short ways into my trip with my friend Ed Burke, I spotted some movement ahead of us on the righthand side. Seeing this, I told Ed to be quiet and we both paused.

Slightly hidden in the bushes was a bull moose with a smallish rack. Surprisingly, the moose wasn’t very visible until it started moving, which it did after hearing our voices.

Shortly after spotting us, the moose started to slowly amble away through a clearing, a pretty good spot to get a photo of it.

Of course, I had my DSLR in my backpack and didn’t have time to get it out before the moose disappeared out of sight. I thought of grabbing the smaller camera out of my pocket but didn’t react quickly enough and it was too far away for me to get a good photo with it anyway.

Luckily, Ed had his camera around his neck and quickly snapped a photo of the animal. It wasn’t the best photo, since the moose was turned away from us, but it was sharp enough and captured the moment.

Ed, a photojournalist himself, actually carries a lightweight point-and-shoot with zoom capabilities around his neck for such circumstances while hiking.

Of course, he noted that my camera was doing no good in my pocket and that I need to carry it in a place I had better access to. I took note of that. I’ve got a system worked out for paddling, not for hiking though. That’ll have to change.

Either way, it was great to see a moose on the trail. It really added to the hike. For me, it was the first time I’ve seen one while hiking. I’ve seen roughly 40 or 50 moose overall in my life in various states. About two-thirds of those were from the road and the other third were from the canoe in Maine, where the moose population is much larger than the one here.

As for the brook trout, that came from a canoe trip back at the Massawepie Scout Camps. Five days after fishing at Town Line Pond earlier this month, I returned with my father who was visiting from downstate.

My first trip to the pond had been kind of a scouting one, since I hadn’t fished the waters before. Having familiarized myself with the pond a bit, I was more decisive with how to fish it the second time around.

My dad and I stayed in a spot I was fairly confident would have some fish. On the previous trip, I fished this spot for a short while but hadn’t given it enough time to be successful. This time would be different.

From the start, we headed to this location and cast out lines in the water, fishing from a canoe. After a short while, my dad exclaimed that he had a hit, then another and finally another. Three hits one cast. Luckily, he hooked the fish on the third hit.

From the start, he could tell it was a pretty large fish as it put a bend in his pole. After a few minutes, he finally got it alongside the boat, where I netted it and got it into the boat.

As it turned out, it was a nice 17-inch male brook trout. I didn’t wind up catching one on this two-hour fishing trip, but it didn’t matter. I was more the guide on this trip and was happy to see my father catch one.

As we were leaving the pond that day, I told him to get his camera ready for the trip out in case we saw a moose on the road. I didn’t really expect to see one on the drive, but then again, you never know when you might get lucky.