We recently had the opportunity to do a multi-day kayaking trip through the St. Regis Canoe Wilderness in upstate New York. Not only is it the largest designated canoe area in the Northeast, but it has some of the most spectacular fall foliage in the entire country. We arrived in the middle of October and the leaves were just starting to turn. Fiery yellows, oranges, and reds surrounded us. Winter would soon be on its way, but until then, we planned to chase the autumn rainbow of color for as long as we could.
We’ve done plenty of backpacking before, but this was our first time overnight kayaking. While we didn’t know what to expect at first, after this trip, we were completely sold. If the objective is to get out and enjoy the wild under your own power, than kayak camping is by far the most enjoyable way to do it.
The thing we loved most about kayaking was the freedom to look around. Too often we’ve missed spectacular vistas while backpacking because we’re focused on the trail under our feet. Kayaking allowed us to sit up straight and take in our surroundings. Especially with some of the incredible fall foliage that lit up the forests around us, we were glad to see as much of it as we could.
In order to make our route into a loop, we had to do a few portages. While a short portage is easy enough with two people, a long portage can be a pain in the neck. Of the five portages on our route, two were nearly a mile long each. If we had to walk one kayak over, return, and then walk the other over, we’d have walked six miles instead of just two. But our Oru kayaks were our ace in the hole. For those long portages, we just folded up shop, put the kayaks into backpacks, and took a hike. It was by far the most practical solution and the envy of many of the other paddlers we met.
Another benefit of kayaking is weight distribution. When we’re backpacking, we’re reminded of our pack weight with each and every step. For those of us with bad knees and achy lower backs, even a perfectly adjusted pack can be uncomfortable for long periods of time. But when we’re kayaking, we hardly noticed the weight at all. Gliding across the surface of the water, each paddle stroke is a gentle and fluid motion. Sure, the weight of our gear was still a factor, but our bodies didn’t need to serve as shock absorbers in order to transport it.
Being able to carry a little extra weight also allowed to be a little more generous when planning our meals. Backpacking meals are designed to be as stripped down and lightweight as possible, but kayak camping meals can have a few additional luxuries. You wouldn’t bring a fifth of rum with you hiking, but that seems more than appropriate when kayaking. Fresh Empire apples? Aeropress coffee in the morning? Why, yes, that does sound nice. It’s not much, but these small comforts can make all the difference out in the backcountry.
For those of you looking to do a paddling trip yourself, here are of some of the meals we made on this trip. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and little something special for dessert. Check them out below.
Pecan Maple Granola in a Bag
Whether you’re camping out or just need something fast to eat in the morning, packing a couple of baggies filled with granola and powdered milk is a great breakfast trick. Of course, you could use any store bought granola as well, but our recipe captures the essence and flavor of autumn. Toasted oats, crunchy pecans, and sweet sweet maple syrup. Just add water, mix, and you’ve got a bowl of cereal ready to go.
Thai Red Curry in Coconut Peanut Sauce
This rich, creamy curry is a major upgrade from the lunches we usually eat on the trail. Combining brown minute rice, dehydrated veggies, Thai red curry spice, peanut butter, and chunks of chicken, this meal is guaranteed to stick to your ribs. Inside of an insulated food container, add the dry ingredients with boiling water in the morning. The sealed heat will cook the rice over the course of the morning and by lunchtime you’ve got a hot, ready-to-eat meal.
Click here for the full recipe
Spicy One Pot Jambalaya with Orzo
Combining orzo pasta, dehydrated veggies, summer sausage, rich tomato powder, and spicy Cajun seasoning, this jambalaya is ready to eat in minutes but tastes like it has been simmering on the stovetop all day. The one pot nature of the recipe means it’s easy to cook and easy to clean, while its nonperishable ingredients means you’ll be able to enjoy this on day 1 or day 7 of your trip.
Apple Maple Grog
Similar to a hot toddy, but using rum instead of whiskey, we found the nautical nature of the drink paired nicely with the local flavors of the Adirondacks. Hot water, slices of locally picked apples, maple syrup, and dark spiced rum, this drink was the perfect nightcap as we watched the sun set over the lake.