Photographer:Graham Hiemstra
Camera:Contaxt T2, Yashica T4
Film:Kodak Ektar 100, Portra 400

From NYC to the Adirondacks: Canoe Camping Way Upstate

Three days of wild islands, stunning sunrises, and endless fly fishing. One of the Northeast's most beautiful natural areas captured on 35mm film.

As some four million people made their way to offices in Manhattan on a recent Monday morning, the four of us awoke to a stunning sunrise on a much smaller island a few hours north of New York City. Set in the heart of the Adirondack mountains, Saranac Lake is home to a dozen or so islands of varying sizes, each more wooded, remote, and beautiful than the next. For three days a perfect pine needle padded, waterfront campsite on one such island was our humble home—a pleasant change of pace from our hectic, cramped lives in Brooklyn.

Many months in the making, the trip was an opportunity to spend time in a handful of imaginative footwear styles from Oregon’s own KEEN—and to prove once again that adventure is never far from reach, even for those in America’s most populous city.

As camping is always more fun with friends, we invited our pal and Field Mag contributor Mackenzie Duncan to tag along, and a couple other buds from further north. With an American, Canadian, French-Canadian, and Kenyan, our crew wasn’t dissimilar to one you might find on any given street in NYC—a fact that made our little island paradise feel even more like home.

Having spent little time farther north than our usual stomping/camping grounds in the Catskills, we didn’t quite know what to expect. As we wound our way east toward Lake Placid, and Saranac, we quickly fell in love with the Adirondacks. Waterfalls, deep blue lakes, vivid green forests—and that’s just what was to be seen roadside.

"It's the opportunity to hang a 'gone fishing' sign on our inbox and truly unplug that we value the most."

At the launch point, the reality of what as to come set in. We had taken a maximalist approach to packing—a luxury of canoe camping. After a familiar game of gear-Tetris, and with each canoe approaching max weight load, we pushed off and paddled out with some three kilometers to cover to reach our weekend home-to-be.

Though light was beginning to fade, the weather was on our side and we made good time. Even this first time canoer managed to get the hang of it within minutes, allowing for focus to shift periodically from potentially tipping to surveying the evergreen landscape.

Campsites that require serious effort to reach are always best—and our island site was to be no exception. Upon arrival we made quick work of camp setup, driven by the reward of a campfire-cooked dinner and some twilight skinny dipping for desert.

Between the two a moment of downtime allowed us to sit quietly and take in the surrounding wilderness. Just a handful of hours earlier we’d been fighting traffic in New York City. Now, nothing but nature surrounded us in all directions. We had traded honking taxi cabs for singing loons; emails and deadlines for fireside chats and early bedtimes. The juice was well worth the squeeze.

Mornings were made even better with grilled donuts, banana pancakes with local Adirondack maple syrup, hash scrambles cooked to a crisp in cast iron, and fresh coffee from our favorite Brooklyn roastery. And evenings? Lots of rice and noodles, topped with fresh produce from the Lake Placid farmer’s market. With the amount of fly fishing we did one might think fish would’ve been on the menu too, but Saranac encourages catch-and-release (as do we), and smallmouth bass isn’t very tasty anyway.

Between exploring nearby islands by canoe, fishing from dawn till dusk, sunrise swims and cliff jumping, we found ample opportunity to try out a range of KEEN sandals and shoes. The updated UNEEK 02 and knit UNEEK EXO sneaker each deliver a distinct style with a rugged, adaptable design. But, it’s the UNEEK HT that truly won us over, with its integrated quick drying liner that was comfortable and it’s just really cool looking.

The wildly styled, American built EvoFit and classic Newport Retro also made our 72-hour escape more comfortable—the ability to walk straight into the lake without thinking twice was a huge benefit, especially when canoeing and fishing.

KEEN Newport Retro
For 15 years the iconic Newport has been the go-to water shoe for adventurers around the world. The wild Tie Dye version keeps the vibe alive while celebrating the milestone at the same time.
An adaptable sandal equally at home in the water and on land, the American-made EvoFit features a knit upper for a sock-like fit that's as comfortable as it is cool looking.
Another unique take on an already unconventional design, the UNEEK HT adds a quick-drying liner and breathable mesh upper for extra comfort and an even more versatile look.

In the end Saranac Lake delivered all we could have asked for and then some—we’ll spare you the soggy details of one particularly stormy evening. But activities aside, it was the opportunity to hang a “gone fishing” sign on our inbox and truly unplug that we valued the most. Taking time away from our digital lives and the many stressors we encounter everyday can feel like a luxury at times, but in essence, it is something we all need.

It’s trips like these that put life back into perspective. We put in the effort in day in and day out, in the office and on the road, to support a life of freedom—to afford us that next adventure. Because in the end, spending quality time with friends in special places like Saranac Lake makes it all worth it.

visit KEEN directly to see more about the innovative footwear featured above

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