Re: Section two questions
I’m really surprised about your state park comment. I too have stayed in many state parks and found the NYDEC ones to be equivalent to other experiences. Maybe not hot showers, but everything else was on par. Perhaps because you are pre-season? Personally, also being a BWCA camper, I was shocked to find outhouse on the water-accessible campsite on Lower Saranac Lake stocked with toilet paper! I didn’t camp on Forked Lake, but I thought it seemed like a great campground. I would say to expect the same number of “conveniences” or lack there-of on the Saranac Lakes. With the exception of motorboats, these lakes felt like a mini BWCA to me. I’d say it compares to the BWCA, but with picnic tables. I’ve posted a few pics from 2011 and 2012. First one is the lean to at the end of Raquette Carry. Second is the tent site where you turn off to head up Stoney Creek. There is also an adjacent lean-to at this site. As you can see, no picnic table. The overcast sky ones are from Middle Saranac, there is a picnic table at that site, but this just shows the terrain. The last is at Lower Saranac.
I don’t have an opinion about how much to stretch out the trip. It certainly is scenic and no need to rush through it. The hand-operated locks are in this stretch too, which are a novelty. Fishing might be good?