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Breaking (bad) Trail -Henderson Lake

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Mid-week I was reading some old journal entries from Januaries past. I noted it was the ten-year anniversary of the trip Aaron, Rich and I did to High Falls in the 5 Ponds Wilderness. The 7 mile trail took us 7 hours to traverse as we were breaking trail. I suppose this could have been seen as foreshadowing for the coming weekend.

My weekend plans were to meet Justin at the Upper Works trailhead and follow in the tracks from George, Tammy, et al to Preston Ponds. On Friday night I recieved a text from George that they were heading in Saturday and that Bob +1 had to bail. Bob had twisted his knee on the way in. The plan was now to catch up to G&T probably somewhere on the "big hill". At 8am, I was about an hour from the TH and recieved word G&T were running late, and they would catch up to us.

At the trailhead, I loaded up my pulk with my gear and food plus the supplies left by Bob at the register. I waited for Justin. It isn't like him to be late; at least without warning. With no cell service here I was in the dark. At 9:30 Justin hadn't arrived so I figured his plans needed to change. I put his birthday present back into the car and headed up the trail.

The trail was well broken here as many use this as an ingress to the high peaks. After about a quarter mile, the ,junction would appear and I took the trai to Henderson Lake. Bob's tracks from yesterday provided easy going. The snow was deep and the rut from snowshoes, skis, and pulks testified to the depth. Once on Henderson Lake it was even easier on the flat surface as long as my steps didn't venture off the tracks. Every once in a while I would step to the side and appreciate the snow depth even on the windswept lake. Views of the surrounding mountains make this a favorite of mine in the winter.

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I stopped for some water at the lean-to. Even just the small rise from the lake level was tpugh. I was not looking forward to the "big hill". Onward following the tracks. The first log bridge was piled high with 3-4ft of snow. Bob had crossed the creek just downstream so I followed. The second bridge was uneventful. The 3rd was higher up from the water which could be seen through the ice. The snow was packed down by snowshoes to a 3foot depth making the top quite high above the water. I unhooked my pulk and straightened her out. I would be side stepping and pulling the pulk by hand. At the far side, there were no tracks. This must have been where they turned around I thought to myself. I made my way across, taking small steps then pulling the sled towards me, and repeating the process. Just after I crossed I noticed the tracks on the other side. Apparently they had decided to cross the stream at a safer point downstream. At least I wouldn't have to start breaking trail yet.

It was only about another hundred yards before Bob's tracks turned around. I stepped into the deep snow. This was going to be tough. Even with 30-in snowshoes I was pushing in 18-inches deep followed by my sled plowing through. Some parts were worse than others. Regularly I was knee deep. Quite often I would hit patches in which I was waist deep in the snow. The undulating terrain made some deep pockets in which I was basically swimming to get through. After another hour and only going a half mile, not even getting to the difficult section I turned around. It was already 1:30. At this rate there was no way to get to camp before it was late if at all.

I headed back towards the Henderson lean-to. Even with my own tracks ahead of me I was still sinking in. Barely 5 minutes passed and I ran into G&T. I relayed my story comparing it to the Russian Lake trip a few years back... but worse. Back at Henderson we took a break and talked about our plans. With no cell service G&T would need to get back to Newcomb to find out what other projects were still going on or drive home. I was going to stay here as I had no interest in driving back another 5 hours. Just then Dan appeared. G&T headed out, Dan and I made camp. We cooked sausages from Swan's and their red cabbage. Tried their currywurst for the first time. Very good. Slept well, warm. Restarted the fire and had a knockwurst for breakfast with coffee.

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