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DuctTape

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About DuctTape

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  1. Some of the Lean2Rescue folks were gathering at Preston Pinds again this year to do some work for the Open Space Institute property. We were all meeting at the parking lot at 11:30 to load up pulks and break trail together. On the drive up I noticed a car with a few pulks on the roof rack. I wondered if it was one of us. As I pulled into the Stewarts parking lot to fill up the tank my suspicions were confirmed. We talked a bit as we waited to check out. At the trailhead we loaded our pulks and had lunch. Dan put his extra gear into my pulk and took the first shift. Sans pulk, I took the lead breaking trail (after getting to Henderson Lake). The snow was not as deep as last year, and a couple skiers were ahead of us. Their trail did not make our path much easier but their route finding was a time saver. At the first stream crossing, the skiers used the bridge while I found a spot just upstream. A small step over a weak part of the ice would be necessary. This hole would widen as the group passed. The next crossings were more solid. I took breaks regularly allowing the pulks to catch up as there was no need for me to be so far ahead. Breaking trail was significantly easier this year. Even the grand uphill was not as bad. I did spend some extra time leveling out the major dips to ease passage for the pulks. Nearing the height of land, one skier told me to go on ahead. Soon after I caught up with the other. They would turn around at this point. Now I would be finding the route as well as breaking trail. The rest of the way was almost completely marked by deer prints. At Preston I waited for a few of our crew. I noted this was the first time arriving at Preston in which the wind was not blowing straight at us. It would be a pleasant hike across the pond. At the property, I stomped out a path to the outhouse, while pete made a path to the stream for water access. By now almost everyone had arrived. We setup camp and relaxed. I was in charge of dinner, so I got things going. The 7 pounds of sausage from Swans had slightly frozen on the hike in. We had german sausage and sauerkraut (homemade by mike). Like usual there was a lot leftover. The rest of the evening was spent hanging out. I was not the first out of bed. That prize went to pete, who prepared the hazard trees for felling. The sound of the chainsaw ensured everyone else was awake in short time. Some worked on preparing breakfast using last nights leftovers, and some went to work on the first tree. The rest of the morning was spent bucking and splitting the wood to be stacked for future use. As late morning approached I joined george and tammy in trekking to duck hole with the goal of delivering the log books to CR#1&2. Was a nice day, with a little precipitation. George and Tammy led the way on skis. I kept up mostly because they were breaking trail. We crossed Preston and took the short portage trail to lower preston. This was my first time on lower. As we approached the outlet I could see open water ahead. We would need to climb into the woods and then skirt the side of the outlet to duck hole. I took the lead here to break the trail in the deep snow to climb up into the woods. After two steps in deep snow, I felt it giving way. As the snow and ice disappeared below me I turned my body to adjust my weight to be above the snow pack and not the widening hole beneath me. As my body slid into the snow,I was now at an angle in which I made swimming type motions to keep myself from sliding in completely as well as create a flatter spot to which to roll up onto. I do not know how I remained as calm as I did. This was my first time breaking through the ice. When I was secure enough (meaning not sliding in anymore) I began to roll myself away from the now slush filled hole. Once at a safe distance george gave me a hand standing up. For safety he had brought a rope in case we needed it. Fortunately the situation did not warrant its use. The water at this point was not very deep, but I did not know it at the time. Quite an experience. I was glad I did not panic, and executed the movements I knew I needed to do. Having gone through the mental exercise before was probably very helpful in preparing me. At this point we realized the rest of the trek to duck hole was not in the cards. So we found a lunch spot and rested a bit before heading back. While chatting I reminded George that next month would be the 10 year anniversary of the Bear Lake lean2 build. Regardless of anyone else, I plan on going. G&T were consistently ahead of me on the way back using our broken path. I enjoyed the scenery as well. As I arrived back to camp the other folks told me G&T said I fell through the ice and they left me there. For some reason I knew they would joke about it. Another huge dinner was made, again with leftovers. I was one of the first to hit the sack, a few stayed up quite late. Pete and I were the first up again. We started the coffee and made some eggs. Others arose at various times. Half would be staying another night while the rest of us would be heading out. It was a bright sunny day with a few clouds. I had forgotten sunscreen and would pay for that mistake. I took a few photos while on Preston and made my way back. A group of skiers on Henderson were heading in to Preston for a day trip. I chatted with them briefly before the last little bit back to the car. My plan was now to go to Raquette Lake, Big Island. This would make my drive Tuesday much shorter by half. I stopped at Stewarts and purchased a bag of wood knowing the island sites on busy lakes can be quite picked over. Justin had warned me about ice conditions on Raquette. When I saw all the snowmobile tracks on the lake, I had no concern. Plus I already broke through the ice once this trip. I found the island campsite on the eastern edge easily. Made camp and gathered more wood. There was plenty if one walked far enough into the woods. I also noted a lot of areas where deer had bedded down in the immediate area. I made a late lunch, gathered more wood and relaxed. Being Monday afternoon it was rather quiet. A few snow machines would zip by at a distance. As the sun set I could feel the temperature drop. The stars were amazing. It would get chilly overnight. I saved enough wood so that I could have a small fire in the morning. Being solo, I was in bed earlier than the previous two nights. It did get colder over night, not uncomfortably though. I made a warming fire and some cocoa; I was not super hungry. Some snow was falling and the winds were picking up. I wondered if I was going to have to navigate across the lake by compass again this year. I packed up putting my compass around my neck just in case. It was bright even with the weather making visibility of my tracks slightly difficult. I could have put on my sunglasses but didn't. The wind seemed to ebb, so I took off a layer as I was getting too warm. A couple snowmobiles waved as they went past me. 45 minutes later I was back at the car. Thedriving home was slow with the road conditions. I was glad I did half the drive yesterday. Plus I got to stay in lean-to #87. View the full article
  2. For my good friend Justin's birthday weekend I decided to join him on what was supposed to be an easy short backpack into Puffer Pond in the Siamese Ponds Wilderness. Justin went in on Friday, and I was joining him on Saturday. I arrived at the parking area at a quarter to ten. I paid the parking fee, put on my gear and signed in. It was only 2.4 miles to Puffer, but mostly uphill. I started without snowshoes, but soon changed to them. The trail was easy to follow as Justin had broken it out. There were also ski tracks. It wasn't long before I hit the state land boundary. I was breathing hard and sweating due to the uphill, even though it wasn't very steep. The beaver meadows and snow covered trees were beautiful. The woods were silent except for the crunch of my snowshoes and heavy breathing. I felt very out of shape. As the steepness increased, the trail also became a little rougher. I found myself taking 20 second rests every so often just to catch my breath and cool down. At the crossover junction to John Pond, I still had a few hundred feet in elevation to get through the draw. At least Puffer was less than a mile away. I spotted certain points on the climb to which to push myself for each rest. The entire time I was telling myself, "I am so out of shape". Strange how two weeks ago I was doing more miles and more elevation. Sure it was rough going, but at least I felt ok. Today was killing me. Finally at the saddle, I would drop only a hundred feet or so to Puffer. As I approached the western lean-to came into view. Justin said he planned on the eastern lean-to. His tracks left the trail and continued to the frozen pond. I noted the trail here had a NCT disk. The pond was covered in snow with a single path made by Justin's snowshoes and pulk. A few spots were mushy which always gives me an uneasy feeling out on the ice. As I approached the far eastern side, jJustin walked out on to the ice. When we were close enough to talk, he mentioned he was just writing in the shelter log about waiting for me when I appeared out on the ice. He also mentioned how killer the trail was for him the previous day. It made me feel not as bad for sucking wind. At camp, I set up while Justin went to gather more wood. I soon followed. The rest of the afternoon would cycle between us hanging out, eating and gathering more wood. A skiier named Tom stopped by for a lunch break. He spends quite a bit of time in these woods. We talked a bit about his hobby of searching for deer and moose sheds. Tom left not after not too long. J and I hung out, had dinner, made a really big fire. I barely made it to 9pm before it was lights out for me. I slept great. As I was getting my boots on in the AM, justin came around to the fire pit. I asked if there was any residual heat. He said yes and tossed some birch bark into the glowing embers. With a little fanning we soon had a morning fire. Some hot drinks and breakfast while we packed up. The sun just started to crest the ridge. Made for a nice sunny morning for a short while. Soon it would be obscured by the cloud cover. A few snowflakes began falling. As they landed on my jacket I looked at the crystalline structures. Always neat to see. It was just after 9:30 when we departed opting to take the longer route back to the parking area. Only about a half mile longer. Much prettier trail here. This would be a portion of the NCT until we intersected with the blue trail. Back at the cars well before noon. Great time with a good friend for his birthday. View the full article
  3. The original plan was DeBar Mtn WF in northern Adirondacks. With the impending storm we changed to the southern tier to do some FLT hiking. The plan was to stage a car at the end, and have food drops along the way. Dan and I were meeting Will at the endpoint, where we would pick him up and drive to the drops and our starting location. Will was a half mile down the road in a snowplow turn around, so he followed us back to the FLT where the guide says shoulder parking. We guided Will's minivan into position just past the guard rail and proceeded to load up his gear and him into our already packed car. At the drop zones, we cached a bear canister with our food for the following days to be picked up a mile or so before we would make camp. These other shoulder parking areas were even less amenable to parking than where we left Will's vehicle. With the food cached, our last stop would be our starting point. I had checked out satellite imagery to scout shoulder parking and a car was even parked in the spot in the photo. So I figured it would be ok. As we approached there was quite a bit of snow build-up from the plows. Dan guided me in to position and then we noticed a new parking area at the trail sign. It was not plowed, but the snow was not deep (yet). With the AWD I drove up the icy path to the area which could hold 4 or 5 cars. I backed in for an easy out as the next few days we would get more snow, the full amount yet unknown. All loaded up we headed east on the FLT. Our food cache and Dan's full pack were about 4 miles away with the campsite another mile after. The trail was the typical FLT; ups and downs, old roads, side trails, creeks, combination of state and private land. We had to hike around a small farm at the top of a rise just before what the map described as "steep and rugged downhill". At this point a sign on the trail also informed us of steep and slippery conditions and ropes were placed to assist hikers on the steepest pitches. We would drop nearly 300ft in s short distance. With the little snow, the trail was slick and the ropes were helpful at least for the initial step down and the we did not fight gravity to the next "level" spot. Once at the bottom, we had to climb up a little bit to the road which we had cached our first drop. We hiked down the road a bit to our gear/food and loaded up our pack. The last mile with the extra weight would be mostly uphill of course. Along this last mile we were following other tracks. There were a few other loop trails in this area off the FLT. As we approached the final stretch before our lean-to the tracks were gone. We would not have minded sharing the campsite. At the top of this hill the wind was quite fierce. There was a field a hundred yards away which allowed a lot of wind to penetrate the forest and directly into the lean-to. We gathered wood and prepped the site ans started the fire. With the wind, we would have continuous snow blowing into the lean-to. With the wind the way it was and us all being tired, we retired to our sleeping positions rather early. Over the night, the wind subsided followed by a slight warming. 7 am, and I was up re-lighting the fire. We had a leisurely breakfast. Will received a series of texts from his wife. The police had called saying his car needed to be moved or it would be towed. She let them know where he was and they said to get to it as soon as possible. With this info and how long it took us to go the 5.5 miles yesterday we looked at options for today. The plan was about 10ish miles which included some serious climbs. One of which was over 500ft. Knowing we would be struggling to make camp before dark, and the need to move the car, we opted to hike back to my car, get Will's and then go directly to the next cache with both our vehicles. There was a fair bit more snow on the ground today. We took a couple side loops on the way out since we would have less distance to cover later. Drooped Dan's pack and some gear at the road and then headed up the hill with the steep pitches toward the farm at the top of the ridge. Even with an over 300ft climb it felt easier than coming down. It was moire tiring for sure, but less wear and tear on the muscles. Approaching the far, a dog began barking. He came running over towards the fence. Behind him was a young cow with little horns. Very playful, the two of them. They acted like friends and wanted to play with us. As we rounded the fence, our two new friends were joined by a some sheep. They all seemed like quite a happy little family. Soon before we reached my car, we passed by a couple day hikers. We picked up the bear canister from yesterday's drop as well as Dan's pack and our other gear and headed to Will,s car. We were nervous approaching Will's vehicle first hoping it was still there, and second hoping to not have a ticket. Fortunately we were ok. At our next drop there was no parking so we looked at the map to find a different access point. A possibility was found as some x-country ski trails were nearby and they intersected with the FLT within a mile of our destination lean-to. Seeing a State DEC sign looked promising, but it was just for the unplowed seasonal rd. My frustration was getting to me. A farmhouse across the street was our last option. Dan knocked on the door and asked it would be ok to park in front their shed. They said ok. As we got the cars and gear situated, I knocked on the door and gave them a box of Russel Stovers chocolates and said thank you again. We now needed to find the x-country ski trails. Will has spoken to a couple skiers who just parked at the mouth of the seasonal rd but did not get any trail info. We donned snowshoes and looked for the pink trail. Not finding it, we followed along side the skiers tracks in the rut of a vehicle with very high clearance had driven. The ski trails were no where to be found, so we continued along the road to a blue cutoff trail to the FLT. We arrived at the lean-to with little daylight left so we gathered wood while remarking at the beauty of the location and less wind than the previous night. With the fire built, we set up our sleeping arrangements in the lean-to. There were two chairs, one broken and some spent .22 shell casings on the floor. We sat around the fire, had some great food. Every once in a while a large pop and some coals would fly out of the fire. We figured some rocks were exploding. A great night followed. We all slept well. The next morning was also very nice. Even though the temp was barely above 10*F, the fire was nice and we were warm. This was what winter camping was all about. The only downside was the privy was 300 yds uphill. While we were sitting around Will found an unspent .22 next to the fire. We soon realized what was exploding. Some brain trusts had tossed their ammo into the fire pit and our fire was setting them off! Yikes. After packing up camp, we continued down the FLT along and old country lane. Back to the blue cut-off we headed back up the hill to the seasonal rd. Dan and I dropped our packs while Will continued to his car anf home. Dan and I would hike another 1.5 mile loop back to our packs first. We went back the the FLT and continued along the edge of the ravine. It was a great day to hike, the sun was shining. Both of us were disappointed we did not bring sunglasses. I knew the glare would also sunburn me. The temp was still below 20, but I was hot while we were moving. The trail was rigorous until it re-connected with the seasonal rd. Soon we were back to our packs and then back to the car and home. No pictures just memories. Bagged two more lean-tos and another few miles on the FLT. View the full article
  4. As the title states, this was my annual winter trip to end the year. Like last year, the weather was not exactly winter. Thanksgiving has been the colder of the trips recently. We had a circular route planned which would take us into the Pharaoh Lakes Wilderness and include acouple of mountains. As the trip approached, we opted to change direction to have the lean-to for the bad weather nights. Andy would join us on day 2, so we updated him with our itinerary change. Dan and I set out on the old road leading to Pharaoh Lake. Only 3.2 miles, then another half to the lean-to. Heavy packs due to both cold weather and rain gear, plus 5 days of food. No snow, else we would have pulked it. The trail was easy going, generally an uphill grade the whole way. With snow, it would have been quite pulk friendly. The lake was frozen except for under the outlet bridge. From here the trail to the lean2 would be slightly more rugged than the old road. We dropped our gear at lean2 #6. What a beautifully constructed lean-to and a decent view of the lake in front. We checked out the ice and wandered down the lake to #5. This double-wide lean2 was near a rocky point. A great spot for sunrise/sunset with a great expansive view of the lake. Much of the immediate area was roped off though to revitalize the trampled growth in the vicinity. We opted for the previous lean-to and headed back on the ice. By now we only had a few hours of daylight left so collecting firewood was priority #1 as we expected rain overnight and all the next day. This was surprisingly easy even in an area which gets a lot of pressure. After wood was procured we set up camp and started dinner preparations. It was too early to eat but it would be getting dark soon. As the sun set the temperature also began to drop. Our second day we expected to be wet which it was. I started our morning fire before the sky really opened up on us. Soon after we had a reprieve from the rain. After breakfast we decided to take a walk around the lake. With the rain, there was a layer of water covering much of the ice. Some areas were quite deep. We checked out most of the campsites and lean-tos around the lake. Stopping to read the log books and the lean2s as well as try to find the oldest carved date in the logs. Split Rock lean2 had the oldest date seen at 1965. One could tell thisstructure was much older than the others by its design. On the wayaround the lake heading back to camp we saw an area of ice which looked a bit unsettling. Playing it safe, we went over land to avoid it. As we approached camp, smoke rising from the fire alerted us to Andy's arrival. With more recent weather forecast information we decided to not move camp to Crab as originally planned, but to day-trip to it and the nearby mountains. The next two days would be nice, but the last would include freezing rain. Packing up frozen gear was not inviting. Saturday we loaded up day packs and headed across the lake to pick up the old trail to Whortleberry and then to Crab. The first was easy to follow and it was short. At Whortleberry we crossed the ice and checked out the different campsites. Towards the end we headed into the woods towards Crab following a herd path. Not long after we spotted some blue paint markers heading in our direction. Someine had apparently blazed the path to Crab for us. As we approached Crab, a pair of boot tracks came down the hill and joined our path. These were recent. A "Hi" was drawn in a snow patch. I wondered aloud if these were justin's tracks as he knew where we would be. A makeshift trail sign indicated Crab pond was in the direction from which the boot tracks emanated and ____ falls continued on ahead. Andy would continue down the path and I would follow to boot tracks. We would meet at Crab pond. Dan soon came down the trail and joined me following the boot tracks. At the top of the drainage Crab was visible. We dropped down to lake level. As we put on our microspikes, justin appeared on the peninsula at the campsite atop the hill. Justin had set up camp, expecting us within a few hours at most. Andy soon arrived from other direction. We planned to climb Stevens Mtn, then return to camp. Justin would hike with us most of the way and then head back to Crab. On the hike to Stevens, Andy opted to turn back to camp as the terrain was a struggle for him. The open hardwoods were easy to navigate, but the terrain was steep. At the top of Stevens we had lunch and took some photos. Then took a bearing to head down a different way. This would be along a northern facing slope so there was more snow and the vegetation was thicker conifers. Some rocky ledges also to deal with. We came to the edge of the long arm with a view of Whortleberry and Pharaoh. From here Justin headed towards Crab while Dan and I headed towards Whortleberry. We both picked our way down the steep slope. At one point a small rise was between us which muffled the footsteps from each other. We both reached Whortleberry close to the same time. We crossed the ice and tried to find the trail on the other side. There was remnant of trail which diverged. Dan and I split taking different approaches to Pharaoh meeting up at lean-to #1. We crossed the lake together to where Andy was waiting. We passed along Justin's well wishes and we had agreed to an 8 o'clock toast. The forest began to darken as the sun made its way to the tops of the trees. Nowhere near time for dinner. We each made a hot drink; soup or cocoa. Coyotes made their evening howls. An updated weather report provided us with optimism for the next day. We were all tired, but we stayed up long enough for the 8pm toast. The sky was mostly cloud free so we ventured out on the ice to view the stars. A crescent moon with Venus just above it was bright in southwest. Orion and Gemini were very clear as well. The night was cold enough that all the slushy layers on the lake were now completely solid adding another inch of ice on top, and likely even more below whatever was already there. We made breakfast and packed a lunch. The goal was to climb Pharaoh Mtn. 1400+ feet of elevation difference from its namesake lake and only 1.6 miles makes for some steep sections of trail. There were two steep sections with a gradual uphill between them. The first was steep through the forest. After the level section the elevation was through a lot of rocky sections. Some involved scrambling for foot and hand holds. It was fun trying to figure out how to climb some of these sections. The views from Pharaoh's summit did not disappoint. There were other outcroppings which provided views as well. All put together we had just about 360 degrees. We shared the summit with another group of three who came in from Crane. For the descent we donned spikes as the ice was a bit tricky on the ascent. This was a smart move. We had to remove them for a couple of the rocky scrambles though. Back at camp we gathered a bit more wood and stashed it under the lean-to as we knew it would be needed the next morning. We barely stayed up past 8pm. Freezing rain came overnight making the ground icy and the trees glistened like jewels. As branches fell from the weight, the ice would shatter like glass. We were glad to not have to take down frozen tents and have a dry space to pack up. We hiked out with on-off rain coupled with frozen branches shattering throughout the woods. The trail out being mostly downhill went quickly. The drive on icy roads went quite slow. View the full article
  5. The largest group ever for our Adirondack style Thanksgiving. The location was chosen to entice Ian to join us, but work responsibilities interfered. During the lead-up, Eric would joke "who is this Ian?" as it has been a long time since he has been able to join us for turkey day. The parking for Holmes was expected to be an issue, so we had a back-up plan in case of too much snow. What we did not anticipate was the condition of the dirt road. A lot of muddy ruts, rocks and washouts. It was amazing my car made it. In hindsight, I should have parked at a pull-off earlier. From the gate, it was only a mile to camp. Thursday was cool, upper 30s, and the trail was sloppy. We arrived with plenty of time to gather wood and start a fire. In the afternoon, Jennifer and her puppy "john lennon" arrived and we put the chili on the fire. As it was close to being ready, eric slipped on the ice and almost fell into the fire. He avoided injury, but the chili did not fare so well as the pot flipped over. We had to eat our hot dogs with normal condiments. Evening comes early in winter, even though it still is technically not winter. Eric and I crashed in the lean2, while Jennifer (and johnL) slept in a tent. Was expected to get colder. Friday night was to be the colder of the nights though. We were glad the lean-to was well away from the lake because near the lake was considerably colder. Slept like a champ, Eric and Jennifer not as well apparently. I restarted the fire and put on a pot of water. The lakeside was still much colder, but pretty in the morning dawn. We collected more wood and took a few strolls through the woods while waiting for the rest of our party. Andy was the first to arrive, followed shortly by Kalie and Chad. This was Kalie's 3rd Adk Tgiving in a row, and second for Chad. We all joked around, gathered more wood. Took a few more strolls. Sang a few bars of Alice's Restaurant. Then back at the campfire cooked up a Thanksgiving dinner which couldn't be beat. We certainly ate a lot. Turkey came out divine. After dinner we loaded up the fire with some nice cherry backers which provided a lot of heat once they got glowing. We all went to bed and like usual I was the first one up at first light. The fire still had some coals which I fanned back to life. After breakfast and cleanup we made the long stroll downhill for a mile where are cars awaited. The drive out was rather treacherous as the road was now icy and rutted. We drove slow; slower than if we walked it. I do not think I will try my luck on that road again. Looking forward to next Thanksgiving as our crew is growing.View the full article
  6. This weekend was the annual meeting for the NPT Chapter in Long Lake. So as to get to the meeting on Sunday morning I chose to camp at a lean-to situated not far away. Before getting to camp I did a short day hike up a small mountain on the drive up. I had passed by this trailhead many times en route to other locations. This trip gave me the opportunity to rectify the oversight. While not a challenging mountain, only about a mile to the top, it did have some nice views and exposed rock. It was also quite busy. By the time I got back to my car, the lot was over capacity. I then drove towards Forked Lake. The lean-to is located just downstream from the falls. Actually two lean-tos. I set up at the nicer of the two and collected a bit of firewood. Spent the day reading and cooking. Made a nice skillet stew. I did not stay up too much past sunset. I was up before the sun as was the rain. I packed up and headed out as the sun was rising to get to my meeting. Love these sit around and relax trips sometimes. View the full article
  7. Drove to Dan' s where we loaded my gear into his truck along with the deer he harvested the days prior. We dropped off the deer at a friends who has a giant walk-in so as to keep the deer cool and safe while we were gone for the next 3 days. Next stop was the McGuire's where we picked up a hornbeck canoe for me to use. A few more errands and we were on our way to Stony Ponds. These were the ponds we visited by snowshoe earlier in the year. This time the water was not hard, so we would seek out the brook trout population. At the parking area we filled in the remaining spots as there were quite a few cars. We were not surprised to see cars, but the total number was not expected. We carried the canoes the 2+ miles to the ponds where we encountered a large family gathering. Apparently this family has been hiking to this spot for over 50 years. The eldest, now in her 80s has made the hike every year. The large extended family seemed to be broken up into a few smaller groups. A few were grilling some food near the fire pit. Others were hanging out by the water. As we set up at the lean-to, the family gathered together for a photo. A little while later they headed out. We had our gear and food stowed, so we pushed the canoes into the water. It was quite shallow for much of the pond. Dan and I explored different areas. I found a deeper area near an inlet at which I landed a small 8 incher. That would be my only fish for the weekend. Dan paddled over and we both fished the area with no more hits. So we headed back to camp to make dinner. One of our favorite dinners is venison stroganoff with green beans. Like usual we had leftovers which were sealed into a tupperware and hung with the rest of our food. We did not stay up very late. Probably due to both of us waking up at 5am. The night was a tad chilly around 2-3am. Which was expected. Also the near full moon had the forest all aglow. Both of us were up at first light. Not that is was really any more light than what we had from the moon. We made coffee and had granola for breakfast. Today would be spent fishing and carrying the canoes to other nearby ponds. We packed up our gear including snacks and dinner leftovers. Out on the water was nice. We explored different areas of the pond as we headed towards the inlets which came from a nearby pond. This we visited on snowshoes last winter. We carried the canoes up to the next pond, but pushed on up the trail to the next. Up and over a ridge. This was a tiny pond. Extremely shallow. One spot had a deep area. Dan caught a few small fish here. We had our leftovers for lunch and then headed back. At Stony, I opted to continue fishing while Dan headed to another pond. Neither of us had any luck. As it was getting closer to dinner, I headed to shore and readied the fire. It wasn't long before Dan returned. After dinner we both did not stay up very late. It was warmer this second night. We made eggs florentine for breakfast with mushrooms and cheese as well as camp bread. A man and woman came by, also with canoes. Dan talked to them a bit while I finished making breakfast. Since the fishing wasn't great we left soon after breakfast. Was still a great trip. The sky changed the scenery throughout our 3 day stay. View the full article
  8. Set out Wednesday morning to the 5 Ponds Wilderness. I picked up Dan aling the way. It had been quite a few years since I have ventured into this portion of the 5 Ponds, and never from this direction. After driving 10 miles on a seasonal dirt rd, we found the trailhead for the unmarked trail system. Parked a little ways back and headed up the trail. Immediately we were greeted with mosquitos. Not long after fording the Middle Branch Oswegatchie did we stop to put on bug dope. This unmarked trail was part of an old rd. Some recent (illegal) ATV tracks could be seen as well. The trail was wide and obvious spur trails were frequent. After winding around Grassy Pond, we took a smaller spur off the old rd towards Rock/Sand Lakes. The trail was easy to follow for most of the way. A few spots it would disappear into marshy areas. As it approached Rock, we lost it entirely. Knowing we needed to traverse the esker between the two lakes, we bushwhacked to the esker, climbed up and found the trail on its ridge. It was mostly invisible, beung obstructed visually by undergrowth but still followable. Not that one could get lost with lakes on either side. As we neared the ends of the lakes, the trail dropped off the esker towards Sand Lake. Bear scat was in the area, old though. We took a break at the lean-to. Hung a line with extra food/supplies and continued on to Wolf Pond. Dan suggested we drop off the trail and "cut the corner" to Wolf, saving about a mile. As we got closer to he edge, we found the wetlands. Dan, with his knee high rubber boots would look for beaver dam access, while I headed inland back to the trail. We planned to meet at the Wolf Lake lean-to. Moving much faster on the trail than the marsh, I arrived at ge lean-to only a few minutes after Dan. Our usual routine of him hanging a bear line, and me collecting firewood happened naturally. A nice spot in a pine forest. Many downed trees scattered about. Some new, mostly older. Some from the '95 microburst. The ily real downside to the location was water access. It was about 75m away, down a steep hill. The morning rains made getting tinder for the fire a slight challenge. Using my knife, I made shavings and feather sticks to get the damp wood going. With a fire lit, we took the opportunity to swim and dry our clothes soaked from the bushwhacking through wet undergrowth. We had expexcted an afternoon thunderstorm and we pleased to not have one. I ate the rest of my lunch as dinner as well as a little of the venison Dan grilled up. I slept terribly. Not sure why as I was tired enough. Lean-to #79. Today's plan was to first day hike to Cage Lake followed by returning to Sand Lake to meet Andy. The trail to Cage was easy except for the part which traversed a long old beaver dam. It was challenging due to the tall grasses hiding the deep mucky spots. As we neared Cage, a section of the trail was continuous moose scat. I referred to it as "moosemallows". We joked a little about it, remembering the "moose turd stew" joke told to us by another Lean2rescuer. Cage lake is a very nice spot. It gets much more use due to its proximity to a private inholding to the North. I will come back here at some point for sure. It was too early for lunch, so we snacked and poked around the lake. Neat shoreline, almost hourglass shaped. There was a nice breeze which kept the bugs away. Pleasant way to spend the late morning. With our fill of Cage lake, we headed back to Wolf to get our gear and go back to Sand Lake. I remembered to get a walking stick just prior to the beaver area to help avoid the deep wet sections. Back at Wolf we had our lunch, still a nice breeze. Dan wanted to poke around the shore of Wilf a little more, so we planned a rendevous on the trail just west of the lake. I stopped to harvest some chicken of the woods fungus I spotted yesterday. Most was too old, I picked the least old specimens. Hopefully they will not be too dry already. I stopped at Dan's pack which he left on the trail and waited for him to finish his exploration. We then cintinued back to Sand Lake. Based on the time it took us the previous day, I estimated Andy would arrive around 3pm. Dan took a swim while I gathered some firewood. As I was collecting wood atop a rise, I saw Andy arrive to the lean-to. As luck would have it, 3pm on the nose. I cleaned up in the lake and we hung out for the rest of the afternoon and evening. Our plans for the next day were to bushwhack to Emerald Lake then go back to the cars, and hike into the Pepperbox Wilderness. I slept much better in lean-to #80. The 'whack to Emerald waa in easy open hardwoods until it wasn't. As we got close we found ourselves in an open marshy area. It looked easy enough, but the giant carpets of moss were more or less floating. Needed to pick our way close to trees and downed logs. It was sliw going but eventually the marsh gave way to anl scraggily piney woods with Emerald Lake at its edge. With little desire to retrace our steps, we decided to head west to pick up the old rd from which we diverged from the first day. First we needed to get past the potentially wet outlet of Emerald. Fortune was on our side in the form of an old beaver dam we used as a bridge. The route continued through easy hardwood stands until it intersected another old rd which we followed to our navigation target. If someone desired to go to Emerald, this was the route. The rest of our hike would be on the old rd. Easy going with a few mud pits to avoid. We had lunch at the cars and drove to the Tied Lake trailhead. From here we would enter the "trail-less" Pepperbox. A few minutes down the (gated) road towards Tied Lake, a marked trail veered off to the,left. The maps showed a few old rds in this area all of which could be used to get to Gregg Lake. A few strange intersections compunded by someone tearing down markers (and tossing them into the woods) and Gregg Lake appeared. The campsite was bushy and in the open. We poked around the lake looking for something better. Found the remnants of an old fire ring overtaken by the duff. With nothing better than the bushy site, we set up camp. Using some dead pine ww constructed a bench so as to not have to sit in the blackberries by the fire. After dinner we were in bed before dark. The sky was clear and the temp was already falling. Got cold last night; in the 30s. Next trip I will have to switch out my gear for fall temps. We were all up early. Not teally sure why as we had a short hike out, less than an hour. As we drove back along the dirt rd, we would stop and check out other pull-offs, campsites, and lakes. We did not do a ton of miles, but it sure felt like it. Plus we got to see and explore some new territory. View the full article
  9. Day 7 A slight chill in the morning kept the bugs away. Made yeast bread and eggs florentine w/mushrooms and swiss for breakfast. The dried spinach worked great in the eggs. We alao pre-cooked the onions and fish for lunch.Of course this process took extra time not just because it was two meals, but all 4 parts needed the skillet. We would save time at lunch though. After breaking camp we fished the drop-off between our island and the next. Soon we were catching good sized walleye. We had our daily limit quite soon so most were released. With quite a few miles to do now that our route had changed we set out. With lunch pre-cooked we could spend time fishing when a spot looked good. We ate our lunch in a shady spot atop a small rocky island covered with blueberries. We had berries as an appetizer and again as dessert. Not long after lunch we fished a spot where the Cache River entered the lake. Dan got a hit on his first cast. It took me a few extra but soon we were both landing smaller walleye. The catch and release was ongoing. What occurred next happened so quickly I will intersperse my thoughts with the events as they occurred... At one point I was in the process of landing one and began to comment I could see another fish below it. As I was commenting, my thoughts were this profile was a large pike swimming below and it reminded me of an aquarium view. I did not even finish my sentence when the pike surged at the fish I had on. He grabbed and turned. My reel was screaming out line. I now had two fish on. The pike grabbed my fish and we both watched ot happen a few inches below the surface. This pike was big. Dan estimated it at 15 pounds. The pike was trying to swallow the walleye, and I was trying to land them both. At one point the pike moved his grip and it looked like I might have hooked him too. As the line got shorter and the fish neared the boat, a giant whip of the tail sent a huge splash of water over me as the pike let go of his grip on the walleye. I could see the gash on the walleye's head and wasn't sure if it was even still alive... the he pulled a bit. I finished landing him to release the hook and the fish. What an extraordinary experience. I said to Dan, "no one will believe what just happened." Coming down from the adrenaline rush, we fished a little more before heading towards camp a few miles away. We paddled through a very pretty channel connecting the farthest bay with Kawnipi proper. Located a beaver lodge for firewood. As we neared our desired camping area we saw it was occupied. This meant we would take the portage to Montgomery Lake. The carry was only 380meters. It took almost as long getting the packs situated and finding a goid stick to carry the fish than it did to walk the trail. Montgomery is quite picturesque. We found a nice spot atop an island with a great view. The tent/hammock locations were not great, but with our eyes closed it would not matter. Camp setup, a swim, dinner, and in bed before the skeeter fest. Day 8 The bugs were out in full force around 10 pm, just like clockwork. Was glad to have made it in before. Slept well. I restarted the fire. Usually we would have decided on our breakfast plan the night before, but in our haste to beat the swarm we forgot. We had keftovers from dinner still, and two more walleye to be cooked. We chose a quicker breakfast and saved the leftovers for lunch. It was the right choice as the skeeters came back in full. This time we did not hesistate to deploy the chemical warfare. The fog lifted as we finished our breakfast and broke camp. Montgomery is a "T" shaped lake with some neat geology. We fished the arm on which our campsite was located and had a great time catching and releasing walleye and bass. As we paddled around the lake was like glass. We left for the other arm of the lake. As we came through the channel we heard splashing. At the far end we saw a moose, and then a secind one. We paddled slowly and quietly in that direction. I had readied my camera if we were to get close enough. As we neared the moose began to swim to a different weedy section and I began taking pictures knowing I was likely still to far away. The moose exited the lake at the next marshy area, the view was mostly obscured by a few trees, but we could see the calf "shake off the water". We hoped some of the photos might come out, but we were not expecting it. This artifact from our campsite will have to suffice. Our shore lunch was made a short ways from the portage. A nice sunny rock. In retrospect, we should have found some shade. We fished a bit more and then made the 280m carry to Shelly Lake. It is amazing how easy these portages are after the earlier 3+km portages. At the narrows of Shelly we saw a large bass "get air" as it leaped from the water right near a small rapids. We paddled slowly to the right side, passed through the current into an eddy to start fishing. The rapids were a shallow drop off ledge into a deep pool. The bass were plentiful right after the drop. I then hooked a big pike, it took some time to tire him out to land. Just above the ledge was another deep pool preceded by another ledge. From it Dan pulled a small walleye. We both fished that upper and lower pool catching more bass and walleye. A canoe approached from "downstream". It was two park rangers. They asked how everything was going and checked our permits. We chatted a bit. They said no one goes to the lakes we did the first few days because of the portages. Those that do are trying to "complete the map". They continued on and we fished some more. After a short time, the distant sound of a buzzing chainsaw could be heard as the rangers cleared some blowdown on the portage. The last few days we had been joking about "camp tipi flower" after passing 2 summer camp groups of three canoes each and the popular campsites having an area where the TP blooms. From Shelly to Keats Lake (the poet lakes section which we visited 3 years ago) was a short portage ending at a significant waterfall. Paddling out one could see it was 3 distinct waterfalls spread out, A group of boys were swimming at the nearest falls. Another group was camped on the island with a view of the falls. At the narrows was another campsite which we claimed even though it was early b/c this area gets much more traffic. With camp made early, Dan went to fish the narrows. Day 9 Nice starting the day catching fish. After breaking camp we fished the narrows and caught more walleye. It was bright and sunny. Looked to be a hot day. As we headed up the lake the sky turned. Then a light rain, some wind and thunder in the distance. Dan said we have done dumber things than hunkering down. So we made our way to shore and pitched the tarp to wait it out. When it seemed to clear, we set out again. Then it started to rain more than it did when we were under the tarp. At least Dan got in a little nap. The sky cleared and out came the sun. We visited Chatterton Falls and had it to ourselves. We walked to the top of the series of cascades to where it exited Chatterton Lake and flowed to Russell Lake. Back at the base of the falls, we swam and had a snack. On our way to Sturgeon Lake we grabbed some wood from the local lodge, and ran the swift water between Russell and Sturgeon. While looming for camp, we could see another rain storm approaching. The weather could not decide whether to be sunny or rainy today. The rain began before we found camp. I set up a tarp on the island for a base. We sat there for a bit until the sky cleared. Dan went to get water and fish while I readied camp. He called to me as he had a huge pike on the line. He paddled towards camp and landed the monster from shore. Had dinner and as has been the routine, the bugs came out. Day 10 Got up late (for us) at 7:30. The air was still damp. Got fire for coffee going. Pre-cooked lunch and had granola for breakfast. Opted to take the longer route to Sturgeon North by way of Antoine and Ram Lakes. The 1 km portage to Antoine started in deep muck, gradually going uphill. A lot of blowdown and side bushes. This carry had not been cleared in a while. The end was a nice sandy shore with bass minnows swimming about. Looks promising. We were drenched and looked for a spot to swim. A nice rocky island was found to be perfect. We explored the lake and caught a few bass. As we paddled away from a grassy bay, Dan's trolling line went screaming. Something hit and took off. Our immediate reaction was, "has to be a pike". Whatever it was was heavy. It took a while but Dan finally hauled in the first lake trout of the trip. She would be dinner and breakfast. We were looking for a place to have lunch when another fish hit the trolling line. It was another laker. Eventually we made it to a lunch spot on a rocky outcrop in the shade. Another late lunch, then two short portages and we were back on Sturgeon Lake. A campsite was chosen, a swim, set up camp,ate dinner, cleaned up, had another swim and into the hammock with minutes to spare before the bugs arrived. Day 11 Was up early at the break of dawn. Appeared it was to be a hot sunny day. Readied the fire for coffee and the rest of the lake trout. We used the tortillas from another meal to make trout tacos (I mean wraps, apparently the term taco makes Dan think we are using crunchy corn tortillas). Today we would have our last two portages, a 750m, and a 520m. Due to all the late lunches and leftovers, we had extra food. Which meant we had options instead of whatever is left. We fished a bit in the twin lakes with no luck and headed to Dore Lake. This 750m portage is one of ge few with a name, portage des mortes. It was an easy carry and busy. There were two groups at each end by the time we finished. At Dore, we fished there a bit, but I was tired. There were some big winds last night that woke me up a few times. Found a nice campsite to take a swim and have lunch. Just as we got out of the water a family (of 3) paddled by. They asked if we were camping there. We said, just lunch and also gave them some info about the other sites we had seen. As we ate our lunch (late of course) we noticed the family was circling about. Dan motioned for them to come in. We said it was fine if they set up camp while we ate. Their little girl had been trying to fish and had made a mess of her line. Dan helped her out and even taught her the palomar knot. She was a quick study. The family was in the middle of an 8-week vacation touring all around the country. Just a few days before, they were in the rockies. On the way to our final portage Dan hooked another laker 200m before the portage. It threw the hook just as he was netting it, and it got away. He was really bummed out. The portage to Pickerel Lake was gorgeous, like a manicured path in the park with beach at both ends. Quite a contrast to the carries which started the trip. It was later in the day and it appeared we had this bay to ourselves. We chose a decent site. Dan hung the bear bag and I started the fire as was our routine. Since we had time, Dan did some more fishing while I prepared dinner. With food in the pot, I took a swim as did Dan when he returned. Again we had leftovers so we hung it with the rest of the food and went to bed. Tomorrow would be our last full day in the Quetico. Day 12 Slept great. Up at 7am. Slighlty cool in the morning, not enough to need a layer but enough to keep the bugs away. A quick an easy breakfast, camp broken and we set out trying to make up for the missed laker. We have a long paddle east to our eventual take out. With the winds behind us the miles came easy. We fished as we made our way down Pickerel Lake. Dan caught a walleye (first of three). We stopped at a rock island for a snack. As we approached a bald eagle took off from a nearby tree. After snack time Dan got the 2nd walleye right near the island. We continued down the lake stopping to eat our leftover stroganoff for lunch. Though we paddled, it was the wind and waves which did the heavy lifting. We fished the shoreline as we were pushed along it. We passed by the campsite we used 3 years ago. As we neared the "busier" section of the lake, many of the sites were occupied. The waves were really beginning to roll now too. We crossed to the N. side of the lake where our map showed a series of 4 sites in close proximity. At one, the group there told us the site just west of them with our own private beach area. With the waves pummeling the shore, I had to jump out of canoe as we neared our beach landing with a pfd onto which I would pull the canoe. Camp set up and dinner prepared a storm was brewing. We could see the distant rain and hear the thunder. As we ate I could see the sky was clearer to our direct west. I hesistated to say this aloud. A few raindrops and followed by a cool lightning show to our west and south. The storm was powerful. Fortunately for us it did pass to our south not before I was able to steal a shot of a lightning bolt. Due to the approaching storm, we had everything done early. So 9pm I was in bed. This was by far our earliest bedtime. Day 13 Last day on the water. Coffee and granola. At one of the easternmost bays we had a nice time fishing. Caught some good sized walleye to end the trip. We would buy ice and take them home with us. The trip ended with a lazy paddle up the river to the campground from which we started. Glad we made the decision to modify the route. We talked about a trip going directly to Kawnipi Lake and spending a few days just on that large body of water. I am under no delusions that I will have a pike grab a walleye on my line again. The entire trip was an experience, even the parts which were terrible as they happened are now good memories. View the full article
  10. Quetico 2019 can be summarized in a few words: mud, mosquitos, storms, and fishing. Dan and I talked a few times about why we keep a journal. For me, it is way to remind myself of the details which are tagged with emotional experiences so that I can recall those feelings in the future. In general each day was get up, pack up camp, paddle, fish, portage, make camp. It is the minor details and events within the daily routine which I want to recall. Day 1 Scheduled a Lyft to drive me from home to the Megabus stop @3:05am. Lyft driver arrived early so I had to wait an hour for the bus to arrive. When it finally arrived, a few ppl including the driver got off the bus to take a break. We did not pull out until close to 3:30. First stop was Buffalo for another 30 min break, then a shorter stop at the airporr, then another in Buffalo to switch drivers. At Niagara Falls all passengers needed to exit bus with their luggage to go through customs. All of these breaks had us arriving in Toronto just as rush hour started. The scheduled arrival time was 7:30 the actual arrival time was a little after 9am. My flight from Toronto would not leave until 2:30 so I still had plenty of time. I took another Lyft to the airport. The ride and flight was uneventful. I was able to get a little sleep in. Texted Dan when we landed, he picked me up and drove to Steve's in Thunder Bay. Had some dinner, hung out, walked to the lake for a music festival. The headliner was excellent. 10-piece band complete w/horn section. The style was a mix between R&B, funk and rap. Mostly original tunes with one cover of Chicago's 25 or 6 to 4. Great band. Day 2 We packed up and drove the few hours to Quetico. Checked in at the ranger station and filled out paperwork. As the ranger entered our route into the system she commented on the portages in that section and how few people go there. We had heard the carries were wet (and long). Today we would have a few short ones, longest being 400m. The real long ones would be in the next few days. We set out @11am and turned up the French River. This meandered for miles. It reminded me of the Oswegatchie. The first portage was only a couple hundred meters; which we needed to double carry. The first portage always allows us to test out the load and rebalance the packs. In typical fashion, we would need to adjust the food weight into different packs. Even with the short carry I could tell I was out of shape. We had lunch before we set out again. We had a total of four portages today. During the 1st leg of the 400m portage my boot sunk into the mud and got stuck. Really stuck. It took me almost 10 minutes to get it out. I used a paddle to allow air within the mud to release the suction. By the time I finished the next 200m, I was exhausted, and I still needed to go back and get my second l8ad. At the top of the hill with only 100m to go, I had to take a break to catch my breath. I am really out of shape, and these were the easy portages. We have a few more short ones in succession. At one of the rapids, we walked up the canoe. I am not sure this was the answer. We eventually made it to Baptism Lake. Fishing gear was readied. I spotted an old beaver lodge so we stopped to get firewood. Dan caught the first fish. A small 12 inch pike. He called it a "hammer handle". We paddled around a few islands looking for the campsite. We stopped at one a source had ranked a "3", with the others being worse. We unloaded our gear and paddled a bit more jyst in case one of the other sites was better. The wind was picking up out in the open so went back and set up camp. Took a swim and mae dinner. The first day on the water and already we deviated from our menu plan. As we ate our bean&cheese burritos the first raindrops fell. We closed up the dry bags and finished eating. As the rain seems to have disipated and it was only 7:30, we figured we could paddle and fish for an hour. We were out for maybe 15 minuted beforethe sky opened up and tbe winds began gusting. We made a bee-line back to camp. I had zero visibility with wind and rain in my face and on my glasses. Even with raingear on, my face/head was soaked and my waist was damp.Since we had already hung the food, we secured the boat and headed to our tents (hammock for me). The rain would come and go with a few thunderclaps. The echoing thunder would roll for what seemed like a full minute. It was quite a neat sound experience. After today and with this weather, I was sure to sleep well tonight. Day 3 As predicted I slept soundly. A few more rains and light rolling thunder throughout the night. Both Dan and I were awake early, though Dan was first to emerge. We made the "mexican breakfast" burritos using some chanterelles we found fruiting near the campsite. It was quite filling. These OvaEasy eggs are great. We took the canoe around the lake, poking up an inlet stream to see if it was navigable to its lake source. A beaver dam soon impeded our progress. We had much more to explore, so we turned back. Caught a few pike during the morning. None were huge.The next stream was navigable and provided access to a different lake. Quite pretty, but sub-par fishing. Headed back to camp for lunch. We still had moose steaks which were still frozen last night. We made a vegetable stir fry with peanut sauce and rice noodles to go with the moose. Good teamwork prepping and cooking. Made a ton. We put the leftovers in the pot to save for dinner. With camp all packed up we set out for another stream and an 80m portage to Trousers Lake. Once on Trousers we located a beaver lodge for firewood including 3 staves for a tripod. The wind and clouds hinted at changing weather. We headed towards the islands with the campsites. The plan was for me to set up my tarp as a dry base of operations. The site was large and open. Remnants of downed trees were scattered about. I located a spot with a nice windbreak of younger growth evergreens and hastily set up the tarp. By now Dan had brought up the gear from the canoe to stow under the tarp. Then the storm rolled in, not before chanuing the wind direction 180 degrees making the tarp set up in the wrong direction. The storm was intense. Rain pummeled the area, the winds ripped up some guylines and blew rain under the tarp. Dan and I held onto the guylines as buckets of rain fell leaving pools of water all around the site. Thunder boomed and lightning struck nearby. Then came the hail. We were now mostly holding the tarp above us by hand with Dan's head also propping it up. At least his standing position would give him a view to find a tent spot in the campsite which was not pooling water. That is assuming the storm ever let u and we survived. There was a small break in the storm so I used the moment to retie a guyline. The sky looked like the majority of the storm has passed which it did. I found a new spot to rig the tarp after I bailed out the canoe. It was almost laughable how much water was in the canoe. We probably recieved 4 inches of rain in that hour. Dan put up the bear bag lines and ate our leftovers for lunch. I wasn't hungry. At bedtime the mosquitos were horrendous. It was crazy how many there were buzzing around the netting. A little more rain would fall overnight. Day 4 The air was damp in the morning and the bugs were still out. I restarted the fire for morning coffee. Today would have a big 3.5km portage with a river crossing at 1km to break it up. We were able to adjust the pack's loads to 1.5x carry instead of the usual double. Even with the heavier loads I felt much better than the first day. Thinking back, it was more likely dehydration which caused my struggle. The mud on this portage was intense. A wrong step and it would be over the top of our knee boots. I had a few wrong steps. By the time we reached Cache Lake my boots were full of mud and water. We hoped for better fishing at Cache having heard it has excellent lake trout. The only fish to be seen were very small perch. We paddled to the end of a bay where a nice beach campsite was supposed to be. We found it half washed out into the lake. The firepit stones were hanging precipitously over the washed out sand. We left that bay to find another. The next site was "ok" but we paddled on to find a super one. Neat rocks and a point to watch sunsets. We set up camp, went swimming, washed clothes and some more no-luck fishing. We ate dinner on the point followed by a decent sunset and then to bed before the swarm of mosquitos attacked. Tomorrow would have another long portage over 3km. Sources refer to middle section as "The African Queen". Not looking forward to that! We looked at the map to see if we could do a loop instead of our planned out-and-back route. We would have to up our mileage, but so far the fishing in this area has been terrible. We will need to decide tomorrow. Day 5 Woke up close to 7am. Looked to be a beautiful day. Fished a little; no luck. We headed to the portage to Lindsay (and Mackenzie) Lakes. The carry began at a nice sandy spot. Just a tease as we knew a bit of what was to come. Dan decided to break up the long carry with canoe by bringing it first halfway. I followed with my pack, and the food pack strapped together along with the spare paddle, pfd and fishing net. The trail was generally pretty good until it wasn't. We hit an open area through a wetland. The forest trees gave way to a forest of reeds over 8 ft tall. If the path through was not already trampled down into the swamp below, I do not know if we would have been able to follow it. Basically it was a wet slog through the reeds. With careful footing on the major root hummocks we could avoid the water going over the top of our boots. The route wound its way through intil we reached the far side and re-entered the forest. We had successfully traversed the african queen section, or so I thought. A few minutes later the trail gave way to a flooded section of alders with deep boot sucking mud. For much, Dan would stand in the canoe and shuffle it forward. I avoided the center as the paddle would not reach the bottom of the muck. I picked my way through, testing each step with the paddle. At the end of the true African Queen section Dan dropped the canoe and went back for his pack. With my recommendation he took one of the paddles with him. I pressed on. So far the portage had taken 38 minutes. A sharp uphill and then nice trail for another 28 minutes. As I headed back to the African Queen to relieve Dan of his pack, I cleared debris and some blowdown from the trail. Dan had gone a little further with his pack so I didn't have to do the uphill section. As Dan and I neared I commented I am in no hurry to do that again, and you already did the sucky part 3 times. As I neared the end of the portage two other canoeists were heading in. They had come through this way earlier so knew what to expect. Lindsay was a smaller lake connected to Mackenzie by a small cascade which had a 50 meter carry. As a reward for the sucky portage, we decided to have a snack of brownies with milk. As I got out our reward, Dan asked me 3 times to pass him his powdered milk. I heard him, but in my exhaustion what he was asking did not register and I made him a cup of the NIDO milk. Thus began (and ended) the powdered milk fiasco. We would joke about this later. At yhe short portage, we carried the packs and then doubled the canoe together. The path was short but very steep. In the small bay of Mackenzie I immediately landed a smallish pike right next to the portage. Like many of the lakes, Mackenzie had a lot of bays and islands all of various sizes. The wind was quite strong in this bay, so we paddled across a channel to get to a more protected side. A rock point jutted out. This was not uncommon, but the rock here just looked a little different. We fished just beyond the end of the point and started to land pike. We decided to keep a few since the walleye, trout and bass were apparently not to be found. We explored more of the lake, catching more pike along the way. After the sucky portages and no reward fishing in the previous lakes there was no reason to go back the way we came. So the decision was made to do a loop and exit via Pickerel Lake. We stopped at a nice island campsite for a late lunch (pasta salad). Except for breakfast when we left Steve's the first day, this was the first meal that coincided with our planned menu. It was a lot, and almost 4pm so I knew I would not need dinner. The milk fiasco came up again when Dan went back to the canoe to get his spoon for lunch. It was in the canoe because he took it out to make his powdered milk. I was still confused at this point about the whole situation. We joked about it. I said someone will ask me "why don't you camp with Dan anymore? Well it all started with the powdered milk and went south from there." We both laughed. We continued down Mackenzie and found a terrific site to set up camp. Of course we had collected wood from the local beaver lodge and we now had a grill liberated from the lunch island. After camp was set, a quick swim to get rid of the grime and sweat. A snack on the point and into the tents before the skeeter hordes. Day 6 The first thing I noticed when I awoke was the absence of mosquitos. This was not to last. By the time I got to the firepit to get the fire going the blood suckers were upon us. Dan donned a head-net to clean the fish. I got the fire going so the smoke would provide a minimal respite. Having our coffee on the point we realized we needed a chemical solution. The deet was applied. Without it, I would likely be either institutionalized for craziness of dead from loss of blood. It was without a doubt the worst mosquito infestation I have ever experienced. The WMDs (weapons of mosquito destruction) did the trick and we were able to cook breakfast without another drop of blood loss. Dan cooked the fish while I toasted the tortillas and sliced the avocado. Strange to be day 6 and this would be our first fish meal. After breaking camp we fished a bit before heading to the portage. We had two more pike for lunch (or dinner). The 650m portage to Kawnipi Lake was the nicest and driest we have seen so far. 12 minutes end to end slightly awkward portage carrying two fish. I told Dan I was happy to carry them, but would not be portaging the rock (anchor). A reference to our 2016 Quetico adventure. As we entered the mackenzie bay of Kawnipi Lake, a new anchor rock was selected so we pushed out aways anchored and fished the sandy/weedy bay. Dan hooked the first bass, a huge one. Probably 4 pounds. We added it to the pike. He soon landed another, not quite as large. Pondered whether to keep or release it. The next one was not as lucky. I then hauled in a monster, close to 5 pounds. We both landed a few more, all in the 3-4 pound range. They fought well. Amazing how strong these bass can be. We drew up the anchor but continued to fish as we made our way to the main lake. The bay itself was large enough to be a lake on its own. The wind and rain kept teasing us; this would continue all day. At the channel entering the main lake there was a slight current so of course we fished it. Immediately I got a hit, and just as quickly it was gone. Line severed. We put on leaders and fished for pike. We landed a few trying to find the one with my lure; no such luck. Then my jig got snagged in the bottom in not so deep water. I stripped off my clothes to dive for it. I could barely get below the surface, not for lack of trying. I commented that my recent weight gain has made me too buoyant as I now was my own pfd. I tried a few more times to Dan's amusement. Then he told me to get dressed and he went in for the lure. We ate lunch (more fish tacos) at a very nice campsite. The rain and wind had picked up as I was lighting the fire so I paused to do another crappy tarp set up. We didn't really need it, but it did block the wind at least. From here we still had a few miles to go on the main lake and it was already 5pm. Amazing how quickly the hours get away from us. We made camp at another gorgeous spot. It was quite windy, hopefully will keep the mosquitos down. I set up my tarp (well this time) and we prepared dinner, sweet and sour fish using one of the bass. It was 8:30 before we were really eating and again the sky teased us with rain. Twice we moved under the tarp to eat. As the sun set, we got a little color. There war still some wind when we retired. I anticipate we will not be so fortunate in the morning. View the full article
  11. With 5 days to play with, I planned to also do some trail maintainance on my adopted section of the NPT. As plans began to take shape an email blast went out for Lean2Rescue in the same area. It worked out that my trip would start with helping L2R rehab the Pillsbury Lean2 which was only 3 miles from "my" trail section. I did not see Dan's name on the "going" list for L2R and before I could contact him, he called me. So the plan became: Saturday carry in materials still at trailhead for L2R and meet crew at Pillsbury and help finish/prep Sampson L2. Spend first night at Pillsbury and then the next 4 days completing the French Louie Loop, visiting Brooktrout Lake and clearing my section of the NPT. I arrived at the Pillsbury trailhead around 9am, picked up the gallon of wood stain for the lean2 and began my hike up "old military road". My pack was filled to capacity with 5 days of food and fishing gear but was not too heavy. As I neared the junction a group of 3 passed by inquiring if I was "Russ". They also helped with the lean2 on Friday and let me know the stain was still needed. Donna recognized me (from fB). We all continued on our way. Arriving at Pillsbury most of the crew had relocated to Sampson to begin the site prep for the new lean2 location. The skeletin crew remaining at Pillsbury was putting on the finishing touches. I began helping out at Pillsbury. As we finished the rest of the crew returned from Sampson. We had a full crew to hang out with and have dinner. We were all tired and went to bed rather early. It rained over night. On Sunday the main crew headed back to the trailhead while Dan and I continued West back towards Sampson.We put on our rain gear as the trail would be "bushy" and with the rain would be wet. I would deliver the gallon of stain and then press on to South and West Canada Lakes. We took a snack break at Sampson and lunch at West Canada Creek. We also spent some time exploring the shoreline of Mud Lake outlet. We stopped again at South where Dan explored the shoreline. While he was out, a rainstorm developed and he got soaked. I had moved our packs into the lean2 to keep them dry. The rain would come and go all afternoon. At West Lake we decided it would be camp. The cloudy sky looked to provide a potentially nice sunset over the lake. I was not very hungry but knew I needed to eat something. Again we retired to bed early. Monday would be a day trip to Brooktrout Lake for some fishing. Dan explored the shore of West Lake on the way. At the Brooktrout Lean2, I noticed in the log book it was exactly a year to the day I was here last with Jeff for that sweltering hot weekend nn 2018. Dan and I fished all day and returned to West Lake. While getting things ready for dinner a snowshoe hare wandered nearby. He spent some time in a little depression in the forest floor popping his head up every once in a while. Again I was in bed relatively early. Tuesday, Day 4 we would continue along the NPT to the Cedar Lakes stopping at Mud Lake, Cat and King Ponds to explore. Once past the wet section, the trail opened up and was easy walking. Some on an old roadway. We made good time getting to the Beaver Pond lean2. We set down our gear and went exploring. Dan took Beaver Pond, while I took Cedar Lake. While I waited for Dan to return, a couple backpackers stopped at the junction. We chatted a bit and continued on to the first lean2 instead of joining us. Dan then arrived and we went out fishing. As we were out a couple from NH (Jonathan and Danille) arrived to camp. Also joining us was Asher and his two boys. It was getting late and I still was not very hungry. I usually enjoy eating on these trips but for some reason food was only fuel; except for the fish tacos we had at West Lake. I did eventually make dinner. It was after dark before I finished eating and went to bed. Our last day and I still needed to do my trail maintainance. I got up early, packed up and took only a waist pack with snacks etc... and my saw. The plan was for Dan and I to meet at the dam at 11am. I headed out just before 6am. It was slow progress as I dug out waterbars, cleared drainages and cut minor blowdown. 3 hours later and I had done just over 3 miles. I stopped for a snack break and figured I needed to turn around so as to make our scheduled rendezvous. I was about 20 minutes early and Dan had already arrived. I made myself a late breakfast and rearranged jy pack contents for the 4.5 miles out to the car. The entire rest of the way would be on old road. We would first have to climb the shoulder of noisy ridge, cross the "fun house bridge" (named by Justin which apparently is catching on as many are using it) and then the remaning 1.6 miles from the junction on Saturday would be all downhill. We would do the last two miles in 40 minutes. As we drove out we decided we deserved ice-cream from Stewarts. A great way to cap off a 5 day trip beginning and ending with volunteer work. As my buddy Chuck (also from Lean2Rescue) would say, "It's camping with a purpose."View the full article
  12. A trip planned with my college room-mate was increased by two other backpacking friends, Rob and Kalie. I have been introducing Jeff to the sport after 30 years and brought Rob out of retirement. Along with Kalie, these 3 friends have never met. We started in Wanakena along the old road bed. The mosquitos were already out in full force. It wasn't long before we hit the first wet section. It looked worse than it was. The trail later detoured around the large beaver swamp. I remembered this was getting worse over he years. The detour also used part of an old trail I was always curious about. It wasn't long before we arrived at the Janacks Landing junction. We headed to the lean-to to take a short break. As we approached a small group was just heading out. After a short break, and the first half of my lunch we continued towards the CL-50 junction. At one point Kalie saw the retreating end of a small bear. Rob missed it, but said Kalie's expression was like a kid on Christmas morning. Soon we were at the junction. New signage here since last time I came through. We climbed he short rise to he Glasby outlet cascade. A lot of brush growing in here. Passing by the trail to the hunter's camp and other spots brought back memories of previous trips through here. One of which was my hike of the CL-50 back in 2008. A lot has changed on the trail since then most notably all the trail work to mitigate wet spots. The campsite at Glasby was widened too. We paused here and looked up and over the pind to the ledges on Cat Mtn where we were headed. At the junction for Cat Mtn, Jeff and Kalie dropped their packs for the climb. It was only 0.7 miles, but it had some elevation change. Rob took the lead and I followed. As we approached the ledges the group from the lean-to was also there. They asked if I could take a photo for them. After they left, we had the summit to ourselves for a short period of time. Another group soon arrived. They asked which area was the Oswegatchie River. We took out our map and pointed out a few things from the overlook. We then packed up and left them to enjoy the summit. Our campsite was not far past the jnction where Jeff and Kalie retrieved their packs. The site was on Cat Mtn Pond and from the waters edge we could see the cliffs we were sitting atop not that long ago. The bugs were bad, especially away from the water. So while the other three set up camp, I put together a smudge fire. The breeze and smoke helped alleviate the pests. We hung out and talked. For dinner I had brought bratwurst for the group. However I was not going to cook for them. Everyone got their own "hot dog stick". The evening was full of us joking around about Rob's three prong design and how we were goung to market it. Good times hanging out by the fire. I stayed up later than I thought. When I eventually went to my hammock, I was asleep in no time. I awoke after a fantastic nights sleep to the call of a loon. I tried to get a little more sleep afterwards but soon I was completely awake. Both Rob and I were mostly packed up before Jeff and Kalie arose. We had our coffee and talked quietly. It wasn't kng before the other two were up. I set out the fixins for breakfast sandwiches. We did not hurry the morning as we only had a short 6ish miles out. When we did hike out, Rob took the lead and cleared all the spider webs for us. We passed by a few other hikers and the Asst Forest Ranger. Back at the cars, Kalie demonstrated using an emergency car starter as her battery had apparently lost most of its juice while she waited for us the previous day. In the end it was another great trip bringing together three friends to a spectacular part of the Adirondacks. View the full article
  13. Memorial Day weekend each year I usually do the Cold River loop around the Seward Range. This year I had a 4 day weekend so I opted to access the Cold River from the NPT and then continue to the Northern terminus. I sent out some invitations to fellow backpackers and quickly had a group of 4. We met at the Averyville Rd parking area Friday morning. My car and Jennifer's were left there as Kalie (blogger stalker 😎) and Shannon shuttled us to the Tarbell Rd TH in Long Lake. As we loaded up our gear the black flies swarmed us. We didn't dawdle and hit the trail. With 8 miles for the first day in a misty rain it was a good distance for the first half-day of hiking. The trail to Plumleys was relatively clear of blowdown. There was some, but it has been worse. Shannon and Kalie were out in front and I hiked with Jennifer. The stream crossings were not easy due to the spring rains. On one of the later ones, Jennifer slipped and stepped right into the stream I caught her before she completely went in. At Plumbley's, Jeff had kayaked in. He welcomed us to the site and I went to gather some wood to add to his pile. Great conversation ensued as well as a nice fire. Jeff set up his hammock, while the four of us shared the lean2. Like usual I was up early. I tried to stay in bed as long as I could. I restarted the fire nd made some coffee. The rest of the gang eventually arose. Jennifer said she was hurting and was going to turn back. Kalie offered to go with her. Thanks Kalie. As I packed up, I noticed a large tear in my backpack. One of the seams had torn. I did a quick field repair hoping it would last the next 28 miles. We were expecting rain in the afternoon but at present the weather was delightful. After saying goodbye to Jennifer and Kalie, Shannon and I agreed we needed to make our miles early so as to get to camp before the rains. This portion of the trail is rather easy going. Much of it on old woods roads. A lot of pretty spruce forests interspersed between the hardwood and swampy sections. We took a few short breaks. One at a vly, another at Cold River 4 (I went to check on #3 as well). The shelter logs were both gone. We stopped at Big Eddy and went out to the falls. We also stopped at Seward lean2; another missing shelter log book and a pile of trash in the fire-pit. Mostly kleenex and toilet paper, yeach. I made a twiggy fire to burn it. About a mile before Seward Brook and the Ouluska lean2, a few drops of rain began to fall. It was very light and we didn't put on our pack covers, nor rain jackets. Seward Brook was high, the washed out bridge was wet and slick. We would have to wade. I took off my boots, kked up my pants and stepped into the cold stream. At he deepest it was at knee level, not bad just cold. At the other side I didnt bother to put on my boots, I just continued the 75 yards to the lean2. It began to rain a little harder and stopped at times. During the breaks I gathered wood. The spring run-off had washed up quite a bit of driftwood at spots along the river. Oh. the Ouluska shelter log book was gone too. I started to think it was not a coincidence. We both slept in the lean-to. It rained quite hard overnight. Again I was up at first light. I tried to stay quiet and let Shannon sleep in. Today would be the longer miles day, but weather was supposed to be favorable. We also had the option of stopping early at Moose Pond. I love hiking along the Cold River. Lots to see, and enjoy. We took a short break at Rondeaus hermitage and at the Roaring Brook lean2 (another missing log book). The section north of the bridge to moose pond was typical; wet, rooty, muddy, and full of blowdown. A long break at Moose Pond which was also missing its log book. By now I was convinced this was purposeful. We checked out the plane wreckage as we approached the Wanika Falls junction. Crossing the Chubb to get to the campsite at Wanika was a little tricky with the high water. We dropped our packs and went to see the falls. A lot more water flowing since the last time I was here. We set up camp, and gathered wood. Shannon was on a mission and gathered a boat load. I started a smoky fire to shoo away the bugs. They had not been bad since the initial swarms at the parking lot. With my late lunch, I wasn't terribly hungry. So I waited a little while before I made dinner. We had done 30 miles so far. Not bad for three days. It gave us a lot of extra time at camp. We both were in bed early. It was colder the last night. Likely due to being so close to the river. I was up before the sun. I got the fire going again and warmed up with some cocoa. We only had 6 miles to go so we were in no rush. Our typical start time had been around 9. Today would be no different. We made great time and were back at the car by 11:30. I shuttled Shannon back to her car in Long Lake. Coincidentally a friend of hers was at the trailhead parking area. So were the black flies. Seems like that one area was the only spot they were a major problem. View the full article
  14. Original plan was to hike w/Steve on the FLT, however he had to cancel due to a pinched nerve. Plan B list was consulted as well as contacting other hiking partners. Shannon, from the defunct meetup group was available for Thurs-Sat. She is in Syracuse area, so I hiked and camped in Morgan Hill SF on Wed. Thurs morning drove to Shannon's where we officially met. The meetup has closed before many trips occured so we never had the opportunity to meet in person. Both of us are trip leaders/organizers for other groups though. We had settled on the trails in the Black River WF. This is an area I was quite familiar with, though haven't been to in a long time. Shannon drove us to Woodgate and we started hiking under the blue skies. A slight chill in the air and a few patches of snow remained. We turned down the trail towards Chub to take the long way to Gull Lake. After a short visit at Gull we continued to Millbrook and followed the snowmobile path to Woodhull Lake. Along the way, the path had large areas of packed snow and some mud pits. About a half mile before Woodhull, one of these ice patches gave way and I slid with it into hip deep water. I am not sure how I was able to get up and out so quickly. Glad it was a warm day, my clothes would dry before I even arrived at Woodhull. There was still ice on the lake and large patches of water. The wind was kicking up some waves on the open water. We set up camp in the double-wide lean-to. The snowmobilers had left a considerable amount of split cordwood. What a treat. As I built the fire I recalled the lean2rescue trip to here. This was the spot where we met Dan. His rowboat motor had conked out so he joined up with us for the rest of the weekend. Now he is a regular adventure partner of mine. Certainly a lot of our trips I would never have done if it hadn't been for the chance encounter at this lean-to. We had hiked just around 11 miles for the day. Some of the trails I had done multiple times, others only once or twice. This would be the first time sleeping in this lean-to. Counting my Wed night stay at the Hemlock Glen lean-to, this would make #75. The fire was burning hot, fanned by the wind fortunately blowing parallel to the lean-to. The waves were grinding away the ice. I commented there might not be much left in the morning. Soon after dark, we were in our bags and drifting to sleep. The (almost?) full moon rose illuminating our campsite, the fire died down but would reignite with the wind. By morning, the winds had calmed. I arose slowly and quietly so as to not disturb Shannon, who likes to sleep in. The sky turned from the pre-dawn reds to the sun shining directly into the front of the lean-to. I had to put on sunglasses to make my coffee. The lake was now ice-free. I do not know why I am so enamored with camping by a lake to witness ice-out. Perhaps because the unplanned nature of being there for those final last moments. Or maybe I am just weird. Thurs was to have been the nice day of hiking as the forecast called for rains. It was warmer now, the winds bringing in a front or pressure system. We packed up and hiked to Bear Lake where we visited the lean-to. We coninued to close the loop and made our way back to the snowmobile path. We had a snack at the roadside spring. So far a bit over 4 miles and the weather was holding out. It was overcast, but warm. Passing again through Millbrook we turned down the Sand Lake Falls trail. A lot of mud pits along the first half of this 3.8 mile trail. As we began the descent towards the lean-to for the last mile or so, we felt our first sprinkle. Donning pack covers, we arrived at the lean-to and raging falls with just a bit of light rain. This would stop/start from the afternoon through the evening. We gathered some wood during the dry moments, and took the short walk to the beginning of the cascade. We started a small fire just to get a good base going before (if) the rains developed more fully. We played some card games and chitchatted. I had a small dinner. We were curled up in our bags before dark. The rains did eventually come off and on. By morning all that was left was like a falling mist. By the time we were all packed up, the rains had subsided. We retraced our steps back up the snowmobile path to Millbrook. We turned off Bear Creek road and took the northern loop. This was wider and wetter than I remember. The undergrowth, still wet from the rains would transfer its moisture to us as we pushed through it to avoid the deep mud pits and vernal ponds. The last mile before the junction was high and dry. Back at the car before noon. It was great to revisit some old stomping grounds and bring back some good memories and to share the area with a new hiking friend as well. Hopefully we will have more opportunities to hike together in the future. View the full article
  15. A few weeks ago I needed to get out and camp. I had spent a night in my backyard campsite but was itching for a little more. After consulting my maps, I chose a new spot in the Burt Hill State Forest. I parked on the roadside shoulder as is common for FLT access points. The trail began following the edge of a farmer's field and the entered the woods. Remnant snow in the field and a ice in the woods. The trail quickly descended into a ravine with a creek. I rock hopped the icy creek and ascended the other side of the ravine. The trail register and lean-to were both on the far side. A quarter mile hike to camp. I collected wood, set up camp, cooked lunch, read a book. It was a great day to be in the woods. Across the ravine I could see the blades of two wind turbines. During the quiet of the night, I could hear their dull roar. Coupled with the creek, this made sleep easy. Hiked out the next day. I probably hiked more collecting firewood than the hike in/out, but it was a great way to spend a weekend unplugged. Two weekends later I led a group of new backpackers into the Pharsalia Woods. We hiked in about 3 miles. The goal was to allow these experienced hikers a chance to test out gear and acclimate to backpacking. All have a desire to hike the NPT in the coming years. This was designed as a relaxing, experience, and knowledge gathering trip. I had Bill C., also from the NPT Chapter with me, as well as Dan. We all shared tips and tricks. I asked Dan to demo how to hang a bear bag. The post-trip survey indicated this was a highlight. We took the long way out to loop back to our cars. Everyone had a good time, and is excited to take the next steps to prepare for their adventure. My Backyard Campsite View the full article
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