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About DuctTape

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  1. 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
  2. Earlier this month I had aborted the trail to Preston as the trail breaking with a full pulk was nearly impossible. This would be the next attempt with a crew and a strategy to ensure success. We would start Thurs morning, but I am getting ahead of myself. On Tuesday morning I picked up Dan at his place and we drove to the trailhead for Kibby Pond in the Wilcox Lake WF. The plan was just a day hike. Upon arrival we could see the parking was non-existent due to snow. After consulting the maps for plan B, we then drove to the trailhead in the Siamese Ponds WA for Second Pond. The parking area was plowed out, so we ate lunch and grabbed our day hike gear after donning our snowshoes. The temp was in the teens, and a bright sunny day. At the trail register I noted a friend had skied in the other day. The trail was generally uphill for the first mile and a quarter, gaining about 200 ft to a lower contour of Height of Land Mtn. The trail then undulated for a mile as we paralleled to the mountain north. The last mile would drop almost 250 ft to the pond, most in the final half mile. At the pond we explored for a bit, checking out the small island and some of the shoreline. We were tired. We had planned on a shorter day hike so we headed back. It was nice having the broken out trail and the final mile being downhill. The trail register does not indicate the trail gets all that much use though the ranger patrols it regularly. We then drove to Mark's cabin for dinner. Dan had made a lentil curry which was awesome. I slept well, and we awoke to outside temps in the single digits. We had breakfast and loaded the packs for an overnight in the woods. Drove to Stony Pond trailhead in the Vanderwhacker WF. Dan was part of the lean2rescue crew which moved this lean-to away from the water's edge. The trail was only 2 miles but we had our winter gear. We arrived to an empty lean-to, made camp and collected wood. The fire put out a noxious smoke all afternoon and evening. We used downed maple and beech like usual. Wondered if one of the logs had a strange fungus on it. After exploring Stony Pond, which had a very unique shoreline profile, we headed back to camp for dinner and bed. Slept great. I think it warmed up a little over night. We headed back to the car and drive to Upper Works to meet the crew headed to Preston Ponds. There were a total of seven of us. Pete and I would take the lead breaking trail since we had only backpacks (no pulks). He and the ithers were still packing up so Dan and I headed out first. The wind on Henderson was brutal. The snow was crusty and settled only a few inches. The wind came in sheets sometimes forming a vortex in the bays momentarily. At the Henderson lean-to we took a lunch break. When Pete arrived, he and I started down the trail. In 5 minutes we reached the first log bridge. Last time we crossed just downstream of it. But now it had open water. We hopped across just upstream and Pete began clearing the 5-feet of snow off the logs. I scouted further upstream and found a potential crossing. I dropped my pack and cleared a trail across for the pulks. Pete came over with his camera to get some photos when the pulks would cross, so I took the lead down the trail. Breaking trail is much easier without the pulk, but still difficult. Pete caught up to me at the next log bridge just after I cleared a safe crossing. He took the lead at this point. We would take turns all the way to Preston. On the big hill, we swapped a few times. At one point I paused after digging in my next step up when it ended up lower in the snow than the previous step. I joked that I was going downhill. It was tough going. No way would I have been able to do this with a pulk. At Preston, the winds were just as bad as Henderson. Some gusts were so strong they almost knocked us off our feet. They would explain the snake-like meander of our tracks across the lake. Once we arrived at the Preston cabin, Pete dug out the doorway, and I dug out the outhouse. By the time I finished Dan with the first pulk arrived. Hecand Pete started the woodstove. It was not long after the rest of the crew would arrive in waves. Good times, good food was soon had. Both dinner and breakfast. Dan and I headed out soon after breakfast while the rest of the crew was staying an additional night. The hike back to the parking area took about half the time. Another great trip, I visited 2 new locations, camped at a new lean-to and re-visited an favorite. I still need to visit Preston with a canoe one of these days. With all the snow and ice, it will be a while. View the full article
  3. 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. 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. View the full article
  4. Due to the storm last weekend which cancelled my trip, I was able to sneak away for a quick overnight. I opted for Big Island lean-to on Raquette Lake. This was the lean-to I helped move slightly inland not long ago. This would also ,make the 70th lean-to I have slept in. When I arrived at the boat launch there were dozens of snowmobiles. Not much of a surprise. What I did not expect was the community ice-cutting and fishing derby. The entire complex was over-run by all these different groups. Coupled with the giant snow piles, parking was at a premium. Solely by luck, a lady pulled away from her spot just as I rounded the corner. This section was marked no parking but I was next to the fire chief. I hoped for more good luck. With my pulk loaded with firewood (knowing the island would be picked clean) I headed out onto the ice. To my right was the ice cutting operation. They were sawing and removing blocks at least 2ft in all dimensions. Ahead of me was the island and a few ice-shanties. The bulk of the snow-mobilers were to the left, following the western shore. As I approached the island I could see a series of tip-ups and 2 fisherman tending to them. I said hi, and we talked briefly. They were in the lean-to and told me about the derby. I asked if would be ok if I crashed in the lean-to. They were very obliging, even offered me a beer. I added my pile of wood to their diminishing store. Tom, Dave and I chatted for a few hours. I cooked up some dogs. The temp was in the teens with an ever so slight breeze. Tom and Dave said the wind made the lean-to cold last night. I imagine it would have been worse in its previous location. The guys would check on their lines every once in a while with no luck. One flag had its line cut/broken. The assumtion was a pike. That was the closest these two had for a fish. We joked that is why it's called fishing not catching. As the time approached 5, and no fish Tom and Dave decided to pull out and head in to the "party" at weigh in. We shook hands and they departed. The sun was getting lower, but I still had some good light. I set up my sleeping gear in the lean-to and enjoyed the waning daylight. I stoked the fire periodically and watched the sun drop below the horizon. I stood on the ice and watched the snowmobilers race back and forth. By now their headlamps and taillights were all I could see. As usual, I would be in bed shortly. Tom and Dave said the riders were out past 11pm friday night. They went quiet much earlier tonight. I was quite warm in my bag and slept soundly until the winds in the morning awoke me. Something shifted as the winds were blowing hard from the SouthEast. Not a good direction; often a storm system. Looking out over the lake there was zero visibility and with the wind I would want to keep my head down. After packing up I took a bearing and would navigate across the frozen lake by compass only. This is the backcountry version of the "bird box challenge". The wind was fierce. I kept my hood clutched over my face with one hand and my compass in the other. It was a short crossing and soon the launch came into view as did my snow covered car. The driving conditions were almost as bad as the hiking. I was traveling 20mph in the 55 zone with my flashers. I saw 5 other vehicles between Raquette and Old Forge... which took an hour to drive. Roads were mostly clear when I left O.F. after a bite at Walts Diner. View the full article
  5. The last few years I have done a winter trip with Dan between Christmas and New Years. With 5 days, we had many options. Dan suggested a foray into the Lake George Wild Forest as it was an area neither of us have explored. This is also a heavily used area and at this time of year would see less people. Besides hiking, camping and climbing we would also go off trail in search of special trout ponds. We sent our itinerary to a few friends in case they were able to join us for part of our trip. Day one consisted of the long drive to Lake George and then along the dirt road to the parking area nearest Shelving Rock Mt. We noticed the "no parking on road" signs all along the way, and numerous dedicated lots showing just how much use this area must get in the height of the season. We saw no cars, and no signs of people on this day. The temp was barely int he twenties as we parked the car and geared up. Tonight and the last night were fore-casted to be the coldest of the nights, with friday being unseasonably warm and rainy. As such, we had to pack for two seasons; winter and rain. That and 5 days of food made for an unusually heavier pack. The hike began along an old roadway. We noted the exquisite stonework used to shore up the edge. These old roads were much "nicer" than the old logging, or camp roads I am used to seeing. The trail, err road, wound its way up the mountain side. Soon we stopped to shed our heavy layer. A half mile shy of the summit was our trail junction, so we dropped our heavy packs and put back on our heavy layers. Towards the top, there was an area which was obviously a site of an old home, or cabin. After about 1.5 miles and 700', we reached the summit of Shelving Rock Mt. We had a nice view of Lake George looking to the South. We took a few photos and headed back down to the the junction with our awaiting packs. We paused for a snack before continuing on. From here we would be generally going downhill. Quite steeply in places. In total losing about 600' in elevation in less than 3/4 mile to the shore of Lake George. We continued south to the edge of private land just to see the shoreline. This took us about a half mile out of our way which we would then turn around and continue for another half mile to our camping area. Our chosen site had quite a bit of cut wood apparently from off season blowdown maintenance. We collected our own from a fair distance knowing that this wood is typically for the in -season users. It was still cold, and as the sun began to set, it was getting colder. While setting up his tent, a pole snapped back and hit Dan in the eye. A few highly stressful moments as we gauged whether to abort the trip to get him some emergency help. Fortunately the pole had hit just above the eye and his eye was not damaged. We would monitor though, just to be sure. A great dinner of roast venison with rice/beans. As predicted it got quite cold over night. Windy too. I woke up often due to the flapping of my tarp. Even with the irregular awakenings, I slept plenty. I was out of my hammock before Dan and re-started the fire. With the water almost ready Dan emerged and finished making the coffee. We ate and packed up, Today would be the toughest as we had our almost full packs and the big climb. We hiked about 2 miles to Black Mt Point all the while exploring the shoreline of the lake. The signpost here gave the mileage to Black Mt Summit as 2.75 miles with 2200' of elevation. It was still cold out, but this climb got the blood pumping and warmed us up. At the junction, 1.8 miles up and 1500' complete we had lunch to fuel us before the next 750' over the next mile. We left our packs here for the final spur trail to the summit and fire tower. As we neared the summit, a view vistas allowed us to see over Lake George and the Tongue Mtn Range. From the top of Black Mtn, we could see not only Lake George, but the other mountains in this range as well as across Lake Champlain and the Green Mtns of Vermont. A mile back to our packs and then a long quarter to our camp at Black Mountain Ponds. While getting camp set up, a two-man group stopped by. They were day hiking the Black Mtn loop. (Fred and ???) As we got our fire going, they headed out. Ground venison stroganoff for dinner. Hearty and filling to refuel after today's workout of only 6 miles, but over 2200' of elevation. Day 3 we expected rain which came over night. Our main wood pile had glaze ice on it, but we had stashed enough under the lean-to to get a breakfast fire going. Today would be a relatively short day with a lean-to midway for a dry lunch break. As we began to pack up, I looked at my watch and noticed it was a quarter to ten. We knew we slept in, but this was later than we thought. No worries since we had a short day. We donned our rain gear and hiked down to the main trail which connects to the Pike Brook trailhead. From here we headed to Lapland Pond. We followed the shoreline for a bit until we met the trail to the lean-to. Passed bv a fishermans campsite along the way. The lean-to was messy, and the roof leaked. It was also quite low. I hit my head twice on the overhang. At the lean-to was the typical junk including some canned food. We opened a can of campbells soup and heated it up on the stove. Except for the trash, the lean-to was situated at a picturesque spot on the lake. After our break we retraced our steps back to the main trail. Dan spent a little more time looking for boats without any luck. We continued on for another mile to Millman Pond and its lean-to. This one was very nice, and not just relative to the mess at Lapland. The caretakers, ironically are Russ and Dan. According to the log book they check in quite often. The other visitors commented on the outhouse as "the nicest they have ever seen". Before we left we knew we had to at least open the door to the privy. Inside it was painted red and white. there was a nice wooden box for the tp, and the walls were decorated with watercolor paintings encased in plastic. It certainly was the "nicest outhouse" I have even seen too. It was getting later in the afternoon and we had a short two miles to go to our camp for the night at Greenland Pond. we would be arriving with a waning daylight and needed to collect wood. This reminded us both of our winter trip in the Haderondah, specifically arriving at East Pond. We gathered the scraps nearby, and eventually found some downed hardwood quite a distance away. Dan cut it up and we carried it back to the lean-to as the woods darkened. We had to get water using headlamps. even with the wet wood we got a good fire going and stashed some extra birchbark for the morning. we had bean and cheese burritos with salsa for dinner and went to bed. It was windy over the night. Not so much it kept us up but just enough to dry out much of the wood. Starting a fire int he morning was much easier especially with the dry charred logs from our evening fire. Another short day to camp, but we would first need to find a spot. We first explored Fishbrook Pond and its 2 lean-tos before continuing on to Bumps Pond. A very nice campsite was situated on the point, but with the winds it would not work on the this trip. We continued around the pond and found a designated site at the old homestead location. The remnant chimney was still there. Dan went to look for other potential spots while I collected firewood. We spent the early afternoon setting up camp and getting more wood. We still had some time and the bushwhack to Spectacle Ponds was on our itinerary so we loaded up day packs and headed down the trail to where we took a bearing. Our path to Spectacle was rough through a lot of small spruce thickets and beaver ponds to go around. It took a little longer than we expected to get there, but we still had enough time to explore its shoreline. At the southern end we opted to take a bearing to the Bumps Pond outlet and then follow it back to the trail. This was a much better route. As the trek progressed I could feel my legs running out of gas. The last quarter mile would be climbing around a small hill and then dropping down to the trail close to where we took our original bearing. We got back to camp before sunset. The fore was ready to go, so we got it lit. As the woods darkened, we noticed the temperature dropping rapidly and the stars emerging. We expected it would be a cold night. Some soup for dinner and then a walk to the pond's shore to look up to the sky before bed. Dan was up before first light. He gathered the dry kindling we stashed under my tarp and got the fire going. I went to get water. By the time the fire was going the woods began to brighten in the pre-dawn making our headlamps no longer necessary. We chatted and packed up. We had more miles to do today but it would be mostly downhill back to the car, this would be after we climbed Sleeping Beauty Mtn. The northern trails had a lot more snow and ice than we had been walking on the last 4 days. After climbing about 500' over about a mile, we reached a lookout and wondered how such a well marked area would not have a sign to the summit. We descended a bit and then the spur trail to the summit appeared. Sleeping Beauty overlooked Lake George and also had views to the east. we spent a little time taking photos and climbing the various rocky knobs. It was still a bit cold out, but we basked in the warmth of the morning sun. We had the summit to ourselves. We headed down the icy trail and over the next couple miles passed quite a few groups headed up. From dacy Clearing we had a number of options to get back to the car. We made decisions at each intersection which trail to take. It was obvious these trails get very little use compared to the main trails. About a mile before the car, we stopped at a pretty waterfall for lunch. Sitting for even the short lunch break allowed us to realize it was still rather cold. We arrived back to the car and noted the lot had quite a few more vehicles. It was apparent this area is heavily used. We were fortunate to have found the solitude and steal another pre-winter backpacking trip at the end of December. View the full article
  6. For quite some time Eric (RevYJ) and I have done thanksgiving in the woods. It started years ago as a solo adventure, then Ian joined in and then Eric. Since then, Eric has been a stable partner. Others have come and gone. This year, Kalie and her brother would be joining us. This would be the second year in a row for Kalie. Eric commented that no one ever joins us for a second trip! As the date got closer, Eric and I traded emails as to logistics. The menu etc... has been almost standardized the last few years. We must have miss communicated a little as Eric was waiting at 6am for me, and I arrived at 7am. If this was out only issue for the trip, we can call it a win. With the car loaded, we dropped off little megan at Al's place to watch for the weekend. The temp was in the 20's but would be dropping as we traveled North. The final mile to the trailhead was on a seasonal road, and since there had been considerable snow we drove slowly staying (mostly) in the tracks left by earlier vehicles. The temp was 12 deg F. The posted sign had Wolf Lake at 3.0 miles. Our map had it as 3.9. The trail had a little snow, enough for the pulk but not enough for snowshoes. We were on the trail before noon.It was well marked, almost to the point of ridiculous. The trail was gradually uphill skirting rock formations and small streams. The first obstacle was a flooded beaver section. As usual the problem is also the solution. With the snow it was difficult to see where to step. Eric led the way, took it slow. Once across it was much quicker for me to follow with the pulk. At the other side we wondered if the upstream beaver dam might be better for the return trip. Soon after the beaver dam, and old woods road came in from the left and the trail turned onto it. A few minutes later Eric paused as there were no markers. We had been chatting and not paying attention to the trail. We doubled back about 50 yards to find where the trail spun off the old woods road. Back on the well marked path we continued on. The forest changed quite a bit, a few small climbs but mostly rolling. At one point we are atop a small ridge covered with white pine and oaks. The winds swept across it reminding us of the cold temps. A few blowdowns along the way cause me to detour with the pulk while Eric could just step over. Some private land marking appeared to the left giving us a clear indication of our location on the map. Only a short way to go to the lake, and then a quick jog around the shoreline to the lean-to. A little over 2 hours for us to break trail. We dropped our packs and noted the solid lake. Glad we brought the shovel as it took a while to cut through the 2+ inches of ice to get water. We made camp, gathered some firewood and relaxed in the cold. Our standard fare for thursday was hot dogs and chili. I only made half of the chili as eric was only using it as dog toppings. Gathered more wood. when the sun set, we could feel the temp dropping quickly. It was expected to get close to zero over night. The moon rise over the lake was stunning; the clear sky a pre-cursor to the coming cold. (When we returned to civilization we would find out it bottomed out at -9°F .) I was warm with my down quilts, but I never sleep well in lean-tos. I would get a better nights sleep Fri night. Up as the sky turned pink before the rising sun, I restarted the fire and opened the hole in the ice. I heard the lake making ice all night, the hole had an inch of new ice to cut through. As the sun rose, it was directly across the lake. I needed to put on sunglasses due to the brightness and glare as it reflected off the ice. I made some coffee while Eric slept in and moved my gear to my hammock setup for Fri night. Kalie and her brother Chad would be here around 2 pm, so we had plenty of time to take a day hike to Moon Lake. It was a quick jaunt to the lake and a trail to the lean-to was along some high rock ledges along the shore. Quite pretty. We took a short break at the lean-to, and wrote in the shelter log. Either few people write in the log books, or this area gets very little use. I hope to come back in nicer weather and maybe do some fishing at this trio of lakes. Back at Wolf Lake we gathered up more firewood in preparation for Kalie and Chad. Across a small "bay" we could see where the trail would come out onto the point. Eric and I kept glancing over knowing we would see our companions a quarter mile before they would arrive. It wasn't long before Eric spotted some movement and our friends made the turn off the point. Their hike in was a solid twenty minutes shorter than ours. With them all set up, our second thanksgiving would begin. Turkey, stuffing, gravy, vegetables from the cans of green beans and carrots someone had left in the lean-to. With key lime pie for dessert. We ate like champs. stoked the fire and relaxed. The winds were picking up, as the temp rose. Odd combination but expected from the forecast. Kalie gave me an update on the Saints game from Thursday. We had a good laugh pretending to be the Wolf Lake Curling team. I shoved the ice wafer from cutting the ice hole, as eric brushed the ice with a broom. Hopefully a photo will surface. I was the first to call it quits and went to my hammock. I fell asleep quickly. It was much warmer this night, even with the winds. I was not the first one up; Chad was already getting the fire ready to be re-lit. A typical lazy morning of breakfast and packing up. Kalie was the last to emerge from her tent. It would rain today, but not until the later afternoon so we had plenty of time. The hike out was much quicker than coming in. The beaver dam was certainly mushier. The temp was closer to the 40s, a good 30 degrees warmer than on Thursday. Back at the car, we changed out of our hiking clothes and headed to Cook's family diner. Another successful Thanksgiving adventure in the books. View the full article
  7. This weekend a number of lean2rescue projects were happening concurrently. As I intended to spend the night in the woods, I chose an on-site project. We would be prepping the site for the Beaver Point lean-to at Lake Colden and if time, removing the old roof from the lean-to. There was significant discussion as to the ingress to Lake Colden. Eventually we would plan to hike in from Upper Works. On Friday afternoon, I recieved a call from Doug that the crew has opted to come in from the loj, and I could still meet them at the sute. This made it easier as I was not sure if I could make the rendezvous at 8am. I would be leaving Roc at 3am as it was. The firrecast called for more snow and freezing temps. I changed my gear load for a winter trip. Three am arrived and I headed out. I stopped for coffee twice and filled the tank with gas in Long Lake. I was at Upper Works just after 8am, the plow had just come through. I changed into my hiking gear and loaded my pack. I wasn't sure where I would spend the night, or the next but I figured I would stop by the car for my 2nd days food. I signed in at the register noting only 2 people were before me heading to a nearby location. It was 8:30, so not too far behind schedule. There were a couple inches of powdery snow on the ground. The first couple miles if trail went quickly, even though it was generally gaining elevation. The snow of the trees and deadened the air, so it was very quiet walking. Every once in a while a big wind gust would kick up, blowing snow from the trees on to me. With the snow on the ground, it obscured the muddy spots. The footprints ahead of me provided fair warning for the worst spots. The trail soon began to gain elevation more significantly. I shed a few layers when I stopped for a snack. The last mile or so to flowed lands did not appear to gain elevation on the map, but it certainly did on the ground. While the first 2 miles went relatively quick, these last few were slow. I took a break at the Calamity lean-to which was occupied by the two ahead of me. I had jyst over a mile left to my destination. This last leg was not easy. Besides being uphill, the terrain was difficult, especially with the powedery snow. I arrived to Beaver Point and dropped my pack. I listened for voices of the crew assuming they were already there. Hearing none, I set up my sleeping area and then went to look (and listen) for them. Figuring I would eventually find their footprints, I continued on the trail. As I rounded the bend I saw flagging tape. I wondered if this was to mark the location for tbe new site. No footprints, no sounds just a quiet brumal day at Lake Colden. The original plan to start at Upper Works was due to high water levels at Avalanche Lake, making it impassable. Since I was here before the main crew I thought maybe the lake level was still to high for the northern approach. I headed back to my camp to wait and have some lunch. Being in the EHPZ meant no campfire. This was a bummer for a number of reasons, the least of which was I had nothing to do while I waited... usually collecting and prepping firewood takes up a lot of time. The wind picked up, blowing snow into the lean-to. I was not sure if it was from the trees or new snow. I erected a small tarp to block both from getting on my gear. I added an extra layer and sat down behind my wind/snow break. I was tired, but made sure I did not fall asleep as I knew it was going to be a long night. A few hikers passed by as they bagged some peaks and returned.By the time 4pm rolled around, I was certain the crew did not make it. I had a cold dinner, and bundled up waiting for the sun to set. Lake Colden was just beginning to freeze up, and with the temperature dropping would certainly be making more ice over the next hours. I was hoping the skies would clear so I would have a chance at the Taurid meteors known for higher than usual fireball activity. As dakness descended, the clouds remained. Unlikely meteor viweing, but it would not get as cold. I lit a tea candle and placed it into my cookpot as a "mini-campfire". I was asleep before the candle burned out. The next morning was not as cold as expected, but still below freezing. The lake had considerably more ice. I was packed up and on the trail a little after 7am. I paused at one of the other lean-tos on my way back to see the view (not as nice as from Beaver Point) and a group of three were there packing up. They had also come in from Upper Works. I guessed they might have been the voices I heard pass by the previous afternoon. I was given a hug by one of them, he had everybody deserves a hug every day. They were from different areas; Saratoga, Rochester, ... The hike out was quick as it was generally downhill. The slowest portion was navigating the big rocks as the snow made them quite slippery, so going around them was time consuming. I passed on other hiker on his way in. I was surprised how few cars were in the lot being a long weekend. I suppose folks were dissuaded by tbe weather. Usually this area, and Lake Colden in particular xan be quite busy. I pretty much had it all to myself. And it was pretty. Needing a campfire, I pondered the indea of stopping at a lean-to on the finger lakes trail or just camping in my own woods. The latter won out. Emily was glad as she hadn't been feeling well. View the full article
  8. A solo trip into the West Canadas to do some trail maintenance and check on the lean-to. A year ago this weekend Justin and I had paddled to the Carry lean-to and then hiked to the Colvin Brook Lean-to to clear a downed tree that fell by the fire-pit. As I pulled in tot he parking area, the sky opened up and it poured for short while. I put on rain gear and pack cover and headed down trail. I hiked in to the Carry lean-to. Set up my sleeping gear and headed to Colvin Brook. I cleared trail along the way with hand pruners and small saw. There was not much to be done as I had been through the area last June. I crossed the new bridge over the Lamphere Brook. This was the one I had made a temporary bridge for the 2018 NPT hikers. To get to the Colvin Brook lean-to, I had to cross the Cedar River. I donned water shoes and hiked up my pants. The water was cold. Since our last visit there have been a total of two visitors, both back in July.The lean-to is in need of some care. The other volunteer group to which i belong, lean2rescue is planning on engaging in the west canadas over the next few years. Hopefully we will get to this great spot sooner than later. I signed in to the register and re-crossed the river. Had some lunch and headed back to camp. I gathered some firewood from a decent distance away. I explored a bit of the area and then made dinner. I knew the sun would set early which was ok as I had to get up before the sun to make it to Long Lake in time for the NPT Chapter meeting. The winds raged in the early morning before the sun rose. I slept rather well mostly in the early part of the night. I made a quick fire and had some cocoa and breakfast. As I was eating I noticed some ash from the fire land on my wool shirt. I then noticed it melted and more was blowing around. The end of fall and the emergence of winter was here. I packed up and hiked back to my car. I noted in was just under freezing back at the car at 9amView the full article
  9. It had a few months since Dan and I had hit the trail together. We each had gone our own way on separate adventures over the summer. It would be great to sit around the campfire and tell our stories. While Justin was headed to Metcalf for the weekend, we had three days to spend, so we opted for the W. Canada Lakes wilderness to do some fishing and leaf-peeping. I picked up Dan early Saturday morning and we headed into the woods at the Pillsbury Mtn trailhead. The lot was already filling up, mostly with those hiking to the firetower according to the register. The air was chilly and we expected some rain over the weekend. We stopped at the Pillsbury Lake lean-to for lunch. It was surprisingly clean. For dessert I had a brownie and traded my second one to Dan for an after dinner beer later that night. We turned off the marked trail and headed to Whitney Lake. We arrived to the main campsite which was already occupied. A tent was set-up as well as a large tarp with a windblock. The occupants were not around; we assumed they were off day hiking or fishing. Instead of staying at the campsite at the old shelter location, we headed to the one on the other side of the lake which Justin and I had stayed at the year prior. The site was in good condition. There were signs it had been used since we had last visited. With camp set up, we went fishing. No hits and no rises for a while. Then Dan spotted a rise in the water. I cast short of it and hit immediately. Not a big fish, but a nice 9.5inch brookie. while I was playing him, Dan a much larger specimen; a 14 incher. We fished that spot a little longer and Dan hauled in a whopper at 15.5 inches. That would be the end of our fishing. Back at camp, we made dinner and talked. Dan commented how he would probably be asleep soon after dark. I, of course, would also. True to our word we hit the sack early. The rains came over night and into the next morning. Neither of us were in any kind of hurry to get up. Eventually I ventured out of my hammock and restarted the fire. We had set up a large tarp as a communal space in anticipation of the rain. This proved to be worth the effort. It rained a little on/off for the morning. We had fish tacos for breakfast while we discussed our options for the day. According to the lists, Puddle Hole nearby should have trout. So we set off to bushwhack through the wetness to check it out. We split up at the pond to search for a boat. Dan took the north side, and I the south. We met at the far side after 'whacking around the dense shoreline. Neither of us found a boat. The pond was shallow and the shoreline was not even conducive for shore fishing. We took a bearing back to the main trail and then headed back to Whitney. From there we headed to Sampson to also search for a boat. The lean-to at Sampson is in an unfortunate location perched at a run-off stream. For some reason people also seem to leave a lot of trash here too. A group of beginner backpackers from canada were just packing up after their lunch break. Two ladies were waiting nearby to secure the spot for the night. We told them we were only having a late lunch and would be moving on. We again had no luck finding a boat so we headed back to Whitney and fished our way back to camp with no luck. As the sun was getting low it really illuminated the changing colors. We again went to bed early. The morning again had rain and fog. We checked out the un-named pond onthe other side of camp before we left. No fish were seen or caught.All packed up, we headed back. As we passed through the occupied site from Saturday morning, the occupants were there and we chatted for a bit. Jim, wearing a "Whitney Lake Woods Rat" ball-cap said he had been coming here for 30 years. He told us some history, and we all swapped stories and fish-tales. Jim and JB offered us a beer, so we stayed a while longer and chatted some more. After a second one, we packed up the empties and headed back to the Pillsbury Lean-to for a late lunch and then to our awaiting car. We had just that one quick flurry of fishing. Quite a bit of rain and some gorgeous colors of the changing leaves. It was good to be back out on the trail with Dan. Next time we will hit a different part of this Wilderness. We are thinking of heading back to the Quetico next summer. A lot there left to explore. meaning Questico and the West Canadas. View the full article
  10. Justin and I had been trying to figure out when to go back to the W. Branch Sacandaga River for a few years now. This seemed like the perfect weekend. It was all set and my college roommate was joining us. A few days prior I mentioned to Justin the possibility of the Northern Lights (due to a recent coronal discharge). Immediately the plans changed to find a location with a northern view. We settled on the Boreas Ponds with the high peaks backdrop to the north. I picked up Jeff early in the morning and we made the long drive to the Vanderwhacker Forest and drove along the gravel road to the trailhead. A few cars, including Justin's, were already there. Jeff and I hiked along the rest of the road past the gate the few miles to the dam. Along the way a truck passed us. As we approached the dam we could see a few people gathering having a chat. we stopped to take in the view and down the trail came Bill. He and Justin had come in earlier with their canoes and said they would meet us at the dam. The timing was perfect. I had a rough idea of the campsite location, it shouldn't have been too difficult to find although the trail was not not visible from the main trail/road. So it was great Bill and Justin met us at the dam. We all hiked the remaining way to camp every once in a while on the remnants of an old wagon road in the woods. we made camp, explored a bit, took a short paddle. While the northern lights did not appear, the sunset did not disappoint. When we returned home, many people from around the Adirondacks has posted photos of the sunset. The next day, Jeff and I hiked out first by bushwhacking back to the main trail and then past the dam. While this was not an extreme adventure, it was still great to hang out with friends in the woods. The Boreas Ponds are quite pretty. I may return to try some fishing at some point, but I do not think this will be a recurring destination on my list.View the full article
  11. Another scouting mission for the NPT-west. This would be to check out an alternative to what I originally envisioned for a small section as well as visit a spot I haven't been to in a while (and never from this direction). I set my sights on Sand Lake via the unmarked path from the west. To add mileage and check out some other trails I started near the Oswegatchie Educational Center on Long Pond Rd at the far western edge of Watsons East Triangle WF. The parking lot was empty and I signed in at the register noting many from the Ed center use this trailhead to go to Trout Falls and Jakes Pond. A few minutes into my hike along the easement land, a guy (Brandon) and his son (Logan) were fixing a pin on their ATV so I paused and we chatted a bit. They were bringing in a tree stand for the hunting club. They also mentioned their game cameras have picked up quite a bit of bear activity between the footbridges. Also a decent buck. They allowed me to ahead of them and I continued along the recently logged area. I did notice some bear scat along the way. Soon I was on state land, and crossed the west branch Oswegatchie River, the trail became more closed in, although it was obvious atvs still came through. The forest here was quite pretty. It changed quite a bit both the flora and geology as I passed through. The trail had a few small rises to open rock areas. The air was still a bit chilly, but the sun was warming up the rocks. After about 45 minutes I came to the junction of Keck Trail and Jakes Pond Trail. The map shows a campsite here, but I didn't see anything. It is possible there was a campfire circle hidden among the ferns but without a water source this would be solely a winter camp. Taking the left fork to the Keck trail, it was more rugged and was even more winding than it showed on the map. The map showed 3 campsites along the next few miles, but were dry and hidden as well. There were a lot of different fungus growing near and on the trail. Even the air was filled with the scent of fungal decomposition. I passed another open rock area which was perched above a marshy area which had been dammed up by the beavers a long time ago. The overgrown remnant dam provided a was across the deep trickle of muck. The path was not obvious at first. Back in the woods a few muddy sections and atv tracks as well as a few bear prints. As i descended a small rise I came to another marshy section. This was criss-crossed with small rivulets hidden in the tall grass. The grasses themselves would sink underwater when stepped upon. There was no discernible path, no markers to be seen. I spent about half an hour trying to figure out where the trail went. Had I seen a marker or a trail on the other side I would have figured out a way to it. Instead I opted for plan B of my adventure. I would scout from the other side a different time. I headed back towards the Jakes Pond junction. I spent a extra time looking for some of the other campsites, but could not find them. I did come across a moose shed in a small clearing. A few minutes later I heard the sound of a motor. I paused on the trail and watched an atv slowly make his way around the bend in the trail and up towards me. I stepped aside as the red honda with 5 gallon buckets strapped all over it passed me by. I was getting low on water by the time I reached the junction. But I knew I would pass over a bridge soon. Taking the right fork towards Jakes Pond this time I headed to the river which would be the boundary between Watsons East and the Pepperbox Wilderness. I crossed the bridge and filled up my water bottle with the tannin stained water. This trail was obviously and old woods road at one time. I noticed an increasing amount of bear scat. Some newer, but mostly old. At one point I thought to myself there is poop every ten feet. I came over small rise and entered a newer growth forest with a lot of cherry trees. Some motion caught my eye and I stopped. I looked towards a stand of trees and looking back was a bear. She made a quick grunt and then two cubs scurried up the trees. I had happened to have my camera out, so was able to safely snap a few shots before i slowly backed up. As I gave momma more room, she moved into position between me and the cubs. I backed up further and waited. She backed up to her previous position. I took a wide berth around as we watched each other. My arc intersected with the trail well past the bears' foraging area. A couple hundred yards later I came across a beaver flooded section, but a well worn herd path directed me to the dam. I came to another one of these sections a little later on about a half mile from Jake's Pond where the beaver dam was just above a small cascade into a frothy pool. The old woods road headed uphill slightly to eventually reach what appeared to be a small esker between Jakes Pond and a water filled swamp. The esker made scanning the shoreline on both sides easy. Jakes has a very interesting shape. When I reached the southernmost point, I headed back and then off trail to the northern parts of the pond. No campsite was shown on the map, but sometimes one can be found. No luck and the shoreline was mucky. I took a break under a large white pine before heading back. Back at my car at 4:30 after about thirteen miles of hiking, I needed to drive up the road a few miles to a different trailhead to get to camp. I parked near the bridge over the W. Branch Oswegatchie and took the dirt road near the private land. At the stat land sign, I headed up to the shore of Mud Lake looking for the campsite which showed on the map. There were two, so I was confident I would find at least one of them in the open pine and hemlock woods, if not at least I would have water. I found a little used site just around dinner time so I made camp. Even with private lands close by, I seemed to have the entire area to myself except for the loons. It was a chilly night as expected. The morning glow over the lake was too good to pass up. View the full article
  12. I have hiked the Northville-Placid Trail (NPT) a few times now. Most recently with my friend Andy in July. while planning for our adventure, I reminded myself of an idea I had been brewing for a few years. The NPT-west. The NPT was the first project of the Adirondack Mountain Club in 1922, and completed in 1924. there have been some changes to it, reroutes and additional sections. But for the most part it is the same 140 mile "straight" trail between Northville and Lake Placid. Being in western, NY I have an affinity for the western regions of the Adirondacks and envisioned a western arc trail also connecting Northville to Lake Placid. In conjunction with the current NPT, this would create a giant loop (or backwards D). The conceptual trail I have put together is approx 260 miles and uses existing trail corridors. It actually has less road walking than the original NPT in 1924. Together with the current NPT, this would be approx 400 miles, from start to finish (start). There is much of it I have not actually walked, so this trip would be my official start of the NPT-west. I have 5 days in which to fill with miles. What a better way than to start at the beginning, the end of the NPT on Averyville Rd. I coordinated a ride and left my car at the Burntbridge TH in Cranberry Lake. I would hike the first 60 miles of the NPT-west to where it intersected with the CL-50 and then another 15 miles to get to my car. At 11am, Jack from Broadwing Adventures waved goodbye as I began my trek up Averyville Rd away from the NPT proper. I turned down Old Military Rd and then turned again at the railroad. The next few days I would be walking the unused railroad line. Currently the state is trying to rip up the rails and turn the right of way into a multi-use travel corridor; however it is tied up in the courts. The tracks were overgrown with weeds, which at times made walking through them uncomfortable. Often there was a "shoulder" of some sort, whether it was a foot path or ATV tracks which was a more level surface. A lot of the time was spent walking the tracks themselves. If the ground was level with the ties, it wasn't bad. When it wasn't the spacing was not a typical stride so steps were short and quick. Eventually I got used to it. I never did get used to the 6ft tall mullein weeds which showered their seeds when brushed against. About halfway through my first day, the sky opened up and it poured. It had been overcast and rain was expected, but this front came in and dumped on me before I had a chance to get my rain jacket on (I had prepared my pack with its rain cover). I was drenched walking through the town of Saranac Lake. This all happened just as I had re-found the tracks. There was some bridge construction near the community college and the tracks were all fenced off, so I had to figure out a way around it. Only four hours in and I was dealing with all this already? I supposed it could only get better. The rain subsided soon enough and I continued on past Lake Colby which was my intended camping area to McCauley Pond. There is a small section of state land on McCauley. I found an old campsite, hung my hammock and dried myself out. 14 miles for the day including the drive up. I could hear the camp across the lake as I fell asleep in my hammock before it was even fully dark. I had sent my itinerary to my buddy Lance whom I have hiked with a few times. There was a chance he would join me for part of this adventure. I also sent him a link to track my progress on google maps as long as I uploaded my position (if a signal was available). In town I could do this every few hours, but it burned up the battery quite fast. My second day of travel would be traversing the St. Regis Canoe Area. A few years ago we had to carry our canoe over these same tracks to get from one pond to another. This time, I would be cutting through the ponds on the tracks. This is a pretty area as the tracks passed by numerous ponds, marshes and lakes. It is also a wilderness area with no cell reception. My last upload for the day would be 10am, after only 6 miles. By 3pm, I had traveled an additional 9 miles to the far end of Rollins Pond. A snowmobile access path led to the water and there were plenty of trees on which to hang my hammock. I spent a little time exploring the shoreline and then headed back to where the tracks were in view. Made dinner and took a woods shower to get rid of the sweat and dust. A sound startled me and I turned around to see someone walking the tracks. He had on a backpack, I called out "Lance?". "Russ?" came the reply. I was not expecting to him until the next day at the earliest. We started to talk and then I said, "go set up your hammock, we have plenty of time to chat". A long quiet evening turned into a welcome chat by the campfire. Unlike the previous night, we stayed up well past dark. Like usual I was up early, at least I waited until just before day break so I could still watch the sunrise. Lance had been dropped off in Tupper Lake, about 6 miles down the tracks. There is a diner right at the crossing, so we had an easy breakfast and got our giddy-up on to the Lumberjack for a late breakfast. Brenna, our waitress lent me her phone charger so i could get a few extra percents to my battery while we ate. Thank you Brenna! All fueled up, we headed down the tracks. the first mile was really nice, including crossing a significant bridge. After that, it was monotonous. Long stretches of nothing and the walking wasn't easy. Also water was no where to be found. After 9 miles of this (15 for the day) we made it to Mt Arab Rd where Lance's car awaited. I was just about out of water, but the map showed a stream nearby. Lance went to get his car, while I poked around looking for the little stream. Obscured by brush, it was there and flowing nicely. I flagged down Lance as he came by and told him I found the stream and was going to find a place to camp nearby on easement land. After a long break and a full bottle of water, I was restless (it was only 4pm) so I pressed on. The next 7 miles were much easier going. I passed by a few lakes, and some marshes. The tracks made a slight climb as well. Not noticeable while walking, but you could see it if you turned around. A few places the resident beavers had flooded the nearby streams and the water had made its way to the tracks. I did some balancing on the rails a few times to stay out of the wet. A neat thing about the RR is just like highways, they have mile markers so one can easily keep track of pace and location. Before too long Horseshoe Lake was in view and this would be where I would make my third camp. It was after 7pm, so I took a quick bath, ate a cold dinner of trail mix and fig newtons, and went to bed. 22.5 miles, not bad. I slept great and was up before first light. I packed up and went to the boat launch to watch the fog lift from the lake as the sun rose. I made coffee and breakfast, chatted with a kid who was paddling his kayak and taking pictures. With the RR track portion of my trek behind me, I headed up the dirt rd. A snowmobile trail in winter #36/7A. The map showed quite a few intersections through this area, so I kept my eyes peeled and followed the map closely so as to not make a wrong turn. At one intersection with a gated rd, a couple of ladies were looking for a specific trail they had seen years before. I had never heard of it, but after some discussion, gave them some other information as to where it could possibly be located. For my troubles, they offered me food, water, bug dope... anything. I said jokingly, "I could use a beer". They replied, we got that too. So with my apologies to the Piano Man, it was 9 o'clock on a Saturday and I was hiking with a beer... The best part of it was it was ice-cold. One forgets how refreshing a cold drink can be after a just a few days. The downside was I had to carry an empty beer car for next 20+ miles. A happy price to pay. The dirt rd soon gave way to a foot trail just after a gate and a bridge. A campsite (#11) was at the end of this road. I was now walking in the woods for the first time in 4 days. of course the trail headed up hill as pretty much all Adirondack trails do; both ways. The trail was an old woods rd so it was easy going. A few miles later I was at the intersection with the CL-50. This would be the end of my first section of the NPT-west, but I still had another 15 miles to get to my car. I passed a few hikers doing the Cl-50, took a break at the dog pond loop junction and headed up that trail away from Cranberry. I headed towards Burntbridge Pond. I had been here once before, but never hiked the this connector trail. This 4.5 mile connector (3.9 on the map) had always intrigued me. It twisted and turned, went up and down as you earned each mile. It passed by some prominent boulders, likely were used as navigation aides in the past. I noticed one tree which had scars from axe blazes on both sides. I arrived at camp at 4 with plenty of time to relax, take a woods shower, and read the shelter log. Soon after the sun set, I watched the moon rise. It was large and bright orange. The photos would look like a rising/setting sun. Soon it was dark, except for the significant moonlight. I do not remember falling asleep. It was dark when I arose. I had my coffee by headlamp. I waited for the sun to rise before departing. Only 6 miles to my car. Moments after I arrived at 9am, it began to rain. Perfect timing. 75 miles in 94 hours. Time for some well deserved corned beef hash and eggs at the Stone Manor diner in Cranberry Lake. View the full article
  13. As the summer began, I ventured into the West Canada Lakes for a few days to do trail maintainance on my section of the Northville-Placid Trail. Originally this was scheduled as a lean-to recon trip with George to assess the conditions of the lean-tos for lean2rescue repair efforts but the weather forecast was not looking good. After speaking with George, he opted to stay home. So I set off solo from Wakely with a quick stop at the Carry lean2, and then spent a good portion of the remaining morning hours constructing a temporary bridge over halfway creek on the NPT out of materials from the collapsed bridge. The new materials had beendelivered, but construction will be in thefall. A little rain fell as I cobbled together the temporary footbridge. I cleared the blowdown which could be cut with a hand saw along the Lamphere Ridge. I then spent the next few days relaxing in the Cedar Lakes. The woods were wet with the on again off again rain, so I did not feel like exploring off-trail. I collected wood and left stashes at the lean-tos for the hikers who would becoming thru, as the kick-off for the NPT hiking seasin has just begun. A day ofvolunteer trail work and three days of Cedar Lakes relaxing. The following weekend, Jeff and I hiked into Brooktrout Lake in the ungodly heat. We expected to spend 3 days, but it was so hot and humid we could barely sleep even in hammocks. We left the 2nd day, pausing for a long while at a spring fed cascade with moss covered rocks to cool ourselves down. The last week of July I joined my friend Andy on his SOBO thru-hike of the NPT. Andy struggled with lack of appetite the first 3 days, so we took an extra day to relax and recharge at Catlin Bay. I caught a huge largemouth bass. After that it was just walking for another 8 days. We had rain for some days, including a torrential downpour right after we made camp. Passed by 37 NOBO hikers on our way to finish the 138 mile trail. The last 2 days were great hiking weather, overcast and in the 70s. As we completed the last few miles on the road walk into the town of N'ville a group of bikers gave us some nods of respect knowing what we had accomplished. At the arch, we recognized a pair of fellow hikers we had passed by days earlier. They had finished their NOBO journey that day and were eating celebratory ice-cream. This was #5 NPT completion for me. Although it was a first in some aspects as well. It was my first with a hiking partner the entire way. I am glad to have had the opportunity to join Andy on his journey. SOBO Rules! View the full article
  14. I have been doing this loop for quite a few years now since the first time with my friend Ian. I have hiked it clockwise, counter-clockwise, as a 3-day trip, as an strenuous over-nighter, as well as using it as part of a figure-8 loop covering 60 miles. This time would be the clockwise loop with the last day as a short 6 miler. Two of the folks from last year were with me, Ryan and Kalie. Also joining us was my friend Andy. We started a little after 9am, the parking lot for the Seward trailhead was already starting to fill up. We signed in at the register and noted everyone would be concentrated on the peaks, like usual. The black flies were starting to come out, I did not notice if the were the biters as they more or less stayed away from my permethrin treated clothes. As we hiked they were non-existent but would begin to swarm if we stopped for too long. We passed by a few hikers, some of whom were wearing bugnets. We took a left at the first junction to follow the footpath along the boundary of the Ampersand property. We would pass by Blueberry and Ward Brook lean-tos. Both of which had hikers prepping for their conquest of the Sewards and/or Seymour Mtn. The couple at Ward Brook had day hiked from Duck Hole to climb Seymour, they had come in via Bradley pond. Quite a journey. We took our first long break at Camp Four, which we had to ourselves. A recon of the thunderbox showed it to be unusable as a tree had fallen on it. We ate a late lunch and discussed the next few miles. A steady uphill followed by a downhill to the Cold River. We were 6 miles in on our 9ish mile day. The bugs seemed to have subsided, but the air felt like rain was coming. The uphill on the old truck trail seems to be less steep each time I do this loop. Soon we were heading down towards the beaver meadow. The first time I did this loop we had gone counter clockwise and the trail across the meadow was a small beaver dam which we had to pick our way across with mostly dry feet. Since then, it had been dry, with remnants of the dam the only evidence of that first wet crossing. This time, however would be different. Somewhere downstream, the busy little rodents had done a much better job, and the trail was considerably under water. Kalie started to pick her way along the right edge of the trail, and Ryan on the left. Soon Ryan was just walking knee deep in the water and out the other side. I accepted the inevitability of the situation and followed Ryan. Soon we were all on the other side with significant water in our shoes. We only had about a mile or so to camp, and we arrived in the afternoon to both lean-tos vacant. We chose the one closer to the water, and just relaxed for a while as we had plenty of time. George and Tammy had left the Calkins Brook lean-to book for me to deliver. I was already carrying 4 others (Ouluska, Seward, CR-3 & 4. They had written as the first entry into the Calkins book, "Russ, please bring me to the Calkins Brook lean-to". I literally laughed out loud upon reading it. With our wet socks hanging to dry, we focused on camp chores interspersed with just sitting around. Dinner was eventually made as well as a fire. A couple hiking the NPT southbound stopped over to say hello. They chose to stay at the other lean-to. I was tired. The sound of the river coupled with the fact I was up at 3am had me in bed not long after sunset. I barely remember even lying down in the hammock. I slept great. I was up rather early as usual even though I tried to sleep in. Ryan was in the lean-to, so I did little to avoid disturbing him. Once he was awake, I restarted the fire to make a quick pot of water for coffee. Not long after everyone else was up. The couple from across the way started down the trail. I half-expected to see them again at Cold River 3 or 4. We were on the trail a little ways after 8am with a big day ahead of us. At least we would be going downstream for a majority. The NPT between the junction and Rondeau's hermitage is difficult no matter which way you go. Constant up and downs with not easy footing. It is a long few miles with little to see along the way except for the big green tunnel. One earns these miles. The old logging camp is growing in a lot. I remember it being more field-like but the shrubs have given way to small saplings. The old implements can still be seen scattered around. We paid our respects to Noah John, the Mayor of Cold River and headed the last half mile to the Ouluska Lean-to. A fellow hiker was here taking a break. He was doing the same loop as us counter-clockwise. There was some gear in the lean-to which he said was not his. He also mentioned the couple who was ahead of us. I glanced at the gear in the lean-to and immediately recognized the sit pad as belonging to Tammy; this was George and Tammy. I was hoping to run into them. I signed in to the register, and said "hi" to G&T. A few moments later they came down the trail. We chatted for a bit. They had spent the last two nights here and were on their way back to camp. We also had quite a few miles left for the day. A few sprinkles began to fall, but it never coalesced into a rain. We stopped again for a longer break at the Seward Lean-to. We had a little scare as Ryan seemed to have misplaced his car keys. He was using them to open his bear canister. With a methodical search, they were found sitting on his pack. The trail between Seward and Big Eddy was a real mess in the years after Irene but has since been cleared. Some new blowdown now exists along the rest of the trail. I dropped of the register as CR-4, and we rested more at CR-3. I somewhat expected we would stay here for the night as it was later in the day than I anticipated. The group opted to press on even with the knowledge we would be climbing steadily to a higher elevation. The trail would be a lot easier though being the old horse trail, and a road in previous times. I had forgotten about the final downhill section immediately before we reached our destination, Calkins Brook. This was longer than I remembered. It was early evening when we arrived to the two lean-to's finding them both unoccupied. We were all tired as this was about a 14 mile day, and the tough miles in the beginning. I gathered a small amount of wood even though a decent amount was already there. I try to not use what others have collected without at least doing my part. Dinner was made. I strung up my hammock. Kalie went to hang her bear bag. It wasn't completely dark before I wandered off to my hammock. The three of them would crash in the lean-tos. It was a little colder this night. Partially due to the wind. Again I was up before the rest. I quietly made a fire and had some coffee before anyone else even stirred. We only had 6 miles to go, but it would be mostly uphill. Plans were already made for lunch at the Lumberjack diner. The hike out was quiet as everyone was tired. We were finishing the last few miles of a 30-mile trip and I was already contemplating the next iteration for next year. Gotta love Cold River Country. View the full article
  15. It had been a few years since Justin and I had visited this remote lake in the West Canada Lakes Wilderness. Justin had spent quite some time scouting out the best route. On one of his last trips he exited via a different route. This trip would make the loop in reverse. Our buddy Dan would join us. A remote Adirondack lake with brook trout is too much for him to resist. The weather had called for rain all day, so we were expecting the hike to be a slog pretty much the entire way until we arrived to camp. Last minute forecast appeared not so bad. The hike in would begin on an old road and then turn off on an unmarked path for a few miles. As we began, the trail was a slow general uphill. As a weekend warrior, these first quarter miles of uphill always seem to remind me I need to be in better shape. Even with a light pack, made 24 oz heavier with a few cans from Justin. It took a few minutes for us to find the unmarked path as it was not so obvious from the old road. I packed a collapsible fishing rod and reel, as did Justin. Dan carried in 3 poles and his canoe paddle. while it was nice to be backpacking in the Adirondacks without snow again, this particular path was not extraordinary; was still pretty enough though. It is always nice to see the trout lilys and trillium in these early days after the snow has gone. We stopped shortly at the private cabin along the path and spoke with the caretaker briefly. The path would end soon after and our bushwhack would begin. Once off trail, we would be pushing though witchopple and across the edges of marshes. The terrain was not too bad, but the witchopple certainly was a pain. We paused for a snack at the last vly before regaining a trail for the last bit to reach the west end of the lake. An established campsite was here along with a canoe in very good shape. A small jon boat should also be nearby according to Justin. Dan and I took the canoe and began our way down the length of the lake while Justin walked the shore line looking for the other boat. There was a bit of wind but the paddling was easy. We found our campsite, and I began collecting firewood while Dan paddled back for Justin. When Dan and Justin finally arrived, I had collected some hard wood from quite a distance away as the campsite is in mostly a spruce forest. Justin had walked a bit more than half the shoreline before the found the jon boat soon after Dan had intercepted him. Dan would fish, while Justin and I set up camp. It was early afternoon and we had arrived at camp with no rain for the day. I considered the trip a win at that point. I made a small fire for a cup of coffee. Dan arrived to set up camp and showed off a big brook trout he caught. Was 15 inches or so; a beauty. Dan set up camp and Justin took the jon boat out to fish. Soon after Dan and I were out fishing from the canoe. we paddled the eastern shore and up to the northern inlet. I landed the second brook trout about the same size as Dan's. We fished and paddled and explored the eastern side of the lake. By the time we headed back in we had 4 excellent fish for dinner. Right across form the campsite along the island Dan would hook and land the last fish, largest of all. Justin was on the island and took a quick video of the fight. This fish ended up at 17 inches, 1 lb 14.5 ounces. At camp we cooked up the 3 smallest trout which was almost too much for the 3 of us to eat. Darkness soon came and my eyes were getting heavy. The early wake-up, the hike, full stomach, and the quiet lullaby of the Adirondack woods was too much. I made my way to my hammock and was asleep in no time. I tried to sleep in, and thought I did as Dan was up before me. As we were getting coffee going Justin remarked from his tent it was only 6am. The woods were bright in the morning glow of the soon to be rising sun. Out by the water, the grasses showed the remaining frost. The chilly morning was sandwhiched between the hot coffee and the warmth of the campfire. I took it all in, while Dan set out for some early morning fishing. The air was still, and the water was glass. I caught a glimpse of the rising sun as it sparkled though the budding branches along the shore. I made some breakfast and packed up my gear in shifts. Justin did the same. Dan fished the morning with not a single hit. As he packed up his gear, I paddled west to return the canoe to where we found it. By now the winds had picked up a bit. Justin was a short ways behind me with the jon boat to give me a ride back to the campsite. With the canoe back where we found it, we looked around a bit more to see if another boat was around and also to look for the USGS benchmark shown on the map. With no luck, we both entered the jon boat and began our way east. We soon realized that our positioning would not work, so we adjusted and each used an oar as a paddle. It was slow going and the oars were heavy. The boat was also returned to its original location near the garbage pile left from the days when float planes used to be able to fly into the lake. From here we would walk the dense shore line back to camp. All packed up and ready, we left camp around 11:30 am. Mostly bushwhacking to start but not as thick and marshy as yesterday. Also this route would pass by and along some pretty streams and cascades. It was a quieter hike out. I suppose we were all a bit tired. It seemed to take longer, but looking at the time it was about the same. The last 3 miles would be along the old road bed. Easy walking but muddy, and I was tired. The sun was shining; I had remembered to put on sunscreen but probably not enough. Back at the cars we loaded up and congratulated each other on another fine trip. View the full article
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