Wednesday, October 11, 2017

One trip away from Quest Completion

Twenty-nine years ago I started my freshman year at Oswego State. On the second day, I met Jeff who would later become my room-mate and best friend. He was my best man at my wedding, and I officiated his. Lily, his daughter started at Oswego this fall. Strange how things seem to go full circle. For years I have been trying to convince Jeff to go on a backpacking or canoeing trip with me. It almost happened about ten years ago, but got cancelled at the last minute. A few years ago he did drive up to meet me at a car-camping spot and then last year joined me on a another. This past weekend Jeff would join me for a short backpacking trip to Jockeybush Lake in the Ferris Lake Wild Forest. It was only about a mile and a half to the campsite, but I need only two more wild forests to complete my ADK Quest of 50 night camping in 15 different Wilderness areas and 15 different Wild Forests while counting at most two trips in each.

I picked up Jeff at 8am. It was raining the entire drive. The forecast was favorable for the rest of the trip except for during the night. As we approached the pull-off parking area a large group was assembling. It was a boy scout troop getting some instructions from their scoutmaster. we gathered up our gear and headed down the trail. At the register, all the pages were full so I went back to my car to get an an extra page to put in it. All signed in, we headed west towards the lake, following more or less the outlet stream. There was a slight misty rain but not enough to warrant rain gear. Jeff mentioned how he liked to hike in this type of weather. The trail was well marked and quite level with the minor ups and downs. It took very little time to get to the lake. We crossed the outlet on the breached beaver dam to the first campsite. I had heard of others on the northern shore, so we proceeded to follow the trail, now an unmarked foot path, around the lake. We arrived to a large campsite about a half mile further and made it camp. We set up and took a short walk continuing on the path. It petered out at a swampy section which appears on the map to be the best way to approach iron Lake. This was an option, but since I didn't bring any gear for this short walk we would have to come back. Approaching our campsite, we could see visitors on the rocks by the lake. It was the scouts taking a hike around the lake and eventually to Iron. The more senior scout was in front followed by about a dozen younger scouts and lastly two adults in the rear. I asked the boy in front if he was the Patrol leader and we said he was and asked if we were fellow scouts. We chatted a bit and they were on their way. They came back through about 4 hours later, the younger scouts in front this time. By all appearances it seemed they enjoyed themselves. Jeff commented about how polite the boy leaders were. He and I didn't do much, just sat on the rock ledge overlooking the lake and talking. Reminiscing about college, life, etc...

We had some beer and dinner and soon the sun began to set. While the sun could not be seen at the horizon from our vantage point, the color int he sky was great. It started by giving the entire woods a pinkish hue in the air. Soon this spread to a brighter pink and orange in the sky over the lake. After the darkness came, the stars came out a little. This would be tempered by an almost full moon. Like usual, it doesn't take long to get tired int he woods after dark. We had collected quite a bit of firewood and would not even burn half of it. I had a little dry stashed under my tarp for the morning anticipating the rains overnight. I do not remember being in the hammock long before I was asleep. I awoke to the winds and rains, and then went back to sleep. The woods began to lighten, yet I procrastinated getting up. eventually my bladder won the battle. As the sun began to rise I took the only photo of this trip, that of the fog burning off the fire colored woods across the lake. I made the fire, cooked some breakfast and we packed up. We passed by the scouts who were camped right by the outlet and were back at our car around 10 am. Jeff seemed to enjoy himself and is already talking about getting some more gear. I have one more Wild Forest to complete my quest, and more importantly will begin others with Jeff coming along.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Back to Bear Lake

It has been a number of years since I have been to Bear Lake. Most of the trips had been to either prepare the location for the lean-to build, or to visit the lean-to traveling different routes. This time would be the short way in as an "Intro to Backpacking" for the local meetup group. In the days leading up to the trip all but two dropped out. This is typical, unfortunately. The two who would join me did not need any Intro lessons, although one did ask if I would show her how to hang a bear bag. She spent this past summer hiking the PCT and always just slept with her food.

When we arrived at the trailhead in McKeever, the few parking spots were already taken. I found a spot a few yards away to back into for easy exit. The trail in was just as I remembered. I chuckled to myself as certain memories came back to me. We passed by a family hiking the opposite direction. One car down, 2 to go. The lake was upon us quite soon. We still had to hike about a half mile to the lean-to side. At the lake side, a solo hiker approached us. He looked towards me and said, "You're duct tape, right? I know you from Rob's videos". I said I was. He told us there were two guys at the lean-to bu the other campsite was free. We thanked him and continued on. We turned off the main trail and headed up to the lean-to.

The two gentleman and I talked a bit about the lean-to. I gave them a bit of its history. They invited us to share with them, but I deferred to the others who opted for the campsite. We set up camp and went to gather some firewood. Since the hike in was short, we just relaxed. It was unseasonably warm and I had not put on sunscreen. I would pay for this oversight later. I took a short walk around our side of the lake looking for the old rowboat. I didn't find it, nor any other boat or canoe. In front of our campsite, near the inlet I saw some smaller brook trout rising for the insects. I wandered back up to the lean-to to let the two guys know about the rising trout.

The rest of the trip was uneventful. We went to bed at hiker midnight and I slept quite well. didn't even need my quilt. As usual I was up before the sunrise. I was looking forward to watching the sun hit the trees on the other side as they were just starting to change. I snapped a few photos as the sun began to burn away the fog and illuminate the far side of the lake. The girls were soon awake as well and we packed up and headed back to the car. A stop at the diner for a late breakfast is always a great way to end the trip.