Monday, August 3, 2020

Six Days on the Finger Lakes Trail 70 miles and 9.9k of elevation (M18-M15)

Met Shannon at the twin tunnels access point Sunday morning. We dropped off our food resupply while on the way to the RT79 trailhead. I had hiked the first half of our route a little more than a year ago. So I had a vague memory of what to expect. The trail gets cganged quite a bit, and a lot of the road crossing seems to blend in with each other. As we readied our gear, a couple more cars pulled in to the lot. Local bike riders. We chatted a bit and then made our way to the trailhead. Immediately we saw the flooded section. Not sure what to do, I looked at my map. I had an older one on which I hand drew the current trail, The old route provided us a bypass around the flooded section along a dirt road. As we hiked up the road towards firetower road the opportunity existed to cut through the woods to the new trail. Not wanting to trespass, we stayed on the dirt rd and then the paved roads to where the trail would enter the state forest. Once in the forest, the trail was much nicer walking. The miles peeled off and after not too long we were approaching the Shindagin woods which would be camp for night one. Dan and I had camped here a few springs ago after a much longer day. Shannon and I did 8.5 miles. I was looking forward to washing up in the creek, but the stream was barely a trickle. A few deeper spots allowed us to get water without too much difficulty.

While at the Shindagin lean-to quite a few day hikers would come through. Very popular area, surprised no one else was camping here. Slept great. I was up well before Shannon so I made coffee and packed up. When we eventually headed out it was past 9 am. The trail would go downhill for a while and then uphill a lot. This would be our routine for the rest of the trip. Coupled with very few water sources made for some heavier packs having to carry multiple liters of water. A lot of roadwalking for the trip which in the heat was brutal. Just after lunch the second day, we were heading up Eastman hill. I remembered how steep this was. As we neared the top, I needed to take a rest. I was hot... too hot. I needed to cool down and have some water. It took a while. I was legitimately nervous for a bit that I would not be able to continue. Early stages of heat exhaustion was getting the best of me. The long rest was helpful. Took it slow for the rest of the day. Even had to climb another pesky hill, though not as steep. Filtering water from some sketchy sources was necessary. We passed by Tamarack lean-to and then it would be mostly downhill to our next campsite. Over 15 miles for the day with some brutal hills. This was our long day. It should get easier from here.

Only a half mile left of this section which I have done. Another few miles in the woods and then a long roadwalk made even longer as we never found the turn off into the woods. The markers heading in this direction are not very clear. Was getting frustrating trying to navigate a trail which was made difficult by roads. Much easier in the woods. When we finally got back on trail, it was short lived. As we passed through a field the markers did not show where it re-entered the woods. There were multiple trails and old dirt paths throughout. We took a compass bearing and followed one going in the correct direction. It started heading downhill, the wrong way. We hiked back up, and I took a bearing to get us to where we needed to go on the next road. This was getting really frustrating. So we were back on a road hiking in the hot sun. Neither of us was happy. This was not fun for me. I guess there was a reason i stopped hiking the Finger Lakes Trail except for short camping trips into the state forests. We picked up or resupply and made our way to Treman Park for our 3rd night. This was a shorter day at 10 miles. We would hike down to the park and swim (also to get water from the campground). The Lean-to is far away from a water source and is full of carpenter bees. Not a great location. Barely half way through the trip and I was really not enjoying myself. The swim in the creek was nice. I made a no-cook dinner to conserve water.

The trail out of the park was up on a ridge so it didn't really provide a nice view of the park. Once out, we had some more road walking to do. Again the trail disappeared so we added more road. We stopped at a private campground which had ice-cream in the camp store and a spigot to fill our water bottles. The folks here were very nice. The trail would go in/out of woods crossing roads. Some reroutes and more road. Some quite steep.We had to gain almost 2000 feet.  It was a little cooler than the first few days. Then it started to rain. Of course it would rain today, as this was the only planned campsite without a lean-to. Fortunately the rain would subside long enough for us to set up camp and eat. We got more rain over night. But by morning we were able to pack up without it. 

The rain the previous night had cooled things down nicely. We had a long downhill for the day and then a long uphill to the Rogers Hill lean-to. By now we were both hyper focused on the trail blazes. A private landowner had a spigot where the trail crossed his land for hikers to use. This was nice. The dirt rd up to the Rogers Lean-to was long but not too bad. As we got closer to the top we met a few gentlemen on a golf cart. They were wearing "period clothing". They were the administrators for a pre-1840 rendezvous. They made sure we found our campsite and we settled in at the lean-to. There was pond out in front which made for a nice swim. Our campsite was just outside the area in which the rendezvous was occurring. A group of kids came by to chat. All were in period gear. The multi-age group of kids reminded me of the pack of kids that would form at the folk festivals I attended as a kid. Some how all the kids would find each other and roam around with the oldest boy seemingly at the helm.  With the festival going on, they had brought in large cisterns of potable water. We were both happy to not be drinking pond water, filtered or not. Shannon went to take some photos off the hill. When she returned she mentioned the "food tent". They were going to be offering french toast in the morning on Saturday. We were a few days too early. I walked around a bit and talked to a man and his wife who were set up not far from us. The man said, "you look familiar." After a brief exchange we realized we knew each other from the paddling forums. Small world. They offered me some iced tea. Was nice to have a drink with ice in it. 

We were in bed before it got dark and up before most of the encampment. We packed up and quietly hiked down the hill. Some more road walking. This was our last day so packs were much lighter. We passed by a campsite with two ladies making breakfast. Then we started up hill. We paused to chat with a hiker coming the other direction. He was walking in  teva sandals. He had done the AT and found these to be much more comfortable for him than hot sweaty boots. Was a nice break from the climb. Made our way to the National Forest and began climbing that dirt rd. The hiker had mentioned there was no water at the Dunham shelter. We only had about 5 miles to go, I figured I could ration my water until then. The last few miles before the RR grade were through mowed field. Not very fun hiking for me. But we made it to the car. I still had a pint of water. We changed out of hiking clothes, retrieved our food storage and headed to my car. Shannons GPS tried to take us on a rd which no longer existed so we had to figure out a way using the paper map to get us back on track. My car was still there with intact windows and tires. 70.1 miles and I have barely 33% of the FLT complete. I think I will take a break from it for a while.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Canada Closed so St Regis it is.

Due to pandemic our annual canoe trip to Canada was changed to a shorter trip to the St. Regis Canoe area. It has been ten years since I visited with my father. As we pulled into the paring area it was filled with cars. A popular area, but for a Sunday we were still a bit surprised. One spot was open right near the portage and register. We parked and unloaded the canoes. We would each be paddling lightweight solo canoes. Another paddler was loading up his kayak and mentioned the lot was full from a group of 15 day paddlers. The portage was only a quarter mile so we didn't spend too much time really balancing out our loads.

Once out on the water we headed to the northern shore planning on getting a campsite first then exploring. We were a bit surprised the first site was open, so we took it. First lunch, then set up camp. We then hung our food and set out to explore Pink and Little Pink ponds. The outlet of Pink was a little more grown in and the beaver dam I remembered existed as only submerged remnants. Took a look at the tent spot I recalled being brand new a decade ago. In the in between years it has seen a little use, but being in a crappy location probably only used when all other options were unavailable.

The channel to Little Pink was just as narrow as I remembered up to a newer beaver dam. Stepping out and pulling the canoe into deeper water allowed us to make it all the way to Little Pink unlike a decade ago. We fished the pond catching some bass, perch and chub. Pretty little pond. On our way back we fished Pink. Right out of he gate Dan landed a pig of a smallmouth. I continued to get small ones. Dan caught another good sized smallmouth. We now had enough for breakfast. On our way back to camp Dan saw a splash and tossed out a popper which a largemouth readily took. Back at camp I got the fire going while Dan prepped the fish for the cooler and readied dinner.

Monday morning made camp bread to go with fish for breakfast. Today would have a ling portage and a couple little ones. We first carried to Slang Pond to fish a little knowing we probably would not have much time on our way out on Friday. It was quite breezy so fishing was a constant battle with the canoe being blown around. I spent more time exploring the shoreline. Back at the carry we hid the cooler to grab on our way out since we would not need it any more. The 1.4 mile portage started off very nice on a soft piney path. Soon it hit the flooded beaver section I recalled from years ago. Removing portage yoke, a quick paddle across and we were back on the nice trail. For a while I thought to myself this portage trail is nicer than most of the Adirondack backpacking trails. Then the muddy rocky section began. With all the dry weather it was not bad at all. It was apparent alot of work had been done placing rocks as steps over the years. The next couple ponds would be shorter carries. We had lunch across the pond right after I stepped out of the canoe into a deep spot filling my muck boot with water. Grrr.

Dan would fish the small ponds and I went ahead to secure a campsite on Little Long Pond. The sky was becoming more overcast as the day went on. At Little Long the mosquitoes were awful at the put-in. I loaded up as swiftly as I could. Spotted a few canoes heading out of the Pond towards Fish Pond. As I paddled towards the narrows two other paddlers coming the other direction pulled up on shore at one of the campsites. I paddled past and headed to the unmarked carry over the esker to Little Fish Pond. This carry was steep. Tough going up and even tougher going down. Not finding a site on Little Fish I checked out the outlet for a ways until the current picked up. I headed back to Little Long. This time I double carried over the esker. The sky was getting cloudier. The couple had left the campsite so I went to check it out. Not great, but we needed something. I set up a tarp in case of rain and then went to the portage to Lydia. The campsite here was a bit nicer but in the woods and most likely buggy. I headed back to camp. Minutes after getting back in the canoe the sky opened up. I pulled under a tree near shore and put on rain gear. Back at camp I waited for Dan. The rain subsided and soon,Dan arrived. We shared our tales and we set up camp for good. Had to gather wood from the far shore. Stored some under the tarp for the morning. A little rain off and on. Subsided long enough for dinner which was nice.

Big storm over the night. Some bright flashes of lightning, but it stayed quite far away.  Again rain on/off in the morning. Ate breakfast under the tarp. Dan would fish the small ponds here while I paddled ahead to hopefully get one of the lean-tos at Fish Pond. The carry was quick although hot and buggy especially with rain gear on. Once in the water at Fish the rain came again. The first campsite was empty, but I headed east towards the inlet and lean-to. It appeared I was alone on the pond. Surpisingly I found the lean-to empty. I headed across the lake to check the other lean-to when I spotted another paddler. Not wanting to lose the spot, I turned back and secured our site. Gathered firewood and made a smudge fire. As the day went on the sun began to fight its way through the humidity. I dried out my tarp in the open area near camp. Dan arrived and we set up officially. He had checked out the Lydia campsite and said I made the right call yesterday. The sun eventually won out so we paddled a bit and Dan fished the deeps. I checked out the inlet and the shore near the cliffs. Dan pulled in a 22 inch laker which would be dinner and breakfast. Looked towards the north for comet NEOWISE but the horizon was obscured by the trees on the esker across the lake.

Plan for today was just relaxing. We were spending another day on the pond. I talked to the family at the other lean-to and they said they were leaving. They offered for me to put some gear in the lean-to to "claim it" which I did. Paddled back to camp and packed up. When the family departed we set up our gear. Dan fished more, we day tripped to a tiny pond with a little used portage trail. I checked out the cliffs. Back at camp we swam a bit. I took a post lunch nap. Great day paddling and relaxing and exploring the area. We seemed to have the pond to ourselves. There were two guys camped at the site between Fish and Little Fish who we would see occasionally. We swam some more. Not being very hungry we skipped dinner and had a snack instead. Sat by the water for a nice sunset. I slept like great.

Another early morning. We had a long way to get back. Two longish portages of 0.9 miles and 1.3 miles and a couple short ones. Took us all day which included some time fishing and swimming as well as a long lunch. The wind was in our face on the main paddle back to the car. Was 5pm before we eventually got back. Drove through a major storm with almost zero visibility. Glad we weren't on the water for that one.