Sunday, March 18, 2018

Minus 14 F. Yep, still winter at Johns Pond.

For many years I organized a group trip to the Adirondacks on St. Patricks Day weekend. It has been quite a few years though. I remember some of them with very mild temperatures; almost spring like. Some quite cold.

This year I didn't have set plans and as I was trying to figure out where to go on a solo trip I received a call from my friend Dan. He had plans to go skiing on Sunday but was looking to camp over Saturday night. Something easy so he could get back to the car to meet others at the slopes on Sunday. We opted for Johns Pond in the Siamese Ponds Wilderness as it had a lean-to and was just over 2 miles in.

I left home around 6am and met Dan at our usual rendezvous point. We caravanned to the parking area which already had a single car. The trail was broken out likely by the car's occupant. At the register we noted the hiker was only out for the day. The temp was in the mid 20s and the sun was shining. We took the hike slow as we had only a short ways to go. We stopped periodically to enjoy the scenery through the woods.

As the trail swung away from the big brook, the day hiker came bounding down the trail. We exchanged hellos and he commented on how nice it was at the lean-to spot at Johns Pond. Passing by the side trails to Puffer and Clear Ponds we arrived to our home a little after noon.

Dan checked out the pond, I snacked on some cheese and went looking for firewood. We both gathered a quite a bit, had lunch and went for more. We joked a few times that our giant pile was a good start. We ended up leaving about 50% of the wood we gathered in a nice pile for the next group.

We had dinner and even before the sun set we could feel the temperature falling. The clear skies were hinting at the significant mercury drop. Stars appeared, fire was stoked and my eyes were closing. I might have made it to 9pm before I climbed into my bag.

I was warm in my bag until early morning. I fought the need to exit the warmth and empty my bladder. I eventually capitulated. It was cold out as we anticipated. After returning to my bag it took a while to get warm again. I might have fallen asleep for a short while after, but Dan's alarm rang out at 6am. It was still dark, but the early morning glow was just beginning. We packed up by headlamp and were heading down the trail before sunrise. But by now the woods were bright enough. The snow squeaked beneath our snowshoes as the air stung any exposed skin.

I traveled over a mile before I dropped a layer and my toes still hadn't completely warmed yet in my semi-frozen boots. I signed us out at the register and we loaded up our vehicles. Mine struggled to start as it was still minus 8. I am not sure what was more of a challenge this morning, the car starting or me. Always good to be out in the woods. I would find out later it was minus 14 over night.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Ice on the Lizard

This past summer I spent backpacking the Wind River Range in Wyoming. While traversing Lizard Pass, Dan and I were caught in a hailstorm. Last weekend Dan and I decided to visit Lizard Pond in the Adirondacks. My friend Justin visited this spot last winter. Since Dan had spent Thurs and Friday in the eastern adks, we planned on meeting at the trail register on Garnet Lake. As I made my way from Rt8 along the dirt rds, I came to an unplowed seasonal road. I had to backtrack and take a different approach. This made me about 20 minutes late. I saw Dan out on the ice as I approached. He had brought his skates and was making good use of the extra time waiting for me.

We unloaded our gear from the cars and loaded up the pulks. The sun was shining and felt warm as we made our way across the frozen lake. Out in the open a slight breeze reminded us it was still cold out regardless of the sun's warmth on our face. Mt Blue, our goal to climb after we made camp towered over us. Across the lake and to the narrows, the ice showed traces of snowmobile activity and led us straight to the trail to Lizard Pond.

Once in the tree cover, the sun was partially obscured and the wind blocked. The sign gave us 1.3 miles to our destination. There was a little snow left, and a lot of ice on the trail. We made our way generally uphill. Near Lizard Pond the wetland area provided a better approach and the snow machines agreed. We followed their path avross the frozen swampy area to the Eastern edge of Lizard. Like Garnet, the windswept ice would make for good skating.

At the lean-to we made camp and I collected wood while Dan made use of the ice with his skates before the warming sun degraded the conditions. Dan joined me to collect more wood and then we made plans to climb Mt Blue.

With map, compass and day packs we crossed the icy lizard pond and made our way up to a ridge we would follow to the top. It started off steep, and then the snow disappeared on the southern facing hill. We removed our microspikes for a while but put them back on as the snow returned. Some steep sections with lots of deer sign. We reached a false summit and found a few overlooks. The true summit was farther than we thought as it was obstructed from our view on Lizard. As we neared it, a few drops of rain (or sleet) began. We were both thinking of the storm atop the Lizard Trail in Wyoming. At the summit, a decent sized cairn had been erected to mark it. We didnt stay long as the weather was eventually going to go against our favor.

Took a general bearing and we followed the ridge down for a while until we turned more south to head back to Lizard. We arrived without much left to do except cook up dinner. I made jambalaya. Might have been a tad spicy for Dan. The rains began soon after it got dark.

I awoke first like usual and restarted the fire. We stashed kindling in the lean-to, and put a tarp over the woodpile. The rains had atopped in the middle of the night. The warming fire soon brought forth coffee and breakfast. The hike out was fast as it was mostly down hill on the trail and level on the icy lake.