Monday, November 6, 2017

Way up North...

I had bounced around a few ideas of where to go this weekend. I finally opted to check out the DeBar Wild Forest and climb its namesake mountain. My friend Andrew was available to join me. While discussing logistics, I reminded him it was exactly a year ago we had done the trip to Long Lake. He said that fact was not lost on him.

I stayed up way too late and the early rise to meet Andrew at 5:30 gave me less than 6 hours of sleep. I would certainly sleep well at camp. We were on schedule for driving and stopped at a diner in Potsdam for a quick bite. The almost 5 hour drive went relatively quickly. We entered the Meacham State Campground to find it deserted. That was expected at this time of year. Next to site 37 the dirt road had a sign with an arrow for parking written on a paper plate. We started up the road, and soon backed up as it was getting rough. We parked at the campsite and walked the extra few hundred feet. We were there to backpack, and the mileage was short to begin with. The old jeep road was a gentle grade almost entirely uphill. The woods were quiet and open. The only sounds were us and babbling of the trail side creeks. Andrew had been getting his pack weight down and was comfortably ultralight especially as I had the majority of food (and beverage). It was only a few miles to the lean-to where we would make camp before the significant climb to the summit of DeBar Mtn. I checked the map periodically to gauge our progress and it wasn't long before we arrived. The lean-to was in rough shape. The deacon seat was half gone, the shelter was full of leaves and we both wondered whether the roof was watertight. We had tarps, so we would stay dry regardless. The forecast called for rain early in the morning and then throughout the rest of the next day. I put that thought out of my mind and enjoyed the current beautiful fall weather.

With our packs mostly empty of our gear. I noticed someone had written on the lean-to, "Big Fuckin Hill". We laughed. The mountain was clearly visible ahead of us with all the leaves being gone. We could see where the hardwoods switched to conifer at the upper reaches. Starting up the trail, pausing to fill our water bottles at the stream and noting some relics at the foundation from the old caretakers cabin. It was steep, real steep. The rocks were wet, and often covered with leaves. My pack felt extremely light with most of the contents gone. I ascended ahead of Andrew, pausing to look every once in a while. Of the many breaks, one was in the middle of a section of birches. The were short here, obviously stunted from the wind and other weather factors. As we left the birch section and entered the conifers with the frost still on their needles, the trail increased in steepness. Soon we were at a relatively new slide. The views behind us really accentuated our elevation gain as the lake in the distance now began to appear well below us.

Beyond the slide, we needed to use the trees to help us climb. Eventually the trail began to level off right before the final push. The bald open area where the firetower once stood was just above us, and we had to wind around it on a bunch of herd paths to get to it. From there a grand view presented itself. We had expected it to be colder at the top. Our sweaty shirts still made it necessary to put on additional layers, but it was not as cold as expected. There was a nice rock to sit on, so we took advantage of it and rested for a while. Took some photos, had a beer, and talked. When we left the car, we decided to not talk shop while in the woods, but we found ourselves there anyways. It was neat to see the areas of the Adirondacks that I usually visit from this vantage point; looking south and down.

On our way back down the mountain, we passed by a woman who was resting at the slide. She asked how much further up. It appeared she was just day hiking the mountain. The hike down while not as strenuous was still tough. Mostly to ensure we did not slip. At camp we collected a bunch of firewood. There was plenty to be found. It did not appear many camp here. We got a fire going, made dinner and ate like champs. Night came early and we were tired, so into bed we went.But not until the fire was stoked up and dry wood placed under the lean-to.

Rain was expected in the wee hours of the morning and throughout. I did hear a little rain, but the wind was most prominent. At about 4am I could see the fire was still glowing. The wind was continually keeping the ash from covering the coals and the extra air was extending the coals life. I got up to heed natures call and placed some of the unburned stubby ends onto the glowing coals. It did not take long for the wind to blow the small pile back to life. Andrew mentioned later he awoke to see the small fire ablaze.

As this weekend coincided with the clocks changing back, we had extra time in the morning. A few sprinkles came down here and there, but it was dry for the most part. The clouds were parting just enough to give the sunrise some nice colors through the trees. A leisurely breakfast with two servings of coffee followed by an unexpectedly dry hike out. We cut some branches off a blowdown on the way out. Passed by a hunter and two hikers on their way in. Back to the car and the rains came soon after we started driving. The timing was perfect, said Andrew.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

A Paddle and Jaunt... (Colvin Brook Lean-to)

There is a little gem of a spot just a mile off the NorthVille Placid Trail in the West Canada Lakes Wilderness which sees very few visitors. Access requires crossing the Cedar river which usually means getting wet or coming from the south on an abandoned trail and then figuring out a way across a flooded beaver meadow. There is a lean-to at the site which is in need of some TLC. For the last few years I have been the adopter of the lean-to and a 3 mile section of trail nearby. As an adopter I am expected to visit at least twice a year for general cleanup and to report on conditions which require more extensive work. This would be the second trip of the year. Back in the spring I had noted two trees which had fallen across the campsite in front of the lean-to, so this trip would also include cutting up those trees. My buddy Justin decided to join me.

As I pulled into the parking area of Wakely Dam I saw Justin was already there. The hike in would be about 7 miles, and he had sustained an injury a few weeks back so his plan was to paddle up the Cedar River and then hike the remaining two and half miles. I decided to join him int he canoe as i had not paddled the Cedar River flow yet. Along with Justin (and Jenny) two other gentlemen were unloading. They looked familiar and one quickly identified me and where we had met. It was Tim and Scott whom I met deep in the HaDeRonDah Wilderness 2 years ago, They were also planning on going to the Colvin Brook Lean-to. We joked about how we would only see each other in little used areas of the Adks.

With boats all loaded up, we headed up the flow. The water was only a slight bit choppy, nothing too difficult and it was a warm and sunny day. We paddled up the flow and then into the weedy areas to find the right channel which would lead us to the river. It was the first day of hunting season and the area was abuzz with hunters paddling to their hunting grounds. It appeared many campsites on the flow were occupied. Soon after we turned upstream intot he river channel (was much smaller than I expected) we hit the first and only beaver dam. There was an easy take out and put in to bypass the obstruction. The river was windy, it reminded me a bit of the Oswegatchie but with less current. We stopped short of the Carry lean-to at the point where the old road used to cross the river. We stashed the canoe, with a sign letting anyone who might stumble upon it that we would be back in the AM. The old road was easy to follow for the hundred yards up to the NPT which we then followed to the SuckerBrook Trail. The collapsed bridge halfway there is now completely unsafe, hikers have nailed some of the pieces together along with some poles to make skirting along it possible. I reported the collapsed bridge soon after it broke, and my continued conversations with the DEC forester have moved the replacement up the priority list. Hopefully I can get some supplies for the lean-to delivered at the same time as the bridge materials.

Just past the SuckerBrook Junction I picked up the shovel I stashed last spring. We pressed on to the Lean-to and as we approached the Cedar River noted we would likely be able to rock hop instead of donning water shoes. At the other side we we set up, and I cut a few pieces of the tree with the saw. During a break, Tim and Scott showed up. They had decided to stay at the Carry Lean-to as it was unoccupied. Tim took Justin's axe and made quick work of one of the trees. I started in on the thick section of one tree towards its base. We all talked for a while and with most of the work done, Tim and Scott headed back to their site. We finished up with the trees and collected some firewood. Now with all the chores done which I had expected to take all afternoon we took a short walk downstream to the cofluence of Colvin Brook and the Cedar River. We hopped across to the island covered in tall dry grass. Justin made his way to a rock on the other side and spotted the remnants of the rake that used to be at the lean-to. I found a long branch and retrieved the rake. we looked around a bit more. Justin decided to lay down in the grass for a few moments.

When we finally got back to camp it was still early. I figured I would not be up late as i had left quite early in the AM. It has been getting darker earlier and earlier, and with only a sliver of moon it would be quite dark tonight. Should be clear with an opportunity to see the Orionids. Eventually dinner was made, we were using our headlamps by the end. I stayed up as late as I could, but went to bed without seeing any meteors. Justin stayed up a bit later.

I tried to sleep in a long as I could, not wanting to get up while it was still dark. When I finally made the decision, really it was my bladder I heard Justin snap a branch for the fire. Perfect timing. A nice warming fire and some coffee makes for a fantastic morning in the woods. As the daylight returned I snapped a quick picture over the river. I also got one of the dilapidated outhouse. The forester is sure he can get me a thunderbox kit delivered at the same time as the bridge supplies. Between relocating the outhouse here and three others in the high peaks I have some serious digging to do next spring.

It was about a quarter after nine when we finally were packed up and headed home. We stopped at the Carry Lean-to. Tim and Scott were just finishing loading up their kayaks. Glad we got to see them again before they shoved off. I ate a quick snack and we then moved on to the canoe which was right where we left it, undisturbed. The paddle out was nice and easy. A fellow adkforum member, MoodyBlues, passed us on his way in, also heading to Colvin Brook. Three visits this weekend is almost an entire year's worth for the little used spot. He will likely be the last visitor before I get back in the spring.

The weekend was fantastic. A gem of a campsite, perfect weather, seeing some fellow woods travelers and a great friend to share it all with. And no one knew it was my birthday!

Justin had his GoPro and made a video of the trip: