My Buddy Dan wanted to do a higher mileage trip in preparation for his upcoming trip to Yosemite. We were looking at the Cold River Section of the NPT and the surrounding area to create a backpacking loop which would cover about 13 miles per day. We finally settled upon a route which would be a figure-8, starting and ending at the summer trailhead for the Seward Range on Coreys Rd. We would head south to the Cold River, then follow the NPT upstream to Duck Hole and continue to Wanika Falls. From the falls, we would bushwhack up the Chub River to the saddle between Street and Nye Mtns where we would intersect the herd path. From there, we would summit both peaks and then take the approach trail down the other side to Indian Pass. Through Indian Pass to Henderson Lake and then back to Duck Hole which would complete the circumnavigation of Wallface and McNaughton Mtns. Lastly we would follow the old Ward Brook jeep trail back to the car to finish the circumnavigation of the Seward Range and Seymour Mtns. In total we would hike about 60 miles, along trails, up creek slabs, and bushwhack through high elevation spruce thickets, summit 2 peaks, and encircle 6 other mountains. With about 1 km left to the car, Dan described the trip as grueling.
Day 1, we left the car at the summer trailhead for the Seward Range and headed south to the Cold River. As we signed in at the register, Dan noticed the other board which had information about mice and hanta-virus. He wondered aloud how prevalent this actually was. Today would be very familiar trail for me as I have done the Seward circumnavigation a few times over the years. Stopping briefly at the Calkins Creek lean-to and visiting Latham Pond on our way to the Seward Lean-to. Dan swam in Big Eddy on the Cold River and we both took a dip in Millers Falls at our campsite for the night. So far the bugs hadn't been bad at all. The river was not as cold as its name would imply. With 13 miles already under our belt, we were feeling great. A light dinner was chosen. We ate avocado, cucumber and tomato wraps out on the rocks in the river. A few bugs here and there, but so far not too bad. The ziplock gallon bag which held our dinner fixins had mouse turds on it in the morning. We dubbed it the Hanta-bag. It would become our trash bag. Every time something was put into it, or we had trash we would just say “hanta”.
Day 2, was a late start for me. I am usually walking close to first light. By the time breakfast and coffee were done it was likely close to 9am. With probably the best 3 miles of the NPT behind us, we continued upstream of the Cold River to Duck Hole stopping at a few scenic spots and the other lean-tos along the way. So far we haven't seen anyone for the first 20 miles of the trip. Itwas only lunch time the second day and we were a third done with our total mileage, but the test was still to come. The new Duck Hole lean-to is a beauty. Since the Bear Lake lean-to build, the DEC has allowed us (lean2rescue) to construct a number of shelters to either replace those which are no longer serviceable or new ones as approved in the UMPs. This Duck Hole lean-to would replace the one near the dam. I had the fortune to help build this lean-to at the shop in Keene. My first log scribe was on the top rear log. With about 6 miles left for the day we were still going strong, although our clothes were drenched in sweat. From here, we hiked along Roaring brook for a while. While there are certainly some nice cascades and pools, much of the brook is slow moving. In one of these parts, we were fortunate to watch a beaver swimming underwater for a while. What a magnificent sight. At Wanika Falls, we set up camp, and took a swim in the pool below the falls. Most refreshing. We laid down in the hammocks to rest after our swim, we easily could have gone to sleep right then. In fact both of us did snooze for at least a few minutes. After dinner, we watched the stars come out, but we were too tired to stay up too long.
Day 3 would prove to be a tough one. It was early and I thought I heard voices. The previous night, the sound of the rapids played tricks on my ears so I dismissed it. Eventually I could make out words, so I knew it was axtual people, the first since we started. A couple of NPT hikers had thought his was the continuation of the trail. After we had re-oriented them in the direction of Placid they were on their way and we were now awake. Though it was early, we still got a later than usual start. The day was looking to be beautiful as we headed up to the top of the falls. After a few photos from the top we began our ascent to the the river's source. Mostly we climbed up the rock sheets and scrambled over the boulders in the river. There were quite a few more cascades and pools and some very cool crevices and chasms, all of which we would need to bushwhack around only after taking photos which we knew would not do them justice. The river thinned and slowly was choked out by growth as it began to level off. We had been paying attention to the map and compass to verify we were following the correct drainage. As the water began to peter out, we took a bearing towards the saddle and our goal which was the herd path up street/nye. Atop the saddle, we could see the summit of Street Mtn and knew we had to drop down a bit and then come back up to hit our target. The next few thousand feet would be tough, swimming through young spruce growing so tightly together than we could not see 2 feet in front of us, nor what was under our feet, we carefully parted the trees and stepped over significant blowdown all while avoiding the ankle trap holes in the duff. Almost as though a switch was flipped, the wall of trees gave way to an opening and after a few more steps we were on the herd path. It was now 2:30, it had taking us 5 hours to travel 4 miles. Leaving our packs on the side of the trail, and taking only the necessities including lunch we headed up the trail to the summit of Nye Mtn. There isn't a view at the summit rock, but a small path lead to a stump which when standing on, gave a clear panorama of many of the Adirondack peaks. With a map and compass in hand, Dan pointed out which peak was which including the range he would be hiking next week. We could also see Heart Lake far below us. After a late lunch a group of 3 joined us on the summit and we helped each other take photos under the summit sign. We then headed back to our packs, summitted Street which made my quads jelly by the time I reached the top a few minutes after Dan. Then the rains came. A light sprinkle at first, but by the time we were headed down the other side of the mtn, it was a full on rainstorm. Dan had dropped his water bottled somewhere on the way down from the Nye Summit, so he headed back up to get it while I started down the very steep trail. We had 4 miles of significant downhill in the puring rain to reach heart lake which we were just looking at from above. Going slow as to not slip in the mud, it was getting late by the time we reached the Loj property and we still had 2 miles to go to get to our early stopping point at Rocky falls. The Scott Clearing lean-to was our original goal, but it was an additional mile and half and we were spent. Apparently the Rocky Falls lean-to is on the the other side of the the Indian Brook, and we passed right by it looking over our other shoulder. We ended up doing the “loop” twice just to locate it. We were glad to find it empty as we were soaked. A huge pot of minestrone soup and some dry clothes were in store. The noseeums were quite annoying here and we quickly ate and got under our bug netting to sleep.
Day 4. Already we were a mile and half behind schedule. Though after the beating we took yesterday, it was amazing it was only that much. We still had a third of our miles to go including going through Indian Pass. The sky bounced back and forth between misty rain and sun. Eventually the sun won out and we headed back across the river. The climb up through Indian Pass was a lot of bouldering and rock hopping. It wasn't long mileage, just slow going, Everything was wet, so it was even slower than what would be typical. Not to mention how beat we were from yesterday. As we approached the summit rock, the cliffs on Wallface came into view. Some more photos and lunch atop summit rock. The downhill portion of Indian Pass seemed to be more difficult the uphill. The ladders were quite slippery as were all the rocks and roots. As the ground began to level out, it was again getting later in the day, and we still had significant miles to go. Not much earlier, Dan had slipped and turned hi ankle. This would hobble him for the rest of the day, making our progress slow, and I am sure his hike rather painful. We paused at the Henderson lean-to for our second, later lunch. This point would mark approximately the bottom portion of our figure-8, though we had done significantly more than half the miles. The next 6 miles to Duck Hole would seem like an eternity. We were glad to see there was a reroute to avoid the thigh high deep mud in the flooded section, but this reroute would add extra distance. The climb up to Preston Ponds was just as long and arduous as I remembered dragging a pulk full of “supplies” to the cabin. We eventually made it to Duck Hole and both lean-tos were occupied so we made camp at the designated spot near the register box. As we were setting up our tarps and hammocks, dan mentioned that we probably should have started dinner before we set up and let it cook, I replied that it was a good idea to do the shelters first just in case it rained. It wasn't 10 minutes later and the sky began to rain upon us. I was tired and had finally hiked dry my wet clothes from the day before and this really soured my mood. The rain eventually stopped and we were able to eat by the fire instead of being relegated to our own tarps. We were both exhausted. Only 10 miles to go. Sleep never felt so good.
Day 5. It rained again overnight. Both Dan and I stashed insta-fire kits of dry wood before bed. A morning fire always lifts spirits and sets the tone for the day. Perhaps that was what was missing the previous day as fires are forbidden east of indian pass. Anyway, the day began with wet leaves and brush but the miles would go quickly at first under the blue sky. This last section of trail was also very familiar to me. Compared to what we had already hiked through, quite boring. We made good time along the old truck trail to camp 4. The elevation changes I recalled were insignificant relative to the past two days. Camp 4 was Dan's first lean2rescue operation after we recruited him at Woodhull lake. In the next 5 miles we would pass by significantly more people than we saw the entire trip. When the parking lot finally came into view, it was obvious why, as was the 3 pages of people who signed in at the register t=in the last 2 days, most of which were climbing the Sewards. At the car we changed into bathing suits and drove to the Raquette river where we would swim to help us smell less like wet monkeys. It was great to put on dry clean clothes for the drive home.