Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 in Review


1/19/2014
T-Lake w/Newbies -West Canada Lakes
1 Night/7 Miles

Even though last weekend was my first weekend sleeping out in the new year, I don't count it as I really didn't backpack. 150 ft into the piney woods with a patrol of Scouts wasn't much of a backpacking trip for me. For them though, it was the first trip planned an executed by the patrol leader and they asked me to come along as a second adult. Anyway, back to my real first backpack of 2014.<div><br></div><div>It started out with an email from the gang since we hadn't hiked together in some time. In the end it was just three of uf the gang plus newbies, a girlfriend of Toby's and a friend of Todd's. Both have never winter camped before so we chose a spot with a lean-to. Plus this lean-to and lake I had never visited so it was a good excuse. T-lake is 3.5 miles from a state campground so it is relatively popular in the summer as a hiking destination. I had read reports it is often trashed. I was hoping the winter would dissuade the "messy" this weekend. The trail began with a steady uphill which seemed to go forever. It climbed the shoulder of Stacey Mtn, which I kept referring to as Stacy's Mom. We then descended for a short bit until the trail headed west to climb the northern shoulder of T-Lake Mtn. While the snow was only 4 inches or so for most of the trip, the northern slope had considerably more. The going was slow due to trying to follow the unbroken trail and the "river crossing". Not really a river, just a wide stream with ice. If I was solo, I would not have attempted to cross it. We found an "easier" spot to cross and we each took turns helping steady the others until we were safely across (the return trip was way easier for some reason).&nbsp;</div><div><br></div><div>We finally arrived at the lean-to. I was surprised by the amount of dead wood I could see. I assumed the area would be picked clean, but I guess it is a day hiker destination mostly. The lean-to journal would confirm this. Few signed in the last year and a half. We collected some wood, i got a fire started and we made camp. soon we were all relaxing and eating. It was dark by now and I wondered how long until the just past full moon would appear. It had been overcast all day but the stars were showing so I figured the sky would light up soon. A light glow began in the east and soon the orb appeared. By now, we were talking about bed. I watched the forest light up from the moonglow from my sleeping bag. As the moon rose, I slowly fell asleep. The next light I would see was in the AM.</div><div><br></div><div>I arose and started a new fire. Made breakfast and we packed up slowly. We headed back and made good time as it was mostly downhill. It took an hour less to get back. Great trip. The two newbies had a good time and expressed desire to return to the winter woods.</div>

2/2/2014
Log Haulin' and the Howard -High Peaks
1 Night/11 Miles

2 years ago we moved the Bill Howard Memorial lean-to to its new spot. I had never spent the night in, at or around this lean-to. That would change this weekend. The new Bushnells Falls Lean-to was constructed last weekend. The logs were airlifted in prior. This is one of the newer lean-tos constructed by the craftsmen of L2R. They are truly works of art. Apparently a few items were not delivered. They were short on roofing planks, so a few hiked the 5.5 miles down the mountain to get a few more and then hiked those back up. They also forgot two logs. These were the decorative logs which hang below the sides to hide the flooring joists. We would be bringing those in this weekend.&nbsp;<div><br></div><div>I arrived at the TH at 6am having driven all night. The rest of the crew (a total of 4 of us) arrived shortly after. We lashed the logs to the pulks and were off. I took the first shift on log #2, while Paul would control the back, getting me unstuck and lifting the sled over obstructions. The trail, while it had some snow, was not pulk friendly. Still lots of exposed roots and rocks. Not to mention the uphill terrain. At about the first mile I needed a break and to lose a layer. Not sure what happened, but I almost collapsed. I was nauseous and felt faint. I rested on my pack for a spell until I felt good enough to continue. At this point, Paul took over the pulk and I handled the rear. We went slow and as we neared the Howard Lean-to, the other team had come back looking for us. They stopped at the JBL warming hut and waited for us. we continued on the warming hut (another half mile) and took a break, had a hot beverage and a snack. we were soon off again, and I was again on pulk duty. Only 1.8 miles to go, of course almost all uphill. This portion had us at times traversing the edge of Johns Brook and a few times walking on the frozen brook. We began a major ascent to the first Bushnells lean-to. The pitch was quite steep. We stopped often for me to get footing and to catch my breath. At the top I knew we had one more of these climbs to go, but I wasn't going to give up. I might stop every 5 steps, but I was going to get this load to its home. We had a slight downhill to get to the brook which we had to cross and then began the last of the ascents. As predicted, I would stop every few feet to regain strength and then push on. My hand was cramped, and my legs in general felt like jelly, I only knew they were still there because at the top of the ascent I felt my right quad cramping up. We finally arrived at about 2pm. At the lean-to, Paul and Bob began hanging the new logs while Eileen and I installed pegs along back to hang packs.</div><div><br></div><div>We finished our tasks and began our descent, making quick time back to the JBL. We pickup up a few bags of trash from the Interior Outpost to bring down. I bid farewell to the crew at the Howard and set up my bed. It was barely 4pm and I was ready for bed. I knew I had to stay up a little while longer or i would be up at midnight. I made some cocoa and had a sandwich. A dad with his two sons arrived from climbing Slide. They made dinner and we chatted a bit. Eventually my weary bones had enough and I was in bed. Winds came hard through the night along with snow. I headed out about 7:30 am, the trail out had already had a hiker on it so I didn't have to pay attention to markers. I passed by the Forest Ranger on his way in. Back at the car by 9am.&nbsp;</div>

2/16/2014
Wilson Pond -Blue Ridge Wilderness
1 Night/6 Miles

I have a list of potential destinations which keeps growing even though I am consistently getting to these places. I just seem to add 2-3 more every trip. My notes to myself recommended Wilson Pond in winter due to its proximity to a major rd, i figured it would get a lot of traffic in the other seasons. The trail is reportedly wet too. perfect combination for a winter snowshoe trip.&nbsp;<div><br></div><div>I met Ian at the trailhead around noon. We headed up the trail, and it was up, pretty much the whole way. Not like climbing a mountain, just a steady rise. The trail was well marked and was used as recent as a week ago, so the tread in the snow was visible even after the last snow. We made slow time, stopping and chatting quite a bit. Wondering if the pond was over the next rise. The trail seemed to go on forever. We eventually made it to the lean-to. A stack of firewood was awaiting us. The scattering of downed trees was evidence the site gets less use than I expected. The shelter log would confirm. Entries averaging one a month. I suppose the wetness of the trail as also recorded in the journal keeps many out. We gathered some more wood and started a warming fire. It wasn't very cold, yet. The temp was forecasted to drop to almost zero by the next AM. cooked up some chili and bratwurst and we relaxed.</div><div><br></div><div>Both of us were tired, and we expected to be in bed early. Based on the moon the previous night, we were hoping for a nice moonlit night. I think we were both asleep before the moon came up. I awoke in the middle fo the night and noticed the woods were aglow. I smiled and went back to sleep. Soon the AM was upon us.</div><div><br></div><div>It certainly did get much colder over night. Not sure how low, but it was only 8* when we got back to the car at 10:30. We lazed around since we didn't have tarps, tents or hammocks to pack up. yeah, I slept in the lean-to. Need to check these off the list every chance I get. Winter seems to be the best time. B.Jackson nailed Wilson back in 2012. I doubt I will ever catch up to the number of lean-tos he has slept in. he has quite a bit of a head start and I eschew them in all but the winter. The trail out was much faster as it was generally down hill the entire way. We also didn't chat as we hiked at our own pace. I paused every so often for Ian to catch up with me. Next up is a Lean2Rescue trip I think.</div>


3/2/2014
Preston Ponds w/L2R
1 Night/7 Miles

Due to all the work Lean2rescue has done, other organizations have started to take notice. The Open Space Institute has a cabin which is used by the DEC for rescue operations in the High Peaks of the Adks. This cabin is rarely used and in disrepair. The OSI contacted Lean2Rescue about rehabbing it. I guess a cabin is just a Lean-to with a fourth wall; just bigger. SUNY ESF allowed some of the crew to stay in their staff residences nearby friday night so they could get an early start in the AM without having to pack up camp. I would be driving all night to meet the crew at the Upper Works parking area.&nbsp;<div><br></div><div>Around 8am we headed up the trail with loaded pulks. Some with food, some with tools, others with materials. We hiked across the frozen henderson lake and then re-entered the woods towards the Preston Ponds. It was 3.6 miles in and of course uphill. when we arrived, Ted and Chuck who had spent the night there had already started to clean off the roof of the cabin. They first had to shovel off the 3 feet of snow. We all go to work on various tasks. By nightfall, we had stripped off all the shingles and tar-paper, bagged all the refuse for a the helicopter and layed down the temporary tarp roof. We enjoyed a great dinner and post job celebration. We had a few tasks remaining in the AM so we slept in. After breakfast we finished up, cleaned up and headed back with much lighter sleds. Whilr crossing the lakes I would often pause to look around the mountains in the distance and the hills surrounding the lakes. This is a busy area in the summer, but we had it all to ourselves as all the winter visitors were climbing peaks instead of staying to the waters. Perhaps soon after ice-out I can paddle the water before the crowds descend.</div>

4/15/2015
Eclipse at Cascade
1 Night/7 Miles

The goal was to view the lunar eclipse at 3am while out in the woods. I try to schedule many backpacking/canoeing trips to coincide with celestial events. Not only is the view better without the light pollution, but there is something more primitive witnessing these events like our ancestors did. The main trail to Cascade begins at the end of a seasonal dirt rd. Since winter is still with us, this road was not passable. I opted instead to use the NPT from Lake Durant and then the connector trail. Lake Durant Campground was still closed for the season, so parking was not an issue, nor was the need to get a day use pass. I ate lunch at a picnic table in nice 70* bug free weather. I knew this was not to last, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. I packed up my leftover &nbsp;lunch and headed down the campground road. My friend Justin had been here a week or so ago and described the rd as being used by snowmobiles. While there was still snow, there were enough bare patches to prohibit the machines anymore this season. Proceeding down the rd about a quarter mile, I &nbsp;then entered the NPT foot trail with no motorized access (supposedly). The trail utilized an old woods rd which the snow machines apparently still use, ignoring the signs. The trail climbed slowly, was icy and snowy. I soon reached the trail register and signed in.&nbsp;A few people had signed in over the past few weeks, but not many.&nbsp;I saw My buddy's entry and also a comment, NO SNOWMOBILES on the page. I continued up the trail. It wasn't far, only 3.5 miles to my destination but I would be gaining slight elevation the entire way. This combined with the snow remnants, and melt would make for a tiring and wet walk. Once I left the old woods rd, the trail began to coincide with the spring runoff. I am familiar with this section having hiked the NPT, but there was a lot more water flowing than in the summer. After a slow slog uphill, I cam to the junction with the connector trail. The NPT continued left to Stephens Pond (ugh leeches) which will be the first stop for the section I hike I lead this summer, I went tot he right towards Cascade. The trail had considerable blowdown which will be cleaned up shortly I am sure. This area gets quite a bit of use being so close to the State Campground. This 1 mile section went quickly and I soon saw the Pond through the trees. The outhouse let me know I was near the lean-to. I turned off trail and went straight to the lean-to instead of continuing on to the official junction. It was early afternoon and I had the rest of the day to enjoy my new surroundings. I visited the outlet cascade from which I assume the Pond is named.Due to the spring melt, this was raging, The entire area was flooded and the roar was tremendous. I collected wood and explored the shoreline a bit. The pond was just beginning to rid herself of hard water as some pools were beginning to show. By next week, the fishing should be good. The shelter log mentions trout. However this is sometimes misleading. I collected some more wood and rested. Nothing beats a slow lazy adirondack afternoon, especially when there a no bugs. For dinner, I ate my lunch leftovers and that was enough. Campfire tv and the increasing winds would be my guests for the next few hours. While I was hoping to catch the eclipse, I was acutely aware this was not to be. I had looked at the weather forecast and a storm was approaching. The winds were a harbinger to this impending condition. I also knew this would make the trail even wetter for the walk out, and likely be still raining the next day. I didn't let that get me down. I stoked the fire and lost myself in random thoughts. As the sun set, so did my eyes. This is typical for me, as I rarely stay up much past the sunset in the woods. The rains came a little later than expected, not as hard either. They were done by the time I awoke. Not having to get home by a particular time, I lazed around all morning. Made some coffee, then some cocoa and packed up. A slight rain then came, so I donned my rain gear and headed back down the trail. Not much snow was left, but in its wake was deep water. Between the water underfoot and the rain from above, I accepted my fate of getting wet. Dry clothes were waiting in the car. The 3.5 miles back went quickly as it was mostly downhill. By the time I got to the car, the sky had opened up and was raining quite hard. Something about putting on dry socks just feels so good.<div><br></div><div><img src="http://i284.photobucket.com/albums/ll19/russb_photo/Multiple%20Trips%20Album/2014-04-14130300.jpg"><br><div><br></div><div><img src="http://i284.photobucket.com/albums/ll19/russb_photo/Multiple%20Trips%20Album/2014-04-14144522.jpg"></div></div>


4/28/2014
HammockForumsGathering -FLNF
1 Night/1 Mile

A few of us from HammockForums decided to get together for a group hang. The plan was to meet in the Finger Lakes National Forest. Having been there numerous times, I knew of a few places which would be good places for a number of hammocks. A few of the guys wanted to hike the Interloken Trail, a branch of the FLT. I knew a perfect spot towards the southern end. I arrived just before noon and hiked in the short way to the site. Soon after, a patrol of Boy Scouts were heard and then seen hiking down the trail. They didn't notice me off in the woods. A few minutes later, two adult leaders came by. The older one saw and acknowledged me and I tipped my hat in response. A lone hiker came by within the next hour. We chatted a bit about her hike and I gave her some suggestions as to some side trails. She went on her way and soon thereafter 3 of the HF crew arrived. The weather had been spotty, so I set up a tarp at the site which worked out well as a light rain had begun. The tarp gave a a dry spot for the guys to drop their gear. We made our introductions, set up camp, talked gear and trails, had some food and hung out for the rest of the afternoon. I had gathered a small bit of wood and made a warming fire on which I grilled up a few knockwurst for a late lunch. Rains came and went, the sky went dark and then blue. The air went from windy to still. it was quite a mismash of weather. For dinner I cooked up some more sausages, this time with peppers and onions. I had enough to share. As the evening wore on, another HF member showed up with a few friends. The size of our group doubled and we had a good time sitting around the fire. I stayed up later than usual but eventually had to turn in. I next awoke for a late night pee and instantly was back asleep. I didn't open my eyes again until it was light. At this time the sound of rain on the tarp gave way to silent snow. Quite large flakes began to fall. I waited in the warmth and comfort of my down quilts until the snow subsided. Slight chill to the morning air, more like a november day instead of late april. All were soon packed up and we said our goodbyes. Some with a short hike out, others a longer trail back up to their waiting cars. All in all it was a great trip and we made some new friends. Can hardly wait to "hang" with the guys again.



5/18/2014
High Water and the emergence of the Black Flies. -NPT
1 Night/13 Miles

After a morning training/get together session at the ADK Loj for the NPT Chapter Hike Leaders, I headed over to the NPT itself. It was early afternoon and I figured I could hike in a few miles to check out the conditions and see the water volume going over Wanika Falls. There were a few cars in the lot. A few people were just coming back to the car, and a young couple was donning their packs preparing to head down the trail. I introduced myself and asked if they had been on the trail before. The young man had only been to wanika falls and this would be his girlfriend's first time backpacking. He said he hopes to hike the whole trail someday. I made a plug for the NPT Chapter of the ADK and our upcoming hike series of the entire trail this summer.&nbsp;<div><br></div><div>I was soon changed into my hiking clothes and grabbed my pack. The trail in was muddy as expected and the new bridges certainly made the early stream crossings easy. The trail in this section changes quite a bit from the new growth softwoods to more mature hardwood forests. Of course the constant beaver activity is continuously changing the landscape. I emerged from a young spruce growth to a mud filled flat with a swollen stream running through it. A few weeks ago this would have been real nasty. At present it was passable, just barely. Upstream were a few logs spanning the stream. The water was running fast below it. This was not an easy crossing. Hiking poles were necessary to maintain balance. Once across and past the boot sucking mud, the trail headed up and over the shoulder of a small hill. A few more stream crossings would be encountered, but these had enough rocks to make them more manageable. At one stream the beavers were kind enough to make a bridge after flooding the area. Just before the "flume" at the designated bivy site I decided to rest a bit. I am not sure if I fell asleep or not, but soon the young couple came down the trail. the stopped for a bit and we chatted about the stream crossings. I remarked I was surprised they didn't turn back at the mud flats. Ashley (or maybe it was Alicia) commented "she fell in" trying to cross the stream. They didn't stop for long and were soon on their way.</div><div><br></div><div>I eventually got up and crossed the new bridge over the flume. I chuckled as I looked down remembering how I had to cross this when the bridge was out a few years back. Not sure if it would have been possible with the current water volume without the bridge. Just past the bridge, the trail turns sharply (this is the junction of the old NPT). A little less than a a mile to Wanika Falls. The srping leaves haven't come in yet so the falls were slightly more visible through the trees than usual. But still not much of a photo op. I climbed towards the falls and soon realized that with the current water levels there was no safe way to cross the stream to the campsite on the other side. A mis-step here could easily cause one to go over the falls, &nbsp;a certain 288' fall to ones demise. Up stream was just deep water. I didn't feel like getting totally wet. Maybe if it were July I would be up for a swim, but the weather was a nice 55*. Perfect hiking weather.</div><div><br></div><div>I headed back down to the bivy area. I wasn't very hungry and night soon came. Since I had left home at 2am, I knew why I was so tired. I was up before the sun and wasted no time getting back to my car. The best part about the return trip wasn't the 400' net elevation loss, but the temp dropping below the threshold the black flies enjoy. Not that they were a bother earlier as this hatch precedes the biters, but they were slightly annoying when resting or getting water.</div>


5/26/2014
Seward Range Circumnavigation
2 Nights/31 Miles

Two years ago, Ian and I had done almost the same hike but in the opposite direction. This year we would include Duck Hole as Ian had yet to see it. We got started in the late morning on Saturday and began the wet sloppy portion of the hike on the footpath which borders the Ampersand property. The landowners were in the process of logging as we walked along freshly cut forest. The loggers were careful to leave a few of the mature trees to continue to re-seed the area as well as not removing anything under 6-inches. It is good to see sustainable logging practices. About a mile before the Blueberry lean-to the sky opened up and it began to pour. By the time we got to the lean-to the rain had subsided. Soon after a group of guys showed up from climbing Seymour. we all had lunch and they departed to hit Seward, Donaldson and Emmons while we headed towards Duck Hole. The rains allowed for us to see many fresh tracks. We followed some moose tracks for the next 3 miles. We hoped to get a chance to see it as we approached the beaver meadow but no such luck. The last 2 miles to Duck Hole along the NPT. I stopped to clear out a spring about 100 meters before DH.<div><br></div><div><img src="http://i250.photobucket.com/albums/gg247/allthenamesweretaken/Memorial%20Day%20Weekend%202014/2014-05-24170809_zps164653ed.jpg"></div><div><br></div><div>There were already two guys at the snake infested lean-to closest to the breached dam (with their tent set up inside the lean-to). We headed over to the open one. On the last quarter mile, Ian had twisted his knee and would end up headed back out the next day. But we enjoyed the view and soon we had company, Josh and Chelsea from Minnesota joined us. We had a nice evening and hanging out.&nbsp;</div><div><img src="http://i250.photobucket.com/albums/gg247/allthenamesweretaken/Memorial%20Day%20Weekend%202014/2014-05-24172704_zpsf2a4c38c.jpg"></div><div><br></div><div>We got a late start Sunday AM and it was slow going back to the NPT junction. At this point, Ian headed back and I pressed on. The next 10 or so miles would be a joyous hike along a relatively dry NPT passing by the Rondeaux Hermitage and then following the Cold River to the last lean-to.</div><div><br></div><div><img src="http://i250.photobucket.com/albums/gg247/allthenamesweretaken/Memorial%20Day%20Weekend%202014/2014-05-25111353_zps334113e1.jpg"></div><div><img src="http://i250.photobucket.com/albums/gg247/allthenamesweretaken/Memorial%20Day%20Weekend%202014/2014-05-25131946_zps8189fcf8.jpg"></div><div><img src="http://i250.photobucket.com/albums/gg247/allthenamesweretaken/Memorial%20Day%20Weekend%202014/2014-05-25132623_zpsbee0013e.jpg"></div><div><img src="http://i250.photobucket.com/albums/gg247/allthenamesweretaken/Memorial%20Day%20Weekend%202014/2014-05-25132920_zpse37ebac6.jpg"></div><div><br></div><div>I stopped at the Ouluska Pass Lean-to for a snack. Like usual, the bugs were here. So far for the rest of the trail the black flies had been relatively non-existent. I expected worse considering they were swarming last weekend.</div><div><br></div><div>Between the Seward Lean-to and Big Eddy the blowdown was still uncleared, however the detours were clearly marked. As I approached Cold River #4, the hint of campfire wafted through the air. A few fisherman had paddled up from the Raquette to Shattucks Clearing and then hiked the remainder. They were having some good luck just below the bridge. I continued on to CR#3 where I saw Rob down by the water. I made myself known and he introduced me to his hiking partner Ed and we had some good times talking about the trail and hammocks. The fisherman came by on their way back to their canoes and gave us some hot dogs and a few beers. These were all consumed quickly. Rob's Youtube video can be found here: <iframe width="560" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/roOOUoJKJ-E" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>
</div><div><br></div><div>Since I needed to get up at 5 am to begin my hike out, I went to bed early. I was up before the sun and broke camp. Along the horse trail towards Calkins Brook, I could see the dawn of the new day appear above the Sewards. The orange glow faded quickly and the sky turned grey. A gentle rain soon added additional mosture to the dew laden grasses on the trail. Due to a light pack, i was at the Calkins Brook Lean-to by 7 am (5 miles before breakfast). I like these early morning miles before the heat of the day (and bugs) come out. A small group was just getting up at Calkins. I stopped for a brief chat. It was 2 couples from downstate. The were doing almost the same loop as I over 4 days. They asked for suggestions of other hikes and I was happy to provide some ideas. They gave me a cup of coffee. That and my snack was all I needed to continue on. The rains had subsided but would soon return. The next 5 miles would be in a gentle shower. I passed by the wood staged for the bridge rebuild and the father/son team headed out to go fishing. As i approached the Ampersand boundary, I could hear the logging operation. A mile more to my awaiting car, by now the rain had stopped. I signed out at the register at 10am. A little over 11 miles before lunch is a great feeling. Unfortunately I had a 5+ hour long drive ahead of me. I know my wife would be happy I was home at a reasonable time. -dT</div><div><br></div><div><br></div><div><br></div>


6/8/2014
Moon and Mars Conjunction -Chub Pond
1 night/9 miles

I try to organize one beginners backpacking trip a year for the meetup group I belong to. The last few years I have used Chub Pond and its environs as it is a relatively short drive and the trails are easy. I feel this makes a good introduction for the beginners. Over the years I have met some great people on these trips. Some of which I now backpack with regularly. Some join me on these annual trips. Others have become friends and continue to hang out both on and off the trail.<div><br></div><div>The month of June is typically the height of black fly season and early reports from the Black River WF let us know we would be walking into plenty of BF's and also skeeters. After a quick lunch at the trailhead 5 of us headed down the trail. The sun was shining, the bugs were out but as long as we were moving we seemed to be ok. The first mile or so of the trail is along an old woods road and is nice walk. We crossed the first bridge at lot 8 and then approached the outlet of Gull Lake. This bridge has been in need of serious repair for years. We stopped briefly and took in the view from the bridge and got moving as soon as the bugs found us. This trail has been very wet in places in the past. For the most part it was relatively dry. Some muddy spots from back when atvs terrorized the area still remain. We passed by the trail to Gull and then past Buck Pond. We were soon at the top of the hill at which Chub Pond and Woodhull creek were at the bottom. The trail register had another group signed in ahead of us with both Chub and Gull listed as their destination. We weren't sure whether we would have company or not.&nbsp;</div><div><br></div><div>As we approached the lean-to I gave a quick shout so as to not surprise anyone. I have turned the corner to see an embarrassed couple at this lean-to in the past. We unloaded our backs. The girls set up their tents and I gathered some wood to make a smudge fire. Eric took out the "dutch oven" and we all enjoyed a cold beverage from it. A half rotten log on top of the small fire began to put out quite a bit of smoke to abate the black flies and mosquitos. A few of us explored a bit. We rested, talked and just hung out. A loon came to visit as did a beaver, a hummingbird, and 2 geese with their goslings. A small turtle was hanging out behind the lean-to as well. We ate dinner late and watched the sun set hoping it would signal a slight temperature drop and rid the surrounding area of the bugs. The moon rose and as the sunlight dimmed, eric was the first to spot Mars just above the moon. My last few trips planned around celestial events had been a bust due to overcast skies so this was a welcome exception. The conjunctions are not as spectacular as meteor showers or comets, but special nonetheless. As the day turned to night more and more stars came into view. We spotted a few satellites cruising above. It wasn't long after when my eyes got heavy. I retired first and slept soundly until the call of nature in the early AM.&nbsp;</div><div><br></div><div>I crawled back into my hammock and got a few extra minutes of sleep. when I finally arose, eric had just gotten up and restarted the fire so we could have tea/coffee while packing and not be bothered by the bugs. It was a lazy AM as we had a short hike out. The bugs were worse on the trail on the way out which I think quickened our pace, Back at the cars marked another successful beginners trip although none were rookies. Met a few new people and like usual they suggested we all share our contact info to get together again.</div><div><br></div><div><img src="http://i250.photobucket.com/albums/gg247/allthenamesweretaken/2014-06-07142403_zpsc37aa17b.jpg"></div><div><br></div><div><img src="http://i250.photobucket.com/albums/gg247/allthenamesweretaken/2014-06-07142430_zps38c4244f.jpg"></div><div><br></div><div><img src="http://i250.photobucket.com/albums/gg247/allthenamesweretaken/2014-06-07171839_zps8297f2d1.jpg"></div>


6/29/2014 NPT First Section
2 nights/24 miles

Met up with Rob (12trysomething) at the trailhead on Godfrey Rd. A quick 4.5 miles to Rock Lake first hiking upstream paralleling the N Branch of West Stony Creek until the trail turns westward seemingly away from the creek, but still roughly parallel though it was much further to the south at this point. Along a slight rise we came across a young &nbsp;couple. They were recently married in Lake Placid and were on their honeymoon. So far they spent 6 days in the woods, 32 hours of which they were holed up in their tent during the recent storm. We chatted a bit and gave some advice as to where to go next. Nice to see a young couple enjoying the woods together. Continuing on, the turn-off to Rock Lake came quickly. The weather was perfect and the campsite was beautiful except for the trash left behind by inconsiderate visitors of the past. Rock Lake at one time had a lean-to, and its location is still obvious. Our campsite was further down the lake snuggled in a grove of hemlocks. We made camp, collected wood and began dinner. Pre-planning had us each bring the fixins for Bangers &amp; Mash with onion gravy and a side of green beans. A small 500mL box of wine would accompany the meal. After a fine dinner and conversation we heard the loons calling back and forth between neighboring lakes. Small fry were being predated near the shore. Obviously plenty of fish in the water. Soon after lights out we heard a pack of coyotes not far from camp. It sounded like a very young group. Wondered if there was a mom and her pups. We again heard them around 2 am farther away from camp.&nbsp;<div><br></div><div>We awoke soon after first light , but didn't rush through our morning camp routine. With 14 miles ahead of us on relatively easy terrain and the entire day to do it we were in no rush. Aware that others would be on the trail at this time we wondered if we would run into any of the other groups. Some were thru hiking and others just doing the first 24 mile section like us. The bridge over the W. Branch Sacandaga River was next. I took a short break and caught up with Rob at Meco Lake. As I approached the Lake , I could see him waiting at the outcropping on the far side. I waved, but wasn't sure if he saw me. We both rested at the far side and then headed on towards Silver Lake. Upon approach a lady with her two dogs were there to greet us. I wondered if she was the one who had left the pile of dog kibble in one of the firepits at Rock Lake. She didn't say much and we didn't linger. Silver Lake would be our first breakfast break. At the lean-to, the adopter and his buddy were just packing up. They had cleaned up the area and had a large bag of trash attached to their pack. It never ceases to amaze us all how people can carry so much into the woods and then decide to just leave it. Anyway, much thanks to all the adopters and trail stewards. We heard that Tony and Adam had spent the night here. Tony was one of the thru-hikers we had heard about. Their plan was to stop at the same spot as us tonight, Hamilton Lake Stream.&nbsp;</div><div><br></div><div>After breakfast and pushing on we came to the large beaver meadow. A beautiful site as the once flooded area has now begun to grow in around the immense old beaver lodge standing prominently in the center. A few hikers appeared on the far side, and then turned away. We would find out later that this was Adam and Tony. The trail followed the perimeter of the meadow to the outlet where it crossed just below the remnants of the dam. Standing in the spot where the dam held the water, the top of the edges were above ones head. Prior to its breach, this dam was immense. A figure appeared before us, yelled and then moved on. We would soon catch up to him and learn it was "the bionic man". Coming of recent hip surgery he was a friend of the lean-to adopter and headed up the trail first since he was moving slow. He thought we were his friends at first. Passing by him, we then stopped at Canary Pond for a break and to look around. Talked about a future trip to the spot. 3.2 more miles to Mud Lake for lunch.&nbsp;</div><div><br></div><div>The Mud Lake lean-to was destroyed by a fire years ago. The current lean-to was bought up from WhiteHouse when they decommissioned it from that location. Most recently a large pine had fallen across the lean-to completely flattening it. While roof was not salvageable in the least, the majority of the logs were. lean2rescue rebuilt the &nbsp;structure in the fall with a temp roof and then in the winter put on the permanent roof. Transporting those roofing materials up the hill from whitehouse was extremely difficult. As we often joke in L2R, it this were our job, we'd quit. Well lunch at Mud Lake lean-to was apparently on everyone plan. When we arrived, there was already a group of 4, we made six and before long the bionic man would also join us. Tony and Adam were here and because of Rob's videos, they recognized us immediately. Many White Admiral butterflies &nbsp;were around. As were toads and snakes. Between these animals and the humans a lot of eating was going on. when the bionic man arrived, he asked how much farther to the car. When Rob said about 3 miles, he remarked "that is what you said 3 miles ago". Rob replied, yeah but I never thought I'd see you again. We all had a good laugh at that one. From Mud Lake to WhiteHouse would be a small climb and then mostly downhill. On the rocky down hill section, Rob joked about me recalling the material hauling up the trail. He said something along the lines of, "Not sure what the problem was, this is easy."&nbsp;</div><div><br></div><div>Nearing whitehouse, the trail veered to the left. Originally it went straight ahead to the river where hikers would yell across and the gentleman would appear with a boat to ferry them across for a small fee. Now, the trail parallels the river upstream for half a mile to a more modern way to cross rivers, a suspension bridge. Quite a few people camped at whitehouse were enjoying the waters around the bridge. Most were fishing. We rested at the large chimney; remnant of an old girls camp at the spot. Soon everyone from Mud Lake was with us again so Rob took a photo. The lean-to adopter and crew would be leaving here, with a happy bionic man.&nbsp;</div><div><br></div><div>Our next stop would also be our last for the day at Hamilton Lake Stream. All day we had been sweating up a storm. The temp was only in the low 70's, but the humidity was brutal. The bridge over Hamilton Lake Stream is always a surprise to me. I do not know why I always forget about it. I am sure now that I have written this, I will remember it. At the lean-to, the same routine began. Set up camp, collect wood for a smudge fire and relax. Tony and Adam arrived shortly after and the rest of the night commenced with good food and conversation.&nbsp;</div><div><br></div><div>We all slept soundly that night and with less than 4 miles to go, we had no reason to get up early, yet we did. A slow morning routine and we hit the trail. This time all 4 of us hiked together for the most part. A few stops at Priests Vly, the unnamed stream with the waterfall, and the outlet of Buckhorn Pond and we were at Piseco. We all piled into Rob's truck, momentarily called the stinkmobile due to all our funk and we headed to the Oxbow Inn for some burgers.&nbsp;</div>

Rob's Youtube record of the trip: <iframe width="560" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/7E47GJys86Y" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

8/25/2014 NPT Third Section (& Upper Sargent Pond)
3 nights/31 miles

I had volunteered to lead the 3rd section hike of the NPT for the Adirondack Mtn Club (NPT Chapter). This would be a 27 mile section from Wakely Dam over the height of land to Rt 28N just East of Long Lake. The trip was to be Sat-Mon. Since I had to be at the trailhead early Sat AM, I had decided to drive up Friday afternoon and hike into Upper Sargent Pond for the night. It was only 1.5 miles in and would allow me to get to the trailhead of Sat AM without having to drive in the early AM.<div><br></div><div>About 3 hours before my planned departure I got a call from a Lean2Rescue buddy, Dan. He knows I always have some adventure planned. Since he lives on the way to the ADKs, it was easy for me to swing by an pick him up. I grabbed Dan around 3 pm and we headed out. By the time we got to the trailhead it was well after 7. We knew we would have little daylight left at camp. The trail in was easy, the campsite was well situated on the lake. We spent the waning daylight collecting firewood and getting a blaze going. We then setup our tarps and sleeping gear. By now, we were both quite hungry so I cooked up some bratwurst with peppers and onions and we each opened a beer. The night turned misty but we still enjoyed dinner and friendship. Eventually we turned in, knowing we would have to get going rather early.&nbsp;</div><div><br></div><div>I awoke first and got the fire restarted. The air was still wet and slightly chilly. I recalled some very strange dreams from the night before. Very odd. Gear was stowed and we ate some oatmeal and headed out. We were supposed to meet Brad in at the TH to shuttle cars at 8am. We arrived at my car at 8:11 and we still had a twenty minute drive ahead of us.Brad was in good spirits. He was more relieved that we were alive as he was getting worried something happened to us on the drive. he tossed his stuff into my car and we headed to Wakely to begin the Section.</div><div><br></div><div>Brad had already done the first two sections with Diana in the weeks preceeding. He will be moving to Texas and wanted to hike the NPT before he lost the chance. This section began where Brad finished 1 few weeks before and started with a few miles of road walk. Fortunately the road walk has been shortened with the reroute. 2 or so miles instead of in excess of 8.&nbsp;</div><div><br></div><div>Passing by Wakely dam they standard RVs were parked and we continued to Gould Rd where an accessible campsite is located. We would take a short break there and then push on through the new section. The last few times through this part I have really come to like it a lot. Perhaps it is because I still remember the dreaded road walk, but more likely it is because of all the spring fed streams pouring out of the Blue Ridge Mtn. The tread here is starting to develop nicely. The major downside is the lack of campsites between Wakely and Stephens Pond. The latter would be camp our first night.</div><div><br></div><div>At Stephens I retold my leech story. We collected wood and got a fire going early to push away the skeeters. Being Sat night I had expected the site to have more people, but we were the only ones. Dan carried in a backstrap and some corn on the cob. We ate like champs and talked. I was the first to head to bed and the others didn't wait much longer.&nbsp;</div><div><br></div><div>Like usual, I was the first to rise and restarted the fire. we didn't have far to go today so we knew we could dawdle in the AM and take many rests and enjoy the hike. We made our way to Lake Durant and rested a bit. Crossing Rt 28, the plan was to meet Ian, but plans changed for him. The trail followed along the eastern lowlands behind Blue Mtn and we paused for a while at a nice stream with a small cascade. We were about 20 minutes from the south side of Tirrel Pond at the ONeill flow leanto. We ate lunch at the beach as it was nicer and some people were at the leanto. A group of teenagers came by with two adults. Looked like they were on a day hike. The guys in the lean-to told us the about the "carnival" at the north end. Tirrel is a common spot for float planes to bring clients. Apparently this was one such group.&nbsp;</div><div><br></div><div>We headed north passing by the designated lakeside campsite and found the northern lean-to filled with gear; a large mesh dining canopy was deployed, and two tents also were in the immediate vicinity. The beach had boats,canoes and floats. A few people were shore fishing. We went for a swim a ways down the beach and pondered where we would spend the night. As we headed back to the lean-to area, the fisherman carried in a few fish and told us of another campsite (to their credit, they also invited us to set up nearby). We opted for the more secluded spot about three quarters of a mile down the yellow trail. Turns out it was a great campsite except for the tree damage from axe wielding hordes. Wood gathered, dinner cooked. My red beans and rice had a funky flavor. I think it was the generic hot sauce packet. I choked it down. The smoked bratwurst I added made it ok (I guess). W crashed early.&nbsp;</div><div><br></div><div>Again I was the first to arise. This was our last hiking day which included the most miles and also the only significant elevation gain on the whole of the NPT. The goal was to break camp early and have lunch at the height of land. We passed through the carnival and thanked them for the suggestion. The next portion of trail goes through a typical spruce forest. I like these especially when the trail is high enough so that one is walking a path of pine duff and needles. It was quiet walking. I think the others didn't sleep as well as me. We had a snack/water break at the Salmon creek campsite. I still haven't checked to see if this site is on state land, whether it is legal, etc... There isn't a designated camping spot between Tirrel and Caitlin Bay. That's a long stretch and explains the concentrated activity at both ends.</div><div><br></div><div>From here it would begin the steady climb for a few miles until the last half mile which would be the biggest push. Each time I do this climb it seems to get easier. We paused on the bridge over chick-a-dee brook and then for a longer spell at the creek just before the big push. I think there was an old camp along here at some point. For the next hour, Brad was ahead of us as we took a longer break. we would meet him again at the next major stream crossing on the back side of the climb, where there is a non-designated (but legal) campsite a ways up stream. Dan and I explored the height of land a bit, found a spot where someone had obviously placed a tent for a night. We tried to find a view on the back side, but the spruce was beginning to get thick so we turned back. Down hill, passing by a few seeps in the mountain. A long break for official lunch when we caught up with Brad. A couple of hikers passed us heading south. From here we had about 3 miles back to the car. Dan took the lead for the first time. I think when he remembered there were a few beers in the waiting car put a spring in his step. Back to level, the trail coincides with a dirt access rd for a short bit as well as criss-crosses the x-country ski trails. The final section is through a bog with the longest bog bridging. It just seems to go on for ever. I wished our hike would continue on; but alas this would be the end for the trip.&nbsp;</div><div><br></div><div><br></div><div><br></div>

11/29/2014 4th annual Queer Lake Thanksgiving Trip
2 nights/7 miles

While deciding what to do for my T-giving trip, I realized I had gone to Queer Lake the last 3 years. Made sense to just keep the new tradition alive a bit while longer. Eric (The RevYJ) who joined me last year came along as did a new comer to my list of backpacking partners, Jordan. The recent snow made both the drive up and the hike in very picturesque. We were the first to use the trail since the new snow. The trail had enough snow to leave tracks, but not nearly enough to require snowshoes. This would also mean the muddy sections would be a bit sloppy. The temp was in the high 20's and partly cloudy.

We hiked along at a leisurely pace, stopping only a few times. We talked about our camp routine when we would arrive, since I had to cook on the fire we would need some coals and this area is heavily used especially in summer, so wood is scarce in the immediate area. The lazy folks even cut down live trees leaving the ugly stumps of spruce saplings scattered about. When we arrived, we noticed a decent pile of wood was left by the previous campers. I nice gesture which I always try to repeat myself.

With no need to hurry and gather wood, we relaxed and set up our sleeping arrangements. A small fire was built and dinner prepped. We decided to eat early so that we could enjoy it before it got dark. I roasted a turkey breast in the coals, we had sides of stuffing, green beans and gravy. For dessert, Jordan brought in a chocolate bobka. Many Seinfeld references ensued for the rest of the trip. Dinner was a resounding success, the turkey was timed perfectly and with the added onion and apples under the skin provided a nice flavor and juiciness. It will be difficult to replicate.

As usual on these early sunset trips, we were in bed early. I opted to sleep in the lean-to with Eric and Jordan. An decision I would soon regret. I am just not very comfortable on the lean-to floors, as I much prefer my hammock. I would rectify this for the next night. I awoke before the rest and made come coffee and got a nice warming fire going which I used to make more hot water for the group.

We always have grand plans for exploration of the environs, but often the weather and our laziness change our minds. Instead we hung around camp, I went to gather wood from an area nearby which few go to. I don't think Eric got out of his sleeping bag until almost noon, and Jordan was curled back up in hers a few times in the afternoon. I kept myself busy gathering wood and stacking it nearby. The weather changed a few times throughout the day with snow flurries of big flakes and light winds, to calm and light snow, some sun. Strange weather as the winds came mostly from the North. I wasn't worried, it is easterly winds which signal a major storm. Another early dinner of hot dogs, compliments of The Rev and the last few libations. Another relatively early night as we wanted to get going in the AM.

We all slept well and arose with no difficulties. The hike out was beautiful with the morning sun shining on us and reflecting off the snow. Saw only hare and squirrel tracks, until we came across those of the hunters from the cabin we pass by on the way in. We stopped and chatted with on as we saw him on the trail near the cabin. Back at the car and another Tgiving trip in the books.


12/14/2015 In Search of the Geminids -ONeil Flow on the NPT
1 night/7miles

My annual trip to the Adirondacks to see the Geminid Meteor Shower was again thwarted by overcast skies. The good news it kept it relatively warm. 7 of us made the trek this time. A cross posted trip between the NPT Chapter of the ADK and the Genesee Valley Hiking Club Meetup Group. Diana, Ben, Chris, Jeremiah, Kim, Pat and I hit the trail around noon on Saturday. It was only 3.5 miles in, but we had to break trail in the fresh snow from the recent storm. With this many people, it was nice to share the duty. We would break trail for awhile then move to the back of the line. We took it slow, especially on the stream crossings. Arriving at Tirrel Pond and the ONeil Flow lean-to a little after 2. We set up camp, had a beer, and began to get firewood. 5 of us would end up staying in the lean-to. This would make #29 for the different lean-to's I have slept in (visited 88 of them).

The wood was generally ice covered, but with some time spent preparing tinder and separating the dry wood, we soon had a nice fire going. Aided by Pat's thermarest fan which he promptly melted the cap. Once the fire settled down, Chris, jeremiah and i cooked up some bratwurst on the fire. The others also ate dinner. By this time the sun had set and unless the skies cleared up we knew we would probably not get a view of the meteors again this year. Eventually we headed to bed. With the overcast sky, and the packed lean-to the lean-to was warmer than expected. We all slept well even with Chris snoring away. I awoke in the middle of the night and noted the sky was still cloudy.

In the morning we all went about our business of packing up and eating breakfast. We were all happy to be able to follow our broken out trail on the way back. The way out went much faster and we were back at the car 24 hours later from when we left.

While we did not see the sky show, we had a great time. Met some new friends and re-connected with some I hadn't hiked with in a while.


12/28 Friends till the End -Pinnacle Creek
2 nights/7miles

For the final trip of the year, the destination and hiking companions was up in the air until about a week before. After exchanging messages, it was determined to be a 2 night trip for myself and Rob, and Justin would join us from Sat-Sun. The location was to be an old hunting camp off the marked trail along what used to be an old woods road following Pinnacle Creek in the Shaker Mt wild Forest.
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This would be my first trip into this management area. Not sure why, as the maps have always intrigued me. Justin having been there before confirmed the location of the old camp. I picked up Rob on my way through the Syracuse area and we were at the trail head near 11:30am. Not the earliest start, but plenty of time to make the short trek. The trail followed an old woods road, and due to the recent warm weather much of the snow cover was gone. This would prove important for two reasons. First, we didn't need snowshoes and second, it would be easier to follow the tread of the old road especially when we had to leave the marked trail.
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The hike along the old road was quite pretty. Hemlocks lined the slopes along the creek which tumbled over the many rocks within in. It was hard to imagine this swollen stream was capable of floating logs in the early days of the last century. The trail turned away from the stream and then the stream meandered back. We crossed the feeder stream. Rob hopped across a little ways upstream while I opted to wade across sans boots. The water was frigid but the warm wool socks would soon return mt frosty toes to comfort. Made a nice break to sit and tie my boots. Since we were following the creek, the trail would be basically uphill the entire way. On the return trip we would appreciate this. The creek would also be even deeper on the return.
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Shortly past the feeder creek was the site of the old sawmill. The corduroy which made the old road was prominent here as the melting snow and runoff cascaded over it. I commented how uncomfortable a wagon ride must have been over this type of road. I joked that people would be bobbleheads in those wagons. We saw the old foundations of buildings in the area. A few metal pieces had been set upon the foundation rocks. Evidence of other explorers poking around in the old ruins. Apparently some of the old stone work for the sawmill's dam is still in the stream, but we didn't head over to the stream side which was a hundred yards to the west. We continued on, pausing a few times at different locations knowing that our turnoff along the old road away from the marked trail may not be so obvious. When we found it, we headed up and away from the creek. As we came to another feeder stream a a few old metal barrels marked the spot. At first we thought we had arrived, but no prominent campsite was located. we looked around a bit, and I followed the road down the hill to wher some significant beaver activity was present. Here I intersected the marked trail. Consulting the map, we still had a little farther to go. The obvioys crossing of the stream which would signify our turnoff was much more significant and we continued up the old road until it petered out. It was difficult to follow at a few places as it turned a few times. Plus this was no longer even used as a hiking trail. When the road petered out, all the sources of of Pinnacle creek were visible, like individual fingers flowing off the mountains coalescing into a single stream. Not seeing a campsite, we decided to back track a little bit to the junction and look more closely. within moments, Rob spotted a snow covered picnic table creekside. The campsite was located. We uncovered the firepit, scraped the snow off the table and set up camp.
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Since this site was rarely if ever used anymore, firewood was plentiful. We cut and stacked a decent amount on the remains of a cobbled together bunk made from 2x4s and wire fencing. We grilled up some venison hot dogs and sat around the fire. We chatted, ate, and gathered more wood until the sun set. The sky was clear and the temperature dropped quickly. The stars came out and we looked skyward often. At one point we spotted a satellite and watched it traverse the sky. Both Rob and wondered how long we would stay awake, even though it was still quite early. Somehow we caught a second wind and we talked until close to 9ish, perhaps past. Rob commented at one point how our conversations this trip wandered around to many different topics but we did not discuss hiking or gear. Instead of hiking buddies sharing trail stories, we were just friends talking. It was great. It bears mentioning here the day before Christmas, a package arrived in the mail from Rob. He had framed a beautiful picture taking in the fall on the NPT and had written on the back "Friends till the End". Between the framed photo and the gift of the evening shared it was certainly a wonderful holiday for this backpacker.
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At some point we went to bed, it was cold night especially away from the fire. Robs AM thermometer confirmed the low was 23*. Not exactly frigid, but slightly colder than the expected 30*. I arose first and restarted the fire. After some coffee, and breakfast our second day was to begin. The day warmed up quickly and around 10, Justin arrived with Jenny. He handed out a few beers like santa claus and we toasted to each other. Justin set up his tent and we ate lunch. We had no pre-arranged plans at this point, so Justin and I decided to hike to County Line Pond. Rob decided to stay back and guard camp. The hike to the pond would continue along the marked path, so Justin and I jumped over the creek and headed up the hill in the direction of the path. It wasn't long before we intersected it. Justin removed his snowshoes as the path was relatively clear of snow. The path would follow a gentle rise up along the eastern side of Pigeon Mtn. As the path crossed the county line it would then turn more east and climb significantly to the draw where it would descend slightly to a beaver pond and then to County Line Pond. We crossed quite a few small streams tumbling down the mountain side. A series of glacial erratics were strangely aligned. The view across the valley and then into the Silver Lake Wilderness was gorgeous. These types of views are not possible in summer due to the foliage. We spent a few minutes at the Pond, snapped a few photos and then headed back. Much quicker going downhill. Back at camp, Rob had added to the woodpile and we had a pre-dinner snack of beer, cheese and smoked sausage.
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Dinner would be continuous supply of meat starting with venison, then ribeye steak and lastly marinated chicken breast. The chicken was amazing even after an almost full stomach from the other courses. I can only speak for myself, but I ate a lot (perhaps too much?) The sun was now set and while it got a little colder it was obvious it would not get as cold as the previous night. Justin had informed us of a change in the weather forecast and rain was predicted. Sitting around the gigantic fire a few drops were noted. We again stayed up until the nine o'clock hour before we retired. Another night talking around the campfire with some great friends.
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The rains came as predicted. Not heavy, but continuous. I slept very well, even better than the night before. This is typical for me to sleep better the after the first night int he woods. because of the rain, I was in no hurry to depart my dry hammock cave. Eventually my bladder would win out and once out of the cocoon, I packed up. Justin was already up and had restarted the fire. I moved my gear over to the campsite proper and cooked up a leftover hotdog with cheese as breakfast. The rain had subsided for the most part by now. The only drops were likely from the tree branches. I still donned my rain shell, not to tempt fate. After we all ate and were packed up we headed back down the trail. It was wet from the rain and the streams were swollen. Especially the one we needed to fjord. Both Rob and Justin just trudged though, while I opted to wade again. Like before the water was cold, but oddly enough it was warmer than the wet leaves on the trail . With my feet back into their woolly embrace, we continued on and quickly made it back to the cars. As we packed up and were saying our goopbyes, the sky began to sleet. We couldn't have asked for better timing for the precipitation on the trip. The last trip of the year with 2 good friends. What a great way to cap of 2014. Friends till the end for sure!
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