I picked up Eric at 6am and we headed to Wanakena. For many years I had been exploring this area, but the last few have seen me in other areas. I vowed to myself I would spend more time in the 5 ponds. This would be my fourth trip in this year, although we would not venture to far from camp as is typical on these thanksgiving weekend trips. The forecast for the weekend was mixed and we weren’t positive about the snow depth in Wanakena, but we brought our snowshoes and pulk just in case. The Ranger School web cam showed significant snow.
As we pulled into the main road leading to the trailhead, we spotted Diana. She followed us into the parking area which we would need to dig out in order to park. With the cars parked, and the pulk loaded we ventured down the trail. It begins on an old road (or rail) bed so it is quite wide and flat. There was plenty of snow for the pulk, but not enough to need snowshoes. It was still slow going. Beaver activity had made a mess of some areas. After reaching the campsite at the flow, we still had about a mile to the junction and then another quarter to the lean-to. From here the trail would be a bit more rocky and undulating with multiple stream crossings and log bridges. Some would require care ensuring the pulk stayed straight. Multiple trips with lean2rescue have given me some experience in this area.
We arrived at the empty lean-to and were surprised that previous campers had left some large logs in the fire pit. We figured we would have to spend most of our time gathering wood from afar. Which we did anyway. We quickly set up, and then went wood collecting. A decent load was gathered and knowing I would need coals to cook the turkey, we started the fire. The wood was icy, so it took a bit of time to prep the kindling to ensure the fire would start. Once it was going we decided to have an appetizer of hot dogs, and a beer. The sun would set early as usual and eating dinner in the dark is not the most appealing so once enough coals were made, I got the turkey on. I prepped a boneless breast of turkey with sliced shallots and apple, wrapped in foil. For sides, we had stuffing, gravy, green bean casserole. Diana brought some rolls and Eric had a cheesecake for dessert.
We ate like champs as usual. The temp was dropping a bit and the strawberries on the cheesecake were starting to get icy. We stoked up the fire and put some candles in the lean-to for added light. Also like usual, we didn’t stay up too late. The next morning I was up first, as it often the case. I restarted the fire, made myself some coffee. I tried to stay quiet as Eric likes to sleep in. For breakfast I had some homemade sausage and cheese on an English muffin (had an extra for Justin as he always brings extra for me, but Diana ate it). The day’s activities would be hanging out in the lean-to and collecting firewood. Eric did more of the former, and I the latter. We were not sure what time the others would be arriving. The day was off and on rainy. Not particularly bad rain, more misty like. It was also warming up. The hike out on Saturday would be messy we figured. We also though it might be raining by then.
I made up a pot of chili for lunch, and we tossed in some of the hotdogs. The dogs on the rolls with a scoop of chili were fantastic. Such a basic combination, it surprises me I don’t do it more often. We had so much food, that we never ended up cooking the ribeye steaks I brought for dinner. Instead we ate chili and hot dogs, with beer. The others never arrived which probably added to the extra food issue. We stoked up the fire, I put a space blanket in the back of the lean-to to reflect light. It helped a bit. The night was much warmer than the previous. At one point the smoke from the fire really bothered Eric. He was in bad shape. I recommended a Benadryl. We still aren’t sure exactly what happened. He is allergic to mushrooms, and we wondered if one of the logs had some fungus that when it smoldered caused the reaction.
In the morning, I again restarted the fire made coffee and another breakfast sandwich. I also cooked up one of the steaks, because who doesn’t like steak for breakfast. Eric slept more, as his night wasn’t very restful. His throat was still uncomfortable and he felt sick, but was getting better. As Eric slowly regained strength and we got packed up, we headed back down the trail which was more mud/slush now than snow. We would be following hoof tracks from a pack animal. Back at the car, the hunters who use the camp I found earlier in the spring were there with their donkey. They had just returned from delivering supplies to the older gentleman who uses the camp. We made small talk, loaded up the cars and went to the PineCone for lunch.