Monday, July 3, 2017

Silver King Basin in the Babine Mtns, British Columbia

My friend Martin has some family history in Smithers, British Columbia. His family had owned a sawmill in town and some silver mines in the mountains nearby. He was going to see if he could find them and I asked if he wanted company. It worked out that our schedules would allow me to join him on this excursion. I met Martin in the Vancouver airport and we traveled the last leg together to Smithers, BC. We were both amazed at this thriving town in the middle of nowhere. Stepping out of the airport, we were immediately greeted by a view of the mountains.

It was late, but still plenty of daylight. We were a few days beyond the summer solstice, which means we would have only about 3 hours of darkness each night. Checked into the hotel, and then drove around the small town a bit and picked up some last minute supplies which could not be taken on the plane. We headed towards the railroad which is near where the old sawmill was supposedly located. We noted a very old building on a side street. We had an appointment with the folks at the local museum to help us out with some locations and other information.

Friday morning we waited for the museum to open; the people were extremely nice and although they did not know the location of the sawmill, they had an idea of who would know. Since we were heading up into the mountains, they would send us an email with the information.

We drove up to the mountains and parked at the main lot which had about 3 different trails emanating from it. Hoisted our packs and began the long slow climb to the Silver King basin. The trail looked to be used by vehicles in the not so distant pass. The trail increased in its roughness and in elevation. We stopped numerous times to take breaks since we were in no rush. It was only about 9km to the Basin. Along the way, glimpses of the mountains would enter the break in the trees in the trail ahead.

It wasn't long before the trail opened up into the Silver King Basin. We would cross a footbridge over the outlet of an alpine lake on our way to the head of the basin. This is a popular area, and the community came together with local businesses to construct a cabin for visitors to use. It is often filled to capacity. So far we were the only ones here.

We unpacked out gear and went exploring. It was early afternoon and we had 8 hours before it would get dark. About 1 km past the cabin was the entrance to the Silver King mine. Artifacts from the operations were still here although the entrance to the mine had been closed. After exploring the immediate vicinity of the mine entrance and looking at the old mining cars and rail lines we climbed up above the collapsed entrance in search of vent holes. We didn't find any, but as we climbed we were greeted by a waterfall cascading down the mountain. We could also see across the way to the trail leading up Hyland pass.

We headed back to the cabin to plan out our next few days. A few others had since "checked in". We looked at the time and decided to head up Hyland pass for a half hour then turn around and come back to make dinner. We grabbed our day packs and headed up. The pass began along side a small stream and we crossed it a few times as well as some snow patches. After 40 minutes it looked like we had a lot, and the climbing was steep. Martin said we already got this far, let's just finish it. The trail turned a bit and began to switchback up the slope. The trail became more open. Great views of the basin would could be seen as we were now well above the tree line. One of the other guests came running down. He had just run up the pass. Soon another couple were on their way down and they told us of an alpine lake not far ahead. The terrain began to level out a bit, but we could see we had another significant climb ahead of us. At this alpine meadow we could see down into a small basin to the lake filled with the snow melt. The trail would become loose scree in places and it was quite steep. I though perhaps we had taken one of the ski trails accidentally after going off the trail to view the lake. Martin went ahead a bit to see if the trail did indeed turn back towards the saddle. It did, so I caught up to him and we pressed on. As we approached the pass, the winds began to pick up. The pass is through the saddle between the two highest peaks in the provincial park. The saddle is still quite high, only the ridge and technical portions left to get to the summits which we would not do. We didn't go down very far through the pass since our 30 minutes had passed over an hour ago. So we turned around and headed back down. It took us 1:40 minutes to climb to the pass, and 50 minutes to get down. I would cook dinner and we joined the others by the firepit.

The next day we would explore a little bit more and then head back to Smithers. We had gotten information from the museum folks so we went to find the sawmill. While poking around in the brush, Martin walked through a bunch of stinging nettles while wearing shorts. I could not locate any jewelweed in the vicinity. We tried to get some benadryl cream at the pharmacy, but all were closed as it was Canada Day. Back at the hotel, I gave Martin some benadryl pills which he crushed up and mixed with some lotion to create a salve to provide some relief. we had dinner and drinks at the bar. Another gentleman was there who happened to work in the mining industry; gold and copper specifically. He wasn't just a miner, he founded the company.

Anyway, the museum had given us the number of the town historian, so we gave him a call the next day, and he met us near where the old sawmill was located. A few minutes poking around int he brush and we found some old footings and a metal pipe, it looked to be for exhaust smoke. Apparently the sawmill was steam powered. martin was glad we were able to find the exact location. To celebrate we hiked up a well groomed path to the twin falls which are sourced from the glacier up on Hudson Bay Mountain. Too bad we didn't have time to climb all the way to the foot of the glacier. Perhaps another time. The Babine Mtns are beautiful. while Some of the photos came out nice, they really could not capture the depth, size and scope of the basin and the mountains that surround it.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Trail Maintainence on the NPT

Spent two days clearing 4+ miles of trail along the NPT between the Sucker Brook junction and Cedar Lake dam. Clearing blowdown with hand saws, and cleared drainages to allow water to better drain. Had to hike in 5 miles just to get to the section, then another mile to clean and assess the Colvin Brook lean-to. Had to ford the Cedar River knee deep to get to the lean-to. No log book entries since last October. Spent the night at Cedar Lake. Next day hiked out the 9 miles while pruning back the liw growth from the trail. As Chuck would say, "camping with a purpose." And much thanks to John H for lending a hand.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Cold River Loop 2017

One of my favorite hikes in the Adirondacks is the circumnavigation of the Seward Range, aka The Cold River Loop. This 30 mile loop includes a 10 mile section along the Cold River, arguably one of the best 10 miles of the entire NPT and also the most remote. I had a few people join me on this trip since I opened it up to the NPT Chapter and also the local meetup group. 3 of my companions I had hiked with in the past, and we were joined also by Amanda and Jillian.

A slightly late start from the Seward summer trailhead on Amperanad Rd., we donned our gear and headed up the approach trail . I realized this was going to be rough for the newcomers as one was slow to go right from the start. Over the next 3 days, her struggle would become apparent; a lot of very heavy food. we made the turn and headed down the horse trail past the cairn for Calkins Brook path up Donaldson. At The Calkins Brook lean-tos we paused for lunch. Both us eating and the skeeters eating us. We expected black flies to be in full force this weekend, but it was the mosquitos which were most annoying. Lunch was quick as we wanted to get moving.

we continued down the horse trail all the while the group joked about it "being all downhill from here" even though we constantly had small hills to climb over. When we eventually reached the Cold River, we were at the lowest elevation of our trip. We had made very good time. Camp was set up, and we hung out for the rest of the evening.

Like usual I was up before everyone else. I started a fire and made myself some coffee. I tried to keep quiet, but I still managed to awake Kim whose tent was quite close to the firepit. Eventually everyone else was up and eating breakfast. With larger groups, it takes longer int he morning as the group is only as fast as its slowest member. we eventually heading down the trail; upstream of the cold river. Pausing at the different lean-to's along the way. We took a long break at Seward to sit on the rocks. A group which had stayed at CR#4 also stopped. A few of them opted for swim in the cold water. We continued on with a break at the Ouluska lean-to. I helped Amanda with some blister issues. From here it was a long 4 miles to the next junction. we were moving slowly and I expected the group would want to stop at CR#1 or #2 for the night, but they opted to press on to Camp 4 so as to have a short day tomorrow. I think the expectation of rain was a major influence. By now the other group had leapfrogged us, also heading towards Camp 4. Apparently they were doing the same loop as us.

We caught up the other group at camp 4, and as I was getting firewood, they chose to continue on to another location. everyone was setup and dinner was had. Not much talking as most were tired. A couple times I though there was some napping at the picnic table. Still smiles though. Jillian was always good a quick smile if I asked. I shared some of my steak with those who wanted it. I set aside wood for the morning in anticipation of the rain.

The night was much warmer than the previous. I slept int he lean-to as I had not bagged this one yet. This time no one was camped near the firepit, so I was able to get the fire going in the AM without waking anyone. The much anticipated rain had not come. we packed up and were on our way. Soon though, the rains came. We would hike the rest of the way in the rain. Just enough to need rain gear, but no much that everything was soaked. With the rain, and tiredness of the group, it was a less talkative section. At the junction for the approach trail I joked that if we took a left we could do the loop again.

Back at the car, we said good bye to our hiking companions and began the drive home. As with all my guided trips, I send out a survey to learn what I can do to be a better trip leader as well as share photos with each other.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Spring has Sprung in the Adks

After my February trip with Dan to the Wilcox Lake wild forest, I put together a 40 mile route which would encircle much of this forest and allow for some excellent camping and fishing opportunities. with spring here, and the snow mostly gone I decided to spend 4 days doing this route. Another hiking partner of mine, Lance, sent me a message about doing a trip around the same time. I sent him a map of my proposed route and he was intrigued. since he only had 3 days, we would spot a car for his exit part way on the route. Days before the trip, I was also in contact with some other friends and when they heard of the route we concocted we planned to meet for my final night along the way so they could do some fishing. To top it all off, some folks from Ohio would be hiking the NPT and asked if they could get a shuttle from their car to the Benson rd trailhead. So with all these moving parts in place, I packed up my gear and food and headed out to meet Lance at the Pumpkin Hollow rd parking area.

The weather forecast was not promising for the trip, but we were gung-ho to set out anyway. We left Lance's car and then drove up to the Cod Pond parking area to begin our trek along the Oregon Trail. Signing in at the register I noted I was here back in June of last year checking out the ponds and trails with Dan. The temp was in the 40s and the sky was overcast. The trail was wet and rocky, but as we gained some elevation and the trail leveled out, the wetness dissipated. we continued on enjoying the signs of spring. Our easy goal was Baldwin Springs, but being only 6ish miles in we figured to get farther. The trail meandered a bit and seemed to take longer than expected for the distance. Must be we were both out of shape and moving slower. At Baldwin Springs, the extra snowmobile trails made navigation confusing. A compass proved useful. We took a snack/lunch break and chit chatted about what I do not recall.

We were now on the Arrow Trail heading south. According to my map and research, there were no campsites until we would reach Harrisburg Rd. However on the map a stream crossing was also tagged with a distance marker. I figured a campsite might be nearby, and if not we would always go off trail. Since we both had hammocks, finding a suitable spot to camp would be easy. The rains began early in the afternoon. Not hard rains, but sustained enough we would need to put on gear, especially in this temperature. We set a time of 4 pm to begin looking for a suitable place to make camp, and then a 5pm any place will due. As luck would have it, at 3:30 we crossed a bridge at the stream and just beyond was a campsite. It wasn't large, perhaps enough room for a single tent. But it had a firepit and good view of the flowing stream. We set up our hammocks a ways farther into the woods to protect from the anticipated wind gusts and rain. During a break in rain, I gathered a bit of wood and started a fire. We ate dinner and as the rains started a bit again, we went to our hammocks. It was still rather early, but I found myself tired. We had done a bit over 9 miles; not a lot but as mentioned we were out of shape.

eventually, I took off my boots and readied myself for bed. It rained off and on I believe. Sometimes it is difficult to tell when it is rain, or simply water dripping from the trees in the wind. I slept off and on with vivid dreams, the content I have no recollection. At daylight came, i got up and restarted the fire with wet wood and made some coffee. Lnce was soon awake after the noise I was making breaking twigs and such. we packed up and headed out. We were expecting today to be the miserable weather, but since we had gone extra yesterday we could stay at our original planned spot after only 8 miles. The bad weather held off, but our aching muscles signaled we needed to do the shorter distance. This would also mean I would either be doing close to 20 miles the next day including climbing a mountain, or catch a ride with Lance to cut off some of the miles. I would cross that bridge tomorrow. The Arrow Trail eventually runs into Harrisburg Rd. There are a number of private camps interspersed with state land drive-up campsites. Typically walking roads is a miserable experience of bugs and burning sun, but it being overcast and no cars around it was ok. As the road ended at a private camp, we would continue on the snowmobile path which isn't shown on my maps. I knew it was here from my trip last February. This path was more of a dirt road complete with atv tracks. We were also following what looked to be a canoe cart. There were a few mud pits to avoid. As we neared the snowmobile crossing, the canoe cart was stashed along the trail. the stream was level enough to paddle it appeared. We continued on to the footbridge. I was now on familiar territory although it looked quite different without all the snow.

We crossed the bridge and began the climb up the steep section. Fortunately it did not go straight up, but instead switchbacked a few times. We paused a few times on our way up, not as much as we did with snowshoes and pulks back in February. The trail had some blowdown to skirt around and we were soon at the junction a quarter mile up from Wilcox Lake. We expected others to be there due to the canoe cart and assumed they would probably be at the newer lean-to so we headed to the other one. The day was beautiful, although sitting around it could feel a bit chilly. At the lean-to a fire was smoldering with some glass and cans in it. I do not know why some people think they can burn metal and glass. I pulled the debris out of the fire, and went to gather firewood. This area is used quite a bit so firewood needed to be carried some distance. We had all afternoon though. Lance carried in some binoculars which we used to see the other folks at the shore near the other lean-to. They seemed to paddle to a different spot, light a fire for a bit then move on to a different spot. We wondered whether they were the ones who left the mess here. The afternoon was windy. Lance set up his hammock a ways back from the lean-to, and I opted to stay in since I hadn't slept in this lean-to yet. Ate a later dinner, I cooked up some venison and a Knorr side. We went to bed soon after it was dark.

Rains came through the night. The damaged boat by the lean-to was pounded like a drum. I was so tired I fell back asleep quickly. Rains turned to drizzle in the AM. I had stashed some wood and kindling for a warming fire. I was up rather early and had some coffee and oatmeal. Lance also was up early. We sat around a bit hoping for the weather to open a window for us. Eventually we were packed up and headed out in the chill of the wet morning. Retracing our path back to the junction, we then proceeded to follow the Wilcox Lake trail to Willis Lake. The sign said less than 5 miles, my map had it at over 6. It was a nice trail. i was expected a wider path since it was designated snowmobile, but most sleds going to Wilcox probably come in from the other direction. The trail headed up through a notch and then along the shoulder of Pine Mtn. What a beautiful area. It reminded me a bit of the finger lakes trail in parts. By the time we got back to Lance's car, there was no way I was going to make the next 14 miles before dark to meet friends at my next campsite, so Lance gave me a ride to a closer access point. No sooner was I back on the trail did it begin to rain again. By the time I got to the campsite I was drenched. I also had forgotten about the swampy area. With all the rain and spring melt, this was a slog. I had been dragging my feet a little (literally) to scuff up the trail just in case George, Tammy and Dan came in after dark as this was an unmarked trail, although there were unofficial markings the tread was not easily seen.

At the campsite, i set up my tarp and sat under it as the rains continued. In a window between rains I started a fire and put on plenty of larger logs to shield it from future rains. As the rains came and went, I would venture out to gather more wood and set it nearby the fire to dry out. I also set up my hammock. Well before dark I heard some rustling in the woods; it was George and Tammy carrying in their Hornbeck canoes along with some beer and venison hot dogs. We chatted a bit, had some beer. They set up their camp and we waited for Dan. Since we were hungry and weren't sure when Dan would arrive, we had some venison hot dogs with sauerkraut. Dan arrived just a bit before dark. By now all the rains had been gone for a while. It was a good time hanging out with friends.

In the morning Dan needed to leave by 10 and since I had just a few miles left, I figured I would hike out to the the junction with him and then part ways. Since we had some time after breakfast, he did a little fishing and landed a nice 13 inch brookie which was soon cooked up on the fire. right before we left, George had landed two more about the same size. Dan and I headed out. He was wearing his tall rubber boots so he walked right through the swampy sections. A few times the water almost went over the top of his boots. I made my way around the wettest parts. As Dan continued down towards his car, I turned to continue on the snowmobile path. It was nice walking alone again in good weather. Right around noon I was back to my car. I cleaned up, changed out of my dirty clothes and prepared to meet the NPT hikers I would be providing a shuttle later on that day. The 4 mile loop was cut short by about 11 miles, so I logged only 29 on the trail. But it was great to be back out.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Riff, Raff, and Ruckus at Wolf Pond

While planning for a quick weekend winter trip, my buddy Justin and I were looking to use hard packed snowmobile trails to access the interior of one of the southern Adirondack Wild forests. As the weekend approached the weather forecast called for rain. We opted instead to head farther north to a new trail and lean-to in the Vanderwhacker Wild Forest. The forecast called for snow farther north.

I met Justin at the trailhead. He loaded up his pack, and I my pulk. Our friend Bill had sent us a map image of the flagged trail, so we had an idea of the terrain. It was only a few miles in, but the trail would wind around. We had to break trail, but it was not too bad. We went slow enjoying the changing terrain and views. At one spot on the trail, we walked along a small cliff face which was covered with ice. A section of it shone deep blue. It was quite elegant

We arrived at the campsite a bit after noon. The new lean-to looked great. It was set away from the lake and was surrounding by a coniferous forest. Plenty of dead and down wood around although it was all softwood. We cleaned out a spot for a firepit since one had not been constructed yet. The lean-to was so new, there was still some sawdust inside and no log book to sign.

We collected some wood, ate a late lunch and settled into camp. Soon familiar faces would arrive; Bill and Lexie strolled into camp. It had been just about a year since the last time I camped with them on North Lake.

The remainder of the trip was just sitting around conversing and enjoying being out. Night came, the new moon provided zero light so the forest was dark. Stars would emerge and then clouds would cover them just as quickly. We eventually made it into our sleeping bags. The temp reading on Justin's thermometer was barely above zero when we finally got up. We lazed around in the morning and eventually packed up. I took the lead for the hike out. Justin added to his footage for a quick video.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Winter returns and a full moon

After the windstorm Wednesday, which knocked down numerous trees and took out power to much of the Rochester area I headed back to the great north woods.

This was supposed to be a meetup trip to Chub Pond, but everyone bailed due to the forecasted subzero temperatures. Undeterred, I changed the location to Nelson Lake to be my solo destination. A few years ago I helped Lean2Rescue ferry logs across the Moose River upon 2 canoes lashed together as a barge. The following weekend, a different group completed the build. This would be my first time back.

There was a small plowed area at the trailhead a few hundred yards before the parking lot. I loaded up my pack and hiked down the old road past the parking area and up to the railroad tracks. At this point, I would turn north on the tracks to parallel the Moose River on unfamiliar trail. As I crossed over the trestle bridge, I spotted the trail to the right. I would climb a bit, and then turn back South. The markers ended at an old woods road which was easily followed. Signs of trail maintainance were visible as well as snowmobile tracks. Rejoining the river on the opposite side, I was back to familiar trail which turned East. Not long after did Nelson Lake lean-to come into view.

I set up camp, and gathered firewood. It was less than an hour to get here, so I had plenty of time to relax. Which is what I did. Like usual as the sun set, so did I. The full moon rose directly in front of the lean-to and its light reflected off the snow. The night was bright and cold.

I was up before dawn. The hole I had cut in the ice for water had refrozen. Made some cocoa and watched the sunrise. Soon after, I packed up and made the short hike back to my car. No great adventure, just a quiet night in the woods.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Warm Winter in Wilcox Lake Wild Forest

Dan and I met at the Stewarts Shop in Northville, NY at 10:30am. We would then drive up to the parking area at the end of Hope Falls Rd to access the Wilcox Lake Wild Forest. The plan was to hike into Wilcox Lake, set up base camp and then explore some of the area. We also needed to inventory some of the supplies and take measurements for the other lean-to at Wilcox for the roof repair next weekend. The hike started off easy on a roadway with many tracks going in. Very mild temperatures for winter. 2 or so miles in we came to the next parking area which is used in summer. At this point we realized our shorter access trail would be about the same length had we taken the northern route which would be a groomed snowmobile path. Undeterred we pushed forth. About a half mile later we came to the old parking area and the trail signs which gave the distance to Wilcox as 5.2 miles. From here we would breaking our own trail. So far the trail was the driveway to the private inholding here on the bank of East Stony Creek. Now the trail became a footpath and continued to parallel the creek for a short while. Soon after we entered back into public land, the trail veered away from the creek to go around a large hill. This would be a gentle uphill and then down for about a mile or so until we again reached the creek. At this point the creek was flowing west, and since we were heading upstream we turned east. Crossing a small marshy area we entered into a hemlock grove and noted some cut logs and an area devoid of undergrowth. Likely a campsite in the vicinity. Not far after we decided that barebooting was not the way to go so we put on our snowshoes. We had heard this trail was the more picturesque hike and we were not disappointed.

The trail continued to follow the creek for a couple miles and then turned inland again. It would rise up and away from the creek. At his point we were both feeling tired. A decent break would be needed. We hiked on looking for a log to sit on and never found one, so we just tramped down a spot into the hill and sat on my foam pad. A snack break and looking at the map to see how much farther we had. The suspension bridge over the creek had an established campsite near it, so we could always stop there if needed. At this point it seemed likely. Knowing sunset was around 6pm we decided that we would see how far we could get, but by 5pm we needed to start making camp. The trail headed back down to creek level and it was a short mile to the bridge. Just after the bridge was a significant climb of about 3/4 mile to intersect the snowmobile trail and then another quarter to Wilcox Lake. It was quarter to five and we had a mile to go. We ditched the campsite and pressed on. I was running on adrenaline only at this point. The climb switched back and forth a bit, and wasn't as bad as I anticipated but still tiring. Saw a tree with a lot of bark chewed off of it about 8 feet up. I queried a moose but Dan corrected me to the more likely suspect a porcupine. Once at the snowmobile trail, we turned right and headed downhill to Wilcox Lake. There would be only a little light left by the time we got to our lean-to about a quarter mile down the lake so our first order of business was to collect firewood.

At the lean-to we grabbed the saw, put on our headlamps and went wood collecting. A decent pile was soon gathered. We opened a beer and sat by the fire. A little while later dinner was cooked. As tired as we were, we still stayed up to almost 10pm.

As usual I was the first to arise. I restarted the fire and melted some snow for coffee. My muscles were sore from yesterday. It was good we didn't have to travel today, just enjoy. After breakfast, we collected more wood and took inventory of the roofing supplies. After lunch we decided to go hike across the lake towards New Lake Mtn. The peak was prominent and it looked like a bare are just below it might provide a nice view back to Wilcox Lake. We headed into the woods and towards the ridge which we would then follow up to the open area. A lot of deer sign along the ridge and some oak trees. At the opening, Wilcox Lake was quite visible.

We could see the top of New Lake Mtn from here. The steep rocky section was all that was left. Soon we were at the top standing upon a larger boulder at the summit. Instead of retracing our steps back, we continued North towards New Lake and down the other side of the Mtn. It was steep and the snow was deep. I wrenched my knee on one of the steps down. It made my going slow and painful on the descent. At about 100 ft above New Lake, we held the contour around the Mtn until we were heading South again. Then followed a drainage almost all the way back to Wilcox Lake. It was still earlier than yesterday and we didn't have to collect wood so we were much more relaxed.

The evening ensued in a relaxed fashion. We ate dinner. Watched the stars come out.went to bed a little earlier than last night. We anticipated tonight to get rather cold.while it did get cold, it was warmer than I expected. Since we had pushed so hard the first day to get here, we figured it would be more enjoyable to hike out part way today, make camp and then finish the rest tomorrow. Less miles meant a later start and a relaxed pace on an already broken trail. First a stop at the other lean-to to take measurements and photos for Jim. The trail out was much easier now. We didn't need snowshoes as our track was solid enough to wear boots with microspikes. We were at the suspension bridge in no time, and shedded our last layer as it was another warm day. Looking at the map, the campsite we passed the other day in the hemlock grove seemed a good place to make camp. It would be only a couple miles more to the car in the morning. We arrived around 3 pm, plenty of time to get set up and gather wood. Dan used some of the gathered wood to make us a bench to sit on by the fire. There were two heavily used deer trails here. Dan suggested that some day he should go on a hunt and I could then meet him the next day and help him carry out the venison. The evening of our third day turned to night and we retired to our quarters. I slept soundly in the hammock.

Day 4 would only be a few miles out. After breakfast Dan explored the game trails, and I dismantled the bench and scattered the wood and ashes from our fire. I camoflaged the firepit with some rotten logs. The day was already getting to be warm. the snow turned mushy and we finished the trip back in snowshoes. Back at the car before noon. 4 days and 19 miles.