Monday, June 12, 2017
Sunday, June 11, 2017
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
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
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 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
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
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.