Monday, October 11, 2021

Canoeing and Backpacking into Cold River Country

 With a 3 day fall weekend and needing to check on *my* lean-tos along ther Cold River it would make for a relaxing trip with some time to explore as weel as enjoy the last of the fall colors up north. With a few days before my departure, my buddy Dan became available so my plans changed slightly. Instead of my usual backpacking into the Cold River from Corey's Rd, we would paddle down Long Lake and then take the NPT the rest of the way in. Dan wanted to fish some ponds in the interior so we took my canoe and had his Hornbeck in tow.

At the State boat launch, the parking area had a sign for "no overnight parking". Weird. How are folks supposed to spend a few days in the backcountry? The boat steward told us if we were camping on State land, it was ok to park overnight which he was told from the Forest Ranger. I wish the Ranger was there to ask myself. We loaded up the canoe and headed downstream (North) into a headwind. Even with the wind it was a nice paddle even though I was not in paddling shape. We passed Plumbley's Point and found a landing. We hid my canoe in the woods and ate some lunch. I found a path which would lead us to the NPT. Loaded up our backpacks; Dan also had his Hornbeck and we hit the trail. In a few miles we would find a place for Dan to hide his canoe for his exploration the next day. It had been a while since I was on this section of trail. Last time was me hiking Southbound with Andy on his thru-hike. The trail is much nicer in the fall although harder to see with all the leaves covering the tread. Low 60s makes for nice backpacking temps too.Soon after we hid Dan's canoe, we crossed a beaver meadow with a broken bridge. It did not seem familar to me. A few yards back into the woods the reason became apparent. The NPT joined the trail from the left. There must have been a reroute from the meadow being flooded and it has since dried up. 

A lot of the NPT through here was on an old woods road. After returning from the trip[ I did a little more reading about this specific area. Back in the 60s there was another trail which went South to the ponds Dan wanted to explore. I will need to tell him about it when he returns from the remainder of his trip. We arrived at Shattuck Clearing which is growing in more and more every year. There are a few junctions here and I wanted to make sure we took the correct one. It also appeasr a new sign to Pine Point has been put up. I wonder if they crew also cleared the trail to it? Another future exploration. The old campsite at Shattuck with the picnic table was almost gone. A tree had collapsed the table and the firepit was almost completely buried in growth.

Two suspension bridges to cross over the next 3/4 of a mile and then to Cold River #3 which would be home for the next two nights. CR#4 was empty so we had it as a backup in case CR#3 was occupied. Early evening arrival to CR#3 (which was unoccupied) so we set up camp, gathered some wood and had dinner. I was not very hungry so I had my "small dinner". This is happening more frequently on my trips. We had a couple beers each (we had a ration of 2 per night). We could see headlamps upriver near CR#4, some hiker must have just arrived. Made it past hiker midnight and headed to my hammock. 

Was up before light, but I waited to for Dan since he was in the lean-to. Wehn I saw the flash from him starting the fire, I ventured over. The sun still hadn't risen as we both had a full day ahead of us. Dan got started earlier than I as his involved fishing not just travel. I had my breakfast (I made my "big dinner" and would have leftovers for lunch.) and coffee. Loaded up my pack and headed up river. I stopped at CR#4 and talked to the guys there briefly. On my way to the Seward lean-to, I ventured up a stream bed to check out the land since I need to explore off trail here more. There are all kinds of old camps and artifacts from the logging days around. Most are buried now under all the moss and leaves. Some friends have found some things sop I was looking for them. Not finding anything of note, I headed back to the NPT and to the Seward lean-to. The lean-to was clean but the log book was gone... again.  I will need to return with a new one. Check on the privy which we dug and installed 1.5 years ago. Already starting to get full. Between replacing the book and digging a new hole, they are good excuses to return sooner than later. I was making great time and not even trying to hike quickly. The day pack weight helps for sure. I headed to Ouluska; crossing Seward Brook was an easy rock hop as the water level was low. The log book was gone here too. At least the folks are respectful of the old transcribed books covering multiple decades. A few sheets of paper have been added which people have been using as an od hoc shelter log. I noted Carly and Danielle stpped here earlier in the day for a snack break. One of the phrases she used was familiar. I think I know which Danielle this is. Will try to remember to send a msg when I get home.

Had my leftovers for lunch and checked on the privy. Will need to dig a new hole here too. As my friend Chuck used to say "camping with a purpose". It was barely past noon and I had taken a long break. I had some time to do more exploring on my return to camp. I chatted with the guys from CR#4 again while they were taking a break at Seward. I then checked out another drainage looking for an old camp. I walked around quite a bit looking in areas which would be "camp worthy", and then it dawned on me that I was looking for a camp which hasn't existed for over 70 years. The growth and trees would certainly be different. So I looked for an area with a lot of growth... the last place I would choose to camp in this century. As I poked around I found some old cans and bottles in the moss. Some remnants from box stoves and more trash. Very cool. Not really much to see, but glad I found it. Reminded me of when I found the old camp on the Stone Dam trail many years ago, it was all overgrown too. Odd that I didn't remember this while I was searching this time.

Back at camp by 3:30. Plenty of time to take a bath in the Cold River... aptly named this time of year. I also put our remaining beers into the water to cool them. I made an earlier dinner so I would not have to eat in the dark. Dan arrived before the sun went down. He was abit later than I thought he would be due to missing the cut-off trail at the NPT reroute and therefore swing around past where he hid his boat. It took him an extra hour to locate it. I was tired, so went to bed not long after hiker midnight.

Monday morning I again awaited for Dan to get up. We only had to pack up and head home. Uneventful morning before hitting the trail. We passed by the NPT reroute and here were figured out Dan's mishap. He picked up the Hornbeck and we headed to Long Lake. A bout a mile before we stopped and gathered a large bag of honey mushrooms. The canoe was right where I left it. I admit I was a little nervous about leaving it for two nights. The lake was calm and it was an easy paddle. Dan trolled a bit with no luck. We stopped at Rodney Point for lunch and were back at the launch by 2:30. As we approached we paddled past a motorboat towing a dock. These folks take their dock completely out for the winter. The boat steward was finishing his last day of the season. Cars did not have a tickets, nor were they towed. I will contact the forest ranger when I return to ask for verification on the parking issue. With a few hours to drive I will get home after dark. Dan is heading to Lows lake to do some more fishing for the rest of the week.

post-script: I contacted Danielle and it was indeed her. They were hiking the Loop as an overnight.

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Silver Lake along the NPT

 Except for the trips with Dan, many of my trips this year seem to have been solo. This would be no exception. With prospects of potential rain I changed plans to revisit an area I have not been to in a while. I was surprised by the number of cars in the lot at what was the old southern terminus of the NPT. I squeezed into the remaining spot and changed into my hiking clothes. 

The trail was wet, not any wetter than from my memory of past excursions. I  tried to keep my pace slow. It was a bit muggy even though the temp was cooler. As I approached the W. Branch Stony Creek I noted it had a significant volume of water. This time I would be heading upstream to the bridge and not need to cross here anyway.

The designated campsite near the bridge was clean which was good to see. After crossing the bridge I went off trail exploring. Justin knows why. ;) After my off trail excursion, I took a bearing to the NPT and made a mental note of the bearing for future reference. 

As I headed north on the NPT I heard the faint sounds of a chainsaw? This being a wilderness area I figured my mind was playing tricks, or it was coming from the private land. A few minutes later I hear it again; this time the sound was unmistakeable as was the direction. I continued down the trail to where two guys were using the saw to cut blowdown in the trail. They were clearing to ease the bringing in of their gear for their permitted hunting camp this fall. We hiked he next mile or so together until they caught up with two friends with much of their gear on a cart. I passed them by and continued on to he Rock Lake junction. They said their camp was somewhere in the Rock Lake vicinity. I took a break and had some lunch.

As I finished two other hikers came by from the north. We talked briefly. They mentioned a hunting camp up the hill. I do not think it was the same; but perhaps it was. They also mentioned it was wet up ahead. I had noticed the trail had some pools of water and mud. There must have been a recent rain. The crossing of the W. Branch Sacandaga required me to take of my boots. I don't recall ever needing to do that at this crossing in the past. The water felt good on my feet.

I soon passed by Meco Lake which is always pretty. Plenty of water flowing from drainages on the hillside for me to fill my water bottle too. The NPT never has a shortage of available water sources. Approaching Silver Lake I could see some people on the far side near the lean-to area which was my destination. The trail followed the shoreline until I came upon two guys at the satellite campsite. The lean-to was just up the hill. At the lean-to were two backpacks. I sat down on the log and flipped though the shelter log book. It went back to 2018. I did not see an entry for when Andy and I passed by on our thru-hike. Must have not taken a break here. A few minutes later two sisters came up from the lake. It was their backpacks at the lean-to. Nice ladies, we talked a bit about their trip and other past adventures. They were taking a break and heading to Rock Lake. I mentioned the group of hunters I had passed by earlier.

I set up my gear, gathered a bit of wood and some water from the lake. I did the usual take a break, gather wood, take another break routine. I talked briefly with the two guys at the nearby site. They were orginally from Idaho. I told them I was getting a fire going later and they were welcome to join me. Later two more women showed up. The set up camp behind the lean-to down by he water. I extended the campfire invite to them as well. 

After dinner I did a bit of reading and put more wood on the fire to get it really going. I had kept it small for cooking purposes. I went to the lake hoping to catch a nice sunset. While it was nice to watch the sun lower across the lake, we did not get any special colors in the clouds. I headed back up to the lean-to and stoked the fire. As the sun got lower the two women joined me by the fire. They brought up their stoves and made their dinner. We had a great conversation about different backpacking trips and our current adventure. They were doing a section of the  NPT and were stymied at the river crossing due to dangerously high water so they had to backtrack. They then hitched a ride to where I started. 

As the sky grew dark and the fire turned mostly to coals, the ladies headed back to their tents and I into my hammock/bivy in the lean-to. This would be #115 for those keeping count. As usual I was awake before the sun. Slept rather well. Made some coffee and contemlated what to have for breakfast. It was too early for  me to eat. I needed to prep my lunch anyway so I did that. I then decided to make that my breakfast. 

Sunday morning and heading back to the car. The trail would be mostly downhill so the almost 8 miles would pass quickly. About a mile before the bridge I came upon the two sisters from yesterday. We talked a bit more before I continued on. Was back at the car by 11:30. Another solo trip but with plenty of company along the way.