Saturday, February 20, 2016

As Cold as Ice -Kelly's Point

02/20/2016 As Cold as Ice -Kelly's Point

For the second trip in a row I would be heading back to Long Lake. I would be leaving the deep snow of home to a few inches in the Adirondacks. It is usually the reverse. The first day temps were forecasted to be a high of 19*F with a nighttime low of -6*F. The sky would be clear all day and through the night explaining the low temps. The second and third day would be above freezing. I dislike having to pack for trips like this as the cold weather gear is way overkill for the warmer temps. I brought my pulk and snowshoes just in case there was enough snow.

Arriving a late morning the temps had risen to about 11*, so I geared up my sled and strapped the snowshoes on top. I wore microspikes on my boots. Since the last time I was here only a few people had signed in to the trail register. None going further than Catlin Bay. Downhill with the pulk is very easy. A few blowdowns were easily bypassed. I paused at the inlet stream by Catlin Bay to gauge the ice. There were a few places downstream where water could be seen through a crack. Testing each foot with my poles I crossed with ease. I could hear how thick it was by tapping the metal point of my pole on the ice. I paused at Catlin Bay to grab a quick snack and read the shelter log. A couple had signed in writing in their native tongue, but I could not tell what language. Only another 3 miles to Kelly's Point. My only concern was crossing the stream just after Hidden Cove. I figured if I could not find a way across, I could go back to Hidden Cove.

I pressed on and after slowly descending the steep decline to the aforementioned stream, I could see it was frozen. Still not wanting to tempt fate, I crossed upstream where I could minimize my contact with the ice. My crossing spot was dotted with rocks and “islands” instead of a giant solid sheet. A few more blowdowns and another sketchy crossing and soon Blueberry Mtn came into view. I had contemplated climbing this and/or Kempshall Mtn tomorrow as something to do during the day. But who was I kidding, I am a flatlander. Especially when solo. As I left the view of Blueberry, Kelly's Point came into view. There are two-lean-tos at the site of a former Hotel/ Camp. The remnant foundations and stone staircase are all that remains. I set up camp and began to collect wood. There was little snow near the lean-to so I would have to collect it from farther away. I had enough water left to make lunch, so I did that first. I cooked up a venison sausage but opted against having soup. After lunch I gathered more wood. I planned on staying all three days here. I also filled my sled with snow from farther away to use as a water source.

Unlike last trip, the snowmobiles decided to use the lake. First it was a lone sled heading north with quite a bit of gear dragging behind. A few hours later a line of 6 sleds headed the same direction. These 6 would return after dinner. One had engine trouble right across the lake from Kelly's Point. For dinner, I had some jambalaya and added an andouille sausage. I made half of the stew and some hot cocoa. The temp was already dropping. The sky was clear allowing for some stargazing. As is typical for me, once the sun sets I am ready for bed. I try to fight it as long as possible, especially in winter due to the long nights. The night was still... and cold.

I awoke before dawn. Warm and rested. I restarted the fire and went back to my hammock to sit. I soon snuggled back into my bag and fell asleep. I re-awoke after the sun had risen. I defrosted my food for breakfast instead of taking the easy way out and making oatmeal. It took longer, but was worth it. Bacon, sausage, and cheese on bagel with coffee. A lot of fat to stoke the internal furnace. It might have warmed to about zero degrees by then.

After eating I walked over to the other lean-to to read the shelter log. A corner had gotten wet and so the pages were frozen together. Not wanting to tear it, I could only open it a little. Just enough to read one entry from the ADK trail crew's work last august digging new holes for the privies. The desire to climb anything today was gone, so instead of sitting around I figured I would break camp and go back to Catlin Bay. This would allow me to save some time the next day. I stopped at a few tent sites along the way and made lunch at Hidden Cove; the second half of my jambalaya. No one had been there since my last visit. I was back to Catlin Bay in the early afternoon. It was already considerably warmer than the previous day.

I gathered wood and water and took a short hike to the other lean-to on the peninsula. According to the shelter log, no one had been there since our trip in Thanksgiving. I find that hard to believe. More than likely people just didn't sign in. back at the other lean-to I prepared dinner and the winds started to pick up. A few drop of rain between the winds provided contrast from the previous night.

I again awoke before dawn, but this time went right back to sleep. I think it warmed up over night. I had the same breakfast as yesterday, but more coffee. I cleaned up and loaded my sled. There was about a half inch of fresh snow, it was wet and sticky. It would clog up my microspikes. Like walking on glue paper. It was only a mile back to the car, but mostly uphill. I warmed up pretty quickly. Took off gloves and hat before reaching the trail register in the late AM.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Winter Solitude at Hidden Cove, Long Lake, NY

02/07/2016 Winter Solitude at Hidden Cove, Long Lake, NY

After this past Thanksgiving Weekend trip to Long Lake, I knew I needed to spend more time along its shores outside of the busy boating season. I somewhat expected snowmobiles to be riding the lake this weekend. Perhaps they usually do, but the recent warm temps might have made over-ice travel inadvisable. Other locales had experienced thin ice accidents recently. So I headed out to Hidden Cove Lean-to about 2 miles down the NPT.

There was little snow on the trail but I carried snowshoes anyways, just in case. The trail was icy with a light layer of fluffy snow. I had left my crampons in the car, so I donned the snowshoes for the traction they provided.. I made it to Catlin Bay quite quickly. I carefully crossed the inlet stream on the ice bridges. I was very tentative due to the recent warm weather. I stopped at Catlin Bay Lean-to #1 just to take a break and read the shelter log. I made my entry and noted a few others from the NPT Chapter and was on my way.

While the tread was obvious along the trail, it was also obvious no one had been here for a while. Boot marks had filled in with snow and the only tracks visible were mine and the animals.

I was enjoying myself so much I walked right past the unmarked trail to Hidden Cove. I didn't realize my mistake until I got to the stream crossing a quarter mile past it. I turned around and headed back. The “official” unmarked trail was a little farther back, so When the lake got back into view I headed towards it and intersected with the approach trail. I noted potential firewood gathering spots as I hiked in.

At the lean-to I flipped through the log book and began my entry. It was early afternoon and I had the rest of the day and night all to myself. If the snow machines were going to be out on the lake, I surely would have seen or heard them by now. Instead it was just me and the solitude of the lake. I unpacked a few items and went to gathering wood. It didn't take long to get a small pile for the next morning squared away. I set it aside and prepped the rest. I took breaks here and there since I was enjoying the calm day. Now and again snow would begin to fall. The real light fluffy kind that barely covers anything but looks pretty. I checked out the lake ot see if it would be easy to get water. It seemed quite thick. There was a crack near shore which showed at least a foot of ice. The light fluffy snow on top was easily brushed aside to reveal hard clear ice. Would be great for skating. As is my rule when I am solo, I do not venture on the ice ever.

I found some decent sized downed beech and maple so I brought hose back to camp. Between them and what I had previously gathered, I would have enough wood to get by. It turns out I had more than enough and left a good supply for the next people. I had a late lunch of hambuger potato soup and some cocoa. I wasn't very hungry but I knew I should eat something. I never did eat my dinner though. There were some word search books on the shelf, so I wasted a few minutes doing a page. I read “The Call of the Wild” out loud. Service's poetry was meant to be read aloud.

I went to bed just as it was starting to get dark. One of my favorite things about winter solo camping is the shear quantity of sleep I get. I tossed a bunch of the bigger logs onto the fire and climbed into my hammock. I could see the fire from my hammock if I turned just the right way. I was soon asleep. I awoke once during the night and tossed a few more branches on the fire. I was awake before the sun. I restarted the fire and melted some snow. Having coffee as the night becomes day is such an amazing experience especially when in a place like this. I thought about those longer distance trips I do in the summer when I do the same thin; have coffee and watch the sun come up. On those trips, I have already hiked a few miles. A couple of mergansers flew by, some making their grunt sounds. I thought they only did this for alarming of predators. Perhaps the coyotes were still around.

The hike out was uneventful. Mostly uphill, but only two miles. My snowshoes were loud on the ice and snow. I stopped quite often just to listen. I thought I heard voices at one point, but this was not likely unless it was carrying from across the lake. There were fresh footprints though. The trail register recorded a group 5 day hiking yesterday. They had signed in to go to Catlin Bay, but appeared to have gone almost to my campsite. I wonder if they missed my tracks when I turned off the trail. The car thermometer read 27 degrees. A nice quiet 24 hour trip into the woods.