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.

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