Sunday, October 22, 2017

A Paddle and Jaunt... (Colvin Brook Lean-to)

There is a little gem of a spot just a mile off the NorthVille Placid Trail in the West Canada Lakes Wilderness which sees very few visitors. Access requires crossing the Cedar river which usually means getting wet or coming from the south on an abandoned trail and then figuring out a way across a flooded beaver meadow. There is a lean-to at the site which is in need of some TLC. For the last few years I have been the adopter of the lean-to and a 3 mile section of trail nearby. As an adopter I am expected to visit at least twice a year for general cleanup and to report on conditions which require more extensive work. This would be the second trip of the year. Back in the spring I had noted two trees which had fallen across the campsite in front of the lean-to, so this trip would also include cutting up those trees. My buddy Justin decided to join me.

As I pulled into the parking area of Wakely Dam I saw Justin was already there. The hike in would be about 7 miles, and he had sustained an injury a few weeks back so his plan was to paddle up the Cedar River and then hike the remaining two and half miles. I decided to join him int he canoe as i had not paddled the Cedar River flow yet. Along with Justin (and Jenny) two other gentlemen were unloading. They looked familiar and one quickly identified me and where we had met. It was Tim and Scott whom I met deep in the HaDeRonDah Wilderness 2 years ago, They were also planning on going to the Colvin Brook Lean-to. We joked about how we would only see each other in little used areas of the Adks.

With boats all loaded up, we headed up the flow. The water was only a slight bit choppy, nothing too difficult and it was a warm and sunny day. We paddled up the flow and then into the weedy areas to find the right channel which would lead us to the river. It was the first day of hunting season and the area was abuzz with hunters paddling to their hunting grounds. It appeared many campsites on the flow were occupied. Soon after we turned upstream intot he river channel (was much smaller than I expected) we hit the first and only beaver dam. There was an easy take out and put in to bypass the obstruction. The river was windy, it reminded me a bit of the Oswegatchie but with less current. We stopped short of the Carry lean-to at the point where the old road used to cross the river. We stashed the canoe, with a sign letting anyone who might stumble upon it that we would be back in the AM. The old road was easy to follow for the hundred yards up to the NPT which we then followed to the SuckerBrook Trail. The collapsed bridge halfway there is now completely unsafe, hikers have nailed some of the pieces together along with some poles to make skirting along it possible. I reported the collapsed bridge soon after it broke, and my continued conversations with the DEC forester have moved the replacement up the priority list. Hopefully I can get some supplies for the lean-to delivered at the same time as the bridge materials.

Just past the SuckerBrook Junction I picked up the shovel I stashed last spring. We pressed on to the Lean-to and as we approached the Cedar River noted we would likely be able to rock hop instead of donning water shoes. At the other side we we set up, and I cut a few pieces of the tree with the saw. During a break, Tim and Scott showed up. They had decided to stay at the Carry Lean-to as it was unoccupied. Tim took Justin's axe and made quick work of one of the trees. I started in on the thick section of one tree towards its base. We all talked for a while and with most of the work done, Tim and Scott headed back to their site. We finished up with the trees and collected some firewood. Now with all the chores done which I had expected to take all afternoon we took a short walk downstream to the cofluence of Colvin Brook and the Cedar River. We hopped across to the island covered in tall dry grass. Justin made his way to a rock on the other side and spotted the remnants of the rake that used to be at the lean-to. I found a long branch and retrieved the rake. we looked around a bit more. Justin decided to lay down in the grass for a few moments.

When we finally got back to camp it was still early. I figured I would not be up late as i had left quite early in the AM. It has been getting darker earlier and earlier, and with only a sliver of moon it would be quite dark tonight. Should be clear with an opportunity to see the Orionids. Eventually dinner was made, we were using our headlamps by the end. I stayed up as late as I could, but went to bed without seeing any meteors. Justin stayed up a bit later.

I tried to sleep in a long as I could, not wanting to get up while it was still dark. When I finally made the decision, really it was my bladder I heard Justin snap a branch for the fire. Perfect timing. A nice warming fire and some coffee makes for a fantastic morning in the woods. As the daylight returned I snapped a quick picture over the river. I also got one of the dilapidated outhouse. The forester is sure he can get me a thunderbox kit delivered at the same time as the bridge supplies. Between relocating the outhouse here and three others in the high peaks I have some serious digging to do next spring.

It was about a quarter after nine when we finally were packed up and headed home. We stopped at the Carry Lean-to. Tim and Scott were just finishing loading up their kayaks. Glad we got to see them again before they shoved off. I ate a quick snack and we then moved on to the canoe which was right where we left it, undisturbed. The paddle out was nice and easy. A fellow adkforum member, MoodyBlues, passed us on his way in, also heading to Colvin Brook. Three visits this weekend is almost an entire year's worth for the little used spot. He will likely be the last visitor before I get back in the spring.

The weekend was fantastic. A gem of a campsite, perfect weather, seeing some fellow woods travelers and a great friend to share it all with. And no one knew it was my birthday!

Justin had his GoPro and made a video of the trip:

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

One trip away from Quest Completion

Twenty-nine years ago I started my freshman year at Oswego State. On the second day, I met Jeff who would later become my room-mate and best friend. He was my best man at my wedding, and I officiated his. Lily, his daughter started at Oswego this fall. Strange how things seem to go full circle. For years I have been trying to convince Jeff to go on a backpacking or canoeing trip with me. It almost happened about ten years ago, but got cancelled at the last minute. A few years ago he did drive up to meet me at a car-camping spot and then last year joined me on a another. This past weekend Jeff would join me for a short backpacking trip to Jockeybush Lake in the Ferris Lake Wild Forest. It was only about a mile and a half to the campsite, but I need only two more wild forests to complete my ADK Quest of 50 night camping in 15 different Wilderness areas and 15 different Wild Forests while counting at most two trips in each.

I picked up Jeff at 8am. It was raining the entire drive. The forecast was favorable for the rest of the trip except for during the night. As we approached the pull-off parking area a large group was assembling. It was a boy scout troop getting some instructions from their scoutmaster. we gathered up our gear and headed down the trail. At the register, all the pages were full so I went back to my car to get an an extra page to put in it. All signed in, we headed west towards the lake, following more or less the outlet stream. There was a slight misty rain but not enough to warrant rain gear. Jeff mentioned how he liked to hike in this type of weather. The trail was well marked and quite level with the minor ups and downs. It took very little time to get to the lake. We crossed the outlet on the breached beaver dam to the first campsite. I had heard of others on the northern shore, so we proceeded to follow the trail, now an unmarked foot path, around the lake. We arrived to a large campsite about a half mile further and made it camp. We set up and took a short walk continuing on the path. It petered out at a swampy section which appears on the map to be the best way to approach iron Lake. This was an option, but since I didn't bring any gear for this short walk we would have to come back. Approaching our campsite, we could see visitors on the rocks by the lake. It was the scouts taking a hike around the lake and eventually to Iron. The more senior scout was in front followed by about a dozen younger scouts and lastly two adults in the rear. I asked the boy in front if he was the Patrol leader and we said he was and asked if we were fellow scouts. We chatted a bit and they were on their way. They came back through about 4 hours later, the younger scouts in front this time. By all appearances it seemed they enjoyed themselves. Jeff commented about how polite the boy leaders were. He and I didn't do much, just sat on the rock ledge overlooking the lake and talking. Reminiscing about college, life, etc...

We had some beer and dinner and soon the sun began to set. While the sun could not be seen at the horizon from our vantage point, the color int he sky was great. It started by giving the entire woods a pinkish hue in the air. Soon this spread to a brighter pink and orange in the sky over the lake. After the darkness came, the stars came out a little. This would be tempered by an almost full moon. Like usual, it doesn't take long to get tired int he woods after dark. We had collected quite a bit of firewood and would not even burn half of it. I had a little dry stashed under my tarp for the morning anticipating the rains overnight. I do not remember being in the hammock long before I was asleep. I awoke to the winds and rains, and then went back to sleep. The woods began to lighten, yet I procrastinated getting up. eventually my bladder won the battle. As the sun began to rise I took the only photo of this trip, that of the fog burning off the fire colored woods across the lake. I made the fire, cooked some breakfast and we packed up. We passed by the scouts who were camped right by the outlet and were back at our car around 10 am. Jeff seemed to enjoy himself and is already talking about getting some more gear. I have one more Wild Forest to complete my quest, and more importantly will begin others with Jeff coming along.