Tuesday, December 22, 2020

#100 at Newcomb Lake

 Every year I try to schedule trips with meteor showers and other celestial events. This year's Genminids coinciding with a new moon providing an opportunity for a good show. A few people had expressed interest in joining me. With the weather not looking to great, all but one dropped out. Kalie would be the only one joining me. We met up at the Newcomb Lake parking area. There were a few cars there. One gentleman was getting ready for a day hike. We talked for a short bit.Kalie and I loaded up our gear and headed down the old carriage road. It was pretty easy walking, generally uphill so it would be much easier on the return trip.

We stopped for a short break to look at the old farm ruins and the upkept buildings like the creamery etc... A giant erratic was near the road on which someone had put a "smiley face" in the snow. Next to it I wrote "kilroy was here". After about 3 miles the gentleman from earlier was returning from the other direction. He mentioned there were footprints heading down the trail towards the Fish Rock lean-to which was our destination. 

At the turn off, we had about 1.2 miles to the lean-to on the trail. Following the footprints ahead of us made it easier to navigate although a few times "he" apparently lost the trail momentarily. The one mile to the lean-to tuen seemed to take longer than expected. The trail was a little rough, obviously not used as much as the main carriage road. At the turn, we saw the footprints head to the lean-to and also return and continue down the trail. We surmised he checked out the lean-to and then was continuing around the lake. It was a good little drop fromt he trail to get to the the shoreline. The lean-to was in great condition and in a very nice spot. So far we had beaten the weather. Rain was supposed to come this afternoon so we were glad to have made it to the lean-to before it started.

After a quick set up of our gear and a rest in the chairs left at the lean-to (complete with cupholders) we went on a firewood run. After a few trips we tok a break. I would go on a few more runs every once in a while. Made a decent fire, and still the rain did not come. We hung out by the fire all afternoon with only breaks to go for more firewood. The sun set early, still without rain. Made our dinner and tried to stay up until hiker midnight.With the overcast there was no chance of seeing any meteors. Kalie did hang up christmas lights across the front of the lean-to though.

During the night some rain and snow fell. Not much, but enough we could hear it on the lean-to roof. In the AM the air was damp. I was up early and re-started the fire. After breakfast we lazed around and packed up. even with the lazy morning we were back on the trail quite early. Since we hadn't had much for precipitation we expected today to be bad. There was a slight drizzle every now and again on the hike out. Most wetness came from brushing up against the undergrowth. I was glad I wore my rain pants, although I was getting quite warm. When we reached the junction of carriage road we dropped some layers. The hike out was uneventful, we paused again at the old farm. Back at the car while we were packing up, the gentleman from yesterday drove up for another hike. he asked us about the rain. We told him we got very little. He reported that Newcomb had a major rainstorm and was thinking of us out in the woods. We were lucky. Though in the lean-to we would have been quite dry regardless. 

So a nice easy trip into an area I had never been. Beautiful lean-to location for my #100. Glad Kalie was along to share it with me.

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Multiple Trips Fall 2020 (Preston Ponds, Colvin Brook, Boucher Point, Copperas Pond)

 Sept 12-13th Preston Ponds Club

Justin, Rob and I headed to Preston using the same trail we took in the spring. I had forgotten about the flooded section, but soon recalled using the beaver dam to cross it. At Preston a father/son duo was taking a break. We chatted a bit.  Paddled over to the cabin to meet George & Tammy. A little work was done as G&T already did most before we arrived. A little fishing, a little exploring. Lots of camaraderie and food. A little worried Jet was going to follow Justin home. 

Oct 24-25th Birthday at Boucher

I only turn 50 once although it is more humorous to say I am 29 with 21 years of experience. Usually this weekend is spent doing trail maintenance, a solo camp, and then the NPT Chapter meeting on Sunday AM. Since the meeting was covid-cancelled, I sent out invitations to where I would be planning my camp. A short hike in from the road along a snowmobile path would allow others to find us readily. Food and camaraderie was the order of the day and plenty was had by all. Thanks to all my friends who camped out and/or stopped by to visit for the day (Andy, Kalie, Bill, Ian, Lance, Dan & Carla.) Special thanks to Dan for the firesteel and the cool musket ball; the stories surrounding it were fantastic. Oh, Dan also makes amazing knives. I bought one for my birthday last year (or the year before). http://www.dennhandmade.com/

Nov 7-8th Colvin Brook

Was supposed to be Meat Festivus 2020 with Justin and Rob. Things don't always work out as planned, but that is part of the adventure. Rob didn't make it, but Lance did. We hiked the NPT to Colvin Brook crossing the same flooded section Jim and I crossed back in the spring. The water was significantly colder as ice was beginning to form. Passed by a hunter on the Sucker Brook trail. Usually don't see anyone back in here. It explained the fresh boot tracks in the mud. There is some trail clearing for me to do next year. Not a lot. Crossing the Cedar River was icy cold. The words of the hunter were often repeated, "you're gonna get wet". Gathered up some firewood, made camp. Food and camaraderie and then the hike back out. None of us were looking forward to crossing the Cedar not to mention the flooded section. Had to be done. Missed ya Rob! 

Nov 26-28th Thanksgiving at Copperas

Looked to be a warmer Thanksgiving compared to the last few years. Copperas Pond was chosen as it is not a far hike. Also this a super popular spot in summer, so if I was to camp here it would need to be a night fewer folks would be out and about. Met Eric at his house and we drove separately. Little Meaghan joined us since it was to be warmer. We caravanned to the TH. There were already 4 cars in the parking area. I had noticed quite a few cars at various trailheads along the way, but these were mostly for mountains. Hoping they were day hikers, we saddled up and started the hike. Just as we crossed the road a couple kids were at the bottom of the trail. It became apparent at least one family was returning from a morning day hike to the pond. We jokingly asked the kids if they went for a swim. The rest of the family was not far behind. Also returning down the trail was a group of 3 backpackers who had spent the night. They informed us the lean-to was empty.

The rocky trail climbed a couple hundred feet before a junction, then rolled a bit more before it dropped 50 feet to the pond. The trail around the pond to the lean-to was quite rocky as well. Eric and I set up camp and realized soon firewood was scarce. We hiked back to the trail and went up the hill a ways before we found some downed wood to gather. We made several trips. Dan arrived followed by Jennifer. We had a good evening together. The next day Jennifer went back to her car to get more supplies. Dan took a stroll around the lake. Multiple groups of hikers came through all day. Jennifer hadn't returned and we began to get worried that something happened. Eventually Kalie and Chad arrived. They told us Jennifer was just warming up in her car. Soon the whole gang was present. We cooked up a Thanksgiving feast like we usually do. Though this time I planned to have it ready so we did not have to eat by headlamp. 

Once the sun went down I was exhausted. I was curled up in my bag around 6:30. I slept well. Was up early to get the fire going so we could all have an early departure. Good times. Thanks to all!

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Three days in the HaDeRondah

 A week or so before our trip someone had posted about their car window being smashed at the trailhead. Of course this was disconcerting to hear but we planned on parking at different spot, off the main road. Also a recent report of a trail runner getting charged by a bear on the same trail we would be taking. So with these two items of note, Jim headed in the day before me. He was actually supposed to meet our former boss earlier in the day and then spend the night in the woods while I was to arrive the next day. His meeting was cancelled but I still was not to arrive until Friday. 

At 8:15a I pulled into the parking area noting only Jim's car. I changed into my hiking clothes and began down a familiar trail. It was about 6 miles on an old 4x4 road to the Middle Branch lean-to where Jim camped. The day was cooler than we have had which was nice. The trail had been recently maintained; drainage troughs have been cut into the trail and the new bridges installed. I noticed the campsite just before the "sand hill" has seen much more use. The trail signs are also fresh. A few stops to get water but the rest of the time was just hiking. Early on a pair of trees was blocking the trail. After climbing over them I picked up a camera lens cap. Knowing Jim was a photographer I wondered if it was his. Another dead log across the trail has some coral fungus growing on it. I carefully took some of the youngest and put it into a bag. I arrived at the lean-to in just over 2 hours. Jim was waiting for me.  I asked him if he was missing anything and showed him the lens cap. It was his., he was surprised I found it. We chatted a bit and soon another hiker arrived. He asked if we were staying which we were not so we told him it was all his. Shortly a small group arrived just to take in the view. 

After an early lunch we headed out towards Pine Lake, about 4 or 5 miles down the old road. I remembered the waterfall on South Inlet so we took a side trip to see it. Did not see empty cans on the far shore this time. I still need to explore the other side of the stream as well as re-visit the site of the old camps Justin and I started to explore a few years ago. Anyway, we continued on the trail which was very easy going. A bright orange mass in the woods caught both of our eyes at the same time. It was what I though, chicken of the woods. I harvested a few pieces of the youngest fruiting bodies. Turning south at the the trail junction also had us crossing into the Independence River Wild Forest. The trail here is the boundary between the two zones. A bit more blowdown on this section. Also quite a bit of evidence of illegal atv traffic. As East Pine pond came into view also did a woman sitting at the shore with her tablet. We weren't sure if she was writing, reading or drawing. So as to not startle her we announced our presence as we approached. She turned and asked of we had lost a walkie-talkie. We hadn't. She said it had a phone number on it so she would call the owner when she got home. 

We were only a half mile from our planned campsite and we kind of expected to see the woman's gear all set up at the lean-to. There was another campsite nearby if we needed it. To our surprise we found the lean-to empty. Also quite clean. With camp set up and a small amount of firewood gathered we took a long break. I skimmed through the shelter log and added an entry. Noting earlier in the summer a hiker had come from Middle Settlement to here and had to traverse a flooded section. We would be seeing this tomorrow. Evening is starting to come earlier now. We both slept in the lean-to. This would be #97 for me. 

Day 2: A storm came through during the night. Heavy rain and some thunder. By morning it was only slightly raining. I had tried to sleep in but a little after 6a is all I could muster. Jim retrieved our food bags. Made some coffee and my breakfast which I wrapped up to eat later. The rain had subsided and the sun began to lift the fog from the lake. Our options for today were a short, medium or long loop back to here and then continue to Middle Settlement. We opted for the medium route. The trail system continued on a snowmobile path also with signs of atv use. At the trail register we saw the lady had left the walkie-talkie. The next few miles would be on the dirt rd. Shortly we passed a private inholding which had a few atvs parked in front. The road had signs prohibiting atvs specifically. The deep mud pits formed by them are why they are not allowed; yet they continue unabated. We stopped at the bridge over Big Otter Lake outlet. It is neat how they built the bridge into the large rocks. Taking a longer break here I ate my sandwich. The sky could not decide whether to be sunny or over cast.  

From here we would intersect the trail we hiked yesterday.  We would continue on it for a little over a mile to the junction with the lean-to. The trail would become a foot path now starting off on pine needle carpeted floor. It would pass through fern laden undergrowth all the while with little ups and downs common on adirondack trails. What was uncommon was the lack of good water. There were some ponds and streams flowing from them, but no nice spring fed drainages.. At one of them a beaver had plugged it up as they usually do. We traversed the beaver dam to make it across without issue. Wondering if this was the flooded section, actually hoping as it wasn't bad. After a short rise we crossed a draining marsh on a rock which the water flowed over. The land became a series of steeper climbs and drops, up and over what seemed to be glacial moraines. When we arrived at the true beaver flooded section it was obvious this was the one the hiker from this summer was referring. There was a deep channel, just a bit to far to jump. Then about 40 feet of grass and weeds then a wider channel with a log spanning it. We gathered some downed branches to act as a makeshift bridge. I unbuckled my hip belt and cautiously made my way across. As I stepped onto the grassy edge, it wavered. This was not solid ground at least right at the edge. I poked and prodded my way across with some steps sinking into the bog. I could not stand in one place too long as it would sink. A few branches along the way helped. As I made it to the far side where the log span was, I could see the channel here was even deeper and much wider than the other. The log was also much thinner than it appeared from afar. There was no way I could balance on this for the entire span. This became obvious when I stepped onto it and it rolled and sank. Jim had since crossed the initial "bridge" and tossed me one of the longer branches to use. It landed right in front of me splashing. The bog was now flooding. Even with the branch I could not get across. I told Jim I was coming back, He crossed back over the bridge. I made way through the bog which was now breaking apart. Apparently this was a floating mat. I sank in quite deep on a few steps. Back on dry land we looked to see if there was another way. Not without a significant bushwhack and still no real guarantee. We were 1.5 miles from our planned camp which included figuring out how to get around this obstacle, or we could go back 2.5 miles to our previous camp. We opted for the latter but not after we sat down for a lunch break.

Backtracking, we felt defeated but it was the right move. Had we not done that 7 mile loop earlier in the day we might have had more energy and desire to get around the flooded section. We got back to our previous campsite. Set up and cleaned up. As a pre-dinner I cooked up the can of potato soup which someone had left in the lean-to.  I then cooked my real dinner including the wild mushrooms I had collected the previous day. A tough day, sleep would be welcome. Not long after dark I crept into my hammock and was soon asleep.

Day 3: We knew the trail out would be easy so we did not rush our morning. Even still we were on the trail around 8a. The hike out was mostly a gentle uphill for quite a while, then a steep descent before leveling off just as we got to our cars. We did stop for a late breakfast at the Big Otter campsite. It has grown in a lot since my last visit. We also stopped for me to collect some more coral tooth fungus. At the junction to the Simon Pond trail, a day hiker asked how far it was to the Moose River Mtn trail. We gave his the info and chatted a bit. At the car it was nice to change out of the sweaty clothes and damp feet. Bummer we didn't finish the loop. I will send in a report to the DEC about the flooded section so it is at least recorded as current trail conditions.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Cold River Lean2 Maintenance and quick hike to Streeter

 With 3 days to play with and having already been to the Cold River twice this year I made sure I also visited a new spot. Saturday was an easy hike in to Streeter Lake in the Aldrich Wild Forest. This would be my first time in this area making me one more step closer to backpacking and spending the night in all 48 different Wilderness and Wild Forest Areas in the Adirondacks. The hike in was quite easy following the CP-3 route. I noted a side trail soon after the initial rise going towards towards the lake as the main trail veered away. I would find out later this was a shortcut through the old potato patch. As I continued on the CP-3 route other signage for snowmobile trails intersected the trail. Quite a few different camping options in the immediate vicinity of Streeter Lake including the lean-to. The mowed field and lean-to area had a tent and an occupant, Chuck. He was awaiting the rest of his family who would be arriving on Sunday. They have been coming here for years. He gave me a lot of info on the area and allowed me to camp nearby. Due to Covid we stayed our distance but had a good time talking all afternoon and evening. Two family members arrived just before dark; they were expected around midnight. Soon after I retired to my hammock. I was up at dawn and hiked out taking the shortcut path through the potato patch. Will come back for sure to spend some time exploring.

An hours drive later to the Corey's Rd trailhead to find it already overflowing at 8am on a Sunday. Most were probably leaving today. I did find a spot in the main lot as someone must have just left. Signing in at the register I noted pages of people had signed in today. Mostly day hikers for sure. I had about 15 miles to do and gave myself plenty of time to get to Millers Falls and check on the lean-tos along the way. I stepped aside for a small group coming the other way. Then a few miles later a scout troop looking a little weary also came by. I chatted with the SM briefly. There were doing the circumnavigation loop. Good for them.  I stopped at Calkins Brook for an early lunch and checked it out for G&T. For me solo it is a quick hike to here even though it is 6 miles. I then climbed the hill and kept a lookout for the spring to fill up my water bottle. It is always a bit farther than I remember. On the way out I will need to remember to time it. 

There is beginning to be a significant amount of blowdown clearing and side cutting needed for some sections approaching Latham Pond. Took a short break for thew view of the Sewards as I passed Boulder Brook. This is often a rest spot for me in this area. The small path off the trail for a good view is getting a fair bit of use now. I recalled having morning coffee here at one time. The flooded section just before CR#3 had a herd path through the brush to avoid walking the through the muck. CR#3 was nice and clean. I had carried in a log book, but it seems G&T had brought one the last time they were here. I figured I could cross of the name on the one I carried and put it into one of the other lean-tos. After a short break and reading the entries I was off to CR#4 a quarter mile away. A little bit more trash here and the old CR#3 book somehow had made it here. I figured some folks might have been confused as to which lean-to was #3 since they do not go in order on the river. I am sure they thought they were being helpful. Anyway, I changed the name on the cover and wrote a quick note. It was only 3 miles to the Seward lean-to and it was barely 1pm. Even with taking two long breaks I was making great time without trying. As I approached Millers Falls I spotted a tent and hammock set-up in the camping area. The lean-to was oddly vacant. I went out to the river to get some water and the two folks who were set up nearby were sunning themselves up above the falls. I did not see them at first until I was headed back to the lean-to. 

A short while later Susan and John came in from their swim &sun. We talked a while and I set up my hammock nearby. John stopped back at the lean-to while I was having a beverage. I offered him one which he obliged. We talked and he told me about the family's plan to section hike the NPT. They had done some of it a few years ago on the recommendation of another lean2rescue volunteer who happens to be the adopter for the other 2 Cold River lean-tos. I made myself a huge dinner and went to bed not long after it got dark.

Even with "sleeping in" and a slow start I was moving by 8:30am. Said farewell to Susan & John and made my way back. Saw a couple thru-hikers along the way. Offered them early congratulations and recommended Wanika Falls for their final night. A long break at CR#3 to watch the sun light up the river. The morning sun reflecting on the river and rocks sparkles like gemstones. As George wrote in the log book, this is probably the best view from a lean-to in all the Adirondacks.

As I was readying to leave Susan & John arrived. They asked if the could take a photo of the Seward Steward. Susan jokingly asked if that is why I adopted it; for the name. I chuckled and said no, but that is a clever name. I retraced my route in stopping again at the spring and Calkins lean-tos for lunch. Back at the car by 3pm.

Monday, August 3, 2020

Six Days on the Finger Lakes Trail 70 miles and 9.9k of elevation (M18-M15)

Met Shannon at the twin tunnels access point Sunday morning. We dropped off our food resupply while on the way to the RT79 trailhead. I had hiked the first half of our route a little more than a year ago. So I had a vague memory of what to expect. The trail gets cganged quite a bit, and a lot of the road crossing seems to blend in with each other. As we readied our gear, a couple more cars pulled in to the lot. Local bike riders. We chatted a bit and then made our way to the trailhead. Immediately we saw the flooded section. Not sure what to do, I looked at my map. I had an older one on which I hand drew the current trail, The old route provided us a bypass around the flooded section along a dirt road. As we hiked up the road towards firetower road the opportunity existed to cut through the woods to the new trail. Not wanting to trespass, we stayed on the dirt rd and then the paved roads to where the trail would enter the state forest. Once in the forest, the trail was much nicer walking. The miles peeled off and after not too long we were approaching the Shindagin woods which would be camp for night one. Dan and I had camped here a few springs ago after a much longer day. Shannon and I did 8.5 miles. I was looking forward to washing up in the creek, but the stream was barely a trickle. A few deeper spots allowed us to get water without too much difficulty.

While at the Shindagin lean-to quite a few day hikers would come through. Very popular area, surprised no one else was camping here. Slept great. I was up well before Shannon so I made coffee and packed up. When we eventually headed out it was past 9 am. The trail would go downhill for a while and then uphill a lot. This would be our routine for the rest of the trip. Coupled with very few water sources made for some heavier packs having to carry multiple liters of water. A lot of roadwalking for the trip which in the heat was brutal. Just after lunch the second day, we were heading up Eastman hill. I remembered how steep this was. As we neared the top, I needed to take a rest. I was hot... too hot. I needed to cool down and have some water. It took a while. I was legitimately nervous for a bit that I would not be able to continue. Early stages of heat exhaustion was getting the best of me. The long rest was helpful. Took it slow for the rest of the day. Even had to climb another pesky hill, though not as steep. Filtering water from some sketchy sources was necessary. We passed by Tamarack lean-to and then it would be mostly downhill to our next campsite. Over 15 miles for the day with some brutal hills. This was our long day. It should get easier from here.

Only a half mile left of this section which I have done. Another few miles in the woods and then a long roadwalk made even longer as we never found the turn off into the woods. The markers heading in this direction are not very clear. Was getting frustrating trying to navigate a trail which was made difficult by roads. Much easier in the woods. When we finally got back on trail, it was short lived. As we passed through a field the markers did not show where it re-entered the woods. There were multiple trails and old dirt paths throughout. We took a compass bearing and followed one going in the correct direction. It started heading downhill, the wrong way. We hiked back up, and I took a bearing to get us to where we needed to go on the next road. This was getting really frustrating. So we were back on a road hiking in the hot sun. Neither of us was happy. This was not fun for me. I guess there was a reason i stopped hiking the Finger Lakes Trail except for short camping trips into the state forests. We picked up or resupply and made our way to Treman Park for our 3rd night. This was a shorter day at 10 miles. We would hike down to the park and swim (also to get water from the campground). The Lean-to is far away from a water source and is full of carpenter bees. Not a great location. Barely half way through the trip and I was really not enjoying myself. The swim in the creek was nice. I made a no-cook dinner to conserve water.

The trail out of the park was up on a ridge so it didn't really provide a nice view of the park. Once out, we had some more road walking to do. Again the trail disappeared so we added more road. We stopped at a private campground which had ice-cream in the camp store and a spigot to fill our water bottles. The folks here were very nice. The trail would go in/out of woods crossing roads. Some reroutes and more road. Some quite steep.We had to gain almost 2000 feet.  It was a little cooler than the first few days. Then it started to rain. Of course it would rain today, as this was the only planned campsite without a lean-to. Fortunately the rain would subside long enough for us to set up camp and eat. We got more rain over night. But by morning we were able to pack up without it. 

The rain the previous night had cooled things down nicely. We had a long downhill for the day and then a long uphill to the Rogers Hill lean-to. By now we were both hyper focused on the trail blazes. A private landowner had a spigot where the trail crossed his land for hikers to use. This was nice. The dirt rd up to the Rogers Lean-to was long but not too bad. As we got closer to the top we met a few gentlemen on a golf cart. They were wearing "period clothing". They were the administrators for a pre-1840 rendezvous. They made sure we found our campsite and we settled in at the lean-to. There was pond out in front which made for a nice swim. Our campsite was just outside the area in which the rendezvous was occurring. A group of kids came by to chat. All were in period gear. The multi-age group of kids reminded me of the pack of kids that would form at the folk festivals I attended as a kid. Some how all the kids would find each other and roam around with the oldest boy seemingly at the helm.  With the festival going on, they had brought in large cisterns of potable water. We were both happy to not be drinking pond water, filtered or not. Shannon went to take some photos off the hill. When she returned she mentioned the "food tent". They were going to be offering french toast in the morning on Saturday. We were a few days too early. I walked around a bit and talked to a man and his wife who were set up not far from us. The man said, "you look familiar." After a brief exchange we realized we knew each other from the paddling forums. Small world. They offered me some iced tea. Was nice to have a drink with ice in it. 

We were in bed before it got dark and up before most of the encampment. We packed up and quietly hiked down the hill. Some more road walking. This was our last day so packs were much lighter. We passed by a campsite with two ladies making breakfast. Then we started up hill. We paused to chat with a hiker coming the other direction. He was walking in  teva sandals. He had done the AT and found these to be much more comfortable for him than hot sweaty boots. Was a nice break from the climb. Made our way to the National Forest and began climbing that dirt rd. The hiker had mentioned there was no water at the Dunham shelter. We only had about 5 miles to go, I figured I could ration my water until then. The last few miles before the RR grade were through mowed field. Not very fun hiking for me. But we made it to the car. I still had a pint of water. We changed out of hiking clothes, retrieved our food storage and headed to my car. Shannons GPS tried to take us on a rd which no longer existed so we had to figure out a way using the paper map to get us back on track. My car was still there with intact windows and tires. 70.1 miles and I have barely 33% of the FLT complete. I think I will take a break from it for a while.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Canada Closed so St Regis it is.

Due to pandemic our annual canoe trip to Canada was changed to a shorter trip to the St. Regis Canoe area. It has been ten years since I visited with my father. As we pulled into the paring area it was filled with cars. A popular area, but for a Sunday we were still a bit surprised. One spot was open right near the portage and register. We parked and unloaded the canoes. We would each be paddling lightweight solo canoes. Another paddler was loading up his kayak and mentioned the lot was full from a group of 15 day paddlers. The portage was only a quarter mile so we didn't spend too much time really balancing out our loads.

Once out on the water we headed to the northern shore planning on getting a campsite first then exploring. We were a bit surprised the first site was open, so we took it. First lunch, then set up camp. We then hung our food and set out to explore Pink and Little Pink ponds. The outlet of Pink was a little more grown in and the beaver dam I remembered existed as only submerged remnants. Took a look at the tent spot I recalled being brand new a decade ago. In the in between years it has seen a little use, but being in a crappy location probably only used when all other options were unavailable.

The channel to Little Pink was just as narrow as I remembered up to a newer beaver dam. Stepping out and pulling the canoe into deeper water allowed us to make it all the way to Little Pink unlike a decade ago. We fished the pond catching some bass, perch and chub. Pretty little pond. On our way back we fished Pink. Right out of he gate Dan landed a pig of a smallmouth. I continued to get small ones. Dan caught another good sized smallmouth. We now had enough for breakfast. On our way back to camp Dan saw a splash and tossed out a popper which a largemouth readily took. Back at camp I got the fire going while Dan prepped the fish for the cooler and readied dinner.

Monday morning made camp bread to go with fish for breakfast. Today would have a ling portage and a couple little ones. We first carried to Slang Pond to fish a little knowing we probably would not have much time on our way out on Friday. It was quite breezy so fishing was a constant battle with the canoe being blown around. I spent more time exploring the shoreline. Back at the carry we hid the cooler to grab on our way out since we would not need it any more. The 1.4 mile portage started off very nice on a soft piney path. Soon it hit the flooded beaver section I recalled from years ago. Removing portage yoke, a quick paddle across and we were back on the nice trail. For a while I thought to myself this portage trail is nicer than most of the Adirondack backpacking trails. Then the muddy rocky section began. With all the dry weather it was not bad at all. It was apparent alot of work had been done placing rocks as steps over the years. The next couple ponds would be shorter carries. We had lunch across the pond right after I stepped out of the canoe into a deep spot filling my muck boot with water. Grrr.

Dan would fish the small ponds and I went ahead to secure a campsite on Little Long Pond. The sky was becoming more overcast as the day went on. At Little Long the mosquitoes were awful at the put-in. I loaded up as swiftly as I could. Spotted a few canoes heading out of the Pond towards Fish Pond. As I paddled towards the narrows two other paddlers coming the other direction pulled up on shore at one of the campsites. I paddled past and headed to the unmarked carry over the esker to Little Fish Pond. This carry was steep. Tough going up and even tougher going down. Not finding a site on Little Fish I checked out the outlet for a ways until the current picked up. I headed back to Little Long. This time I double carried over the esker. The sky was getting cloudier. The couple had left the campsite so I went to check it out. Not great, but we needed something. I set up a tarp in case of rain and then went to the portage to Lydia. The campsite here was a bit nicer but in the woods and most likely buggy. I headed back to camp. Minutes after getting back in the canoe the sky opened up. I pulled under a tree near shore and put on rain gear. Back at camp I waited for Dan. The rain subsided and soon,Dan arrived. We shared our tales and we set up camp for good. Had to gather wood from the far shore. Stored some under the tarp for the morning. A little rain off and on. Subsided long enough for dinner which was nice.

Big storm over the night. Some bright flashes of lightning, but it stayed quite far away.  Again rain on/off in the morning. Ate breakfast under the tarp. Dan would fish the small ponds here while I paddled ahead to hopefully get one of the lean-tos at Fish Pond. The carry was quick although hot and buggy especially with rain gear on. Once in the water at Fish the rain came again. The first campsite was empty, but I headed east towards the inlet and lean-to. It appeared I was alone on the pond. Surpisingly I found the lean-to empty. I headed across the lake to check the other lean-to when I spotted another paddler. Not wanting to lose the spot, I turned back and secured our site. Gathered firewood and made a smudge fire. As the day went on the sun began to fight its way through the humidity. I dried out my tarp in the open area near camp. Dan arrived and we set up officially. He had checked out the Lydia campsite and said I made the right call yesterday. The sun eventually won out so we paddled a bit and Dan fished the deeps. I checked out the inlet and the shore near the cliffs. Dan pulled in a 22 inch laker which would be dinner and breakfast. Looked towards the north for comet NEOWISE but the horizon was obscured by the trees on the esker across the lake.

Plan for today was just relaxing. We were spending another day on the pond. I talked to the family at the other lean-to and they said they were leaving. They offered for me to put some gear in the lean-to to "claim it" which I did. Paddled back to camp and packed up. When the family departed we set up our gear. Dan fished more, we day tripped to a tiny pond with a little used portage trail. I checked out the cliffs. Back at camp we swam a bit. I took a post lunch nap. Great day paddling and relaxing and exploring the area. We seemed to have the pond to ourselves. There were two guys camped at the site between Fish and Little Fish who we would see occasionally. We swam some more. Not being very hungry we skipped dinner and had a snack instead. Sat by the water for a nice sunset. I slept like great.

Another early morning. We had a long way to get back. Two longish portages of 0.9 miles and 1.3 miles and a couple short ones. Took us all day which included some time fishing and swimming as well as a long lunch. The wind was in our face on the main paddle back to the car. Was 5pm before we eventually got back. Drove through a major storm with almost zero visibility. Glad we weren't on the water for that one.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Trails, bushwhacks, caves and rain. Had it all. Six days in the West Canada Lakes.

Day one: Met Shannon at the trailhead parking on Haskell Rd. As we were getting ready another vehicle pulled in with six other hikers. The weather for the next few days was not favorable, after that the forecast is too far to predict. All geared up, we set out along the NPT towards Spruce Lake. Today would be about ten miles. The trail here is quite familiar to me yet I always seem to rediscover its less obvious features which were lost in my memory. Small drainages, large rocks, obscure side paths, etc... A lot of past memories come back vividly, of meeting people on the trail and other experiences from past adventures. So far the weather was perfect. Not too hot, nor rainy. We played leap frog with the other group a couple times. Seemed like more, but it was really one group and a solo thru- hiker. Some of them were going all the way to Placid for their 30th anniversary, the others were hiking with them to Wakely. I offered some hints as to nice places along the way and mentioned the flooded section just north of the Carry lean-to.We made decent time and arrived at Spruce Lake #2 by early afternoon. There were two guys who had hiked in for the day and were just leaving. The lean-to was mostly clean. Some plastic spice jars on the floor had been chewed on, and a few cans of chef boyardee on the shelf. I ate my first late lunch, set up camp and gathered firewood. Our packs were a tad heavy carrying six days worth of food. Since we were coming back this way in two days, we would secure a bear caninister with our food off trail for the second half of our trip. Made a small fire to dispel the bugs. On it we poured the oregano and garlic powder from the containers to get rid of them.Amde a nice smelling campfire. We were both in bed before the sun went down.

Day two: Since we had been expecting rain, and didn't get any I figured we were ahead of the curve already for the trip. No complaints here. Sicne we had gone to bed early, arising with the sun still allowed for a lot of sleep. We didn't need to rush either as today was only another ten miles or so. Nearby we hid our bear canister and continued North on the NPT. At Sampson Bog we passe by the hikers from the previous day. We chatted a bit and crossed the waterfall without the bridge with ease. Not long later we stopped for a snack and they caught up with us. One of the older women mentioned she was worried about the flooded section and had considered turning back. We hiked with them a short while as I re-assured her it was not as bad as she thought. Just not fun. I said I would have felt extremely guilty had she turned around. A few others had mentioned to Shannon the concern from this woman as well. Again we found ourselves ahead of the group. Took a long lunch break at South Lake. A southbound hiker was swimming near the bridge just up the trail. The bridge here is beginning to show some wear. Still structurally sound, but will need some maintenance in the near future. This would not be a fun crossing without a bridge.

As we passed by the side trail to West Lake Shannon marvelled at the sign. I had forgotten about it. We signed in at the register near the old ranger station and french louies fireplace. The reroute trail from many years ago had been quite a mess. Due to all the dry weather it was quite easy. Passing by Mud Lake I remembered last year's shorelinme search for the old campsite to no avail. A few blowdowns in the area are tough to duck under. Found an almost brand new hat on one of them. I picked it up figuring it was part of the groups ahead of us. We caught up with them at the bridge over Mud Creek. They said the hat was not their's but maybe the southbound hiker. We said we were heading to Cedar #3 lean-to, they said they were considering either #1 or #2. I told them #2 (Beaver Pond) was the nicer option. When we arrived at the fisherman's lean-to we found it surprisingly empty. It was early still though. We set up camp and I read the log book. A few entries mentioned how nice the privy was; Shannon disagreed vehemently. As it was early we put togther day packs and hiked back up the trail to the NPT and then took a bearing to French Louie's cave. It had been a few years and I have never come at it from this angle. A few herd paths going in the approximnate direction made travel a wee bit easier. As we began the up hill portion something didn't feel right even though I was now looking at my compass more diligently. We paused and I realized we were on the wrong upslop of the rise. I must have gone right past it and was now going up the wrong side of the hill. Fortunately we weren't lost, just not where we wanted to be. This side of the hill had quite a few large boulders which makes following the cvontour around difficult. A few steep sections to drop through. Both fun and annoying at the same time. As we came around the correct side, the sky changed and a few drops of rain began. We cozied up near a gaint rock which provided enough shelter for Shannon to put on her pack cover. Not wanted to fuss around in the rain looking for the cave, I took a bearing back to our starting point. The rain was just a few drops and the terrain was looking more familiar. I said, let's just bend around a little farther to look. We did this twice and sure enough there was the cave. I pinned a waypoint on my phone to share with Andy as I never had the exact coordinates. Shannon took some photos. A shot a bearing back and followed it more closely this time ignoring the herd paths. Hit the NPT six feet from where we started. Trust the compass.

Back at camp I took a swim as I was a bit dirty after two days of hiking including the short bushwhack. The water felt great. Made a nice dinner of tortelinni with pesto sauce. I put in some of my lunch pepperoni. Will have to have this one again. Aside from the small sprinkle atop cobble hill (the real one) we have had perfect weather. Shannon climbed into bed early. I ribbed her a bit for it, and 5 minutes later also climbed into my bag.

Day 3. Was a little cooler last night. No complaints. After breakfast we decided to finish the french Louie loop instead of back tracking. This would make today significantly longer by almost 60%. With very light packs we figured it was not a problem. We set out and had a couple miles of nice hiking. Soon the rains came. Not just a little rain, but buckets. Last time I saw rain like this was when Andy and I had camped near Wakely. I had to hike without my glasses as the water was too much. The rain stopped abrubtly and the sun came out. A little bird chirped moments before hinting at he possibility. I was not looking forward to crossinbg the funhouse bridge with the rain like that. The middle section is at a 45 degree angle and with rain probably not very safe. With the sun, it had dried mostly when we got to it. We got to hike almost dry to the Pillsbury lean-to where we had lunch. The sun was out drying off our packs. Noisey Ridge across the lake started to live up to its name. Clouds were low over the ridge and the sound of rain pouring over the forest could be heard rumbling. We were finished with lunch so we headed back to the trail hoping the westerly winds would push the system past us. It didn't and minutes after getting back on the trail the thunderous rains we heard over Noisey Ridge were soon upon us. Shannon's pace quickened. She later joked she was "trying to outrun it". Again my glasses were off. Due to Shannon's pace we arrived at Sampson Lake in about an hour. The rains subsided for the most part which meant I could now wear my glasses again. With two miles left to the next junction and half our daily miles behind us we were making decent time. As we hiked towards the NPT my mind wandered to whether Dan would be waiting for us, or we would arrive before him. He was hiking with Kristi the last few days in the Pharaoh Lakes region and planned to meet us at Spruce #1. A short break at the junction, then back on the trail we hiked the previous day. Momemts later two thru hikers came by. For the rains we just experienced they were in good spirits. We chatted a bit about their next few miles and inquired as to their planned destination. They said the tent site at Mud Lake. I told them I did not think that site exists having looked for it many times. Not to mention with these storms searching for a not so obvious tent site would certainly sour their trip. I gave them information about the lean-tos and sites a mile before it and recommended a couple. They had spent the night at Fall Stream and I suppose were looking to avoid lean-to areas, I hope they heeded my advice.

Over the years the trail maintainers for this section of the NPT have put in a lot of time construction bog bridges over the wettest sections. The logs wwere slippery due to the rain, the rocks were not much better. Shannon had already slipped on the logs and I on the rocks rolling my ankle. Hoping to not have it too sore in the morning. Just after Spruce #3 we gathered up our bear canister and carried it to Spruce #2 to pack them for the last eight tenths of a mile. Shannon also took a couple of the chef boyardees to have for dinner. As we approached Spruce #1 I saw a man heading towards the lean-to with an armful of wood. I called out, "hey Dan-O". He had arrived at the lean-to about an hour before. He was surprised we weren't there yet, but figured I said I would be there. Since Shannon and I were crashing in the lean-to, Dan set up his tent nearby. Not long after the rains came again. Another torrential downpour. All the wood in the area had been soaked so Dan was waiting for me to do the fire. I was not feeling like it, so he used the torch to get it all going. Took a bit of time but soon he had enough to cook his dinner. Using the fire, he dried out some wood and stashed it under the lean-to. Not being very hungry I had a small cup of soup. 3 days in and I had already skipped two dinner entrees. We stayed up later than usual, might have even made it to 9pm. It rained all night long.

Day 4. Up with the sun, well daylight. Sun was not shining. Everything was wet even the air. Dan had stashed a bit of dry wood but I wanted to test myself. I gathered wood from the soaking wet forest. I found a dead birch tree which I stripped off some bark, and a downed spruce from which I gathered some fine twigs. I made a base with some dry punky wood froma stump and built the fire. With enough small stuff to dry the bigger stuff I got the fire going using a single match. Is always good to practice for when I really need it. With the fire now going strong I heated some water for coffee. Dan and Shannon were now up. It wasn't raining but the air was still wet. Then it started raining again. Then it stopped. Then more rain. Basically this was the entire day on and off rain. Dan went fishing while Shannon and I rested after yesterday's long day. During one of the breaks in the rain I hiked back to Spruce #2 to check out a side trail and pick up the last can of chef boyardee. Dan returned with a single fish which did not survive being hooked otherwise he would have releaased it. He had the fish as a snack, I made myself some stroganoff and we went to bed.

Day 5. Dan wanted to check out a trout pond a copuple miles away and I wanted to check out a section of the outlet river from a failed bushwhack attempt years ago. I found a 1903 map which showed a trail to my desired location. I had no delusions this trail would still exist at all. Looking at the map we determined there was not way for us to bushwhack together and then break off, so we split up. Dan went to the trout pond and Shanon joined me on my off trail adventure. We paddled the glassy surface of the lake to the far corner where the old map showed the trail. Shannon tried taking photos of the newts in the water. With the canoe stowed on the far shore, we donned our day packs. Even though it was not raining we put on rain pants due to the wet underbrush. The old trail followed a generally straight bearing up to the shoulder of Spruce Lake Mtn. I was slightly concerned about our path as the map showed it running right through a marshy area. With the compass calibrated to the correct bearing we headed off into the brush. I was careful to follow the bearing after the ordeal the other day. A lot of false drainages heading in almost the right direction could easily get me off track here. First up and over a small rise and then the marshy area. I was expecting it to be alot larger. A large step over the creek running through it and we were back in a mossy spruce forest. Another climb ot the shoulder and shot another bearing which would eventually bring us to the river. The side of the mtn was quite rocky and travel was not that easy on the downslope. We did cross a very nice drainage with good water. As we continued down the river would be joining us. I could hear some rapids just off our bearing. Evetually I broke off the bearing and headed striaght to the water. We were well east of our desired spot on the river but the sound of the rapids was like s siren call to me. We had some lunch on the rocks and then headed downstream. A stillwater section came into view but the edge of the river was brushy. We ducked back into the woods to go around the obstacle and were soon on the other side of the stillwater. It was too small to be our target. I said I wanted to head downstream for another 20 minutes. Back in the woods and through some dense spruce for a short while and then back into hardwoods and witchopple. Then the true stillwater target appeared. Looked just as I though from scouting the aerial photos. We spotted an old coffee pot in the woods but no discernible place to camp. The large marshy section between the forest and the river's edge was not to bad to walk through so we opted for that. There were peninsulas of forest poking into the marsh. I kept setting my target to each of these. None proved to have a good view. I saw an eagle fly from one of the trees. Eventually on the last one, I could see the edge of the river as it made a northerly bend. It had only taken 5 minutes to cross the last marshy section so I told Shannon I just needed to get to that spot. So we trudged off through the marsh to the river's edge. Finally, I had made ot to the spot I had seen on the map and in the aerial photos. There was a great view looking down river with one of the Twin Mountains in the background. We took some photos and then with the time check we needed to start heading back. I had wanted to explore more here but it will have to wait for another time.

We headed back through the marsh. Following our tracks wasn't so bad but when we went around the peninsulas the grasses were tall and moving through them just sapped our energy. we could hardly wait to get back into the forest without the drag of the grasses and bushes. I reversed my bearing knwoing we would be taking a slightly different route back due me turning off the bearing to the sound of the river earlier. While following this bearing travel was easy. At times it felt like a trail but likely just wishful thinking. Regardless, the direction of travel had us moving through easy terrain even as we gained elevation up to the shoulder of the mountain. This route had us slightly more west and we passed by a nice cliff face. At the shoulder I adjusted the bearing to match the change in the "trail" as we did on our way to the river. As we approached the swampy section it looked much larger than it did the other way. Looking at the map, the trail was supposed to go right through the center. I wondered if earlier we had just hit a small arm of it and got lucky. Steppoing into the spongy mass the grasses here exacerbated our weariness. I knew we were just a tad west from where we crossed before so I headed to that edge of the swamp. Ducking intot he woods for abut and then out to he small section of swmp. We did not see the exact spot we crossed earlier but it must have been close. Up and obver the hill and back to Spruce Lake was all that was left. Not wanting to walk right past the lake on the side of a ridge, I cheated a bit to the east. At one point Shannon realized she lost the rain cover to her pack. We headed back up the hill for a few hundred yards looking for it. She could not recall the last time it was on her pack. We felt bad leaving it in the woods. Soon the lake was in view and because I had cheated east we were east of our target. Shannon waited here while I followed the shoreline to the canoe and paddled to where she awaited. The winds had picked up a bit so the lake was not glass like earlier but still an easy paddle back to camp. It was now dinner time. Shannon got the fire going while I cleaned myself up at the water. I commented how refreshing it was so Shannon also decided to go. We were just finishing eating when Dan arrived. We figured he would be back after us as he was planning on fishing the pond. He caught a few fish and prepared then for his dinner. We shared the details of our adventures with each other and by the time we went to bed it was close to ten. What a great day.

Day 6 was just packing up and heading back. We hiked with Dan for about 2 miles until the junction to his trailhead and we continued on to ours for another 7 miles. At the cars we cleaned up and heasded home. When I stopped for gas I texted Justin the photo of the stillwater to see if he could the location. I should not have been surprised he got it on the first try. Maybe he and I will head back there and do some more exploring.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Feelin' HOT HOT HOT - Trail Maintenance and reconnecting with an old friend

Due to Covid, summer camps are shut down. An old friend whom I worked with back in college was available to do a trip. I needed to clear some trail on the NPT so Jim joined me. The weather had a 50% chance of thunderstorms in the afternoon. This coupled with the new flooded beaver area on the approach trail hinted at a less than ideal backpacking trip. But we were both game to push through it. We had rain gear, and brought water shoes so it shouldn't be so bad. Met Jim at Wakely Dam and we drove to the TH. Geared up, signed in we ambled down the trail. Jim was trying out "going stoveless" for his meals. I brought my usual plus the extra large saw and other tools needed for clearing blowdown and putting up trail markers.

The old road was familiar to me but new to Jim. We chatted about old times, it hardly seemed like it had been 25 years.It wasn't long before the flooded section came into view. We paused to remove our boots, hike up our pants and don our water shoes. The long slog began. Not very deep but the boardwalk remnants did not make it easier. There was a small section of creek which flowed through showing a very deep section which we could step over. At the main creek the bridge is still operational for now. When this goes, the crossing will be much worse.

Past the flooded section we pressed on to Carry lean2 where we stopped for a later lunch. It was hot out and we were both sweating a lot. The bnugs were horrid in tha parking area, not so bad while while hiking but at breaks like this they would return. Checked out the shelter log and noted Justin's entry from last winter. It was early afternoon and we still needed to get to my section of trail and then to camp. We crossed the new bridge over "Halfway Bridge". I can never remember ther real name of this creek. I call it "Halfway Creek" because this point is almost exactly the halfway point for an NPT thru hike. Anyway, Jim commented on the nice bridge built by the SCA a few years back. A half mile later we reached the Sucker Brook trail junction. Continuing on the NPT we would cut blowdown and remove it from the trail. I was getting tired early on. I assumed it was me being out of shape. This "work at home stuff" has had a negative effect on my weight and exercise. It was good for me to struggle as it re-emphasized my need to do more. Did not have to clear any drainages as they were all dry. Some of the usual springs had no water. I did fill up at the two largest. Water was nice and cold. About 2/3 of the way I was done cutting. I was whupped. I figured to save the rest for the return trip tomorrow. On a positive note we did not get rained on. We did hear a thunderclap not far away but nothing on us.

We reached the Cedar Lakes Dam, I signed us in and noted folks heading to Cedar#2. The campsites along the lake were empty except for a lost child's poncho hagning in a tree. I would grab this on the way out. At Cedars#1, Stephan and Brandan were relaxing int he lean-to. They were on day 2 of the French Louie Loop. It was their first time backpacking and seemed like they were enjoying it. We set up our tents/hammock in the nearby area and talked to S&B for the evening. I shared some of my cream ale with Stefan. I was not hungery at all, but knew I needed to eat something. I forced down some m&ms. The entire time I was thinking just how out of shape I was. At 7:30 Jim reminded me of the annular solar eclipse which was visible on the other side of the planet. Was neat it was happening on the summer solstice too. If these were ancient times I am sure the peoples would have all kinds of celebrations going on. The longest day of the year was coming to a close and I needed to sleep. Not long after sunset I headed to the hammock. It was still hot. I was not very comfortable but it got better once the temperature dropped a little.

I tried to sleep in, I really did. But could not force myself to fall back asleep so I was up before 6. I heard Jim packing up his gear so I did as well. Went down to the water to see the sun had just risen and was burning off the morning fog over the lake. My camera was up in my pack so I did not take a picture. I headed back up to the lean-to. Stefan and Brendan were up. I made a quick fire for some coffee. Still could not eat. After more conversation we heading back to where we came. It was cooler and the dew on the leaves/grass dampened the pants a little. At the dam I checked us out and we said farewell to Stefan and Brendan; wished them well on the "funhouse bridge". They replied "huh" curiously. I said they would know when they got there. Hope to see them on the trail again someday. Jim and I cleared the blowdown we left on the way in. Stopped at my "breakfast place" on the Cedar River for break. Jim took a couple photos. Had more energy today, even though I hadn't eaten much. Jim's homemade powerbar was quite good and lasted me the entire hike back to the car.

Stopped again at the Carry Lean-to. Jim took some photos of the flow. Deer flies were out and about, and a large number of ants were all over the deacon seat. As we were hiking out we noticed some of the ground seemed wet; more than just typical dew. Even a few muddy spots which were not there the previous day. We surmised that some of the thunder we had heard was a very localized storm including rain. Well, the ground was wet in places and when we stopped before the flooded section to remove out boots the lost poncho I picked up was used to sit on while I changed footwear. After wading through the muck the rest of the hike out was uneventful. I was not as tired as yesterday. I wondered how much the heat had gotten to me, and whether I was dehydrated. Our cars were where we left them. We said our farewell's and promised to not let another 25 years go by before we would see each other again. Hopefully this little adventure will be the catalyst for more to come.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Preston Ponds - Cold River: Heavy lifting

With permission from the OSI to use the property at Preston as a base camp, we started at Upper Works TH and started hiking to the Henderson Lake leant-to. From there, we picked up the chainsaw for the OSI property and carried it to Upper Preston. The trail is rugged, and has a significant climb. Much faster without snowshoes and pulks though. At Preston we rowed to the private inholding where Geaorge and Tammy awaited. They had come in the previous day, paddling Henderson. They dropped the chainsaw for me to carry as they had the canoes to carry plus their gear. At the OSI camp we prepped for the rest of the trip. Cleaned up and made dinner. It is always bratwurst at Preston the first night. Followed by some socializing around the campfire.

As I was the first one up, I started the coffee. Andrew joined me on the water's edge as the sun began to crest the far hills illuminating Eagle Cliffs. We looked closely at the terrain to see how the best way to approach the top of the cliffs. Not for this trip, but someday. Not long after Shannon was up. Followed by George and Tammy. Breakfast made made and gear was loaded into the boats. We paddled to the outlet of Lower Preston where I had fallen through the ice this past Feb. From here we left the boat and hiked to the falls which empty into the now de-watered Duck Hole. A crossing of the outlet just above the falls required boot removal. Then down the hill to duck hole. The shoreline is growing in nicely. Made for easy walking most of the way. There was one spot we had to scramble through some brush because of the rocky ledge. Then we crossed the river to where the big island once was. The new lean-to was just over the next section of growing in lake bed. A couple was at the lean-to. We chatted a bit. Then checked on the Roaring Brook lean-to, adn CR#1&2. Began the trek to Ouluska. From the junction with the truck trail to the hermitage is the longest 3.8 miles on the entire NPT.

We eventually made it and took a break at Noah's camp. A little more than a quarter mile to Ouluska. The plan was to put together the thunderbox here and dig a new hole. We noted it had been done. So we gathered some tools and another of the thunderbox kits. George and Andy strapped sections on their packs, while Shannon and Tammy carried the two side sections of the box. I took the seat and lid we figured we would share this burden over the next few miles. Fortunately this section of trail is relatively flat, following the shore of the Cold River most of the way. I ended up carrying the big section of thunderbox the entire way. After a certain point, I was committed.

Andy, and Shannon were waiting at the lean-to for the rest of us. We arrived at staggered times. I scouted a place for the new privy hole and marked it with a stick. Too tired to do any more work, we decided on finishing in the AM. After some cleaning up at Miller's Falls and dinner we all went to bed. Knowing I would be up before the rest, I planned on digging the hole before breakfast. The top 6 inches was tough as all the roots need to exist in that small amount of organic soil. After busting through, the mineral soil below was easy. Almost no rocks which helped. I dug to almost 3 feet before I went to make coffee and breakfast. The rest were soon up and eating. I went back to finish the hole. Made it a little deeper and widened it out at the bottom to hold more crap. When it came time to put the kit together, George realized he had grabbed his case of drill bits, not driver bits. So we lashed the pieces together and made plans to return within two weeks to finish the job.

We left the shovel for the lean-to use and I picked up the pry-bar that George carried from Ouluska. We didn't need it as there were few rocks to dig through. We started back to Preston. I carried that pry-bar 9 miles. After a while I would curse him out. I say him, because it was a Stanley. We laughed often at me complaining how Stanley wasn't doing enough and I had to carry him. Cleared some blowdown on the portage trail between Preston and Duck Hole and then we were back on the water. Wind was against us so it took a effort to get back to base camp. All were exhausted by the time we arrived. George met us at the shore with a flask of LTD. I grabbed a beer out of the creek. For dinner we had steaks courtesy of Andy and some sides. Dinner was followed by camaraderie around the campfire. I had forgotten to take some ibuprofen. I knew I would pay the next day.

The last day we had leftovers for breakfast with scrambled eggs/cheese. Just clean-up and heading home were the orders of the day. The sky opened up at 8am but stopped raining by 10. We expected serious bugs on the hike out, but it wasn't bad. The rains also cooled things a little. Stil, It was rather hot when we returned to our cars. Oh, Stanley remained at camp. We would get him next winter.

Two weeks later I would solo hike in to the Calkins Brook lean-tos to bring in re-supplies for G&T who would be finishing the job at Seward. I arruved at the lean-tos just after midday. Cold River Bob was already there. Was good to put a face to a name after all these years. He showed me some secrets in the area. I dug a new hole for the outhouse and we waited for G&T to return. A rain system moved in. We had already lit a fire to mitigate the bugs.Soon after the rains came, G&T arrived. I cooked up some bratwurst during a break in the rain. We talked and hung out. The next morning Bob left at day break. I made a twug fire for coffee. We moved the outhouse and then hiked home.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Weekend @Cage Lake

Met Andy and Lance at the trail-head to Cage Lake on Youngs Road. I have been avoiding hiking this trail for may years as most of it is along a primitive corridor which the owners of a private in-holding use to access their property via ATV. I have heard reports of the trail condition being less than desirable. After visiting Cage from the south last year I knew I would be back. This would be the weekend. Trout season has started so I would bring along my gear as well as a small paddle for the canoe we located. The weather was supposed to be nice all weekend with rain the last day. We donned (heavy) packs and started down (up?) the trail. The air was cool enough to make the hiking very comfortable in just a base layer. After the first half-mile we intersected with the ATV trail. The rutted portions were soon to follow.

The trail was either great, or impassable. Some of the ruts were so bad, even the ATVs have made alternate routes. Which of course created new mudholes to go around. Some of the trail was quite nice though. Especially the portions along the old railroad grade. These were some long straight dry sections. Every once in a while a flooded beaver section would need to be crossed, or routed around. We stopped for lunch alongside a small creek. All were glad to remove the packs for a spell. We took another break at the top of a rise with many boulders strewn about. We were moving slowly at this point. Being out of shape with heavy packs and the constant picking our way around ATV ruts was tiring. Even still, we made it to Cage in decent time. Camp was set-up. Firewood procured and the canoe located.

The rest of the time we were here, we didn't venture too far. Only to collect firewood and paddle around the lake. The wind was such that paddling was a chore with such a small paddle. I never did fish. We hung out, made food, gathered more wood. Sat by the lake, paddled. This was our routine for the rest of the trip. Was great to relax and be away from all the jibber-jabber of the rest of the world. Enjoying the moments and living in the present both temporally and geographically.

The morning of our departure we arose early. The weather was suppose to get worse as the day progressed so we wanted an early start. On trail at 7am with rain gear at the ready. Was chilly, but not cold. Lighter packs and having relaxed for the weekend, the hiking was quite a bit easier. We stopped for a snack at the hunting camp along the way. A few light sprinkles were felt a few times, but not enough to put on rain gear. Just after one of the beaver sections, it decided to rain proper. Without a word, we dropped our packs and put on our jackets. We didn't have that much farther to go fortunately. The rain subsided but we didn't bother taking off the jackets opting to only push the hood back and unzip it.

We were back at the cars just before 11am, so we made great time. I will visit again, but probably not from this trail-head. The old trail from the Oswegatchie is passable but requires canoe access. Sounds like a plan for a future trip.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Epic Hike -5 Ponds

A simple overnight trip which turned into a 3-day epic adventure. The original plan was to hike from Wanakena to High Falls via the Leary Trail and then come back the next day. A nice relaxing trip, I even brought my fishing gear. I had not been on the Leary for over 10 years. Supposedly it is more open now and the endpoints are clear. This was not the case in 2009. Back to the present. Andy and I met at the lot near the tennis courts. It was a sunny day though still a chill in the air. Very pleasant to hike in. As we hiked the primitive corridor I recalled my 2009 explorations here, it was hard to believe it had been that long. The Leary trail was soon upon us, and clearly evident. We made the turn and climbed through the area which I had discovered years ago had magnetite outcroppings which caused significant compass anomalies. I find this fact fascinating. We took a break in a nice area of open hardwoods and discussed the possibility of taking the high falls loop back instead of re-hiking this trail. We had other options too. Some more adventurous than others.

We reached the truck trail near the 5 ponds junction, right where I had looked for it years ago. We headed towards high falls anticipating the wet section that often lies ahead. The beaver dam which causes all the problems also provides the solution and this dam was old enough to allow safe (and dry) passage. We took another break on the bridge over Glasby Creek. Since we had little to do today and were feeling adventurous we dropped our packs at went to check out the old trail over "The Plains" to the "boiling spring" on Glasby Creek. We knew that the spring had been flooded over was nothing more than a mere curiosity on a map now. But we figured a half mile round trip was worth checking out. At the flooded section, remnants of the bog bridging was apparent, but except for that nothing of consequence. Someday I will check out the rest of the old loop trail.

Back at our packs we continued on to high falls, passing by the old machine and the increasing sound of the falls ahead. We had the entire place to ourselves which is rare. Made camp and went looking far and wide for some wood. Mostly small stuff could be found if we went far enough away. While gathering wood, Andy came across the old trail to Nicks Pond. We had talked about this trail earlier and how it used to be part of a big loop. We made some food and enjoyed the time out in the woods. I tossed a line into the water with no luck. We heard some voices and investigated by the river. A couple of paddlers heading downstream stopped at the other lean-to. As the evening came, we returned to the river to watch the sunset drop below the trees. The sky was clear and soon Venus was visible. Not long after other stars came into view. As darkness be-felled, we watched satellites and saw a couple meteors.

I tried to sleep in, but was still up rather early. At least it was light. I packed up my hammock and headed to the lean-to. Andy was up. I restarted the fire from the coals. Just enough to make hot water for coffee. We talked about our plans for the day. We knew it might rain later, but the sky was blue and clear. One of the options we had discussed was the old loop trail to Nicks. Day hike options were also on the table. We opted to take the big bit and go for the old big loop. We knew it was going to be a tough day, we did not not know how tough. The old trail was quite obvious from behind the other campsite. Some blowdown but easily stepped over or around. In not time a campsite appeared along the river's edge. I noted it was site 12. From here the trail was less obvious, but we were able to stay on it ok. A general eastern heading just above the winding river. We crossed a small creek and kept heading east. We would then enter some swampy sections including crossing the outlet of Nicks Creek and some more swamp just to climb a rise to the remnants of pine ridge. Having not seen trail for a while I commented how it has been a while since any human markings were visible. Soon enough some wire cable was seen in a tree and the trail was regained. A few markers here and there as well. I noted Camp Johnny must be be just to the south by the river. So far we had made good time, but we had quite a bit more to do and that pesky rain might still come. We dropped down off the ridge just to climb a different one with some neat rocks and some giant trees.

We commented this would be a great place to camp if there was just a good water source nearby. We had just under a mile to Nicks Pond, but this part was just lowland, swamp. We first crossed Nick's outlet again and contemplated just walking the marshy grass alongside or moving into the trees. We started off in the grasses partly because we weren't sure how far up or downstream our crossing was to the old trail. It was not long before we pushed inside. It was thick, but not too bad. I soon pushed back out into the swamp and followed obvious moose tracks. It was easier for me albeit more tiring. I know that sounds contradictory. It was not difficult but each step just sapped energy. Eventually we came to the two knolls that preceded the pond. It had taken us a lot longer to get to this point. But we could now see Nicks Pond. Some old bear scat with blue bits of plastic in it. Another marker appeared. The trail looked like old roadway. Similar to what I had seen up near Clear Pond a few years ago. A garbage pit with old bottles, some cans. And the roadway disappeared. We found some blue plastic with bear teeth marks in it. Same gauge as the bits of plastic in the scat found earlier. Whatever was in, or on that plastic certainly got the bear's attention. At this point the road/trail was gone so we just kept north. The map showed it ran along the esker, but this was thick and slow going. Eventually we just dropped down and headed towards Clear Pond outlet. An old red marker was seen a;long the lower section. I knew there was a beaver dam over the outlet which we could use and then follow a draw uphill to eventually pick up the Big Deer Pond Trail. We took a break after the beaver dam in a glade of hemlocks as the first drops of rain began. We proactively put on our rain gear. Not just for the rain, but the wind was picking up too. We were both tired and we had not done many miles, just tough ones.

I led the way up the draw and across the wooded flat to hit the trail. The rains came and went, not too bad. At cowhorn junction I started to take off my rain jacket as I was getting hot and the rain had subsided. No sooner did after my pack was down, the rain kicked up again. With almost 6 miles left, the rain ans us being tired we opted to go to Cowhorn for the night. We hiked down the esker to the lean-to. I was thinking to myself how easy this esker was with a cleared trail compared to what we had been fighting hours before. Andy sent a message to the wives that we would be spending an extra night just to be safe. We got into dry warm clothes and checked our leftover food provisions. I gave Andy a package of ramen and I made a knorr side. A lit a fire to heat water and provide (at least for me) a mood lifter. Rains came on and off as did the wind. We both retired early after the long day. We planned on an early wake up.

It got colder overnight. Boots were frozen, ice was in our water bottles and there was a dusting of snow. We packed up without making coffee and hit the trail. The six miles today would take 40% of the time of yesterday with less effort. We stopped for breaks but just because it was nice. The air was cold and we wanted to keep moving. In the last mile there was an area which we thought could be wet. It was not wet, it was flooded. There was no way around, so we just trudged through the cold water which came up to our knees. It took a few moments for the water and cold to make its way into my boots. Strangely it did not feel as cold as I expected. This flooded section was at least 100 yards just to get to the beaver dam. After we made the slog Andy commented that our trip was tough and challenging due to yesterday, but this made it EPIC! The last bit of trail and then a short road walk back to the cars and dry clothes. While changing a couple of hikers walked by. The first two people we had seen since the paddlers on day one. Another great adventure in the books.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Covid Hike -Cascade Pond

Met up with two friends at Cascade Pond in the Adirondacks. Due to the coronoavirus, we maintained safe distances apart. Justin and I even had our own separate wood piles. We all arrived at the TH at different times, although Kalie was apparently only 15-20 minutes after me. The trail was wet and some remaining snow/ice patches. For the most part was easy going. Some blowdown will need to be cleared as well as side cutting especially on the red trail leading to Cascade. We relaxed a bit, set up camp, gathered wood. Justin and I took the canoe for a spin. Ice still remained on a majority of the pond, but the northern edge was clear. A few times we had to push through the slushy ice to get around a fallen tree or rock. Fun times.

Back at camp we gathered more wood and relaxed. It was a few years ago when Justin, Rob, Dan and I were here for ice-in. We laughed at some of our memories of that trip. As the afternoon progressed, we gathered more wood and hung out. I made a late lunch; sausage of course. Justin and Kalie took the canoe out while I gathered more wood. I kept saying "we are going to run out of wood", knowing full well we would be leaving a decent pile for the next visitors. Eventually it became dinner time. We listened to tunes and had a campfire. Kalie left for her tent and Justin figured it was about time he ate his dinner. I entered my sleeping bag before he was done cooking. I might even have fell asleep before it too.

I slept well. Justin and I were both up around the same time. Got the fire going again and made some coffee. We did not need to rush and Kalie was still in her tent anyway. I made some breakfast and packed up. The pond had a low fog just over the icy portion. Though more open water was present compared to yesterday. Eventually Kalie was up and back at the lean-to. The air was damp, almost as though we were in a cloud as Justin put it. Today was supposed to have rain in the afternoon, we did not expect the precipitation that we had on Saturday though, or overnight. The hike out went quick as it is mostly downhill. At the car I reminded Justin I had put his birthday present in the back of his truck. Hope we get a chance to use it soon. Before we all departed he reminded me to write this entry. So this one is for you bro!

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Breaking Trail and Breaking through Ice -Preston Ponds&Raquette Lake

Some of the Lean2Rescue folks were gathering at Preston Pinds again this year to do some work for the Open Space Institute property. We were all meeting at the parking lot at 11:30 to load up pulks and break trail together. On the drive up I noticed a car with a few pulks on the roof rack. I wondered if it was one of us. As I pulled into the Stewarts parking lot to fill up the tank my suspicions were confirmed. We talked a bit as we waited to check out. At the trailhead we loaded our pulks and had lunch. Dan put his extra gear into my pulk and took the first shift. Sans pulk, I took the lead breaking trail (after getting to Henderson Lake).

The snow was not as deep as last year, and a couple skiers were ahead of us. Their trail did not make our path much easier but their route finding was a time saver. At the first stream crossing, the skiers used the bridge while I found a spot just upstream. A small step over a weak part of the ice would be necessary. This hole would widen as the group passed. The next crossings were more solid. I took breaks regularly allowing the pulks to catch up as there was no need for me to be so far ahead. Breaking trail was significantly easier this year. Even the grand uphill was not as bad. I did spend some extra time leveling out the major dips to ease passage for the pulks. Nearing the height of land, one skier told me to go on ahead. Soon after I caught up with the other. They would turn around at this point. Now I would be finding the route as well as breaking trail. The rest of the way was almost completely marked by deer prints. At Preston I waited for a few of our crew. I noted this was the first time arriving at Preston in which the wind was not blowing straight at us. It would be a pleasant hike across the pond.

At the property, I stomped out a path to the outhouse, while pete made a path to the stream for water access. By now almost everyone had arrived. We setup camp and relaxed. I was in charge of dinner, so I got things going. The 7 pounds of sausage from Swans had slightly frozen on the hike in. We had german sausage and sauerkraut (homemade by mike). Like usual there was a lot leftover. The rest of the evening was spent hanging out.

I was not the first out of bed. That prize went to pete, who prepared the hazard trees for felling. The sound of the chainsaw ensured everyone else was awake in short time. Some worked on preparing breakfast using last nights leftovers, and some went to work on the first tree. The rest of the morning was spent bucking and splitting the wood to be stacked for future use. As late morning approached I joined george and tammy in trekking to duck hole with the goal of delivering the log books to CR#1&2. Was a nice day, with a little precipitation. George and Tammy led the way on skis. I kept up mostly because they were breaking trail. We crossed Preston and took the short portage trail to lower preston. This was my first time on lower. As we approached the outlet I could see open water ahead. We would need to climb into the woods and then skirt the side of the outlet to duck hole. I took the lead here to break the trail in the deep snow to climb up into the woods. After two steps in deep snow, I felt it giving way. As the snow and ice disappeared below me I turned my body to adjust my weight to be above the snow pack and not the widening hole beneath me. As my body slid into the snow,I was now at an angle in which I made swimming type motions to keep myself from sliding in completely as well as create a flatter spot to which to roll up onto. I do not know how I remained as calm as I did. This was my first time breaking through the ice. When I was secure enough (meaning not sliding in anymore) I began to roll myself away from the now slush filled hole. Once at a safe distance george gave me a hand standing up. For safety he had brought a rope in case we needed it. Fortunately the situation did not warrant its use. The water at this point was not very deep, but I did not know it at the time. Quite an experience. I was glad I did not panic, and executed the movements I knew I needed to do. Having gone through the mental exercise before was probably very helpful in preparing me.

At this point we realized the rest of the trek to duck hole was not in the cards. So we found a lunch spot and rested a bit before heading back. While chatting I reminded George that next month would be the 10 year anniversary of the Bear Lake lean2 build. Regardless of anyone else, I plan on going.

G&T were consistently ahead of me on the way back using our broken path. I enjoyed the scenery as well. As I arrived back to camp the other folks told me G&T said I fell through the ice and they left me there. For some reason I knew they would joke about it. Another huge dinner was made, again with leftovers. I was one of the first to hit the sack, a few stayed up quite late.

Pete and I were the first up again. We started the coffee and made some eggs. Others arose at various times. Half would be staying another night while the rest of us would be heading out. It was a bright sunny day with a few clouds. I had forgotten sunscreen and would pay for that mistake. I took a few photos while on Preston and made my way back. A group of skiers on Henderson were heading in to Preston for a day trip. I chatted with them briefly before the last little bit back to the car.

My plan was now to go to Raquette Lake, Big Island. This would make my drive Tuesday much shorter by half. I stopped at Stewarts and purchased a bag of wood knowing the island sites on busy lakes can be quite picked over. Justin had warned me about ice conditions on Raquette. When I saw all the snowmobile tracks on the lake, I had no concern. Plus I already broke through the ice once this trip. I found the island campsite on the eastern edge easily. Made camp and gathered more wood. There was plenty if one walked far enough into the woods. I also noted a lot of areas where deer had bedded down in the immediate area. I made a late lunch, gathered more wood and relaxed. Being Monday afternoon it was rather quiet. A few snow machines would zip by at a distance. As the sun set I could feel the temperature drop. The stars were amazing. It would get chilly overnight. I saved enough wood so that I could have a small fire in the morning. Being solo, I was in bed earlier than the previous two nights.

It did get colder over night, not uncomfortably though. I made a warming fire and some cocoa; I was not super hungry. Some snow was falling and the winds were picking up. I wondered if I was going to have to navigate across the lake by compass again this year. I packed up putting my compass around my neck just in case. It was bright even with the weather making visibility of my tracks slightly difficult. I could have put on my sunglasses but didn't. The wind seemed to ebb, so I took off a layer as I was getting too warm. A couple snowmobiles waved as they went past me. 45 minutes later I was back at the car. Thedriving home was slow with the road conditions. I was glad I did half the drive yesterday. Plus I got to stay in lean-to #87.