Monday, January 20, 2020

FLT on MLK Weekend

The original plan was DeBar Mtn WF in northern Adirondacks. With the impending storm we changed to the southern tier to do some FLT hiking. The plan was to stage a car at the end, and have food drops along the way. Dan and I were meeting Will at the endpoint, where we would pick him up and drive to the drops and our starting location. Will was a half mile down the road in a snowplow turn around, so he followed us back to the FLT where the guide says shoulder parking. We guided Will's minivan into position just past the guard rail and proceeded to load up his gear and him into our already packed car. At the drop zones, we cached a bear canister with our food for the following days to be picked up a mile or so before we would make camp. These other shoulder parking areas were even less amenable to parking than where we left Will's vehicle. With the food cached, our last stop would be our starting point.

I had checked out satellite imagery to scout shoulder parking and a car was even parked in the spot in the photo. So I figured it would be ok. As we approached there was quite a bit of snow build-up from the plows. Dan guided me in to position and then we noticed a new parking area at the trail sign. It was not plowed, but the snow was not deep (yet). With the AWD I drove up the icy path to the area which could hold 4 or 5 cars. I backed in for an easy out as the next few days we would get more snow, the full amount yet unknown. All loaded up we headed east on the FLT. Our food cache and Dan's full pack were about 4 miles away with the campsite another mile after.

The trail was the typical FLT; ups and downs, old roads, side trails, creeks, combination of state and private land. We had to hike around a small farm at the top of a rise just before what the map described as "steep and rugged downhill". At this point a sign on the trail also informed us of steep and slippery conditions and ropes were placed to assist hikers on the steepest pitches. We would drop nearly 300ft in s short distance. With the little snow, the trail was slick and the ropes were helpful at least for the initial step down and the we did not fight gravity to the next "level" spot. Once at the bottom, we had to climb up a little bit to the road which we had cached our first drop. We hiked down the road a bit to our gear/food and loaded up our pack. The last mile with the extra weight would be mostly uphill of course.

Along this last mile we were following other tracks. There were a few other loop trails in this area off the FLT. As we approached the final stretch before our lean-to the tracks were gone. We would not have minded sharing the campsite. At the top of this hill the wind was quite fierce. There was a field a hundred yards away which allowed a lot of wind to penetrate the forest and directly into the lean-to. We gathered wood and prepped the site ans started the fire. With the wind, we would have continuous snow blowing into the lean-to. With the wind the way it was and us all being tired, we retired to our sleeping positions rather early. Over the night, the wind subsided followed by a slight warming.

7 am, and I was up re-lighting the fire. We had a leisurely breakfast. Will received a series of texts from his wife. The police had called saying his car needed to be moved or it would be towed. She let them know where he was and they said to get to it as soon as possible. With this info and how long it took us to go the 5.5 miles yesterday we looked at options for today. The plan was about 10ish miles which included some serious climbs. One of which was over 500ft. Knowing we would be struggling to make camp before dark, and the need to move the car, we opted to hike back to my car, get Will's and then go directly to the next cache with both our vehicles.

There was a fair bit more snow on the ground today. We took a couple side loops on the way out since we would have less distance to cover later. Drooped Dan's pack and some gear at the road and then headed up the hill with the steep pitches toward the farm at the top of the ridge. Even with an over 300ft climb it felt easier than coming down. It was moire tiring for sure, but less wear and tear on the muscles. Approaching the far, a dog began barking. He came running over towards the fence. Behind him was a young cow with little horns. Very playful, the two of them. They acted like friends and wanted to play with us. As we rounded the fence, our two new friends were joined by a some sheep. They all seemed like quite a happy little family. Soon before we reached my car, we passed by a couple day hikers.

We picked up the bear canister from yesterday's drop as well as Dan's pack and our other gear and headed to Will,s car. We were nervous approaching Will's vehicle first hoping it was still there, and second hoping to not have a ticket. Fortunately we were ok. At our next drop there was no parking so we looked at the map to find a different access point. A possibility was found as some x-country ski trails were nearby and they intersected with the FLT within a mile of our destination lean-to. Seeing a State DEC sign looked promising, but it was just for the unplowed seasonal rd. My frustration was getting to me. A farmhouse across the street was our last option. Dan knocked on the door and asked it would be ok to park in front their shed. They said ok. As we got the cars and gear situated, I knocked on the door and gave them a box of Russel Stovers chocolates and said thank you again.

We now needed to find the x-country ski trails. Will has spoken to a couple skiers who just parked at the mouth of the seasonal rd but did not get any trail info. We donned snowshoes and looked for the pink trail. Not finding it, we followed along side the skiers tracks in the rut of a vehicle with very high clearance had driven. The ski trails were no where to be found, so we continued along the road to a blue cutoff trail to the FLT. We arrived at the lean-to with little daylight left so we gathered wood while remarking at the beauty of the location and less wind than the previous night. With the fire built, we set up our sleeping arrangements in the lean-to. There were two chairs, one broken and some spent .22 shell casings on the floor.

We sat around the fire, had some great food. Every once in a while a large pop and some coals would fly out of the fire. We figured some rocks were exploding. A great night followed. We all slept well. The next morning was also very nice. Even though the temp was barely above 10*F, the fire was nice and we were warm. This was what winter camping was all about. The only downside was the privy was 300 yds uphill. While we were sitting around Will found an unspent .22 next to the fire. We soon realized what was exploding. Some brain trusts had tossed their ammo into the fire pit and our fire was setting them off! Yikes.

After packing up camp, we continued down the FLT along and old country lane. Back to the blue cut-off we headed back up the hill to the seasonal rd. Dan and I dropped our packs while Will continued to his car anf home. Dan and I would hike another 1.5 mile loop back to our packs first. We went back the the FLT and continued along the edge of the ravine. It was a great day to hike, the sun was shining. Both of us were disappointed we did not bring sunglasses. I knew the glare would also sunburn me. The temp was still below 20, but I was hot while we were moving. The trail was rigorous until it re-connected with the seasonal rd. Soon we were back to our packs and then back to the car and home. No pictures just memories. Bagged two more lean-tos and another few miles on the FLT.

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