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.

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