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.