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.