Friday, December 31, 2021

Five Days in The Pharaohs

 The past few years I have been been doing my post xmas trip with Dan. I wanted to go back to the Paharaohs to check out a few more of the lean-tos but Dan has recently done a lot of exploring in the Pharaohs. He wanted to wait until spring to go nack for lake trout fishing. So my plan was to be a solo trip. Seems like quite a few of those this year. I let some friends know of my plans and as it turns out a couple joined me for part of my trip.

Day 1. 12/26 Campground to Clear Pond Lean-to. I parked next to Justin's truck leaving my snowshoes in the car. The trail would be somewhat familiar as it was the egress from last year's trip. I signed in oat the register and made my way to the first junction. I was taking it slow not only because of my pack laden with 5 days of food and winter gear but so as to not get to sweaty. The latter proved futile. The just under 2.5 miles was rather easy going, made even easier following Justin's tracks in the 3 inches of crusty snow. I arrived at the lean-to a little later than Justin expected. He had already gathered quite a bit of firewood. I took a break and added to the pile. Had a lunch break then gathered more wood. We had ourt usual great time together in the woods with a nice hot fire and cold beverages. The temp was forecasted to be in the low teens overnight; also was expected to be the coldest of the four nights. I slept soundly, toasty warm under my quilt in the lean-to. Justin had his tent pitched nearby.

Day 2. 12/27 Usually Justin is awake before me. I was glad I was up first as it meant he slept well. I restarted the fire with the remaining coals and made coffee. We took our time in the morning with packing up and breakfast. It was close to 10:30 before we set out. Justin would hike with me for a short ways before he headed back to his car. Due to his generosity, I still had my full complement of cold beverages for the remainder of my trip.At the junction Justin mentioned the hill would be my big climb for the day. I only had a bit over 4 miles to do for the day. My destination would be Tubmill Marsh Lean-to. Justin's intel about it getting little use bode well for easy firewood procurement. We said our farewells I headed North up the hill and Justin turned South back around the far side of the pond. I continued my slow hiking pace as I was in no rush. At the far side of the hill I would again be on familiar trail for the next couple of miles. I would pass by the waterfall which dan and I had paused at last year. Between Rock and Lilypad Ponds some blowdown obscured the path for a moment and since I was creating the only footprints int he snow besides the deer, squirrel, coyote, etc... it took a moment to get around it an re-aquire the path. Was neat to see all the different animal tracks and other signs. Once at Lilypad, I took a break and had a snack for lunch. I was already way ahead on food, having not eaten my dinner the first night. A weak cell signal here so I texted Emily to let her know I was ok. A c ouple of hikers came by from my direction of travel. Perhaps I would have some footprints to follow for a bit. At the next junction I headed towards Honey Pond the rocky downhill which Justin had described. The Rock Pond brook required some creative rock hopping to stay out of the water. After the crossing I expected the lean-to to be just downstream. The trail headed up the hill and around. I wondered if the lean-to was off a side trail and the sign had been removed. I was tempted to bushwhack down the hill and follow the shore line. I didn't, and gave myself a little more time. I figured I could always turn around. A minute or so later I could see the shape of the lean-to in the distance. The trail was still headed a few degrees away from it. Staying on the path, the sign and access trail was soon visible. As expected, firewood was plentiful. I gathered enough for my own use and enough to leave for the next visitor. I made an early dinner and read the shelter log book. Had a few of my cold beverages, saving a few fot the next night. I made it past 8pm before I was in bed. Another sound sleep. I could get used to this.

Day3. 12/28 The woods were visible in the early morning light while the back of the lean-to remained dark. The light eventually pulled me out of my warm sleeping quarters. Was a chilly morning. I restarted the fire and made coffee. Another short day; just over 3 miles so I was in no hurry. After breakfast I headed back the way I came towards Lilypad. Uphill of course. Nice way to warm up. At rhe junction I sent another text to Emily and also to Tony to let him know I was still on schedule. The next portiomn of trail brought back the memory of when Dan and I dropped our packs and did a quick hike up tto the top of Pine Hill. Both HorseShoe and Crab Ponds were familiar though I had forgotten about the steep section between them and the waterfall. I paused at the waterfall for a snack just as Dan and I had done last year. I had been following the footprints from the hikers but they went off in a weird direction SE of Crab Pond. I speculated they had climbed Treadway Mtn and then bushwhacked down the far side. I passed by the campsite and nodded to the bench. I planned on stopping here for my break but the waterfall was only a few minutes ago.  After Crab Pond it was an easy downhill draw to Oxshow Pond. As the day warmed, the snow became sticky; clumping up on my micro-spikes. AMde the last bit slightly annoying. I expected collecting firewood here would not be as easy, so it was good it was bearly noon when I arrived. My initial plan for this trip was lower miles between campsites to give myself time to do day trips w/o a full pack. Later morning starts, slow walking and wood gathering limited the time to explore too far away from camp. At Oxshoe, I think I walked an extra 2 miles gathering firewood as it was. The shelter log book was brand new, so only the adopter's initial entry to read. I added my own. Had a later lunch and went to gather more firewood. Found a sping while collecting wood, so no need to melt more snow. The winds were a bit more here. Possibly a result of just being closer to the water's edge. I do not think I made it to 8pm before I was in bed. 

Day 4. 12/29 Another great night of sleep. I have slightly more than 4 miles to Rock Pond with a schedule to arrive before noon to meet Tony O. Based on my pace I wanted to be on trail close to 8am to give myself plenty of time without rushing. I used my stove to boiil water for coffee and an easy breakfast to save time. I filled up my water bottle at the spring and was on trail not long after 8. Back up the gentle hill to the junction re-tracing my steps to Lilypad where I did another text check-in with Emily and also let Tony know I was still on schedule. It was colder than i thought, I had to put on a layer during my break. I was just about halfway to Rock Pond lean-to. I figured I would get there around 11am with the easy pace. The last quarter mile or so would be the only time not following my old tracks. Upon my arrival, IU swept out the lean-to and set up my gear in one corner. I was only here about 10 or 15 minutes before Tony arrived. He re-supplied me with some cold beverages; much appreciated. Even better would be the chance to hang out with Two-Ton again. I wonderied if we had even seen each other since the trip when Rob &I met him and Sdam on the NPT. Tony reminded me we were both at Paul's winter camp; which was still quite a few years ago. Was great talking and hanging out. Had to travelk even farther for wood gathering, so this took up some of our time. Among all the great coversations we decided we needed to plan a trip instead of just waiting for time and schedule to allow it like this one. We also want to try to plan something with Justin and hopefully the 3 of us will entice Rob to come along too. Tony strung up some christmas lights in the lean-to. We stayed up quite a bit longer than I had the last few nights, but it was not too late. 

Day 5. 12/30  I think it warmed up over the night. It was definitely the warmest of all. Not too much in the last morning. Just coffee, and breakfast. Tony had planned to be home by a certain time and I had a 5+ hr drive. We had no need to rush, but we didn't dawdle too much either. I have a lot of food left; it will be interesting to see exactly what is in my food bag when I get home. We started down the trail with micro-spikes but it became clear we would be taking them off soon which we did at the first junction. The ice was melting from the trees which made it feel like raindrops. Only a few miles back to the car. A few hills to climb which really warmed me up. We passed by a few hiker groups along the way. Glad I had a change of clothes in  the car. Would be nice to get out of these. Before I chnaged, Tony and I took a selfie video and we promised to plan another excursion for next year. 

I had expected at least one day of wintry mix weather which never materialized. So 10/10 on weather for the trip. First night with Justin and final night with Tony; fantastic!  

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Another Thanksgiving in the Woods. -Woodland Pond Lean-to

Eric reminded me on the drive up that we have been doing this for nine years now. Sometimes just the two of us, somtimes with others. Folks have come and gone, others becoming semi-permanent to the group. On the short drive to the trailhead we recalled some of our past thanksgivings in the woods. The trips to Queer Lake in the early days with Ian and others. In the years since we have chosen locations with shorter hikes in so as to carry more food and drink. This was no exception.

Woodland Pond in the Charles Baker SF is about a mile fromt he parking area. The DEC Forester provided us with some good intel about the best parking location. A lot of truck roads and equestrian trails wind around through this forest. Since we are in between hoirse riding season and snowmobile season we would have the place to ourselves except for the hunters. The parking area is apparently a sire used by partiers, as the middle was a bonfire pit with plenty of cans and bottles, We checked out the picnic area up the road a bit and it seemed meh. We loaded up our packs and headed down the closed portion of the truck trail. We left an arrow with logs for Andy to lead him to us tomorrow. The trail was easy and downhill. Even after the junction, it continued downhill. The sign at the junction said .7 miles to the pond. It was significantly less. From the car to the lean-to took us 20 minutes.

We expected some rain and snow during the trip. So far it has been dry. We set up camp, gathered wood and began our holiday celebration. We also strung up a tarp under which we put dry wood. As per are usual we had chili and hot dogs for dinner. We would have extra for the morning too. Rain came over night. The metal roof on the lean-to made it seem like a lot more rain than it was. The rain turned to snow in the early morning which made lighting the fire more pleasant. The snow was heavy at times with big wet flakes. As the morning waned, so did the snow. The sun came out for a bit too. 

Andy arrived at noon. He would round out the group of three. Some of our other regulars, like Kalie and Chad, would sadly not be making it this year. With Andy's arrival the second half of our thanskgiving would begin. We had a pot of water on the fire and soon we had the turkey in as well. We had our full plates and bellies just as the day turned to dusk. Cheesecake for dessert too. I ate too much. 

As the evening wore on, I was getting tired. I switched from my chair into my sleeping bag. The temperature flectuated throughout the night, or so it seemed. But in the morning it was definitely colder. Around 20F. More snow over night as well. 

With the fire restarted, we had coffee and packed up. We were rewarded with a nice sunrise over the pond. With Meaghan (the dog) being cold we would be leaving as soon as she climbed out of her bed. Back on trail just before 8:30 and back at the car in 18 minutes. With Eric moving to Tennessee, these Tgiving trips with him might be coming to an end. He said he would drive up next year. So we should t least have a tenth one before the group make up significantly changes again.

Monday, November 8, 2021

East Pond- Dam!!

 A little late in writinmg this entry. I had forgotten to do it when I returned. Only a few folks read this anyway and two of them were on this trip. But I should record this for my own notes and memories. I met Andy at the Park&Ride for an early meet up at the trailhead in Thendara. The drive always seems to go quick with someone else. We were expecting colder weather this weekend but did not expect it to be in the twenties at the trailhead. Andy switched to his long pants and I donned an extra layer. Within a few minutes everyone else arrived... Justin, Bill (&Bella), Kalie and Caitlin. A nice brisk walk to start the day. I expected to drop a layer soon after we started but it took much longer. We were at the junction in no time. The trails here were supposed to have been cleared last summer. Later on we would see newer markers as evidence of the SCA crew being through. 

A few obstacles to deal with on the hike. First would be the alder swamp flooded by beavers. Last time through we just walked across the mucky beaver dam. Next would be a stream with a log bridge that is not my favorite to walk across. The most worrisome would be the outlet of Simon which could potentially be a large cascade to deal with. The beaver dam itself proved to be rather easy, it was the next couple hundred feet of flooded area which required navigating through. It took quite a while for all to pick their way through the mucky area. The entire route to East Pond varies in terrain quite a bit. It is a nice hike; superb if not for the aforementioned obstacles. The log bridge had some forst on it which made it dicey. I made it half way, over the two log wide span. the next part was a single log as the other was broken. I turned back and found an easy rock hop just upstream. I joked with Justin about being cowardly but used a rather inappropriate term not suitable for publication. As we continued through the forest I recalled the location where I saw the fisher chasing the hare a few years back. The area was significantly more grown in since then. As we approached Little Simon Pond, there was some remnant snow in the shadows of the trees. The outlet was low; easy to cross especially with the giant log to hold on to. From  here it was about a mile, first uphill then down. The trail is hard to follow here but the woods are easy to walk through. I filled up my water bottle from a small drainage emptying into Little Simon.

East Pond was just as I remembered. We all set up camp and gathered wood. A few of decided to take a side trip to the old mica mine at Blackfoot Pond. Not mush of a mine per se, just an area dug out of the side of a hill. Mica fragments can be found. Not very large pieces, but neat nonetheless. Before heading back, we stopped a the pond edge to take some photos and soak in the view. A couple beverages didn't hurt either. We headed back to camp. I guess my other exploration in this areas will have to wait again. Good excuse to come back next year.

We gathered around the fire and had a great time. Eventually most of us made dinner. I think I was the first to say goodnight and head to my hammock. I might have fallen asleep in my chair too. Not surprising considering how early I was up this morning. 

I slept well. I think it was warmer when I got up then when I went to bed. Andy and I had coffee in the early hours while waiting for the rest to awaken. Justin was also up early. A slow morning since no one was anxious to leave. I took a short walk around the near side of the pond just to do it. Eventually we were packed up and headed back to the cars. We noted the growth arpund Little Simon where the old campsite was rumored was a little more open now since the 90's when blowdown obstructed it. Another reason to return next year.  Again I avoided the log bridge. We knew the way through the beaver swamp so it went a little quicker. Back to the truck trail and then to the cars. 

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Camping on Raquette Lake

 Returned to Boucher Point for a short hike in camping trip. Andy was the first to arrive and I followed shortly after. He and I gathered wood, plenty for the day and night. Other trickled in and we had a good time hanging out, eating and drinking. The next morning, Andy I were both up before the sun. He made us coffee heating water with his alcohol stove. As the sky lightened, we could see the thiick fog over thelake. It was neat watching the rising sun slowly dissipate the fog.


Jim used the morning light to capture some great photos and made a short video of our trip too.  I was happy with my one photo of the lake and fog. After breakfast we packed up the trash and headed home. Just an easy relaxing camping trip with good food, fine drink, and great friends.

Jim's Video:


Monday, October 11, 2021

Canoeing and Backpacking into Cold River Country

 With a 3 day fall weekend and needing to check on *my* lean-tos along ther Cold River it would make for a relaxing trip with some time to explore as weel as enjoy the last of the fall colors up north. With a few days before my departure, my buddy Dan became available so my plans changed slightly. Instead of my usual backpacking into the Cold River from Corey's Rd, we would paddle down Long Lake and then take the NPT the rest of the way in. Dan wanted to fish some ponds in the interior so we took my canoe and had his Hornbeck in tow.

At the State boat launch, the parking area had a sign for "no overnight parking". Weird. How are folks supposed to spend a few days in the backcountry? The boat steward told us if we were camping on State land, it was ok to park overnight which he was told from the Forest Ranger. I wish the Ranger was there to ask myself. We loaded up the canoe and headed downstream (North) into a headwind. Even with the wind it was a nice paddle even though I was not in paddling shape. We passed Plumbley's Point and found a landing. We hid my canoe in the woods and ate some lunch. I found a path which would lead us to the NPT. Loaded up our backpacks; Dan also had his Hornbeck and we hit the trail. In a few miles we would find a place for Dan to hide his canoe for his exploration the next day. It had been a while since I was on this section of trail. Last time was me hiking Southbound with Andy on his thru-hike. The trail is much nicer in the fall although harder to see with all the leaves covering the tread. Low 60s makes for nice backpacking temps too.Soon after we hid Dan's canoe, we crossed a beaver meadow with a broken bridge. It did not seem familar to me. A few yards back into the woods the reason became apparent. The NPT joined the trail from the left. There must have been a reroute from the meadow being flooded and it has since dried up. 

A lot of the NPT through here was on an old woods road. After returning from the trip[ I did a little more reading about this specific area. Back in the 60s there was another trail which went South to the ponds Dan wanted to explore. I will need to tell him about it when he returns from the remainder of his trip. We arrived at Shattuck Clearing which is growing in more and more every year. There are a few junctions here and I wanted to make sure we took the correct one. It also appeasr a new sign to Pine Point has been put up. I wonder if they crew also cleared the trail to it? Another future exploration. The old campsite at Shattuck with the picnic table was almost gone. A tree had collapsed the table and the firepit was almost completely buried in growth.

Two suspension bridges to cross over the next 3/4 of a mile and then to Cold River #3 which would be home for the next two nights. CR#4 was empty so we had it as a backup in case CR#3 was occupied. Early evening arrival to CR#3 (which was unoccupied) so we set up camp, gathered some wood and had dinner. I was not very hungry so I had my "small dinner". This is happening more frequently on my trips. We had a couple beers each (we had a ration of 2 per night). We could see headlamps upriver near CR#4, some hiker must have just arrived. Made it past hiker midnight and headed to my hammock. 

Was up before light, but I waited to for Dan since he was in the lean-to. Wehn I saw the flash from him starting the fire, I ventured over. The sun still hadn't risen as we both had a full day ahead of us. Dan got started earlier than I as his involved fishing not just travel. I had my breakfast (I made my "big dinner" and would have leftovers for lunch.) and coffee. Loaded up my pack and headed up river. I stopped at CR#4 and talked to the guys there briefly. On my way to the Seward lean-to, I ventured up a stream bed to check out the land since I need to explore off trail here more. There are all kinds of old camps and artifacts from the logging days around. Most are buried now under all the moss and leaves. Some friends have found some things sop I was looking for them. Not finding anything of note, I headed back to the NPT and to the Seward lean-to. The lean-to was clean but the log book was gone... again.  I will need to return with a new one. Check on the privy which we dug and installed 1.5 years ago. Already starting to get full. Between replacing the book and digging a new hole, they are good excuses to return sooner than later. I was making great time and not even trying to hike quickly. The day pack weight helps for sure. I headed to Ouluska; crossing Seward Brook was an easy rock hop as the water level was low. The log book was gone here too. At least the folks are respectful of the old transcribed books covering multiple decades. A few sheets of paper have been added which people have been using as an od hoc shelter log. I noted Carly and Danielle stpped here earlier in the day for a snack break. One of the phrases she used was familiar. I think I know which Danielle this is. Will try to remember to send a msg when I get home.

Had my leftovers for lunch and checked on the privy. Will need to dig a new hole here too. As my friend Chuck used to say "camping with a purpose". It was barely past noon and I had taken a long break. I had some time to do more exploring on my return to camp. I chatted with the guys from CR#4 again while they were taking a break at Seward. I then checked out another drainage looking for an old camp. I walked around quite a bit looking in areas which would be "camp worthy", and then it dawned on me that I was looking for a camp which hasn't existed for over 70 years. The growth and trees would certainly be different. So I looked for an area with a lot of growth... the last place I would choose to camp in this century. As I poked around I found some old cans and bottles in the moss. Some remnants from box stoves and more trash. Very cool. Not really much to see, but glad I found it. Reminded me of when I found the old camp on the Stone Dam trail many years ago, it was all overgrown too. Odd that I didn't remember this while I was searching this time.

Back at camp by 3:30. Plenty of time to take a bath in the Cold River... aptly named this time of year. I also put our remaining beers into the water to cool them. I made an earlier dinner so I would not have to eat in the dark. Dan arrived before the sun went down. He was abit later than I thought he would be due to missing the cut-off trail at the NPT reroute and therefore swing around past where he hid his boat. It took him an extra hour to locate it. I was tired, so went to bed not long after hiker midnight.

Monday morning I again awaited for Dan to get up. We only had to pack up and head home. Uneventful morning before hitting the trail. We passed by the NPT reroute and here were figured out Dan's mishap. He picked up the Hornbeck and we headed to Long Lake. A bout a mile before we stopped and gathered a large bag of honey mushrooms. The canoe was right where I left it. I admit I was a little nervous about leaving it for two nights. The lake was calm and it was an easy paddle. Dan trolled a bit with no luck. We stopped at Rodney Point for lunch and were back at the launch by 2:30. As we approached we paddled past a motorboat towing a dock. These folks take their dock completely out for the winter. The boat steward was finishing his last day of the season. Cars did not have a tickets, nor were they towed. I will contact the forest ranger when I return to ask for verification on the parking issue. With a few hours to drive I will get home after dark. Dan is heading to Lows lake to do some more fishing for the rest of the week.

post-script: I contacted Danielle and it was indeed her. They were hiking the Loop as an overnight.

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Silver Lake along the NPT

 Except for the trips with Dan, many of my trips this year seem to have been solo. This would be no exception. With prospects of potential rain I changed plans to revisit an area I have not been to in a while. I was surprised by the number of cars in the lot at what was the old southern terminus of the NPT. I squeezed into the remaining spot and changed into my hiking clothes. 

The trail was wet, not any wetter than from my memory of past excursions. I  tried to keep my pace slow. It was a bit muggy even though the temp was cooler. As I approached the W. Branch Stony Creek I noted it had a significant volume of water. This time I would be heading upstream to the bridge and not need to cross here anyway.

The designated campsite near the bridge was clean which was good to see. After crossing the bridge I went off trail exploring. Justin knows why. ;) After my off trail excursion, I took a bearing to the NPT and made a mental note of the bearing for future reference. 

As I headed north on the NPT I heard the faint sounds of a chainsaw? This being a wilderness area I figured my mind was playing tricks, or it was coming from the private land. A few minutes later I hear it again; this time the sound was unmistakeable as was the direction. I continued down the trail to where two guys were using the saw to cut blowdown in the trail. They were clearing to ease the bringing in of their gear for their permitted hunting camp this fall. We hiked he next mile or so together until they caught up with two friends with much of their gear on a cart. I passed them by and continued on to he Rock Lake junction. They said their camp was somewhere in the Rock Lake vicinity. I took a break and had some lunch.

As I finished two other hikers came by from the north. We talked briefly. They mentioned a hunting camp up the hill. I do not think it was the same; but perhaps it was. They also mentioned it was wet up ahead. I had noticed the trail had some pools of water and mud. There must have been a recent rain. The crossing of the W. Branch Sacandaga required me to take of my boots. I don't recall ever needing to do that at this crossing in the past. The water felt good on my feet.

I soon passed by Meco Lake which is always pretty. Plenty of water flowing from drainages on the hillside for me to fill my water bottle too. The NPT never has a shortage of available water sources. Approaching Silver Lake I could see some people on the far side near the lean-to area which was my destination. The trail followed the shoreline until I came upon two guys at the satellite campsite. The lean-to was just up the hill. At the lean-to were two backpacks. I sat down on the log and flipped though the shelter log book. It went back to 2018. I did not see an entry for when Andy and I passed by on our thru-hike. Must have not taken a break here. A few minutes later two sisters came up from the lake. It was their backpacks at the lean-to. Nice ladies, we talked a bit about their trip and other past adventures. They were taking a break and heading to Rock Lake. I mentioned the group of hunters I had passed by earlier.

I set up my gear, gathered a bit of wood and some water from the lake. I did the usual take a break, gather wood, take another break routine. I talked briefly with the two guys at the nearby site. They were orginally from Idaho. I told them I was getting a fire going later and they were welcome to join me. Later two more women showed up. The set up camp behind the lean-to down by he water. I extended the campfire invite to them as well. 

After dinner I did a bit of reading and put more wood on the fire to get it really going. I had kept it small for cooking purposes. I went to the lake hoping to catch a nice sunset. While it was nice to watch the sun lower across the lake, we did not get any special colors in the clouds. I headed back up to the lean-to and stoked the fire. As the sun got lower the two women joined me by the fire. They brought up their stoves and made their dinner. We had a great conversation about different backpacking trips and our current adventure. They were doing a section of the  NPT and were stymied at the river crossing due to dangerously high water so they had to backtrack. They then hitched a ride to where I started. 

As the sky grew dark and the fire turned mostly to coals, the ladies headed back to their tents and I into my hammock/bivy in the lean-to. This would be #115 for those keeping count. As usual I was awake before the sun. Slept rather well. Made some coffee and contemlated what to have for breakfast. It was too early for  me to eat. I needed to prep my lunch anyway so I did that. I then decided to make that my breakfast. 

Sunday morning and heading back to the car. The trail would be mostly downhill so the almost 8 miles would pass quickly. About a mile before the bridge I came upon the two sisters from yesterday. We talked a bit more before I continued on. Was back at the car by 11:30. Another solo trip but with plenty of company along the way.

Thursday, July 1, 2021

NPT Stewardship and the French Louie Loop

Saturday: School's out for summer so my end of the year trip starts today. Meeting Carla, Dan, Kalie, Andrew, Will, Skip and Jim at Tirrel Pond to replace a footbridge. With permission from DEC to use access rd we were able to hike in the short way. Everyone was there before me, I was bringing in dinner. The bridge was almost completely installed when I eventually arrived. Rain arrived almost at the same time as I did. It eneded quickly. Besides bringing dinner my only contribution to the project would end up being nailing in boards on the bridge decking. With the bridge complete, we hung out at the lean-to and the beach. Had a few 12-horses which I also humped in. Speaking of humping... apparently this lean-to was the chosen tryst location for a couple of red squirrels. Yep, they were humping under the lean-to. Kalie even got a photo of it. Squirrel porn! We cooked up bratwust from Swans with sides of german potato salad and red cabbage. Ate like champs. Crashed in the lean-to hoping the squirrels don't take advantage.

Sunday:Andy and I were first awake. We went to the beach to watch the sunrise. Andy used his alky stove and french press to make coffee. We watched a loon fishing for her breakfast. At one point she surfaced quite close to us. 

Back at camp with everyone awake, we packed up then Carla &Dan made breakfast for us all. Soon after we made the short, albeit uphill hike back to the cars. All were going in slightly different directions. I was headed to Wakely Dam to begin the solo part of my journey which included more trail work. Pack  loaded with 3.5 days of food, fishing gear, and trail tools was heavier than I am used to. It was not the extra weight of the beer in my pack. It was late morning and already the day was getting hot and humid. I hiked down the NPT. As I approached the flooded section a family of four came by. The kids looked to be HS or college aged. The daughter was a step behind the rest and had a sour look on her face. I attributed it to having just had to walk through the  flooded muddy mess. Everytime I walk through it I estimate the distance. This time I would count my steps. 200 exactly to the bridge, then 25 more to the end of the muddy floody. I changed back into my boots and pressed on. A few minutes later I passed by Steve and Miles (about 7 or 8 y/o) they were hiking from Piseco to Durant. Steve thanked me for the trail work and appeared to encourage Miles with the idea of volunteerism and conservation. Steve is also an ADK member (GVC). I did not stop at the Carry lean-to and as I passed it I realized I hadn't mentioned the flooded section to Steve and Miles. Probably for the best as it might have scared Miles pre-maturely. Then again he is a kid and might like stmping through it all. A couple minutes past the Carry lean-to spur trail I spotted some motion to my tw-oclock. I immediately froze. A small bear soon emerged from the undergrowth about 25 paces away. He was sniffing around the ground unaware of my presence as he was upwind of me. After about 15 seconds he lifted his head upo and looked in my direction. I was standing still so I was not sure if saw me, smelled me or what. I made a large grunting sound which certainly got his attention. He then turned around and sauntered back into the undergrowth. Another bear encounter, which brings the grand total up to four.

Once at the Sucker Brook trail I removed the gloves and pruning shears to begin my trail work. Within a quarter mile I needed to get out the saw to remove a large blowdown. Not a big diameter but the crown of the tree was right in the center of the trail, so a lot of smaller cuts and moving the brush. With the shears I side cut along the trail and clearing 2 more blowdowns until I reached the Cedar River. Takes a while to cover one-mile of trail when side-cutting and clearing blowdown. There were two entries in the shelter book since my last visit. That seems to be the average. Both entries wrote about how neat and clean the area was and were appreciative of the small pile of wood. Of which there was still a starter pile. The firepit was cleaned out and rocks reassembled. It was already 3pm so I considered staying here for the night. I ate some dinner and soon re-evaluated. I opted to continue on to Cedar Lake which was my original plan. I figured the side-cutting over the next 5.5 miles woulde have me reach Cedars around 7ish. I filled up my water bottle in the spring and started to hike and side-cut the NPT on my way to the dam.The first few miles received more maintenance than the last few as I grew tired. The final quarter of a mile saw the least side-cutting. 

A small group was at the first tent-site so I continued to the lean-to. As i appraoched there were voices down by the water. A single pack in thelean-to and a hammock strung up nearby. I sat down on the deacon seat to rest. I was tired. A few minutes later a hiker came up from the beach. I introduced myself as Russ and he replied with John. Then he asked if I had a nickname. When I said I also go by DuctTape his eyed widened and in an excited voice replied, "I am hanging out with THE DuctTape... it was because of you and Rob I started backpacking and hammocking." We both sat in the lean-to and chatted until after dark. There was a brief pause as I went to set up my hammock. We shared our plans for the next day and beyond. John has only 16 more of the high peaks to climb. Quite the accomplishment so far. He also said he might be up early and head to Cedar #2 to make coffee and have breakfast there. "I like that style" was my reply "get up early and hike a bit before I have my coffee." Chuckling John said "Who do you think I learned it from?" We both laughed. Not to much later we both excused ourselves to our hammocks. It was quite past hiker midnite at this point. I hung my food and hoped the cooler temps along with my tiredness would provide some good sleep.

Monday: I did not sleep as soundly as expected. Not sure why not. It was decent, but I expected to sleep in longer I guess. I was awake at 5am and had to force myself to go back to sleep to get at leasdt another hour. After that there was no chance of dozing off again. Packed up my hammock and moved to the lean-to. John was still asleep. I made a twiggy fire to heat enough water for coffee. The sky is overcast with a slight breeze but feels like it is warming up quickly. At least the breeze is keeping away any bugs. The smoldering fire helps too. Still not sure of my plans for today, or the rest of the trip for that matter. I have 3 days to hike, fish, and explore. Need to get the food bag lighter and start eating. The temperature makes eating undesireable. A short hike to Cedars #2 should get me going. Stopped to check ouit the spring before heading to the lean-to. Just like last time, no flow from the pipe but the pool had enough depth to fill a water bottle. At the lean-to I read the shelter log. Apparently Steve and Miles stayed here. Miles, or should I say "Maniac Miles" wrote quite a bit and it is "Super Steve" according to the maniac. Appears he is enjoying the trip. Seeing my last entry made me realize it was almost exactly one month since I carried the canoe here. I suppose I should get going. No rush though. Hot and humid so I think I will take a quick dip and wash up. Water felt good. Not too many deer flies while drying off.

Even after the refreshing water, I still have less ambition probably due to a combination of the heat and being tired from yesterday's work. Instead of taking the long way to Brooktrout, I will take the short way to West and make the next decision there. Cleared some blowdown between Cedars #2 and #3. Took it slow the rest of the way to West Lake. Noticed K. Micoli signed in at the register doing a neat loop. Will need to remember to ask him about it. Looking out over West Lake I am hearing thunder to the west. Quite faint and inconsistent. The wind is picking up but the sun is still shining. I will head to South Lake to beat out the storm likely to come; only a half mile away. While at South thunderheads rolled by. Nothing too close. A few sprinkles and some wind to go with the sun. Decided to bake some yeast bread to pass the time. Also did some laundry. Will be nice to put on clean skivies. Bread is looking good. Always used a skillet before. The cookpot worked well for a single serving. 

Rain picking up again then stopping. Will make some dinner and use the large cookpot left at the lean-to to make some bath water for a shower. After dinner and my shower it was time for campfire and relaxing. Potential nice sunset with the clouds to the west. Slight rain again, the sun shining as it approaches the horizon. Then gone in a blaze of orange.

Tuesday: Slept great. Was in bed before it was filly dark and slept till 5am. Fell back asleep. Arose from the hammock at 6ish. Made coffee and watched the other side of the lake slowly brighten by the morning sun. Made breakfast. Nice cool morning but it had that "it is going to be hot & muggy" feeling to it. Another half mile to W.Canada Cr lean-to and then decide my plans for the day. Left South @8:30.

At W.C.C took a break to read the shelter book. Surprised I have not seen anyone at these lean-tos. I spent a bit of time on the bridge. One of my favorite spots on the entire NPT. Decided tp head to Sampson Lake to fish instead of going off trail today. Don't want to get caught in a pop-up storm. Will be the first time to Sampson since the lean-to was moved. Last time I carried in two gallons of stain for Pillsbury and Sampson. Approaching the lean-to a familiar voice rang out. It was John from CL#1. We chatted and summarized our previous day. He saw my fire at South Lake and did not want to bother other people. If he knew it was me he would have stopped over. John had spent the night at Sampson and was heading out today. Hope we run into each other on the trail again. 

Made myself some coffee and fished a little. Someone had left an onion (as well as other trash) in and around the lean-to. I diced up the onion and added it to my bean burrito for lunch. Carried out some of the trash and cleaned out the fire-pit.After my early lunch I read the shleter log. Many entries about how neat and clean it was. I must have hit it at a bad time. This lean-to had the same issue in its previous location. I wonder if it is the same people? A few raindrops starting to fall. Sky getting dark and then full on torrential downpour. Thunder to the west, moving this way. Once past the sun was out again. I could still hear the thunder now to the east. Still thinking about going to Pillsbury for the night. It is a long hike out from here. Going back and forth with wearing rain pants. Question of getting wet pants or hiking in a sauna. I still have time to decide. I also could stay here and just add a hour plus to my hike out tomorrow.

Whoa! Big thunderstorm came through. Reminds me of the one last year which Shannon and I hiked through in the same area.The idea of staying here is growing on me. Perhaps I will use the giant pot and take a camp shower, then make dinner. With Pillsbury so close, I can go after dinner if the sky looks clear. Might need to take another bath at Pills tho. After dinner I decided to head to Pillsbury. Sky looked clear to the west and the sun was bright. Just as I was putting on my pack the sound of a helicopter grew. Soon it was on top of me, this huge military heli did a fly by of Sampson. Wow was it loud. Even out of sight i could still hear it. The trail to Pillsbury was wet and muddy as expected. I opted for the wet pants instead of the steam bath in the rain pants. Still not sure I made the wise choice. At Pills soaking wer from the brush. Jim(?) and his son Xavier were set up. They had arrived not long before me. I asked if i could share the lean-to. They were very obliging. Xavier is headed to college in the fall. he and Dad decided to do some backpacking first. The family had always been car campers so the last year or so was a different style for them. Appeared they were getting the hang of it. Boiled some water for the morning and then went to bed.

Wednesday: Next thing I knew it was morning. I do not remember any dreams. I did not think I slept but the night passed quickly. I tried to stay quiet packing up but Jim and X were soon awake. I donned my raingear and headed out. Goal was Cedar Lake to make a quick fire for some coffee and breakfast. On trail just before 6:15. Between yesterday abd today I was reminded of how wet the French Louie trail is compared to its NPT cousin to the north along the Cedar lakes. This was an old road too. Perhaps that is part of the issue. With the previous days rain and the day just beginning the air was still damp. As I approached the junction of Old Military Rd a large shape appeared. The profile was unmistakeable; it was a moose for sure. I immediately froze. Then appeared a larger moose looking over the first one. A mama and her calf. With the humidity the camera lens on my phone I could not get completely dry. Plus I was a good distance away; for safety. I zoomed in as best as I could to get a grainy photo. Mama stared at me the entire time. After a few minutes she walked off followed by her calf. I waited a bit longer to give them time to clear the immediate area. I inched forward tentatively just to be sure. Wow that was exciting! Started the trip with a bear sighting and ending with moose. Saw countless other creatures in between as well such as mergansers, beavers, snakes, and loons. 

Crossed the funhouse bridge, well what is left of it. The middle section is now completely gone. This part of the trail is nice. A lot of bog bridging which cab be slick during and after a rain. At Cedar dam, I made a twig fire at the campsite for coffee. I arrived earlier than i though so I decided to take a leisurely breakfast as well as pre-cook my lunch to have whenever i felt like it. During coffee a few kids came out of the camping area with packs on. Followed by their counselor? The kids did not look to happy. I wonder if the rain yesterday soured them. As they were headed towards sled harbor I said to the counselor "be careful on the funhouse bridge". She said thanks and chuckled obviously knowing which bridge I was referring. 

I left the dam a few minutes past 9am. Made good time on the NPT section which I had cleared two weeks ago and then 2 days ago. Lot quicker just hiking it. From the dam to Carry lean-to in a mionute over 2 hours. Light pack and clear trail makes travel fast. Took an early lunch and rested before the upcoming swamp walk.Clouds starting to roll in. I had considered tossing a line into the river here, but with the clouds and sounds of thunder to the north I instead pressed on. Would like to get to the car befor rain. Plus there was a really annoying horsefly here. 

Just as I was changing into my water shoes at the muddy floody a few raindrops started. Figures. Water a tad deeper today, or so I thought. Rain was just a teaser fortunately. With my boots back on and easy trail left I was at the car before 2. Changed out of my wet smelly clotheseand put on dry for the drive home.

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Four Day Solo Canoe -Cedar River Flow to Cedar Lake

 Friday: Arrived to the Cedar River Flow (Wakely Dam) at 10:30ish am. Forecast is for rain; had some on the drive but is currently overcast at the put-in. Hope it waits a little while longer. There are only a few people at the dam. No one is on the water. Super quiet like glass. Maybe 50 deg at most. Paddled nice and slow enjoying my solitude on the flow.  As I approached the end of the flow I watched a deer at the water's edge. She looked towards me briefly and went back to her foraging. Saw a carcass of another deer just under the water nearby. Strange bookends of the life spectrum. The bog mat gave me some minor problems navigating the channel, but I managed through it. From the other direction it is more obvious. Up the river, an easy drag around the beaver dam and some more quiet paddling upstream. A few raindrops every once in a while. If it picks up I may spend the night at the Carry lean-to instead of pressing on.

No one at the Carry lean-to and the rain is picking up. Now a steady drizzle, enough to require rain gear while I collected firewood. I stashed some dry wood immediately and went for more. A few splashes down by the river; trout? I started a small fire to get a bed of coals going in preparation for heavier rains. The drizzle is picking up now as I head to the water's edge to toss a line. Rigged up a #0 silver mepps spinner with brown tail. Second cast landed a 9" brookie. A few more casts and another smaller trout. I had heard this was a good spot, the reports were correct. Even though this spot is not hard to access it still gets little pressure with the flow taking the brunt. Took a photo of both fish with my Denn Handmade knife for scale. The rain is subsiding, but I think it is a short pause. Time for a twelve horse and some dinner.

Saturday: It drizzled all night until it turned to snow. I did not think I slept to well, but the night went quickly so I must have. More splashes down by the river. I guess there are more fish. Morning fire started and coffee is hot. Overcast skies. Hope the bugs do not emerge as it is peal black fly season and I had heard the mosquitos have been fierce already too. Still a bit cool for the bugs today. Packed up my gear for the long portage to Cedar Lake. 

3-1/2 hours later  covering 4.9 miles and clearing blowdown all the way is what I need to cover to get to the Cedar Lake dam. Tough carry with all my gear and 3-days of food. Will still need to return for side-cutting and brushing out. I had taken a long early lunch break at the woodstove campsite. This was right after I crossed paths with a threesome heading to Wakely. After lunch, the Lamphere ridge trail is more wild than the old roadway. Made the portaging a bit more grueling not to mention it was the last mile and a half. That long uphill really sapped my energy. The last quarter mile returned to the old roadway and was easier going. At the dam I was quite relieved to unburden my shoulders. At this point I am not looking forward to the return portage. I have a couple days to recuperate first. A mother-son team was across the dam taking some photos. As I put the canoe in the water the mother and I chatted for a bit. She had hiked the NPT last fall, said the colors were amazing. She asked about some of thecampsites and lean-to spots. I gave her my recommendations. I asked how they enjoyed the funhouse bridge. She said it needed some work and asked if I was going to fix it. 

me: "some day, probably".

Paddling up from the dam was very nice but as soon as i hit the main channel the winds were stiff. I was hoping to check out Noisy Bay, but the winds were swift there as well/ I opted instead to head across to Beaver Pond figuring it would be more protected. A gentleman on the bridge asked if I had "any luck". I told him about the trout the previous day but had yet to wet a line today. I stopped briefly at Cedar #2 to sign the log book. I took a photo of Andy's entry from 2018 when we hiked the NPT together. I am sure he will appreciate seeing it when I get back home. The wind is chilly even on land so I needed to wear my rain jacket just for warmth. At least the chill and wind is keeping the bugs away. BAck in the canoe, I landed on the beach next to the bridge and a quick carry to Beaver Pond. As I was putting in a group of nine crossed the bridge. They appeared to be scouts. I heard one comment about "where was camp?"

In Beaver Pond the visible portion is smallm buit after a narrows it really opens up wide with a ;large island just to the right and a rock garden straight ahead. The wind was picking up here too. I skirted by the island heading to the eastern arm of the pond using the island to block most of the wind. This pond is really neat. I spotted trash from an old camp near the last cove. Did not see any spot where one would have camped though. Just trash. Looks like the spot may be a quick bushwhack from the Lost pond trail. I was getting hungry so I headed back to the bridge and the nearby campsite. Made a twig fire and cooked some pasta with pesto. While I ate two more (smaller) groups walked past. Not sure if I will stay here tonight. It depends on the wind. Time to gather firewood just in case.

Checked out the spring to see if it was flowing. Nothinbg coming from the pipe but the pools had enough flow I could dam one up and scoop enough to fill my water bottle (mostly). There are now two ladies from VT at the lean-to. This is a practice run as they are planning on hiking the Long Trail in a few weeks. I wondered later if they had seen any of Rob's videos. The wind died down enough for me to take an early evening paddle. I did not feel like moving camp so I just enjoyed the paddle up through the narrows and poked around. The sun was at the perfect angle to be bothersome. The only major downside. I did not feel like fishing so I did not go all the way back into the last bay. Still quite chilly which means no bugs.  There was one bay with a warm spot which all the bugs were attracted to. They did not bother me though. Probably a result of the chemical treatment on my hat and clothing. I paddled slowly back to camp and collected some more firewood and got ready to watch the sunset from the bridge. 

Camp is all set up and I readied a late dinner; well a half-dinner as I was not all that hungry. Last time I stayed at this campsite was in honor of my grandfather's 100th birthday. Interestingly I brought the same "it was agood deal" beef stew as I did that last time. I planned on adding dumplings, but I knew it would be too much to eat. After I ate, I watched the sunset fromt he briodge. The ladies at the lean-to were behind me on the rocks. I hope I did not spoil their photos. The day eneded with some campfire tv before bed.

Sunday: Another chilly night, but no snow. The hammock is much warmer with the quilt compared to being on the ground. I think the hammock helps keep it tucked around me better. I slept very well. only one midnight break. Up at 5:30 no surprise. Lit the fire and put the coffee on to get ready for the sunrise on the bench. With a large cuppa I headed to the bench just as the sun was cresting the hillside. Was too bright to look at directly. Some thin clouds above would hopefully make for some nice colors. As the sun rose I contemplated what to do today. Options were to stay at Cedar with a long day back to the car on monday with a much lighter pack, or spend half a day here and then go to Colvin Brook splitting the big portage a bit but addinbg a couple of extra hiking miles. Had quite some time to figure it out. No need to decide right away.

After breakfast the winds picked up again so I decided to head back towards Wakely and adjust along the way. As I passed by Cedars #1 I noticed there were a few people there. When I signed out at the register,  I noted it was the Hobo +3. I cleared some more blowdown along the ridge. A marten was curious and watched me for a bit. He stayed put lomg enough for me to snap a picture. 

Even cutting blowdown it was much faster getting to the woodstove campsite. Fresh legs and going downhill. A few sprinkles so I propped the canoe against a tree and made some soup for lunch. Just as I was eating two hikers came cruising by, one barefoot the other wearing a disposable poncho. They had some spring in their step. 

"going the whole way", I asked.

"To Placid. Yes" said the barefoot hiker.

"Awesome! have fun" I said as they motored past.

My lunch break was a nice long one. A good hour. Was not really raining, just a few drops here and there. From the SuckerBrook trail to here took me 80 minutes yesterday. On the return it took half the time due to me not stopping to clear the blowdown. At the junction the rain began to increase steadily. Instead of hiking with rain gear to Colvin Brook. I chose to continue to don the big canoe umbrella and press on to Carry lean-to and the dry wood I stashed. Hoping it would be unoccupied (not a good bet considering the holiday weekend).

I neglected to put on my rainpants which was a lapse in judgement as now my pants were soaked from the undergrowth (which I still need to cut back next time on my section of trail). At Carry, the two thru-hikers were there taking a break. I asked if they were planning on staying here to which they said nop, just taking a break as they had more miles to do. Typical comments and thought process of thru-hikers. They invited me into the lean-to out of the rain. After I introduced myself and mentioned I also "go by DuctTape", the poncho girl (Anna) exclaimed "you're duct tape???!!! We have been reading about you in the shelter books. It is so cool to see you in person". We chatted a while. We went to the same college; they recently graduated and this hike was a celebration. I shred with them some of my favorite parts of the trail and they asked a lot of questions. I told them of my NPT-west dream. Katie was intriguged by it. As the readied themsleves to continue on during what seemd to be a slight decrease in the rain I wished them well.

Not long after they departed the rain picked up again. The steady drizzle just like on Friday. In similar fashion I head a splash by the river. So I headed down to toss in a line. Since it worked so well last ime I used the same lure. A couple casts, a small bump. Then a snag. I trudged upstream in my boots to get above it so it would release. A few casts from my new vantage point and then a big hit. Whoa, this was big one. My net is back at where I started. So I played the fish while trudging back keeping the line tight. I caught a glimpse of the fish as I moved. Definitely had some size to it, not just a fighter. At the beach I picked up my net and landed the beauty. 15", almost as big as the net itself! I guess I know what's for dinner. Hope the drizzle lets up, but I would rather it drizzle than have bugs.

Monday: The rain stopped over night. I slept soundly until 1 am, but for some reason was wide awake. I did eventually fall back asleep. I had covered my eyes so I could sleep in. Still up early, a little after 6am. All is quiet except for the sounds of birds. Speaking of which heard a barred owl with her distinct call last night. I can make out at least 4 different bird species but am not able to identify any of them. I am reminded of the ornithologist kid I met at Duck Hole years ago who was able to Id birds by their song; even whistle them himself. That was cool. This is the warmest morning so far but the fire is still welcome as is the hot coffee. Having extra time this morning and a ton of extra food I will try a cooking experiment; always good practice over the fire. I will repurpose my dumpling mix into a biscuit dough and see if I can use the cookpot to "bake" it. Will probably have to flip it to get the top side brown. Anyway it will be fun to try.

Let's call this a success. No butter or jam, but I have olive oil. Not bad. But camp bread (yeast) is till better. Looks like it is going to be nice, so I will pack up and paddle as far upstream as I can go. I made it to the first rapids and the campsite. Nothing special. Turned around and slow paddled back downstream and to the flow taking the opposite shoreline back to the dam. Once back on the flow the wind was really stiff coming straight at me. I guess the easy paddle out would be some work. Still very few people at the dam, but the black flies were here. Hovering just over my head while I packed up the car. 

To recount: 4 days, 3 trout, (almost) zero bugs, infinite enjoyment.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Short Hike & Camp on the NPT -Hamilton Lake Stream

 Just a short hike in to the lean-to. Started out with snapper from the forums. Was great to finally put a face to the name. We had a nice hike in up to the waterfall area. At that point snapper headed back to his truck. A tad worried he'd bitten off too much for the beginning of the season. I continued on and relaxed at camp. 

Had expected rain overnight which did not happen. Some misty rain in the morning for the hike out. Passed by a small group of trail runners at the stream detour around the large blowdown. Took a quick picture at Priest's Vly.

Monday, April 12, 2021

Old Trails in the Five Ponds Wilderness

A few friends were spending a couple days in the five ponds wilderness. I planned on meeting them for the last night of their trip and then we would all hike out together the next day. There were some old paths that I have wanted to explore over the years after first discovering them more than a decade ago. One of them, the Leary Trail is now rather popular again. This was the main route of the High Falls Loop prior to the dericho of '95. Andy and I hiked it last year on our way to high falls. The other, not so well known, is thr Dobson Trail. I first found this old path when meeting some friends who were hiking the CL50. I always wanted to come back to it and see if I could follow it, but other adventures always seemed to take priority. 

Thirty years ago the Dobson Trail was described as a barely discernible path. While I had been on it briefly years ago the foot tread was noticeable at leadt for the short part I walked. I read the path would disappear in places but could still be followed. This exploration would be compounded by the area having magnetite ore which makes the compass go screwy. I would use the compass and the sun to keep a constant bearing when needed. My plan was to take the dobson to the old plains trail (also now abandoned) to the truck trail and then down to Big Shallow to meet George, Bob and Matt. They would be spending the day looking for the wreckage of plane they heard about.

I set out on the CL-50 just before 10am. It was already in the low 60s. Was going to be a gorgeous day. Not long I found my turn-off to the Dobson Trail. Just as I remembered the tread was visible and discernible to the foot when obscured. The path headed uphill with a few old paint markings barely noticeable on some trees. At some places the path was quite obvious, and at times invisible. After about 20 minutes, there was a significant amount of downed trees. I spent quite a while trying to find the path. I would grid out the area in front of me, criss-crossing to no avail. I extended my grid and eventually found it again. Here someone had painted some roots and cut saplings. I followed these and the tread for another half mile. Every so often the path would disappear but finding it agin was not as difficult as before. Old axe blazes were also visible at times. Some real neat rock features up on the hill. I wondered whether these had significant magnetite. 

At a drainage I filled up my watre bottle and I noticed markers and some flagging. The markers seemed to head away from the direction I knew I needed to go. Perhaps they would bend around I thought. It was not long before I realized the flagging was following the drainage away from my target. Since I was exploring I fisgured I would follow it to see where it went. Looking at the map is was rather obvious, but what the heck. I would then take the truck trail all the way back to the the five ponds trail. It would be nice to be on some of the trail I hadn't seen in years. The flagged path dumped out just where I thought, so I put my compass away and headed down the superhighway of the high falls loop towards the CL-50.

I stopped for lunch at Sand Hill junction. The rocks in the shade were nice and cooling. It is still early in the spring and some patches of snow remained. After eating half my sandwich I continued on. reminding myself of the other times I had hiked this trail. Also paying close attention to the hills and drainages. I spotted the old turn off for the plains trail and noted how significant the beaver activity has been since my last time through here. A couple hikers passed by going the other direction. A few minutes later another couple of hikers. We chatted a bit. Jimmy and Lisa were nice to talk to, they were also from the Rochester area. It was nice to take a break as I had been covering a lot of ground so far and had only the lunch break. I expected the wet sections to be mush worse this time of year, but I was able to pass through them with no real difficulty. I did pick up a beaver chew to use as a poke/walking stick to test out some places to step. After finally reaching the five ponds trail I only had about 2.5 miles to Big Shallow and it was still only early afternoon. I slowed my pace as I was in no hurry. A few very deep patches of snow here. At Big Shallow, George, Bob and Matt were back from their adventure. They had returned not long before me. 

I set up my chair and relaxed a bit, finishing my sandwich before setting up the rest of my gear. I brough in some currywurst, bratwurst and a sixer of Genny to share. We gathered some wood, talked about our adventures and had a late dinner, just before it began to get dark. I do not think we made it to 9pm before were all laying down in the lean-to.

When it was finally light out, I got up and everyone else soon after. A quick fire and we had hot water for coffee. Evn though we did not try to break camp early, we did. The hike back out was realxing for me. We stopped at some campsites along the Oswegatchie and filled up our water bottles at the spring. We jumped on the Leary Trail for a shortcut back to the TH. This would actually be my first time hiking the Leary Trail in this direction. I noted a lot more remnant downed trees from the dericho through which a path was cut, literally. The trees had fallen perpendicular to the trail. the sheer number and size of the trees and cuts through them is a testament to the efforts over the last 30 years to re-clear this trail. I took the tail end of the group, mostly so i could look around at terrain and other notable features. A flat area had been flooded by beavers, this was so wide it appeared to be a lake. Which I suppose it now was. I made a mental not to explore this "lake" and also upstream of some of these drainages at some point in the future. Our trail would evetually hit the truck trail again, and not musch further North i would point out to the guys where I started down the Dobson Trail. The cars were not much further. Matt was moving slowly now due to some blisters, but it was still early enough to get back at a reasonable time. 

Both Saturday and Sunday had  premiere conditions for hiking. The weather, terrain and we were out before the bugs. Although a few mosquitos had started to emerge at camp. I always enjoy my trips to the five ponds. I hope I do not wait another ten years for these explorations and others in the area. 

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Four Days in the Tongue Range


Dan and I had been planning this for a while. Neither of had ever hiked this range but we heard it was nice. No ponds for fishing, so finding a window to hike it without interferring with Dan's other pursuits was small. There are two lean-tos which I will need to sleep in for my own personal challenge. We decided to do this as an easy 4 day trip so that we could enjoy it and not race up and down the peaks. We met at the parking area from which lean2rescue used for the repair on Five Mile Mtn. Left my car, and then drove to the northen parking area to meeto some friends who would be day hiking with us.

It was cool to see Mark and Jen again as it has been a while. Mark's wife as well as two other friends of Mark's (Paul and Jean?) would also hike with us. The day was very nice and the trail not too  wet for the season. We have seen much worse. We first checked out Deer Leap as well as some other spots along the way. Had a quick lunch back at the junction and then headed up towards Tongue Mtn lean-to where Dan and I would be spending the first night. The others hiked with us to just past Brown Mtn where we had a second lunch. Fromn there Dan and I continued to the lean-to. Like usual we first gathered wood knowing it was likely the weather was going to turn on us. Water procurement was going to be tough. We would gather from some vernal pools and boil or from some remnant snow fields. We tag teamed dinner with beans&rice and bratwurst. I carried 3 beers, one for each night. I suppose we will see how much self-control I have.

Some rain came but not too much. We knew that a significant system was on its way. We had discussed the previous night whether we should just hunker down here for the day and wait it out or get going immediately. Since the weather was still not too bad, we figured we could start early and get to Five Mile Mtn before the storm. It wasn't very far and a quick radar check showed we had till just before noon before the system was to hit us. Was a nice morning to hike even with the knowledge of the impending storm. Some nice overlooks along the way and then the turn off to the lean-to which is basically at the summit. We heard some voices as we approached the junction and a couple had just come down from the summit and was continuing South. They did not notice us. At the lean-to a small group was just readying to leave. Whew! We thought we might have to tent/tarp through the storm and more importantly I would have to come back to sleep in the lean-to some other time.

As the group packed up, we went wood gathering. We stowed a lot under the overhang to keep it dry. So far the storm has not come. A few sprinkles here and there and winds were picking up. Whenver the weather would cooperate we would steal another look over the lake. Someone had left an MRE and lean-to so we shared the contents and packed out the packaging. We laughed at just how much plastic packaging is used in one of these. Made for a good first lunch. Eventually the rain came a little more steadily with the wind. But I think we were up to high and were basically in the cloud. More rain was at the lower elevation. Had one more beer and saved the last for the next day. During the night though the winds really picked up. Some intense gusts which roused us from our slumber.

Our third day would be a longer one, but not that far really. The toughest part would be the elevation change, the downhill part, I would really feel the downhill in my knees and ankles. The day changed from overcast to some clouds with the sun poking through. We savored the views all along this stretch. After the long descent from French Point, before heading up to First Peak we crossed a drainage which combined the flows from two rivulets. Good water, best was upstream.  A first peak, the clouds were dispersed and the sun really warmed us. We took a much longer break here. I had one been left for the night, but this seemed like a perfect spot for it. I asked Dan if he had a cup handy and I shared it with him. We only had a few miles to Montcalm point but did not know of any designated campsites so we would likely be finding a place off trail. The 1200 ft drop from here was killer on my ankles. Cool rock scrambles though. The winds from the west were really pounding Northwest Bay. This would decrease our site selection opportunities. A few spring heads allowed us to fill water bottles as we descended. As we approached our next junction we noted some flagging to the East. We didcided to see where it went. Up and over a small rise and a firepit was spotted. the flagging continued around another rise towards the private cottages. We figured the flagging was for the cottages to find their way easily to the main trail. We continued down the trail to the junction and the boat launch (day use area). Also checked out an unposted cabin with a 3-hole outhouse. This property also had ano old lean-to which was filled with rotting mattresses. Cabin seemed to be in well kept shape as did the boathouse. We split up to look for a designated campsite. Not having found one we went to the established site which was just over 150' from the trail so it was legal. Also we had options for water. The winds from the west were really kicking so this site was perfect being on the leeward side of the rise. Firewood was plentiful. Dan set up his tent, and I my tarp. I brought a small hammock, but with the winds, I chose to pitch the tarp low and behind a downded tree as an extra windbreak. Tonights dinner was my responsibility; pesto tortellini with mushrooms. Was nice and filling. The winds calmed down as the evening wore on so it was nice to sit around the fire for a bit. Eventually it was bed time.

I tried to stay quiet as I restarted the fire and got the water on. Oh, the firepit was big and I made a ginormous tripod. It was overkill to say the least. Leaving the poles behind would be good firewood for the next folks. Was a beautiful day to hike out. We only had to round the southern end of the tongue and then work our way back along the northwest bay to the five mile mtn trail and our awaiting car. About halfway back, we spotted an organge bucket in the water. There was quite a bit of debris that has washed up. the bucket was in great shape. It was emblazoned with "Fish'n Bucket". Dan attached it to his pack to use at home. We also spotted a neat campsite just off trail. Had some log benches and tables and a sign "Rachels campsite". Passed by a two other groups heading the opposite direction as we got close to the car.

Even with the storm, we had great weather. The storm came at the perfect time and the cool weather made hiking nice. Only a few bits of snow here and there and the trails were not muddy except where the trail coincided with a runoff stream. The woods were very pretty to walk through. Glad we finally did the Tongue at a slow pace to enjoy the woods and stop at each overlook.

Monday, March 15, 2021

In the "Middle" of the Wilcox Lake WF

 Another trip with my good friend Justin. After some deliberation we decided on Middle lake in the Wilcox Lake WF. I had not been here in quite a few years. The last time was as a day hike after a lean-to rescue trip with Dan. Prior to that I had only been here two times before. Justin's truck was at the parking area and he was signed in. He let me know he would wait at the Bennett Lake turn-off. The trail was hard packed so micro-spikes were all that was necessary; and they WERE necessary. This old tote road becomes sheets of ice in places. I recalled this from my las trip as well. My new spikes were a bit tight putting on. I was used to my old worn out pair I guess. Heading down (or should I say "up") the trail I made good time. Much better than in snowshoes although they were strapped to my pack just in case.

I saw Justin's pack on the trail before I saw him. He was just coming back up from Bennett. We hiked the rest of the way in to Middle talking about different features we had explored in the area. Justin has been coming to this area since he was a little kid, and has done a lot more explorings since. As Middle Lake came into view, we headed off the trail following some old tracks to ther shoreline. We passed by an old firepit with some stacked cordwood. A few more yards and we were on the lake. What a great day. We made our way to one of the islands, then explored the far shoreline. With the prevailing winds we chose a site which we hoped would block most of the wind. Gathered some wood, set-up camp and the like.

A quick day hike to Murphy was in order, so we headed across the rest of the lake and then caught up with the main trail. We found some nice firewood here, so we left it to grab on our return. The rest of the trail we noted where snowmobiles had turned around due to obstacles. Also noted a side trail to what was apparently a designated campsite. We chose to check it out on our return. At Murph a lot fo memories for both of us came to the front of our minds. We shared a couple stories and read the lean-to register. I had forgotten how short this lean-to was. This was the location of my "I hate lean-tos" trip due to such a crappy nights sleep in it many years ago. 

We hiked the perimeter of the lake and then returned to Middle. We looked for the campsite along the "trail" but if it was there, it was buried in snow. Gathered up the wood and dragged it to camp. A nice fire and some beverages with a good friend is always fantastic. Eventually I was falling asleep so I retired to my hammock. It has been a while since I had slept in it, having been bagging lean-tos as of late. How apropos I would eschew the lean-to for the hammock near the site of my "I hate lean-tos" trip. 

The morning was lovely with the sky ablaze just before the sun emerged from over the hills. Then it snowed. Then the sun came out, then it snowed while the sun was shining. Then just a nice morning, after some coffee and a bite to eat we headed back to our awaiting cars.  

Monday, March 1, 2021

End of February Winter trip with rain to Seventh lake

 Winter with rain isn't fun. Mostly because one has to pack for both wet and cold. usually winter gear is heavier due to extra clothing but is offset by not needing raingear. So this weekend would have a bit of extra weight. Also due to its location along Seventh lake I anticipated firewood would n ot be easy to procure so I added a stove to my gear list. Plus snowshoes, and micro-spikes.

The initial plan was to park at the Bear Mtn trailhead near Inlet and take the x-country ski trails to the Bug Lake trail then the spur to Seventh lake. Knowing the increased numbers at Mtn trailheads we had a few back up plans. As we (Shannon and I) approached the trailhead we could see it had many cars. Unfortunately there was not enough space for one more. So we proceeded to plan B, which was the 8th Lake campground. Unsure of the parking on the seemingly unplowed road, we parked at a pull-off parking about a mile up the road. With our gear loaded up including snowshoes on our packs we walked the main road to the campground. I commented to Shannon how I often find myself doing road walks with her. 

At the campground, we followed the snowmobile trail to the start of the Bug Lake Trail. At this point the drizzle was enough to force us to put on some rain gear and pack covers. A few snow machiones came by. Heading up the trail I knew the spur we needed to take was not prominent even in non-winter so I expected a significant bushwhack. As we approached Eagles Nest turn-off, the vicinity of the spur we needed, I consulted the map. The trail junction was near the bridge, but it was hard to tell which side of the outlet we needed to be on. We donned our snowshoes and I took a compass bearing. The snow was crusty on top but soft and deep underneath which made for not easy going. As the outlet began to turn away from the direction we needed to go, I looked for a place to cross. Shannon spied some flagging on the opposite side, quite a distance away. Not unusual. With no easy way to cross, we backtracked up the hill to the trail to try the other side of the outlet. A few steps past the bridge a brand new yellow trail marker was right where it needed to be. A few paces beyond some old flagging was visible. I guess this was the trail and it was recently marked, although not broken out. We followed the flagged trail which had a few markers, we counted six total for the next mile. Travel was not easy in the snow until we reached the last quarter mile where someone had come up from the lake and broken it out. From here it went quickly to the lake. We found our lean-to empty, so we made camp and relaxed a bit. 

There was some split hardwood in the lean-to. A nice gift, but I would still need a bit more. Not a lot, just enough to melt snow and have some campfire tv. We collected wood, made some soup, played jenga. I was tired. We didn't come far, but it was hard miles. The rain subsided and we had a nice little fire. We made it to hiker midnight before we retired. 

As usual, I was up early. I tried to sleep in as much as I could. Some coffee and an easy breakfast before we re-traced our steps back to the car. As we passed through the campground there were a couple cars parked. So I guess we could have parked there. We needed the extra miles though as this plan B was already shorter than our original. Great trip even with the rain.