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.