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.