Almost immediately, the day was looking better. After our visit to the historically awesome aforementioned outhouse, we made our way through the trail reroute. The woods we entered were tall and thick and bore little evidence of human interaction. It was pretty cool to be on a trail that was noticeably fresh. Often times (especially on well-trod high peaks trails), you can tell that millions of human feet have gone before you. here, it seemed like we were following blazes laid out by a swarm of fairies.
Saw many of the usual toads and efts, and while taking a break to pump water and chill on a mid-mountain brook, were visited by a hummingbird. Collected a few nice pieces of quartz along the trail, one of which I gave my dad.
Have I told you guys about the herk I brought? I have been known to carry a bit of rock with me on many outdoor missions. Famously, I was toting around a nice herk for most of a summer which I would take out at the top of a mountain or during a live music performance to "charge". My dear friend and associate Gush required a herk of his own. Well, I couldn't give it to him without it being sufficiently charged...akin to giving someone a present without the accompanying batteries.
Just before we left for our hike we stopped at the rock shop in Long Lake (which is beyond awesome) and picked a huge mamma hunk of herkimer Diamond. I decided to carry it to Piseco and mail at out after sufficient charging. Well, we hurried through that post office visit so that two and a half pound mega herk traveled with us all the way to Long lake, gaining siginificant charge and almost 90 miles on foot. Much love Michael.
We made it to lake Durant in record time, the exitement growing with each step as we passed Stephen's Pond and made our way to the entrance of the camp grounds. From a distance we saw the payphone and were overjoyed......it was gone however hahaha. I guess the time of pay phones is over. We went to the admission booth and the ranger let me call my folks and also gave us some cliff bars...score!!!!
We sat down on a picnic table and awaited my parents. next to us was a water spigot. What luxury! I would drink 2 sips and then refill. No pumping!!!!! My folks got there with some bangin' Screamin Eagle subs, fruit and candy. We gorged, re-upped on backpacker meals and had some much-needed human interaction.
We are now more than halfway through our journey and the days ahead are looking bright. Though it hurts every day, I think we are through the worst of it. We got back on the trail after a warm send off from my folks and headed towards Tirell Pond. We were concerned about finding a vacant lean-to after reading in the guide that this was a popular spot for sea-plane fly in camping. Our worst fears seemed to be confirmed as a large family was milling about at the intersection to the camp site. Miracle of miracle's they were just passing through.
Another superlative lean-to with a nice sandy beach. Soaked up the solitude and enjoyed our lunch leftovers. Felt rich and happy as we got towards bed time. Full bellies and good times. lots of entertaining graffiti and chipmunks at the lean-to.
Day 6: 15 miles. total: 67 miles
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Lovely wake up at another scenic lake-side lean-to. Cedar River was quite nice. The end of the hike got a bit monotonous, ending with over a mile of road walking. Jeanette reached the end of her rope a bit on this day as I had the day before. I ended up volunteering to carry the tent for that last stretch of road if to only give her the illusion of it being slightly easier. We saw a co-worker from the museum drive by us on the stretch looking for a place to put in his kayak. Kind of random.
I can't say that I was a big fan of Wakely Dam. It was dirty and run down with garbage everywhere. There were a number of Winnebagos and pick-ups running generators throughout the day. I know people enjoy the Adirondacks and camping in a variety of ways but this was not for me. I guess I would feel differently if we had done as the guide book suggested and had friends meet us here with meat on the grill on beer in the cooler.
We set up our tent for the first time on the hike as far away from "civilization" as we could. We did very little aside from making dinner and reading quite a bit. We decided to wake up early to get to Durant (and our food pick-up) at a decent hour.
As a recommendation to future hikers, bypass the campsites around the water and keep heading up the road for less than a mile. On your left, completely isolated from the rest of the car-camp enthusiasts is a handcap equiped campsite with a STUNNING outhouse that must have been recently built. After a visit there, Jeanette and I got the spring back in our step.
As a 2018 postscript, I just wanted to sat I have a completely different perspective on Wakely Dam thanks to dear friends Sathi and Emily. They put in kayaks there all summer, paddle to a campsite and take in the splendor of Cedar River Flow one weekend at a time. Both J and I have separately gone out and had some incredible times.
Day 5: 10 and change. Total: 52 miles
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Amazing sunrise, so good to be dry and happy. Spruce Lake will always be remembered as an incredibly beautiful and therapuetic location. The lean-to was really cool. It was weathered and warped with the lots of graffiti about epic trout with dates going back to the 60's. The view that it framed would be at home on an Adirondack post card or advertisement.
Early on it was apparent that I was hurting and tired. The miles seemed to go a bit slower. Sat down for a while on my pack and had the 'why am I doing this?' feeling for the first time on the hike.
There were a good amount of red efts on the trail. West Canada Lake's Wilderness is not overrated by the guide book. It's beautiful and still and the weather gave us it's best (thankfully on such a difficult day). Lots of green and blue to keep one foot going in front of the other.
Saw a number of backpacking pairs on this section, no singles, groups or day hikers. Met a dog or two which is always a good time. At the end of my energy and joy reserves we reached the Beaver Pond lean-to. Saved again!!!!!
From my journal: "Lean-to at Beaver Pond intersection is perfect. Too tired to write more now, maybe later?"
This place is incredible. The view was nearly as good as from Spruce Lake but the lean-to is the real hero here. Big and new and perfectly kept up. Maintained with a great deal of love and respect. It could proably sleep an entire troop of boy scouts. The fire pit was substantial and a number of large quartz boulders were used. This place looked like a great weekend excursion with lots of little trails around the lake and pond.
After laying down for a bit and eating not one but two backpacker meals for dinner I had a new lease on life and took an evening walk around the lake shore and took some pictures of this beautiful setting. Tried to get some shots of the loon that was living in the bay but it was a bit far off and came out blurry.
I highly recomend the Mountain House Beef Stroganoff. We had it for the first time that night and it rocked my world. After eating Backpacker's Pantry meals for 3 nights straight, the rich creamyness of the gravy and the big chunks of beef almost made me weep with joy. I do still recomend the Backpacker's Pantry meals (especially Katmandu Curry) as they are chock full of nutrition and fiber, but you can get pretty sick of endless variations of brown rice and beans after a while and just want some (freeze dried) home cookin'.
As Tom discusses in Nptrail.org, the section from Spruce Lake to Beaver Pond is in pretty bad shape with large section inundated with mud and water from beaver activity. Despite the muddy boots, the trail was still fairly easy to follow.
Day 4: 10 and change. Total: 42
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
We woke up to a still dripping woods from yesterdays rain. Had some oatmeal and hit the trail. Bud was starting out just behind us (having camped about .2 miles back at the second suspension bridge. It went from dripping to thunder as we made our way towards Piseco, our food drop and the outside world.
Red efts dominated the trail this morning, it being too wet for even the toads or the frogs... well, there still were a few. It rained hard until we hit town with thundering roaring every few minutes. We seemed to be staying pretty dry and in good spirits likely motivated by the thought of town in the near future. As we left the woods and hit the pavement, patches of blue sky began to push through the gray mass.
It was such a novelty to be in a store. Though we had only been in the woods for 2 nights at this point we both felt alien wandering the aisles. We shared some mac n cheese and some chili at 8am hahaha), also buying sandwiches and some pastry for our lunch. We felt unbelievably rich!! Headed down the road and towards the post office just as it was opening up. A package for us! We mailed ourselves food here and at Long Lake, also doing a pick-up in BLue Mountain Lake with a little help from the parents. Could we possibly get any richer? We had bought some ocean spray little cylinders of juice powder in single servings and these turned out to be one of the best treats on the trail.
Once back in the woods the trail was flat and devoid of rocks for the first couple of miles. With full bellies, full packs, bright sun and easy going Jeanette and I were grinning from ear to ear. A blessing, and we made killer time. Got hilly and stayed that way on our approach to the Jessup River. Quite beautiful with a highlight being the actual river crossing. Lots of great places to camp or chill but we had or sights set on Spruce Lake lean-to #2 for the night and were not gonna stop till we had our satisfaction! I would definitely return to this area for day hiking or overnights in the future.
The last portion of our hike, the approach to Spruce Lake was beautiful and challenging. We were both past the point of exhaustion and got into one of those silly ranting kind of moods that happens with long distance hiking. Spruces and a hill down marked our approach to the lake. The first lean-to was not directly on the lake and had some serious mud out front. Passing it up was one of the harder things I did on this hike. I was so tired and wanted to just keel over but knew it was the right thing to do to just get to the next one.
Our excitement grew and the distance to the next lean-to (about 0.5 miles) seemed to grow as well. The welcoming yellow on brown lean-to sign sparked a wave of elation as we pawed through the semi-overgrown trail down to the lake edge and our home for the night.
Impossibly beautiful!!!!! It was sunny with a descent wind coming of the lake. Usually not something to make you smile but I was super glad for the wind. At least half of my clothes were wet from the previous rain, a fairly foolish decision to wash clothes and hope they would dry on a rainy day.
Within 2 hours our clothes were well on the way to drying, a swim/ bath in a pristine lake was had, wood was gathered for our first fire of the trip and I had figured out why my water filter was pumping so slow. I hadn't cleaned it once on the trip and we had been pumping water in some low, sketchy areas (the first leg of NPT being in the southern, low Adirondacks). With the sediment cleaned off the first bottle pumped blessedly quick. I don't think I have ever been more happy or content in my life as we settled in for the night. From my journal: 'Inventoried gear, cleaned my filter, ready to rage the trail another day!'
This is the day when we began to establish our routine for the trip. Wake between 5 and 6 AM, hike till 2 or 3pm and chill hard till we pass out (usually about 8 pm hahaha).
Day 3: 14 miles. Total: 32 miles.
P.S. That night, with a crackling fire, and a pink sunset framed by the undulating and ancient trout assassin lean-to, the loons began to sing.
Loon calls on Spruce Lake
They sang a song sorrowful, beautiful and intense.
The fish jumped, the bats swooped in and the half-moon shone.