Friday, January 7, 2011

The Northville-Placid Trail

The following dated entries, in reverse order (as blogs go), chronicles the thru-hike of the Northville-Placid trail that my special-lady-friend Jeanette and I did in August of 2010. We kept journals on this trip and wrote in them after each day of hiking. I took mine and elaborated on it, including memories and recollections I didn't record at the time. It was very enjoyable to go back and relive this trip via this blog, cementing parts more deeply in my memory and commiting others they may have simply slipped away.

Go there! Be in the woods!!!! Obssess over the guidebook for months. Go to!!!!
This website is totally on point and awesome. Jeanette and I have remarked many times that it would have cut our planning and worry time in half if this resource had been up and running during the planning phase of our trip.

To my friends: if any of these places intrigue you, just ask and Jeanette and I would love to take you there!

Thursday, January 6, 2011


Woke up and was barely able to choke down a backpacker's meal. I will not miss these!! It stopped raining from 1am until just before we woke up. We got under way with visions of cheeseburgers dancing in our heads. We passed the Colgate group and wished them luck. It must be hard to keep a group of undergrads amped while spending 36 hours in the rain.

Duck Hole is quite pretty and the first section of the trail after was kind of dreamlike. Once we got into the thick of the day's hike, the trail was beyond gnarly. It was super-overgrown with numerous re-routes around the ever-present beaver activity. Lots of ups and downs slogging through the mud. We met 2 dudes and an Irish wolf hound filling a lean-to to the brim (in the good way, filling it with dog-ness) at Moose Pond lean-to. The meeting was right on time as we were once again struggling to stay positive (s*&t, trying not to cry) on our second day of rain.

As you can tell if you know her or from her blog, Jeanette loves dogs (I'm a big fan too) so we both soaked up the good doggy-energy and chatted with some nice guys who were doing the stetch from Placid to Long Lake as a thru-hike north to south. The guys let us know the trail ahead of us wasn't too bad and we let them know (unfortunately) that their trail ahead was pretty tough. Undaunted, they made their way south and we headed north, with slightly lighter loads.

Wanika Falls was raging. This was a place I had dreamed of getting to as soon as we started planning this hike. The additional rain fall had created a truly impressive sound. I took a moment to be there then scurried back to the main trail. This section of the trail was pretty cool with big drops down from the trail to the rocky, fast-moving creek below. One of the bridge crossings was most of the way rotted out. Only one of the three 4x4's was still standing and below it was a 15ft drop, fast-moving water and jagged rocks.

The last section was unremarkable save for one last beaver-acction re-route. Quite pretty hiking throughout this section and I would definetly recommend Wanika Falls as a cool overnight from Averyville Rd trailhead. As journey's are want to do, the last 3-4 miles seem to drag on forever! Though we were significantly happier knowing we were on the final stretch, Northville-Placid was not going to let us breeze on out.

When we dropped off our car, I walked a stretch down the trail to find a tree of solitude. I made a point to memorize what the last little bit of trail looked like before we were out so i'd know when to start running (hahaha, little did I know). Several times on the last section I was sure I would see the Element glinting in the sun just around the next corner. We also smelled campfire a few times and thought we saw a roof through the woods, such a tease!

We did finally get out. Oh the exilaration!!! It had just about completely stopped raining so we peeled off all of our wet stuff and got into the last of our dry's. My heels had sort of 'melted' from walking 30 miles over the past two days in wet socks and now looked...well to tell you the truth I'd rather skip the description. They were gross. I aired them out and we got into my car and started heading to our great reward: The lake Placid Brewery. We called our families and let them know we were alive and out. We actually made it out at least one or two days sooner then we had expected. The estimation was 10-12 miles. Once we got warmed up, the reality was more like 12 to 15.

I may come back at some point and try and sum up the trip but for now the last sentence in my journal works just fine: "What an amazing experience, the ups, the downs, the sexy lean-to's".

Day 10: 15 miles. 120 miles total


Woke up to a frog staring at me from a puddle outside our lean-to. yup, it's raining. The trail followed the Cold River here and we got a bunch of nice views along the way. Stood at Rondeau's hermitage for a moment and thought how much Marty Pickands would enjoy this.

The terrian got more challenging as we got deeper into the western high peaks. Lots of rolling hills, swollen creeks and a few views of the Seward Range.

Got to Duck Hole and both lean-tos were occupied. Made the decision to backtrack to the last cold river lean-to instead of tenting out in order to dry out sufficiently for our hike out the next day. kind of bummer of a day, especially hiking back a mile...

So that is almost verbatim what my journal entry was comprised of from 8/22/10. Lets just say that 'bummer of a day' was a bit of an understatement. My legs were hurting me real bad that day and the further along we got, the further I fell behind, stewing about my hip (I know, what an old man) and stomping in puddles.

I can't remember jeanette's overall state for the day but we were both pretty done by the time we hit Duck Hole. After 14 or so miles, we arrive at the quite beautiful and quite packed pond-side base camp. There were not one but two adventure groups from Colgate (who werent aware of each other's presence in the high peaks that day until they met up. Can you believe it?), with numbers in the high teens. I saw them all milling about the lean-to and decided, f*&k it, I'll ask if they are leaving. No harm right? They most certainly were not leave but were, in fact, taking the lean-to and packing out the campsite as well.

My f*&k it attitude came from my chat with the group (all 2 of them) at the other lean-to. A dude and his son were in there for a few day and had settled in and completely filled this lean-to to the brim. While we were talking, the kid was playing his nintendo DS THE WHOLE TIME. This guys basically made it clear that this was their lean-to and he was not interested in sharing. If my mood had been any better I would have said too bad, showed him the lean-to rules in my guidebook and made him shove over. Jeanette was allready crying a bit so we just walked away sadly. I hate this jerk.

With all of our options looking pretty dismal we started backtracking a mile to the vacant Cold River Lean-to. I got right back to my angry puddle-stomping routine as jeanette ran wailing down the trail. Through the rose-colored filter of time I get to chuckle (as you should too) at this image. At the time, it was all pretty horrible. We got to the lean-to, where we stripped down and put dry stuff on for the night and made the usual backpacker's Pantry dinner. Jeanette was able to scream away her megrims and so began the admirable work of trying to cheer me up.

We enjoyed the usual assortment of lean-to graffiti and counted ourselves lucky for how dry we were. Not only did we keep our spare stuff dry but our bags were dry too. After reading a number of accounts of back country emergenies, we realized what bad news it is if you can't get/ keep your sleeping bag dry. We brought two books with us on our trip Changing Planes By Ursula LeGuin and Nemesis By Isaac Asimov. Just about halfway through, we finished and switched. Super fun to read psy-fi by the light of the campfire and dream of other worlds.

On this our last night in the woods, our books were done. To be fair about the events of the day, this was our one and only time we got shut out for a lean-to on the entire hike. It was the first time we even camped anywhere near another person on the trip so we consider ourselves pretty lucky.

day 9: 15 and change miles. 15 to go.


Woke up in the Corner Motel after some seriously refreshing sleep. Jeanette enjoyed one of her favorite luxuries in our journey: cold pizza in bed for breakfast. I, on the other hand, had something else in mind for my ideal breakfast. Long lake has a Stewarts, a fact I noted well in advance of the hike. I knew that, if I could, on the day I went through Long Lake I'd like to have an eggwich. It is a sacred and powerfull meal that magically cures hangovers and prepares anyone for a full day of snowboarding.

As it was 6Am on the outskirts of Long Lake, we were not passed by a single car on our way to the trailhead. No free rides today. We were both glad to have our feet back on the earth as we made our way through a rolling trail with some big trees. Not much remarkable about the hike along the lake other than the going was pretty easy so we made some good time.

We decided to push on to the Cold River Lean-to's as Long lake seemed loud and full of people (well, compared to some of our recent nights in the some of the most isolated parts of the state). The intersection that would take us away from the lakeshore jarred us into a new reality: Lake Placid was close enough to be worth putting on trail mileage signs (under 30 miles from the northern edge of the lake). We were entering the final stretch!! We were tired and sore but took a minute to relax and eat a cliff bar there and ponder our fate.

The highlight of this section of trail were the two very bad-ass suspension bridges. When we realized that we were camping at the base of the larger one which crosses Cold River, we knew we might have to revise our top 3 favorite lean-tos. The lean-to was also at the base of a very interesting and intricate falls. This whole place had a very other-worldly feel with unusual water-worn stone which created deep rounded 'potholes' with what eroded out.

Lots of available firewood also made this a great place to stay for the night. It seemed like there must have been a recent storm as there blowdown everywhere. I had anticipated having alot more fires (we only had three: Spruce Lake, Tirell Pond, Cold River) but the weather was pretty damn perfect and there seemed to be no good reason to waste wood for people who might really need it (not to mention we were dead tired most night and wanted only to lounge, eat and read in our cozy three-walled home). Other than that campfires are wicked pretty. Thats why we had one that night. The fireplace was also large enough to roast a horse in so it was hard to resist seeing if we could light it up nice. I spent most of the afternoon/ early evening exploring the rocky falls and seeing our camp and the bridge from a bunch of different perspectives.

From my journal: "Yet another phenomenal and unique place to spend the night. "

Day 8: 16 miles (our high for the trip). 24 miles to go

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


Woke up at 5:30 to gray skies which quickly blew over. Tirell Pond was an ideal Adirondack setting and walking around it was a great way to start our day. The other lean-to (north) had a two boats and a bigger beach but ours was way prettier! They had their food in a huge canvas duffel bag in a tree. They had also draped a tarp completely over the roof and front of their lean-to. yipes.... Shortly after we passed their site, we saw a deer about 20 ft off the trail eating breakfast totally unconcerned with our presence. This would be the largest animal we saw on the Northville-Placid trail. let this be a warning to would-be thru-hikers: this is the sort of terrifying animal encounters one can expect in this ever-threatening wilderness!!!! Seriously though, bear and moose trouble is real, always protect your food (hopefully better than the other Tirell pond campers) and stay a respectfull distance from the big guys with hoof's and sharp teeth.

The ascent over Blue Mountain ridge was far less difficult than the guidebook had made it out to be. Midway through the climb there was a beautiful beaver meadow with a not-so-beautiful dilapitated bridge crossing the creek. The meadow had a pretty cool vibe (found out later from this was the site of a former lumber camp) and a bit of foreboding as well. We stopped to take a break and chow on a cliff bar (blueberry crisp wut wut) and noticed a very large and very fresh bear turd. The place had the feeling of being something's home territory (indian spirit, wood nymph, bear?) and now we knew what.

We went up and over making super good time. The last section of the ascent did have some steep pitches but after doing the MacIntyre Range with full packs last summer we were more than ready for this scramble. We rolled down the hill super charged up and exited, hitting the trailhead around 12. Funny thing about the last section of the trail before the road... it seems that someone got a little crazy building two-plank walkways. This went on for what seemed like nearly a mile over both wet and dry terrian. We were nearly doubled over with laughter each time we rounded a bend and saw more plankways stretched off into infinity.

Within 10 minutes of road walking (thumbs out) we managed to get a ride from 2 girls who were going to the post office (also our destination). It appeared that the gods were smiling upon us this day. We got a hotel room just across the street from the office for almost nothing and prepared to settle in for our most luxurious night on NPT. We got a some sandwiches, Jeanette checked in with her dad, gorged on blueberries from the farmers market and mailed out Gush's herk. We had a bed and a shower! We had actually overpacked our food drop (the right kind of problem to have) and ended up mailing some of the food back.

We walked around town that afternoon and did the tourist thing (Hoss's) and had a great dinner (though fly-swarmed) at the Adirondack Hotel. Did I mention that I love beer? MMmmmm beer. At Tirell Pond I accidentially left our Dr Bronner's in the lean-to so we were able to pick some up at the little hike/ kayak store across from the beach. This is your best bet in town for stuff like that and fuel. The other places cater more towards the camp-by-your-car crowd.

We settled in to our cozy little motel bed and were snoring quite quickly. Back into the woods tomorrow!!

Day 7: 12.7 miles. Total: 79.2ish