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Hiking, Camping, and Exploring in the Adirondacks
Starting week 3 off with a hike from Upper Works. I got off to a late start, but made good time up the Northway. I stopped to eat a PBJ sandwich at the bridge going over the Calamity brook. Ran in to a group of “veteran” hikers who were on their way back. They had a few good trail stories, and filled me in on the conditions – a couple of inches of snow, some ice, and little more of each up any of the peaks. Actually, the trail ended up icier than I expected. I made pretty good time though, and arrived at flowed lands in a few hours. It was real quiet, and none of the lean-tos were occupied. The second Calamity lean-to (it had a dirt floor) has been removed, and is now a revegitation area. It seemed as though the temperature remained steady, or even warmed up a bit, as the trip continued. Flowed Lands was iced over with about an inch of ice. Almost enough to hold you up, but I wouldn’t recommend it. The next day, the ice was almost completely gone, and it started freezing rain. On my way back, I donned all of my rain gear, and thought about these conditions being perfect for hypothermia. Anyone caught in these conditions, without the right gear, and stuck over night, or lost, would be in trouble. That thought would come back to me, a day later. I got back to the car, and despite the rain gear, I was pretty well soaked. The gloves I brought with me were awful, and the first thing I did when I got back was to get a 100% waterproof pair! Not long after getting back to work, the phone rang, and a DEC dispatcher was on the line. She told me there was a “missing hiker”, and wanted to know if I had seen him on my trip. I mentioned to her how bad the conditions were, for someone unprepared, and she to was concerned. She said they had found his jacket in the middle of the trail, which was not a good sign. I told her that other than a few people by Upper Works, I didn’t see anyone else, and no one matching his description. As of the posting of this story, he still hasn’t been found. His last known position was almost exactly halfway between Marcy Dam, an the trail up to Colden. The temperatures haven’t been too cold, so there’s a good chance, if he found shelter, that he’ll be OK. It’s a sobering fact, and something that should never be forgotten out here, that this is a dangerous place to be if you’re not prepared for the worst.
The training continues. Week #2. I decided to add a high peak into my regimen, this week. I usually do a few more distance hikes (working up to 14-16 miles, for endurance), before stepping it up with a climb. Instead, while on my way north, I decided to stop by one of my favorite “quick climbs” of Giant. I’ve used this mountain in the past as a great way to get ready for other outings, since it’s close to the Northway, and only 3.5 miles, one way. I say only, but this climb goes vertical, right from the start, and almost never lets up! I took the Roaring Brook trail this time, just to mix it up a bit. The weather was lousy almost all day, but, since this is more of just a workout, it really didn’t matter much to me. I was surprised how much snow was on the upper sections of the mountain. Most of the trail was passable without traction aides, but I put on the MICROspikes a little ways after the junction with the main (red) trail, and kept them on the rest of the way. Even with the warm weather expected to continue, I wouldn’t take any more hikes, this year, without some kind of crampon, as you can expect conditions to change quick. I think the MICROspikes are the best traction, and ease of use, for conditions that don’t require full crampons. There was 6 to 8 inches of snow at the peak, with drifts over a foot. A few parts of the trail were totally iced over, for spans up to 100 ft. or so (you could still bare boot it, using the sides of the trail). I had some problems with my trekking poles this week. This isn’t the first time I’ve had problems with Leki poles, but I still stick with them over the years because they’ve served me well. The lock, which is plastic, that holds the adjuster in place (over a knurled area underneath) slipped down, and I can’t seem to fix it myself. I’ll have to get a hold of the company and see if they can get me a replacement part. The trip down was quick. Wouldn’t you know, as I neared the end of the hike, the skies began to clear, and I was able to get in a few decent pictures of the clouds, as they lifted over Round and Noonmark. I’ll be back to the distance work, next week. This time, though, I’ll try to pick a spot with no hunters wondering around (see last post). They’ll be done by the first Sunday in December.
It’s about time for me to get moving, and get ready for some upcoming winter hiking and camping. It’s been over a month since my last hike, around Elk Lake, with the Reds, and Rob, so I’m a bit out of shape. So, I decided to head out to the Newcomb Lake, Moose Pond area, for a trip where I could work out the kinks (in my joints), and check out my gear. Looking at the sign in sheet, at the trail head, I knew something looked odd. Oh yeah, it’s that time of year again, hunting season. Luckily, I still had some orange blazed streamers tied to my pack. Even so, I was wishing I had brought my orange hat, for a little added visibility. There were a few big groups signed in, some for as many as 9 days. I assume they all had permits, as I believe the maximum stay is 3 days, in any one place. It wasn’t long before I reached the first camp, complete with a big American flag! (it looked completely deserted, as did the others). Soon after, I spotted a hunter, walking down the main trail. We both stopped to chat, and he turned out to be a very interesting gentleman, from PA. He told me he had been coming here since 1985. He said, back in the early days, some spots, like Moose Mountain (that’s where the trail opens up, and it climbs up, from a large swamp) it was like a small city. Not any more, though. According to him, the sightings of game worth taking (mostly bear, and deer) were getting less, and less. As I continued on, I encountered two other hunters, both extremely friendly, and eager to stop and talk. This put to rest any concerns I had, about running into these guys on the trail. I’m pretty sure no one would ever consider hunting on the main trail, as it was also used by them to get from place to place. I would, however, caution anyone to avoid bushwhacking anywhere around here, during hunting season. Just stick to the marked trails, and you’ll be fine.
One of the reasons this trail is so popular with hunters is that it’s accessible by horse, so they can haul their big camps far into the woods. These places look like they could hold maybe 10 guys or more! Complete with indoor wood stoves, and portable wooden outhouses, they look quite impressive. So much for roughing it in the woods! I ended up finding a nice campsite, around Moose Pond, and never crossed paths with anyone after passing the pond. I brought my old Walrus winter tent with me, just to make sure it was OK for the inevitable snow that should be coming soon (and to remind me how much fun it is to carry a 7 lb. tent!).
As it was, there was little or no snow (I was at around 2000 ft. elevation), except for the high peaks, which looked covered by a least a foot of snow (hard to tell exactly, from my perspective). As evening rolled in, the weather changed quickly, and the winds were fierce. I would guess some of the gusts were over 40 mph. Fortunately, when I set up camp, I usually look at what’s going to be over my tent, to avoid any deadwood. Several times during the night I heard nearby trees blowing down. I’m sure I woke up at least once during the night, with the sounds of loud cracks and falling limbs fresh in my dreams! I ended up sleeping until around 8 AM, making up for being awake more than usual, during the night.
I made a few notes about gear changes I would need to make for my next trip. I needed to add 4 or 5 “snow pegs” for the tent. Also, I wanted to get something to cover up the foot of my sleeping bag, as I forgot how wet the bag got from condensation, over night (where my feet touched the end of the tent). A small sheet, for putting over the floor of the tent would also be a nice touch, just to warm things up a bit. Other than that, I’m ready and anxious for the snow to come. With a few more trips, just to get in shape, and little more working out on the bike, I should be ready to knock off more than a few winter High Peaks this season.