Tag Archives: trees

Sister’s Lake

Back in September, G and I spent a warm weekend in the Adirondacks. I was desperate for the smell of spruce forests and the feel of cool water. We packed our car, loaded the canoe, and headed east after work on Friday September 22. It is a long drive from Buffalo to the Adirondack State Park, so it was well into the night by the time we pulled over at a trailhead and lay down across the trunk and back seats in our small hatchback. Gazing through the back windshield, the wide canoe on our roof cut a black gash across the starry sky.


On Saturday, we took our time reaching our final destination. We first bought cider doughnuts and coffee in Old Forge, then drove Uncas Road to the trail for Black Bear Mountain. It was a perfect blue-skied day, warm enough for mid-summer though technically autumn had arrived. The maple trees were burning red and orange across the landscape, with the birch just beginning to glow yellow.

When we first arrived, G and I were the only people at the summit, but we were soon joined by an extended family with young children. They reached the peak, and immediately began to search for something. When we inquired, the father explained that one of his sons had passed away a few years ago and he, the father, had carved his son’s initials into the rock as a memorial. Now they were back a year later and could not find the carving. They looked for at least an hour, with no success. Perhaps they were on the wrong mountain. At the risk of sounded insensitive, I must say that we were glad that they did not find their carving. Engraving the Adirondack granite is leaving a trace to say the least. It implies a sense of self-importance and a disregard for the value of a natural area. It affects other people’s experiences. Fellow hikers, please follow Leave No Trace ethics and keep your penknives away.

In the afternoon, we drove to Big Moose Lake, where we parked our car at the public boat launch and headed out for the night. Our destination was a lean-to that lies three miles past the far end of the lake and is only accessible through a combination of boating and walking. This lean-to is perched on the edge of Sister’s Lake, with a natural rock outcrop serving as a swimmer’s ideal entry. We shared the location with three men who were also out for the weekend.

I had brought my Acadian hat with me as the weekend’s knitting project, which I had first knit as a memory piece from our honeymoon to Nova Scotia. The hat is made with Quince and Co. Lark yarn in calming blue-greens that remind me of early twilight. The original was in need of brim modifications. One of the men who was staying at the lean-to saw me knitting and liked my Acadian hat so much, he requested that I sell one to him. And so, I did. Last week, PH received his own Acadian hat, with just a few modification. I hope it keeps his cozy and warm all this winter long.

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Spring Ephemerals

Each year, I measure the arrival of spring with firsts.

The first maple trees flowering by my house…
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the first spicebush blooming in the forest understory…
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the first skunk cabbage swelling at the swamp…
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the first kettle of Turkey Vultures on the wind…
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the first frogs and salamaders growing in cold, dark murky ponds…
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and, most exciting of all, the first spring ephemeral wildflowers bursting out from the wet forest floor.
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My cousin and I found marsh marigold deep in the woods at Darien Lakes State Park. At the Niagara Escarpment Preserve, there are violets, toothwort, bloodroot (my favorite), white trillium, and squirrels corn (a close second). They are like long-distance friends, in my life for a weekend visit, and then gone for far too long.

Northville-Placid Trail Day 5 – Stephen’s Pond to Long Lake

8 October 2014

STEPHEN’S POND LEAN-TO to LONG LAKE VILLAGE (18.2 miles + side trip)

After a restless night with Stephen The Mouse, I was ready to leave Stephen’s Pond Lean-to early on our fifth day. G stayed back to make himself coffee, and I started north toward Lake Durant.

The trail was relatively dry, and slightly downhill, making for pleasant hiking. I took a self-portrait where the trail took a turn toward Lake Durant Public Campground. Taking a look at the photo, I saw that I looked about as tired as I felt. There were bags under the bags under my eyes.

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(Click the photo for my hat’s Ravelry page)

After 3.4 miles of pleasant walking, we entered Lake Durant Public Campground through a gate next to this amazing hemlock tree.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe campground would have been a great place for a picnic lunch and a dip in the lake, but it was raining again and there was a cold wind. We continued on, crossing NY 28/30 without pausing.

The trail passed through former logging land, now owned by The Nature Conservancy, for 3.4 miles before reentering forest preserve. Here, not in the logging company land, there are old tree plantations of fir.

These conifer gardens have an unnatural look to them, but the ground is often soft and dry, making for easy walking compared with the rustic boardwalks, mud-filled swales, and slippery (but beautiful) foot bridges.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn the afternoon, we reached an area where the trail has been completely flooded out by beavers. This area was called out in our guidebook, already seven years old, and the herd path around it was clear. We made our way around and met back up with another old logging road. This one was particularly rutted, perhaps from more recent use by four-wheelers, and it was a relief when the trail reached a well-maintained dirt road.

In the late afternoon, we began ascending the ridge of Blue Mountain. It began raining steadily. I had been wearing my rain gear for most of the day, but G paused to switch from his vest to his windbreaker. The trail from here was beautiful and interesting, and it felt good to climb uphill. Along the way is this unusual meadow on the edge of conifer forest. Another consquence of beaver activity. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt would have been ideal to find a place to camp soon after this meadow, but we did not come across any flat camping spots. We were still ascending the ridge of Blue Mountain, when we got ourselves into a dangerous situation. G’s windbreaker is comfortable and good at keeping out cold breezes, but it is cotton lined. For a time, this was alright, as we were moving steadily, but after several hours with wet shoulders he started to become chilled. He did not want to put on more of his non-cotton layers, because he was worried that he would be left with no dry clothes for the night. In addition to this, G had not eaten for several hours. It is difficult to stop and get food out of your pack when you are already cold and it is raining. G is an experienced hiker who spends most of his life outside. He knows the signs of hypothermia, and feeling cold and tired himself, he paused to ask me how I was doing. Wrapping in my rain gear, I was warm and felt more energized that earlier in the day.

“I’m fine,” I said, “but I am worried about you. I think that you should put on more layers. If they get wet, you can just take everything off and get in your sleeping bag tonight.”

G realized that this was true, and took off his wet coat to add a long sleeve shirt and vest. I gave him the rest of a chocolate bar and a few pieces of dried fruit. The added layers and the snack made a world of difference. In a few minutes, G was already feeling better. With renewed energy, we decided that pressing on to Long Lake would be the best. There were no camping sites near the trail, and the steady precipitation made the idea of setting up camping unpleasant anyway. After all of my grumping about hiking at night, G was surprised that I was enthusiastic about this idea. We turned on his cellphone and were able to call the Adirondack Hotel to find our when they were open until and reserve a room. The woman at the front desk said that we had until 10 pm to make it to the hotel, and until 9 pm to make it to the restaurant. Knowing that the restaurant might still be open if we hurried was enough to convince G and I to pick up our pace. We completed the climb of the Blue Mountain Ridge at our fastest pace of the whole trip, and then began the descent as though we were racing. When we reached a flat area again, it was dark. We had to cautiously navigate half a mile of slippery bog bridges to the road with our headlamps. They seemed to go on forever.

After reaching the road, we had 1.5 miles to Long Lake Village, and then another mile to the Adirondack Hotel. Fortunately, the road was repaved over the summer, and the shoulder was smooth. The moon was full and reflected off of the wet pavement. We have both driven this road before, and G has also biked this section of it on a tour, but walking the shoulder gave a completely different perspective.

It was after 7:30 by the time that we arrived at the hotel, and we were exhausted and sore. We checked in with the welcoming woman at the front desk before making the difficult climb to our room on the second floor. (It turned out that she and her daughter had hiked the NPT from Long Lake to Lake Placid in 2013, and she was eager to hear about our experience.)

The Adirondack Hotel was built at the turn of the last century, and, amazingly, has not burned down yet. The room that we stayed in was small, with a simple bed and dresser; no television or personal bathroom.

After a quick clean-up, we made our way down to the restaurant on the ground floor. Between the two of us, we devoured a salad, two burgers, 3 beers, and a 16 inch pizza. (Eating impressive amounts is normal for G, but I was impressed with my own appetite after less than a week of walking.) Sitting in our chairs after dinner, I felt that there was nothing left in the world that I wanted more than 12 hours in a warm dry bed.

Rising from our table, we looked the perfect part of Sore Hikers. The After-Dinner-Stiff-Hiker-Walk is always amusing as well as painful, and we made our way up the stairs laughing and groaning. G said that he had never felt so stiff in his life before.

85.2 total miles

Northville-Placid Trail Day 4 – Beaver Pond to Stephen’s Pond

7 October 2014

BEAVER POND LEAN-TO TO STEPHEN’S POND LEAN-TO (19.5 miles)

Our fourth morning began by recrossing the precarious bridge between Cedar Lakes and Beaver Pond.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA This area had a beaver dam until hurrican Irene came through in 2011. Three years later, the water levels still appeared strangely low and the banks were sharply exposed.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWIthin the first mile of our day, we came to the old Cedar Lakes Dam. The dam is no longer functioning. It offers clear evidence of the area’s logging history, but I would prefer to have it removed, so that the lakes could be reconnected. It is a shame that there is no funding or motivation to do so.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFrom here, the trail ran along the Cedar River and through beech forest, still retaining green and yellow leaves.

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We took only a few breaks- one to fill our water bottles, and other to eat lunch and snacks. I particularly enjoyed the water refill break, as G did all of the work and I got to just relax.

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Coming along this bridge, we had to pause to admire the craftsmanship. G, who is a professional land steward was impressed by a lot of the bridges that we crossed on the NPT, but this one was probably his favorite due to the impressive cut that he was pointing to in the photo. Almost all of the trailwork in the Adirondacks is done by volunteers, but it is clear that whoever made this bridge had experience.

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We arrived at the Wakely Dam late in the afternoon. The campground was open, but almost deserted. G went off to use the exceptionally nice handicapped-assessible privy (he claimed it was the best privy that he had every seen) while I set my self up for a Serious Break at one of the picnic tables. We had already come 13.4 miles, and my feet were sore and swollen. The pinky toes on both feet were developing ugly blisters, so I took the time to tape them and two other hot spots with athletic tape. (I have found that layers of athletic tape, left in place for days, works better than anything else for about-to-be-blistered skin.)

When we finished our Serious Break, I decided to tie my boots to my pack, and walked the half mile through the campground in my crocs. G has been carrying his boots since his achilles began to bother him on day two. After he switched to walking in his minimalist sneakers, the pain in his heel subsided, but was still a distraction for him. He wrapped my bandana around his ankle, which seemed to help, but he swore off every hiking in heavy boots again. I, however, replaced my boots on my feet before we reentered the woods at the edge of the campground.

Until 2009, the next six miles of trail followed paved and dirt roads through public and private property. Five years ago, a new route was opened that avoided the roads and the private property. This new section of trail turned out to be remarkabley challenging for us. Because the trail is relatively new, it is not well trampled down yet. Most of it was cut into a slope, but it was not benched, and we walked on an uncomfortable slant. The forest in this area has several logging roads running through it, many of which had become wet compacted ditches. When the route was not crossing the side of a hill, it was following these mushy avenues.

Besides the difficulties, this section of trail was memorable for one fascinating site- For over a mile, the ground was covered with sugar maple seedlings. Thousands and thousands of seedlings. Sugar maples do not produce seeds every year, but are known to have “mast years” when all of the trees within a stand will rain down thousands of their samaras. How do all of the trees in the neighborhood know that the time is right to reproduce? A mystery!

We did not arrive at Stephen’s Pond Lean-to until after dark, of course. Thankfully, it was unoccupied. Tired and sore, we made a simple dinner from one of my dehdrated meals and climbed into our sleeping bags against one side of the lean-to. Not a full moment after we had turned out our head lamp, scratching noises started coming from the other side of the shelter.

“What is that?” G asked. “Do you think that it is a racoon trying to get the bear canisters outside?”

“It’s a mouse,” I assured him. A few seconds later, he was deeply asleep, but I was still awake when the small animal crawled quickly onto my head. “G,” I whispered urgently, “there’s a mouse on my head.”

Waking with a start, he scurried out of his bag quicker than the mouse and was up on all fours. “What? Where is it?”

“He’s gone,” I said. “It was just a mouse.”

“Geeze, what a way to wake a person up! ‘There’s a mouse on my head!'”

“Well, there was. Good thing that I had my wool hat on.”

G was soon back asleep, but I spent the night listening to the mouse scratch and squeek its way around our packs.

67.0 total miles