Hiking the Historic Northville-Placid Trail – Adirondack Adventure 2014 – Pt 2 *

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Bright and early the next day the scouts enjoyed a lavish breakfast prepared by a few counselors at Camp Read.  Full of energy, the scouts were now ready to take on their first full day on their high adventure trip, when the real action started.   We were headed out to hike a small portion of the historic Northville-Placid (N-P) Trail.  The N-P Trail is 132 miles long and was the first project undertaken by then newly-formed Adirondack Mountain Club in 1922.    The N-P Trail was completed two years later and donated to the State of New York in 1927 with the Conservation Dept. (DEC) becoming responsible for it maintenance and upkeep.  Today the DEC, along with numerous volunteers and organizations, are stewards of the trail.  “The trail passes through what many consider the wildest and most remote parts of the Adirondack Park, notably the high plateau that encompasses the Spruce, West Canada, and Cedar Lakes area, along that of the Cold River.  The highest point the N-P Trail reaches (3008 ft) is at  the crest of the ridge to the east of Blue Mountain (3759 ft) and of Tirrell Pond.”  And these latter landmarks were our destination!

NP Trail

After an hours’ drive northwest of Summit Base, our van dropped us off Hwy 28 near Blue Mountain Lake to pick up the 16 mile segment between Lake Durant and the Caitlin Bay lean-to at Long Lake.  (Click on the map at the left for more detail.)  We all had to get our backpacks adjusted and get acclimated to carrying all our gear–nothing we had ever done on any weekend campout back home.  The official Summit Base itinerary had our trek stopping at the north end of Tirrell Pond after hiking less than 5 miles of the segment, a destination we reached easily by lunch time.  The initial hike was relatively easy and flat terrain through heavily wooded forest until we finally arrived upon the beautiful & remote Tirrell Pond.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Our group was happily hiking along side the remote Adirondack lake when a pontoon plane flew in for a water landing.  The plane motored around then took off again and flew right past us.  It seemed surreal that we were watching the ultimate in human presence against a stunning remote backdrop of wilderness–it looked like one of those aerial scenes from the TV show ” Alaska: The Last Frontier”.

On this our first day of hiking, our group was refreshed from a healthy lunch on the sandy north shore of Tirrell Pond and our ambition to experience more adventure inspired us to hike further.  Importantly, we concluded it was probably a good idea to even out the expected mileage of Day 2, which entailed a 1000 foot elevation gain, cresting the highest point on the N-P Trail and then descending 1000 feet along with a forecast of rain arriving Tuesday mid-day.  And, equally as important, a guide book we had indicated that there was “an informal campsite can be found jut past the bridge on the left .. at mile 7.3….”  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So we decided to hike an additional 2.5 miles past our picturesque lunch setting and “hoped” that there really was a small available campsite for us to rest our weary feet for our first night in the wilderness.  As we started again, we came across a trail sign that reminded us how far we needed to hike by the end of the day tomorrow to reach Caitlin Bay, so we felt good about our decision to press ahead.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA In the heat of the day, our ambitious group headed north into the woods again and down long over-grown logging roads, and crossed some bogs with wooden plank walkways to end up on a remote dirt road.  The air was extremely humid and there was no sound of mankind anywhere, just the “quiet” of nature.  As we trudged along the dirt road, we had become so weary that we complete missed the peaceful and desolate campsite at the base of a bridge, next to a beautiful creek…just as the guide book indicated!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe campsite was intimate, and ran alongside a long creek in which the scouts were able to wash their clothing, acquire clean drinking water (through the pump, iodine tablet, or boiling water), and eventually to enjoy the accomplishment of completing their first challenge of the week. Despite the extremely slippery rocks and dense population of insects flying around the surface of the water, the scouts ventured off down the river to find a beaver dam at the end.  This intricate structure was an amazing sight to see at the end of their first fun day.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

After returning back to the campsite, Kelly taught everyone the basics of cooking food on this trip and how to effectively obtain clean water.  He educated the entire crew on the directions of using the small, portable stoves and taught them the methods of using the iodine tablets and pumping water.  One scout in particular got special use of the pump due to a shellfish allergy, making it mandatory to go through the exhausting pumping process to access clean water every day. The entire crew even learned of a new method of cleaning up individual mess kits through “munging” in which clean water would be poured into a dirty bowl to make a “nice, soupy” meal to drink the mess away.  Yecchh!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

After enjoying a delicious meal and feelings of disgust towards munging (One scout believed that hot sauce would be beneficial to the process. Heads-up: It is not a good idea), the scouts packaged all items from their pack that was either food, or had strong smells to prepare multiple bear bags.  For most scouts, this would be their first attempt at setting up a bear bag to prevent not only bears from attaining the group’s food but also to prevent raccoons, other medium-sized animals and those pesky chipmunks from eating our food.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Our guide Kelly’s first few attempts of hanging the massive weight of our food and supplies were unsuccessful, and as it became dark, everyone slowly began to realize the futility of trying to hang bear bags  in a patch of the woods consisting of only Lodge Pole Pines with no horizontal branches.  Eventually it took Mr. McCandless’s decision to look for a more suitable area of the forest (in the dark) and Mr. Wauchope’s complex rope & carabiner system to hang the bags successfully high enough.  (Scoutmaster’s Note:  Many lessons were learned in this exercise!)

Through the ambitious extra mileage and the back woods lessons taught by Kelly, it was safe to say that our first day on the trail of this high adventure trek was a great success!  We all had no trouble falling fast asleep against the soothing backdrop of the nearby babbling creek.

Next:  Day 3, A Memorable Trek to Caitlin Bay — a Backpacker’s Paradise!

* – As largely written by the scouts on the trek.

Advertisements

Adirondack Adventure 2014 – Part 1

 

Adiron Park map

The Adirondack Park in upstate New York is a major recreational destination year-round.  It is difficult to grasp the enormity of this area.  Wikipedia defines it as follows:

“The Adirondack Park is a publicly protected, elliptical area encompassing much of the northeastern lobe of Upstate New York, United States. It is the largest park and the largest state-level protected area in the contiguous United States, and the largest National Historic Landmark…The park covers some 6.1 million acres, a land area roughly the size of Vermont and greater than the National Parks of Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Glacier, and Great Smoky Mountains combined.…”

Our Council is fortunate to have a camp in the heart of the Adirondack Park and Summit Base near Brant Lake, NY is viewed as the outdoor gateway to the park for scouts from all over the country.  After several years of high adventure treks at BSA National camps (Sea Base & Philmont), other Councils (outer banks of NC & Colorado) & other countries (Bahama Sail School), our troop opted for an adventure closer to home.  Suffice it to say that the combo backpack & paddling adventure was every bit as challenging within a stunningly beautiful setting and at a very affordable cost as any trek pursued in prior years!  The following enjoyable description of the trip has been largely reproduced by the scouts that took the Adirondack challenge:  Andy M., Jason C., Jeffrey F., & Justin W.:

*****

In the summer of 2014 four of our senior scouts and two adult leaders courageously ventured up north to Summit Base to begin a week long high adventure trek encompassing approximately 45 miles of backpacking and canoeing in & around Adirondack Park.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

In preparation for this challenging week the scouts first had to help raise the funds to make the trip affordable for them all.  During the Troop’s annual car wash at Chester Heights Fire House, the four scouts led the troop in having a very successful fundraiser, raising over $2500 for the troop and for the high adventure trip.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA   In addition to funding the trip, the scouts prepared by going on a weekend long backpack trip in Harriman State Park where they were given a glimpse of what the trip would really be like–hard work!  The scouts would be exposed to backpacking and camping overnight away from the comfort of their cars like most weekend troop campouts are–we really were a bit nervous and not totally sure what we would face, but we were up for the challenge!  Fortunately, a watering hole deep in the park provided needed refuge in the +90 degree weather in early July.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

Although preparation for this high adventure trip was not as tedious as most previous trips, all arrangements were finalized and the scouts were eager to start their first high adventure trip.

Day 1: Upon arriving to Camp Reed, everyone was greeted by the friendly Summit Base staff and we were introduced to our Guide for the week: Kelly, who would accompany and lead all the scouts throughout the entire endeavor.  To ensure that everyone would be capable of swimming in case of any emergency that could occur on the canoe portion of the trip, the scouts and adults were required to perform the standard BSA swim test.  Slowly but surely, everyone completed the test.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

Next, our group underwent a comprehensive gear shakedown to ensure we had the proper gear for the grueling trip.  Although unpacking and packing all the gear was quite boring and endless, all scouts were prepared and were ready to take on the challenges of the next day.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

After dinner at the Camp Buckskin Dining Hall it was getting late & all scouts returned back to our campsite in the more remote environs of Summit Base for the night.  Regardless of the structured and civilized campsite, little did the scouts know that they had had their sole encounter with wild animals for the week with little varmints successfully nibbling through plastic bags to eat the snacks needed for the remainder of the week and even chomping on a few exposed fingers in the middle of the night!  Ouch!  Despite the unexpected and unwelcomed visitors at 3am, our crew fell fast asleep (again!), eager to take off the next morning on a new adventure in the historic Adirondack Park!

Next:  Day 2, Backpacking the Historic Northville-Placid Trail