Day 3: A Memorable Hike to Caitlin Bay — A Backpacker’s Paradise!

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Waking early in the morning again, the scouts packed up camp quickly departed their picturesque campsite along the Salmon River.  Today was another 7–8.0 miles of hiking, except that we had to immediately traverse the 3000-ft ridge atop Blue Mountain and then back down the other side–and hopefully do so before the rain arrived.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe total elevation gain from our campsite to the top was approximately 1000 feet and although it took a solid +3 hours, the hike through the beautiful Blue Mountain Wild Forest was filled with breathtaking beauty.  After about two miles, the scouts witnessed a stunningly beautiful sight as we entered into a large meadow that was dominated at one time by an active beaver population.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACompletely isolated, the pathway was surrounded by an area dominated by tall grass and enclosed by a ring of hilltops and trees.  The scouts were amazed at this marvelous sight, taking their time to walk through the tall grass and wooden bridge dividing the two halves.

With still an estimated 1.5 miles to the summit, the scouts pressed on.  The trail began to get steeper and muddier.  Along the way, we discovered the remnants of a lumber camp, with decayed blocks of cement foundations.  The last 1/2 mile was particularly tricky as we climbed up wet, muddy, rocky gullies.  The mountaintop breeze was particularly refreshing given the amount of energy we were expending in the very humid environment.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA It wasn’t very clear to us that we had reached the top as the tree cover was so thick, but if one looked closely through the trees (at left) there was a tiny sliver of a view of Long Lake in the distance to the Northwest.  The flat trail that curved around the side of the mountain quickly began to descend through the Birch and Maple forest.  Hiking downhill was even trickier given the steep, muddy surface and the fact that we had heavy backpacks.  Those of us that had hiking sticks found out just how useful this trail tool can be!

Our trek of hearty hikers, made fairly solid progress all the way down the backside of Blue Mountain and by 12:30pm, we decided it was time for a well-deserved break for lunch. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  After such a vigorous hike and a relaxing lunch, we all began to fill a little cramping and soreness in our legs as we rose to continue on our trek toward Caitlin Bay.  After lunch, a light rain began to ruin what had been so far, bright and sunny weather and we still had at least another 3 miles–at least we had relatively flat terrain and the thick tree cover shielded our group partially from the precipitation.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA We hiked at a solid pace for at least another hour, crossing a few small creeks OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA(some bridges were in better shape than others).  With the light rain however, the bridges became very slippery.  Our trail map indicated that we would go through some low-lying, soggy areas near the end, characterized by boardwalk trails to prevent damage to fauna.  This area does not get much sunlight so the boards also had a thin layer of moss at times.    Nearly all of us slipped on these unstable wooden planks, as we were becoming increasingly fatigued and sloppy in our hiking techniques.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Tired and sore, the scouts were eager to reach their next campsite, but eventually discovered that they would soon be caught in a dilemma.  Finally after exiting the OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAwoods at the DEC registration box, the exhausted group stationed themselves alongside Hwy NY 28N, a large and busy road, to gather their bearings.  At last, we could stop hiking!  Fortunately, no one in our group had blisters, but we were tired.  So, we were happy to take a break while our guide Kelly decided to walk into Long Lake Village 1.5 miles down the road to gather a few needed supplies.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Our group was only a mile from our destination and after our nice 45 minute rest, we thought we’d be at our Caitlin Bay campsite in less than half an hour. WRONG!  Expecting a short walk from the highway, the scouts became furious when they discovered they had to hike up a steep hill for at least a half mile and then only to see the sign for the campsite which indicated it was at least 1.5 miles away! Uggh!! We had no choice but to continue to plod along.  And hike we did, albeit downhill, for over an hour before crossing over a boulder-filled riverbed into our destination.  During our rest, we had thought it would be “convenient” to set up camp, and take a leisurely stroll into town to pickup some treats.  However, by the time we arrived, those thoughts had completely perished from our minds!

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But the wait and hard work was worth it, as our group arrived to a calming and gorgeous campsite!  It overlooked the Caitlin Bay and was beautifully set-up.  It had stopped raining, but the skies were still threatening.  Lean-to’s on one end of the campsite, and nicely positioned picnic tables to cook and view the peaceful water at the other end of this very large, spread out Adirondack campsite!  There was even a hammock to rest upon.

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The lake water was a comfortable temperature, and though we did not go swimming per se, we did wade in to cool off and to rinse our smelly clothes. And of course, we refilled our water bottles and treated them accordingly.  With Mr. Wauchope grabbing a quick nap and Mr. McCandless exploring the area and taking pictures, the scouts had a relaxing game of cards (as became our end-of-day tradition) before Kelly decided we should probably prepare our dinner before it got too late and/or more rain arrived.

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As always seems to be the case after a full day of backpacking, our dinner was delicious and “munging” was becoming at least partially tolerable.  The scouts were even able to reflect the skills they learned the previous day during the group’s dinner (and another card game) and scoped out a suitable tree to hang the bear bag before dark.  We waved cheerfully at another group of scouts that were paddling by at dinner time, knowing that starting tomorrow, the less physically demanding part of our trek (paddling) would begin.  After a small campfire, we all were grateful that our hiking was over, that the predicted rain had largely held off and that we were all actually having a really great time and an adventurous trek.  As we trundled off to bed at a reasonable time, nobody had any trouble falling to sleep!

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Next:  Day 4, Dealing with Adirondack Weather — A Few Basic Lessons Learned

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