Daily Recap: Piseco & the Oxbow Inn
Daily Recap: Piseco & the Oxbow Inn
I arrived at Spruce Lake around 3pm today. It was still another 11 miles to Piseco and in case I couldn’t find a room there I figured it was best to wait till morning before making the push to town.
I stopped at the Spruce Lake lean-to #3 near the northern end of the lake. It was unoccupied but being it was so early I didn’t get my hopes to high. I made dinner, set up my hammock and put my clothes out to dry.
As it got later and no one else came a feeling of peaceful serenity set in. This was absolutely one of the quietest and most serene places I had ever been. I reflected on how this place was as it was because you could only reach it by foot. No motorized travel was allowed here and it was miles from roads, homes and people in general.
I watched a baby loon with its mother and listened to it try and learn the loons song. Dragon flies gracefully danced in and out of my view. I watched the clouds move over the lake as the sun set. I am truly as at peace as I have ever been here in this place now.
After a “relatively” short 3 hour or so off trail/bushwack through the Whitney Area this morning, I connected with the French Louie Trail. Named after a Adirondack guide, trapper, woodsman and hermit who was well known in the area during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. My time on the French Louie Trail was certainly a lot of sloppy hard work pushing through often knee deep mud. I also saw some cool old debris. A wood spoked wheel. Not quite old enough to be French Louie’s but pretty old non the less.
Click Here to learn more about Adirondack French Louie
I set out this morning around 7am to begin what I was dreading as a long day of off trail/cross country travel or “bushwhacking”. The local fisherman I had camped with the night before gave me some great insights into the area and where I had to travel but it was still going to be mostly off trail travel.
I pretty easily bushwhacked my way around the end of Cedar Lakes where I was supposed to catch a “faint footpath” and cross over to Pillsbury Bay on the other side. Since I was now on the side I’d need to catch the faint path on I made my way down to the shore figuring it would be easier than cutting through the bushes. Once on the shore I began looking for the “faint path” but didn’t see it. I knew that in the worst case scenario I could walk the shore right around to the bay. Since it was going so much easier than bushwhacking and it was really beautiful I just kept along the shore about the entire time. It probably took me twice as long but wow it was a really beautiful and fairly easy walk!
I reached the head of Pillsbury Bay and began looking for the “faint path” described in the guidebook. It wasn’t so easy to find but after about 10 minutes I was able to locate it. I followed the path and came out in the beaver meadow of the Whitney Area as described in the guidebook. It was a very beautiful open expanse. I honestly wish I had taken more time for some photo’s and just to look around but I was unfortunately a little too focused on crossing the creek which ran through the middle of the meadow. It wasn’t large or anything, I had crossed the Opalescent River a few days earlier which was much wider but a lot less deep. I could tell by checking with my hiking pole it was certainly over knee deep and had some pretty soft mud. There was going to only be 1 way across and it was to walk straight through the creek. I had just dried out my socks and boots and didn’t want to get them soaked so early in the day. So I took everything off from the knees down, emptied my pockets and everything else into a stuff sack, threw it over my shoulder with my pack on and made a big 4 step plunge across Whitney Creek.
Once on the other side I suited up and once again began looking for a “faint path” A term I grew to hate as it was something I would have the hardest time finding, become overjoyed once I did and almost always loose it a few minutes later. I searched across the other side of the meadow and found nothing. So I set out to bushwhack towards Pillsbury Lake and hoped I could cut into it eventually. I did and once at Pillsbury Lake I needed to cross water once again. I did again and though I found the path on the other side this time it did not last long at all.
I bushwhacked and constantly found and lost the “faint path” but after a few hours and not too thick of brush I managed to make my way around the head of Pillsbury Lake avoiding a swamp at the head of Whitney Lake exactly as my fishing friends had advised me, dry boots and socks! I was pretty Happy!
Daily Recap: Pillsbury Bay and Whitney Area, French Louie was a Mudder, Spruce Lake Serenity
After spending last night dry but mostly awake listening to storms rolling through. I got up and contemplated not hiking at all today. It rained lightly but steadily throughout the night and until mid morning but had now tapered off. In all my time hiking in had never taken a “zero miles” day in camp. Plenty in town, but none while camped. If I did zero day here it would certainly be a long day to fill though I had my sketchbook and had not drawn since the beginning of the trip at Silver Lake.
I thought it over while contemplating the off trail travel that lay ahead. I certainly did not want to bushwhack in the rain, honestly I didn’t want to do it all. There were 2 more lean-to’s along the Cedar Lakes, the last was right were I would start the off trail section. Though it was only a little under 2 miles away I decided it would be best to head there for the day, wait till tomorrow and hopefully begin my next bushwhack in drier conditions.
As I made my way around the lake, the skies showed some signs of gradual clearing but it wasn’t exactly bright and sunny. I briefly stopped at the second lean-to so I could see the view. It was a nicer lean-to than the first but nothing special. Confident the right thing to do was move to the last I pressed on. I reached the third lean-to around noon and it was empty.
The skies were clearing and the sun breaking out. My hiking clothes were still pretty damp from the rain hiking the day before so I decided to try and build a fire. There was plenty of dry enough kindling and smaller wood but most everything else was wet. After about a hour of trying with small successes I was ready to give up. Just then someone came up to the lean-to and said “Hello”. Scared me so bad I almost jumped into my failing smoldering fire.
He asked if I had planned on staying at the lean-to for the night and I confirmed but said he was welcome to join me. He said he was with a few friends but might be back. Less than 2 minutes later him and 2 others came floating up to the lean-to in a small but quite packed boat. They introduced themselves as Dan, John and Roscoe and told me they were locals out for a couple of days in the area on a fishing trip.
As they headed out to fish and I made some lunch and set up my hammock nearby. They returned and Roscoe stayed behind as the others headed out again to fish some more and grab some driftwood for a fire.
Roscoe and I spent a good hour or two talking while the others fished. The others were closer to my age but Roscoe was a older gentleman, probably in his early 70’s. He was retired now but he had worked for the state for almost 30 years. He had built many of the dams, trails and lean-to’s in the area including the second lean-to I had visited earlier today and the now defunct dam at the head of the Cedar Lakes. I asked lots and lots of questions. I was utterly fascinated being able to talk with someone who not only had great knowledge of the area but had worked on the very lands I was using to hike. What would be the chances?
Eventually the others returned with fresh caught brook trout as well as a boat overflowing with dry driftwood. They got a nice fire going and I thought to myself how foolish the fella from NYC must have looked trying to do the same with damp wood.
It was diner time and they were gracious enough to share their fresh catch of the day. Having come by boat they were able to spare no expense with cooking gear and seasonings. I was very excited not to be eating freeze dried backpacker food. I had my fill of fresh fish which were expertly cooked by Dan.
As we were sitting around eating John was reading through the register in the lean-to. Just about every lean-to keeps a notebook which many visitors sign, post stories of their trip, advice for those who follow or just general ramblings. I read them once in while but admittedly don’t usually pay them to much mind. Well John began reading this one aloud “There are 7 beers buried in a bucket near the big rock on the side of the lean-to. Enjoy!” he added that it included a rudimentary map. “You think?” he said as we all looked up in attention. He read the date which was only 3 days earlier. He made his way to the side of the lean to and I thought to myself, no way. Even if they were actually there at some point they’d surely be gone by now.
Despite my pessimism, I decided to join John in looking. As John and I looked around there weren’t a lot of rocks but he found one and no luck. I found another and it looked like it had a lot of dug up dirt around it. I shouted and John came over. We cleared dirt and rolled the rock over. Just below the dirt I was hitting something solid and gasped. John dug up a lid, pulled it out of the ground, reached into the bucket and sure enough wrapped in a old t-shirt were 7 still fairly cold beers!
We ate fresh fish, drank beer, told fish tales, hiking tales, I dried my boots and socks by the fire as we talked till just after dark. I was also able to show them my proposed bushwhack route ahead and they gave me the low down on the best way to proceed in the morning. I now had local knowledge of the path ahead! I chuckled to myself thinking of the 8 hours in the drenching rain yesterday and what if I had pressed on today?
It has been my experience when distance hiking its almost always true if you have a really bad day one day, the next is very likely to be something special.
Daily Recap: Fish Tales and Magic Buckets of Beer
I figured since I was up early this morning and dry I would pack up and try to get in at least a few miles before the rain.
Just because that’s the way it goes, no more than 10 minutes after I set out the rain started. Light at first but over a period of about 2hrs it became fairly moderate. I was in surprisingly decent spirits. I thought back to my experiences hiking in the rain on the Appalachian Trail in Maine and told myself this wasn’t nearly as bad. The terrain on the Northville Placid Trail was much more forgiving than the swamps of northern Maine.
I hiked for 7 hours pushing through increasing mud, rising streams and slippery trails with stubborn determination. Around exactly the 7 hour mark it began to really open up and come down. My feet which were as I would have described at that point “pretty damp” were now nothing but giant sponges which squished and poured out buckets of water with each step. Moving a few feet was becoming very laborious and not a inch of me was dry but I was almost to the next lean-to and the Cedar Lakes.
I reached the Cedar Lakes and the first of 3 lean-to’s along the lakes around 3pm. I’m not so wild about staying in lean-to’s but they offer great protection from the rain. I stopped to look at the lakes and thought to myself how beautiful it must be here but I was soaked and needed to dry out. I have learned while you will eventually need to hike in the rain it is extremely important to make sure when you are done so to have dry clothes to sleep change into after. So of course I had buried in several bags and ziplock bags, a set of dry sleeping clothes which I gratefully changed into while I hung the rest of my wet clothing. Also there’s a reason I pack a few loose leaf tea bags with me. These days are just such a reason. Nothing better than dry clothes and hot tea after hiking 8hrs in the rain!
As I sipped hot tea and settled into dry clothes I took a look at the maps and guidebook to see what lie ahead. I knew the Trans Adirondack Route would veer of course from the Northville Placid Trail soon and closer attention to navigation would be required. As I read the guidebook I realized the next section was an off trail bushwhack and not just that a fairly substantial looking one from the maps. I have to admit my spirits are dampened in several ways. My previous off trail experiences were less than fun and I honestly just didn’t want to do any more bushwhacking, especially not in the rain. I was determined to complete the route as laid out so I just deiced to wait and see what tomorrow will bring.
I made dinner and quietly sat back watching lightening and storms gustily blow through from the dry lean-to.
If a wild turkey flies out of a tree and crosses your path, is it bad luck?
I awoke this morning after spending my first night in a lean-to. I knew the day was supposed to be a wash out. I saw the pinks of the sunrise and jumped from my sleeping bag, literally running down to the shore to catch the good light. Sure enough it lasted no more than two or three minutes, then the sky was all gray.