Jan 30, 2011 at 11:05 am #1268428
Preface – this TR was written shortly after I came back from this trip, but I had a crap internet connection at the time, so I kept getting frustrated trying to upload all the pics. Anyway, I came across the file so I figured I'd finally post it. Hope you all enjoy!
This is my first trip report, so here goes…
A little introduction- I have been into hiking and camping for a while, but only recently have I been realizing the possibilities that going ultralight unlocks. By no means could my base weight be considered “ultralight”, but I have made a conscious effort in the recent past to trim away as many nonessentials as I can. In fact, this weekend, I donated my beloved Alps Mountaineering Weekender camp chair to an already finely-appointed lean-to. That was quite a step for me. 21 ounces I never thought I’d drop.
I had originally planned to do the Cranberry Lake 50 over the holiday weekend. I’ve got my gear to the point where I can really put miles in, and that seemed like the perfect choice for a fall trip. Not many places look as exquisite as the Adirondacks in the fall. At the last minute, I decided to bring my dog, Baby, a six year-old pit bull along, so I had to change my plans to accommodate her (she’s such a little prissy princess I couldn’t bear the thought of her actually having to carry her own pack). That adds an extra ~9 lbs to my pack weight. She has also never been on anything even close to a 50 mile hike, so plans had to change…
Annie at Raquette River Outfitters (probably the coolest little paddling and supply shop in the ‘Daks) suggested I do the High Falls Loop instead, with a couple side trips thrown in. She sent us on a canoe trip last summer that was absolutely unforgettable, so I knew that whatever she recommended would be solid. A portion of this loop actually follows the CL50, so the scenery was similar. I would describe this area of the Adirondacks as backcountry pond/swamp meets dense mixed forest.
My loop started and ended in the hamlet of Wanakena, and much of the first portion of it followed the Oswegatchie River, whose black water currents slither and snake through the backcountry, and at many points creates flood plains. In many flooded areas, this problem is compounded upon by beaver activity, so when the ground is full (it rained the previous three days before my trip), portions of the trail become seriously saturated and in some cases, completely flooded.
My destination for the evening was the lean-to on Big Shallow Pond, which was reached via a side trail off the main loop. Annie strongly recommended that I camp there, saying it was a magnificent site. She was more than right. Not only was this lean-to on the shore of a spectacular backcountry pond, it was well-equipped. It had a shovel, rake, broom, dustpan, metal grate for cooking, water bucket, and even a pair of snowshoes! Reading the logbook, I came across a man’s entry from 2008 where he detailed a tremendous windstorm where a huge old pine came crashing down within feet of the lean-to. Sure enough, I went behind the shelter and there were the remnants of that old giant. I should have got a picture of it… When I left the shelter, I decided to donate my Alps camp chair, and strapped its clasps to a wooden beam. That chair has been a partner with me on every trip I’ve been on for the past few years, and I really thought it was 21 ounces that I’d never drop. What made it possible was using the Gossamer Gear Thinlight pads I brought as sit pads instead.
The next morning, I backtracked to the main loop, and continued on towards my destination of Glasby Pond, where the side trail to Cat Mountain spurs off the HFL. This portion of the trail was incredibly soggy, with one stretch of about 100 yards that I literally had to grit my teeth sprint to the end to avoid sinking in the muck. For Baby with her short hair and bare stomach, that had to have been unpleasant. I was constantly apologizing to her on that portion of the trail. I arrived that evening and set up camp at a primitive site on Glasby Pond, with a great view of the mountain (more of a big hill) I was to climb in the morning. The weather was frigid that evening, with temperature dipping down to 30 degrees. Baby’s water froze over on top, overnight. Fortunately this was anticipated, and our sleep system consisted of a 30 degree bag and a 40 degree bag mated together to form on big sack of warmth. Having Baby inside with me kept us both warm through the night. When I got up to make breakfast the next morning, the idea of my warm body getting out of the bag with her brought a disappointed look to her face.
After breaking camp, I stashed my pack in the woods and brought just my camera, and a little lunch for us, and headed down the side trail towards Cat Mountain. At the top, the view was spectacular. Miles and miles of beautiful autumn splendor lay before me. There was also a great little camp site up there where I was disappointed I didn’t camp. Back down the steep trail and to the HFL, I followed the trail past the southern edge of Cranberry Lake, and to my car in Wanakena. Since I didn’t feel like driving back the six hours or so back home in the dark, I called my friend who is familiar with the area, and he told me about a great car-camping site on Horseshoe pond, about ten miles outside of Tupper Lake. We made a few quick stops to pick up bourbon, junk food, and firewood ($20 filled my trunk and most of backseat), and proceeded to have a rager of a fire at this perfect little campsite.
This trip was the first time I have used the GG Thinlight pads, and found them to be an amazing multi-use item. Not only did they keep Baby off the cold ground, they made great sit pads draped over logs and rocks. They also took quite a bit of abuse. Sure, they have a couple small burn-holes and snags from the thick brush, but that didn’t affect their function one bit.
My Big Agnes Copper Spur 1 also proved again to be a worthy shelter. Nothing can beat the convenience when selecting a site to pitch at, of the ability to attach the poles to the footprint, and be able to pick it up and move it around to find the flattest spot. Also, when pitched in fast-fly mode, it’s a palace inside, capable of sleeping two shorter people comfortably. It packs a lot of firepower for ~2lbs.
I also tried some new Mountain House meals over the weekend, and am hooked on their Breakfast Skillet meal. Simply delicious. Eggs, sausage, potatoes, peppers and onions. Five stars out of five.
I can never wait to get back to the ‘Daks after I leave. After last summer’s paddling trip, returning to that area was something that’s always been on my mind.
Now for the pics!
day morning at the trailhead" width="550" height="413">
This sums up the first 2.5 miles or so
Looking to my right as I headed south down the trail – Oswegatchie River
Overlooking the snake-like Oswegatchie
Yes, this is the trail
Scenic bend on the Oswegatchie
No caption necessary
Baby looking uneasy at the prospect of crossing moving water over a log
Finally I arrived at the lean-to and unpacked
The first thing I do while hiking with Baby is to set up her nap area, so she can conk out for a nap while I prepare dinner and a fire
Beaver action around the bend from the lean-to
View from the front yard
Carvings on the wall date back to the early 1960s
Baby sunning herself on a brisk morning, on her Thinlight section
Ready to hit the trail
One last view, and I was off
Swamp meets dense forest
Footbridge crossing the Oswegatchie looking right…
…and to the left
Baby looking less than enthused at the conditions of the "trail"
One of the wider, stabler log bridges of the trail
More of the "trail"
Arriving at Glasby Pond, Cat Mountain in the distance
Does this resemble a cat?
You can't tell but there's a Mountain House meal in there with her, keeping her warm and waiting to be eaten
Trail up Cat Mountain
…and looking back down
Gorgeous view from the top
Looking down on cat Mountain Pond
Great pine needle-covered campsite I stopped for a break at, on the southern tip of Cranberry Lake
My Copper Spur 1 in fast-fly mode
Relaxing with some purchased firewood and some Wild TurkeyJan 30, 2011 at 12:22 pm #1690151
@valsharLocale: San Francisco Bay Area
If this is your first trip report, it is a great one!
What is not to love….lots of narration and plenty of photos to show us where you went.
Really neat to see what it takes to bring along your four legged friend
Thanks for taking the time to put them all up, especially with the photos as I know it can take a fair amount of time.
Hope to see more trip reports of your adventures in the future.
Plus, it will show us the evolution of your going more lightweight with your gear. :)
-TonyJan 30, 2011 at 1:21 pm #1690174
Tony, thanks for the kind words!
Now that I have the hang of it, I will surely be posting more TRs! I've also been sharpening up my photography "skills" (at the time of that trip, I didn't know much about using a camera besides pointing and snapping…), so hopefully they will be even better. Thanks for reading!Jan 30, 2011 at 1:56 pm #1690184
@valsharLocale: San Francisco Bay Area
Just take a crap load of photos….out of the 900 photos I took on my Lassen trip, a 3rd of them were good.
I use a point and click and have zero formal education on photography.
Think I did read a book on point and click 35MM film camera's once….that is it.
More than anything, develop and "eye" for what looks good to you…like a postcard and try to take that shot.
One thing I can tell you, try not to put your subjects in the middle of the photo….of to the side a little bit seems to look nicer from some reason.
Good luck to you and remember, the photos that you take are more for you to just remember the experience…if others like them too, all the better!
P.S. That said, I do use the idiot features of Photoshop Elements to clean up my shots and to resize them, but when I did my first photo essays…they were just the raw shots from a 3.2 Mega pixel camera. Only setup up to 10.0 mega pixel pocket camera because my old one simply stopped working reliably.
-TonyJan 30, 2011 at 2:04 pm #1690187
@eugeneiusLocale: Nuevo Mexico
Beautiful country you live in, thanks for making time to share your slice of the world with us here. I get jaw-dropped when members like you post trip reports with such an abundance of water availability and access- maybe a packraft or canoe trip in that area in your future?Jan 30, 2011 at 2:38 pm #1690205
I only use a point and click myself, but reading up on the basics has helped me learn how to avoid things like overexposure (look at all my pics where the sun is shining – I can usually avoid that now simply because I know what all those symbols on my camera mean. They used to be not much more than hieroglyphics to me), and to take better night shots. Also, the Joby Gorillapod is my new best friend.
The only thing better than hiking in the 'Daks is paddling! I have been on some amazing canoe trips up there, but I think it might be a while before pack-rafting catches on there. The area is rich in Native-American history, and thoroughly steeped in canoe culture. Also, portages there are not usually very long, so a lightweight vessel isn't as necessary. Here are a few from a paddling trip summer '09.
Nice island campsite
The lovely Lake LilaJan 30, 2011 at 4:41 pm #1690274
@ewolinLocale: Hampton Roads, Virginia
I must agree concerning Ann at Raquette River Outfitters in Tupper Lake. We've rented kayaks and canoes from her the past few years and her recommendations on where to go are great. We'll be in Alaska this summer, but we'll probably be renting from her again the following summer.Jan 30, 2011 at 6:36 pm #1690315
Elliott, just curious as to the paddling trips you've taken there? The two photos above were taken on our partial paddle of the Whitney Loop – Little Tupper Lake to Low's Lake.
I would love to someday paddle the Oswegatchie as it paralleled the western section of the High Falls Loop. There were a few magnificent Riverside campsites that were difficult to spot but would be in plain view if paddling the river. I'm sure I hiked right by the majority of them as the trail was so brushy.
I just love how that whole region is so interconnected and accessible, not to mention the hundreds of lean-to scattered around the 'Daks. With a good map, you could spend quite a while roaming around that region without even bringing a shelter!Jan 31, 2011 at 11:43 am #1690548
@ewolinLocale: Hampton Roads, Virginia
We've been to the Bog River Flow and Low's Lake a few times (I actually went three times, each time with a somewhat different group), and I'd go again. Ann suggested a river for our next trip, but without the map in front of me I can't remember the name. It was to the west of Low's Lake and farther north, if I recall. It might be the river you mention.Jan 31, 2011 at 12:36 pm #1690575
@jamesdmarcoLocale: Finger Lakes
I have been through there a few times. I have also paddled the Oswagatchie to Lows.
Really great country. We hiked the Cranberry Lake 50 before it was…some of it was trail, some on the road, some bushwacking. We never bothered to stop at Horseshoe Lake, though.
Keep up the good work!Feb 5, 2011 at 10:12 am #1692838
Elliott, sounds like the Oswegatchie to me. I really hope to paddle that stretch myself someday.
James – thanks for the kind words. Glad you enjoyed!Feb 8, 2011 at 10:35 pm #1694366
Ben 2 WorldParticipant
@ben2worldLocale: So Cal
What with my folks visiting and all…. I finally got to reading your TR. Very, very nice! I've yet to hike the 'Daks. Gotta put that one on my list! Thanks for sharing, Matthew!Feb 11, 2011 at 9:28 am #1695405
I enjoyed reading this!Feb 11, 2011 at 3:36 pm #1695514
As a backpacker and kayaker the vivid details in your write-up made me want to drop what I'm doing and head there right now.
What a fitting way to retire your beloved camping chair. It will be there for other folks to enjoy. You might just pass that way again, too, and get a chance to use it again yourself.Feb 13, 2011 at 11:28 am #1696149
Thanks for reading! Ben, hopefully I'll have another TR from the area to post this spring, featuring your Ohm! (which fits great, by the way). Diana, I also hope I'll get to use it again. I'd really like to paddle the Oswegatchie soon, which would take me right back to that lean-to. I'd probably also bring an axe to leave there. Glad you enjoyed the TR!
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