Thursday, January 29, 2015

Travel Thursday (January 29, 2015) -- Northville - Placid Trail Part 3: The "Trail Book"

Trail Book for the Tew Family August 1998 trek on the Northville - Placid Trail

As was my habit for extended backpacking treks of a week or more, I kept a "trail book" during our family trek on the Northville - Placid Trail in August 1998. My trail books are nothing fancy, just small 5 in. X 3 in. spiral notebooks of lined pages. I have such trail books for a week-long trek in the mountains of the Virginia Appalachians, several ten-day treks in the Sangre de Cristo Range of the southern Rocky Mountains at Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico, and the Northville - Placid Trail in the Adirondacks of upstate New York, which is shown above. 

As this series about our family trek on the Northville - Placid Trail continues, I will be referring to and quoting from the daily entries in the trail book. I usually ended each day by writing of the day's events by flashlight -- often after the others had fallen asleep and there was just the sound of rain or wind and the voices of the night woods for company.

For this week's post, I am showing the trail book itself and displaying the actual entry for our first day on the trail, which was depicted in a few photos last week.  I am also providing a transcription only of part of the brief introduction to the trail book.  Future posts will probably not display scanned images of the actual pages of the trail book, but typed transcriptions will be used liberally to accompany photos from our trek. This will save readers from having to decipher my unattractive block printing!  

The actual entry for Day 1 on the trail is as follows. . . .

Trail Book Intro [Not shown above]

     Left VA at 5:30 AM on Saturday, August 8th and arrived at the Donovans' in Albany at 1:30 PM. We all went swimming at the Donovans' swim club (K,J & JPT ran there & walked back). After shopping for last minute items -- salami, cheese & wraps -- and filling our maple syrup from their jug, we were ready for the trail the next day & relaxed over dinner in their back yard. A delicious dinner of corn-on-the cob, tomato cucumber salad and "speedies" -- a Binghamton specialty of marinated pork or chicken chunks grilled on skewers. 

Day 1, Sunday, Aug. 9th

Up at 5:00 AM & on the road to Upper Benson at 6:23. Arrived at the trailhead parking lot at 8:14 and took our first steps onto the N-LP Trail at 8:20 AM. Two young women started out to through [hike] just minutes behind us. We did not see them again until we stopped for lunch at Rock Lake where we had salami, provolone & wraps with lemonade & gorp. Swam here.

Saw dozens of toads and newts, Indian pipes etc. Kevin & Danny left us at Rock Lake & we continued on to Meco and finally Canary Pond where we camped on a pine covered point with nice rocks to swim off for a quick dip after supper. Supper was couscous & veg soup with chicken made in an oven bag & lemonade for drink. Vienna sausages for an appetizer.

The two young women also camped at Canary Lake [sic] though we didn't see them 'till just before we left the next morning. We were up at 6:15 and on the trail at 8:40. 

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A few words about terms, initials, or abbreviations used in the NPT trail book are appropriate. To start, some of the terms that come to mind are provided here in no particular order. If and when other terms require explanation, it will be provided in future posts.

JPT is our older son Jonathan. J is me. C is our younger son Christopher and M is wife and mother Molly, if and when it is used. 

Svea is an old, formerly very popular liquid fuel backpacking stove. It is a single burner with a brass fuel tank attached and is used to boil water and cook meals.

Oven bag refers to those plastic bags in which some cook chickens or turkeys. The bags are very light, tough and resist high temperatures. A good friend and backpacking buddy came up with the idea of using oven bags to mix the ingredients of soups, stews and other meals and then add necessary boiling water before hand-agitating and kneading the bag as the meal cooks in the closed bag. [Hands are wrapped in thick hiking socks during this maneuver!] The bag is opened or a corner is cut and the meal is squeezed/poured into cups or a dish to eat. Clean-up is easy because it is really non-existent. The empty bag is simply rolled up into an extremely small and light wad and added to the trail trash bag -- no fuss, no muss! It is brilliant for backpacking meals.

Iodine is used as both a noun and a verb in the trail book. It refers to iodine crystals in a small bottle to which a bit of water is added to create an iodine "brine." The brine is then added to water to kill any nasty microorganisms and make it potable. It is faster than filtering and can do its work while you hike. The downside is the taste it leaves. A popular iodine treatment and the one we used was "Polar Pure." The "tubs" or "lemonade" or "lemon drink" mentioned in the trail book refer to little tubs of powder (think "Country Time" mix) used to make the water into lemonade which hides the iodine taste.  

Blow down is an area where a violent storm with high winds has blown down many trees in a small area. It happens in the deep woods and is very dangerous if you happen to be in the area when it happens. It is a nuisance to be navigated when you come across one while backpacking. I was camping with a group once when a sudden storm hit during the night. A tree came down and landed on one of the tents and the fellow in it would have been killed or very seriously injured had he been in the tent at the time.

Boot sucking mud was our aptly descriptive term for all the thick, deep, black mud that covered many sections of the NPT during our trek. Trail ettiquette requires you to stay on the trail itself so as not to do damage to more of the woods and wilderness than the trail has already done. This means walking through puddles not into the woods to create new paths around them. It means walking through mud if there are no stepping stones in the path. This requires sturdy, tough, waterproof boots when backpacking under such conditions. When you walk into thick mud and lift your foot, you can feel the mud "sucking" at your boots, hence our oft repeated term on this trek.

Food drop refers to the two occasions where the NPT crossed major roads near a town or a state campsite and we had our food supplies restored by Molly's parents ("Grandma" and "Grandpa" in the trail book). The planning of this trek took months and before we left, a box of dehydrated food was sent up to Lake Placid with Molly's parents. They kept the box with them at their place on Lake Placid as we hiked north toward them. One two occasions during the trek at pre-planned, appointed times we met them and got our food supplies replenished from the box in the trunk of the car. They also had a list of some perishables to purchase and bring to the food drops (salami, provolone cheese, wraps for example) so for a day or so we had something other than dehydrated or packaged food. With respect to backpacking food there are many specialty dehydrated meals available, but they can be very expensive. Today there is a variety of dehydrated, packaged foods in almost any grocery store that can be bought much cheaper and then repackaged to suit backpacking needs. Some will be outraged to read that we ate "Pop Tarts" on the trail, but they are a good, fast, no-cook energy source and they are perfectly edible even when not cooked in a toaster. One favorite oven bag supper is angel hair noodles broken into small pieces for easy and fast cooking mixed with Knorr dehydrated vegetable packets and a small can or two of chicken. The ingredients can be bought at almost any grocery and are fairly cheap.  It mixes and cooks quickly and the oven bag saves using a pot and having to clean it.

Bear bag(s) are to keep food away from the black bears that are in the Adirondacks and to keep the bears away from us. Bears do not have great eyesight, but the do have an exquisite sense of smell. They are opportunistic feeders and will explore and try almost anything that does not smell repellant to them. They will be attracted by what we would call food smells, but they will also be attracted by the smell of medicines, scented tapes, lip balm, bowls, utensils and bottles used for food prep and eating and almost anything that could be called a "smellable" for an animal with an acute sense of smell. The bear bags are tough nylon bags with reinforced straps that are about two feet deep and a foot wide with cinch-string tops. We carried two -- each with nylon parachute cord 50 - 60 feet long. All our food and smellables went into the bags each night and the bags were tied to hang in the air out of reach of any animals. It was a trick to find a suitable location and tree well away from where we slept.

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Images scanned from originals in the collection of the author.
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Copyright 2015, John D. Tew
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1 comment:

  1. How wonderful that you kept notes during your backpacking treks. And that you still have these trail books.