Thursday, March 12, 2015

Travel Thursday (March 12, 2015) -- Northville-Placid Trail Part 9

Day 7, Saturday, August 15

Awake today at 6:00 AM, but at JPT's request we stayed in bed until 6:30 -- which turned to 7:00 as I read aloud my last two day's journal entries. The loons on Stephens Pond were calling to us in the early morning and just laying there listening was a soothing joy -- especially as we have a short hike to Lake Durant & can allow ourselves this wilderness pleasure.

Early morning view of Stephens Pond from our lean-to

When we retrieved our bear bag, we saw a merganser rise and fly low over Stephens Pond and noticed he stayed below the level of the dark tree line so he could not be seen against light sky above. JPT later saw a small ribbon snake on the trail.

Bear bags hanging over the water at Stephens Pond

We got back on the trail at 8:30 AM and hiked down to Lake Durant campground arriving at 10:05. We inquired about a camp store -- there is none, so no cold drinks. BUT they did have hot showers available -- 8 luxurious minutes for a quarter! We had two quarters & Molly got 4 more from the ranger so JPT and John had a real hot shower lasting 24 minutes each! We washed our hair, water shoes & backpacking towels with minty Dr. Bronner's & emerged new men even though we donned the same 2-day-old, smelly shorts & T-shirts.

The ranger gave us permission to leave our packs on his HQ porch & go to NY28 cross over to meet G&G and Christopher by noon. We actually left early & met them within 2 minutes of when they arrived around 11:10. After some discussion & on the ranger's recommendation we all drove to the GU [Grand Union grocery store] at Indian Lake for a resupply of ibuprofen, 3X4 gauze for JPT's foot, pop tarts for quick trail breakfasts & granola bars for JPT. We also got cold cokes & Little Debbie's oatmeal sandwich cookies as a treat.

Back at Lake Durant campground, the ranger allowed us in free to do our food drop at a picnic area and we commandeered two tables -- one for Grandma's delicious lunch of roast beef sandwiches, cold OJ, bananas, grapes, cold milk, LP water, cookies, pickles, apples & nectarines. The other table & a hillside spot of sunlight across the road was used to dry wet socks, clothes backpacking towels, etc., and to display all our equipment for lightening in anticipation of three 15-mile days starting tomorrow to finish up at Avery Rd. in Lake Placid on Tuesday! We got rid of extra clothing, backpacking saw, 2nd bear bag, water filter, (we'll boil and use the quicker iodine) and other items. We carefully selected no-cook or quick-cook meals from the food supply box in G&G's car trunk -- three breakfasts, three suppers and the lunches. Resupplied wraps, salami & cheese are again a big favorite with lemon drink too.

We talked to the ranger who had been examining the medallions on our hiking staffs while we were shopping in Indian Lake. He wanted to know if we were Eagle Scouts. We told him JPT is working on Eagle now and I only made Star, but went to Philmont in 1967 & the National Jamboree in Idaho in 1969. Turns out the ranger is an Eagle from Warren, NJ who went to the 1953 Jamboree at Irvine Ranch, California and also attended Philmont in the 1950s. He recalls a whole train load of Scouts going west from NJ to the Jamboree.

Tirrell Pond

We finally repacked our bags with food for 3 1/3 days and headed for the trailhead on NY28 where we waved goodbye to G&G, Molly and Christopher as they drove by. We signed the DEC register at 2:28 PM behind "Dan & Dan" just as two women emerged to sin out of their day trip. When asked, they said they saw someone at first Tirrell Pond lean-to, but did not go up to the one at the top of the pond. We disappeared back into the woods and pressed on at JPT's blistering pace & covered the 4.3 miles in 1 hour and 32 minutes arriving at the northern Tirrell lean-to at 3:50 PM. It was occupied by a young Ohio couple who were waiting for 2 friends to join them & we arrived to interrupt their little siesta. They very graciously allowed us use of the shelter to put up our tent against the vicious skeeters (worst yet) & to ensure a dry tent for a quick getaway early tomorrow. They returned to their nap while we had a great invigorating swim on the long, wide sandy beach at the top of the Pond with beautiful vies of the rock cliffs of Tirrell Mountain.

John just before a swim in Tirrell Pond

Jonathan just before a swim in Tirrell Pond

We saw lots of animal prints in the sand -- mostly raccoons it seems as the guidebook says the Tirrell lean-tos are frequented by porcupines and raccoons. We also saw what we are pretty sure are coyote prints & took a photo of them. We picked a few blueberries along the beach while we were there.

Tracks on the beach at the north end of Tirrell Pond believed to be coyote tracks

When we returned to the lean-to, we quietly set up our tent in the shelter & began supper by boiling pond water. The couple -- Nicole & Matt -- were still napping at 5:30 when their two male friends (Steve and Eric) arrived from a side hike up Blue Mt. They all decided to camp together in the tents well away from the lean-to & assured us we were welcome to it. As I write they they are singing and conversing and enjoying a night in the wilderness. They had talked about going out on the pond in two aluminum canoes that are inexplicably beached upside down without paddles or any signs of ownership here at the top of the pond. Its good to hear them as several minutes ago we heard the crash of a major tree (the third one we've heard on this trek) come from the rough dissection of their camp. I had called out twice "Is everyone O.K" & when no one answered was about to venture over to make sure no one was hurt -- then the singing began.

Ohio couple (Nichole & Matt) at Tirrell lean-to with all our gear in the lean-to

Just after supper of couscous, veg soup mix and all the Vienna sausage we thought we had refused in the repacking -- with obligatory lemonade & hot chocolate and tea, we hung our bear bag filled to the brim, then called Grandma to let her know where we were & all was O.K. We were sure we could get a cell as we could look up on Blue Mt. & see two antennas in plain view.

Our site companions were invited to tie up their bear bags using our carabiner & line set up and they gladly took advantage of our already sited and hung location. We hope to get up at 6:00 & be on the trail by at least 7:30 to get 15 miles to Kelly Pt. lean-to on Long Lake before dark. Tomorrow looks very challenging as we ascend to the highest point on the trail -- 3,000 ft. and still have much of our 15 miles to go.

Just as I was finishing this at 10:00 a couple emerged from the woods with head lamps, coming from the north on the NPT that comes into the left side of the shelter. Randy and Laurie are their names and they started at 8:00 PM! They wanted to go to the beach so I gave them directions, but warned of the bear tracks seen earlier. They had been caving today at "Chimney Rock"(?). I invited them to use the other half of the lean-to with their tent as the skeeters are very unary tonight. We tied our packs into the trees for the first time due to the known prevalence of bandit raccoons & porcupines in this area. I just don't want our equipment destroyed by them looking for food.  I end this late tonight -- 10:15. We'll see if Randy and Laurie join us later, but I'll probably be asleep as JPT has been for an hour already.

Loons again on the pond & calling goodnight to us. 

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Additional Glossary terms:  

Pond vs. Lake -- there is lots of debate about the differences between these two classifications for bodies of water and a Google search can provide lots of information on the various use and meaning of the terms.  Suffice it to say that size, depth, or shape of the body of water does not alone determine the classification.  Some ponds are bigger and deeper than some bodies of water designated as lakes -- and certainly vice versa since generally water bodies called lakes tend to be bigger than ponds.  Some folks view a lake as a body of water that moves in a continuous flow and direction fed by rivers, creeks, or springs (lotic waters) while a pond does not since it is the result of rain runoff or perhaps trapped glacial melt deposit (lentic). Lentic waters gradually fill in over long periods of time and the evolution is thus slowly from lake to pond to wetland. Tirrell Pond is a very large pond and most would consider and call it a lake if they did not know the name of the body of water.  

Carabiner -- is a metal loop with a spring-loaded (or screw-closure) gate that is used to quickly and reversibly connect components. They are mostly used in safety-critical systems such as technical climbing, but are very convenient for attaching bear bag straps and the haul line for quick release and to prevent knotting of the line on the straps. For more and photos see here

Skeeters -- mosquitos along the trail (especially when encountered in large, hungry, and annoying numbers).

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All images are from originals in the collection of the author.  
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Copyright 2015, John D. Tew
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  1. Now I want some Little Debbie's oatmeal sandwich cookies! I love those. Thanks for another enjoyable read.

  2. Those Little Debbie's oatmeal sandwich cookies are addictive. Glad you are enjoying this series. Only three more to go I think.