Thursday, March 5, 2015

Travel Thursday (March 5, 2015) -- Northville-Placid Trail Part 8

Day 6, Friday, August 14

Starting Day 6 at Carry lean-to tenting site

Up at 6:00 AM and packed our dew-soaked tents & gear as the mist rose off the Cedar River. The Troy couple was still asleep when we hit the trail at 7:20 getting our legs and boots wet in the heavy dew on the grasses and low shrubs encroaching the narrow foot path.

Lovely grassy trail section between Carry lean-to and Wakely Dam

Hard packed dirt road to Wakely Dam 

The path soon gave way to a grassy tote road which was very dry, wide and level compared with the black bogs we have been forced to traverse or avoid for days now. Shortly the road gave way to a gravelly dry road, which in turn became a well-groomed hard packed sand road all the way to Wakely Dam, where we arrived at 9:56. Wakely Dam is accessible by car & has many camp sites for tents & RVs. There was said to be "good water' here but when a ranger chanced by & was asked about where the "potable water source" was, he said by the PVC outlet near the river. We told him a lady told Molly it had to be boiled & the ranger said, "Well that's what 'potable' means."  [I did not argue or correct him by pointing out that "potable' actually means, "safe to drink; drinkable," which would mean without boiling, disinfecting or other treatment.] We got some water and treated it with iodine for a quick exit. We viewed the dam, rain covered our packs since winds were picking up & grey clouds moving in, and moved out on the road to McCanes. We got "no service" on the emergency cell phone when tried at Wakely. 

John and Jonathan at Wakely Dam

When we went to look at the Wakely dam before we left, we saw our companions from the night before just pulling in to the boat landing in their canoe. We said a final goodbye and with clothes dried on a picnic table during our break, left Wakely on the beautifully groomed undulating road rising constantly toward McCanes. We left Wakely at 11:03 and made McCanes at about 2:20 PM. Along the road we passed many vacation homes -- old & new ones being built -- a bed & breakfast & Brown's Farm built in 1867. At Brown's Brook we paused for some foot repair -- John had blisters on the two smallest toes of his right foot. Molly had some hot spots to wrap & JPT checked his raw right ankle. Lots of "horse warp" was used. 

We tried the cell phone again & for the first time got through to Grandpa [in Lake Placid] telling him exactly where we were and that we would stay at Stephens Pond lean-to that night. We said we would be on time for our food drop at noon on Saturday. 

JPT's spirits are up and we made excellent time on the miles of roads we traversed today, so he is again agreeable to finishing this trail by quick pacing in from Lake Durant after stripping our pack weight to the absolute minimum -- no second tent, quick trail breakfasts & lunches with no cooking & dropping the water filter in favor of the quicker iodine treatment & boiling at supper.

We met a man from Silver Spring, MD & his wiry dog "Browny" who were doing N-LP north to south. We saw him about 1 1/2 miles out of Wakely Dam and chatted for several minutes about trail conditions north & south. He comes from a family of hikers. His dad is working on doing the AT for the 2nd time & he himself has hiked in Alaska & just did the Smokies a couple of weeks ago. His goal is to finish this coming Tuesday -- the same day JPT and I hope to limp into Placid at the Averyville Road.

We later met a retired couple on the road going in the opposite direction.  They are renting for a while & could not help us with how far it was to Brown Brook & apparently did not know the road became hard topped from Brown's Farm on. They were much impressed by our backpacking the N-LP Trail.

Lunch was a quick one in a widened pull-off & consisted of PB&J on our last three wraps, the last of the cheese and lines of PB&J off index fingers all washed down with lemonade.

Molly and Jonathan at McCanes
The road to McCanes seems interminable & was largely in the sun, but we finally made it & turned into a private yard within feet of the house & outbuildings to pick up the trail through the woods again -- private land for a while by permission & then back onto state land and, unfortunately more great expanses of boot sucking mud. We were all getting tired as the absence of trail chatter always indicates. Each was concentrating in his his or her own way with fatigue, soreness, impatience to get up to our destination, and absolute anger at the black, boot sucking bogs we had to negotiate.

Back into the Woods at McCanes

John took to silently pacing off the final 2.2 miles to Stephens Pond lean-to -- our destination & was off only slightly given the near impossibility of maintaining an accurate pace through and around the bogs. We all arrived exhausted to the lean-to at about 4:20 PM and thankfully it was unoccupied. Though a canoeist was tied up below our lean-to, we never saw him or her exit when he or she slipped silently past in some low spruces surrounding the lean-to and quietly paddled away.

We all went to the water to bathe away the trail grime in the invigorating coolness of the pond & saw a loon & a beaver lodge on the lake as we bathed. We got water to boil for supper & had blueberry pancakes, fried ham, hot chocolate & tea. We had to rebuild the fire ring to balance the grill we cooked on using the Svea. And (sadly) we had to burn apple bits & various trash to discourage curious bears. The latter left courtesy of prior users of the lean-to.

A 4-ft. long clump of spruce cones that fell onto the trail

Saw a large deer ahead of us on the trail today & it approached us several feet before moseying off into the woods. More bear tracks visible in the black mud on the trail, but no actual bear sightings. We have been extremely careful about bear bags up well away from camp every night, no spilling food and cooking away from where we sleep. Pictures will show our bear bag technique if they turn out. 

Tomorrow we have less than 4 miles to Lake Durant & food drop #2 with G&G about noon.  Only 45 miles to go then if we can get to a lean-to 4.9 miles above Lake Durant by 6:00 PM.  Then three "kick ass" days of 15 miles each & we will be through hikers! We'll see how it goes -- for the first time I feel confident JPT & I can do a sprint to the finish if we can lighten up safely tomorrow. I can't say enough about how proud and thrilled I am with Christopher's 25 miles & Molly's 70 miles on the N-LP Trail. This is the family adventure I envisioned & with time the stories & memories will only get better. What a sense of accomplishment & what wild beauty we have come to see -- so few ever do!

It is 9:23 as I end this. Molly & JPT are breathing deeply & regularly with the full sleep of the exhausted venturer into the sweet, fresh air of the woods. I join them now ready to make the final push starting tomorrow after our final re-supply of food at Lake Durant. My only hope is good weather & no accidents for the next few days!

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Additional Glossary terms:

PB&J -- is, of course, Peanut-Butter & Jelly. In backpacking one does not carry glass containers -- for obvious reasons. Back when we did this trek plastic "squeeze tubes" were the popular way to carry this quick and energizing no-cook meal.  The tubes were two or three times the size of a large tube of toothpaste and had a larger screw-on, hard plastic cap.  The tube was filled through the open wide end of the tube and then a plastic pin with a slice down the center locked over the folded end to keep in the contents quite safely and securely. To make a sandwich using a wrap, one just took off the cap and squeezed a few lines of PB and then J onto the wrap and rolled int into a tasty burrito-like meal. And when the wraps ran out, a line of PB and a line of J on an index finger served to satisfy any remaining hunger. ;-)

Cell Phone -- before we left on our adventure, a friend from Scouting offered his small, light flip phone as an emergency tool in our gear. He had obtained a newer phone and had a few weeks left on his old one. We borrowed it thinking it might get some service at higher elevations along the trail. As it turned out we only got a connection three times in the entire trek -- luckily the last time was when we called for pick-up at the end of the trail!

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All images used are from originals in the family collection.
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Copyright 2015, John D. Tew
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