Memorial Day Weekend in the Adirondacks

This past weekend I made the long trek up to Lake Placid, NY in preparation for a 4 day (3 night) backpacking trip. There were four of us, two of which had never spent consecutive a nights in the woods before. We planned a 3 day trip that we could do without backtracking if the first day didn’t go well.

With our 25 lb backpacks filled with food, clothes, and equipment we started out from the Calkins Brook trail head.  The trail was a horse trail, so it was pretty flat and wide. We were able to cover about 11 miles the first day. Much more that I usually do, mainly because we figured we would be tired and want to take it easy the rest of the weekend. So we did a big chunk the first day in order take a big bite out of out total distance. It was cool to see how drastically the forest changes in the span of 11 miles. One minute it’s a mud bog, where each step is like walking in soup. The next thing you know, you look up and it’s all birch with blinding green leaves. This emerged as a trend throughout the trip, and never got old.
The wet sections were frog farms. It seemed as though every few feet the ground would jump away from under your boot. I hope we didn’t unknowingly squish any.

We got to our destination tired and sore from the day, with plenty of daylight left to enjoy. We stayed along Cold River that night in a well maintained lean-to. The first day had gone great! We had complete solitude. Not a human in sight since we left the car that morning. The night sky was clear and we sat out on rocks in the river for an immeasurable amount of time (part in due to none of us having any way to tell time) just star gazing. The night was becomingly cool and the swarms of bugs dissipated.

The next morning we took a short day hike leaving out packs at the lean-to in order to find Shattuck Clearing. We searched for it briefly the night before but found the river impassable on foot (as opposed to on horse I guess). This time we crossed a bridge a mile up river from where we tried the first time. There were trail markers for it, but we still couldn’t find it so we just gave up and headed out back on the trail to our next destination.

The trail was a section of the 100 mile Northville-Placid trail (which Noelle and I did some of a few years ago). We followed Cold River all day on the wet and rooty trail. It was painful in the morning. All of our hips were raw from the pack the day before. The soreness was negatively proportional to the weight that the packs lost as we ate our food throughout the trip.  We camped that night along the river. The bugs swarmed as soon as we stopped at our lean-to. The first order of business was to make a smokey fire and keep it going until we were ready for bed.

The next morning we awoke to rain. We waited it out in our sleeping bags under shelter. Once we set out, the black flys and mosquitoes descended. As soon as we would stop walking, we would get swarmed. We were barely able to stop for lunch. When we reached our intend destination for the night, we decided that trying to set up camp would be difficult with the onslaught of bloodsuckers. So… we trucked on. We did the next day’s hike with hardly a break. 13+ miles in a last ditch effort to get to the safety of my car. We made it bloodied, wet, and sore, just as the sun was setting. The second half of the day was not as fun as it should have been.

The next morning we woke up in Noelle’s family’s house in Lake Placid ready for a day hike to make up for the premature ending to out backpacking trip. We hiked a summit with no packs on. It felt good to cover some ground feeling while light as a feather. My ankle was bothering me from the previous day. The pressure from putting on a boot caused me to limp. I opted to wear a boot on my good foot and a croc on the bad one. The views were spectacular, and an almost perfect weekend came to a close (save for 6 hours of driving to get home to Boston).

You may be saying to yourself, well… that doesn’t sound like a “perfect weekend”. Lugging around heavy packs and getting eaten by bugs for three + days sounds horrible. The enjoyment part is something that I find difficulty putting in words. In fact, I hypothesize that this is something most people who enjoy this type of thing struggle to evangelize. The best I can do to express the fun and joy that overwhelms the misery is to show pictures. But this does not do it justice. Not even close. The only way to truly understand is to don a pack and just head out into the woods to experience the wonders of silence and nature.

Pictures can be seen in the Gallery

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