July 6 - Seventh Lake

On Wednesday morning Rachel and I made an 8:30 AM stop at the Old Forge Hardware store to get a map of the canoe routes through the lakes called the Fulton Chain.  The route we planned to follow was through eight numbered lakes called the Fulton Chain, Raquette Lake, Forked Lake, and Long Lake.  There are portages between Fifth Lake and Sixth Lake, between Seventh Lake and Eighth Lake, between Eighth and Raquette, between Raquette and Forked, and a very challenging portage between Raquette and Long.  We had our canoe loaded with our gear and food by 10:00 AM.  Then pushed out from First Lake at the town of Old Forge.  First, Third, and Fifth are very small lakes; Second, Seventh, and Eighth are medium-sized and very pretty;  Fourth Lake is about eight miles long and a popular motor boat lake.  The boats and wind make Fourth extremely choppy, so we hugged the shore the entire way.  Despite the activity we counted a dozen loons and one Bald Eagle hunting on the lakes.  We got to the town of Inlet at the end of Fourth Lake at 3:30 PM, which gave us plenty of time for an ice-cream break.  So far we weren't roughing it too much.  

The portage between Fifth and Six is almost entirely on roads and concrete sidewalks, which made it easy to roll the canoe carrier.  Unfortunately it is entirely uphill, so that made our very heavy canoe and lots of equipment hard to move.  Still we completed that, canoed to our camp-site on Seventh and had a great tent site all set up before dark.  For dinner, we shared a big can of Dinty More Stew.   The ground was hard, but we slept well.  At night, I woke up a few times and always there were loons making their eerie nighttime calls to each other.


July, 8-9 - Eighth Lake

The portage between Seventh Lake and Eighth Lake is a mile long, but it is on packed roads through the Eighth Lake Campground.  It wasn't a problem.  Before noon we were at the end of Eighth Lake, where we stopped to eat our peanut butter sandwiches.  Two ladies were at the spot with their dogs.  The people and dogs were both very friendly.  One dog was doing an extremely cute sit while he stared lovingly at our food.  We shared the last bits of our lunch with the dogs.  The women and dogs hiked off towards Uncas Trail, and we unloaded the canoe and started the portage.   The trail was the first rocky terrain that we needed to portage.  We didn't get far before we pulled a wheel on the carrier over a small rock and broke the wheel.  There was a perfect storm of too heavy a canoe (fiberglass and seventy-four pounds), too much gear (we had made sure the canoe didn't rub the wheel like the owner at the rental facility instructed us, but still we had too much gear), an old canoe carrier, and rocky terrain.  Fortunately for us, we were only about two hundred yards from Eighth Lake, so we could get back on the water that way.  A dad and his two sons came up the trail and helped us get our boat and gear back to the lake.  The boys tried to not take any cash, but I insisted.  They had really helped us a lot.

At this point, it is only fair that I add a few lines about some lessons learned.  First is general.  Again, going out into the woods where you are hiking, canoeing, moving your campsite, or anything other than car-camping, take only the absolute necessities.  Cut out every ounce of weight that you can.  Don't count on a wheeled carrier.  If it breaks, or the ground is rugged, you must be able to comfortably carry your stuff.  That includes the canoe.  A fiberglass canoe is too heavy to be practical.  Chris and I still own the thirteen foot aluminum canoe that we used on these lakes thirty-five years ago, and that canoe is considerably lighter than the monster that Rachel and I rented.   When I did this same trip in my early twenties, I was part of a group of five men and three women -- all my age and all physically fit.  Our entire gear fit into eight easily carried packs and we just carried the canoes across the portages.  I had been counting on the rented carrier doing most of the work of the portages, with the bulk of my gear inside the rented canoe.  That was a big mistake.  Even if I had no gear, the rented canoe itself was too heavy for Rachel and I to easily carry. 

Which brings us to the second and more specific point.  Outdoors men, especially those in the Adirondacks, consistently underestimate the difficulty of the tasks that they routinely do.  Things that are easy for a man in his forties, who has done a ninety-mile canoe race twenty-five times and spends all day outdoors working, are not going to be easy for a man in his sixties who spends a lot of time with a computer, or even for an athletic women like Rachel who is a full-time student.  If someone in the Adirondacks tells you that a hike or other task is hard, it is probably really, really hard.

Back at Eighth Lake Campground there is no cell service.  We were able to hike to the office at the entrance and place a call to the canoe rental store from there.  They offered to bring us out another carrier, but I declined.  I realized that we had the potential of being stranded out in the middle of one of the very long portages between the last three very big and very wild lakes.  The canoe and gear was too much for us to carry, if we had another breakdown.  We changed our plans and decided to spend the next few days on Eighth, instead of on Raquette, and end on Eighth, instead of ending on Long Lake.  That was deflating, but the mature decision.  It turns out that Eighth Lake is a wonderful lake too.  More than once we commented on how sometimes we spend a lot of energy trying to get to one nice place, when we are already in a nice place.

There were two loons on the lake; at night I heard them and an owl; during the second day we heard weird bugling sounds which we think were moose (there are now a thousand moose in the park.  There is a viral brain disease that kills moose but that White-tail Deer can survive.  Previously the deer in this region were infected, which killed off all the moose.  Now the deer population is healthy, which is allowing the moose to make a comeback.); we were serenaded each morning by warblers; and we enjoyed beautiful sunny days on a placid lake.  It was only when we were on this almost entirely motor boat free lake that we saw how much the boats are responsible for chopping up the surface of the lake.  All day and in the evenings, we were treated to pretty reflections of the trees and clouds on the mirror surface of the water. 



We built a nice campfire.



And tied our food up in a tree.  The technique is to throw a rope over a high branch, tie one end to a food bag, pull the bag all the way up, tie a second food bag to the rope, then lower the top bag until both bags are equally far from the ground.



                Reflections on a Lake

Our goal was to canoe eleven lakes.

And through it all, we made a mighty team.

Between lake eight and nine, for heavens' sakes,

A carrier wheel went flat to end our dream.


Eighth Lake is not so bad, we both agreed.

Nearby we'd seen a perfect camping site.

The air -- pine fresh.  The shore -- completely treed.

The loons and owls would sing to us at night.


To sit and dream on shore was our last task

And watch clouds reflect upon the lake.

A pretty water cloud forced me to ask,

Is one more real, the other just a fake.


I try and try again each time I fall.

Sometimes I find, a window is a wall.



Eighth Lake before dusk, 7/10/2016


July 10 - Cascade Mountain

Rain had been predicted for all day Saturday and we had planned our trip around it.  Originally we intended to wait out the storm on Raquette Lake, but we had an ideal spot with a lean-to on Eighth Lake.  Our tent stayed dry, although at one point a root under the floor kept sticking me in the ribs.  In the future, I intend to leave home at least half of the stuff that I brought, but I'm going to add a lightweight sleeping pad.  While it was raining in the day, we played cards, did Yoga, cooked, and read books in the lean-to.  When the rain stopped in the afternoon on Saturday, we broke camp and headed back to the state campground to get our pickup.  While I was packing the canoe, a Bald Eagle sat in a branch above me less than thirty feet away.  He only flew when he dived down to the lake surface to get a fish.

Once we had our car back, we headed to Lake Placid where we planned to continue the trip with some mountain climbing.  It rained all through Saturday night and only partially cleared during the day on Sunday.  We decided to do a less challenging mountain because of the wet conditions.

Cascade Mountain is one of the 46 mountains grouped in the Adirondack High Peaks.  People who have climbed all 46 of these picks are called Forty-sixers.  When the name was chosen, it was applied to the 46 mountains that are higher than 4,000 feet.  It turned out that with more accurate measurement, four of the peaks are just under 4,000 feat and other mountains that were left off are actually higher that 4,000.  However, the list was not changed.  Many of these peaks have no official trails to the top.  The two highest actually require technical climbing, but the others are mostly hiking.  That doesn't mean that they are easy or not difficult.  These are big mountains.  For perspective, the highest mountain in Pennsylvania is Mount Davis at 3,213 feet with a road almost to the top.  Mount Everest is 29,035 feet.

Cascade Mountain is a five mile round trip trail up a 4,098 foot mountain.  The trail is basically straight up and straight down.  Most of it is a rock scramble that requires careful attention to make sure that you don't sprain an ankle.  This is a difficult climb on a wet day, but not an impossible climb for kids who are extremely good at this kind of thing.  Near the top, it started to rain lightly and at the top we were in an actual rain cloud.  I've heard the view from this mountain top is spectacular, but on this day, we could barely see the other people on the summit.  We ate lunch and headed back to where the trail had divided between Cascade Mountain and Porter Mountain, another one of the 46 High Peaks.



Usually when hikers climb Cascade they also climb nearby Porter, which we attempted to do.  That requires an additional hour of climbing down part of Cascade and up part of Porter.  While we were going down, it started to rain hard.  It wasn't cold and we thought we could probably do the second mountain, but we also thought, why did we want to.  Also, if it kept raining like it was, the going down could be very slippery and dangerous.  So we killed the attempt to do Porter and just finished up Cascade.

On the way down Cascade, we saw this Birch root that looked like a Pterodactyl claw


July 11 - Whiteface Mountain

This is a big mountain.  At 4,865 feet, it is the fifth highest mountain in New York State.  It is where the downhill ski trails were built for the Olympics.  I skied here a number of times when I was in high school and college and living in NY.  There is a trail that goes up the same side of the mountain as the ski trails.  There is also a road that you can drive to the summit on that side.  We went up a trail on the other side.  The trail head is at Cannery Pond and stays pretty flat for almost three miles to a lean-to near a landing point on Lake Placid.   Then it goes through three miles of gradually steeper and steeper forested land.   At the top, you get above the tree line and there is a great view and some very scary parts of the climb, if you are afraid of heights.  I am.  Very close to the top, maybe about 100 feet, I got scared and stopped after making it around a big rock with nothing put cliff below it.  Rachel went ahead, finished the climb, ate her lunch at the top, was disappointed that there were about thirty people at the summit in flipflops who had driven up, then climbed back down to where I had tucked myself behind a couple of stubby bushes on the side of the cliff.  I would have had an hour of breath-taking views, if I had been able to look.  Rachel climbed below me and then talked me back through the difficult parts, telling me where I needed to put my feet and hands.  We ate lunch, took some photos, then headed back down.




On the way down, we realized how far we had gone.  The round trip was twelve and a half miles, with 3,000 feet of elevation change.  Even a flat twelve miles would be a good hike for me.  We said several times, on our way back to the car, "What were we thinking?"  Of course we made it.  The whole hike took us a little over ten hours.  Even at the end, we were still walking fast.  I checked the log book on the way out.  Most of the people who used the trail that day had only gone to the lean-to or if they had chosen to try to summit Whiteface had quit lower down and not crossed paths with us.  We had seen ten other people on the trail with us all day.  Two were from Canada and had quit a little before the spot where I chickened out.  One group of four from Rochester had passed us on the way up and again on the way down.  They may have gone out at the landing spot near Lake Placid because I didn't see them in the book.  Or else, they didn't sign the book.  The other four people we saw on the way up, but not on the way down, so we are pretty sure that they went down the other side by car.