Day 4: Tracks and Lakes

Thursday February 18, 8.5mi/13.6km

Cold River Leanto #3 (24.8/1680ft) to Kelly’s Point Leanto (33.3/1640ft) (NY)

As usual, we were awake and 5am, and were on the trail at 7am. The first obstacle was a swingbridge over the Cold River, which was pretty easy. I had broken out the trail the night before, so there were no surprises. 

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A half-hour later, we crossed another swingbridge, this one over Moose Creek. It was missing a handrail on the approach ramp, but was otherwise uneventful. These bridges seem very over-engineered and felt very safe.

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The view from the bridge, looking down Moose Creek. It appears completely frozen over, but I could hear water running underneath somewhere.

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For the next mile after Moose Creek, we saw many different animal tracks. These tracks appeared to belong to a large hooved animal.

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And these tracks were likely from a rabbit. Apparently it was able to float on top of the crust surface!

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We skiied along, taking turns breaking trail on the breakable crust. It seemed easier than yesterday, I think we are just getting used to it. The next few miles to Long Lake were thru a lower elevation forest, which had some weird trees. I called this one octopuspruce.

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We stopped for lunch at Plumley’s Landing Lean-to, the first shelter on Long Lake. I had also stopped here for lunch during my summer hike, and it felt so much smaller in the winter. Maybe it’s all our extra gear?  

After lunch, we decided to ski the frozen Long Lake. The trail runs along the shore, so it didn’t save us any distance, just the work of breaking trail. The lake had very little snow or crust, and it was much easier and faster to ski.

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We still took turns breaking trail, but much less frequently, given that is was pretty easy to be in the front. I think the mountains in the distance are Emmons/Donaldson/Seward range.

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This will probably be the most unique picture I get on the entire trip. It felt strange to ski by a buoy frozen into the lake.

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We skiied the Lake for just over 3 miles, exiting the frozen surface at Kelly’s Point Leanto. It was fairly early, only 3:30pm, but we exerted a lot of energy breaking trail all morning. And this Lean-to positions us nicely for tomorrow, as we are only 4 miles from the Tarbell Road trailhead.

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I took one last picture looking back north across the lake, and then headed into the forest to the lean-to. It was nice skiing on the lake, but I also appreciated the lack of wind in the forest.

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There are two shelters at this spot, and we chose the one further uphill. After setting up the tent and building a snow kitchen, I went exploring the immediate area on skis. Surprisingly, the NPT wasn’t broken out here, even though we are only 4 miles from the trailhead. I think we will continue skiing the lake as long as possible tomorrow.  We also had some extra time around camp, which was nice. And with some internet service, one of us was able to buy some longer skis. Ha!

This first section has proved to be slower and tougher than expected, and we agreed to revise our overall trip itinerary. The 10mi/day plan will become 8mi/day, and we will look at the specifics on Saturday, when we have our resupply night at Barrett’s house.

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