Sunday February 21, 3.3mi/5.3km
Lake Durant Trailhead (51.9/1810ft) to Stephens Pond Leanto (55.2/1960ft) (NY)
We had another killer breakfast at Barrett’s house, and then packed up and left. We had some errands to do, buying a couple small items, and grabbing lunch at McDonald’s. I made a couple shamrock shakes and chicken sandwiches disappear, and then Barrett dropped us at the trailhead at 1pm. It was a relatively warm (20F/-7C) and sunny day, and the first half-mile of the trail follows a snowmobile path. It was easy, fast skiing.
We crossed a bridge over the inlet of Durant Lake, which was completely frozen over. There were tons of snowmobile tracks on the frozen lake.
The trail to Stephens Pond is apparently very popular, because the entire 3+ miles was very well compacted snow. We were averaging a speed of almost 2mph, almost unheard of for uphill travel in winter. Just before 3pm, we arrived at our destination for the night, Stephens Pond Leanto. I dropped my pack in the leanto and skiied a short distance down onto the frozen lake.
I had stopped here during my summer thru-hike for a lunch break, and listened to the loons calling. Of course, there were no such birds hanging around now. Looking north, towards Blue Ridge:
Looking south, towards Round Top mountain:
Our skis only sunk a couple inches into the snow on the frozen lake. We dug a hole, near where the yellow shovel is located in the photo. After extracting a bucket of water, we returned to the leanto for a relaxing evening at camp.
This was my favorite campsite yet, and took advantage of the sunny weather to de-ice our skis (our clothes are already dry from being indoors last night). I wasn’t that hungry for a freeze-dried dinner, but made myself eat it anyway. Tomorrow will be a big 9-mile day, climbing 500ft up and over a pass, to get to Wakely Dam.