Wednesday March 3, 8.5mi/13.7km

West Stony Creek Lean-to (129.9/920ft) to Northville Arch (138.4/810ft) (NY)

We were awake before 5am, and had breakfast and coffee in the leanto. (Jim was able to avert a coffee crisis by borrowing one from Mark). We had a major stream crossing and 5 miles of skiing, so we were on trail at 6:45am.

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A minute later, we were down at West Stony Creek. Mark had scoped out the crossing yesterday, and we followed his lead acros the frozen river.

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Jim about halfway across. We carefully stayed on the rocks and areas where the river had a slow flow.

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Jim’s epoxy ski binding had held up great for the crossing, and we re-grouped and changed clothing layers on the other side of the river. There was a pretty good 500ft climb up out of this drainage, and I expected to get pretty warm. The snowpack, however, was pretty incompatible with skis, as it was very icy. Jim and I switched to microspikes, which proved to be a far better tool on that surface. It was the only time on the entire 138-mile trail where we had to switch out of skis.

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There were a couple of log bridges, we used the ones with handrails, and avoided the one bridge that was missing its railing.

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The final uphill to Mud Lake was actually pretty nice, the trail climbed gradually on switchbacks.

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I love that we got to pass by this huge, random boulder. Glaciers are show-offs.

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Seeing the markers and double arrows at every switchback was hilarious. It’s almost like the Adirondacks doesn’t know about switchbacks. Oh wait…

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We arrived to Mud Pond at 10am, and the clouds were starting to move out. This was the last Mud Pond (there are many), and the last body of water on the NPT. At this point, I switched back to my skis, as the snow had lost most of its ice.

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It was windy by the lake, so we stopped to take our final on-trail break in the woods, at the top of the last descent. Through the trees, to the right, is Great Sacandaga Lake.

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I had fun skiing down the last mile of the trail, cutting across the switchbacks through the open forest. There were a couple tricky steep spots, but it was mostly type-1 fun. If the snow quality were better (less icy), it would be pure awesomeness. We arrived at the trailhead at 11am, and Mark signed in for our group. 

Barrett met us at the trailhead, and the four of us walked together back to his truck, parked a quarter-mile away at the road. After removing our skis, boots, and backpacks, we started the final 3.5 mile roadwalk. 

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One of the houses along the way had made a wooden bigfoot for their yard. Sweet.

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An hour later, we were crossing the bridge across an arm of Great Sacandaga Lake, into the village of Northville. 

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Along the way, we met Don Hoffman, a local hiker who was very interested in interviewing us. So, we chatted, hiked, and recorded at the same time. It was fun, thanks Don! And good luck on your NPT hike this summer.

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Walking down the sidewalk, only a couple blocks to the finishing arch!

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We arrived at the finishing arch at 12:45pm, and had a nice surprise welcoming committee! My parents, a local couple, and a small herd of dogs were all there for the occasion. 

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We went through the arch, to sign into the final trail register. 

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Our final entry into the NPT/DEC trail registers. I tried to use my neatest handwriting.

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Directly across the street from the Arch is a Stewarts! I love that this trail finishes with ice cream, drinks, and nice bathrooms. 

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We said goodbye to our welcoming committee, and Barrett drove us 2 hours back up to his house. The theme of dinner was “calorie density”, and the poutine appetizer was fantastic.

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The evening was a blur of food, conversation, and TV (WandaVision, Archer). We went to bed pretty late by hiker standards, though it was only 10pm. Tomorrow we return to real life…sigh. NPT in winter…what a cool experience!

Tuesday March 2, 8.4mi/13.5km

Abner Brook Campsite (121.5/1400ft) To West Stony Creek Lean-to (129.9/920ft) (NY)

It was a very cold morning (-1F/-18C), and I had to work fast to pack up, so I could get skiing sooner and warm up my cold feet. But, my hands work slowly in the cold, so it was a struggle. Finally, I was packed up and I started skiing up the hill. Jim and Mark were 5 minutes behind, I just wanted to get moving and warmed up. I skiied maybe a half mile up the hill, then turned around and came down to meet them. They were very close, I only had to ski for a couple minutes. We re-grouped, and I was headed south again, into the sunrise. Mark is in the lead here:

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The snow was pretty dense, so skis floated along the top pretty well. As you can see, the strong winds last night brought down all sort of sticks and branches.

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The southern part of this trail is lower elevation, and it definitely felt like it. The forests were mostly open hardwoods today.

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We got to Woods Lake pretty quickly, it was only 9:15am! We accessed the lake from the north shore (with the landowner’s permission), and skiied the mile across the lake. It was very sunny, but also still pretty windy, so I didn’t stop to take a break.

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Panoramic photo on the lake!

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This photo came out blurry, but I like it anyway. Looking southeast, skiing down Woods Lake:

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We arrived at the opposite shore 30 minutes later, and went back into the windless forest.

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We re-joined the official NPT and I stopped to sign us into the trail register.

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This trail register was full of groups hiking in the last month, it’s great to see so many people getting out there!

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We took off our skis, crossed Benson Road, and put them right back on. The rest of the day was familiar territory, as we had skiied this on a dayhike a month earlier. The trail was pretty rough, as hikers had come in without snowshoes or skis, and post-holed all over the trail. The deep holes can be dangerous, so we skiied next to the trail. At noon, we took a lunch break in the middle of the trail, and it was nice sitting in the sun.

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We had just over a mile to our planned leanto, so we tightened up our boots and started down the steep downhill.

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At first the trail was a nice gentle downhill. Just after this photo was taken, it became much steeper, and Jim broke one of his ski bindings trying to ski/turn downhill on very icy snow.

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The binding was definitely broken, so Jim removed his other ski, and walked down the trail in his bare boots. It was only a half-mile to the leanto, and he didn’t seem to sink in very much. I was still on skis and having a slow time navigating the icy steep slope, but eventually I got down. We all arrived at the leanto at 1:30pm, and I thoroughly enjoyed taking off my pack and sitting down. We looked at Jim’s binding, and two of the three M6 screws had been sheared off. The third screw (lower left) was fine, so a plan was hatched to use epoxy and ski straps to make a temporary repair.

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Jim fixing his ski with 2-part epoxy, hopefully it holds for most of tomorrow!

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We had all afternoon to hang out, in addition to the usual tasks of setting up the tent, hanging up the sleeping bags, and getting water. It was warm and sunny, and a perfect last afternoon on trail. Before dinner we enjoyed a celebratory beverage, and reminisced a little about the past 16 days. It doesn’t feel real that it’s ending so soon. However, my mind was more occupied by the dual worries of crossing the wide (100ft) West Stony Creek tomorrow, and traveling the last 5 miles with a broken ski binding. Oh well, that’s not my problem…that’s future Jon’s problem! 🙂

Monday March 1, 8.3mi/13.3km

Silver Lake Lean-to (113.2/2060ft) to Abner Brook Campsite (121.5/1400ft) (NY)

Today was a late start, as the precipitation was forecast to end around 9am. Sure enough, it lightly rained and snowed until 8:30am, and we hung out in the leanto and ate a 2nd breakfast. 

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We put on the packs and skis, and moved out at 8:45, and thankfully the snow had firmed up since yesterday. It wasn’t nice powder, but at least we weren’t sinking in and sticking to wet snow. A mile later, we came to Meco Lake, and of course decided to ski the very short lake. It was maybe 10 minutes of skiing.

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The last few days had clearly been warm, as many of the small streams had opened up. They weren’t hard to cross, but they required a little more thought and planning to stay dry.

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We came to the Godfrey Rd trail junction at 12:30pm, and enjoyed a sitting lunch. Apparently the old NPT (before 2014) used to start/end here instead of Northville. I was glad to have more trail remaining, I know I’ll miss it when it’s over.

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We packed up after lunch, and continued south. The trail was harder to follow after this, and with more overgrowth. Jim’s spruce-whacking face:

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A mile after the trail junction, we came to a tricky stream crossing. The bridge was of the narrow-log variety, and it was perched 6ft above the creek….no thanks. So we crossed the semi-frozen steam. The snow bridge deteriorated a little bit with each skiier, and I was last to cross. My left ski went into the stream, and though it was shallow, it was a very difficult position to extract myself from.

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With some pole-grabbing assistance, I made it onto solid ground, and then side-stepped up the steep bank. We continued on, and I was thankful the rest of the afternoon was less exciting! It was party sunny all morning, and by afternoon the remaining clouds departed and it was very sunny. We sure do make nice ski tracks.

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Usually by mid-afternoon we start getting tired and hit an energy lull. Jim is still enjoying his new 147cm BD skis!

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The crossing of Abner Brook had another tricky log crossing. We found a way across on the semi-frozen stream without incident. Even though it was only 3pm, we decided to stop for the day here, as the next viable campsite was 2 miles away.  

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Our kitchen architect is utilizing the design-build approach, while giving our eating quarters some finishing touches.

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As the sun went down, it became much colder. I figured it might snow, and moved my pack (right) under the tarp. 

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I had found a nice little water extraction spot, and I took a break tonight from water duties. Mark and Jim did the bucket filling and hauling from Abner Brook.

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The view from inside the kitchen, sitting under the tarp. It became very windy, so it was nice being out of the wind.

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We made our dehydrated dinners and some hot drinks (cocoa, cider, jello), and then quickly put everything away. It was so windy! I was so happy to be in the tent, it was amazingly warm with 3 people in there. I stayed awake for Mark’s entire reading of the book chapter, and then browsed my maps for a few minutes….we are so close to the end!

Sunday February 28, 0mi/0km

Silver Lake Lean-to (113.2/2060ft) (NY)

We woke up later, since we had nowhere to go today. Even so, everyone was awake around 6am, simply because we went to bed at 7:30pm the night before. I ate first breakfast, which was my sliced kielbasa fried up on the whisperlite stove and some improvised cookware.

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Then, I ate second breakfast, and then a third meal that was nameless but consisted of cheese and M&Ms. The weather was still dry, so I went for a short ski down the trail for 10 minutes, just to get some movement in today. Eventually, it was time for lunch, and I cooked up my extra soup and cocoa.

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After lunch, I might’ve accidentally taken an hour nap. Afterwards, we killed some time playing the dice game Blisters, and then Mark read a chapter from the Waterman’s book. This wonderful day of lounging and eating was capped off by dinner and then going to bed! Not many pictures from today, but it was a necessary and relaxing day.

Saturday February 27, 11.2mi/18.0km

Hamilton Lake Stream Lean-to (102.0/1480ft) to Silver Lake Lean-to (113.2/2060ft) (NY)

We were awake at 4:30am as planned, then we said our goodbyes and hit the trail at 6am. Within a few minutes, we encountered the swingbridge over Hamilton Stream. It looked really cool being illuminated by both red and white headlamps.

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I crossed the bridge first, and then tried to get photos of the other two guys coming across. There was some light snow that interfered with the picture, but it added a neat effect.

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By 6:30am, the sun had risen and we switched off our headlamps. The trail was nicely broken out courtesy of Alysa and Michele, and we made fast time to the Whitehouse bridge.

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We got to the trail register just after 7:30am, this is where we departed the snowshoe tracks. Michele and Alysa had hiked in from the nearby trailhead, and we continued south on the NPT.

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A couple minutes later, we were crossing the Whitehouse swingbridge, over the West Branch Sacandaga River. It’s an old bridge, so we crossed one at a time.

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It was good skiing all morning, and even with the big uphill climb, we made good time. There was a faint old ski track to follow, as a group had traveled into the Mud Lake leanto two weeks ago. Despite being sparsely marked, the trail was pretty easy to follow. We stopped into the Mud Lake leanto and had a quick break with our packs off. Since it was only 10:30am, we decided to push onward to Silver Lake Leanto in another 5.5 miles. I hiked past this very large, very old tree during the summer, and I was surprised how easily I found it again in winter.

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It was now 11:30am, and the temperature was warming up, but the snow was still suitable for skiing. We were climbing a gradual uphill, so I was getting warm enough to drop a clothing layer. I’m glad I kept my rainshell on though, as the trail began to travel through some thick overgrown spruce, and it was like a coniferous carwash!

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And then, the rain started. It was 36F/2C and the snowpack turned to mashed potatoes. We trudged on, becoming increasingly wet and sad. I could only take photos in the open forest, the thick spruce sections were a struggle to simply make forward progress.

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Jim still looked happy in this photo, but this is just before he fell into the wet snow during a small descent.

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Half an hour later, we were at the shores of Silver Lake. The fog and low-lying clouds gave it a somber feeling. There was no wind, and we skiied across the frozen lake, aiming for the leanto on the opposite side.

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Looking to the east:

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Jim is looking happy again, now that we are close to the leanto.

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Looking ahead, to the south. Mark is ahead, making fast tracks to the leanto.

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At this point, the rain had stopped, but we were still pretty wet. Happiness and dryness are only minutes away!

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We exited the frozen lake, and skiied up a short hill to the shelter. After taking off our packs and changing into dry clothes, we relaxed with some hot drinks to warm up. The next order of business was drying out our clothes, which resulted in this yard sale:

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After some discussion, we decided to take a zero day here at the Silver Lake Leanto tomorrow. We would continue drying out, and avoid the expected wet weather tomorrow. It was our longest day yet (11+ miles), and also our wettest day!

Friday February 26, 10.9mi/17.5km

Fall Stream Campsite (91.1/1920ft) to Hamilton Lake Stream Lean-to (102.0/1480ft) (NY)

It seems like no matter what time we wake up, we are on trail at 7am. We started off under partly cloudy skies and no precipation, so that was nice.

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We continued on the previously-broken out trail, so we had a good pace going all morning.

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Looking back at our ski tracks.

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Jim is a happy skier, even though he is wearing my shorter 125cm Altai skis!

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I love the morning light in an open forest, it makes me feel like I could ski all day.

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We descended a small but steep-ish hill, with a good bit of “wheeee!” at the end. Then, the trail followed a small drainage for a few miles. I saw otter tracks crossing and re-crossing the trail a few times.

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The last mile before the trailhead, the NPT joined up with the Foxey Brown X-C ski trail. It was clearly a very popular trail, as there were many ski tracks on it, and even a snowmobile track.

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We arrived to the Haskell Road trailhead at 10am, and Barrett was waiting for us with lots of delicious snacks and beverages. We took off our skis, packs, and boots, and switched to sneakers for the upcoming roadwalk.

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It felt so good to walk in sneakers again, it’s almost like humans were built for walking…hmm…

We had some recovery beverages and enjoyed the nice winter day. Shortly after this photo was taken, I slipped on some black ice and fell pretty hard. Yup, the most dangerous sections are the roadwalks!

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We turned onto County Road 24, and walked it to the end. Barrett picked us up near the other trailhead, and drove us to Bob and Matt Campwood.

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We really appreciated them letting us use their nice garage to unpack our packs, sit down, and enjoy the wonderful lunch that Barrett brought.

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The remains of lunch are still visible on the table, we had huge hamburgers with all the vegetables, beers, and TATER TOTS. Oh yeah. Barrett is at the “buffet counter” fixing up a plate.

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These boxes are our resupply items, mostly food. There are some spare clothing sets to swap out, too.

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In the summer, many NPT hikers come here and have a rest, and there are hiking maps and NPT paraphernalia everywhere, along with all manner of adirondack fishing and camping items.

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One of my dehyrated dinners had the perfect quote for this trip, “You got to be careful if you don’t know where you’re going, becuase you might not get there.”

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After a couple hours, we finally finished packing up and eating. Barrett gave us a ride to the trailhead, we put our boots back on and crossed highway 8.

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We put our skis on, and headed back into the wilderness!

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It was a beautiful sunny and very warm afternoon, and I was removing a layer every 20 minutes.

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I don’t have many photos of me, so I decided to try and fix that!

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We stopped to view Preist’s Vly, and each of us did our usual thing – I lost a layer, Jim checked his InReach messages, and Mark skiied.

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Priest’s Vly.

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After a couple of miles, I was down to my baselayer, which was rolled up into shorts. “Skies out, thighs out!”

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We arrived to Hamilton Lake Stream Lean-to at 3:45pm, and there was a welcoming committee. These two wonderful humans, Alysa and Michele, had snowshoed into the woods to meet us!

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And they brought some pretty ridiculous and tasty foods, like fried chicken and pizza!

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It was the most fun night on trail! We spent a couple hours chatting and catching up, and stuffing our faces with fried foods and beers. Michele and Alysa had snowshoed in the 3 miles from the Whitehouse trailhead, which means we have a broken-out trail tomorrow! Pretty awesome friends. Below, the water boiling competition is going strong, with both MSR whisperlite stoves running.

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We knew some rain/wintry mix would arrive tomorrow afternoon, so we decided to wake up at 4:30am to get an early start. This meant an early bedtime too, but not before Mark read all 5 of us a chapter from the Waterman book. The 3 guys retired to the tent early at 7pm, and we left the ladies to entertain themselves in the lean-to. 

Thursday February 25, 9.7mi/15.7km

West Canada Creek Lean-to (81.4/2280ft) to Fall Stream Campsite (91.1/1920ft) (NY)

Another 5am wakeup, and we left the lean-to just after 7am. There didn’t seem to be any new snow, so I guess the forecasted weather never arrived.

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We skiied along on a pretty good trail for an hour and a half. Breaking trail wasn’t too bad, as the snow seemed softer and the skis floated better. When we arrived to Sampson bog, however, the bridge over the outlet was missing. And it wasn’t frozen over, so we were forced to find a route over the bog itself, probably adding a quarter-mile to the day. Mark went first, exploring a route over the frozen bog.

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The rest of the morning was pleasant skiing in mostly hardwood forests, without the dense spruce bushwhacks. 

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I loved being out in front, it was a little more work, but the scenery and untracked snow made it feel like another world.

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Sometimes skiing under blowdowns is easy, when they are high enough. Can you find the smiley face in the tree snow?

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We emerged at Spruce Lake just after 10:30am, and we opted to ski the frozen lake. As usual, the trail follows the left bank of the lake, and travels through some thicker spruce forest that we wished to avoid.

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It was windy today, and especially so out on the open lake. Mark leads the way…

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Of course, I like to get a photo of the terrain behind us. We skiied down from the pass to the right of the rounded hill in the background. Jim is coming up from behind, passing nearby Spruce Lake leanto #3.

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Everybody is smiling as we approach the end of the lake ski, and close in on our lunch break spot, Spruce Lake leanto #1.

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It’s a good day for skiing.

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The wind had scoured off some of the snow, and the sun reflected on the bare icy patches. It made a cool visual pattern.

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The home stretch on the lake, we exited at the cove on the left.

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We arrived at Spruce Lake leanto #1 at 11:30am, and our tracks from a month ago were largely erased by nature. (We had hiked 10mi into here and camped on a shakedown hike on February 6th). We celebrated getting to this point, as now the terrain in front of us was mostly known, and we felt more confident in our finish. I also ate most of my snacks, as we are re-supplying tomorrow afternoon in Piseco, so I was on a calorie high. 🙂

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After a nice long break, we skiied for another 2.5 hours in the afternoon. We mostly followed our broken-out trail from 3 weeks ago, though sometimes it was easier to ski in the fresh snow. A very enjoyable afternoon of skiing!

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We arrived at Fall Stream around 3:30pm, and after negotiating a tricky crossing, we arrived on the opposite bank and setup our camp. 

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Jim is constructing a snow kitchen, using the newest semi-circular design from “Winter Camping Quarterly”, ha!

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This is a pretty typical setup of our camp when we’re not at a lean-to. The Big Agnes Copper Spur Expedition fits us snugly, and we usually hang a clothesline nearby to dry out sleeping bags and clothes.

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This was one of the few non-leanto camps where we had good weather, and it was great! The kitchen design was a smashing success, and we were all in very good spirits. Probably because we got to eat all our extra food, and we are excited about getting a resupply tomorrow in Piseco!

Wednesday February 24, 7.5mi/12.0km

First Cedar Lake Lean-to (73.9/2420ft) to West Canada Creek Lean-to (81.4/2280ft) (NY)

We were awake at 5am, and had a more relaxed morning, with fewer tasks to do. Jim takes some time every morning to update Barrett on our status and plans for the day, via a satellite InReach device.

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Mark went to dig out the privy/toilet, sometimes the doors are buried by multiple feet of snow!

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At 7:05am, we put our packs on, and skiied down to First Cedar Lake. Again, the NPT follows the lakeshore, so we will simply ski the frozen lake.

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This was my favorite morning of skiing. Not only was it fast and easy travel, the views were great and the shifting clouds were giving us quite a show. A hole opened up to show blue sky!

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Looking back to the northeast, Jim and Mark coming from the direction of our lean-to. A little while later, Mark broke through some hollow ice near the edge of the water. The edges are usually the most suspect places, and while the water was quite shallow, it was a good reminder to stay cautious around the edges. He extracted himself with only 1 wet boot!

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An hour later, the clouds really started to break up and dissipate. The sunshine was a welcome element, especially to help dry and warm Mark’s wet boot.

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We recollected ourselves on a small peninsula, took a short snack break, and planned our next landmark to aim for.

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I skiied in the lead for awhile, aiming for a campsite on the southwest shore of First Cedar Lake. The sun felt warm, and it was enjoyable to ski across the windless lake.

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I stepped to the side, and the others went by. I love the perspective of this photo, and how well it summarizes our morning ski.

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We are aiming for the cove on the right, where there is an established campsite with an access trail.

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We re-entered the forest, and had some enjoyable and uneventful skiing for an hour. When it came time to cross Mud Creek, we found an interesting obstacle. The bridge was stacked high with 4 feet of snow. I inspected the underlying creek, and it wasn’t completely frozen, so crossing low wasn’t an option. I went first, clearing a ramp to get up on the snow-choked bridge, and then softly and quickly skiied across. It was definitely a no-fall zone, being about 9 feet above the semi-frozen creek.

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Mark takes his turn across the Mud Creek bridge.

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With the bridge obstacle successfully navigated, we re-entered the spruce forest. Besides the trail being poorly marked and the resulting minor mis-navigations, it was an uneventful section. Then, we decided to leave the NPT and ski across the frozen Mud Lake. That meant we would miss seeing West Lake and South Lake, but I knew the bridges and creek crossings in that area would be sketchy in winter, and better avoided. Looking south across Mud Lake:

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Looking west, towards South Lake:

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The final obstacle was crossing Whitney Creek, an inlet to Mud Lake. The ice was thick enough, but we knew there was moving water underneath. This photo is a few minutes after that final obstacle, and we are skiing along the frozen West Canada Creek. 

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To exit the creek drainage, I climbed up a small hill, following some otter tracks. We were hoping to see the otter, but no luck today.

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We side-stepped up the short but steep bank, and back onto the NPT. There is a junction here with the French Louie trail, and it’s also signed as the North Country National Scenic Trail! (The NC NST is a 4600mi/7400km hiking trail from North Dakota to Vermont). Tempting…

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I turned my attention to crossing the bridge, and this one was easy. It had two handrails, and flat approaches. 

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We all crossed uneventfully, and I was glad to have this bridge. Notice the open water to the right.

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We arrived at the West Canada Creek Lean-to at 12:20pm, a short day. We were expecting a weather system to arrive this afternoon, and planned an early finish to the day. The weather system never arrived, but we had fun relaxing in the lean-to all afternoon. I discovered a way to store my skis in the rafters of the lean-to, which kept them dry and ice-free.

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We have been signing into most of the lean-to logbooks we see, and I took a photo of this one to illustrate how remote this wilderness is. The last group to come through here was in early November!

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We passed the time by reading, napping, and playing a dice game. Jim brought “Blisters”, a fun game developed by an AT thru-hiker. The rules are fairly simple, and its easy to spend an hour rolling the 6 multi-colored dice.

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Our kitchen setup is pictured above, which is pretty typical of how we construct camp most nights. This night, we again chose to sleep in the lean-to, given the warm temperatures and expected incoming weather system (which didn’t materialize). Sunset is around 6pm, so we usually have an hour with headlamps on while eating dinner, and bedtime somewhere around 7:30pm. The dark photo below is Mark reading us a chapter from the Guy/Laura Waterman book. 

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It was overall a very good day, with a good ratio of fun/suckiness. Mark was able to get his boot mostly dried out using hot water bottles. Tomorrow we will begin our exit from this wonderful wilderness, continuing our southbound march to Piseco, and ultimately Northville.

Tuesday February 23, 9.8mi/15.8km

Wakely Dam (64.1/2140ft) to First Cedar Lake Lean-to (73.9/2420ft) (NY)

The snow had stopped during the night, and we woke up to a mostly overcast, but dry, morning. We packed up camp faster than usual, and were on skis before 7am. The NPT stays on the road, which parallels the lakeshore of the Cedar River Flow (confusingly, this is the name of the lake, and not the river). So, we skiied on the frozen lake for over an hour.  

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Looking back to the north:

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We exited the lake near the southern end, at the Cedar River Flow tentsite. The trail was completely unbroken in this section, and we moved much more slowly.

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An hour later, we came to a spot that had been flooded by beaver activity in the summer. The DEC had fixed the problem, so happily we only had to cross a simple snowy meadow. The steep-sided peaks in the distance are Manbury Mountain and Little Moose Mountain.

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We had agreed to take a morning break at the Carry Lean-to, but upon discovering that the shelter was an extra 0.3mi off trail, we decided to take a break right there at the trail junction. Mark is demonstrating his skis-on relaxing pose. After 20 minutes of constant eating, I was getting cold, and we packed up pretty quick.

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After another hour of skiing and breaking trail, we came upon a trail junction. I didn’t think much of this particular junction, but soon after I noticed that the trail was recently broken out. Someone must’ve skiied the French Louie loop in the past week! Since my skis were only sinking in a few inches and not a foot, forward progress became much faster.

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Mark and Jim pressing ahead through the snow-choked spruce. “Into the spruce you shall go”DSC_4423_copy_2752x1548

The trail followed the Cedar River upstream all day, so sometimes we would get views over its frozen landscapes.

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I can’t remember why I took this photo, but it looks pretty funny!

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A quarter mile before our intended lean-to, we passed this trail junction, and our nice broken-out trail disappeared. We thought it would be slower going because we now had to break trail, and we were half correct. It was slower going, but it was because the blue trail markers disappeared. 

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In the photo, you can see Jim coming up the trail, and the only blue marker we passed is just right of him.

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I’m not sure what this is, it looks like an old doorway or shelter? My photo from summer isn’t any more revealing.

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We pulled into the First Cedar Lake lean-to at 3:30pm, and enjoyed sitting down with our packs off for awhile. (after sweeping out the snow, of course). The lean-to was unfortunately positioned to catch the wind off the lake, so we put up the tarp across the front to block some of the wind.

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The temperatures were forecasted to stay warm overnight, so we did something unusual and slept IN the lean-to. It would have too warm in the tent with 3 people, and the extra ventilation might dry some of our clothing. It was nice being able to stretch out and spread my gear everywhere. And since we were camped near a lake, we had a source of good water, which was easily obtained by chopping a hole with the ice axe. We entered the West Canada Lake Wilderness this morning, and it feels so remote and quiet out here!

Monday February 22, 8.9mi/14.4km

Stephens Pond Leanto (55.2/1960ft) to Wakely Dam (64.1/2140ft) (NY)

The usual 5am wakeup time came with an alarm this morning, and I got moving a few minutes later than usual. It also takes 3 people a little while to get dressed and shuffle gear in a 41 sq. foot tent! We got moving down the trail a little after 7am, and we followed a nice broken-out trail for almost the entire uphill section. 

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For some reason, the tracks we were following stopped just below the top of the climb. Which was strange, since there weren’t any trail junctions, destinations, or points of interest nearby. But I appreciated the tracks while they lasted. We tried a shortcut, which started off great, but then had a descent/climb out of a steep gully, which cancelled out all of the time and energy savings. The trail in this section is relatively new, and while the trail markers were plentiful, it was still hard to follow the needlessly serpentine trail. Eventually, we joined an old road, and meant we had a nice straight-line path to follow. Of course, with no snow in the forecast, it started snowing. Pretty steady snowfall, too. The old road dropped us on Cedar River Road, which is only open to snowmobiles in winter. Jim signed the trail register for us, and we began the short 1mi/1.6km roadwalk to Wakely Dam.

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We skiied by Wakely Pond, which felt much more desolate in winter, without all the picnicking crowds.

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The view across Wakely Pond was obscured by the incessant snowstorms that seem to haunt this part of the adirondacks.

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We arrived at Wakely around 2:30pm, and skiied around the premises looking for a suitable shelter. In the summer, there were many buildings around, but I should have inspected them more closely….they were all locked in winter! So, we setup a snow camp at one of the official campsites, and melted snow for water…ugh. The skis and tyvek were setup to create a wall to block the wind and blowing snow…it mostly worked.

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It was kind of a miserable night with the snowy weather, but we made the best of it. It’s amazing what you can do with ski-straps and poles!

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At least the toilet/privy was very nearby, and it extra-large (ADA accessible), so we had that going for us….which was nice. We skiied for almost 8 hours today, and it felt even more tiring due to the bushwhack and the long gradual uphill. After Mark’s usual bedtime book reading, I stayed awake for a few more minutes and looked at my maps – tomorrow looks relatively flat, yay!