Preface - this TR was written shortly after I came back from this trip, but I had a crap internet connection at the time, so I kept getting frustrated trying to upload all the pics. Anyway, I came across the file so I figured I'd finally post it. Hope you all enjoy!
This is my first trip report, so here goes…
A little introduction- I have been into hiking and camping for a while, but only recently have I been realizing the possibilities that going ultralight unlocks. By no means could my base weight be considered “ultralight”, but I have made a conscious effort in the recent past to trim away as many nonessentials as I can. In fact, this weekend, I donated my beloved Alps Mountaineering Weekender camp chair to an already finely-appointed lean-to. That was quite a step for me. 21 ounces I never thought I’d drop.
I had originally planned to do the Cranberry Lake 50 over the holiday weekend. I’ve got my gear to the point where I can really put miles in, and that seemed like the perfect choice for a fall trip. Not many places look as exquisite as the Adirondacks in the fall. At the last minute, I decided to bring my dog, Baby, a six year-old pit bull along, so I had to change my plans to accommodate her (she’s such a little prissy princess I couldn’t bear the thought of her actually having to carry her own pack). That adds an extra ~9 lbs to my pack weight. She has also never been on anything even close to a 50 mile hike, so plans had to change…
Annie at Raquette River Outfitters (probably the coolest little paddling and supply shop in the ‘Daks) suggested I do the High Falls Loop instead, with a couple side trips thrown in. She sent us on a canoe trip last summer that was absolutely unforgettable, so I knew that whatever she recommended would be solid. A portion of this loop actually follows the CL50, so the scenery was similar. I would describe this area of the Adirondacks as backcountry pond/swamp meets dense mixed forest.
My loop started and ended in the hamlet of Wanakena, and much of the first portion of it followed the Oswegatchie River, whose black water currents slither and snake through the backcountry, and at many points creates flood plains. In many flooded areas, this problem is compounded upon by beaver activity, so when the ground is full (it rained the previous three days before my trip), portions of the trail become seriously saturated and in some cases, completely flooded.
My destination for the evening was the lean-to on Big Shallow Pond, which was reached via a side trail off the main loop. Annie strongly recommended that I camp there, saying it was a magnificent site. She was more than right. Not only was this lean-to on the shore of a spectacular backcountry pond, it was well-equipped. It had a shovel, rake, broom, dustpan, metal grate for cooking, water bucket, and even a pair of snowshoes! Reading the logbook, I came across a man’s entry from 2008 where he detailed a tremendous windstorm where a huge old pine came crashing down within feet of the lean-to. Sure enough, I went behind the shelter and there were the remnants of that old giant. I should have got a picture of it… When I left the shelter, I decided to donate my Alps camp chair, and strapped its clasps to a wooden beam. That chair has been a partner with me on every trip I’ve been on for the past few years, and I really thought it was 21 ounces that I’d never drop. What made it possible was using the Gossamer Gear Thinlight pads I brought as sit pads instead.
The next morning, I backtracked to the main loop, and continued on towards my destination of Glasby Pond, where the side trail to Cat Mountain spurs off the HFL. This portion of the trail was incredibly soggy, with one stretch of about 100 yards that I literally had to grit my teeth sprint to the end to avoid sinking in the muck. For Baby with her short hair and bare stomach, that had to have been unpleasant. I was constantly apologizing to her on that portion of the trail. I arrived that evening and set up camp at a primitive site on Glasby Pond, with a great view of the mountain (more of a big hill) I was to climb in the morning. The weather was frigid that evening, with temperature dipping down to 30 degrees. Baby’s water froze over on top, overnight. Fortunately this was anticipated, and our sleep system consisted of a 30 degree bag and a 40 degree bag mated together to form on big sack of warmth. Having Baby inside with me kept us both warm through the night. When I got up to make breakfast the next morning, the idea of my warm body getting out of the bag with her brought a disappointed look to her face.
After breaking camp, I stashed my pack in the woods and brought just my camera, and a little lunch for us, and headed down the side trail towards Cat Mountain. At the top, the view was spectacular. Miles and miles of beautiful autumn splendor lay before me. There was also a great little camp site up there where I was disappointed I didn’t camp. Back down the steep trail and to the HFL, I followed the trail past the southern edge of Cranberry Lake, and to my car in Wanakena. Since I didn’t feel like driving back the six hours or so back home in the dark, I called my friend who is familiar with the area, and he told me about a great car-camping site on Horseshoe pond, about ten miles outside of Tupper Lake. We made a few quick stops to pick up bourbon, junk food, and firewood ($20 filled my trunk and most of backseat), and proceeded to have a rager of a fire at this perfect little campsite.
This trip was the first time I have used the GG Thinlight pads, and found them to be an amazing multi-use item. Not only did they keep Baby off the cold ground, they made great sit pads draped over logs and rocks. They also took quite a bit of abuse. Sure, they have a couple small burn-holes and snags from the thick brush, but that didn’t affect their function one bit.
My Big Agnes Copper Spur 1 also proved again to be a worthy shelter. Nothing can beat the convenience when selecting a site to pitch at, of the ability to attach the poles to the footprint, and be able to pick it up and move it around to find the flattest spot. Also, when pitched in fast-fly mode, it’s a palace inside, capable of sleeping two shorter people comfortably. It packs a lot of firepower for ~2lbs.
I also tried some new Mountain House meals over the weekend, and am hooked on their Breakfast Skillet meal. Simply delicious. Eggs, sausage, potatoes, peppers and onions. Five stars out of five.
I can never wait to get back to the ‘Daks after I leave. After last summer’s paddling trip, returning to that area was something that’s always been on my mind.
Now for the pics!
day morning at the trailhead" width="550" height="413">
This sums up the first 2.5 miles or so
Looking to my right as I headed south down the trail - Oswegatchie River
Overlooking the snake-like Oswegatchie
Yes, this is the trail
Scenic bend on the Oswegatchie
No caption necessary
Baby looking uneasy at the prospect of crossing moving water over a log
Finally I arrived at the lean-to and unpacked
The first thing I do while hiking with Baby is to set up her nap area, so she can conk out for a nap while I prepare dinner and a fire
Beaver action around the bend from the lean-to
View from the front yard
Carvings on the wall date back to the early 1960s
Baby sunning herself on a brisk morning, on her Thinlight section
Ready to hit the trail
One last view, and I was off
Swamp meets dense forest
Footbridge crossing the Oswegatchie looking right...
...and to the left
Baby looking less than enthused at the conditions of the "trail"
One of the wider, stabler log bridges of the trail
More of the "trail"
Arriving at Glasby Pond, Cat Mountain in the distance
Does this resemble a cat?
You can't tell but there's a Mountain House meal in there with her, keeping her warm and waiting to be eaten
Trail up Cat Mountain
...and looking back down
Gorgeous view from the top
Looking down on cat Mountain Pond
Great pine needle-covered campsite I stopped for a break at, on the southern tip of Cranberry Lake
My Copper Spur 1 in fast-fly mode
Relaxing with some purchased firewood and some Wild Turkey