Tag Archive 'Adirondacks'

Sep 06 2019

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A Great Day in the Mountains

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Early morning. With temps in the 50s and a clear sky in the forecast, I set my work aside for a day and head for the Adirondacks. A grin breaks across my face as I enter an empty parking lot at the Owls Head Lookout trailhead. Looks like I have the trail all to myself – until other hikers get out of bed, anyhow.

After signing into the register, I hike up a trail easing gradually uphill. Morning shadows dominate the surrounding forest until the sun shines straight ahead. A blue jay calls out, otherwise all’s quiet. I hear the faint sound of rushing water and soon cross a bridge over Slide Brook. From there the trail weaves in and out of a feeder stream as it steadily climbs towards a junction. From the junction it’s a short, steep climb to the top of Owls Head. I arrive with energy to spare.

Owls Head Lookout is located in Giant Mountain Wilderness. Giant Mountain peeks at me from behind a ridge that leads to it. Rocky Peak Ridge to the left of Giant is in full view. Farther left, the forested landscape breaks away like a choppy green sea frozen in time. To the right is Knob Lock Mountain, and farther right is Hurricane Mountain. In other words, it’s wild country in every direction as far as I can see, with stunted birches directly behind me and a 500-foot drop immediately in front.

I gulp down water between bites of an energy bar, quite comfortable in a wool shirt despite a light breeze. I’m not a big one for bagging peaks, but I must admit that sitting on top of the world like this feels pretty damned good. It’s especially nice because there’s no one else around. I linger for the better part of an hour before heading down.

My right ankle, still weak from a big hike in June, complains a little while I descend. I ignore it, leaning into a heavy walking stick as necessary. I’m all smiles and whistling by the time I encounter a pair of hikers and their two dogs at Slide Brook. I greet them while walking past, then finish my hike. Five and a half miles round trip. An eleven hundred foot ascent. No bugs. Just about as good as a day hike can get.

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Aug 15 2019

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Focus on the Adirondacks

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Have returned home from another 2-day tour of the Adirondacks, similar to last month’s trip. Visited several bookstores to promote my old Northville/Placid hiking narrative, The Allure of Deep Woods, along with my latest book, The Great Wild Silence. Tuesday evening I schmoozed with a couple dozen writers and even more readers during Authors Night at Hoss’s Country Store in Long Lake. That was fun. But just being in the Adirondacks again is what really made the trip worthwhile. How I love that wild country!

Once again, I spent the night in a shelter at John Dillon Park, falling asleep to the call of loons then awakening to them in the morning. The second day, after one last stop at The Book Nook – a new bookstore in Saranac Lake – I climbed Baker Mountain. It’s located right on the edge of town. Only a mile to the summit, though rather steep towards the end. On top I enjoyed a nice view of the High Peaks with Saranac Lake sprawling below.

I’m shifting my focus. After hiking the Cohos Trail through New Hampshire’s White Mountains and beyond, I’m now looking west. Oh sure, I’ll continue visiting familiar places in the Green Mountains right here in Vermont, but what I crave is wide open country, new wild lands to explore during the years to come. I’ve only tramped though half of the Wilderness Areas and Wild Forests inside the Blue Line. I’d like to spend time in them all. With that goal in mind, I have picked up two more maps of the Adirondacks – part of a set of six canvassing the entire park. I now have five.

Six million acres and most of it wild country. The Adirondack Park is roughly the same size at Vermont. Forests, mountains, streams, lakes, ponds and bogs. And a thin network of roads and tourist towns to boot. Plenty to keep me busy during the next decade or so. Looking forward to it.

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Jul 19 2019

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Civilized Camping

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Six years ago I discovered John Dillon Park tucked away in the Adirondacks, just north of Long Lake. Earlier this week I spent a night there again, while out promoting my most recent book, The Great Wild Silence. The place was even nicer than I remembered it being.

John Dillon Park is an unusual phenomenon, owned by International Paper, run by the students at Paul Smith’s College, and open to the public. The entrance to it off Route 30 is easy to miss, and the two-mile unimproved dirt road back to the Welcome Center is a little rough. But all nine shelters are well kept and easily accessible. Only one site can be driven to, but the five- or ten-minute walk to the others along a gravel path is nearly effortless.

“Making the natural landscape of the Adirondacks accessible to everyone,” is the principle behind the place, and both the paths and shelters are handicap accessible. Compost toilets, bear-proof food storage boxes, and bins full of firewood next to a metal fire ring – this is camping at its most civilized, I’d say. Roughing it, yes, but not by much.

I stayed in a shelter overlooking Grampus Lake, listening to a loon calling out at midnight and awakening to a chorus of songbirds in the morning. Only one other shelter was occupied and the air was perfectly still so I enjoyed the deep forest silence while I slept that night. Appropriate accommodations when one considers what I was doing on that trip.

I’d recommend the place to anyone young or old who wants a taste of the wild but doesn’t have the wherewithal to go backpacking. There are carts available in the parking lot for hauling in your stuff. Camping out doesn’t get much easier than that, short of car camping. And it’s free. All you have to do is reserve a shelter in advance.

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Jul 19 2018

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New Adirondack Book in Print

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Five years after the release of The Allure of Deep Woods, I now have a second Adirondack book in print: The Great Wild Silence.  It consists of a dozen short narratives and essays about backpacking in the Adirondacks, along with one rather long narrative about my 5-day sojourn in the West Canada Lakes Wilderness last year.

The Great Wild Silence is the juxtaposition of movement and staying put, of hiking and abstract thought. The main narrative in this collection, “Deep Forest Ruminations,” is a series of meditations on nature and our place in it, braided with observations and routine activities while camped alone at a backcountry lake – just me and my dog Matika, I should say. That’s the second half of the book. The first half sets the stage, recounting various excursions in the Adirondacks over the past 25 years, both alone and with others. Some of the latter pieces first appeared in the ADK publication Adirondac and other periodicals but haven’t been seen since. I’ve extracted others from previous collections of mine. It’s a curious mix to be sure.

If you’re as enamored with the Adirondacks as I am, then you’ll probably enjoy this book. You can order it at my website: woodthrushbooks.com, or you can find it at Amazon.com. Be forewarned, though: there’s a lot of philosophical speculation in this book. It isn’t just about walking in the woods.

 

 

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Jul 23 2017

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Adirondack Retreat

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After driving in out of downpours for 4 hours, then making my way up several miles of partially flooded dirt road, I parked my car at a trailhead and started hiking into the West Canada Lakes Wilderness. My dog Matika was right behind me, just as happy as I was to be slipping into the wild despite a light rain falling.

The rain stopped halfway to Pillsbury Lake but the trail was a stream by then and the forest was soaked. A rumbling in the distance. Hmm… Sounded like another storm approaching. We rolled into the shelter at Pillsbury Lake right before the next big downpour. Surprisingly enough, Matika and I had the place all to ourselves that night. So I strung a line inside the shelter and dried out my wet clothes and gear.

The next day was a different story: mist in the morning burning off to a warm, sunny day. Buggy, yes, but a nice day all the same. I looked around for a good place to camp but didn’t find one. So I spent a second night in the shelter. Again, no one came along.

The idea was to stay put instead of pounding trail, to hang out by a lake for 5-6 days, groove on the wild, and record my thoughts in a journal. That’s exactly what I did. On the third day, Matika and I grew a little restless so we went for a day hike to another lake in the area. That took a few hours. But for the most part we just sat. And we had Pillsbury Lake all to ourselves for a third night.

On day four, I was feeling pretty crunchy. Staying put had mellowed me right out. Ditto Matika. Chipmunks, sparrows, butterflies, and other critters started overrunning the camp. Neither one of us did much about it. Meanwhile, I just kept on scribbling in my journal.

At dusk when I went to put out my campfire and go to bed, I thought I had the place all to myself for a 4th night. But a pair of hikers came along an hour or so later. They were nice enough fellows. Still their sudden appearance broke the spell of my deep woods solitude. There would be more hikers on the way, no doubt, with the weekend fast approaching. So the next day Matika and I hiked out.

It’s hard to say what value the words I wrote in my journal have, or what exactly happened to me while I was out there, but I returned home incredibly relaxed, lighthearted and happy. My wife Judy found that amusing – so amusing that she waited a day before trying to have a serious conversation with me about anything. She saw the wild in my eyes. Hard to miss, I’m sure. Yeah, I went deep this time.

 

 

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Mar 27 2017

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Dreaming West Canada Lakes

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This coming Sunday, I’ll be talking to the Mohawk-Hudson chapter of the Appalachian Mountain Club about the Northville-Placid Trail in the Adirondacks. While going though my slide show for the event, I became transfixed by photos of the West Canada Lakes Wilderness. I plan on spending a week there this coming summer. That trip can’t come fast enough.

I’ve been waiting rather impatiently for the snow to melt off so that I can start hiking again. Looking at photos of the West Canada Lakes is like scratching an itch. There’s no place I like more than the sprawling forests of the southern Adirondacks. Once the snow is gone and the trees leaf out again, I’ll be headed that direction.

I’ve been in the West Canada Lakes Wilderness four times. I first approached it from Wakely Dam in 2002. Went through it on the NPT in 2006, spent a few days there shortly thereafter, and visited Brooktrout Lake a few years ago. Brooktrout Lake, shown above, pulls a close second to West Lake by my way of reckoning. But that entire wilderness area is wild and beautiful and visited by few people compared to, say, the High Peaks. A good place to get lost. Yeah, the West Canada Lakes are right up my alley.

I’m not sure what this says about me. I am drawn to sprawling forests time and again – especially to those places that most other hikers avoid. If I go there, step off the trail and start bushwhacking, it’s that much better. And if I find a backcountry pond with no trail to it, well, then I’m in heaven. These are the thoughts that drift in and out of my mind as I go about my daily work routine, selling books, writing or publishing them. That’s one way of knowing that winter is almost over. Such daydreams are as sure a sign of spring as the first robins.

So enough with the white stuff already. Bring on the cold mud, and let the hiking season begin!

 

 

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Aug 07 2014

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Touring the Adirondacks

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Sacandaga CampYesterday morning I awoke to the sound of the Sacandaga River flowing southward just a few yards from my tent. As I broke camp I marveled at how much of the Adirondacks I’ve seen during the past 14 months while promoting my book, The Allure of Deep Woods. I’ve visited dozens of stores in as many towns, sometimes doing readings or signings. I’ve driven hundreds of miles inside the Blue Line, crossing my own tracks more than once. The task has given me a different perspective on the Adirondack Park, to say the least.

A couple hundred yards north of where I camped, the West Branch of the Sacandaga River joins its main stream. I crossed the West Branch eight years ago while hiking the Northville/Placid Trail. That’s the subject of my book. How strange to be so close to that wilderness experience yet so far away. Adirondack wild country and the web of roads and towns superimposed on it are two closely related yet entirely different things. I’ve come to know the latter quite well during my 14-month book tour.

The folks attending my reading at the Northville Public Library the night before asked me all sorts of questions. I did my best to answer their questions as honestly as possible, but can’t help but feel like I failed them as far as conveying the essence of deep woods goes. I sometimes wonder if my book is any better at that.

The Adirondacks are a vacationland for most people – a playground you could say. That’s a good thing. Any exposure to the natural world is good for the soul. That said, I wish I could relay the deeply religious sentiments that stir within me whenever I roam a wild forest, and inspire others to experience the same. But words only go so far.

 

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Jun 22 2014

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Talking, Not Doing

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HPICYesterday I did something rather strange. I drove to a major trailhead in the Adirondacks to give a presentation at the High Peaks Information Center about hiking the Northville/Placid Trail. After the talk, I spent the night in a walled, canvas tent with my wife Judy and my dog Matika. Then I drove home this morning. Didn’t actually set foot on a trail.

Such is the life of an outdoor/nature writer out promoting his work. In this particular case, I was promoting my NPT hiking narrative, The Allure of Deep Woods. Since I was in the Adirondacks, it made sense to be talking about hiking in the Adirondacks. All the same, there’s a big difference between talking and doing.

I haven’t been feeling well lately. Just a little pain in the gut that will probably amount to nothing. Judy accompanied me just in case it developed into something serious.

Our campground neighbors were chatty last night. Temps dropped into the low 40s. Judy crawled out of bed this morning all disheveled, looking like she hadn’t slept well. But I didn’t fully appreciate her sacrifice until she emerged from the restroom a while later, carrying a toiletry bag with the phrase “J’aime Paris” written on it.

On the way home we stopped at a small park where I tossed the ball for the Matika. Judy sat on a rock for a while watching the Ausable River rush along beneath a mostly sunny sky. It was a compensation of sorts, certainly. On the second day of summer, neither one of us is inclined to complain. As for Matika, well, she goes with the flow no matter what.

 

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Feb 23 2014

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Deep Woods Talk

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Trail into WCLW copyOn Saturday, March 8th, I’ll be talking about the Northville/Placid Trail to my fellow Green Mountain Club members. I’m excited by the prospect. This will be my first time presenting to the GMC, and my first time using visuals.  Judy has helped me put together a slide show. If you live anywhere near the GMC Visitor Center in Waterbury Center, VT then come on down. $5 fee for members. $8 for non-members. The event starts at 7 pm.

If you miss that show, I’ll be at Stowe Library at 7 pm on Thursday, March 27th, doing something similar, reading from my NPT hiking narrative, The Allure of Deep Woods, and talking about the importance of wildness. As many of you know all too well, talking comes naturally to me.

While I’d rather be on the trail winding through the Adirondacks, talking about it with like-minded others is the next best thing. Like many Vermonters, I sometimes forego the lush, green mountains close to home for the sprawling forests on the other side of Lake Champlain. It’s a good thing to share.

When it comes to Adirondack wildness, the Northville/Placid Trail is the way to go. There are lots of people in the High Peaks region, especially during the summer. But it isn’t difficult to experience wilderness solitude on the NPT. That’s why I don’t mind talking about it. The NPT is the less-traveled path.

 

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Aug 18 2013

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The Wild for Everyone

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John Dillon ParkAs I go around talking about the deep woods and all it has to offer, I often think about those who can’t reach it. One has to be ambulatory and in relatively good shape to hike several miles into a wilderness area. But there are ways that even people who use a wheelchair can access the wild.

Everything at John Dillon Park is handicap accessible – the shelters, trails, picnic areas, fishing access and kayak dock. Located on land owned by International Paper, halfway between Tupper Lake and Long Lake in the Adirondacks, this is one of the nicest parks I’ve ever seen. And the folks at Paul Smith College do a great job managing it.

I stayed overnight here while promoting my book last week. I was amazed by the place. At the end of a two-mile dirt road, John Dillon Park rests on the shores of Grampus Lake. Here anyone can experience the wonder and beauty of the northern forest. With free firewood, storage bins for food and trash, composting toilets, and potable water, it is primitive camping at its best.

At first I was hesitant to stay here, not wanting to take a shelter away from someone who could put it to better use. But this small, private park, only seven years old, is underutilized. So check out the John Dillon Park website and spread the word.

 

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