Being handy is just not my thing. I cannot fix my car, beyond changing a tire or checking the oil. Building things out of wood or metal is as easy for me as is going to Mars. Furthermore, in any incident where pulling a MacGyver is required, I am lucky if I can manage a MacGruber.
Certainly, there is no way I could ever hope to build my own outdoor gear. Yet, I managed to build my a backpacking stove a few year ago. And, it turned out to be the best and most lightweight stove I ever used in the backcountry. Moreover, it has never exploded, or engulfed anything into flames unintentionally – yet. » Continue Reading.
I hope you got the idea from the Dispatch two weeks ago that I put a premium on cooking real food over saving weight when I’m in the wilderness.
It’s no contest; I love to eat well when I camp, no matter the circumstances.
Admittedly Lost Brook Tract affords me a real advantage because we have a lean-to and a fire ring with which to maintain a permanent base camp. In fact during our first summer trip there, in addition to lots of tools, supplies and the makings for Shay’s Privy, we hauled in a primo cooking setup. It consisted of a large, heavy-duty two-burner stove, tubing, a propane gas distribution pipe and a screw-on lantern at the top.
Some hiker noticed my load at the trail head when I hauled in the propane tank, one of those deals you usually see mounted on the front of an RV. Their look of scorn and derision was forgotten as soon as I fired this deal up for the first time. » Continue Reading.
Praise the fates! Throw your arms skyward! Since we last got together I have undergone one of the greatest miracles of this or any other life, a staggering experience, a profoundly humbling event, a happening that left me weeping with joy and gratefulness, trembling with disbelief and awe almost beyond description: I just spent three days on Lost Brook Tract, in late May, with unseasonably warm, sunny, humid and windless conditions and as far as I can tell I suffered two black fly bites.
Those of you who do not understand why I am raving about that should forget the Almanack and go peruse the Perez Hilton website instead. » Continue Reading.
A recent bear attack in Canada may have literally scared the living crap out of a man, in a story that should give every backcountry enthusiast pause before squatting in the woods again. Beware; reading further may just ruin one of nature’s most pleasurable experiences in the outdoors for evermore.
Recently, a Canadian man was attacked by a black bear, while minding his own business in an outhouse in central Canada. The bear pulled him right off the crapper by his pants, which were, naturally, down around his ankles. The man apparently fought back with nothing but his will to live, and some extra toilet paper. Luckily, his companion heard all the yelling and shot the bear before it had a chance to do any serious damage. » Continue Reading.
Hiking injuries happen from time to time. That is one of the many risks of journeying into the Adirondack backcountry while carrying a heavy, bulging backpack. The only thing worse than a hiking injury, is an unexpected and unrelated injury preventing one from the opportunity of getting a hiking injury. Despite the source of the injury, the recovery period can be very difficult.
How should an outdoor enthusiast spend their convalescence?
Although it is easy to descend into an abyss of negative feelings, avoid this at all costs. Instead of closing the window blinds, watching hours of Game of Thrones episodes, and listening to psychedelic Pink Floyd music, make the most of this down time and do something positive. Like preparing for future adventures, or at the very least, revisiting previous trips in an attempt to lift one’s spirits. » Continue Reading.
Hikers’ sweaty feet are one of my favorite things. Especially, when their hiking boots do not fit correctly or are not properly broken in. Their soft, damp skin rubs against the sides of unyielding boots, giving birth to my nascent self. Layers of skin separate, and the space between these layers fills with liquid. This is when I take control.
I am a blister. And I want nothing more than to ruin your outdoor experience.
Let’s face it, blisters suck. There is just no getting around this fact. Anyone who has ever suffered through a long hike with one or more on their heel or toe knows this all too well. Once they begin to form there is almost nothing that can be done to reverse the process, short of several weeks of rest and an absolute absence of rubbing. These conditions are nearly impossible to be had in the middle of the Adirondack backcountry, days from the nearest trailhead. » Continue Reading.
Of all the deep, wild urges rooting around in my head (god knows there is a subject that could turn away scores of readers), said urges being imbued in every way with the powerful, primeval pull of the Adirondack landscape, the strongest has always been trailblazing.
The fantasy of traveling on foot into parts unknown, marking a path like a scout of lore, has been the adventure that has most fired my imagination and passion. It is simply the most romantic thing of which I can conceive. » Continue Reading.
Ever return from an Adirondack backcountry trip with a headache, sore eyes or a painful neck? Do you find yourself squinting while reading a map or compass? Have you ever found yourself somewhere totally different than where you thought you should be? Are you reaching, or firmly established in, middle age?
If any of these are even remotely true, then a pair of lightweight, durable and inexpensive reading glasses is in your future. Luckily, I recently discovered just the pair of backcountry reading glasses even your ophthalmologist would approve. That is, as long as he or she is an outdoor enthusiast. Middle-aged outdoors people often find it difficult reading maps, compasses, handheld GPSs or anything else with fine print. This is no cause for panic though. The loss of close focusing ability is a natural part of aging. Now, panicking about reaching middle-age, that is perfectly understandable, and extremely warranted.
The loss of close focusing ability is called presbyopia. This condition is caused by the hardening of the lens inside the eyes, which occurs with age, and just coincidentally begins around the time most reach their mid-life crisis.
Presbyopia results in the slow degradation of the eye’s ability to focus on things close, including unfortunately, maps, compasses, GPSs, and a whole host of other contraptions backcountry explorers relay upon during their recreational pursuits in the woods. Also, it results in backcountry enthusiasts’ sore necks when they wear contraptions on short lanyards around their necks.
Presbyopia became a real problem for me when I found myself getting a sore neck at the end of every day of bushwhacking through the Adirondacks. The frequent sore necks went without explanation, until I found myself holding my GPS and compass beyond the length of their lanyards while they were still around my poor neck.
After that, I always carried a pair of folding reading glasses to deal with presbyopia. And I obtained some longer lanyards too, since I hated constantly getting the reading glasses out to figure out where the heck I was located. The glasses were still convenient for those increasingly frequent moments when it was necessary to read fine print or almost anything this side of a billboard within dim light. These folding glasses proved useful, but they were fragile, so I always took great care not to break, and thus rarely took them out while navigating. If only there was an inexpensive pair of reading glasses that I could carry in my pocket without the risk of them breaking right when I need them.
Luckily, Christmas came early this year (or was it late?), when on a recent backpacking trip down in the Adirondack’s little sister (i.e. the Catskills), I was presented with a remarkable solution to reading glasses in the backcountry. These reading glasses are smaller than a credit card, nearly indestructible (within limits) and require absolutely no folding.
Advantage Lenses, LLC manufactures the i4uLenses credit card size reading glasses perfect for use in the backcountry. They are actually less than the size of a credit card (and just a little thicker), flexible enough to fit a wide range of noses, durable, shatterproof and highly adjustable. What else could one want in a pair of backcountry reading glasses? That is, not to have the need for them, of course.
The i4uLenses reading glasses have no frame to break of bend. They are simply pressed onto the bridge of the nose about mid-way down, where they just pinch onto the nose.
Getting used to looking through the i4uLenses may take some time. Unlike regular reading glasses, the lenses are not right up near the eyes, but are down closer to the tip of the nose, like an old person’s bifocals. Wearing them may seem even more awkward to those who were born with excellent vision for most of their life – until now.
The i4uLenses make reading maps, compasses, etc. in the dim light of a headlamp in a tent or lean-to convenient and carefree. Just do not drop them onto the forest floor, or you may just find yourself sweating through minute of searching on your hands and knees to find them, especially without your glasses to assist you.
With the i4uLenses credit card size reading glasses, fragility is no longer an issue. Their plastic nature makes them nearly indestructible (but do not try too hard). Now, they can be carried easily in the front chest pocket, and whipped out in a moment’s notice to read a map, GPS device or anything else with print ill-suited for a middle-aged person.
Careful handling of the i4uLenses is necessary when the hands are covered in bug repellent residue. The lenses are plastic, and therefore repellents may damage them. Touching the lenses is a bad idea regardless, since that is the part typically looked through.
A plastic carrying case is available to protect the lenses from scratches, dirt and other assorted ill conduct.
i4uLenses credit card size emergency reading glasses are relatively inexpensive, they retail for $6.95 here.
For those suffering through the effects of presbyopia, i4uLenses are a convenient solution. These credit card size reading glasses are lightweight, about the size and width of a credit card, and are nearly indestructible, making them a perfect optical solution for backcountry enthusiasts. The only bad thing about them – you will look like an old fogie wearing them.
Photo: i4uLenses credit card size reading glasses by Dan Crane.
Imagine hiking for hours, and the nearest thing passing for a restroom is miles away. And then you feel it. Some call it the spike, others the turtlehead. It means one thing; it is time to answer nature’s call and there is no other choice but to poop in the woods.
One of the most awkward aspects of enjoying the Adirondack backcountry, and consequently one that elicits the most curiosity, is just how does one poop in the woods. My answer is always the same with regards to the Adirondacks: very carefully and as quickly as possible. Pooping in the woods can be a dangerous endeavor, as it leaves one vulnerable to a whole host of possible attacks. A mischievous fellow hiker with a camera, a black bear with poor judgment in search of something good to eat or even an innocent snake minding its own business but in the wrong place at the wrong time. Worst of all, and probably the most common hazard, is a horde of any of the assortment of biting flies.
A bare butt hanging out as one takes care of business is like a giant bull’s-eye in the forest to a hungry female mosquito, black fly or deer fly. For that reason alone, it is of the utmost importance to get through the entire process as quickly as possible. Always wait until the very last minute before going, as this minimizes the amount of time where one’s butt, and other stuff, is exposed for as little time as possible. Prevent any possible biting by waving a free hand around the more sensitive parts to scare off any hovering flies. Take it from experience; getting bit on one’s privates is definitely something to be avoided!
The mechanics of taking a poop in the Adirondacks are pretty clear. If an outhouse is available then do your business there; it is way more comfortable and a lot more convenient. Keeping the door open while going may be necessary given the popularity of the area, and the time and potency of the last occupant. Afterwards, throw a handful of leaf litter onto your deposit to facilitate decomposition and control the aroma.
When no facilities are available, find a private place 150 feet from water, trail or campsite, and dig a cat-hole 6-8 inches deep. Do your business, throw a few leaves on it and then bury it with the soil from the hole.
Throwing leaves in the hole helps to aid decomposition, especially in the slight case where the mineral soil may be close to the surface. This is usually not likely within the Adirondacks unless you happen to be in an area where the mineral soil is located near the surface (e.g. an old tip-up mound or near a rockslide).
Luckily, no special equipment is necessary for pooping in the Adirondacks backcountry. Some outdoor enthusiasts swear by using a plastic trowel for digging the cats-hole, but this is usually unnecessary with the deep, damp organic layer typically found in the Adirondack soils. A nice sturdy branch, located as I scramble to find an adequate place, always works well for me, except for the few times they break during the my furious digging.
Once the wiping is finished, the toilet paper can be tossed in the hole with your waste. Following strict leave no trace guidelines, the toilet paper should be packed out. In the Adirondacks, I find carrying out the toilet paper to be unnecessary with the moist conditions present in the Adirondacks; toilet paper should decompose rapidly. It is best to use white, cheaper, 1-ply paper, preferably without all the added chemicals of the popular brands. Peeing on the used toilet paper afterward, or poking it with the digging stick, helps to compact it and prevent it from working itself up to the surface.
The best place to deposit your waste is a raised area with little vegetation in an upland habitat. A raised area avoids the possibility of the waste sitting in a pool of water after a heavy rain, and therefore retarding decomposition. Digging your cats-hole in an area devoid of vegetation reduces the amount of disturbance, which is always a good thing in the backcountry.
Positioning during the dirty deed is crucial. There is nothing worse than getting waste on yourself, or falling back into it. My preferred position is the traditional squat. This position requires strong ankles and a good sense of balance. Without those two, there can be some disastrous results. For those needing additional support can position themselves in front of a small tree, holding the tree’s stem for added support. Unfortunately, this limits the number of possible sites. Using hiking poles, stuck in the ground, can be substituted for the tree stem and therefore providing my choice in locating an adequate place.
Some people swear by using a log as a seat, with their butt sticking over the log and the cats-hole dug below. This really limits the number of possible places to go, and in an emergency situation could be a real problem. Sitting on a wet log or having the log break or fall apart in the middle of your bathroom break are just two of the additional hazards that could possibly upset what should be a relieving experience.
Most of these suggestions are only applicable during the warmer months of the year; a winter dump is a whole new ballgame. With the ground usually frozen, and most likely buried under feet of snow, makes a different method of fecal disposal necessary. And unfortunately, it requires packing out the poop.
A good choice for packing out your fecal material is a commercial product such as a WAG bag. These kits are often required in very high use areas where rich, moist soils are rare or nonexistent. The kit consists of an outer, puncture resistant zip-closed plastic bag, a poop bag with a gelling substance for those runny occasions (it also facilitates decomposition and reduces odor), toilet paper and hand sanitizer.
Another option is to make your own waste disposal system. Sometimes this method is referred to as a poop burrito. Twenty inch square pieces of waxed paper and brown butcher paper are placed on the ground with the waxed paper between yourself and the butcher paper. After doing your business, roll up the paper burrito style and place the burrito in a paper bag.
A perfect container for this fecal package is a piece of PVC pipe, threaded at both ends with screw-on caps. Just screw off one cap, place the fecal bag inside and screw the cap back on. This prevents the contents from coming into contact with any other equipment. The PVC pipe can be carried strapped onto the outside of one’s backpack too. The contents can be conveniently disposed of upon returning to civilization.
There is no denying that pooping in the woods is one of the least appealing aspects of spending time in the backcountry. But, unfortunately, it is a biological necessity that must be attended to and planned for if civilization is to be left behind for a few days. Instead of dwelling on the negative, imagine the sweet relief afterwards, not to mention it is the only time it is socially acceptable for an adult to play with their own waste.
Photos: Shoulder of Greenfield Mountain in the Five Ponds Wilderness by Dan Crane.
It was New Year’s Eve 2010, our first visit to Lost Brook Tract, just two days after we had closed on the property. I was standing in four feet of snow, contemplating potential trouble. I had bushwhacked down from the small plateau that marks the low point of our land, trying to get a feel for the ridge upon which it lay so that I could solidify the route in my mind.
My family and I had been guided in by Vinny McClelland the first time and on the way I had a noted couple of tricky spots. I was glad for the deep snow that provided sure tracks back to camp for at that moment I stood at one of those locations that raises the pulses of off-trail adventurers. » Continue Reading.
What is eight miles long, black as ink, wet all over, rarely seen and present in the northwestern Adirondacks? The Robinson River, of course!
This narrow river snakes its way through the middle of the Five Ponds Wilderness Area, stretching from Crooked Lake and flowing into the East Branch of the Oswegatchie River, well upstream from High Falls. It is rarely visited by people, due to its remote location and distance from any trail. Scattered pockets of blowdown, from the 1995 Microburst, guard much of the river, increasing the effort required to reach its border and appreciate its beauty.
The Robinson begins its life as a narrow, rocky stream, where it acts as the main outlet of Crooked Lake. From its headwaters, the river undulates north alternating between being surrounded by forests and beaver meadow for about half its length before making a sudden turn east. Eventually the river reaches its inevitable destination at the Oswegatchie River.
Along the river’s first half it flows through several features of interest. It flows just south of Toad Pond, through an open shrubby area where once a single engine plane crashed back in the 1940’s. Just north of Toad Pond the river flows through Sliding Falls, where near-impenetrable blowdowns surround on both sides. Between the falls and its sharp turn east, an extensive forested swamp straddles the river.
I feel fortunate to have encountered the Robinson River several times over the past couple years. Given my typical mode of transportation through this area, the river is often perceived as either an obstacle to cross or a feature of the landscape to follow to an eventual destination. Conveniently, the river flows through many narrow, rocky drainages allowing for some relatively easy crossings. The beaver dams, old and new, lies along its run when a rocky-hop is not available.
While traveling to Stillwater Reservoir during the summer of 2010, I rock-hopped what was just a stream, mere feet from its source at northern tip of Crooked Lake. The river is narrow and bordered by thick conifers on both sides here. The shallow, rocky stream near its headwaters fails to foreshadow the larger and darker river it becomes further north.
During the same trip, I again crossed the river on a shabby beaver dam a quarter of a mile downstream from its headwaters. From here, I intermittently followed the river upstream all the way to Toad Pond, as it alternated between flowing through forest and open, wet meadows. Often the open grown vegetation was so high and dense as to almost completely obscure the river.
The river flows through a large, open meadow surrounded by several towering, guardian white pines mere yards south of Toad Pond. An cursory search along the western and northern borders of this meadow for evidence of the crashed plane proved unsuccessful during my visit; undoubtedly it is overgrown by now and impossible to find without some knowledge of its general location.
During last summer, the northern portion of Robinson River provided a convenient route on my return trip from Cracker, Gal and West Ponds. A beaver dam acted as a timely bridge immediately upon my arrival where the river leaves a wide, wet and open floodplain and enters the forest for its final mile before flowing into the Oswegatchie. Aerial photographs suggests several beaver dams along its length as it undulates through its northern floodplain, but good luck locating them given the floodplains uneven and densely vegetated border.
Nothing but uninterrupted mature forest borders the Robinson as it follows the southern base of Partlow Mountain. The terrain varied greatly along the river’s northern shore. Along the eastern portion, the landscape rises only several feet from the floodplain before remaining flat for as far as the eye could see; covered in tall mature hardwoods with less understory than typically expected in the Adirondacks.
Along the middle portion there are numerous tendrils of the floodplain, winding their way into the surrounding uplands separated by a steep slope. The contrast between the large, lowland softwoods and the massive hardwoods upslope is striking. From the top of the slope, safely surrounded by hardwoods, it was possible to look directly into the canopy of the softwoods below; obtaining a view seldom seen except by red squirrels and pine martens. The regularly spaced softwoods were surrounded by a dark, green carpet of Sphagnum on the ground, interspersed with shallow open pools of water and clusters of tall ferns. A long-extinct dinosaur would barely look out of place in such a landscape.
The Robinson River offers a convenient avenue for journeying through some of the most remote portions of the northwestern Adirondacks, but if you plan on visiting the way is not easy by any means. The least arduous approach is via a canoe trip up the Oswegatchie River. The easiest route from trail is either from the south terminus of the Red Horse Trail or from the west via either the Sand Lake or Five Ponds Trails. Whichever route taken, bring plenty of bug repellant, plenty of supplies and a whole lot of patience, you will need every bit of it.
Has anyone else had encounters with the Robinson River worth noting? Has anyone ever been to Sliding Falls? Is it worth the effort of the struggling through the dense blowdowns? Have you ever searched the large swamp south of the river’s sudden turn east for boreal bird species? If so, share your observations in the comments below.
Photos: Robinson River’s northern portion, near headwaters and south of Toad Pond by Dan Crane.
Reducing the weight of one’s backpack is essential for journeying into the depth of the Adirondack backcountry, where trails are nonexistent and obstacles plentiful. This is especially true as time passes and endurance of youth gives way to the slower plodding of middle age and beyond. Shouldering less of a burden reduces the stress on the legs resulting in more comfortable hiking, healthier joints and blister-free feet.
Although endlessly counting ounces may be tedious, there is no other way to effectively reduce the weight of a backpack. The simplest solution is carry less stuff. Discard the superfluous, such as a large bowie knife, a cast iron frying pan, or a square egg maker (this is no jest, I witnessed all of these articles packed into the backcountry during my backpacking career). Think small when it comes to those essential items.
When going lightweight is in its nascent stage, initially concentrate on the biggest and bulkiest items. A shelter (e.g. tent), sleeping bag and backpack form a triumvirate of heavy equipment typically carried into the backcountry. Therefore, these big boys are where one should start to shave off the pounds.
Making the switch to lightweight is easier today since most manufacturers appear to be making equipment out of lighter material. Unfortunately, many of them are simply playing lip service to this effort. The majority of their products continue to contain numerous unnecessary “bells and whistles.” Keeping the ounces off one’s back requires jettisoning all but the essential amenities.
The best method for getting exactly what one desires in a piece of backpacking equipment is to make it yourself. Although this notion seems unthinkable to some (at least that’s what the major manufacturers are counting on), it is not as difficult as first imagined. Unfortunately, not everyone has the skills or patience to make their own homemade equipment.
The best alternative for those without the skills or inclination to make their own is to modify manufactured equipment after purchasing it. Since it requires steely nerves to start ripping apart a brand new product to remove unwanted bells and whistles, this option may be just as unrealistic as producing equipment from scratch.
For those unwilling to make their own and unable to disassemble newly purchased manufactured products, the only viable alternative remaining is carefully shopping around to find manufactured equipment that comes as closely to meeting ones needs as possible. Just think small and keep it simple.
The shelter is a great place to start reducing the weight of a fully packed backcountry backpack. The bountiful options available makes it easier than ever to lug around more shelter than absolutely necessary. The tent is the most conventional choice in a portable shelter but often other options (e.g. tarp) weigh less and offer better ventilation.
Avoid carrying more shelter than necessary, if possible. Carrying a three-person tent for a single person results in a heavier burden and a lot of unoccupied and thus unnecessary space at the end of the day. The smaller the shelter, the less weight on one’s back. Think small and save potentially a few pounds.
Any shelter with optional poles is an excellent choice for a lightweight shelter. The backcountry has an almost infinite variety of poles, ripe for the using, if one knows where to find them. Standing trees and their fallen limbs make outstanding poles, and they add nothing to the weight of a backpack. Just take care not to damage any living trees in the process.
My shelter preference is for a modular tarp system; I have not seen the inside of a tent in a decade. The tarp system was manufactured by Golite using Ray Jardine’s designs. The system consists of a tarp (the Cave) and a hanging insect netting interior (the Nest). Trees or sticks function as poles, though sometimes in a pinch I will use my hiking poles. Unfortunately, Golite no longer offers this product (although a tarp kit is available directly from Ray Jardine’s website), though they do have many other lightweight tents currently available.
The sleeping bag is another one of the more weighty backpacking essentials. Its bulk and weight is mostly due to the insulating material that keeps one comfortable and warm on a chilly Adirondack night. Enough insulation is necessary for the lowest potential temperature encountered on a trip but going overboard in this regard can be costly weight-wise. If it gets colder than anticipated long underwear, coats and rain gear may be worn as pajamas.
Choosing down over synthetic insulation is the best way to reduce the weight of a sleeping bag. Down insulates better, is more compressible and weighs much less than the synthetic alternatives. Some may find such a notion complete lunacy in the temperate rainforest known as the Adirondacks, since wet down offers little insulating ability. A waterproof stuff sack, backpack liner and/or pack cover insures a dry down sleeping bag, even in the Adirondacks.
For the last half dozen years, I have almost exclusively slept in the Western Mountaineering’s Highlite sleeping bag during the warmer months of the Adirondacks. It is engineered to be as lightweight as possible, with such features as down insulation, lightweight fabrics and a reduced sized half zipper. Unfortunately, it is offered in only a few sizes and I had to settle for the 6 feet length option. At around 5’8” (and that is with my boots on), this sleeping bag is much too long but I lack the nerves of steel required to do something about it.
Shaving off weight by replacing the backpack with a lighter equivalent is best saved for last. Since the backpack must offer enough support to comfortably carry all the equipment, it is best to pare down the weight of its contents before making the leap to a lightweight equivalent.
Some features to avoid in a backpack are a top pocket, side pockets, metal or plastic stays and even a highly cushioned hip-belt. Although these features might appear essential, they are easily abandoned with some planning. The extra support provided by the stays and highly cushioned hip-belt is unnecessary when the weight of the contents of the backpack is reduced sufficiently.
Reducing the weight of one’s backpack allows for more comfortable hiking and a more enjoyable backcountry experience. Concentrating the initial effort on the larger equipment lays the groundwork for reducing the weight on the less substantial gear. Think small, keep it simple and enjoy a renewed spring in the step on the trail.
Photos: Cave/Nest tarp at Moshier Reservoir, Highlite sleeping bag on Cat Mountain and Pinnacle backpack at Streeter Fishpond by Dan Crane.
Amy and I had tarried too long in town, visiting friends, getting a tour of a local art collection, enjoying a leisurely holiday pace. We did not start the long climb up to Lost Brook Tract until after 2 PM with a scant two hours of daylight remaining. It was an icy climb and even with trekking poles to help lever the ascent our progress was halting. By the time we were three miles in and two thousand feet up, nearing the junction where the way to Lost Brook Tract leaves any hiking trail altogether, it was close to pitch black with spotty freezing rain. We didn’t mind as hiking in the dark is fun. But we were about to be stupid… well, not so much “we” as me. » Continue Reading.
One of the central tenets of backcountry exploration is never venture out on your own. The conventional thinking is hiking/backpacking is a group activity, where individual achievement must take a backseat to safety. This remains a well-held belief, but is it valid? Do the risks of solo backcountry travel outweigh the benefits?
There are many reasons for traveling through the backcountry in a group. Communal meals, sharing equipment, division of camp duties and basic human companionship are just a few advantages of trekking through forests and over mountains with other individuals. » Continue Reading.
The Adirondack backcountry can generate some very peculiar sounds. A bobcat crying, a coyote howling and a pine sawyer chewing are just a few of the strange natural sounds of the remote wilderness. These sounds are often easily identifiable as having a natural source. Unfortunately, the sources of many others remain a mystery.
I heard one of these mysterious sounds several times in different locations in the backcountry of the northwestern Adirondacks over the years. This strange sound turned up again this summer at Cracker Pond, located in the remote part of the Five Ponds Wilderness.
The unexplained sound is a soft modulated hum. It is a subtle sound; often it is difficult to tell whether it is a sound or just a feeling deep down in the pit of the stomach. It is sometimes muffled, as if in the background, and therefore easily overlooked. The nature of the sound is hard to describe, but it is similar to the noise made by a boat crashing through a wave or wake of another boat.
This is not the first time I have heard such a sound. Similar sounds intruded upon several different backcountry trips over the last few years in the northwestern Adirondacks. The sound is not constant, as I have returned to the same locations multiple times without hearing it.
I heard this sound for the first time while visiting the Threemile Beaver Meadow in the western part of the Pepperbox Wilderness. At this time, I presumed the sound was from the turbines at one of the dams to the south along the Beaver River.
Unfortunately, my turbine theory appeared incorrect as I heard the sound at the top of Cat Mountain last year in the northern portion of the Five Ponds Wilderness. This mountain is way too far from the Threemile Beaver Meadow for such a sound to carry that far.
What could this sound be? Where is it coming from? Is it just in my head? If not, is it from a man-made source or a natural one? Does anyone have any theories about this sound? Unidentified flying objects? Clandestine hydrofracking operations? Any explanation from the absurd to the practical would be appreciated.
Strange sounds are a part of the backcountry experience in the Adirondacks. Usually these mysterious sounds have a natural source. Occasionally, an eerie noise is difficult to attribute to a natural phenomenon. Most of these remain a mystery; let us hope this is not one of them.
Photos: Cracker Pond, Threemile Beaver Meadow and View from Cat Mountain by Dan Crane.
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