I’ve been writing about the central role our Eureka Wind River 4 tent played in our family’s life. One reason for its prominence in our stories is its longevity. That sucker was the most resilient tent I’ve ever owned. I mean we beat the hell out of it for more than twenty years and it never failed us. It survived every extreme of Adirondack weather you can imagine plus a couple of doozy storms out west. It survived five people (sometimes six), a dog and various gear crowded in, often sardined up against the walls. It survived inexperienced winter campers learning the hard way that you bivouac tents, not pitch them directly on snow. Even during that vicious final foray on Marble Mountain, it held together. But there was one night in July of 1993 that it survived only by the narrowest of luck. » Continue Reading.
Posts Tagged ‘camping’
My first marriage was a troubled one. There were good moments but it seems that each day held pain and conflict. The ups and downs finally led to a violent dissolution in 1992. But for a brief time in the mid 1980’s there was hope and even some progress. Two acquisitions, one for Christmas of 1984 and one in the following summer, marked that progress. The summer purchase, a Eureka Wind River 4 tent, was an emblem of that progress. The Christmas purchase, a puppy we named Henry, was the very cause.
Anyone who ever met Henry would tell you that he was an extraordinary dog. He was half Golden Retriever, half Irish Setter and he got the best of both breeds. As a puppy he looked indistinguishable from a purebred Golden – in other words, irresistibly adorable – but as he grew, the color, strength and stature of his father, an unusually large Setter, became his. He eventually filled out at nearly a hundred pounds, no fat, in height nearly a head above any Golden I’d ever seen. Physically he was simply a stunning animal, burnished red-gold, strong nose, rippling muscles under his coat, a head-turner everywhere he went. » Continue Reading.
Having a plan is always a good idea. From managing finances for retirement to baking a cake, a plan brings structure and allows for measuring progress. Journeying into the Adirondack backcountry is no different. A plan or itinerary is even more crucial when venturing off trail and into the remote wilderness. It often means the difference between a fantastic experience and a miserable nightmare.
The similarities between planning for a bushwhacking and traditional trail hiking trip are surprisingly many. Both require getting past the anxiety of an empty backpack and selecting the proper gear for the trip. Putting together an itinerary is essential, regardless of the nature of the trip, since it allows for notifying others of the planned destinations and provides a deadline for when others can expect your exodus from the backcountry.
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Amy and I are putting a lot of resources into fixing up our house these days in order to get it on the market. As part of that we have begun to wade into the accumulated years of clutter that have accreted to us. The walk-in cedar closet in which we store all our camping gear is packed from floor to ceiling with an ungainly array of equipment ranging from our current go-to gear to remnants of bug spray untouched for a decade and random utensils we have not taken on a trip since before the millennium (apropos of nothing, I have a powerful urge to have a contest with Dan Crane to see who has the most miscellaneous backpacking stuff).
I tried to thin the inventory once before using a clever strategy of assembling camping kits and giving them to our three boys as gifts, along with good stuff like new tents. But somehow that had little effect; if anything the collection is bigger than before. Soon I will have a second go around, this time with a vengeance: we are going to come to a new life in the Adirondacks in a fresh, Spartan manner, come hell or high water. » Continue Reading.
People often ask me what exactly I do in the Adirondack backcountry during a bushwhacking trip, as if it involves engaging in some arcane art from long ago. I always find this line of questioning a little befuddling, and to this day, I still find myself lacking an adequate response. For the most part, my day remains much the same as any commuter’s, except for the excessive effort involved in struggling through blowdown, hobblebush or other natural impediments, instead of navigating traffic.
A day in the life of a bushwhacker is an interesting one indeed, but not that different from a typical commuter’s. We sleep, eat, defecate and work much like other people, but a bushwhacker’s commute is shorter and a lot more pleasant. Of course, any description of a typical day in the Adirondack backcountry fails to include a rain delay, a trail hike, or other out of the ordinary conditions, despite these happening much more often than we care to admit.
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The Adirondack backcountry contains a plethora of natural gems, such as ponds, lakes, mountains, bogs and beaver meadows. Although many are reachable by trail, the vast majority are islands of remoteness, surrounded by a sea of near-impenetrable forest, just waiting for a human bold enough to venture away from the marked trails to discover them. Few humans ever visit these gems, which undoubtedly suits both the gems themselves and the meager number of visitors just fine.
One of these gems is a small pond found in the southwest corner of the Five Ponds Wilderness. Sitz Pond is its name, and as attractive backcountry ponds go, it ranks up there with the best.
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Some backpacking trips go beyond the ordinary backcountry adventure. Whether due to a single outstanding wildlife sighting, a series of unlikely events, a special chemistry between participants, a scenic location or any combination of these, some trips become legendary, recounted time and time again. These legendary trips eventually develop their own mythology, combining equal amounts of actual events and fictitious hyperbole.
These legendary backcountry trips are not common, but almost anyone who spends enough time in the Adirondack backcountry can expect to experience at least a few during their backpacking career. Typically, these trips involve groups, the dynamics between the participants contributing not only to the memorable trip activities, but also to the numerous retellings where the events morph into the mythological.
This is how tall tales are born.
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With six million acres of valleys, lakes, peaks, and passes, the Adirondack Park of is a big place ripe for big adventures, and no adventure could be bigger than hiking across the entire park, from top to bottom. This 235-mile opportunity to traverse the Adirondacks is being dubbed by former Adirondack Park backcountry ranger Erik Schlimmer the “Trans Adirondack Route”.
Schlimmer’s Trans Adirondack Route pieces together hiking trails, abandoned pathways, snowmobile trails, and dirt and paved roads to travel from Ellenburg Center near the Canadian border to southern Fulton County near Gloversville. During its course the route crosses five wilderness areas, visits fifty bodies of water, climbs three summits, and runs through three settlements. Highlights of the route include Whiteface Mountain, the High Peaks, the Cold River, and Long Lake. » Continue Reading.
The past year was productive for Lean2Rescue, the volunteer organization that helps rebuild and refurbish Adirondack lean-tos and other back-country infrastructure. According to an e-mail sent to volunteers by Paul Delucia, one of Lean2Rescue’s organizers, the group worked on or assessed 16 lean-tos, 3 bridges (Calkins, Windfall Trail #1 and Windfall Trail #2), and the fire tower on Woodhull Mountain.
“All of this happened because of you – a very special group of people willing (and eager) to give up their free time to make the Adirondacks a better place for others,” DeLucia wrote to volunteers. “That speaks volumes about who you are.” He also pointed out the many collaborations with other organizations and groups, including DEC whose partnership he called “the keystone of our success.” DeLucia singled out the DEC Operations Crew at Cranberry Lake for special praise. » Continue Reading.
After four nights at Lost Brook Tract with Amy, two adult sons and our irrepressible dog Henderson, I’m raring to go for another year of Almanacking, though my contributions will be a little less frequent as I bear down with more purpose on the book I’m undertaking.
This stay at Lost Brook Tract was the best ever. The weather conditions and quality of light were the most beautiful I’ve ever experienced in the Adirondacks, to which the photo can attest. It was truly luminous. There was less snow than in past years but no less winter. The temperatures ranged from a positively balmy 35 degrees on the first afternoon to properly Adirondack zero-and-below readings the last two days. For New Year’s Eve I served a bottle of Prosecco we’d carried in. It was frozen. That’s cold. I can report that thawing Prosecco by positioning it next to a flaming birch log flattens it into tepid watery juice faster than any other method I know. Oh well, we had hot chocolate too. And the salmon pasta was “spiced” with a little rye, which thanks to its higher alcohol content resolutely maintained its golden liquidity to the bitter end. » Continue Reading.
Spending time in the Adirondack backcountry requires an entire menagerie of skills, including navigation, endurance and tolerance for being the object of affection for hordes of bloodthirsty flies. Often overlooked are those skills necessary to survive in the wilderness for an extended period without all the convenient gear and compact foods typically carried by most backcountry enthusiasts.
These skills include, but are certainly not limited to, building a shelter, starting a fire and finding something to eat. Although these skills are useful when impressing members of the opposite sex far from civilization, these skills just might mean the difference between life and death when forced to spend a few unexpected days in the remote backcountry.
One important survival skill is locating edible wild foods in the backcountry. Whether lost and in dire need of sustenance or just curious about sampling the local cuisine, knowing what to eat, when and how is crucial to avoid a mouthful of something disgusting, or worse. Although the dense Adirondack forest may appear devoid of anything remotely resembling nourishment, the backcountry is full of nourishing, if not delicious foods, with only the knowledge of where to look for them lacking.
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On my way to our hunting camp last week I was disappointed to see that some the nearby lakes were already iced over. Fortunately, or so it seemed, the channel where we put our boats in the water was open. So, with great optimism we loaded the boat with a few provisions and set off for one last trip to our outpost camp.
Since it was to be my last time on open water for the year, and our last trip in to camp, a sort of sadness came over me. Although the rowing was difficult, it provided plenty of time to just enjoy being there in the moment. Few things bring me more peace than the rhythm of rowing, watching the shoreline go by, one stroke at a time. » Continue Reading.
This Thanksgiving unfolded for me in traditional and typical fashion, promising that the standard playbook would be executed all the way through: take the family to my in-laws, help cook a massive meal for twenty, monitor my Mother for too much wine or too much stimulation (Mom is 92 and can overload either way), overeat, get teary looking at my wife and drive seventy miles home while fighting indigestion and narcolepsy.
By early afternoon all was going to form. How could I possibly have known that an earth-shaking revelation was about to completely overwhelm me? How could I be prepared for the sheer jubilation, the exaltation this imminent moment was going to bring, this profound thunderclap completely sweeping away all the usual familial mediocrity?
But then it happened. The setting was innocent enough: I was in the snowy yard with my brother-in-law Dan, exercising Henderson with a stick, talking about our favorite mutual subject, the Adirondacks. Amy and I were planning to be at Lost Brook Tract just after Christmas and Dan, who had considered coming along and doing some skiing was telling me that his winter visit would have to wait until the following year. “We’re all coming next winter, he said. We’ll come up to your land for a couple days but we’ll get a place for a week. Shay’s a little worried about snowshoeing up there.”
There it was. » Continue Reading.
Winter is associated with migration, hibernation, changes in animal behavior, plants becoming dormant, and humans experiencing special health concerns ranging from hypothermia to seasonal depression. Winter even invokes its own special vocabularies to describe the conditions (e.g. black ice, whiteouts, and corn snow).
Descriptions of winter camping depend on geographic location, opportunities to go camping and desire to impress your friends and relatives. There are groups from northern Canada to the Ozarks that claim winter camping experience, although I am sure their conditions and experiences are greatly different.
How you define winter camping might depend on your definition of ‘winter’. » Continue Reading.
Thanksgiving Day is upon us, and those fortunate enough are gathering with family and friends to gorge themselves on a hearty meal, giving thanks for the bounty enjoyed throughout the year. Tomorrow, many of us will turn around and venture into the shopping wilderness to forage for the best deal on things few of us need, in celebration of the birth of a man who lived over two thousand years ago when people got by with so little.
Just appreciating what we already have seems to be out of vogue these days. Our appetite for stuff appears more insatiable with each passing year. The simple things in life, such as family, friends, and the beauty of the great outdoors are no longer satisfying enough, and hardly a substitute for the newest smart phone, tablet, or new-fangled whatchamacallit.
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