Northville Placid Trail

Here’s our trip wrap-up from last week.

A bit long, but if any of it helps here I figure I’d post it. I tried to remember all the details. Having Dexter to lean on at times was, for me, the most important thing about the whole trip.

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Final push to the finish…

Without her I may have tapped out in Piseco. She said the same about me, so maybe having at least one other person along will help. The trail can be a mental chess game at times (OMG, ARE WE CLOSE YET???), so support was, for us, essential. So this is just from our POV….

Pics first? SURE! Check out the Flickr gallery!

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Planning for the NPT started a few months ago. It wasn’t our intention to sprint from point to point, but we’re both fairly quick hikers, we didn’t have a lot of time to be away from home, and some of the NPT just lends itself to a quicker pace. We figured 7 to 8 days, and we had to be at the 46er banquet on May 29th in Lake Placid anyway. So why not walk there!

I found my old handheld Garmin and downloaded way points from Caltopo and the NPT site. We bought the book and the map and studied it, and came up with a decent itinerary and meal plan.
Our most important things on the trip were the Ohuhu Potable Stainless Steel Wood Burning Camping Stove, the MSR MiniWorks EX Microfilter, and the Kelty Grand Mesa 2 Tent. The tent was very comfortable for the two of us, although there was no room to bring our packs in. The weather was beautiful except for the first night so it didn’t really matter. We kept our boots under the rainfly outside the door. The filter was nothing short of wonderful. It pumps water very quickly and filled our Nalgenes fast enough that we weren’t sitting there waiting to drink. The hand pump was easy to use so I didn’t get fatigued just trying to use it, and the filter cleaned easily with the scrubber. We forgot a secondary filter unit as a backup, but never had to as the MSR performed incredibly the whole trip. For cooking, the Ohuhu stove was amazing. You set it up, throw some twigs in there, light it, and it boils water fast. Keep adding sticks as you need and it’ll stay lit until your done. It was pretty light weight, but worth it no matter what to us.
For food we had clif bars, energy bars, raisins, dried fruit, trail mix, ramen, mac & cheese, and tuna or salmon packets to add to our noodles. Darcy’s pack weighed about 25 pounds and mine weighed 38 pounds, and mailing a box to Piseco helped tremendously. We only carried Saturday lunch through Monday dinner, then resupplied for Tuesday through Saturday morning. The thing we wished we had much more of was powdered Gatorade mix. Oh how we missed it when it was gone!
Foot care! I can’t stress enough about foot care. Once we felt a hotspot on our foot we should have stopped, dried the area, put nu-skin on it, and covered it with a band-aid. Sometimes we did (such as my right heel), but sometimes didn’t (such as my left heel). My left heel is now a red mess of missing skin. :/
As you probably know, the trail is incredibly remote in places. We didn’t see many faces, and sometimes went more than 24 hours with seeing anyone at all. It was both wondrous and daunting.

Saturday, May 21 6:30 am.
Day 1
Left the register behind and began our road walk. The walk isn’t bad and allowed us time to adjust. Beautiful morning.
We got to West Stony Creek and saw a guy on the other side while we put our water shoes on to ford. He came across and we chatted a bit. Jim was his name, and he had the whitest teeth!
No problem fording, and we continued on. At Benson road we took a break.
We got through Wood’s Lake and here the trail seemed a bit harder to follow at times. We had to look back at trees often to see the NPT markers facing for SOBO’ers as there fewer to follow for us NOBO’ers.
We finally got to Rock Lake and set up camp in a slight rain. It was about 7:30. One other tent was there. We cooked dinner and filtered water here. I’m pretty much thirsty a lot. Probably my least favorite site of the trip. The coyotes tried to get in the bear can and raised hell for awhile before giving up. Scared the crap out of me but Darcy slept on through it. Total mileage around 22.1 miles.

Sunday, May 22 8:30am
Day 2
In the morning we broke camp after coffee and oatmeal, chatted with our site mate Mike, and then left for Hamilton Lake Stream LT. Our feet were a bit sore so we stopped more often. Silver Lake and Canary Pond were beautiful spots. Mud Lake was as well, better than Rock Lake for sure. At the footbridge near Whitehouse we saw a couple and their dog and chatted a bit. At the end of the bridge is a huge old chimney where we took a break. Then we continued on to Hamilton Lake Stream LT. After cooking dinner there and filtering water, it downpoured for awhile but stopped after about 15 minutes. Darcy’s feet took a beating and we did some foot care before bed. Total mileage today around 14.2 miles.

Monday, May 23 7am
Day 3
We got up and had breakfast bars, then put nu-skin, band-aids, and duct-tape on Darcy’s feet. I felt a hot spot on my heel so put the nu-skin on as well. We talked about the trip and breaking it into section hikes rather than keep going, but decided to drive on. Mentally, the miles ahead of us were much heavier than those behind us.
We got to Piseco quickly, stopping at Casey’s store to grab coffee and other items. Not much, but a lot of $$$! We met a guy there named Randy who was incredibly nice.
At the post office we waited for it to open to get our resupply box. Two older women told us about the restrooms at the airport and they’re available to use if we wanted. We didn’t need to, and the PO opened anyway. We got our box and the wonderful lady there took all our trash away for us.
We marched on and saw a SOBO’er near the register, then headed into the woods again. We took a quick break at Spruce Lake #1, but decided to go to #3. We had the whole lake to ourselves, and it was absolutely stunning. Great sunset! There were, however, quite a few leeches in the shallow water. Filtered water, ate dinner, and took alot of photos. Did quite a bit of foot care too. One thing I’m aware of is my urine is getting dark, so I need more water. We’re almost out of Gatorade powder. The night was a bit more noisy. Beavers slapping their tails on the water, loons, but the worst are the coyotes. One ran right past us as we drifted to sleep. Total mileage around 17.2 miles.

Tuesday, May 24 7:45 (my 45th birthday!)
Day 4
Woke up to Darcy singing happy birthday to me! It was a beautiful morning on the lake and we had coffee and breakfast. The miles were not kind to our feet so we did the typical med work. Nu-skin, band-aids, and duct-tape. Mine weren’t too bad though. Darcy’s were. We headed out, passing through South Lake and West Lake, which is beautiful. We filtered here and rested, then continued on. We saw a group of 3, then a group of 2, all SOBO. Somewhere along the way we passed a beaver dam, and working my way across the rocks in the water I slipped and spun around, coming down on my arm. Hurt like hell but everything seemed fine after a quick check. Eventually we made it to the intersection for the Carry LT, but since it said Cedar River LT, we just weren’t sure. After checking the map vs. the GPS, we figured we were in the right spot. It was beautiful here and so peaceful. We ate, filtered water, made a fire and relaxed. By far the best sleep I had so far out here. Total mileage today was approximately 18 miles.

Wednesday, May 25 7am
Day 5
We got up and skipped coffee, hoping to get to Tirrell Pond LT today. After a mile we got to what was thought to be a dirt road on the map but it’s just more trail. The trail stays like that until it intersects with an actual dirt road just south of Wakely Dam. We were going to try to stay here last night, but so glad we didn’t. The black flies are now noticeable for the first time, as are the mosquitoes. We followed the dirt road awhile, and on the map it looks like you turn left at a trail that’s handicap accessible and for fishing. We did, but after a hundred feet in or so back-tracked out to the road, continuing north to the sign where you actually go into the woods. Once in the trail we found lots of bear poop everywhere. The trail was a bit sporadic here, at times hard to follow as there seemed to be old jeep trails around. Near Stephen’s Pond we hit an incredible amount of deadfall, blow-down, and wet areas. At Lake Durant Darcy lost her head net, but coming into the campsites we saw a beautiful thing: A TAP WITH RUNNING WATER!!! I’m constantly thirsty even though we do stop to drink and filter often. I just don’t think I keep up with the need as best I should. We filled out Nalgenes up and had a snack at a picnic table. The first time we sat at a table since last Saturday. Soon we were passing by the caretaker’s house, and we stopped to chat. The guy there gave Darcy his head net, becoming yet another wonderful trail angel to us. We crossed route 28 and made it to Tirrell Pond. On the map I thought it was off on a side trail coming from the south. It’s not. It’s on the trail just north of the beach. Good spot, but the chipmunks are used to people it appears, and will come into the lean-to with you. We had a good dinner, good fire, and more foot care tonight. Mentally we’re fine, but the feet are taking a beating. We’re both using duct-tape now, but today felt pretty good. Good sleep, and a quiet night. Total mileage was around 21.2 miles.

Thursday, May 26 6:30
Day 6
We woke up and skipped coffee. We were back on our original itinerary so wanted to get to Kelly’s Point. There’s a climb coming out of Tirrell Pond so we wanted an early start, and while the climbing was a bit tough with packs, it wasn’t bad and was over quickly. The scenic overlook wasn’t to be. At least we didn’t see it. Darcy sent a message to our friend in Long Lake hoping she could meet us with Gatorade and more band-aids, but it didn’t appear to go through even though we had service. We hiked down to the trail head and she was there! I was so happy I almost cried. Doreen our trail angel had our requested items, and then went to get more. I plowed through two burgers and two Gatorades. Darcy had cherries, a banana, Gatorade, and pumpkin seeds. It was wonderful, and she didn’t even complain about our smell when we hugged her!
We said goodbye and made our way through a great stretch of trail along Long Lake, passing a clean looking day hiker. We were filthy, and by now the black flies were fairly constant, though not maddeningly so. We stopped at Kelly’s Point but it was full of boaters, so we just ate by the water and moved on. We were going to stop at Rodney’s Point but there were no signs that we saw, and after checking the GPS figured Plumley’s #2 LT was closer. We passed a screened room in the middle of the woods, not knowing what to make of it, and shortly came to our home for the night. Plumley’s #2 LT was by far the most beautiful of our stays. We had it to ourselves, with a great lean-to, benches, and two small private beaches. The flies were out but not bad, and we had a good camp fire going. Although the skies looked initially threatening, nothing came of it and we were treated to a beautiful sunset.
Throughout the day Darcy and I had deep conversations, laughed, sang songs, and felt pretty good physically and mentally. Little did we know what the next two days were going to bring. Total mileage around 18 miles.

Friday, May 27 8:15
Day 7
We got up to beautiful warm weather. Reading the NPT book and looking at the map we were excited to be 28.8 miles from Lake Placid, but knew the terrain would be “rugged”. It was not bad at first, but then the heat came, and the terrain indeed got tougher. We saw a grey fox jump away and disappear behind some fallen trees; our first actual wildlife sighting! We passed an old picnic table and fireplace near Shattuck’s Clearing, and saw a big plastic holding tank in the woods, pondering its use. At the Rondeau hermitage we stopped, then pushed on. The heat made it difficult, and coupled with our sore feet we just wanted to make it to Moose Pond LT by nightfall, making our last hike short and “easy”. The terrain became increasingly difficult, and mentally everything was starting to fray. We knew we couldn’t get to Moose Pond, and our back up plan was Duck Hole LT #1. Exhausted, we got to Duck Hole LT and found there were sleeping bags and gear in it. We made camp nearby, filtered water and drank it, filtered more, then made dinner. We were in our bags by 7:30, but after hearing the LT occupants come back, greeted them and their dog. We fell asleep, ready to get up early and finish. Total mileage was a grueling 16.2 miles.

Saturday, May 28 6am
Day 8
We got up, filtered water, ate a breakfast bar, and packed. The trail out was pretty rugged and the pace was slow. We stopped at Moose Pond lean-to for a food and water break, then started off again. We knew storms were a possibility today or tomorrow, but the heat was the big concern. That and our feet. The uphill hiking had now split a large blister in my heel, and the uneven terrain didn’t help. We stopped at the foot bridge near Wanika Falls, taking in the cooler air on the rock by the water. We stayed awhile, but then moved on. The final 6 miles lasted forever it seemed. I thought I heard traffic but didn’t, saw a car, our heard voices, but didn’t. We saw a day hiker hoping to hit Street and Nye. Finally, around 12:30pm, we reached the trail register at Averyville Road. We were so exhausted, happy, overwhelmed, ecstatic. But then we still had to keep walking. At least it wasn’t on the trail anymore. I was so sick of getting spider webs in my face by then. That’s why I really used the head net!
We walked about a half mile and another trail angel stopped to offer a ride to Old Military Road so we hopped in. From there we still had to walk to Colden Avenue where my Jeep was parked. We got to our weekend rental, grabbed the jeep and went to get 4 bottles of Gatorade, a bottle of wine, and two foot long subs. After downing that and showering, we crashed in bed for four hours, waking to eat a pizza and drinking more water. Lights out at 10 pm.
Total mileage about 12.8 miles.

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