A many sectioned hike.
Moose Pond, Duck Hole, Preston Ponds, Henderson Lake, Calamity Brook, Flowed Lands, Lake Colden, Avalanche Lake, Adirondack Loj.
After some quick study I decided I could do this hike in about 12-13 hours and so when she dropped me off at Averyville Parking I told Sylvie to expect me at the Loj between 8 and 9 PM. The section to Moose Pond went well with a mostly dry trail and I wore trail runners. It began raining about half-way in so I stopped and switched from nylon pants to rain pants and put my eVent shell on. When I got to the lean-to it began raining hard so after a 10 minute break I put my rubber Tingley overshoes on top of my runners. I knew anyway that south of Moose Pond the trail would be muddier. There was a guy in the LT who had spent the night and when I said hello he grunted and turned away from me. We exchanged no words and I left silently once I had eaten a half-sandwich and re-organized my pack.
From Moose Pond to the Duck Hole junction the trail was pleasant but there were a lot of muddy sections. I was in the land of the 3K peaks. I had passed Lost Pond Peak and recognized the drainage from between Street and Street SW and then Roaring Brook, whose head waters are Lost Pond, paralleled the trail for a long way. The trail had many short sections where you could stretch out but always they ended abruptly in mud. This was a theme that lasted most of the day. At the junction – Duck Hole straight ahead, Preston Ponds over the high quality bridge spanning Roaring Brook – I checked the map just to be sure and followed the red trail south. Now I began a series of ups and downs and where the trail comes close to Duck Hole I got a nice picture of the plain that was once covered in water.
At Lower Preston Ponds I missed the workaround trail and floundered in a flooded section, losing and finding my way in a rabbit warren of herd paths. The day was cool, windy and rainy and the pond had a cold, brooding look to it. Still in the land of 3k peaks I noted that the trail was pressed tightly up against McNaughton and would follow it for several miles. We tend to focus on the main summit and choose the quickest way up and down but McNaughton is huge and quite convoluted. The land was rugged and there were plenty of cliffs alongside the trail. I was sent sprawling in the mud twice by slimy tree trunks that lurked just under the surface.
Passing by Hunter Pond I heard and saw some ducks and then the trail dropped back down and I was able to stand on the shore of Upper Preston Pond and admire the rugged shoreline. I realized I was now seeing the north end of Henderson Mountain. Again, a quick up and down of Henderson from Bradley Pond Lean-to is barely scratching the surface of this interesting and complicated formation. The descent towards Henderson Lake passed between both McNaughton and Henderson and there were steep and rugged walls on each side. At one point I caught a fleeting glimpse of Henderson Lake 300 feet below me and a couple of miles distant.
When I got to the lean-to I had been out for 6 hours and I was finding the going to be more physically demanding than the map indicated. I immediately (but only briefly!) got naked. Everything except my socks was soaked and I wrung a couple of ounces of water out of my underwear and blissfully put on a dry pair. The eVent jacket was a lot more comfortable than the rain pants although my shirt was about as wet as my underwear. I sat in my stocking feet and warm layers and ate a roast pork sandwich saving one final half for later. The rain had finally stopped so I decided to head out in dry-weather gear but within minutes it started up so I had to stop and pull off my shoes, pants etc. and gear-up for rain. I would have had to put the Tingleys on anyway and it was kind of dumb to have removed them. The Tingleys were far and away the best possible piece of gear I could have brought with me.
My plan was to head to the Loj via Calamity Brook and Lake Colden and at the junction the sign via Indian Pass said “Loj: 6 miles” versus 12 miles for the Calamity Brook option. I was sorely tempted but would not wimp out and turned right. The trail went from bad to worse and I realized my map study had been sketchy. I didn’t notice that in going over the south end of Marshal I would climb 500 feet and then immediately drop back down the same 500. The trail was mostly in a flowing and chunky creek bed and besides being steep involved a lot of rock hopping. I’m sure my altimeter missed a thousand feet of little ups and downs over rocks. However, my calves and ankles registered every rock hop and sloped foot-fall.
The lower Calamity Brook trail was pretty good. I had maintained mild forward pressure all day but I had also taken to speeding up a bit whenever I could, even for the shortest of decent sections. Up to the crossing of Calamity Brook I cruised along at a nice clip. But then the trail became very, very bad with copious mud and flooded sections. Some freshly laid planking was a help but then the trail was so rock-studded and water-logged that planking was unfeasible. My speed dropped and the workload went up. It took forever to reach Flowed Lands and I marveled that anybody would use such a sick trail in non-winter conditions. But there I was.
The sign at Flowed lands said 1.1 miles to Lake Colden Dam and I knew this was one of the worst sections of trail I’d be on all day so I took it real easy and if the sign and my watch are accurate I made 2 mph anyway. At Lake Colden I stopped at a Lean-to for my final half-sandwich and took what I hoped would be a great picture of Avalanche Mountain and Colden with a dark cloud layer. The time indicated I was right on my predicted pace and I kept a move on. I now had a feeling of being on the home stretch but I found the trail to be very rugged and demanding all the way to Avalanche Lake and of course around the lake was tough even if it only took 20 minutes of gentle forward motion. I was feeling tired and my legs were getting heavy. Nearing Avalanche Pass it felt like I had entered a walk-in fridge due to the ice and then it felt like someone turned the heat on when I was past it.
Now as the trails got easier and easier the benefits of trail work and improvements began to make themselves more apparent. The final milestones of Avalanche Camp, Marcy Dam and the Algonquin junction came and went and when I reached the boardwalk before the stand of Red Pines and the 80 foot climb to the Loj who was there waiting for me but Sylvie who had watched my approach on the Spot page! She declined to carry my pack the rest of the way. It was pretty heavy because I had loaded it up with a lot of stuff for training purposes.
What I learned was the importance of stopping as often as required to tweak one’s gear and clothing, that eVent in the rain is far superior than actual rain gear, to apply body-glide regularly and often to avoid chafing in wet weather (when you start to feel it, it’s too late). Also, on long hauls very small details can make a lot of difference.