Tirrell Pond - Les's First Backpack

Bob and Les Brenner picked me up on Thursday morning May 8 to head to a trailhead on IP land, deep into their logging territory.  We were planning to go to Spruce Lake after a 4 mile hike.  When we got to the turnoff from Route 30 north of Speculator, the access road was closed.  The trail guide says the roads are closed for 6 weeks in the spring to allow road crews to put the roads right after the spring thaw.  This must be that time. So we went on to Mason Lake, and the access road was closed off from that end also.

We decided to continue on to Indian Lake, then West on route 28 and hike into Tirrell Pond.  There are 2 lean-tos there and a nice campsite about halfway between them.  We were the only vehicle at the parking spot, and no one was signed in

The map and elevation plot of our trek is below, with the elevation drawn left to right from the lean-to out to the road.  You can see that we're following the Northville - Lake Placid Trail, and the size of the O'Neil Flow east of our track.  The elevation scale on the plot is 400', and you can see that there was about 250' variation in the track.  The camp site is about 100' higher than the trailhead.  We parked at the waypoint marked PKDURANT on NY28, and camped at the lean-to marked LTOF.  You can see the summit of Blue Mountain marked on the map to the west of the lean-to.

We arrived at the O'Neil Flow Lean-To about noon, 3.5 miles from the trailhead, and about 1:33 moving time, per the GPS.  There was no one else there. We cooked some soup and coffee for lunch and decided to spend the evening here.

During the afternoon several groups came through.  First, a guy hiking ahead of the rest of his party.  He decided to push on to the next lean-to, at the north end of the pond, about 1.1 miles farther.  Then the rest of that party, another guy and two women.  They were planning some fishing, and one of the girls wanted to swim.  We told her that probably wouldn't happen.

Bob and Les went fishing and I rested a while, although I couldn't sleep, so I gathered firewood for the evening.  They came back, and Bob went to fish downstream.  Les and I talked while a couple of Paul Smiths fellows came through on a through hike from Upper Benson to Lake Placid.  One lived in Upper Benson, the other lives on Averyville Road, and they are classmates.  They pushed on.  Then a single fellow with his dog stopped by.  He was contemplating staying, but also decided to go to the next lean-to.  During the afternoon, we saw some canoers, and found out that a seaplane had deposited a group of eight at the far end of the lake, with 4 canoes, boxes of supplies, and an electric motor for one of the canoes.  The notion that the wilderness can now be crowded by people who don't even have to walk in is a little frustrating.

Bob cooked a wonderful medley of gourmet selections that evening.  It began by cooking lemon pudding, then tying it in a plastic bag and putting it in the stream to chill.  Then he cooked a load of bisquick bread, and while it cooled, a chicken pasta selection.  We dipped chunks of hot bread in the chicken and sauce and pasta noodles, and it was terrific.  Then we finished that off with coffee and pudding, to be topped off with hot cocoa later.

I built a fire after dinner, but it began to sprinkle.  The sprinkle turned into a steady rain, and we got in the lean-to for the night.  During the night we had a thunderstorm, and I saw some of the lightning, but Bob and Les slept through it.  Everything outside was pretty wet in the morning, but we were toasty and dry.


I slept really great last night - I think we all did.  I only had to get out once, and I don't think Bob or Les even heard me.  There were very few bugs around - I think the black flies are just emerging from the winter.  There were mosquitoes around the lean-to, but a little deet took care of that, although Bob is so sweet he got bit on the hand during the night.

We stayed in sleeping bags until after 10.  Then we cooked a little oatmeal and coffee.  Bob went fishing, Les went with him, and I decided to bushwhack up the side of the mountain for a little while.  Not really trying to get anywhere, except into the woods.  I got up the side to about 2400' - our camp at pond level was at 1930', and the summit was about 3960.  So I didn't get very far up it.  Once the slope started to go up, it went up pretty steep.  Certainly not "walking."  The area was littered with huge boulders and blowdowns.  I gave up pretty easily and took a few snapshots, then returned to camp.

Another map shows my bushwhack up the mountain, west from the lean-to, and our fishing expedition along the shore.

No one came in on Friday, which surprised us all.  At about 4 the two couples from Saratoga came out.  They hadn't caught any fish, but said they were jumping out of the water at the north end of the lake.  The GPS said the best fishing time was 6-8 p.m., so we planned to hike to the other end and fish until sundown.  The sun was nearly at the horizon when we took some shots, with Tirrell Mountain across the pond in the background.

Back at camp, we boiled water - it was my night in the kitchen.  I was not nearly as creative as Bob, and we settled for rehydrated beef stew, Velveeta and shells, and snickers bars for dessert.  Bob kicked in some German chocolate cookies, coffee and hot cocoa and we were satiated to repletion.  Then we built a big fire and we got it going good.  With no rain tonight, the fire was still lighting the area when we retired for the night. 


I was up 5 times during the night, so I got no REM deep sleep, but slept good in between trips to the privy.  It must be the caffeine.  Bob was up first, got the food bags and was boiling water for coffee and oatmeal.  It got a little cooler during the night - I saw it at 32 at about 0400.

We did little packing up chores while enjoying the pleasant morning and our coffee.  We used my 11 ounce bottle of fuel and about half of Bob's 22 ounces.  So about 7 ounces per person.  For 2 days.  We didn't cook anything on the fire, but used the stove for everything.

We were about ready to go, not quite, but nearly, when we heard a seaplane approaching in the distance.  We thought it might be going to land to pick those guys up at the north end.  So we scrambled for the lake where I had fished yesterday.  Bob and Les got there before me.  We saw the plane flying along the east shore to the south, and heard it circle.  It was going to land, for sure.  It came in right over our heads, about 50 feet above the tree tops, and landed just north of our position.

We heard it taxi north, but it seemed like it landed awfully far south to be going to the north end.  Bob saw it taxi to the DEC beach, and let more people out, with lots of boxes.  It was really neat to see the plane come in right over our heads, but when I found out it was bringing more "sportsmen" in, I was glad we were leaving.

It was a perfect day for hiking - sunny, a little breeze, comfortable temperature.

It was a great trip!  We drove home through Blue Mountain Lake, and down NY28, through Paddlefest, and stopped in Thendara at The Farm for a sumptuous repast courtesy Les.

2003 May 8-10 Tirrell Pond