The plan was to hike into Duck Hole from Corey's on the Ward Brook Truck Trail.   I drove up Thursday night and hiked partway in and then spent Friday at Duck Hole.  I was thinking of scouting around, finally exploring up towards Bradley Pond, or possibly bushwhacking around Duck Hole time, weather and daylight permitting.  Then hike out Sunday.  This was my plan two years ago (2002) but I had a sore knee and did not execute it then.  I also did not execute it this year either, as you will see.  I did hike to Duck Hole on Friday, then part way back Friday night, then out on Saturday.

The GPS maps and track profiles are below.

I got to the trailhead about 5 p.m.  I knew it would be pushing to get to Duck Hole before dark, but there are many lean-tos along the way.  It was very warm and humid, and soon I was drenched hiking along with a fairly heavy pack.  I reached the Blueberry lean-to, where 3 ladies were getting ready for the evening.  They were going peak-bagging the next day.  We spoke a few minutes and I pushed on.

Next I came to the Ward Brook lean-to, where I found the assistant ranger that was signed in ahead of me.  He was on a four day hike to Newcomb.  His boss, the ranger, had dropped him off.  I had met a ranger's truck coming in from Corey's on the road.  Anyway, we spoke a few more minutes, and I pushed on again.  At the lean-to pair, no one was around, so I decided to stay there for the night.  I hung my bear lines, unpacked, put my bug hut in the first lean-to, and hung my dripping wet clothes in the other lean-to.  I sat at the picnic table and wrote for a while.  These lean-tos are very clean - each one has two brooms in it.  This place should be named Camp Dragonfly - there were dozens of dragonflies hovering around.  I spent a quiet night here after taking a few photos, listening to the babbling of Ward Brook right behind the lean-to.  I'm impressed that as many times as I've hiked by here (at least 6) I have never seen anyone camped here.  I don't think many folks come this way from Corey's past the trails to the Seward peaks.  Lots of people camp at Blueberry and Ward lean-tos to bag those three peaks, but very few people go to Duck Hole this way.  Most of the people that go to Duck Hole are hiking the NLP trail.  This is further evidenced by the eroding track about 3" deep most of the way from Corey's to Ward Brook lean-to, and the fact that the trail is becoming overgrown with maple trees between the wheel tracks of the old Ward Brook Truck Trail.  So that makes this spot, with two lean-tos, a good privy, good water and three sawhorses for tethering horses, a “destination” on my list.

In the morning I boiled water for coffee and oatmeal and packed up.  I was off to Duck Hole before 9, and eagerly anticipating the "alpine meadow" where I saw the bear in 2002.  When I got there, I saw that the trail was slightly under water.  I took more photos before crossing.

Right after taking those shots, I started across the wet section, keeping to the row of bushes on the right edge.  About where you see the log on the right, the water was about 3 feet deep, either side of the log.  I got on the log, then fell off.  Then I lost my balance, and face-planted, my arms straight in front of me, into the mud up to my armpits.  The only things not under water were my head and my pack.  Well, I was soaked, so I got up and plunged through the deepest part.  Climbing up the other side, my arms and legs (hiking in shorts and shirt sleeves rolled up) were covered with a thick, gooey mud, composed of decayed pieces of bark, fungus and beaver feces, in equal parts.  Well, that was pretty yucky.  So I decided it was on to Duck Hole with a hope that no one would be there to laugh at me.  I planned to doff my pack and boots and go in the water, wash my clothes and my self, then see if there were any dry clothes to put on.

I was still an hour and a half from Duck Hole, with sloshing boots, but there was nothing else to do at that point but press on.  I figured my camera was ruined.  I took some photos when I got to Duck Hole, but when I looked at them, they were all glare.  I think there was water inside the lenses.  I hung the camera up to dry.

I was very lucky.  There were two women leaving Duck Hole when I got there.  One had just forded the Cold River right below the dam, and the other was starting across.  One waved to me from the bridge.  I decided to park at the upper lean-to (#2), and took my towel and water filter and canteen down to the bridge.  Off came the boots, and into the water I went.  It was cold water, but it did the trick.  I washed my clothes and got all the mud off.  I was also lucky that it was a very sunny day.  I hung a long clothesline across the meadow in front of the lean-to and hung everything up to dry.  I spent the afternoon reading the journals in the lean-tos and found my entry from 2003.  I also found my entry in the register from 2003 and from 2002.  They moved the register from where it used to be up closer to the trail intersection.  This would prevent unsuspecting and excited NLP hikers from going down near lean-to #1 to sign in, when they really should turn left before getting there.  Probably not such a problem now that the bridge is gone.

Duck Hole photos:  All day the clouds rolled through and threatened to rain, but it all blew by.  I spent a lazy afternoon reading, writing in my journal, and watching my clothes dry.  Even my boots dried.  By 4:30, I was thinking I could eat and was hoping I would have solitude.  I got my food out from the bear bag, already hung, and fetched water to boil.  I was eating some cheese and crackers prior to lighting the stove when two guys, one a little kid, hiked into the other lean-to.  I could hear them.  A minute later, a couple walked up.  They were hiking the NLP Trail, and told me I was about to be joined by 9 people - 4 guys and their 5 kids.  They said they were very noisy, and they had just passed the large group coming up the NLP trail.  I offered to share the lean-to with them, but they decided to push on to Moose Pond, another 4 miles, to avoid the noisy night.  They were pretty tired looking even as they decided this.

Well, I thought about it, and decided that they must be seriously annoyed by the noise of the large group, if they were wiling to hike another 2 hours to avoid it.  I thought a little more, and decided that if I was quick, I could be out in 4 hours.  I started packing in a big hurry.  I wasn't too careful.  As I went over to take down my bear lines, one of the fathers came over to go fishing below the lean-to.  He was pleasant enough, and even invited me to join them for dessert if I was going to stay long enough.  He said they were from Westchester County.  Don't they have village and city names there?  Anyway, I declined and headed out, about 5:30.

I was hiking as hard as I could.  My pack was lopsided, and I could feel a hotspot between two toes.  In minutes I was drenched, as it was still very humid.  I had taken a Clif bar and a granola bar to eat along the way for dinner.  And I had the dreaded alpine meadow to deal with.  You could say I was steaming.  I passed up the two Cold River lean-tos.  I was still trying to make it to the car.  I decided I'd see what happens in the alpine meadow before I decided.

At the alpine meadow, I decided to try keeping to the weed line along the other side (again, my right).  I also decided that I would just blunder through, but remain vertical, as opposed to becoming horizontal for a short (5'9") span.  So I plunged in and although the water was above my boot tops and above my short gaiters, I don't think any water got inside my boots.  I did remain vertical, albeit challenged.  And I kept going.  I was kind of looking for a bear also, since this is where I saw one before, and it was approaching dusk.

Well, I started doing the math, and I figured I needed to get to the car by 9, and I needed to get to the lean-to by 6:30 to do that, and it wasn't looking good.  When it went past 6:30, I decided that I would double the amount I shortened the hike from Duck Hole by, and take that off the 2.5 hours to get from the lean-to to Corey's.  I remembered when Bob and I hiked into Duck Hole from Upper Works, halfway in the dark, because we left too late.  We used our headlamps that night.  I had my headlamp in my pants pocket just in case.  But I also decided that hiking in the dark isn't very smart.  Planning to hike in the dark is even less smart.

Anyway, I got to the lean-to in 90 minutes, 20 minutes faster than I had made the reverse trip this morning.  It was not much past 7, and if I did the math I could make it.  But I had already decided that if these lean-tos were unoccupied, the smart thing to do would be to spend the night here.  They were, and I did.  I hung my bear lines in the same two trees and put my food bag up.  I put my bug hut up in the lean-to and hung my wet clothes up,  My boots were wet, but mostly on the outside.  I wrote in my journal for a little while, then turned off the headlamp about 8.

I lay there watching the bright spots in the treetops where the sky could show through.  I was looking towards the southwest.  Although the ground was dark, there was still some light in the sky until quite late.  But not enough to hike by.  And only the sounds of the babbling Ward Brook behind me.  And the dragonflies hovering in front.  I was very content with spending another night here.  I had relaxed peacefully at Duck Hole and enjoyed a bath, sunshine and changing skies, and now I had another peaceful night ahead.  And a couple of good exercises today to boot.

Almost immediately, it started raining.  I knew this mostly by the sound.  It changed from babbling brook to rain hitting leaves.  Then it started raining harder.  I drifted off.  I woke to thunder and lightning about midnight, and lay listening to it.  There was much less crash than flash, and it was hard to connect the few thunder rumbles I heard with the lightning bolts they belonged to.  So it must not have been that close.  But it did rain hard.  I went out about 2 and it wasn't raining.  But then it rained hard from about 4 to 6, and kept raining.

I got up about 6:30 and packed up.  I was headed out by 7:15.  For some reason I thought I could hike faster and kept trying.  I was wet both from donning wet clothes since it was still raining when I left, and it was very humid.  It quit raining right after I left, but everything including me was dripping.  There was some gear at Ward Brook, but no people.  I met a guy hiking toward me later with very little gear, so he might have belonged there, or the inhabitants may have been up for an early peak.  But there were low hanging clouds and I couldn't see the peaks, so the view could not have been great.

The three girls were packing up to leave Blueberry and I stopped to chat.  They got all 3 peaks the day before, but finished too late, and spent an extra night.  They were in a hurry to get out.  I moved on.  I met another guy with a dog on my way, but that was it.  It took me the same 2:30 to hike out as it did to hike in.  I had a few blisters, since my feet are not in great shape, but I kept moving the entire way.

At the car I changed and drove to Long Lake, where I bought some souvenirs and some water and coffee.  Since route 28 was under construction on my way up, I decided to go around by Indian Lake and Speculator on routes 30 and 8.  It might be a little longer, but I haven't been that way in a while and it's a beautiful drive.  As soon as I got back in my car in Long Lake it started to rain.  I drove through some very heavy rain on the way home.

2004 July 29-30 Duck Hole