Thursday, November 4, Bob and I planned to go from work to Duck Hole.  As it turned out, I decided to take the day off, so Bob went to work and I stayed home to do a track workout.  When Bob got done at work, I picked him up at home.  It was raining and a front was sweeping up through New York from the SW to the NE, which we followed all the way up to the trailhead.  I needed to stop in Old Forge and pick up a rain cover for my pack, since I hadn't yet bought one.  Mountain Man had one, which was overpriced, but I had no choice but buy it.

After getting coffee in Long Lake, we got to the trailhead at Corey's a little after 6.  We got hiking about 6:30, and Bob led us all the way to the first lean to, about 4.9 miles, in the dark and rain.  It was about 33°F when we started and we thought we started hearing sleet when we got inside the lean-to. We got there about 9 without getting hurt or lost.  The wind was howling in the tree tops, sometimes breezing into the lean-to.  I hung a candle lantern from a rafter and it swung back and forth gently in the breeze.

Bob hung the bear bag and we unpacked in the lean-to and changed into dry clothes.  I put on my running gear, as I was thinking of getting in my three easy miles first thing in the morning.  Bob lit his stove and boiled some water and had a soup and a hot cocoa.  I was tired and cold, so I got in my sleeping bag and ate some trail snack food, since I hadn't eaten since breakfast.  Then I fell asleep.  Bob hung the food bags.

When I woke up about 6, everything was covered with snow.  And snow had blown into the front edge of the lean-to.  I slept a little longer, and when Bob woke up he said "Merry Christmas."  It was getting light and everything had snow stuck to it.  There was about 2-3" on the ground.  The temperature was now 28°F.  The wind was still howling.  I decided that if I was going to run, now was the time.  So I hopped out of my sack, put on my trail running shoes and took off.  In a tenth mile I came out on the truck trail, and up past the Ward Brook lean-to.  On beyond that lean-to, the trail starts ascending.  I turned around at 1.5 miles, using my Polar S625X to keep my heart rate below 132.  I was running pretty slow, it being slippery with about 3" of wet snow, a trail, and I was pretty stiff from the hiking and track workout the day before. 

I got done running about 9:30 and Bob had already had breakfast.  He boiled me some water that I used for coffee and a black bean soup, and then I used his stove to cook my wheat cereal.  I changed into dry clothes while I ate and we watched it snow.  Then we packed up and started hiking about 11:30.  It snowed all day, and ended with 5-6" depending on where we measured.

We hiked up the truck trail past the Ward Brook lean-to and the two lean-tos that have no name that I know of, which I call the "lean-to pair."  I took some photos at the lean-to pair as we p

We finally got to the "alpine meadow" which we were anxious to see.  This is the spot that has been increasingly flooded by beaver activity in the last three years.  It was swampy even back when Bob and I ran through it in September of 2001 but has gotten worse.  In 2001 Bob coined it the "alpine meadow" but I called it simply a "swamp."  This is where I fell in (completely) in July 2004 on a solo hike.  Fortunately then, it was warm and I could dive into Duck Hole when I got there, wash the muck out of my hair and clothes, and hang the clothes in the sun to dry.  Today if we got that wet, it would be big trouble.

At the edge of the "alpine meadow" (read 'pond') we stopped.  We investigated a few places with the hiking poles, but there was no possible dry way across.  We decided to try one time to bushwhack around the pond.  There appeared to be a bowl feature to the landscape and maybe we could skirt around the top rim and get to the other side.  But any place we tried to get into the woods bordering the trail the pines were too thick to let us in.  We decided to bag it.

We headed back to the lean-to pair and decided to hole up there for the night.  We got there about 2:30, or after 3 hours of backpacking, which covered 5.8 miles of trail.  You can see from the track profile that it was fairly hilly hiking.  And on the map you can also see how close we were to the 4 Cold River lean-tos and also to Duck Hole, which was our intended destination.  Very frustrating!

After getting back to the lean-to pair, we hung Bob's bear bag line over a dead branch.  We tested it for strength, and it passed (Bob and I could not break the branch off.  Then we dug out our gallon canteens and hiked back up the trail to the spring to fill them for drinking water.  This enabled us to not have to use the filter, which would have frozen up after the first use with the temperature hovering in the 20s.  And it was still snowing.  We got the water, and back to the lean-to.  We changed once again into dry clothes.  All I had left that was dry was a fleece layer, wind briefs and rain pants. Everything else I had was wet from wearing.  I put my gloves and a poly tee shirt I had hiked in the first day inside my sleeping bag to keep them from freezing, and folded the rest of my wet clothes and put them inside my pillow-case.  Then I put my (wet) vest on outside my fleece top just to have an extra layer on.  I also had dry socks and the Montrail Primaloft camp booties I got for Christmas last year - and those things are GREAT.  They come with a plastic shell that I put on when I go out of the lean-to, but take off before getting in the sleeping bag.

We both ate some trail food (nuts, cheese, slim jims) sitting in our bags.  I noticed it seemed to be getting dark and remarked to Bob that it was 15:41 and probably the sun was heading down.  Then I shrank down into the mummy bag and pulled the hood as closed as I could and still breathe.  My feet were painfully cold, and kept waking me up.  I wiggled my toes each time and hoped that would circulate some blood to warm them up.  I knew we couldn't hike again until first light, which was another 16 hours or so.  My top was damp, the clothes in the bag with me were damp, and I wasn't sure how the night would go, if I would warm up, dry out, or lay there shivering for 16 hours.  But there wasn't much choice.

I kept drifting off, then my feet would wake me up and I'd wiggle them and drift off again.  I knew it would be getting dark, and Bob was snoring, and I should get my headlamp out so that when it was dark I'd have a light, but I didn't want to get out of the bag.  About 5:30 I woke up in total darkness and that shocked me into action.  I got my headlamp out and lit my candle lantern and hung it on the clothes line someone had tied across the lean-to.  It swung back and forth in the wind.  It was 29°F and the wind was still howling and it was still snowing.

I decided I was warm enough to try putting on the poly tee shirt to see if wearing it would warm it up enough to dry it out.  So I put it next to my skin and then replaced the fleece and vest.  When I got back in the bag I realized how wet the tee shirt was and I was afraid this had been a mistake.  But now the fleece would be wet too, so I just laid there and tried to sleep again.  And I did sleep.

About 9:45 pm I woke up and decided I'd better hang the food up on the bear line we had hung.  I woke Bob up and asked him if he was going to eat anything and he said no.  So I put on my bootie shells and rain coat and mittens and took the food bags and garbage out.  I hooked them on the carabiner and then went to pull the load up.  The line slid out toward the end of the dead limb about 6" and the limb broke off and the bags and line came down into the snow.  Bob heard this and laughed.  I uttered some expletive and brought the bags back to the lean-to.  At least I could hang them from the rafters near the front edge of the lean-to. If a bear wanted them, it wouldn't have to come into the lean-to to get them.  Then I went back and retrieved the lines and carabiners.

Bob was up for a while and asked me if his headlamp was bothering me, but I was l sleeping.  I was finally warm, had stopped shivering and my feet weren't hurting.  I was up once more for an ex-lean-to venture, but other than that, spent about 15 hours in my sleeping bag.  I was glad I brought my warmest mummy bag.  I also noticed that in addition to the dampness from my clothing and perspiration inside the bag, there was a visible layer of what appeared to be condensation on the outside of the bag, about chest level.  This could have been the condensation of my expiration, but I don't know why it would settle at chest level.

We had decided not to cook in the morning, but to pack up and get out.  Our wilderness needs had been satisfied and we wanted to get home.  So we both woke up about 6:30 and it was getting light.  The temperature had risen enough to melt the snow on the edge of the lean-to and it had stopped snowing.  It was now raining.  The snow was melting and slushy.  After procrastinating a little while, we started packing.  And we were hiking by 7:27.  There was no one at the Ward Brook Lean-To.  And no one at Blueberry.  We met a few groups on the way out - 3 guys going to bag a peak, and then a couple with a dog and a 3rd guy. 

Starting up the trail we were both overdressed.  Once we got going the layers came off.

A very interesting system of beaver dams creates layers of different levels of water.  This was not visible to us on the hike in as it was pitch dark. 

We were back at the car by 10:26, about 3 hours hiking.  There was a car parked very close to mine, in a huge parking lot with only 2 other vehicles.  It had a Kerry/Edwards sticker on the back, so I guess that figures!

2004 November 4 Duck Hole