Friday, November 11, I hiked into Duck Hole from Coreys.

I left the house about 4:25 and drove 4:12 to travel 178.5 miles from my garage to the trail head parking lot.

Coming home, I used 365 instead of the Thruway and it was 10 miles shorter.

I left the house a little after 4 and it took about 4 hours to drive to the trailhead, with 3 stops for coffee, etc.  It was snowing the last half of the way and the roads were slippery.  I met a salt truck between Long Lake and Raquette Lake.  I signed in at the trailhead and off I went.


I went by a neat looking small beaver pond, and then by Blueberry Lean-To, where Bob and I stayed the first night last November. Then passed Ward Brook Lean-To, with a view of one of the Seward Range peaks. Then on passed the lean-to pair where I've stayed several times, and saw a nice waterfall beside the trail.

Then I came to the place Bob and I call the alpine meadow, and the trail guide calls an open swamp.  The first time we saw this place we were on a trail run from Duck Hole in the summer of 1999.  It was during a drought and the water was very low, and we ran through.  Last year, the water was back to its normal level, and I fell in during a summer hike, crossing in calf-deep water.  The water was high enough last November that we couldn't cross and had to turn back.  3 weeks ago Bob and I hiked into Duck Hole from the Upper Works trailhead, which is a harder hike but doesn't have to cross this swamp.  We walked here from Duck Hole then, and found that the water level was low enough to cross without getting wet.  So I planned to come in from Corey's this hike.  The water was higher than 3 weeks ago, but still low enough to cross safely.

If you keep to the left, and don't lose your balance, you can cross dry.  Looking to the left, which is northeast, in the distance you see Street Mountain on the left and Nye Mountain on the right. 


At Cold River Lean-Tos number 1 and 2, I saw the tarp over #1, and the smoke stack sticking out of the tarp.  There were a group of hunters in there and I could hear them talking.  Tarping a lean to and erecting a stove inside it are illegal.  But since they each had a rifle, I decided to pass by without pointing this out.  I don't think they even heard me go by, which was just fine with me.  Chances were the rifle on the outside of the lean-to wasn't loaded anyway, and I probably wouldn't be able to get the drop on these hombres, even though I am a mean desperado.

Arrival at Duck Hole made me smile.  I really like hiking there and arriving there.  Last week's wind storm brought down some handy firewood for some lucky camper.  I signed in and went to the lean-to.  It was just after 2 in the afternoon. This hike in took 4:51 hiking time.


Walking over to the lean-to I started getting all the snow-covered Duck Hole photos I could.  This was to make up for breaking my camera on the way in last time. A log boom keeps debris from plugging the dam.  One of the Santanoni Range (I think it's Couchsachraga) sticks up in the west southwest.

I was glad to be here.  I doffed my pack and started setting up in the new lean-to.  It was pretty windy so I decided to hunker back in the corner.  And I had hiked in wearing just a synthetic shirt, no gloves, not hat.  I started out wearing more, but was sweating and de-layered along the way.  Now I was wet, so I needed to change quickly.  I started getting really cold and felt pretty crappy.  So I ate some bread I had brought and drank a little water.  It was 29 DF and I got into my sleeping bag.  I tried to read a little but quickly fell asleep.   I was thinking maybe i had overdone it, but I might feel better after eating a little.

I woke with a start just about 4 p.m.  It was getting dark!  So I got out of the sleeping bag and took some photos in the waning light.

Ice was beginning to form on Duck Hole.  It is going to freeze over tonight. I brought a US flag for the lean-to in honor of it being Veteran's Day and left it there.  I had a soup, a dehydrated meal and a hot cocoa for supper.  I hung my bear bag on the hill behind the lean-to and got hunkered into the bag.  The hot food had warmed me up and I felt better.  I read for a couple of hours before hanging my good eyeglasses on a nail on the back wall of the lean-to and turning off the candle and headlamp.  I wasn't cold, but I wasn't warm either.  I decided it might not be fun to hang around Duck Hole all day tomorrow just to read a book.  I had planned to read a book for work and then hike back out Sunday.  I decided to decide in the morning.  I knew I was going to be stiff from hiking 5 hours with a fairly heavy pack.  So I'd see how the night went and then decide.  Lots of things could happen during the night.

But very few things did happen during the night.  The mouse scampered around to see if I was a sloppy eater (I wasn't, and he went away). I got up one time during the night and didn't linger outside.  A quick check showed 19 degrees F.  Back into the sleeping bag, and battened down all hatches.  I woke up again about 4 but it was just too cold to get out.  I was warm but knew I wouldn't be if I got out even for a few minutes.  I went back to sleep until about 6:20.  Then I woke and the sky was beginning to lighten.  A quick check of the thermometer indicated absolutely nothing.  It was so cold the LCD display wouldn't display.


I took some quick shots before first light.  See the ice on Duck Hole?  It froze during the night.  Not thick, but I had to go down by the dam to get water, and even there, I had to break through the ice to get the pot into the water. and now the sun is painting Couchsachraga in the west as it rises in the east. Last night, Mt. Adams was lit up by the setting sun..

I was ready to cook breakfast.  In one photo, you can see two black spots on the back wall of the lean-to.  Those are my eyeglasses.  It is 6:28 and I have just awoken.  Can also see the water bottles?  Wrong, they are not water.  They are ice.

At first I thought I might be in trouble.  I had brought 2 1-quart Nalgene bottles of water from home.  Hiking in, I didn't drink anything.  I had my bright hunter orange rain cover over the pack and I couldn't get the water out without stopping and taking the pack off, and, I was sweating, but not thirsty.  When I got there, I drank a  little - enough to wash down the homemade bread and my vitamins.  Then after soup and hot cocoa, I wasn't thirsty for anything like cold water, so I didn't drink anymore. Starting to get organized, the thermometer now showed 14.2 DF.  I no longer had two full bottles of water.  I now had 2 2-pound chunks of solid ice, each encased in it's own plastic Nalgene bottle.  I didn't think to bring the bottles inside the sleeping bag with me.  They froze solid.  The water I had got in my cooking pots was already freezing.  My hands were so cold I couldn't open the gas valve on my propane Jetboil stove.  At this point I had no water to drink and couldn't make any without a stove.  I started packing up, deciding I could hike out without breakfast if I had to, and I had a big bottle of sports drink water in the car.

I didn't think I had much of an option at this point.  Laying around in 14 degree weather reading a book was less appealing than you probably think.  I could hike out today and read the book tomorrow.  I had no drinking water and at 14 degrees the bottles were not thawing very fast.  I had my filter pump and canteen with me, but that would get me an 8 pound chunk of plastic encased ice after a lot of work.  So my decision was to hike out, drive home and have my photos with me.  I really had decided the night before, pending what happened during the night.  What happened during the night only cemented the decision.

I packed my sleeping bag into the stuff sack and scrunched it down and into the backpack.  That warmed my hands up enough that I was able to light the stove.  I started a cup of water to heating and kept packing. I had everything packed that I could and the water was starting to warm, but not very fast.  I decided to change propane tanks.  Fortunately I had brought a backup in case the first tank emptied.

That sped thing up and before the mouse knew it I had a mug of coffee brewing and was eating my instant oatmeal.  I decided to hike out in my "pajamas" - poly underwear and fleece - since it was way to cold to think about putting on cold clothes.  I had a dry set but wasn't going to take the time to change.  But I did have to put on my hiking boots.  I spent the night in slippers, but now the boots had to go on.  They were frozen solid.  But I got my feet in and laced them up and walked around while eating my oatmeal to warm them up.  There was no chance of putting my gaiters on - they were frozen stiff.

I finished the oatmeal and put the left over heated water into the pot to wash it out.  And since I needed every bit of water I could get, I drank that when it was cool  enough.  Even so I burned my tongue a bit.  I finished my coffee, signed out, and off I went.  I took a last look around the lean-to to make sure I hadn't left anything.

I stopped at Cold River #1 to put my coat inside the pack.  The hunters were all packed up and one of them was there.  I don't know where the others were or how many there were.  I saw at least 3 rifles.  He was friendly enough and helped me heft my pack up.  They were heading out today also.

I went on down the trail and after a while realized I wasn't wearing my eyeglasses.  That stopped me cold.  My watch said I had been hiking for 1:20.  If I hid my pack somewhere and went back for them, it would add 2:40 to my hike and make it a 7:40, 15+ mile day.  What to do, what to do?  I spent at least 3 seconds mulling it over before deciding that I had spare glasses, I wasn't going back, end of discussion.

At the lean-to pair I stopped and addressed some developing blisters.  I couldn't lace my boots tight enough starting out because they were frozen.  By the time they thawed enough to tighten the laces, the damage was done.

When I passed the Blueberry lean-to, there was a big tent set up in it (another no-no) and no sign of anyone.  Must be peak-baggers.

I met two young guys, one from Vermont, one from Canada, hiking in for some peaks.  One of them wanted to do the 3 Seward Range peaks today and Seymour tomorrow.  The other said 3 today, and decide on the 4th when we get up tomorrow.  My free advice was to decide in the morning.  I assumed they were college friends.  They had gotten a late start and were wondering how far to the lean-to so they could fix breakfast.

A little farther down the trail I met a married couple, hiking in for Seymour today and the other 3 tomorrow.  The guy was friendly enough and stopped for a few seconds to chat.  His wife was not, and kept walking, right between us, and just kept going.  A happy camper?

And a little farther I met two other guys, one from Watertown, the other from Peekskill.  They were going to Duck Hole and had all kinds of questions which I was glad to answer.  I also asked them if they would mail my glasses to me?  They would be glad to, and I wrote my address in the register at the parking lot.  One guy was very inquisitive and had all kinds of questions and gear and seemed probably like I seem to other people.  They were going to Duck Hole for 1 night and then Shattuck Clearing and then back out.


There is another little beaver pond during the sunlight.  I kept hiking - "just keep moving" was my mantra.  I remember using that during the Comrades Marathon also. Just as I expected, I arrived at the parking lot in 4:53 hiking time.  I was in the midst of changing and here comes the first hunter.  He must have been hiking ahead of the others because I finished changing and headed out before they got there.  The 4 hour drive home required two stops for coffee and was otherwise uneventful.

2005 November 11-12 Duck Hole