Tuesday morning, November 15, 2011, I drove to Upper Works and hiked into Duck Hole.  I had done a lot of planning for this solo trip, it being my first backpack with my new knee. I got my pack weight down to just under 30 pounds.

Part of my load was 36 grams for a Livescribe Pen - a new toy. This pen records 8GB of audio. Instead of taking a journal and pen, and writing my observations, thoughts, etc., I just turn the pen on and talk. It records whatever I say. It will also record sounds, like, if I hear any loons. Or bears. Or lions, etc.

First Livescribe Pen transcript: “Okay it's 349 in the morning Tuesday, November 15 and I am leaving my house.  It’s 55 with light rain here, and 53 and clear in Newcomb.”

More transcripts, in quotes. With interspersed revisionist history as needed.

“Okay it's 750 in the morning and I’m at the trailhead. It's 45°. There's a couple of DEC rangers here that have gas powered trimmers and another guy said he’s going in to hike around, maybe hunting, so I guess I'll get packed up and get ready and start hiking.

0808: “Okay pack is up and I'm heading out. The trip computer is reset and all of that stuff. Elevation is 1818 feet and off we go.”

10:34: “I’m stopped by the Upper Preston Pond and I took a couple photos there. I’ve hiked 4.66 miles in two hours and 28 minutes, but less moving time than that. I am averaging 2.1 miles an hour. The big climb that I always dread is behind me and I just have some ups and downs along the Preston Ponds and Duck Hole before I get to the lean-tos which are probably about 2.5 miles.”

12:20: “Okay I made it! I’m here at Duck Hole, the pack is off, and no one else is here. I'm in the upper lean-to (the newer one). It was 7.37 miles of hiking with moving time 3:38, total time 4:14. The time right now is 12:21. Elevation is 2165 feet. My moving average was 2.0 mph and overall average 1.7 mph. The sun sets in four hours and 9 min.  I’m going to take care of a little business, and sign in at the trail register and then go take some photos.“

13:29: “Well here I sit. My jet boil is going on coffee minimum order and make my bean soup for breakfast I never found a place to stop it that was open so I ate 11 fig newtons on the way here and 28 almonds. Now I'm having a black bean and line soup. I had a serving of Accelerade when I got here. I’ll decide what else I’m going to have in a little while. I just discovered one problem - the stoves won't sit flat on the jet boil without some kind of an attachment [I later discovered that I own the attachment, but had left it at home] so you have to hold the pot to  boil water or boil it in the JetBoil cup. I think I’ll that.  It boils pretty fast in the cup, but I’m going to mix the soup up in a pot. Since the pot had unsterilized water in it, I was going to boil the water in the pot to sterilize it. But I can pour the boiling water into the pot first.“

13:54: “It's 1354 and I am letting my second cup of coffee steep and using the extra boiled water and to rinse out my pot. I feel revived already. Hiking in, I felt wonderful. I took my raincoat off and my hat off - it was about 45° and I stayed completely dry. I probably had a damp shirt when I got here but I didn't sweat a lot. My feet are dry, in fact my boots are almost dry.    The further I hiked the more confident I was. I feel like my knee will do way more than what I’m used to doing with it.  And so I can guess I have to learn that it's very capable.   I didn't feel any pain and all I felt strong and confident. I did slip once going down a steep bank and fell down on my hands with no damage done to me or anything. I’m part way through blowing up my new air mattress and just sitting here enjoying the solitude. 

From the lean-to, it doesn’t look an awful lot different, because the Cold River is still just as wide as it used to be. But you can see the dam that doesn’t have any water. If you were laying down in the lean-to, you probably wouldn’t notice a difference. After I get done with my coffee

and cleaning my dishes, I think I’ll take my GPS camera and see if it’s possible to walk out to the little island and take some photos out there. Then I think I’ll finish setting up to spend the night here.  I’m thinking very seriously that in the morning, after I get up and have some breakfast, I will hike up to Bradley Pond and stay tomorrow night in the Santanoni Lean-To, and decide what to do next then.  This may very well be my last trip into Duck Hole and I’ve always talked about , and almost went to, Bradley Pond one time.  I think I may do that tomorrow. 

Then I would have a couple of options. I could come back here Thursday night and hike out Friday. I could stay there 2 nights and possibly go bag one of the Santanoni peaks on Thursday. It’s only about 4.4 miles to hike back to the parking lot, which would only take a couple hours. Or I could hike back to my car on Thursday.

The temperature may be cooling off a little bit.   It was 45 when I got out of my car. It’s been overcast all day.  A couple of times the wind has come up but there hasn’t been any precipitation and it’s been very pleasant. I know it’s going to get colder and I’m prepared for that. At the last minute, in addition to my 96 ounce Nalgene canteen, I threw into my bag my heavy blue fleece warmth layer that I wear throughout the winter for a jacket. So far I haven’t needed it.“

14:50: “After lots of monkeying around, I got a bear bag hung up. Of course, the only bear that couldn’t get it down would be a cub.  But, I think it will keep the mice out. I haven’t seen any mice, or chipmunks, or any kind of critters, except mosquitos, since I’ve been here. I’m kind of surprised to see mosquitos, but the sun is peeking out now. It looks like there’s a little weather moving in from the East, or maybe the North.  I have my bear bag up and I’ll take some photos of it. I can take it down to cook supper if I feel like cooking supper. I think I’ll spend the rest of the afternoon off my feet.“

16:15: “I’ve read the lean-to logbook. There aren’t many entries in it because it just got changed a couple of months ago. It’s beginning to get dim here.  I read the trail guide again for Duck Hole via Bradley Pond. I planned out all the different distances.  I made a list of all the potential options for what to do next. Bradley Pond is 1100 feet above the parking lot and probably a tough hike to get there.

It’s very nice to be here. It’s a little dismal because it’s very cloudy. Of course, the sun was out for about 5 minutes. I’ve been sitting here in my sleeping bag enjoying the solitude. No one else is here yet. I’ll probably cook some supper later. I don’t feel very hungry right now, but I’ll cook one of my dehydrated meals tonight.  Then I’ll hunker down and get some sleep. I have a new air mattress, which I don’t know quite what to expect. It’s a lot thicker and it feels really good sitting on it.  It’s not quite as wide so I might roll off of it during the night but we’ll see.

Hiking in running clothes is definitely the way to go.  When I get back one of my jobs is going to be going through all my old hiking clothes, and pick out all the nylon cargo pants, especially the XLs and donate all that to the Salvation Army, along with all my old running suits and anything that I haven’t worn in the last year. I’ll make up a big batch of things to take to them. Then I need to finish packing for my trip to see Mandy and Chuck. There’s a lot of stuff upstairs that needs to go to Mandy in addition to the stuff that’s already in the garage. I’m going to listen to some more of my book now. I finished the first half of Water for Elephants on the drive here.“

17:40: “It’s pretty dark and I can see lots of stars. For supper, I’m abut to fix Mountain House Buffalo Style Chicken  - a plentiful blend of chicken in a zesty cream cheese sauce. It says for filling your own tortillas, but I don’t have any tortillas.  I can eat it right out of the package!“

17:50: “Eating M&M Peanuts. They sure are the best hiking treat. You’ve got your protein and fat in the nuts and your sugar in the chocolate. Even better than GORP. Because the nuts are inside the chocolate, the mice can’t smell the nuts.“

By the time dinner was done steeping, it was very dark and very cold. I forgot to take my little combination compass-thermometer zipper pull so I can know about what the temperature is.

The ground in front of the lean-to was covered with apples that had fallen off the apple tree growing up behind and above the lean-to. This means that there is no wildlife in the area interested in eating them. I haven’t seen any wildlife since I’ve been here. I saw a few pheasants while hiking in. I did hear what sounded like barking, but I also read in the trail guide that dogs are not allowed in the ADK wilderness. The barking could have been a frog, or perhaps a duck.

About 6:15 I hung up my bear bag for the night. I decided not to bring my candle lantern - I didn’t have a full candle left. I think I burned them all this summer while recuperating from my knee replacement. I did miss having the candle lantern in the lean-t. I used my little headlamp, but there really wasn’t anything at all to see. Somehow though, I missed the ‘atmosphere’ of having the candle lantern burning and swinging in the breeze.

My last recording of the day was at 6:26 pm, and I was in my sleeping bag for the night.  I noted that the mummy bag is very good for staying warm, but kind of a pain if you want to have an arm or two outside the bag.

It was at this time I noted that I am not sure I can cross the Cold River. I need to cross it to get to the Bradley Pond trail.

Total falls for the day - 1.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011 I really slept in - until 8:16, when I got up and retrieved my unmolested bear bag. The altimeter had not changed much during the night, which meant the barometer had not changed, and therefore the weather should remain about the same. 

“Good morning it's 8:16. I just rolled out and walked up to the privy and then went and got my bear bag which was unmolested.  The altimeter this morning is 2155. It was 2165 when I got here yesterday so the barometer went up a little bit not even much. The mist is starting to blow away. I could hear the water running all night. I heard an apple hit the roof of the lean-to, which gave me quite a stir until I remembered that there was an apple tree up there.  Other than that no wildlife. Barking I heard again this morning - it might be some kind of a duck or something. I spent the night here alone. I got up once right around midnight and once again around six. Other than that I slept fine. My right shoulder is very sore and when I laid down it even is very difficult to find a position that it does not throb, so I might have to go get a shot of cortisone in it. When I first got up this morning my back was very stiff. I think that's probably from from sleeping on my back but I'm not sure. This morning I need to make some coffee and decide what I want to do today.  I'll probably eat a little breakfast and then go scout around and see if there's a way to get across Cold River.”

After I had my coffee I went down to look for crossing, but I didn’t find one. So I started building one by throwing rocks into the river at the point where the water ran the fastest, because it was also the narrowest. And therefore it's the best place to build a crossing. I started widening where the water runs and throwing rocks into the deep part. Being a solo backpacker, I didn’t think what I had by now was a viable crossing. I actually slipped and fell once just walking down there on the rocks without my pack. I spent about an hour working on it and figured I could finish it in a couple more hours.

I went up to the lean-to to eat breakfast. I made a little flow chart outlining all the options, depending on whether I constructed a crossing, or not, and whether I hike to Bradley Pond or not. Then I took the spade someone had brought to the lean-to with me and returned to my project down below the broken dam.

At 1242 I cooked lunch - soup, crackers, cheese. I successfully built a crossing and crossed it several times safely. It’s a safe crossing, and I’m sure I can get across with my pack. I went all the way across to make sure that I can get all the way to the other side. I guess I could have gone to Bradley Pond today, but after moving rocks and shoveling for 3+ hours, and my back was sorer than when I woke up. So I decided to stay put for the night. Final Answer.

I was pretty sure I could get to Bradley Pond if I could get across Cold River, based on other hikers writing in the lean-to log book. After lunch I decided to hike over as far as the tough brook crossing that we crossed in 1999. So, I took my GPS camera to go across the rock crib dam, and then on to the crossing, check out the trail a little, and come back to the lean-to.

I got my left foot and pant leg wet when I slipped and fell trying to come back across that other brook. I found a good crossing.  There's a very steep bank I have to get up once I cross the Cold River here but I think I'll be able to do that even with my pack on. I went up a little over half a mile up the trail, across the rock crib dam, to the other brook crossing.

After I came back and changed clothes, I filtered water so I had a full jug for tonight and the morning.  And I lost my filler plug that fits in the neck of the Nalgene bottles. I can see it but it's in deep water too far out for me to reach it, so I guess I won’t be packing that out. I’m sure I can get another one someplace.

“I’ve been laying down for about an hour listening; just listening and looking at Duck Hole. It’s about four o'clock and it's almost sundown. It sure looks like nobody is going to be here again tonight which doesn't surprise me at all.  Maybe I'll look at a map for a little while. My plan is to get up in the morning as soon as I wake up, cook breakfast, pack up and hike up to Bradley Pond and then decide what to do when I get there!”

I ate supper early, and hung the bear bag early. I had quite an appetite, after working so hard, and falling on the other river crossing. It’s a good thing I ate early and put the bag up. It started raining about 5:15, and I finished listening to Water for Elephants, in the sleeping bag, in the lean-to. It was extremely pleasant to sit in the lean-to and listen to the rain falling softly, with everything dry inside the lean-to. In addition to the sound of the river going around the dam and over the dam I built today.

Total falls for the day - 3.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

“Good morning! Thursday morning I think it's 17 November. It’s 7:21. It only rained for an hour after dark and then it cleared up. It was a beautiful clear night with a few breezes in the lean-to that dried out my running tights. An uneventful night other than that. I think it was 6:47 when I got my bear bag down (unmolested) and fixed breakfast. I'm in between my first and second cup of coffee and oat meal. Everything but the pots is packed up. The new NeoAir air mattress packed up really nice. It's much colder this morning but clear and I am very happy about that -  a nice surprise.  Once I finish my food here I can and put my pots and pans away in my backpack, put the rain cover on, and head up to Bradley Pond. I’m pretty sure I'll the check in there and keep going but we’ll see.”

“It’s 10:32. I’m at Bradley Pond Lean-To. Elevation 3000 feet, 3.89 miles from Duck Hole. A sign down there at the intersection says it's 4.9 miles to the trailhead.  My moving time was 2:23, total time 2:55 meaning I was stopped for 32 minutes, which I find hard to believe. Man, was that a tough hike! It was fairly dry except for one place where I foolishly put my foot into muck. Other than that, I’m dry except for sweating from hard work.”

The trail up to Bradley Pond was very different from the day in 1999 when Bob and I hiked it. Almost the entire way, except when you’re crossing the main brook, you are walking in a side brook that parallels the main brook. I think the side brook is just an overflow channel that fills with water when the water is too high to stay in the main channel. In 1999, we were walking in water the entire way. This time, I was climbing in a dry creek bed, always going up. Even the short trail from the trail intersection up to the lean-to was nearly a scramble.

“Okay it's 1:13 pm. 8.46 miles on the trip odometer brought me to the parking lot for Bradley Pond. My moving average is 1.8 which is up from 1.6 which it was at the Bradley Pond lean-to.  My moving time is 4:40 and I’m hiking up the Upper Works road back to my car. There are still three hours and 15 minutes before sunset. I didn't fall at all and it was a very tough hike. I think that counted seven times that I crossed the brook on the way up to Bradley Pond. There was a very elaborate bridge coming back down over some brook, might have been Santanoni Brook.  There was another bridge over a brook right after that that was tilted so much I didn't dare cross it.  I found a rock hop crossing 50 feet upstream. I don’t know if I would've crossed that bridge if I couldn't find another crossing. Certainly not standing up - maybe on my hands and knees or maybe even more like an inch worm on my belly and wrapping my arms around the edges so I didn't slide off. I think it’s about a mile and a half to the car. More later”

Total for the day, back at at the car at 1:44 p.m. - 10.04 miles. 5:10 moving time, 6:07 total time,1790’ elevation loss. My car was the only car in the lot when I got back.

“Everything is loaded in the car and I just have to walk over & sign out at the register so that the Ranger doesn't go looking for me.  Coming down the gravel road, two guys from whatever club it is, were in a big diesel pickup truck with a four-wheel-drive ATV in the back end of it - great big guys - and the driver rolled his window down and went by me real slow and said that I looked like Santa Claus walking down the road - because of my bright orange pack cover.   I replied as I don't look like a deer that's what's important - and they drove on by.”

When I got in the car, I noticed a mouse (I imagine) had broken into my car, and chewed a coupe of paper towels I had on a roll under the console. When I opened the glove box, it had also chewed some of the insulation, as though it were building a nest. I didn’t have any food outside of my cooler, so, my car was effectively mouse-proofed - I thought. Maybe the Upper Works Mouse Union is warning us off - stay out of our parking lot if you won’t feed us! The mouse also chewed through the insulated copper wire of my cell phone hands-free - in 2 places!

Total falls for the day - 0.

When I got home, I weighed a few things.  I finished the hike weighing 175.0 pounds, plus 0.4 pounds of dirt, 9.8 pounds of clothes/GPS/hiking poles/boots and 26.8 pounds of pack and water, for a total of 212.0 pounds. In the pack was about 28 ounces (2.25 pounds) of extra food and packaging, and 8 ounces (0.5 pounds) of trash.

It was a great trip. It far exceeded anything I had a right to expect, so it was way better than expectations. The weather was perfect. My knee operated extremely well. I had no encounters with troublesome animals - not even with 2-legged critters.

2011 November 15-17 Duck Hole