adirondacks

The Cranberry Lake 50 - Memorial Day 2014

For our three-day weekend we wanted to do a backpack trip to not only get back out into the woods for a few days but also to test out some new gear we both had.  We had been doing lots of long walks with our dog to get her ready for the challenge and we finally found our perfect trail: The Cranberry Lake 50.  This 55-mile loop (road walk included) goes around Cranberry Lake in the western Adirondacks.  After looking at a multitude of routes we decided on this trail for a variety of reasons, the most important being that the entire loop would be dog-friendly.  Although there isn’t much elevation or technical hiking, this loop was perfect for our first trip in over a year (NoKey’s first since hiking the AT in 2012!)

Our day 1 involved us leaving a car at the end of the trail due to the 5-mile road walk we wanted to get out of the way first.  Roadwalking is never fun, and this one was on a paved state highway mostly uphill.  We were very happy to enter the woods on the Peavine Swamp Trail, which was surprisingly not very swampy due to the fact that the SUNY Ranger School operates at the opposite end of the trail.  It was a beautiful and calming walk before reaching the shores of Cranberry Lake for a lunch break.  From here, we had another short road walk (about 2 miles) into downtown Wanakena.  The man running the general store informed us there was a large storm cell coming down from Quebec, so we hightailed it out of Wanakena and back into the woods.  The trail from here was extremely flat and well-maintained due to the popular High Falls Loop, a 16-mile dayhike easy enough for summer folks to do during the days.  

After a night of rain (our new tent kept us dry as a bone!) we set out on a sunny and beautiful day two.  Today we’d hike a variety of trail types, from down by lakes and streams to the tops of small ridgelines.  We saw our only other hikers in the mid morning, two guys doing the loop the opposite direction.  After a lunch break at a beautiful spot, the trail suddenly turned very ugly.  The Otter Brook trail was 5.1 miles of misery, alternating between deep bogs with thick mosquitos and piles of blowdown you could only bushwhack through.  Thankfully, this was going to be the end of our day, but the late day sun was relentless and we were hot, sticky, and muddy.  When we got to the Dog Pond, our campsite turned out to be not a campsite at all.  In fact, there were no more campsites ANYWHERE despite them being marked all over the map.  We stumbled through bogs, beaver ponds, and more blowdown for nearly two  miles before coming to a giant blowdown with the most beautiful site - a campsite marker pointing into the woods.  We followed the “trail” to the edge of a large pond and found a spot flat enough to set up the tent.  We call it a success and set up to pass out for the night. 

After a long and rainy night (and a rainy morning!) we packed up late, around 9 a.m., and hoped for the rain to stop.  Thankfully the rain had stopped, but the trail was still boggy, muddy, and nasty for the next 5 miles.  This five mile stretch was said to contain more than 15 campsites, but we only saw two, which made us thankful we had the luck to stumble upon our campsite the previous night when we did.  When we reached the Burntbridge Pond Trail we knew we had less than 3.1 miles to go and although the trail had flattened out it was technically a snowmobile trail, so more mud and bogs were waiting for us.  We reached our car just before 12:30 and were very happy to be at the end of the mud.  We stopped back in Wanakena at the General Store for some snacks and drinks before heading back home to Syracuse. 

Other than the mud and blowdowns, which were to be expected due to the fact that it’s the rainy season here right now, this loop trail would make the perfect beginners multi-day backpack trip.  I highly recommend the trip and would like to do some of the side  trails another time.  It’s also a wonderful loop to do with a dog who likes to hike.  It was enough of a challenge to keep her going and wear her out enough to sleep a full night.  

You can check out the loop on the web at www.cranberrylake50.org

The photos above are: 1&2) An unnamed pond on the road walk between the Ranger School and Wanakena; 3) A beautiful natural waterslide on day 2; 3) The Peavine Swamp trailhead (and a terminus for the trail); 4) A pack explosion in a shelter on the trail; 5) Gracie taking a break after a killer day 2. 

Gear Review: Sawyer Mini water filter 
 Thru hikers are notorious for a lot of behaviors, but the most prevalent across the board one I ever noticed on the trail was this: the lack of water filtration.  Sure, we all know you can get horrible, nasty illnesses from drinking contaminated water but when you’ve hiked the last 4 miles in 100-degree heat without any water and that spring trickles just enough to fill your bottle you’re going to drink it as fast as you can.   
 During my hike I used bleach droplets, Aquamira drops (a combination of Part A/Part B), and an MSR Sweetwater pump system on different occasions when I absolutely felt the need to purify.  Bleach takes 15-30 minutes to clean water, depending on the temperature and murkiness of the water.  Aquamira recommends waiting until the combination of the drops turns a bright yellow, letting you know the formula as “activated” before adding it, then waiting 15-30 minutes (again depending on the temperature and clarity) before drinking.  The water pump takes up to 10 minutes just to pump and usually requires backflushing.   
 When I was in North Virginia, two hikers we met showed us an amazing water system: The Sawyer Squeeze.  This was a bag you put water into, sloshed around, and then drank.  It was guaranteed for a million gallons of water and we were shocked.  Over the course of our hike we heard of one other person with that system.  In 2013, nearly half of the hikers we saw at the end of the trail in Maine were carrying the Sawyer Squeeze system and nearly everyone was happy with the filter, despite the fact that the water bags failed quite often.  We decided that would be our next filter.   
 After doing some research before starting our PCT planning we discovered the Sawyer Mini, the smallest, lightest filter on the market. This bad boy attaches to a squeeze bottle supplied by Sawyer or to a standard water bottle (Smartwater 1 liters are the bottle of choice for many hikers and it fits perfectly).  You can also use this on your Camelbak or Platypus system as a sort of gravity system.  This thing not only does all of these and weighs in at about 2 oz., it only costs $25.   
 We bought one to take with us of our hike of the Cranberry Lake 50 over Memorial Day and was one of the best decisions we’ve made to date. Bearing in mind that we are not the best about treating our water, a filter that is this small, convenient, and easy to use makes even thinking about filtering a nonissue.  Given that the Cranberry Lake 50 is a low-lying trail system with several water sources being ponds teeming with beavers, filtration is super important.  We were able to fill the bottle, squeeze, and have clean water nearly instantly - water that was free of both contaminates and particulates!  Not only was this important for us, but it was important for our dog as well, who deserved clean water to drink just as we did.   
 We had absolutely no problems using the filter on our 3-day hike and carried the backflushing syringe just in case.  The whole system fit into a small stuff sack and was easily thrown into an exterior pocket on a pack, making for a quick grab and go.  This also made it possible to carry a smaller load of water, making packs lighter.   
 All in all, I’d recommend the Sawyer Mini system to anyone looking for a quick and easy way to drink clean water.  It’s super affordable (even on a thru hiker budget!), lightweight, and easy to use.  I think we’ll buy a second one so we both have one on hand.   
   This post is in no way sponsored or solicited by Sawyer.  It’s all me.  I’m a total fan!

Gear Review: Sawyer Mini water filter

Thru hikers are notorious for a lot of behaviors, but the most prevalent across the board one I ever noticed on the trail was this: the lack of water filtration.  Sure, we all know you can get horrible, nasty illnesses from drinking contaminated water but when you’ve hiked the last 4 miles in 100-degree heat without any water and that spring trickles just enough to fill your bottle you’re going to drink it as fast as you can.  

During my hike I used bleach droplets, Aquamira drops (a combination of Part A/Part B), and an MSR Sweetwater pump system on different occasions when I absolutely felt the need to purify.  Bleach takes 15-30 minutes to clean water, depending on the temperature and murkiness of the water.  Aquamira recommends waiting until the combination of the drops turns a bright yellow, letting you know the formula as “activated” before adding it, then waiting 15-30 minutes (again depending on the temperature and clarity) before drinking.  The water pump takes up to 10 minutes just to pump and usually requires backflushing.  

When I was in North Virginia, two hikers we met showed us an amazing water system: The Sawyer Squeeze.  This was a bag you put water into, sloshed around, and then drank.  It was guaranteed for a million gallons of water and we were shocked.  Over the course of our hike we heard of one other person with that system.  In 2013, nearly half of the hikers we saw at the end of the trail in Maine were carrying the Sawyer Squeeze system and nearly everyone was happy with the filter, despite the fact that the water bags failed quite often.  We decided that would be our next filter.  

After doing some research before starting our PCT planning we discovered the Sawyer Mini, the smallest, lightest filter on the market. This bad boy attaches to a squeeze bottle supplied by Sawyer or to a standard water bottle (Smartwater 1 liters are the bottle of choice for many hikers and it fits perfectly).  You can also use this on your Camelbak or Platypus system as a sort of gravity system.  This thing not only does all of these and weighs in at about 2 oz., it only costs $25.  

We bought one to take with us of our hike of the Cranberry Lake 50 over Memorial Day and was one of the best decisions we’ve made to date. Bearing in mind that we are not the best about treating our water, a filter that is this small, convenient, and easy to use makes even thinking about filtering a nonissue.  Given that the Cranberry Lake 50 is a low-lying trail system with several water sources being ponds teeming with beavers, filtration is super important.  We were able to fill the bottle, squeeze, and have clean water nearly instantly - water that was free of both contaminates and particulates!  Not only was this important for us, but it was important for our dog as well, who deserved clean water to drink just as we did.  

We had absolutely no problems using the filter on our 3-day hike and carried the backflushing syringe just in case.  The whole system fit into a small stuff sack and was easily thrown into an exterior pocket on a pack, making for a quick grab and go.  This also made it possible to carry a smaller load of water, making packs lighter.  

All in all, I’d recommend the Sawyer Mini system to anyone looking for a quick and easy way to drink clean water.  It’s super affordable (even on a thru hiker budget!), lightweight, and easy to use.  I think we’ll buy a second one so we both have one on hand.  

This post is in no way sponsored or solicited by Sawyer.  It’s all me.  I’m a total fan!

Recap of the past few months - late 2013 and early 2014

Since leaving Maine and moving to New York for a little while I haven’t had time to get much hiking done. Being that I’m now working two jobs to save up some cash and the fact that, despite it being mid March, there is usually a foot of snow on the ground at any given time, hiking has taken a backseat as of late.  I’ve done some exploring of the Central New York region, going snowshoeing at Beaver Lake, hiking at Clark Reservation, and exploring area greenways all while trying to find my way around the area.  One place I haven’t been yet is up to the Adirondacks!  I’m definitely looking forward to some warmer weather so getting up there won’t be such a big challenge. 

Speaking of big challenges, time to announce the next one of mine: Becoming a 46er!  Here in the Adirondacks, we have 46 peaks measuring 4,000 feet or higher.  Hike them all, you’re a 46er!  My challenge is going to be to peak bag all 46 this year, preferably before the end of autumn.  I’ve been doing some research on the area, as well as talking to people I work with who are or are actively on their way to being a 46er and learning all I can about permits, fees, etc. before embarking on this challenge in about six weeks.  I’m glad to say NoKey will be doing this with me to help us get in shape for bigger and bolder plans in the spring of 2015 (more on that at a later time!)

During the next few months, the blog will be busier again and I’ll recap all my hikes and backpack trips like I did before.  I feel sad I didn’t have the time to do so on all my hikes in Maine, but will be definitely making the time for it somehow as I document the trails of the Adirondacks.  I can’t wait to share my trips with you guys!

A few photos above: Snowshoeing for the first time at Beaver Lake; Max Patch in October 2013 on our roadtrip following leaving Maine; Katahdin from Turtle Ridge Trail in the 100-Mile Wilderness in Maine, October 2013.