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Old 11-02-2018, 10:48 AM   #1
JohnnyVirgil
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Pilllsbury Lake Mistake

Well, not really. The only mistake is that we picked the wrong week to go. My buddy Greg and I decided to head out to West Canada lakes area Wednesday of last week. The original plan was to hike into Sampson lake for the first night, then hit Whitney for the second night, then hike out Friday before the rain was supposed to start. Unfortunately, we got off to a bit of a late start so we decided as we were passing pillsbury lake that our new destination would be pillsbury lake. It was nearing dusk and getting colder and a fire and food sounded pretty good. Weíd never been there before, having hiked past it last time we were in this area. We checked it out and decided to stay and figured weíd hike to Whitney the next day.

There were a lot of chopped stumps, some pretty fresh, and live trees with hatchet marks. You could tell this site gets its share of morons. Itís kind of a strange area there - tons of dead standing trees, with no branches. It was tough to even find a decent bear hang. Itís like a forest of rotten telephone poles just waiting to come down. Both the lean-to and the site were clean though, so that was good.

The outhouse was pretty much a cesspool; full of water and leaning quite a bit, but still serviceable if you didnít want to close the door. Which you didnít. Trust me.

We gathered up enough firewood for the night, and rehydrated some dinner, but the wind would not let up. It was a steady 10 mph, and showed no signs of abating. It was about 25 degrees, and we figured a fire was going to be out of the question with the breeze. Luckily though, it died down a bit by 8 pm or so, and we were able to have a quick one before heading in for the night. No loons; no animals of any kind, actually. Not even a lean-to mouse!

I contemplated setting up my tent just because I find it to be quite a bit warmer than a lean-to, but I couldnít find a great spot that wasnít either too close to the water or too close to the lean-to so I decided to keep it in the pack.

The night was cold but not that bad. It got down to about 19 with a windchill of 13 so my thermometer and InReach weather report told me when I woke up the next morning. It snowed a bit during the night, so I woke up a few times because it would blow into the lean-to and hit me in the face. I need a bigger mummy bag for cold weather camping. I had so much ďno freezeĒ stuff in my bag with me, it was getting cramped.

I usually bring a white gas stove (Svea 123) in the cold weather but Iíve been playing around with alcohol stoves lately and I wanted to see how theyíd work below freezing. I was pleasantly surprised. Thursday morning the Trangias worked flawlessly, even though they were a bit harder to start and took longer to bloom. No surprise, but the one I had slept with in my bag lit quite a bit easier than the one we left outside. They're so quiet compared to the jet engine of the Svea. You do go through substantially more fuel, however! How much more surprised me. We used almost a whole liter of Everclear between dinner, breakfast and lunch the next day, and we weren't even sampling the spirits.

On Thursday morning it didnít look like the weather was going to improve much, and the wind had picked up again. We were seeing the start of some whitecaps on the lake, and we were both really glad we opted to hike rather than do a canoe trip somewhere trying to fight that wind. It sure was beautiful, though.

So, after chasing our Helinox chairs across the campsite for the third time, and taking stock of our fuel situation, we decided on a leisurely hike out late Thursday afternoon. Those chairs are a little heavy and you hate to carry them, but they're so nice to have once you get there, especially if you're not camping at a lean-to.

We had put this trip off a few times hoping for a little blue sky, but it was not to be this October. Oh well.

PS - Iím currently looking for a good deal on a pulk and a hot tent.

Hereís a few pics:



Adding a few more from my buddyís phone..







Last edited by JohnnyVirgil; 11-05-2018 at 02:00 PM..
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Old 11-02-2018, 11:23 AM   #2
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The DEC and the lean2rescue team have scheduled refurbishment of the leantos (including the privys) in the West Canadas in the coming year. Sampson and Pilsbury first, possibly beginning with roof stripping as early as in the upcoming weeks of this month, November.
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Old 11-02-2018, 11:35 AM   #3
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The DEC and the lean2rescue team have scheduled refurbishment of the leantos (including the privys) in the West Canadas in the coming year. Sampson and Pilsbury first, possibly beginning with roof stripping as early as in the upcoming weeks of this month, November.
Wow, cool. Glad to hear. While I can't help directly, I will definitely send them a donation. The roof was pretty rough. No holes I could see, but almost completely covered in moss. Do you have any idea what kills the trees around there? Is it an insect? Just old age? It looks like they all got to a certain age and just died in place.

A couple of years ago when I stayed at Sampson Lake leanto, it was pretty messy because there was spring or something that ran directly underneath the lean to. It made for a perpetual mud puddle right in front of your front door, so to speak. If I recall, the privy was not taking any deposits at the time.
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Old 11-03-2018, 01:11 PM   #4
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Great report and pictures :-)
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Old 11-03-2018, 03:28 PM   #5
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Good olí West Canadas weather.. Donít forget, Pillsbury Lake is the highest lake within the West Canada Lakes Wilderness, which is the highest cluster of lakes in the Adirondacks. The weather can be pretty brutal, with lots of dead standing spruce throughout the region. Like French Louie...you gotta be tougher than Adirondack spruce!
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Old 11-03-2018, 05:22 PM   #6
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Good olí West Canadas weather.. Donít forget, Pillsbury Lake is the highest lake within the West Canada Lakes Wilderness, which is the highest cluster of lakes in the Adirondacks. The weather can be pretty brutal, with lots of dead standing spruce throughout the region. Like French Louie...you gotta be tougher than Adirondack spruce!

Yeah it was funny - the weather report for inlet wasnít too bad. It was a whole different weather system when we got out there. It was ok if you were moving but it got cold fast when you stopped. Brought more layers than I figured Iíd use but had them all on in pretty short order. Still fun to be out there. Probably just t-shirt weather for Neil!
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Old 11-04-2018, 10:37 AM   #7
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Thanks very much for posting the report and pics. I made my first trip into the WCLW this summer and fell in love with it despite the tough trail conditions. I am finding myself gazing fondly at the map of the area quite frequently. I camped at Pillsbury on my trip and didn't notice the stumps you mentioned so maybe it occurred since early August? As many of you probably know, the West Lake 1 shelter really needs work. About a third of it is uninhabitable during a hard rain storm. I will be coming back to this thread again whenever that WCLW urge surfaces. Thanks again.
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Old 11-04-2018, 05:01 PM   #8
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Thanks very much for posting the report and pics. I made my first trip into the WCLW this summer and fell in love with it despite the tough trail conditions. I am finding myself gazing fondly at the map of the area quite frequently. I camped at Pillsbury on my trip and didn't notice the stumps you mentioned so maybe it occurred since early August? As many of you probably know, the West Lake 1 shelter really needs work. About a third of it is uninhabitable during a hard rain storm. I will be coming back to this thread again whenever that WCLW urge surfaces. Thanks again.
Yeah, it's a beautiful area. I really need to get out there more. It's actually closer to me than some of the places I usually go if I head out over lake desolation road.

They were definitely freshly cut axe/hatchet stumps, probably about 6" across. Mostly to the right of the lean-to near the other "unsanctioned" fire pit. Or at least not one with a camp here disk. I'm sure they were just people too lazy to find downed and dead wood, so they went for the dead standing wood -- of which there is/was plenty. There's a lot on its way down and a lot more that will come down eventually, but the thigh high stumps are really ugly. If you're they type of person who is going to do that sort of thing, maybe go the extra mile and take it at ground level. At least that way it'll look like it was never there.

Is jessup river road plowed in the winter or snowmobile access only? Any idea?
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Old 11-04-2018, 05:17 PM   #9
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Standing trees, even if dead, have a purpose in the environment (hence, only dead and down may be used for firewood, even though that has an environmental purpose as well). Any dead (or live) trees that would pose a current or future danger to the leanto, wherever it may be moved to, will be taken down by lean2rescue when they get there.
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Old 11-04-2018, 07:39 PM   #10
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I use a Trangia and an esbit. I love the silence and simplicity. Like you, I sometimes pre-heat the fuel a bit. My esbit alky stove will also work with esbit tabs as a back up, but I have not had to go there. I use fuel labelled for alcohol stoves but also use yellow bottle HEET gas line antifreeze found in most gas stations. I found some other forms of alcohol blacken the pots. Can be trickier to start, easier with match than sparker in cold weather. I also want to invest in the trangia kit that has windscreen and base but it is bigger than the esbit kit we use now.

People say alky stuffs d not peform well, but Trangia is used by swedish military. Not saying they outperform other options but simplicity and reliability!

I to m on the look out for a decent hot tent. Just found these guys:
https://luxe-hiking-gear.com/collect...-camping-tents

I prefer seekoutside but they are pricy
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Old 11-04-2018, 08:01 PM   #11
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Awesome TR!

I haven't been back there in five years, but I distinctly remember the tent camping area to the west of the LT being highly impacted with dozens of trees chopped down. It looked pretty nasty, I can only imagine what it looks like now.

I'm pretty sure Jessup River Rd. is a snowmobile trail in the winter.
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Old 11-04-2018, 11:14 PM   #12
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Definitely different from when I was there. I hammock camp and hung on two trees just down and to the right of the shelter. I didn't notice any stumps. I don't really know about the Jessup River road but I think I read somewhere that doesn't open until sometime in May. I don't have 4WD or a high clearance vehicle so I can only go in when the road is good. This past summer I had to park at Sled Harbor and walk to the trail head. I am hoping that next summer I can drive further to the Spruce Lake trail head and go in that way on one trip, but I have no idea what the road is like from Sled Harbor to that trail head. Unfortunately no new vehicles for me in the near future.
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Yeah, it's a beautiful area. I really need to get out there more. It's actually closer to me than some of the places I usually go if I head out over lake desolation road.

They were definitely freshly cut axe/hatchet stumps, probably about 6" across. Mostly to the right of the lean-to near the other "unsanctioned" fire pit. Or at least not one with a camp here disk. I'm sure they were just people too lazy to find downed and dead wood, so they went for the dead standing wood -- of which there is/was plenty. There's a lot on its way down and a lot more that will come down eventually, but the thigh high stumps are really ugly. If you're they type of person who is going to do that sort of thing, maybe go the extra mile and take it at ground level. At least that way it'll look like it was never there.

Is jessup river road plowed in the winter or snowmobile access only? Any idea?
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Old 11-05-2018, 01:39 PM   #13
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As one walks into Pilsbury Lake Lean-to, on the left, one should find an old abandoned lumber camp.

That camp is there because of the spring which bubbles up behind it (look for a tin cup, hanging from a tree, by a nail).

Itís nice to hear the lean-to is still there, albeit in some state of disrepair. Nice trip report.


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Old 11-05-2018, 01:44 PM   #14
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Pillsbury Lake is the highest lake within the West Canada Lakes Wilderness, which is the highest cluster of lakes in the Adirondacks. The weather can be pretty brutal, with lots of dead standing spruce throughout the region. Like French Louie...you gotta be tougher than Adirondack spruce!
You are for sure up there where the weather can be different in the West Canada's but of the named lakes within the West Canada Wilderness, Northurp, Deep, Mountain and two different pairs of Twin Lakes are all at higher elevations than Pillsbury.
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Old 11-05-2018, 01:55 PM   #15
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Standing trees, even if dead, have a purpose in the environment (hence, only dead and down may be used for firewood, even though that has an environmental purpose as well). Any dead (or live) trees that would pose a current or future danger to the leanto, wherever it may be moved to, will be taken down by lean2rescue when they get there.
There really is no shortage of downed wood there, so it's nothing but sheer laziness. There are quite a few large dead trees near the LT, but none of them have any branches, so the wind probably won't be knocking them down.

You said "wherever it may be moved to" -- does that mean you think it will be relocated?
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Old 11-05-2018, 05:04 PM   #16
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You are for sure up there where the weather can be different in the West Canada's but of the named lakes within the West Canada Wilderness, Northurp, Deep, Mountain and two different pairs of Twin Lakes are all at higher elevations than Pillsbury.
Thanks for the correction, I thought I remembered reading somewhere that Pillsbury Lake was the highest. In any event, I too have been caught in some nasty weather up there and had to shorten the trip on more than one occasion.
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Old 11-05-2018, 05:06 PM   #17
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You are for sure up there where the weather can be different in the West Canada's but of the named lakes within the West Canada Wilderness, Northurp, Deep, Mountain and two different pairs of Twin Lakes are all at higher elevations than Pillsbury.
Gotcha...Thanks for the correction, I thought I had remembered reading somewhere that Pillsbury Lake was the highest. Maybe it was out of the Pillsbury-Whitney-Sampson-Mud-South-West-Cedars circle, otherwise known as “the heart of the West Canadas” in a certain guidebook.
In any event I too have been caught in some pretty nasty (unpredicted) weather up there and had to cut the trip short on more than one occasion.

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Old 11-05-2018, 07:46 PM   #18
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[QUOTE=JohnnyVirgil;271481]Wow, cool. Glad to hear. While I can't help directly, I will definitely send them a donation.

Great idea. Where can I send a donation?
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Old 11-05-2018, 07:49 PM   #19
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[QUOTE=Schultzz;271519]
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Wow, cool. Glad to hear. While I can't help directly, I will definitely send them a donation.



Great idea. Where can I send a donation?

The details are on their main page:

http://www.lean2rescue.org
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Old 11-05-2018, 08:04 PM   #20
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Please note, there is a block to check on the 46ers donation letter to restrict your L2R donation to the high peaks area only. Please don't do this if you care about maintenance and improvement of leanto facilities in areas outside of the high peaks. Recent reports of emphasis on overuse studies of the high peaks result in the DEC and others trying to shift interest and usage to non-hp regions of the Adirondacks.

The last 2-3 years has seen considerable L2R activity outside of the high peaks and they would like to continue to do so.
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