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Old 12-28-2011, 11:45 AM   #1
Join Date: Dec 2011
Posts: 9
Introduction and question

Ok all- I was recommended to this forum by while trying to plan a small hiking trip, forgive me if I seem new to this- as I have only been either a day-hiker, or a camper before. This will be my first backpacking excursion.

A few friends and I want to plan a 3 day hike sometime in May. Something where we can all get away for a few days- but we have accepted none of us are all that 'hardcore'. We are all moderately athletic, mid 20 somethings. We were thinking something along the lines of 25-30 miles? is 8-10 miles a day a reasonable expectation? Also, We are not sure where to hike. We live in Buffalo, Syracuse, and Albany respectively, so we have staging points across most of the 90 in NYS. Central NY and the 'dacks would probably be easiest, as it is equidistant for the buffalo and albany folks- but we are willing to drive a bit more for a better experience.

We wanted to 'thru-hike' and not just camp in one location while going out on day hikes. We will get backcountry permits where necessary, but at this point we are not sure what trails are worth pursuing. We all like camping and hiking as individual activities, but like I said, this will be our first time combining them in a thru-hike environment.

where would you all recommend for that time of year? (May)
What is a reasonable expectation of distance?

We can stage one car at the end of the trail and another at the beginning, so the trail need not come in a full loop. It seems our options are focused on going North into the dacks, or South to the Finger Lakes Trails.

As for experience, I've done some hiking on what would at best be moderate to moderate/ beginner trails. The most difficult hike I have ever done would probably be Katahdin in Baxter State Park in Maine, but the Razor's edge was closed when I went so the decent was not nearly as hairy as it is for some.

The purpose of this trip is more so we can have fun and be together. We would prefer a more secluded journey, which generally means farther in. However, as we are starting at the beginning of hiking season and probably don't have the skill set necessary to make that happen, that is more of a hope than a requirement.

We can all use a map and compass fairly well, and have the basics down- though we are by no means experts. Any and all suggestions are welcome, and I am grateful to be a part of the ADK community!

Thanks in advance-

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Old 12-28-2011, 01:18 PM   #2
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I've hiked sections of the FLT in the fall and the winter. I've not hiked around the Ithaca area (its hiller there). The areas I've hiked had some hills but no serious elevation gain. The trail sometimes crosses roads and/or you need to hike a short distance along a road. I did not find the trail overly challenging even when I snow shoed in the winter and had to break trail the entire way. I think 8-10 miles a day is very doable. You can buy a set of maps from the FLT Association and there is some good information on their site. Everyone I have dealt with in that organization has been very helpful. When I snow shoed by my self last winter, the woman who helped me with a car spot made me promise to call her when I got back to my car. You do need to plan where you will spend the night. Alot of the FLT is on private land and you cannot camp on it. Parts of it also close down during hunting season; not sure if there is anything in NYS during May.

In not sure how far of a drive it would be, but there are several trails in north central PA to consider; you can hike along the PA Grand Canyon and there is the Black Forest and Loyalsock trails. Good info on the Keystone Trails Association web site.
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Old 12-28-2011, 02:15 PM   #3
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You have a lot of options, I'll throw out some suggestions and if you want more detail on any either respond here, or PM me.

May in the High Peaks area(bounded roughly by I87, Rt 73, Blue Ridge Highway and the Raquette River) can still have plenty of snow. But there are numerous trips you can do in that area of the time and length you mentioned. One long weekend in May a few years ago we hiked from Long Lake to Newcomb Lake - relatively low lying terrain and we still hiked through sections of snow.

Cranberry Lake area is generally flatter than the High Peaks but still has some little peaks to climb. Doesn't see much use so you can get a good wilderness experience. Multiple trails available with varying distances.

Other options in the Adirondacks include Siamese Ponds and West Canada Lakes area -- but I've never spent much time in those areas so can't provide much in the way of advice.

Here's a good link: that describes many of the wilderness areas in the Adirondacks.

Another option, depending on how much you want to drive, is Allegany State Park in NY and Allegheny National Forest in PA. Many miles of trails, through typically mature hardwood forests. Some nice scenery, especially looking down on the reservoir.

Good luck and don't hesitate to ask for more details on anything described above...
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Old 12-28-2011, 02:22 PM   #4
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For a backpacking trip in May, you're going to have some considerations that you wouldn't have a on trip later on in the season.

First and foremost is temperatures- night in the Adirondacks in May can still be quite chilly, and you're going to want to make sure that you've got an appropriate sleeping bag and some extra warm layers, both of which are going to increase your pack weight.

Another concern is going to be water crossings without bridges, which you are almost sure to encounter on a long distance through trip. The water is going to be high with runoff from melting snow, and it's also going to be quite cold.

The last concern is bugs, specifically black flies. They tend to be out in force by the 3rd week of May, sometimes earlier. They are vicious and can make what would otherwise be a fun backpacking trip pretty miserable. Make sure you are prepared with bug nets. The only positive aspect of black flies is that they go away at night, unlike mosquitoes which don't come out until later in the season.

I don't want to discourage you too much from going in May, but personally, if I was bringing someone on their first ever backpacking trip and I had a choice as to the time of year, I'd make it happen in late August. By then, most of the bugs are dead, you don't get the strong thunderstorms that are typical of early summer, the nights are cool but the days are still warm, and the water in ponds and lakes is the perfect temperature for swimming. Your chances of having an enjoyable trip are far improved during this time of year- and there's nothing like a horrible experience on a first-time backpacking trip to turn someone off to hiking in general.

8-10 miles isn't an unreasonable expectation, provided you are all in reasonable shape, although it may be a tad bit on the lengthy side for a first time backpacking excursion. Since you never know what you might encounter (blisters, sore feet, sore backs) it might be best to play it safe, and shoot for slightly shorter days- say in the realm of 5, 6 or 7 miles. This will give you more time to stop and enjoy the scenery along the way as well.

As for a destination, I'd look into maybe doing part of the Northville-Placid Trail or even part of the Cranberry Lake 50 trail. The Silver Lake Wilderness section of the NPT is about 21 miles, which would allow you to average 7 miles a day. Wanakena to the Dog Pond Trailhead via Janack's Landing/the CL50 is about 20 miles or so, which would also be a good option.

Hope that helps!
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Old 12-28-2011, 05:19 PM   #5
Join Date: Dec 2011
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Thank you all so much for the suggestions so far! I wasn't sure when the bug season got unbearable, as a lot of the stuff I do is usually around april to avoid the issue entirely (which also contributes to why much of my hiking has been day hikes).

keep the ideas coming
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Old 12-28-2011, 05:24 PM   #6
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Yeah, usually there is about a week or two in early may between when the snow melts and when the black flies come out that makes for nice hiking. It can sometimes be difficult to time a trip for this period though, since it varies from year to year...
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Old 12-28-2011, 08:31 PM   #7
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Mr fox,

As others have mentioned, May is a crap shoot, black flies might arrive early or late. Generally speaking, the first week or two the little guys swarm a lot, but don't bite aggressively until they've been out for a couple weeks.
Not mentioned yet, some trail heads and seasonal roads are still closed in May, again, dates depend on the winter snow melt and recent precipitation levels. For example, most of the West Canada region and Jessup River area will be difficult to access early season, simply due to the added distances imposed by road closures.

A relatively low elevation area is Pharoah Lakes, accessible through Putnam Pond. The loop distances are shorter, maybe, and that might be better. There are many ponds and campsites, most all in wilderness settings, and some opportunity to through hike as well. There are even a couple of fun climbs with good views. As DSettahr said, blisters, sore legs, sore backs all make for long day 2 and day 3 experiences. My son-in-law had huge blisters on his feet after only 5 miles of carrying half of a canoe...he could not have gone on like that.

So, to recap:

Hope for no bugs, but be prepared if they are early-you are late.
Expect snow at higher elevations/sheltered regions.
Prepare for sub freezing temps at night.
Most of all, make it fun and memorable!!

Oh, and welcome to the forum. Be sure to post a TR and photos when you're done with your trip.
Stripperguy's Photos (sort of)
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Old 12-29-2011, 05:35 AM   #8
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Part of the fun could also be the gear and most importantly the physical preparation for you trip. Walking with full load backpacks at near daily distances, several times, several weeks before your trip. You will have done your best to eliminate the worries about blisters and physical conditioning. Then depending on how you all feel you could plan the right length trip. For now, plan/research several trips. As for bugs, IF Everyone in your group feels physically ok bug jackets, duct tape and only a sparing use of chemical repellents can make the bugs part of the adventure. Some people react very badly to black fly bites so the goal would, should be 100% bite free trip. The bug goal may not be met but with proper preparation all aspects of your trip will be fun to talk about for years after the trip.
Same with rain, mud, cold weather.

In summary prepare for bugs, physical conditioning and Travel Light. I saw three guys, in May, attempting a 60 mile circle route in Canada with no "bail out possibility". They had everything, multiple tents, snow shoes, tarp for cooking under, at least two stoves, camp chairs, etc. At mile 3 I passed them struggling to cross a beaver dam. They were planning a week for the 60 miles. I'm sure it was a very long trip to them. (I hiked fairly light at 22 lbs, solo, no stove for example, it was cold, i did three 20 mile days.)

With three young strong guys, + several cars, I would plan one real long distance including an auto shuttle, light weight - one tarp etc. trip in the mix of trip planning.
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Old 12-29-2011, 12:23 PM   #9
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We have been out somewhere between May 10 & May 18 for the past four or so years and have encountered the best hiking weather and bug situation imaginable! Virtually no bugs. One thing to think about is access points and making sure certain roads will be open. Some of the seasonal roads that are used to access parts of the wilderness tend to open mid - end of May.

A section of the NPT, The High Falls Loop near Cranberry Lake, or the Pharoah Lakes Wilderness would be good options to check out. The National Geographic Trails maps are an excellent reference and show trails, mileages, and Lean-to's.
- Kevin
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