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Old 11-17-2014, 03:07 PM   #1
Pikehunter7
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Camping at Pharoah Lake

Hello. I am new to the forum, but been up in the ADKS since I was a little guy (1970's). Our family has a camp in the Lake George area. Around 1980, I was 9 years old and my folks took my brother and I camping at Pharoah Lake. Our Lake George neighbor/close family friend told us of Pharoah at the time.
What was funny was how protective the locals were. Upon arriving in the area, we were told several times at local spots (general stores etc.) that they didn't know where Pharoah was. I guess I can't blame them for being protective of such a beautiful area, but I do remember it delaying our finding of Pharoah. Lol. Sadly, those days are gone and the internet has now opened a Pandora's box that can never be shut.
Anyway, being 9 yrs. old, I have only vague remembrances of Pharoah and haven't been back since. My hope is to now camp there with my family, but I don't know what im in for. I do remember a trail that was about 3 miles long with several bridges. We ended up camping in a lean-to on a rock point that was beautiful. The point gradually descended down to the water and I remember water snakes in the area.

If this spot rings a bell for anyone, I'd be very grateful for guidance on how to get there again. My hope is to camp there this summer. Regrettably, I'm thinking this may be a long shot. From reading the forums, this area seems very popular now and my parents were no expert campers. We probably took the shortest/easiest route which sounds like it would be the most populated on a summer weekend. We may have lucked out getting this site because it was 1980 and the area was likely less known.

I have a few questions too:

1) For people who hike/canoe etc., how do you protect your spot from theft etc. while you're gone?

2) My hope is to get a canoe and our gear in by use of a canoe cart. Is this a do-able thing on these trails?

3) With this being a popular area and the hike in being somewhat long, how do campers go about firewood? Is this the cause of the 'damage' noted on the forums? I never want to impact an area, but I can see people getting their firewood from the nearby area.

Thank so much for any help.

-Pike
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Old 11-17-2014, 04:06 PM   #2
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some info here: http://www.cnyhiking.com/PharaohLakeWilderness.htm

Justin is a great source of information about the area, send him a PM & I'm sure he'll help you out.

You can also do a search on the forum for threads on the area.
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Old 11-17-2014, 04:38 PM   #3
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Pharaoh is a lovely, but busy spot. Go during the week if you can. It sounds like your family took you in from the south, from the the Beaver Pond Road. If you park at the legal parking lot, it's about 4 miles to Pharaoh. If you have a big 4WD verhicle, you can shave about 1 mile off that distance. However, it's not legal to drive the extra distance, but no one will do anything about it and many folks do it everyday.

You can cart a canoe in there, but it's a rocky trail.

The lean-to you rmember on the rock ledge is gone. However, there is a HUGE/double LT just south of it ands several others around the lake.

I have heard of no thefts at Pharaoh, but it can be a very busy spot and sometimes with noise and beer parties; it's just too easy to get to. I've spent many a quiet night there, but I've also heard boom boxes, people yelling and shotguns going off. Like I said, go during the week.

Firewood is scarce around LT's. Do you really need a fire? Use a campstove to cook with.
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Old 11-17-2014, 10:54 PM   #4
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Pharaoh is a lovely, but busy spot. Go during the week if you can. It sounds like your family took you in from the south, from the the Beaver Pond Road. If you park at the legal parking lot, it's about 4 miles to Pharaoh. If you have a big 4WD verhicle, you can shave about 1 mile off that distance. However, it's not legal to drive the extra distance, but no one will do anything about it and many folks do it everyday.

You can cart a canoe in there, but it's a rocky trail.

The lean-to you rmember on the rock ledge is gone. However, there is a HUGE/double LT just south of it ands several others around the lake.

I have heard of no thefts at Pharaoh, but it can be a very busy spot and sometimes with noise and beer parties; it's just too easy to get to. I've spent many a quiet night there, but I've also heard boom boxes, people yelling and shotguns going off. Like I said, go during the week.

Firewood is scarce around LT's. Do you really need a fire? Use a campstove to cook with.
Thank you so much. Sad to hear that the LT we stayed in is gone. At least I can visit the spot. Can probably get by w/o a campfire. Sounds like there will be a lot of 'carry' points if using the canoe cart. I guess we'll do the best we can. Thanks again.
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Old 11-17-2014, 11:21 PM   #5
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The easiest way to get into Pharaoh Lake is via the old road from the south. The road is legally closed, but is currently "drive at your own risk" to the Mill Brook crossing (and it is very much at your own risk, with some deep washouts). Bringing a canoe in on a cart on this trail is doable, but plan to take some time doing it- the old road is a bit rocky and muddy in spots. Avoid the temptation to use the canoe to hold your gear, as you'll be lifting it and the cart up and over rocks fairly frequently

There are 2 other moderately difficult ways to get into the lake- via Crane Pond and Glidden Marsh to the north, and via Putnam Pond to the east. Some people actually prefer these methods of approach, as you arrive at the lake away from the outlet, which tends to be the most popular (and most crowded) stretch of the lake.

There are also 2 longer trails that access Pharaoh Lake- the Sucker Brook Trail from the west, and the Springhill Ponds Trail from the south. Both of these trails are minimally maintained and are recommended only for those with a fair amount of experience in backcountry navigation.

The lean-to you stayed in sounds very much like the old Watch Rock Lean-to, which burned down a few years ago (I think in the 90's). The state has since closed the tip of the Watch Rock peninsula to all camping as a result of high levels of camping impacts. Accordingly, the very tip of the peninsula is now day use only. There is still a lean-to on the peninsula, set back from the tip, but it is very popular and you're very unlikely to find it unoccupied in the summer.

In general, the sites along the outlet on the west end of the lake are the most popular, as they are the most accessible. These sites do fill up fast on Friday afternoons in the summer, and if you plan to go on a weekend, you'll need to be prepared for the possibility of having to travel 2 or 3 more miles to find an open site after you reach the lake. There are 11 designated sites in addition to the 6 lean-tos (look for the yellow plastic discs that say "camp here"), so 17 legal spots to camp on the lake total. On most weekends in the summer, there are usually at least a couple of sites open, but the lake does fill up to capacity on holiday weekends.

Unfortunately, Pharaoh Lake is also a highly impacted destination. It is a popular beginner destination, as well as a popular destination for large groups of family/friends. It is also the most popular backcountry destination in the Adirondacks outside of the High Peaks. Knowledge of minimum impact camping techniques (such as Leave No Trace) among groups is often minimal at best. Firewood is hard to find at most campsites, and stumps are a visible reminder of the failure of previous groups to practice LNT. Charmin blossoms unfortunately are also frequently encountered.

The state has increased efforts at maintaining a visible presence and providing education on the lake in recent years, and also implemented a few re-vegetation projects on the lake, but issues with tree cutting as well as garbage and human waste disposal still frequently occur.

It is a beautiful destination nonetheless, and a unique resource- it is the largest lake in the Adirondacks completely surrounded by wilderness. Definitely worth visiting if you can either go when it isn't busy, or are willing to endure an experience that doesn't provide much in the way of solitude.

Last edited by DSettahr; 11-18-2014 at 01:24 AM..
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Old 11-19-2014, 09:14 PM   #6
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The easiest way to get into Pharaoh Lake is via the old road from the south. The road is legally closed, but is currently "drive at your own risk" to the Mill Brook crossing (and it is very much at your own risk, with some deep washouts). Bringing a canoe in on a cart on this trail is doable, but plan to take some time doing it- the old road is a bit rocky and muddy in spots. Avoid the temptation to use the canoe to hold your gear, as you'll be lifting it and the cart up and over rocks fairly frequently

There are 2 other moderately difficult ways to get into the lake- via Crane Pond and Glidden Marsh to the north, and via Putnam Pond to the east. Some people actually prefer these methods of approach, as you arrive at the lake away from the outlet, which tends to be the most popular (and most crowded) stretch of the lake.

There are also 2 longer trails that access Pharaoh Lake- the Sucker Brook Trail from the west, and the Springhill Ponds Trail from the south. Both of these trails are minimally maintained and are recommended only for those with a fair amount of experience in backcountry navigation.

The lean-to you stayed in sounds very much like the old Watch Rock Lean-to, which burned down a few years ago (I think in the 90's). The state has since closed the tip of the Watch Rock peninsula to all camping as a result of high levels of camping impacts. Accordingly, the very tip of the peninsula is now day use only. There is still a lean-to on the peninsula, set back from the tip, but it is very popular and you're very unlikely to find it unoccupied in the summer.

In general, the sites along the outlet on the west end of the lake are the most popular, as they are the most accessible. These sites do fill up fast on Friday afternoons in the summer, and if you plan to go on a weekend, you'll need to be prepared for the possibility of having to travel 2 or 3 more miles to find an open site after you reach the lake. There are 11 designated sites in addition to the 6 lean-tos (look for the yellow plastic discs that say "camp here"), so 17 legal spots to camp on the lake total. On most weekends in the summer, there are usually at least a couple of sites open, but the lake does fill up to capacity on holiday weekends.

Unfortunately, Pharaoh Lake is also a highly impacted destination. It is a popular beginner destination, as well as a popular destination for large groups of family/friends. It is also the most popular backcountry destination in the Adirondacks outside of the High Peaks. Knowledge of minimum impact camping techniques (such as Leave No Trace) among groups is often minimal at best. Firewood is hard to find at most campsites, and stumps are a visible reminder of the failure of previous groups to practice LNT. Charmin blossoms unfortunately are also frequently encountered.

The state has increased efforts at maintaining a visible presence and providing education on the lake in recent years, and also implemented a few re-vegetation projects on the lake, but issues with tree cutting as well as garbage and human waste disposal still frequently occur.

It is a beautiful destination nonetheless, and a unique resource- it is the largest lake in the Adirondacks completely surrounded by wilderness. Definitely worth visiting if you can either go when it isn't busy, or are willing to endure an experience that doesn't provide much in the way of solitude.
Awesome. Thanks so much for the great info. I appreciate it. Sorry to hear that the point has been so affected, but it doesn't surprise me. It's a great spot and obviously got a lot of traffic. At least I can go and see it again.

Struggling with the camp fire issue. Such a great part of camping, but also leads to the enviro impact that's been mentioned. Nobody's going to lug in wood, so that explains the chopping.
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Old 11-19-2014, 10:43 PM   #7
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Struggling with the camp fire issue. Such a great part of camping, but also leads to the enviro impact that's been mentioned. Nobody's going to lug in wood, so that explains the chopping.
Yes, it is part of camping, but there are so many of us using the limited resource. No one cooks or stays warm with a fire these days, it's all about watching it burn. Caveman TV.
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Old 11-20-2014, 12:45 AM   #8
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Yes, it is part of camping, but there are so many of us using the limited resource. No one cooks or stays warm with a fire these days, it's all about watching it burn. Caveman TV.
I shouldn't have used the word 'struggling'. Wont be me damaging the trees during my trip. I basically meant that it would be nice if not for the effect on the area.
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Old 11-20-2014, 07:41 AM   #9
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I shouldn't have used the word 'struggling'. Wont be me damaging the trees during my trip. I basically meant that it would be nice if not for the effect on the area.
I didn't take you seriously with te word "struggling". I know you won't damaged trees, but a campfire is nice thing to have and legal, if you use dead & down wood. It's just that the dead & down is gone and that forces the ignorant & apathetic (a deadly combo) to cut down trees.

A friend of mine puts charcoal in big ziploc bag and carries that in for his firewood. Inconvenient, and not the same effect as a campfire, but it does save the local resource.
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Old 11-20-2014, 12:13 PM   #10
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No one cooks or stays warm with a fire these days, it's all about watching it burn. Caveman TV.
Not true.
I haven't used my stove on a backpacking trip in over 12 years. I always cook and boil water over a campfire, and often use them to warm up a bit on chilly mornings. The trouble is many people are just too damn lazy, and/or are just not educated enough to not cut down standing trees, especially at a popular campsite located on a peninsula such as Watch Rock Point. I do however agree that Pharaoh Lake is prone to severe negative impacts, much more so in recent years imho, such as lean-to #6 being burned down a few years ago. Why they chose to rebuild it is beyond me.
I camped at Pharaoh Lake Lean-to #4 a couple weeks ago, and there was plenty of dead & downed wood within a 5 minute walk from the campsite. After about an hour of gathering and cutting wood, I had enough for my intended use, and even left a bunch in the lean-to for the next occupants.
Btw, welcome to Adkforum Pikehunter 7.

Last edited by Justin; 11-24-2014 at 06:38 PM.. Reason: Deleted photo
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Old 11-20-2014, 12:44 PM   #11
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Pharoah is a beautiful lake for paddling, I tried to cart a boat up with a homemade cart it didn't make it .75 miles, don't load the boat. I portaged an ultralight tandem and it was well worth it. I too am hoping to go again next year. Of course I haven't been there in 20 plus years. Don't leave any valuables in your vehicle, mine was broken into during hunting season.
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Old 11-20-2014, 02:23 PM   #12
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I was able to pull a seakayak loaded with gear all the way in from the south end years ago. Holy smoke-must have been '96! It sure wasn't easy but I'm so glad I did it. It was a great place years ago. I was back there a couple of years ago and it's still a beautiful place but not as nice as it was. Just too much junk laying around on Watch Rock. Definitely go for a mid week trip!
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Old 11-20-2014, 02:50 PM   #13
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Justin, I know that there are some people who do cook on a fire. When I siad "no one", I meant it in the way we say "everybody", a general term. Perhaps I should state that FEW people cook over a fire these days.
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Old 11-20-2014, 04:40 PM   #14
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Justin, I know that there are some people who do cook on a fire. When I siad "no one", I meant it in the way we say "everybody", a general term. Perhaps I should state that FEW people cook over a fire these days.
I didn't take you seriously with the words "no one".
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Old 11-20-2014, 05:13 PM   #15
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No matter how well-used a LT might be I have always found plenty of dead and down wood by walking a couple hundred yards down the trail then going off the trail and penetrating into the woods.
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Old 11-20-2014, 06:12 PM   #16
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A few years ago I helped cart & carry a 35lb canoe to Pharaoh Lake from Mill Brook...never again! Now-a-days I just bring a paddle, or the means to make a paddle, and search the woods near the lake. Sometimes you get lucky, and you'll find a canoe or boat right at the outlet, or at a lean-to. One important item to keep in your pack is an Ace Bandage, you know...in case of an emergency.



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Old 11-22-2014, 01:07 PM   #17
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For those who are suggesting "just travel further to get firewood" as a solution to the issue... some food for thought:

One of the factors that is used in evaluating how impacted a site has become is the number of social trails that exist emanating from a site, and how far they stretch into the surrounding forest. A primary cause in the formation of these trails, obviously, is groups searching for firewood. The more social trails there are (and the longer they are), the more impacted a site is considered to be, and the more likely it may be considered for closure or rehabilitation.

Given that downed woody debris plays several important roles in ecologic systems (including both habitat and nutrient cycling), removal of all woody debris over a wide area can definitely be seen as "trammeling" the natural processes within that area. The idea that fires can cause high impacts even without tree cutting is definitely an important one in wilderness management.

Now, of course, I'm not saying that you should always restrict your firewood collecting to the immediate vicinity of any/every campsite you occupy. But for the sites that are already highly impacted, the idea of "just traveling further to get firewood" may be akin to using a band-aid to fix a bullet wound (and may even actually still be making things worse).

I think that a large part of the difficulties inherent in minimizing fire impacts on Pharaoh Lake is that Pharaoh Lake itself is the destination. Overnight groups go there to be on the lake (and who can blame them- it is a beautiful lake ). Pharaoh Mountain is the only nearby destination that is likely to draw people out of their campsites for an extended period of time, and many overnight groups camped on the lake don't actually climb the mountain while they are there. The result of this is that in many of the sites, you've got a roaring campfire going during all waking hours, from the moment a group shows up on Friday afternoon to the moment they leave on Sunday afternoon... weekend after weekend, after weekend, after weekend, throughout the whole summer and well into early fall. (And again year after year, after year, after year...)

(Contrast this with an area like the High Peaks, where most overnight groups leave camp during the day to summit one or more peaks.)
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Old 11-22-2014, 05:09 PM   #18
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Thank you. Well said. 'd like to add one small point, however: this happens at more places, not just Pharaoh. Pharaoh just gets more use than most places, except the High Peaks.
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Old 11-22-2014, 08:50 PM   #19
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For those who are suggesting "just travel further to get firewood" as a solution to the issue... some food for thought:
I get it, and that's not what I'm suggesting. Just wanted to point out that the north end is not as heavily impacted as the other end, which has already been mentioned, yet the lazy and uneducated apparently still take it upon themselves to cut down live trees and branches, when all they had to do was walk 5 minutes away. Herd paths, scarce firewood, over-use, and abuse in general near lean-tos anywhere in the Adks is not uncommon at all. Perhaps if the road was closed, and/or a campfire ban was implemented it would help curb some of these on going negative impacts at Pharaoh Lake. If not, I don't see much change there in the near future, but many thanks to you D for all that you do for the area.

Good luck to Pikehunter 7. I too have loved Pharaoh Lake for a long time, but now I only visit during the slow seasons. Didn't see another soul when I was there a couple weekends ago.

Last edited by Justin; 11-22-2014 at 10:14 PM.. Reason: I'm horrible at typing, it's not my strong suit, please forgive me.
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Old 11-23-2014, 09:39 AM   #20
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The nice thing about solving this problem is it doesn't require us to do anything. We just need to stop doing something. Nature will take care of the wounds we've left behind.
Carrying a stove is actually less work than gathering and processing firewood. If we truly care about the ADKs then we need to step back and look at what "I am doing" , not just what other people are doing, and just because its still legal doesn't make it the right thing to do.

Be a good steward of the land we love, its our watch.
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