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Old 01-25-2017, 10:08 AM   #1
tenderfoot
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Mid April?

So in late March I cross a significant birthday. Family asked what I wanted to do and the thought of matching miles for age popped into my mind. Maybe a 3-4 day affair...

My trusty hiking partner has Spring Break starting April 14th. I think this is prior to black fly season but there will still be snow in the woods and of course a storm is not out of the question. Way to early to get a good feel for the weather.

We are comfortable and experienced camping in the teens and backpacking in the twenties-thirties.

Questions:
Do you think this would be 'plan on Snowshoeing extensive parts of trail', 'bring snowshoes as a precaution' or 'skip through the woods unencumbered'.

Do you think creeks and streams will be passable? I am concerned about getting to them (ice around edges) and of course getting through / over them with the increase in melt? Great tip here recently about crossing same stream morning and afternoon is actually different since sun increases melt.

General wetness of trail this time of year? Tough to predict but I have to think if it is warm enough low lying areas would be rather wet?

Thinking of bear barrel whole way. Need it after Apr 1 in high peaks and more than once I have deployed a shoddy bear bag due to dark.

Any thoughts would be appreciated.
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Old 01-25-2017, 11:19 AM   #2
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From my notes in mid april for the last couple years...

2016---no snow, ice-out on lakes
2015---snow patches, still ice on lakes
2014---some clear patches mostly still snow, still ice
2013---no notes
2012--- no snow, ice-out
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Old 01-25-2017, 11:38 AM   #3
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To answer your questions:
  • That time frame is kind of a toss-up with regards to snow and it's really difficult to predict what you can expect to encounter this far out. A lot depends on what kind of winter we have, as well as the weather in the weeks leading up to your trip. You could find very little (or no) snow in the backcountry, or you could find deep unbroken snow the entire way. I would suggest that it is very likely that you'll need snowshoes at least some of the time, and there's a good chance that you'll use them more often than not.
  • I think stream crossings will definitely be a concern. Most of the major rivers crossed by the NPT have bridges, but there's a number of smaller streams that can definitely run pretty high during the spring melt. Ice dams and/or rain can definitely exacerbate flooding even more. Streams that are little more than a few inches deep during the summer can be 3 or 4 feet deep when snow is melting- I've seen it happen first hand.
  • Yeah, I would plan for a cold and wet trip. Where there isn't snow, there will be mud. There may be deep standing water on some portions of the trail (beaver flooding is a minor issue along some stretches of the NPT). If you're unlucky enough to get rain, it will likely be a cold rain (perfect hypothermia conditions). Nights will still be relatively cool (below freezing).
  • You don't need a bear canister for any portion of the NPT. The section in the High Peaks is in the Western High Peaks, where no canister is required. There's nothing wrong with bringing one if that's what works for you, though.
Some general thoughts:

It sounds like you're considering the Cold River area. Honestly, if we do have another "normal" Winter (looks like the jury is still out on what kind of Winter it will be), 4 days may not be enough time to be able to get from Long Lake to Lake Placid (or vice-versa). If there's still substantial snow on the ground, it very likely won't be broken much more than a few miles from the trailhead. Crossing a single flooded stream can also easily become an ordeal that takes up several hours. You'll have the advantage of having longer days, but even this may not be enough to enable you to stick to an itinerary that gets you from Long Lake to Lake Placid in 4 days.

Another important consideration is that even if you are able to keep up a relatively quick pace, by choosing a point-to-point hike through a remote area, you're committing yourself to getting up and hiking a fair amount of mileage every day regardless of the conditions. Say you do end up having a storm with cold, steady rainfall come through; in order to stick to your itinerary, you'll have no choice but to hike through it. Spending the day just hanging out in camp won't be an option no matter how nasty things get.

Granted, much of what I've outlined above is admittedly sort of a "worst case scenario," and you certainly could have good conditions that lend themselves to a very nice hike. Regardless, the conditions are I describe are definitely things that you'd be wise to consider, and a trip like this will definitely demand a fair amount of preparation on your part at the very least. You could come out of the hike with good stories to tell about an epic experience, but personally, I suspect that you'd likely get a bit more satisfaction out of the more remote areas of the NPT if you chose to visit them during a season that was a bit more conducive to enjoyable hiking.
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Old 01-25-2017, 12:15 PM   #4
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I took a look at photographs I've taken on April trips from past years. Based on what I saw, I'd say you've got about a 33% chance of encountering little (or no) snow, a 33% chance of encountering patchy snow that may be deep enough for snowshoes at times, and a 33% chance of encountering snow that requires the use of snowshoes most of the time (or at all times).

(The remaining 1% is the chance of encountering an actual snow storm that dumps a foot of wet, heavy snow during your hike.)

Would an alternative destination work for you? There's a bunch of nice trails in the Pennsylvania Wilds, and that area is pretty much guaranteed to be snow free at that time. The area has both linear and loop trails ranging in length from 25 to 120+ miles so there's definitely a ton of options that would enable you to pick something as easy or as hard as you want.

That might be a good time frame to visit the Monongahela in WV as well, since that area will be well out of winter. The Dolly Sods could definitely keep you occupied for 3-4 days. If you wanted a longer, more challenging itinerary, check out the Cranberry Wilderness.

Alternatively, if you were willing to drive a fair distance south, mid-April is just about the height of wildflower season in the southern Appalachians. Wildflowers in the northeast don't hold a candle to those of the mountains in NC/TN/GA. At times, you'll be hiking through areas where the forest floor is literally carpeted in thousands upon thousands of trilliums, trout lilies, and more.
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Old 01-25-2017, 04:32 PM   #5
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If you are thinking about the Coldriver area, Go in from Cory's take the Calkins brook trail to The Npt. It will be dry an if you decide the streams are crossed by bridges. Easy hike. Once you hit the npt.
From there its up to you how far up the trail you want to go. It will be about six miles before the first stream crossing Seward brook . from there about three more before the next three. Then you should be at the junction of Ward brook . that will take you back to the trail head. That will be dry till you hit the Bb trail. Check your maps for more info.
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Old 01-25-2017, 08:51 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cold River Bob View Post
Then you should be at the junction of Ward brook . that will take you back to the trail head. That will be dry till you hit the Bb trail. Check your maps for more info.
There is that marshy area midway between Mountain Pond and Camp Four, but other than that, yeah, it should be pretty dry.

I agree that coming from Corey's would make a trip to the Cold River area a bit more feasible/easier to undertake.
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Old 01-25-2017, 09:06 PM   #7
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Personally, I'd think about going to Harriman St. Park. There are over 200 miles of trails, historic mines to see and shelters to stay in. Snow melts out by mid-March, if there is any left.

If you'd like to do parts of the NP, the southern section from Piseco to Northville should be fine. I've done the trail twice in the spring (leaving around May 1 from Lake Placid) and I've run into snow on the ground, ice jams that I had to crawl over and freezing rain storms. While none were life threatening, it does make wonder.
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Old 01-25-2017, 09:17 PM   #8
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Very much appreciate the info. I might nibble on the southern section but will also seek alternate plans. The out of State hiking is attractive - ADK is 6 hours away so that is a big circle that will get us to PA or points south. And I have been eyeing Algonquin's backpacking trails north of the border - shorter loops and the faint possibility of hearing a wolf howl or two (and possibly faint).

Will set aside the time, prep the gear and come up with 2 or three options and than watch the weather.

Of course the peak list is not getting any shorter...
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Old 01-25-2017, 10:01 PM   #9
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Have you done anything on the Finger Lakes/North Country Trail? I've had my eyes on the Allegany State Park/Tracy Ridge section for a while. You'd start in Allegany State Park, hike south across the border into Allegheny National Forest, and finish at Tracy Ridge. I've heard good things about the Tracy Ridge area especially. The distance would be about 30 miles. There's shelters to stay at in Allegany State Park, and backcountry campsites (and 2 walk in/boat in campgrounds) in the Tracy Ridge area.

EDIT: I checked the Nat Geo map and the distance on the NCT from the Red House Brook trailhead in ASP to the Sugar Bay Trailhead in ANF is 30.4 miles. You could easily extend this buy hiking further on the NCT, or by picking a longer route through the Tracy Ridge area.

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Old 01-26-2017, 03:23 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by dundee View Post
Personally, I'd think about going to Harriman St. Park. There are over 200 miles of trails, historic mines to see and shelters to stay in. Snow melts out by mid-March, if there is any left.
The only thing to watch for (with any of the sites) is a late storm that covers only part of the area.

We set up a hike once in either March or April - being just south of Albany we set it up for Fahnestock park (not quite as far south as Harriman, but not too far away).
The day before, we got one of those coastal storms, and wound up with nothing locally but a few inches of snow (which then the next day turned into a rain storm, creating slush) down there - so much for going south for better weather!
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