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Old 09-19-2018, 12:14 AM   #1
jblaser
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Better Late Than Never Trip Report

West Canada Lakes Wilderness “French Louie Loop”
Trip Report (August 15-21, 2018)

It was a 6-day trip for a total of about 22 miles. This was the trip I was looking forward to since watching Rob's (Backpacking Adventures), Justin's and Mark's videos of their time in the WCLW. After spending the last 20+ years canoe camping, I decided to start backpacking again. To get back into it, I did a half dozen trips of 10-14 miles each in the spring/early summer, culminating with a 20 mile, 4 day, trek through the Pharaoh Lake Wilderness.

My first couple of trips were using my "old" backpacking equipment from the 80's, including a Lowe (internal frame) pack which was "state-of-the-art" at the time and my Asolo boots. I figured they would be fine, as they worked well during three trips to Alaska (including in Denali National Park), the Pacific Northwest and excursions in Idaho and Montana. Unfortunately, I didn't take into account that I was now older and not as fit as I was back then.

I did upgrade my shelter/sleep system to a Warbonnet Ridge Runner bridge hammock, as I feared a sore, stiff back if I remained a ground dweller. After the first two trips with the old equipment, I quickly upgraded to a new Gregory Baltoro 65L and Salomon Quest 4D GTX boots. Unlike my earlier hiking days, I also used trekking poles. Oh what a difference all of that made!

The weather during my WCLW journey was good - daytime temps in the 70's and nights were upper 50's - 60's. There was a strong thunderstorm on the first afternoon and then it rained only one other day and night. Surprisingly, bugs were nearly non-existent; I never used repellent during the entire trip. The WCLW is truly spectacular, providing a true Adirondack wilderness experience. There were lots of lakes, streams, rivers and campsites. Most impressive was the forest, with some very large specimens and fine stands. Hiking through them, I found myself pausing to "drink in" the forest. An unexpected bonus of the trip was meeting and spending time with other hikers. I went there seeking solitude and had some of it, but the time spent with those other hikers will always be remembered as one of the high points of the trip.

Day 1: Pillsbury Mt. Trail Head - Pillsbury Lake
Day 2: Pillsbury Lake - West Lake #1
Day 3: West Lake #1
Day 4: West Lake #1 - West Lake #2 - Cedar Lake #2
Day 5: Cedar Lake #2
Day 6: Cedar Lake #2 - Pillsbury Mt. Trail Head

I definitely want to go back, this time for 7-8 days. I'd like to bring my pack raft and spend more time taking side trips to Whitney, Sampson and Brooktrout lakes to explore and fish. On this trip I mostly camped at the lean-to sites; next time I want to camp at other, more secluded, less used sites.

Here is the link to some photos from the trip:
West Canada Lakes Wilderness (French Louie Loop) 2018
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Old 09-19-2018, 06:56 AM   #2
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Nice photos!

Looks like you had a very nice trip.
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Old 09-19-2018, 08:05 AM   #3
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Nice photos John.
Makes me want to get back to South & West Lakes, been way too long!
Did you see French Louie’s fireplace at West Lake? I didn’t see a photo.
Next time be sure to visit his cave while you’re in that area.
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Old 09-19-2018, 09:57 AM   #4
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Hi Justin. I didn't see the fireplace, but want to check it and the cave out next time. I don't know the location of the cave, but hopefully can find out before next summer. Thanks for your videos and the motivation to get a pack on again!
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Old 09-19-2018, 09:59 AM   #5
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Nice photos!

Looks like you had a very nice trip.
Thanks Tick Magnet. It was a memorable trip that wet my appetite for backpacking and getting back there again.
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Old 09-19-2018, 11:20 AM   #6
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Hi Justin. I didn't see the fireplace,
Probably hidden in the tall grass & weeds growing in the old clearing near the trail register at the junction for West 2/Brooktrout, near the old double-dumper outhouse (if that’s even still there).
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Old 09-19-2018, 11:48 AM   #7
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Great photos. Thanks for bringing us along and jogging many memories for me.

That's all for now. Take care and until next time....be well.

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Old 09-19-2018, 11:51 AM   #8
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Probably hidden in the tall grass & weeds growing in the old clearing near the trail register at the junction for West 2/Brooktrout, near the old double-dumper outhouse (if thatís even still there).
Thanks, probably why I missed it. I will definitely seek it out on my next visit, as I want to spend a few days in that general area.
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Old 09-19-2018, 11:51 AM   #9
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Great photos. Thanks for bringing us along and jogging many memories for me.

That's all for now. Take care and until next time....be well.


snapper

Thanks, you too.
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Old 09-19-2018, 12:14 PM   #10
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Probably hidden in the tall grass & weeds growing in the old clearing near the trail register at the junction for West 2/Brooktrout, near the old double-dumper outhouse (if thatís even still there).
Exactly right. To bypass all the grass, I ended up approaching it from the backside through the woods between where it is located and the lake. Found it to be an easier route, though the large amount of glass shards from old, broken bottles in that area of the woods was pretty disheartening.

I had been there in August and was hoping to find some berries in the briars around the foundation. I was NOT disappointed. Raspberries everywhere! I think that even though it's such a popular area all that tall grass kept people from exploring and finding them.

The really funny part (funny now, as I look back anyway) was that as I was absorbed in picking berries around the edges of the old foundation a large snake suddenly appeared at my feet and scared the @#$! out of me! I must have jumped back five feet, completely surprised! (And scared - I'll admit it I don't like snakes)

Later, I joked with my brother that maybe it was a relative of one of Louie's "pets" from back in the day..

And yes, Justin, the "double dumper" remains.


BTW - Nice pictures John! Enjoyed them. I was going to say that it looked a tad overcast from your photos, but I see in your post you said the weather was OK for the most part. Glad to hear.

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Old 09-19-2018, 12:58 PM   #11
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Exactly right. To bypass all the grass, I ended up approaching it from the backside through the woods between where it is located and the lake. Found it to be an easier route, though the large amount of glass shards from old, broken bottles in that area of the woods was pretty disheartening.

I had been there in August and was hoping to find some berries in the briars around the foundation. I was NOT disappointed. Raspberries everywhere! I think that even though it's such a popular area all that tall grass kept people from exploring and finding them.

The really funny part (funny now, as I look back anyway) was that as I was absorbed in picking berries around the edges of the old foundation a large snake suddenly appeared at my feet and scared the @#$! out of me! I must have jumped back five feet, completely surprised! (And scared - I'll admit it I don't like snakes)

Later, I joked with my brother that maybe it was a relative of one of Louie's "pets" from back in the day..

And yes, Justin, the "double dumper" remains.


BTW - Nice pictures John! Enjoyed them. I was going to say that it looked a tad overcast from your photos, but I see in your post you said the weather was OK for the most part. Glad to hear.
Thanks very much IndLk_Brett. I appreciate the tip and will make note of it for the return trip. The weather was really fine, putting aside the one day and night of rain, it would be overcast in the morning when I hit the trail and that was pretty much it. I shot a lot of the photos while hiking, so maybe the tree cover also came into play? As long as I can go in and come out dry, I consider it excellent weather. Doesn't really matter what happens in between and I always figure "rest days" in the trip itinerary to take into account less than ideal weather and allow for spending more time in a particularly nice area. I spent the extra day at West Lake #1 for weather and the other one at Cedar #2 just because it was such a nice spot.
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Old 09-19-2018, 03:00 PM   #12
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...And yes, Justin, the "double dumper" remains.
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Old 09-19-2018, 03:37 PM   #13
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Great Trip and superb photos. This gives me hope that I can get in there in the next year or so (assembling all the hi tech equipment on a fixed income is a challenge in and of itself, but this year I got a Kelty pack at a sale, next is getting a stove, and a filtration system, still have to think about the tent, pad and bag or use my 7 lb tent.) Did you try your tenkara rig, have any luck with the finny denizens? Great tip on taking shorter scoots first, too, I have planned on getting in shape walking the local track with the gear on, but that is very boring and tends to generate quite a few catcalls! Again, thanks for sharing!
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Old 09-19-2018, 04:52 PM   #14
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Looks like a great trek!
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Old 09-19-2018, 07:10 PM   #15
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Great photos man and awesome trip! The farthest I've ventured back there is Whitney. Now i know what I'm getting into for the next adventure.

Did you see/hear any wildlife? I saw some fresh moose tracks on the trail but no moose.
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Old 09-20-2018, 09:28 AM   #16
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My 11yo son and I were fortunate enough to have happened upon John during this journey and hung out and hiked with him for a couple of days. It was our first multi-day backpacking trip, we were somewhat gear light but this was really a perfect loop to help break us in a little bit. My son said he'd have spent a few more days out there if we could have! John, again, great to meet you, we may hit you up for some canoe trip tips for next year!

Pauly D., we photographed what we thought were bear prints out near the tent sites near Cedar Dam. As far as seeing wildlife, new to me were Mergansers, but lots of newts and frogs, geese, loons, red squirrels, and nice call and response by barred owls.

@Lucky13, maybe you've already seen some, but there are some great low buck gear videos (check out darwin on the trail) with tips. We used a cook setup we got for my son that was around $40 all in, and that included a mug and Ti spork, and is ultra light. Let me know if you need more info on anything.
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Old 09-20-2018, 02:56 PM   #17
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Great Trip and superb photos. This gives me hope that I can get in there in the next year or so (assembling all the hi tech equipment on a fixed income is a challenge in and of itself, but this year I got a Kelty pack at a sale, next is getting a stove, and a filtration system, still have to think about the tent, pad and bag or use my 7 lb tent.) Did you try your tenkara rig, have any luck with the finny denizens? Great tip on taking shorter scoots first, too, I have planned on getting in shape walking the local track with the gear on, but that is very boring and tends to generate quite a few catcalls! Again, thanks for sharing!
Thanks very much Lucky13. I had to pretty much re-outfit myself because the gear from years ago or that I use canoe camping just didn't work for me. I was fortunate to catch some significant sales, 50% off both the boots and the pack. Those changes were essential so now it is just the challenge of trimming weight but still maintaining the level of comfort I like. The warm up trips did make a tremendous difference for me and were much better than a treadmill or walking a track.
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Old 09-20-2018, 05:58 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by webby459 View Post
My 11yo son and I were fortunate enough to have happened upon John during this journey and hung out and hiked with him for a couple of days. It was our first multi-day backpacking trip, we were somewhat gear light but this was really a perfect loop to help break us in a little bit. My son said he'd have spent a few more days out there if we could have! John, again, great to meet you, we may hit you up for some canoe trip tips for next year!

Pauly D., we photographed what we thought were bear prints out near the tent sites near Cedar Dam. As far as seeing wildlife, new to me were Mergansers, but lots of newts and frogs, geese, loons, red squirrels, and nice call and response by barred owls.

@Lucky13, maybe you've already seen some, but there are some great low buck gear videos (check out darwin on the trail) with tips. We used a cook setup we got for my son that was around $40 all in, and that included a mug and Ti spork, and is ultra light. Let me know if you need more info on anything.
Will, spending time with you and Liam was certainly one of the highlights of the trip for me. I hope we get another opportunity.
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Old 09-20-2018, 11:06 PM   #19
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Is it legal to sleep in a hammock at a lean to site? I'm not judging because I've also done it myself, but thought afterwards it might not be okay. Seeing that JB did it maybe I was okay afterall.
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