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Old 02-09-2015, 09:42 PM   #1
Jaybacks
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Primitive camping

Hello, me and my 2 friends are looking into primitive camping next Summer for 3 Nights. I'm just wondering what primitive camping in the Adirondacks is like. What we should bring, where we should go, ETC.

What we're looking for in a camp site is:
1. Seclusion, we don't want to be around loud campers or anything like that.
2. We love hiking and exploring and would love to have that sort of stuff to do.
3. A lake or river nearby would be ideal but not essential.
4. No more than a 5 mile walk from our car to the campsite.
5. We can't bring a boat, so no paddling to the campsite sadly.

Last edited by Jaybacks; 02-10-2015 at 01:26 PM..
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Old 02-09-2015, 09:51 PM   #2
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Siamese Ponds Wilderness sounds like an ideal destination. West Canada Lakes also. As for the what's and how's for backcountry in the Adirondacks, there will be more knowledgeable posters following me.
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Old 02-09-2015, 10:21 PM   #3
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Here is a link to a NYS interactive map. You'll find the location of lean to's and most designated sites there. Don't rely on the availability of a lean to though, make sure you have adequate shelter just in case any lean to's are full.

And as to your first 4 criteria, you will find all that you are looking for and then some. Too bad you can't bring a boat, half of the ADK allure (for me anyway) is from inside and under a canoe.

While timing your trip to be midweek, or mid black fly season can help you avoid crowds, know that the Eastern High Peaks region is the most visited area, followed by the Pharoah Lakes region. Also, some areas have bans on campfires, so if you absolutely must have a fire, don't go to the Eastern High Peaks.
Nearly all of the wilderness areas will be to your liking...
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Old 02-09-2015, 11:57 PM   #4
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Here is a link to a NYS interactive map. You'll find the location of lean to's and most designated sites there. Don't rely on the availability of a lean to though, make sure you have adequate shelter just in case any lean to's are full.
An important caveat: The campsites shown on this map are campsites in existence, not necessarily designated sites. Not all of them are actual legal (designated) sites. If its within 150 feet of any roads, trails, or water, and it doesn't have a yellow plastic disc that says "Camp Here," then it may not be a legal site.

I definitely agree that you should always carry a tent as a backup in case the lean-to you wanted to stay at is full. Lean-tos are required to be shared between groups up to the capacity of the shelter, but they can (and do) fill up.

If you're looking to avoid crowds, then I agree that the Siamese Ponds or the West Canada Lakes might be good options for you. If you've got a car that you're willing to drive some distance down dirt and muddy logging roads, Spruce Lake in the West Canada Lakes is only a 3 mile hike in and is a beautiful destination. Another option in the West Canada Lakes would be Cedar Lakes, which is a 5 mile hike in. Both areas are located on the Northville-Placid Trail, so you've got options for exploring in the vicinity.

In the Siamese Ponds, Puffer Pond would be a good possibility, as it is only a couple of miles hiking to reach. There is some hiking in the vicinity, although perhaps not as many options as in the West Canada Lakes.

What you should do is invest in a map and a guidebook to assist in planning your trip. The National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map #744 covers both the West Canada Lakes and the Siamese Ponds Wilderness Areas. So to does the Adirondack Mountain Club Guidebook for the Central Region. You can buy both together at a discount here.

Some folks here prefer the Discover the Adirondacks series of guidebooks to the ADK guidebooks. The discover series is more in depth and provides more historical context, while the ADK guidebooks tend more towards brevity. The West Canada Lakes is covered in Discover the West Central Adirondacks, while the Siamese Ponds is covered in Discover the South Central Adirondacks. There's no map/book combo available here; the guidebooks due have maps included within, but it is probably worthwhile to invest in the National Geographic map anyways, as the later is more convenient for on-trail reference.

Since this sounds like your first backcountry overnight trip, here are a few other suggestions:

In terms of gear, the 10 essentials is a good place to start. In addition to the 10 essentials, however, there are a few other thing's you're going to need to carry for an overnight. Specifically, you need to fulfill the following needs: shelter, water, food, and sanity. Correspondingly, you'll need to carry a decent first aid kit (and have some knowledge of how to use it), tent (or other shelter), sleeping bag and pad, a method for purifying water, a stove and mess kit for cooking food, and things to occupy yourselves in camp (a book to read, a game to play, etc.). You'll also need a pack large enough to comfortably carry it all.

An important thing to realize is that on your very first backpacking trip, your pack is likely to be the heaviest it ever will be. It takes time (and money) to invest in lightweight backpacking gear, and it takes experience to know what not to bring. Correspondingly, even 5 miles can be a lot for someone new to backpacking when laden with their full pack. Your pack might feel comfortable enough when you test it out for 30 seconds before leaving home, but after it's been on your back for several hours, you might be singing a different tune.

Make sure you take some time to look over the regulations. A common beginner mistake is to not do this. You can save yourself the trouble of being fined or evicted from a campsite by taking a few minutes to read through and familiarize yourself with the regulations as you plan your trip. The DEC has a website the summarizes the regulations that are applicable to most areas of the Adirondacks. The High Peaks have specific regulations that summarized on the ADK's website. If you're the type that likes to read the full legalese in detail, you can find the regulations on the DEC's website here. Pertinent regulations are also included on the National Geographic maps, as well as in the ADK guidebooks. While some of the regulations may seem nonsensical to the beginner backpacker, you can be assured that they are all written with the intent that compliance will help to protect backcountry resources.

Please also keep in mind that the West Canada Lakes and the Siamese Ponds are both home to some of the more picturesque campsites in the Adirondacks. The public's privilege to continue camping at these locations is dependent upon the respect of each group that occupies them. Make sure you read through the Leave No Trace Principles before your trip. Remember to carry out everything that comes in with you (and more, if you see trash left behind by others). Please also make sure that all of your firewood is dead and down- cutting limbs from standing trees, even dead ones, isn't ok (and is actually illegal). Green wood doesn't burn, and standing dead wood fulfills important ecologic functions by providing habitat and food sources for wildlife. Plus stumps are unsightly, regardless of whether the tree was alive or dead.

This is really only a very brief overview of the "how-tos" of backpacking. You'll want to do a lot more research on your own. These forums can be a great resource as you plan. So to can blogs and other websites. And don't forget books- many have been published on the subject of backcountry travel. The Complete Walker is a particularly good one that goes into an amazing amount of depth on the subject, although brevity is not one of its qualities. The NOLS series of books are also good resources. In particular, the NOLS Wilderness Guide could be a good resource for someone just starting out with backpacking.

I hope this is helpful!
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Old 02-10-2015, 06:48 AM   #5
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...A lake or rive nearby would be ideal but not essential.

How about a lake and a river?
A few options that come to mind are:
- Wilcox Lake via the East Stony Creek trail
- East Branch Sacandaga River Lean to and the Siamese Ponds
- Rock Lake & Rock River
- Pine Lake & Cedar River
- Woodhull Lake or Bear Lake and the Moose River
- T Lake & T Lake Falls
- Rock Pond Brook waterfall and Rock Pond, Lilypad Pond, or Clear Pond
- OK Slip Falls and Ross Pond, Big Bad Luck Pond, or Whortleberry Pond

...I'm sure there are other options as well, just a quick list to get you started looking at maps. Feel free to ask more questions when you narrow your search down a bit. Good luck, and welcome to Adkforum.
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Old 02-10-2015, 09:51 AM   #6
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If you're looking to avoid crowds, then I agree that the Siamese Ponds or the West Canada Lakes might be good options for you. If you've got a car that you're willing to drive some distance down dirt and muddy logging roads, Spruce Lake in the West Canada Lakes is only a 3 mile hike in and is a beautiful destination. Another option in the West Canada Lakes would be Cedar Lakes, which is a 5 mile hike in. Both areas are located on the Northville-Placid Trail, so you've got options for exploring in the vicinity.

Do you know what the road is that would take you to a place to park from which it would only be a 3 mile hike to Spruce Lake? I'd love to make that hike in.
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Old 02-10-2015, 03:44 PM   #7
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Do you know what the road is that would take you to a place to park from which it would only be a 3 mile hike to Spruce Lake? I'd love to make that hike in.
It's the Jessup River Road in the Perkins Clearing easement. You can see it on the National Geographic map.

The trail head is shown at the marker on this map.

Note that this road has not been all that well maintained in recent years. At times, it can be very muddy. Logging trucks also tear it up with some frequency. A low clearance and/or 2WD vehicle may have difficulty getting back in there. At best, be prepared for a long, slow, careful drive.
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Old 02-11-2015, 10:16 AM   #8
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Thank you! I will attempt the trip in March in a 2WD so we'll see how far I make it
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Old 02-11-2015, 12:22 PM   #9
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Thank you! I will attempt the trip in March in a 2WD so we'll see how far I make it
That road is not maintained for winter motor vehicle access (I should have mentioned this in the post above). It will still have snow on it in March. Even after the snow melts, it is kept closed for the duration of mud season, until the road has had a chance to dry out.

It is usually not until some point in early May that the gates are opened and motor vehicles are allowed back on the road, so you'll have to wait until at least then before driving back there.

Last edited by DSettahr; 02-11-2015 at 01:37 PM..
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Old 02-11-2015, 01:26 PM   #10
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I'm betting after this winter, those roads probably won't be open until Memorial day.
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Old 02-11-2015, 02:44 PM   #11
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That road is not maintained for winter motor vehicle access (I should have mentioned this in the post above). It will still have snow on it in March. Even after the snow melts, it is kept closed for the duration of mud season, until the road has had a chance to dry out.

It is usually not until some point in early May that the gates are opened and motor vehicles are allowed back on the road, so you'll have to wait until at least then before driving back there.
That changes everything, thanks for letting me know.
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