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Old 08-13-2012, 06:05 PM   #1
Loopin for the Lama
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Middle Lake off of Creek Rd 8/9/12

OK, so here’s my first trip report of my first overnight in the Adirondacks (or anywhere for that matter)—and I got 95% of the information required right here on the ADK Forum. I’ve visited the ADK’s sporadically over the last few years as I live close by, in Vermont. Last year my 13 year old daughter and I rented a cabin on Osgood Pond for a week, did a lot of canoeing and a little hiking (really walking) on the red-dot trail and the VIC at nearby Paul Smiths. I’ve lurked on this forum for a year or maybe even two before that trip as I’ve always wanted to backpack into more remote and secluded country and reading all of the trip reports and various posts really piqued my interest in getting into hiking in on a trail for an overnight or two (to begin with at least).

So, with the awesome Outdoor Gear Exchange in Burlington a few blocks from my workplace, I set out about a year ago with outfitting myself. I utilized the OGE for those items that I needed/wanted fitted (my pack and boots) and knowing I had time on my side scoured then internet for deals on other stuff I’d need. Here’s what I put together—discounted items in red--(actually I attached this, it didn't format well).

So, after utilizing the search feature extensively looking for a shortish, flatish hike to somewhere somewhat remote I decided on the Bennett-Middle-Murphy lake trail with the backside of Middle as a camping destination (thanks to Redhawk in particular and a few other members in general). I went with my 14 year old daughter Sarah and planned on a 2-night overnight. I was going to do this myself as a sort of test-run but work constraints and the looming back-to-school date meant there would be no time for 2 trips. I could only get last Thursday and Friday (8/9 & 10) off of work—we planned to hit the trailhead around one pm and overnight Thursday night, Friday night and return Saturday. We were looking for solitude and by all reports weekdays were the ticket for this at Middle lake.

The weather report looked sketchy for both Thursday and Friday but there was no rain as we started the drive, though I know in warm, humid conditions thunderstorms usually heat up during the afternoon—but off we started. Neither I nor the daughter had worn, much less walked, with our packs full until now. They were both pretty full but we didn’t have a lot of food and I had pretty lightweight stuff. The trail had a moderate amount of incline at the beginning and I being a total desk jockey, 30 pounds overweight who does no exercise whatsoever (well I did “train” on the stairs at my office a few weeks prior), I had to take a few breaks and hydrate frequently. We took it slow as we were in no hurry and I really did OK, especially knowing our destination was only 3 some odd miles away. The footwear gave us no problems; we really tried on a bunch of pairs and walked a lot in them prior to the hike. The packs, although as stated an unknown quantity, likewise gave us no problem and for both of us proved very comfortable.

We spotted Bennett lake pretty quickly through the trees, so knowing we were making progress kept my spirits up—not that they were down, it was awesome being on the trail, but passing a known landmark was good. There were a few rocky, uphill stretches between Bennett and Middle but nothing too bad. After spying Middle lake in the distance through the trees, I knew from the trail reports that we wouldn’t really see much of the lake until the north(west) tip where the trail went almost down to the water’s edge. At this point we spotted a few paths around the northern tip going towards the eastern shore and followed them. This soon took us to a nice site on kind of a broad point with a rock fire pit and a rudimentary but welcome homemade log bench. After reading the TR’s, I realized there were other, probably nicer sites to be had if we had kept going around the backside of Middle, but the skies didn’t look too good and it was time to set up the tent.

I did have the sense to set up my tent a few times prior to the trip, so I could put it up in a flash—the Kelty 2 is a breeze to set up, it’s free standing so maneuvering it for the best location was easy. Because I had a second person to share the load, I decided to take a tarp (6x8) due to the rain forecast—a cheepy Wal-Mart special I had at home. It wasn’t really too heavy and lashed to the outside of my pack well. I didn’t want to be stuck inside a small tent for two days if it was continually raining. I can see the folly of carrying something like this for a multi-day hike but with us staying put for 2 days it was a good idea. On to another probably frivolous purchase, but to my mind a good one for this type of camping—the camp chairs. I just couldn’t see the two of us hanging around camp for a few days with nothing to sit on. Each one weighs 21 oz. and rolls up to only 4” in diameter. Since my sleeping bag pad was small (the size of a small nalgene bottle when packed) I had room to lash both to the outside of my pack where my pad likely would have gone. Plus they can be used as a sleeping pad when laid flat and theses would be Sarah’s.

Soon after the tent was up and the food bag placed away from camp where we would eat, we put the packs in the vestibule of the tent and I set up the tarp, not great but adequately. Then the rain started, light at first but quickly gathering force. Then the thunder started. I had read a bit on what to do while tenting with no other shelter nearby and we went to a lowish spot away from the broad point (for lack of a better word) where the trees didn’t reach as quite as high as elsewhere. I thought we were in as good a spot as we could be as there was higher ground on the perimeter of the lake, but lightning is a funny thing. One or two bolts were very close by and loud. Sarah wasn’t really scared, though she should have been, I guess that’s the residue of being 14 years old and not really understanding what lightning can do. I think I pulled off the right mixture of being calm yet also showing a certain level of concern that this situation shouldn’t be taken with nonchalance. After awhile the lighting storm passed but the rain kept coming. We nestled under the tarp and eventually the rain stopped. By this time it was about 4 or 5 and I was going to boil some water to replenish our bottles when it seemed a good idea instead to get dinner ready during the lull in the rain; we wouldn’t need much for the Hawk Vittles Lasagna and could use the extra for drinking.

Right when the meal was ready the thunder storm started again. We retreated to our “spot” again to eat—I had wanted to get some “long” spoons so we could both eat from the bag and not get food on our sleeves (and not have to wash the pot) but we only had small plastic ones so I dumped the entire meal in the pot and we shared. Redhawk, if you’re reading this, well done sir. Very tasty. The lightning stopped but it kept raining—Sarah retired to the tarp and I to washing the pot. I put the spoons, pot and used vittles bag in a ziplock bag and into the 13 L dry bag with the rest of our food and walked it away from our camp. It was pouring and I had never hung a bear bag before and was not looking forward to accomplishing this in the rain and gathering dusk. We had stopped at the Walmart in Ticonderoga to get some last minute supplies when I realized I didn’t have a “rock receptacle” to get the rope over branches. I ended up buying a girl’s change-purse looking thing with a zipper and a loop thingy attached for $3. At this point I was wet and a tad miserable, part of it was worry that my daughter was having an awful time so I said screw it, I’ll hang the bag well away from camp using a branch as high as I could reach. I wasn’t going to start swing ropes around. I also had put clothes we wore eating in the bag so our camp was clean—if a bear got our food it wouldn’t have been a huge deal as we weren’t far from our car, but we didn’t have anything bad in camp for a bear to continue his food exploration.

After retiring to the tent for awhile the rain let up a little and I got to thinking about the food bag. It didn’t seem a good idea to leave things as I did, this area gets a bit of traffic and I didn’t want to get any resident bears acclimated that humans=food so I trudged out to do my first bear hang in the darkening rain. I’ve rambled enough here so I’ll try to keep this short but I found two suitable trees but while throwing the girlie purse over branch # 1 it became wedged in the angle between the tree and the base of the branch. Instead of finding a long stick to gently nudge it, I yanked hard only to find the loop that I had tied the rope around wasn’t very strong (gee, on a $3 Walmart change-purse?) and the loop yanked right out. Leaving the pursy-thing in the same position, so I had to get a long stick anyway. So I had no choice but to use the weight of the bag itself to propel it over as high a branch as I could and to tie it down. No it wasn’t 10 feet off the ground (well it was close) but it definitely wasn’t 4 or 5 feet out. It was a bit pathetic but it was up there.

I’ll try to close this out, I’ve gone into such detail because I wanted to give a newbie’s account, warts and all. Sarah and I hit the tent, the rain switched between heavy and light and even after the hike, which should have tuckered us out at least a bit, we couldn’t go to sleep. About midnight it really stopped raining, we were both awake, so we figured lets go outside and experience the dead-calm. Which it was, and it was very cool. I maybe could have gotten a fire started, but it would have been a monumental effort with as wet as everything was and which would have spoiled the calm of the night (in my mind anyway). But Sarah likes fire so I put the cotton balls I had smothered in vaseline out the flame, which made a nice tiny little fire. We talked and reveled in the stillness before we got tired and called it a night.

The next morning dawned fairly bright through a haze and fog that was beautiful for the 15 minutes it lasted but the onset of rain was all too familiar so we broke camp after some pop-tarts and halfway through getting packed up the rain started again. There was no way I was going to sit around all day with a 14 year old under rainy grey skies. If I was by myself I might have stayed one more night but with the forecast of thunderstorms it was the right move. I asked Sarah what she wanted to do and she said “whatever you want, Dad”. And she would have stayed put, but was glad we bugged-out. I retrieved the bear bag which was undisturbed and we broke camp making sure that we were good stewards of LNT. The walk back to the car was uneventful, and not too wet even though it was raining hard. Moisture wicking synthetics have been known to me for years on the golf course, but they really are great when soaked.

So in conclusion, I’m hooked. I made some mistakes and some will think (or say, this is a discussion board after all—please comment on anything/everything) that a 51 year old, out of shape office worker had no business doing his first Adirondack hike, much less a two-night overnight) based solely upon knowledge gained form an internet forum-- much less taking his 14 year old daughter along--but I’m guessing most all will think it more than all right, since you’re the folks I got my ideas from! If I told the folks I work with I gained most of my knowledge off the “internets”, they’d think me nuts.

Thanks mostly to the folks here, I chose my trail, destination and equipment well. One thing I really gotta get is some rain gear. I came down on the “if it rains your gonna get wet with rain gear (sweat) or without)” and thought why not just get wet (no cotton anywhere in my pack except for a t-shirt in camp)—I was thinking about getting wet while hiking, not while in camp, and on this trip the “in camp” portion was the vast majority. I would have not been as averse to doing things around camp that need doing if I had some waterproofs (like the bear bag hang).

Thanks for reading and thanks for the expertise and joy in the outdoors that you all relate on this site—you were paramount in getting me out there and I’ll certainly post some more—hopefully in a bit more concise fashion.

--Steve
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Old 08-30-2012, 08:41 AM   #2
BackpackerKeith
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I love the detail. Sounds like a great start to your hiking endeavors. I'm no expert, but I have hiked before, just not lately. I was thinking about heading to this very same area in a couple weeks. Did you ever see any beer activity information while lurking this website and threads?
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Old 08-30-2012, 11:40 AM   #3
Loopin for the Lama
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I used the search function here pretty extensively regarding the Murphy, Middle, Bennett lakes area (as well as extensive Google searches) and never came across any mention of bear activity. This area obviously doesn’t see as many people as the high peaks region, but hanging your smellables/using a bear canister would still be necessary.
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Old 08-30-2012, 03:08 PM   #4
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I do like that stretch as well.

In regards to the bears, it's always good to take precautions but the bears are very cautious in that area and don't typically approach people. They don't seem accustomed to campers like in the high peaks.

Very nice of you to introduce the outdoors to your children as well.

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Old 08-30-2012, 10:25 PM   #5
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It sounds to me like you did your planning & preparations well.
And now you should've used up your rain credits and get beautiful weather next time!
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Old 09-04-2012, 02:36 PM   #6
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Its ironic that you caught rain when it has been such a dry summer. I think you chose your destination well and as everyone on this forum will tell you, you learn more from experience than reading forums or books--though they do help. Lessons learned from experience will stick with you longer too. I find that our excursions that seemed the most miserable to us are often the ones my kids and I reminisce about the most. While they aren't funny at the time, they are funny later on when recounting them. They also make you appreciate the nice days/trips all that more too.
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