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Old 08-25-2020, 03:37 PM   #1
halvorka
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Cold River/Seward Range Loop - 4 day backpacking trip

I’m a first-time poster - recently I used the forum quite a bit to plan a group backpacking trip for 5 boy scouts (age 13-15) and a few adults. Our group was scheduled to go to Philmont on a 7 day backpacking trip, which got delayed a year due to COVID. After reading these forums, we decided on a 4 day/3 night trip to go around the Seward Range. It seemed to us like a good trip, not overly strenuous, lots of flexibility in where to make camp along the way, and the summer benefit of lots of water along the route. The brief report is we had a great trip, and the more detailed report is below (I really had a lot of benefit from other detailed reports so hopefully this helps some others in trip planning).

Thursday August 12th:
We arranged our trip to leave on a weekday, in the hopes of lesser crowds. I’ve had many rough parking experiences on other trips in the high peaks, so I knew not to be too optimistic. Still I was a little bit surprised to arrive to a full lot at around 10am, having read a few reports of the relatively less crowded Corey’s Road trailhead. We managed to squeeze in and along the road right next to the lot, signed in at the trailhead and were ready to go. We did the loop clockwise, and the plan for the first night was to camp at the area with two lean-tos (Called #4 lean-tos I think?). We stopped and ate lunch at a nice flat/open spot across from the Blueberry lean-to. Both the lean-to and the designated campsite were occupied, which I somewhat expected but still made me uncertain about our sleeping arrangements, considering the full parking lot. We pushed on after lunch past the Ward brook lean-to, with camping similarly full. We arrived at the two lean-tos at around 2:30 or 3, and I had mentally prepared the group that we may arrive to full lean-tos and have to make a decision on what to do next. Thankfully, one of the two lean-tos was vacant and the scouts (and adults) were happy to take off packs and relax for the afternoon. We passed time near the stream behind the lean-tos and playing cards at the picnic table outside. It was good that we got to the lean-to early because about an hour later another pair of hikers came looking for an open lean-to before retreating back along the trail to another spot. Our lean-to had a bit of a bee problem, with some bees seeming to have dug into the wood frame but they were fine when left alone.

Friday August 13th:
The tentative plan for the day was to hike to the Seward lean-to on the cold river, and also to stop at Duck Hole. Little did I know at the time how overly ambitious this plan was (at least for our group). We broke camp without too much hurry, cooking breakfast and getting used to repacking our bags for the day. I remember there being a pretty steady uphill from the lean-to, and then back down where we hit the clearing/swamp. From some accounts on this forum I had prepared the group that we may have some wet areas on the trail, but we were all a bit shocked about how much water we had to cross here. All in all it took our group about a half hour to cross, scoping it out, changing to water shoes, making multiple crossings to deliver water shoes to those without, and cleaning up/changing back on the other side. In my recollection it was maybe 20-30 feet where it was above ankle level, and up to about knee-deep in places for a few of the scouts. A few people in our group had to brush off some small leeches, but otherwise we made it successfully and without losing anything or getting any gear wet. After the swampy area, we continued toward duck hole, dropping our packs at the first lean to (cold river #1 I think), which was just being vacated by another group. We continued to hike toward duck hole, which turned out to be one of our favorite spots. We probably spent a half hour near the old dam and the kids had great fun in and around the river there. We might have stayed longer but we knew we still had a lot of hiking left, so we went back to the lean-to and had lunch before moving on. The next stretch between Cold River lean-tos 1+2 and Ouluska lean-to were unexpectedly slow and difficult for our group. By the time we got to an empty (and brand new looking) Ouluska lean-to at around 3:30 there was silent agreement as everyone took their packs off and moved toward the river that we were not going further today. This turned out to be a great move, we went swimming in the aptly named cold river (let’s call it EXTREMELY refreshing) and relaxed as other hikers trickled in over the next 2-3 hours.

Saturday August 14th:
We got an earlier start, up and out by 8 am. We had plans to have a long hiking day, hoping to end up at the Caulkins Brook lean-tos that evening so that we’d have a short hike out on Sunday. We had thought the trail along the cold river would be relatively easy and flat but we couldn’t have been more wrong. The first ~2 mile stretch to Seward lean-to was fairly difficult for our group and made us really glad we didn’t try to push on the previous afternoon. The Seward lean-to was just emptying of people from the previous night as we arrived, and we took a nice break near the river there. It was a beautiful day, and I planted a seed of an idea that we may think of altering our plan to stay another night on the cold river (rather than Caulkins Brook) and endure the long mileage on the last day. We pushed on through some really nice stretches of trail, reached a little bit of a beaver-dammed area that we could just barely pass without getting soaked, and then arrived at the cold river lean-to nearest the suspension bridge (#3 I believe). We had already decided we’d have lunch at this spot, and so we took our packs off and enjoyed the area. The location and the summer day were both so beautiful that we decided to call it our camp for the day (even though it was only noon). We spent the afternoon lounging on the rocks, swimming and jumping in the rapids, having a fire, and tending to our aches and blisters. From noon we only saw two other people the whole day, and nobody else camped nearby. We were not looking forward to the long hike out, and uncertain about the difficulty/condition of the trail, but we enjoyed the afternoon thoroughly.

Sunday August 15th:
We knew we had a lot of mileage ahead of us, so we got an actual early start (7am). I had mentally prepared the group that we should plan for a ~10-12 hour day, given the slow pace we had on some sections of the Northville-Placid trail. However, we soon realized that the trail was quite easy, and we felt more and more confident that we had made the right decision in staying at Cold River #3. After all our resting the previous afternoon and with the easy trail we made the best time of the trip, with ~2 miles/hour pace. We got to the Caulkins Brook lean-tos around mid-morning for a snack. The lean-tos were in good condition but the location (a clearing with high grass) made us even more happy that we stayed at Cold River #3. We ate lunch trailside somewhere near the herd path leading to the summits to our east. Our two fearless scouts leading the group accidentally took us on a path that diverted off the blueberry trail for about a tenth of a mile before we realized and backtracked. A good lesson learned for all, and even with the detour we were back at the trailhead around 1pm, all happy to be at the end early enough to look forward to a hot shower and a fresh dinner at home. One minor warning – upon our return home myself and one other driver found that mice had found a way into our cars for coffee and muffin wrappers and left droppings, etc.

A beautiful and memorable trip. 4 days was the perfect amount of time for our group to complete this loop and still have lots of fun along the way.
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Old 08-25-2020, 04:13 PM   #2
DuctTape
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Glad you had a good time. I think we crossed paths on your last day. Oh, the lean-to nearest the suspension bridge is Cold River #4. Looks like the boys enjoyed themselves.
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Old 08-25-2020, 05:19 PM   #3
Woodly
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Nice report and photos
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Old 08-25-2020, 07:27 PM   #4
Golddragon214
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Good looking group. Congratulations on a successful hike!
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Old 08-25-2020, 10:18 PM   #5
debmonster
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Excellent report and photos!
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Old 08-25-2020, 10:50 PM   #6
stripperguy
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Great trip report...those kids will remember that trip for the rest of their lives!!
What a gift you gave them.
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Old 08-27-2020, 10:33 AM   #7
halvorka
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DuctTape View Post
Glad you had a good time. I think we crossed paths on your last day. Oh, the lean-to nearest the suspension bridge is Cold River #4. Looks like the boys enjoyed themselves.
Yes - I remember chatting with you. You're right I guess we stayed at Cold River #4, not #3. Both of these spots were really spectacular. We were all very happy with the way the trip turned out, especially considering the unusually high crowds I've been hearing about everywhere in the Adirondacks this year.
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Old 08-27-2020, 10:38 AM   #8
halvorka
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Originally Posted by Woodly View Post
Nice report and photos
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Originally Posted by Golddragon214 View Post
Good looking group. Congratulations on a successful hike!
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Originally Posted by debmonster View Post
Excellent report and photos!
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Originally Posted by stripperguy View Post
Great trip report...those kids will remember that trip for the rest of their lives!!
What a gift you gave them.
Thanks all for the feedback! We are so happy for a successful and very fun trip.
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Old 08-27-2020, 07:56 PM   #9
snapper
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Looks like you had a wonderful time. I'm sure you'll have many takers the next time you offer up a backpacking trip in the Adirondacks. Thanks for sharing your adventure with us.

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

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