Part 1 of 3 – by Doug Fitzgerald
Part 1 – Planning, logistics and general information; to give you an idea of what was involved in the trip.
Part 2 – Trail experiences; what we saw, who we met and what we did along the way.
Part 3 – The philosophical stuff; wilderness travel, how we did, what it felt like being out there, coming back to civilization; you know, all that idealistic stuff.
Intro – The NPT is 90 years old this year. It was planned and developed by the Adirondack Mountain Club to provide a through hiking experience in the Park. As train travel was still the best way to get around in 1922 it started at the train station in Northville and ended at the train station in Lake Placid, covering 132 miles. The guidebook is written with descriptions for traveling from south to north. Today, most through hikers start
in Benson, 11 miles north of Northville and end at the Averyville Road a few
miles from the Lake Placid train station. That is what we did.
13 days, 12 nights, started Monday, 6/18/2012, ended Saturday, 6/30/2012. The two other through hikers we met were doing the trail in 7 days. Each had job and family obligations that influenced the time they had available. We liked having the longer amount of time to enjoy the experience. We stopped to study the big trees, take pictures, enjoy leisurely lunches along the way and had time to relax in camp.
The trail is listed as 120 miles long from the Benson trailhead to the Averyville trailhead, my GPS has 123.8 miles on it, but coverage was spotty under the tree canopy, so who knows what the mileage really was.
> Longest hike 12.8 miles
> Shortest hike 6.4 miles
> Total hiking time including rest and lunch breaks – 85 hours 27 minutes
> Longest hiking time - 9 hours 22 minutes
> Shortest hiking time - 4 hours 40 minutes
We generally left camp between 7:30 and 9 AM and got into camp between 3:30 and 5 PM, always in time for a little happy hour before dinner.
We had planned to carry a SPOT tracking device so people could follow our progress, but prior to the trip the unit did not work properly and customer service was no help, so we didn’t bother with it. We didn’t miss it either, so the lesson may be that less technology is better.
About half our meals were the pre-packaged backpacker stuff (a first for me). These were easy to prepare, plentiful enough and better than I expected. The dinners on day 1 and after two food drops were pre-cooked by me and frozen. They kept a few beers cold while they defrosted, so those days were special. We bought deli sandwiches in Piseco, in Long Lake we had dinner at the Adirondack Hotel and breakfast at the diner the next day.
3 food drops;
> On our 3rd day we had a mail drop at the Piseco Post Office with a stop at Casey’s Store.
> My wife Jan did two drops;
> one on day 7 – at Wakely Dam in the Moose River Plains, where she also took most of our gear around to Lake Durant Campground so we could hike a day without heavy packs
> the other on day 10 – in Long Lake Village after a night at the Adirondack Hotel.
Our packs weighed around 50 pounds on day one, but got lighter as we sent stuff back at food drops. Resupply days were the heaviest, but we ate and drank the heavy stuff first.
We each carried a solo tent. There are plenty of lean-tos, but the tents were good protection from the bugs and having our own personal space helps with expedition behavior (the old group dynamics stuff).
We carried a 10x12’ Sil nylon trap made by Etowah, USA. It weighed 1.5 lbs. and worked well when we used it at Lake Durant. It rained most of the time we were camped there, but under the tarp we were dry, so we were able to celebrate happy hour, eat dinner, play “Blisters” (a dice game) and have a leisurely breakfast of bacon and pancakes. Even though that was the only time we used the tarp we were glad to have it along.
My new Keen brand backpacking boots leaked and the welt started to separate by the time the trip was over. Leo’s well used Asolo boots were a little better, but his feet did get wet at times. Comfort wise our boots served us well. Leo treated one hot spot on day one and I had one on the last day.
We treated our water with a Steri Pen and suffered no ill effects. Although, the two 3 volt batteries powering the unit died after seven days. Jan found us replacements in IndianLake, at a cost of $17. We liked the ease this method of treatment provided and feel it aided us in staying hydrated.
We didn’t need many warm layers, but had what we needed to be safe. Clean cloths came at food drops and we had cached a bag at the hotel so we would be presentable in civilization.
In the beginning it was unbearably hot and we struggled with the heat. In the middle it rained and cooled down. We welcomed the relief and were prepared for the rain. Our first day of rain left hail on the trail, but we didn’t suffer a direct hit. The day we crossed the height of land between Blue Mountain Lake and Long Lake the wind and rain was whipping on the top of the ridge, so it felt like hypothermia weather. We pushed through, knowing that the Adirondack Hotel was waiting for us. The last couple of days warmed up again and we found the Cold River true to its’ name, so cooling off in it was a heart stopping affair. All in all, because we were prepared, we did OK with the weather that nature provided.