Monday, November 17, 2008

Bog River & Cascade Mountain Oct. 2008

A quick trip log of a three day trip to the Bog River Area and Cascade Mountain in the Adirondacks.

Dad and Zack picked me up outside my dorm at 10AM, way too early. The whole college thing is very tiring.

We cruised along 86, and then turned north on 87, my favorite highway in the world. after about four hours, we reached the Bog River put in, ahead of schedule but down sandwiches for that night's dinner.

After a quick discussion, Dad elected to drive into Tupper Lake and scrounge some, while Zack and I would grab a site and set up camp. We quickly unloaded the car and shoved off, cognizant of the dwindling daylight.

With Zack in the bow and myself in the stern of the Eagle, we figured it would take about 30 minutes to reach Hitchens Pond. The wind had other ideas.

Now, I have paddled in wind before, and have come to accept it as part of the tripping experience. On lakes. Not on rivers, and certainly not on the Bog. But the wind was incredible. It was right down the initial stretch, blasting towards Lower Dam. It took over 30 minutes to get out of sight of the parking lot. On a normal day, that takes fifteen minutes, tops. The wind continued to push us around, and I found myself prying and drawing a lot more than paddling forward. After almost an hour and a half, we reached Hitchens. Our favorite two sites were taken, so we grabbed the site directly across the pond from the Bog River outflow. It was a little buggy, and had been recently "manicured" with a chain saw, but it would do.

Zack pitched the tent, while I hung the tarp and cut logs for firewood. An hour passed. At 4:30,just as I was beginning to wonder if this had been some elaborate plan by Dad to test us by abandoning us for the night, he pulled into Hitchens. As I found out, his lateness had been in no way intended; he had been crucified by the wind.

After meatball subs, a good fire, and some satellite spotting, we headed to the bags.

The next morning, after oatmeal, we paddled over to Upper Dam for our annual slab climb. This year, I specifically requested my Mad Rocks, intent on working on some slab technique.

The trail to the top of the outlook has changed incredibly since my first bushwhack ascent, some ten years before. The trail was remarkably moderate, and after only 30 minutes, we reached the top. One can see all the way to the Lower Dam and Horseshoe Lake to the east, and Lowe's Lake to the west. In fall, the colors are vibrant, golds, yellows, oranges, greens, and reds abound.
(summit pic, note the bare feet. Rock shoes hurt!)
I scaled up and down the face a few times; the shoes make it so easy, it's truly incredible. After descending down the face, we bushwhacked to the trail head, where we met the ranger. We caught up for a bit, her son would be attending the Environmental Science SUNY school next year. Afterward, we headed into the marsh on the other side of the pond, trying to re-find my route to the railroad tracks I had discovered some four years before. The water was high enough to let us go deep into the marsh, but so high that it had washed out any land routes. We returned unsuccessful.

That night we decided to head out the next morning to climb Cascade on Saturday afternoon, rather than Sunday morning, which would get everyone home six hours early. It was a good decision, and that night, I drifted off to sleep trying to put away any thoughts of a possible first 46er summit.

A much quicker paddle through incredibly thick mist got us to the put in very early. We drove up to Saranac Lake, then to Lake Placid, and then to Keene, to my favorite store, the Mountaineer. After buying a water bag (ours had finally quit), some Clif bars, and a few tips, we headed back to the trail head for Cascade.
(paddling through the mist)
I had emboldened Dad (and myself) be repeating that Cascade was the "easiest" of the 46ers. But as we got closer and closer to the trail head, I noticed a distinctive bald rock top on a peak in the distance, towering at what seemed like Leviathan heights

"Yup, that's it."

We headed up the trail, which was full of people and ranged from pleasantly moderate to calf-bustingly steep. A few stops and an hour's climb brought us to a bald face, where a few dozen people were making lunch. My altimeter was FUBAR, telling me that I was at 3200 feet. We reached the junction for Porter, and finally broke through the trees to the rocky summit. It took a second of puzzle-work to find the right "line" to the summit, but only two hours after starting, we stood at the USGS marker.

The summit was incredibly crowded, and increasingly cold. After ten minutes for power bars, water, and some pictures, we headed back down.

As we passed what I deemed the halfway point, it was around 4:30 PM. It was then that I noticed there were still people ascending. We met a beleaguered family with overnight gear, the mother and young children exhausted. But at least they had shelter. We met many people who were heading to the top with nothing more than a fanny pack.

I found myself at a common dilemma. I find it hard to assertively tell someone they are making a mistake. I have found that for 99 out of 100 people would be fine, and 100 out of 100 won't listen.

But it is stupid and incredibly dangerous to be ascending that late. It takes four hours to summit and descend Cascade. There were only three hours of daylight left. I understand that Cascade is not Everest, but it still deserves respect. These people were running a huge risk of descending a steep, rock and root-strewn trail in total darkness.

We reached the trail head at 5:30. As I stopped to fill out a survey for some UofVermont students, I talked with someone about the late hikers. Just as we spoke, a couple headed up the trail. They would be lucky to summit in daylight.

But back to the fun.

We headed back to Lake Placid, having secured a tent pad along the Heart Lake access road. After shakes at Ben & Jerry's, and then headed to a bar to watch the Sox. Not the usual trip, but a great change of pace and lots of fun.

The food was so-so and a little expensive, but worst of all, the Sox lost in extra innings. Tito needed to pull Beckett earlier, and I don't know why Timlin is allowed to pitch, but that is for a different post.

The next morning, after breakfast in Keene, we headed home. I was dog-tired from the climb, but the short trip left me wanting more.

There will be more posts to come of my two trips to Algonquin, planned for summer 2009.

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