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Old 12-02-2019, 10:06 PM   #1
gearhead
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French Louie loop.

Hello guys, I am interested in taking my 11 year old son up in early May 2020 before black fly season. I have done the Npt twice and am a 46er #9946 , so I am not new to this. The reason I'm reaching out is he will only have the weekend off from school and I wanted to see if anyone had any good itenery's for me. As of now I am thinking of parking at Pillsbury mt and hiking to Pillsbury lake. Day to west Canada lakes. Day three ceder lakes and day four out. The only problem with this is it would be four days. Just wanted to get some ideas.
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Old 12-03-2019, 02:09 AM   #2
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First off, the Halloween storm washed out the access road to Pillsbury Mt and it remains closed. Not sure when that will get repaired/ reopened. Presumably in the spring but who knows when.

Secondly, I believe that road is a seasonal road. Perhaps somebody can chime in with when it typically opens each spring. Early May could be cutting it close.

DEC update... https://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/7865.html

West Canada Lakes Wilderness (11/21 Update)

Old Military Road that accesses Pillsbury Mountain Parking Area remains closed due to washouts.
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Old 12-03-2019, 09:44 AM   #3
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Assuming you can get at least to the clearing where Old Military Road splits off the Perkins Clearing Road- this adds about 1 mile (1 way) of walking with some moderate uphill. It's actually not uncommon to see low-clearance vehicles parked here anyways, as the road gets moderately rough on that last mile up to the trailhead.

However, Makwa is right- early May is going to be cutting it pretty close with regards to whether Perkins Clearing Road is open to motor vehicle traffic or not. It really depends on what Winter and early Spring look like- if we get minimal snow cover and/or an early arrival of warm weather, then yeah, the road could be open by early May. Some years, though, the road isn't open until the week before Memorial Day (and seeing the road closed through Memorial Day isn't outside the realm of possibility, either). I would definitely at least think about and consider backup options.

If the road is open, though, the French Louie Loop is moderately easy (even with the added distance from the start of Old Military Road). It would not be a hard hike with 4 days/3 nights. After the initial uphill to the height of land northeast of Pillsbury Mountain, the rest of the loop ranges between flat and gently rolling terrain. In May, however, I absolutely would go prepared for wet and mud (with a decent chance that some stretches of trail may even have ankle to knee-deep standing water). The West Canada Lakes is known for being wet and muddy at any time of the year; right after snow melt it will be especially wet and muddy.

Early May may even mean substantial snow cover on the ground still (but if this is the case, the road will almost certainly still be closed anyways). The West Canada Lakes is a high plateau- the area accumulates more snow, and keeps snow longer into the Spring than some other parts of the Adirondacks.

A few alternatives that might be worth considering as backup plans:

Pharaoh Lake Wilderness: There's a decent 20+ mile loop here that is moderately rugged (so a bit more challenging than the French Louie Loop, but still not overly difficult). You've also got the advantage of being able to visit 1 or 2 peaks with solid views along the way (Pharaoh and Treadway Mountains). Similar to the West Canada Lakes, there are a lot of lakes and ponds to camp at. Pharaoh also tends to become snow-free earlier in the season than most of the rest of the Adirondacks. IMO, pre- or post-season is the ideal time to visit Pharaoh, as once the summer hiking season gets started in earnest, the area can be very popular (and buggy).

Cold River Loop: This is a 30 mile loop around the Seward Range in the Western High Peaks. The terrain is similar to the West Canada Lakes (flat to gently-rolling) but the mileage is a bit longer so it's more of a commitment. Similar to the West Canada Lakes there is also a lot of history to this area (Duck Hole, Rondeau's, Shattuck Clearing, etc.). Check to make sure that Corey's Road is open, as if the road is still closed it will add substantial mileage. Check also to make sure that there isn't still substantial snow cover in the backcountry.

Ha-De-Ron-Dah Wilderness: There's a number of loop options here, and you don't need to worry about seasonal road access if you're hiking into the area from the south (Old Forge vicinity). This area (like Pharaoh) also tends to become snow-free a bit earlier in the season than much of the Adirondacks. There's some really nice lakes and ponds to camp at here as well. And similar to Pharaoh, by going early you'll avoid some of the crowds that do show up here later in the season. Note that some trails in the northern part of this Wilderness are minimally marked/maintained (by design).

Early May could also be a good time to check out some of PA's fine backpacking trails if you're looking for easy to moderately-easy loop options and want to be really assured of not having to deal with snow. Or you could even head further south, into WV/VA and check out some really nice loop options down that way that will be starting to see leaf out and wildflowers around that time- while still beating the worst of the crowds that plague some of those areas later in the season.

I hope this helps. Good luck!
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Old 12-03-2019, 10:29 AM   #4
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Another possible alternative that comes to mind:

Five Ponds Wilderness: With 4 days, the High Falls loop plus possible side trips out to Five Ponds and/or Cowhorn Pond could make for a nice, relaxed 4 day trip. This area is about as flat as the Adirondacks gets. You've also got Cat Mountain for some decent summit views with minimal added effort. You do however need to go prepared for the possibility of epic flooding along the Oswegatchie (courtesy of beavers), especially in Spring. (I understand that the Leary Trail has been re-opened... while you'd miss High Rock, which is a nice lunch spot or campsite even, this would get you around most of the worst flooding. You'd still have to deal with flooding on other sections of the loop, however.) Again, you'd want to check on backcountry snow depths here also, but there's no worry about motor vehicle access to any of the Wanakena trailheads at least.
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Old 12-03-2019, 12:40 PM   #5
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Excellent info from DSettahr.

Regarding early May. Last year we went on our first Spring trip later in May, the week before Memorial day. It was still cold but ice was out on the ponds (we were near Blue Mtn Lake), but there was still snow banks, *BUT* there were no bugs yet. If this year is anything like last, pushing toward later in May would be better.

It may be too short a trip, but you could also consider the Tongue Range in the Lake George Wild Forest, it would be the Southern most of any suggested.

If you wanted to push more mileage, to expound on DSettahr's Five Ponds advice above, I did the "Cranberry Lake *42*" this Fall. I used the trail that goes by Janack's Landing to skip out on the High Falls Loop part of the 50, I assume that's the trail he's proposing to make a loop out of High Falls. I didn't hike up Cat Mtn, but +1 to going to Cowhorn, it's a cool spot.

If you do the French Louie, we found even in August when we did it the wettest part was between Sampson and Pillsbury due to beaver flooding. If I were to repeat that loop, because of this I'd do it CCW instead of CW that we did. Otherwise that's a very good itinerary, I did it when my son was 10, we were 5 days but took a very zero at Cedar/Beaver.
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Old 12-03-2019, 01:13 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by webby459 View Post
It may be too short a trip, but you could also consider the Tongue Range in the Lake George Wild Forest, it would be the Southern most of any suggested.
I thought about recommending the Tongue Range also, since it will very likely be at least mostly snow-free by early May. Honestly though, it'd be a bit iffy undertaking this with a 10 year old with full overnight packs, IMO. This is not an easy backpacking trip due to the elevation gains- even if you were to take your time. And there's also the added challenges of limited water sources on the ridge, plus no established legal campsites along the Lake George shoreline portion of the loop. (FWIW, I did the full Tongue Range traverse over 3 days in mid-April a few years ago and I was able to find water on the ridge, but there was still snow actively melting at the time.)

A possible alternative, both more likely with snow-free terrain and more appropriate for a 10 year old, would be the various lakes and ponds on the east side of Lake George. Lapland, Black Mountain, Millman, Greenland, Fishbrook, and Bumps Pond are all scenic and each has at least 1 lean-to and/or 1 designated tent site. Black Mountain and Sleeping Beauty both offer excellent views (plus also Buck Mountain if you end up that far south). You'd have to check on the status of Dacy Clearing Road if hiking in from that direction, but this is more likely to be open earlier (and doesn't add a huge distance of foot even if it isn't yet open). If you wanted to increase the difficulty somewhat, you could park near Shelving Rock Falls and hike the added elevation gain from the Lake George shoreline (this also adds some options for slightly longer loops).
And again, this area does have the reputation for getting moderately busy come Summer so visiting here well before Memorial Day isn't a bad idea.

Quote:
Originally Posted by webby459 View Post
If you wanted to push more mileage, to expound on DSettahr's Five Ponds advice above, I did the "Cranberry Lake *42*" this Fall. I used the trail that goes by Janack's Landing to skip out on the High Falls Loop part of the 50, I assume that's the trail he's proposing to make a loop out of High Falls. I didn't hike up Cat Mtn, but +1 to going to Cowhorn, it's a cool spot.
Yeah, the loop I was suggesting was the High Falls Truck Trail plus the trail between High Falls and Wanakena by way of The Plains and Janack's Landing. This loop alone wouldn't be too hard, and they'd likely have time (and energy) for at least one of the mentioned side trips. Plus there's some really nice lean-tos and tent sites in the area. Just gotta be aware again that the flooding along the Oswegatchie can be pretty bad, especially in the Spring.

Quote:
Originally Posted by webby459 View Post
If you do the French Louie, we found even in August when we did it the wettest part was between Sampson and Pillsbury due to beaver flooding. If I were to repeat that loop, because of this I'd do it CCW instead of CW that we did. Otherwise that's a very good itinerary, I did it when my son was 10, we were 5 days but took a very zero at Cedar/Beaver.
I'd agree with this also- when the French Louie Loop is wet (and it usually is), I've generally found the worst of it to be between Pillsbury and Sampson. South Lake can also see flooding (courtesy of the beavers) on either side of the bridge over the outlet.
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Old 12-03-2019, 06:34 PM   #7
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Yea, I actually did the cranberry lake 50 last October and froze my butt of as it rained all for days with temps in the 40's during the day. I've also been back to sand lake twice myself and tyler would prob hate me if I made him deal with all those beaver ponds. I will look into Pharoah lake, I've been interested in it for a while. I may also look into silver lake but that would be a out and back.
Thanks again!
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Old Yesterday, 09:07 AM   #8
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Yeah, the Pharaoh area should be good that time of year. Much more likely to be snow-free (although likely also to still be wet/muddy, as with any area that early in the season). You likely will see a few other overnight groups out and about taking advantage of early season trout fishing (have backup plan in mind for your campsite each night), but the area should generally be a lot quieter than it gets later in the season.

Depending on where you start/end, the big loop around the interior (Pharaoh Lake/Glidden Marsh/Oxshoe Pond/Crab Pond/Horseshoe Pond/Lilypad Pond/Rock Pond/Clear Pond/Grizzle Ocean/Pharaoh Lake) clocks in at about 20-25 miles. It's generally not too hard, although do note that there's a decent number of small ups and downs on the trails here- too small to show up on the topo maps, but enough in number that (IMO) the trails are a slightly more rugged than you might expect from viewing the map alone (enough to be noticeable).

Most of those bodies of water mentioned above have at least 1 designated tent site and/or 1 lean-to (Glidden Marsh is the only body of water mentioned with neither). I made a post in an older thread that describes the locations of all of the designated tent sites in the PLWA in detail that you may find helpful for planning purposes.

Concerning the two peak options: Treadway can be done as a side trek (it's about 4.5 miles round trip from Clear Pond if you were to set up camp there first and then hike with day packs). Pharaoh can either be done as a side trek with day packs (3 miles round trip from the lake, plus whatever distance around the lake to/from your campsite), or if you're willing to tackle it with full packs, you can incorporate it directly into the loop. If you do want to climb Pharaoh with day packs, it's probably worth picking one of the tent sites on the northwest shore of the lake, as this puts you closest to the trail up the mountain. Both peaks have phenomenal views- I personally think that the views on Treadway are a little bit nicer overall, but Pharaoh does have better views of the High Peaks specifically.

On Treadway, if you bushwhack a few hundred feet south of the summit (towards Pharaoh Lake) you can get a phenomenal, expansive view of Pharaoh Lake itself (a little better than the view of Pharaoh Lake from the summit). Treadway is also likely to be quieter than Pharaoh (it gets fewer day hikers).

Pharaoh Mountain has views in every direction but not all from one singular location- it's worth taking the time to poke around on the summit to find all the views. The best views of the High Peaks can be found by hiking north through the designated tent site, and then angling northwest (left) to walk out onto a wide open ledge (most hikers miss this ledge with the best High Peaks views).

Pharaoh Mountain does also have a ledge traversed by the trail on the south side, just below the summit, that is about 6-7 feet high. There's a decent number of hand holds, but a smaller child may nevertheless need a boost here.

Alternatively, the loop around Pharaoh Lake itself would make for a nice hike with day packs after setting up camp early if you don't feel like adding on a peak. It's about 5.5 miles around the lake, and you'd get to see a lot of really neat areas (check out both Watch Rock on the west shore and Wintergreen Point on the east shore). It would also give you knowledge of lean-to and tent site locations for future trips should you decide to re-visit the area.

EDIT: I've done variations on this loop myself more times than I can remember off-hand. Here's an album of photos from one of those trips that might help with inspiration and planning.

Last edited by DSettahr; Yesterday at 09:18 AM..
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