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Old 08-12-2017, 04:26 PM   #1
Bob K
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Join Date: Dec 2003
Location: Saratoga County, NY
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LTL to Lila day trip traverse 8-10-17

One ADK bucket list item accomplished last week by making a loop between these two beautiful lakes. With buddy Al, we made the entire circuit human powered. Having aborted a 2016 overnight attempt together, we had a modified plan for a long day trip that worked out – but was a physical challenge. (photo link at end)

After arriving in 2 cars at LTL HQ (and dropping off our canoes), we drove one car to Lila and left it for the return trip late the next day. Next, a refreshing 9 mile bike ride back to LTL on the Lila access rd. (in good shape and a fun ride). There were perhaps 8 cars at Lila lot on a Tuesday morning.

LTL had a dozen cars and one boat trailer. After loading up with 2 nights gear, we paddled up-lake into a modest breeze & some chop. It was very rough water on this leg that caused us to abort last year as Al’s (overloaded) 12’ classic Hornbeck started to take on water. I made him a spray cover for this year’s trip as I had made years ago for my Rapidfire. He & I tend to bring lots of creature comforts and sit low in the water.

After a nice afternoon/evening on site #7, we departed for a “fast & light” traverse at 8:30 AM Wed. With covers on, the wind & chop was no problem as we made it to Rock Pond outlet uneventfully. What a nice paddle including a few beaver dams (2 stepped over, others run) before the short portage. Saw no one at Rock pond and quickly found the “new” portage just after the turn past site 26.

The first few hundred yards of the new trail was twisty thru dense woods before making it to a former rd. One blowdown after 30 yds had to be negotiated without boats overhead. The 2 miles to Hardigan Pond had extensive wet sections on or next to beaver dams and “plenty of opportunities to fall” per Al. And yes, we found the “mud” (black) hole both getting immersed to our knees.

I had done the Rock to Hardigan portage in May, 2002 and remember it being much more wheel friendly and less overgrown (and a bit shorter). After 2 miles, we were ready for paddling again. Per a former ranger we met at LTL, some folks are carrying all the way to Salmon Lake Outlet (on the former RR bed) rather than entering the water. With the high water, we attempted to see if we could paddle the outlet stream and avoid the portage. Some beaver activity at the foot of Hardigan, and unacceptable uncertainty made us head back to the marked portage (longer, but less muddy start than in 2002).

Nearing Salmon Lk outlet, with boat overhead, I heard a sound like many pine needles dropping. It was the 30% chance of brief showers that was now 100% for us. For the next 30 minutes we got drenched and had to sponge out repeatedly. It was on this section that I started to question only having only survival gear vs more camping stuff (rain protection, shelter, clothing, etc.). Fortunately, as predicted, the rain stopped, and later got sunny.
The trip & later portage to Lilypad was uneventful with two step-over dams and others that could be run. We appreciated the view of the cascades before a sharp right on the portage trail to the last 50 yd drop before entering Lilypad, where we only found a marshy access. We saw the well-marked portage sign on the N shore of Lilypad but had decided to go thru Mud Pond and paddle the full Shingle Santy Brook route. With the high water, we cruised across Mud , past “boundary” signs, and to the (unmarked) rough portage of over 150 yds on the left.

Once below the short falls, were had miles of paddling with only the last portage from Lila to the car ahead of us. This was all nice, except that muscle aches in my shoulders began, thus making me dislike the incessant turns in SSB. I believe that stretch (which I had paddled once before out & back) is twisty-er than the “O” river between Inlet & High Falls. It seemed like we’d never reach Lila.

It was overcast and breezy once out to Lila, were we saw the only people of the day on 3 occupied campsites we passed. After 18 miles, with over 3 miles of walking, the final portage seemed short by comparison and the drive back to LTL relaxing.

One drawback to our plan was the need to then paddle 2.3 miles to our LTL campsite. Wind was light but we were beat. Upon arriving back at our site, my GPS read 20.5 miles, 7 ½ hours of travel, 2 hrs of stopped time and speeds of 2.7 MPH while moving, 2.2 overall, and a max speed of 6.3MPH. This max had to be when downstream on Salmon Lk outlet, probably trying to keeping warm in the driving rain.

Overall, my single word summary for this trip is “arduous”. I don’t plan on doing this again, but am glad I did. Many take a few days camping on route. Frankly, the extra gear (weight) necessary, and the modest campsites (unlike LTL, Lila or Rock) made me glad I did it in a day. The scenery is beautiful with a real feeling of remoteness (except structure & bridge/walkway at Mud Pond outlet). In my opinion however, the effort to get there is greater than needed to see equally beautiful & remote places elsewhere in the ADKs.

One tip, make sure you have a solid portage yoke. You will be using it for multiple long difficult carries. Mine was solid but heavy (“Cliff Jacobsen” home made on ash yoke thwart & adjustable clamps). The prototype I made for Al wasn’t up to it.

A nice end to the trip was a stop by Pete Hornbeck’s shop to explore better yoke options for Al (and my wife’s 10.5’ lost pond boat). Had a nice exchange with Pete & he graciously donated 2 new yokes for our future adventures. I think when he saw my DIY attempt (a portion of an old XC ski, cheap pads, with shaped wood block & a few screws) he took pity on us for having endured the route. I enjoyed the tour of his facilities and the many new boat styles he has; lengths, hull shapes & fit-ups to accommodate many needs - including more capacity (but still lightweight). Many potential buyers there trying out boats and his business is apparently doing well.

I put photos on Dropbox, for the short version with 17 photos, click here:
The full set of 43 is here:

Both sets end with the largest water turtle I have ever seen anywhere – sunning on a rock on LTL. A great parting memory of a real adventure.
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Old 08-12-2017, 05:21 PM   #2
Join Date: Dec 2003
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Thanks for the trip report. Other Wildlife sightings or tracks? I know black bear are sometimes seen along the route and moose population exists along Shingle Shanty.
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Old 08-13-2017, 07:17 AM   #3
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Nice report and photos; thanks!
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Old 08-13-2017, 07:21 AM   #4
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Cool report & photos, Bob!
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Old 08-13-2017, 08:25 AM   #5
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Location: Schenectady, NY
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Whoooweee...that's a helluva day trip!! Good thing you traveled light.
Where was that wooden bridge (photo #28), it's been forever since I did that traverse.
You know what they say...Better do the LTL-Lila traverse this year, or you'll be one year older when you do!!

Great photos and TR, thanks for posting it.
Stripperguy's Photos (sort of)
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Old 08-18-2017, 10:48 AM   #6
Bob K
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Did not see any bear or moose during the trip (however many birds). Saw some scat, possibly bear or racoon while staring down at the ground (when not mud/water) during the portages.

The huge turtle sunning on the rock was my big animal sighting (last photo in either link). That had to weigh at least 50-60 lbs. I'm curious for info from others on the type of turtle and if/where that is common in the ADKs (first one that big for me in 35+ years).

The walking bridge is at the outlet of Mud Pond. It seems to lead from the private rds from the S to a building on the NW side of Mud Pond - all visible on Google Earth. Seeing the building (visible while paddling) and the bridge (a canoe was stashed there) made this section feel far less remote than the rest of the trip. I felt a bit intrusive and the portage around the "falls" was longer than I had expected based on prior reports I have seen.
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Old 08-19-2017, 06:17 AM   #7
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That is a Snapping Turtle on the rock. By far, it is the largest specimen I've ever seen and also the first time I've seen one perched on a rock like that.
According to Wikipedia, they commonly attain a length of up to 20" and a weight of about 35 lbs, though there is a report of a wild specimen weighing 75 lbs. They can live to be 100 years old.
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