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Old 10-13-2019, 06:13 PM   #1
JohnnyVirgil
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4 glorious days in the Pharaoh Lakes region

My buddy Greg and I headed out early last Tuesday to do our annual camping/hiking/backpacking trip. We have never seen the PL region, so we decided to give it a shot, hoping that since it was mid-week and sort of late in the year we wouldn't have any trouble with crowds, given all that I had heard here about the popularity of the area.

We got to the Putnam Pond campground around 10am, paid our 4-day fee at the booth, and had our choice of parking spaces, since we were the only car in the lot near the Grizzle Ocean trail head. We got our packs on and headed out. It was a bluebird day, and our plan on day 1 was to get to Whortleberry Pond and camp there for our first night.

We hiked past the trail to Grizzle Ocean figuring we didn't have time to check it out, and continued past Wolf pond and the swamp. It was then that I realized that I had lost my expensive sunglasses somewhere along the way, which was a bummer, since they really belonged to my wife and she was not going to be happy. We continued on to Pharaoh Lake proper, stopping along the way to check out the tent sites and the lean-tos. None of them were occupied, so we poked around and took some pictures. Without exception the areas around the lean-tos seemed neat and clean, which was nice to see. There wasn't a stick of firewood within throwing distance, though, but that was to be expected. We did see this in one of the lean-tos.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/um0tpfrzmd...31.21.jpg?dl=0


I asked Justin if it was one of his, but he said no, he doesn't trust birch bark.

We saw some foundations in a clearing near the lake -- does anyone know what it used to be? It looked to be a fairly sizable building at one time, given the placement of the concrete supports.

Here's one of PL on the first day. (There wasn't supposed to be a second day, but we'll get to that...)

https://www.dropbox.com/s/ttn3i9cyxl....01-1.jpg?dl=0

https://www.dropbox.com/s/lxjo4xlsc3....00-1.jpg?dl=0

We kind of missed the trail to Whortleberry that sits directly behind the lean-to since we had USGS maps and didn't dig out the NG map from my pack to see exactly where it was. We cut off the trail too early and ended up just more or less heading toward Whortleberry through the woods since everything was pretty wide open. We skirted the marsh to the left (we didn't know there was also a camp site to the right) and ended up seeing red and blue through the woods, and we thought the site was taken. I walked up a bit closer and realized that the red we saw was just a derelict canoe and the blue was a tarp covering about a face cord of cut and split wood, and some sort of metal pop up canopy.

We had found our home for the night. We were getting the late afternoon sun, so it made setting up camp a really relaxing time. Greg was hanging, and I was a ground dweller with my one-man tent. After that we ate dinner and started a fire. If any of you guys were the hunters who processed all that wood, we stole a few pieces, I hope you don't mind.

Our kitchen: https://www.dropbox.com/s/tvwpa9tplo...49.59.jpg?dl=0

Our canoe that only works if you put everything in the front: https://www.dropbox.com/s/2cosf7esoc...56.42.jpg?dl=0

Sunset: https://www.dropbox.com/s/zdjlyu38t9....48-1.jpg?dl=0

We had a good night's sleep, and in the morning we got up early to break camp and get on our way to Crab pond. As we were hiking out and just about to loop around the southern end of PL, we met a ranger coming the other way. Ranger Chuck (we didn't catch his last name). He's the one who told us there was another site on Whortleberry, and that it was hunters who put up the wood. He also told us what we suspected -- that there was a canoe stashed around there somewhere. We had looked around for one for a few minutes, but didn't plan on going out on the water anyway, so we didn't really search too hard. He didn't seemed thrilled that it was there, but he said people keep bringing them in. Really nice guy. We talked a bit about the ranger lifestyle -- the benefits and drawbacks -- the need for more rangers, the crazy hours he works since they are always shorthanded and their territories are huge, but he waved his hand around in an arc and said, "On the other hand, this is my office." Hard to argue with that. We told him of our plans to hit Crab Pond for our second night, then Rock, then back out to Putnam and the car on the last day. He said there might be one guy in front of us, but then amended that and said that no, he thought that person was actually on their way out so we probably wouldn't see anyone.

When we started around the lake, the trail took a decided turn for the worse.

To quote DSettahr: "There's a lot of little ups and downs especially that don't show up on the topo maps- and these do tend to add up to considerable added elevation gains over longer distances. Don't get me wrong- it's not exactly like the area is super rugged or anything- but it's also not uncommon for folks new to the Pharaoh area to find that they end up hiking at least a little bit more slowly than they'd anticipated."

Um, Yes. By the time we got to the spot where we were supposed to head to Crab, it was much later than we anticipated it would be, and we would likely get to Crab close to dark at the rate we were going. The trail had taken a toll on us. It seems like the trail on the N/W side of the lake is less of a trail, and more of series of trail markers pointing in a general direction over a jumble of rocks and roots, while simultaneously wandering from right to left and constantly going up and down.

Everything was covered in wet leaves, so it was PITA hiking. It felt like you had to evaluate every step before taking it. Not my favorite way to hike. It's mentally tiring. I don't think either of us looked up the entire time. When we reached the turn-off, we rested for a bit and I said, "What was your favorite part of day 2 so far? Rocks covered in moss, or roots covered in leaves?" I think he voted rocks, since they're prettier.

We decided right then that Crab pond and Rock Pond were out. I looked at my GPS and we had been traveling at about 1.2 mph on average, about half what we were doing on the way into Whortleberry. My boots looked like someone took a rasp to the toes and sides. So we made an executive decision to continue on around PL with the goal of reaching Split Rock Lean-to for our second night. We got there without incident, both feeling a little like we wimped out, but we thought it was the right choice, given our hiking speed and how we felt.

We checked out the lean-to, but opted to keep going a bit farther and take the tent site just past the lean-to. It looked to be another beautiful night, and we didn't want to risk someone showing up at the lean-to after we were settled in.

Some pictures:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/foiswg8u45...29.46.jpg?dl=0
https://www.dropbox.com/s/arhsc3tmpk...14.52.jpg?dl=0
https://www.dropbox.com/s/tx3znce94y...01.08.jpg?dl=0
https://www.dropbox.com/s/owd1vtoqzo...17.22.jpg?dl=0
https://www.dropbox.com/s/5zknukgfvr...23.56.jpg?dl=0

We had an early dinner and then hung around the fire for bit before turning in.
It looked like there were two other campers on the lake besides us -- one group way down on the other end, and one person directly across from us who seemed to be camping alone. Hope we weren't too loud.

The next morning, we figured we'd head for Grizzle Ocean lean-to, since we had decided to cut the loop short and walked past it on the way in. It was an easier hike for sure, and we made great time once we got past Wolf pond swamp. I was walking up one of the final hills before the straightaway to Grizzle, and I looked down and found my sunglasses! Unbelievable.

We got there early afternoon, just in time for lunch. It was a nice place and in good shape, although you could tell it must get pounded on, being so close to Putnam pond camp ground. We were a little concerned we'd have someone showing up at night, but it didn't happen. We hiked around Grizzle Ocean for a bit, looking for other sites, but didn't see any. We did see what looked to be one illegal site down by the water to the left, but still within throwing distance of the lean-to. I threw a few lures in but it's so shallow I couldn't get to where the fish were. After lunch we hunted for some firewood, and generally just enjoyed sitting by the water until dinner. It was odd sleeping in a lean-to after being confined in my little tent, but a nice change of pace.

The sunset on the leaves was brilliant: https://www.dropbox.com/s/tp38b4wn4y....19-1.jpg?dl=0
https://www.dropbox.com/s/qo5czktaaw....02-1.jpg?dl=0
https://www.dropbox.com/s/nc60vm0h14....15-1.jpg?dl=0

We also found something in the woods when hunting for firewood, so if anyone knows the owner, you can let them know where it is:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/tgi3x1c3qo...13.46.jpg?dl=0

The next morning, we ate a leisurely breakfast and headed back to Putnam Pond and the car. It was a fantastic trip, with the best weather I think I've had for any extended camping trip since we did the West Canada Lakes loop in 2015. I felt a lot younger then. In total, we saw three people including the ranger. Not bad at all!

Rock and Crab are still on our list however. Maybe as an out and back. Thanks for reading this (incredibly long) trip report. Hope you enjoyed it. Sorry I didn't put the pictures somewhere linkable.....

Last edited by JohnnyVirgil; 10-15-2019 at 12:26 PM..
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Old 10-13-2019, 07:54 PM   #2
Justin
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Cool report & photos!
A birch bark paddle? haha
That might be Tabe’s bra.

Last edited by Justin; 10-13-2019 at 08:12 PM..
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Old 10-13-2019, 08:01 PM   #3
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Awesome TR!

Pictures were fantastic too. You really hit the peak colors.
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Old 10-13-2019, 08:55 PM   #4
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A well written report and great pictures.

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Originally Posted by JohnnyVirgil View Post
We also found something in the woods when hunting for firewood, so if anyone knows the owner, you can let them know where it is:
Ha... we found these along the trail on St. Regis Mountain. I have the xy coordinates on my GPS if someone wants to pick them up.

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Old 10-13-2019, 09:07 PM   #5
JohnnyVirgil
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Justin View Post
Cool report & photos!
A birch bark paddle? haha
That might be Tabe’s bra.
I originally thought the same thing, but then I realized that the thong was gone, and they didn't match.
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Old 10-13-2019, 09:16 PM   #6
JohnnyVirgil
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Awesome TR!

Pictures were fantastic too. You really hit the peak colors.
Yeah, it was great. The early morning sun cutting across the mountains lit them up like fire.

Last edited by JohnnyVirgil; 10-13-2019 at 10:42 PM..
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Old 10-14-2019, 02:31 AM   #7
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A great trip report with fantastic photos. Thanks for sharing.
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Last edited by TrailBlaser; 10-15-2019 at 04:40 PM..
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Old 10-15-2019, 11:27 AM   #8
Tabe
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Why's everybody picking on me?
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Old 10-15-2019, 11:58 AM   #9
Justin
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Why's everybody picking on me?
Tabe’s Pharaoh Lingerie Thrift Store
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Old 10-15-2019, 12:56 PM   #10
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Nice doubled barreled slingshot.
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