Thread: Lake Colden
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Old 09-18-2021, 10:56 AM   #1
rbi99
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Join Date: Sep 2004
Location: Cleveland, Ohio
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Colden Lake

Over my many years (43+) of coming up to the Adirondacks from Cleveland to backpack, climb and day hike, I have had my share of flawless adventures, and some that didn't go quite as planned. This backpacking trip was one of those latter ones.

Got off to a good start from Upper Works, hitting the trail before 10:30. I gave myself an hour a mile (yes one can walk that slow and still actually get somewhere), so I had plenty of time built into my hike to Colden Lake so that I would arrive well before dark. The first half of the six miles went fine. Had the climb of perhaps 1400' or so, but footing was excellent. Crossed over the high water bridge (actually rock hopped), and then things went a little south. I have been to Colden probably five times prior, but hadn't been there in maybe seven years. I remembered the mud, but not quite this much. In the back of my mind I was somewhat concerned because as we hiked in on Monday, I was aware that it was supposed to rain all day Wednesday. We were coming out on Thursday (when I say we, it was my dog Maggie and I). I was actually using up my whole hour per mile as we progressed toward our goal. Got to the leanto at Flowed Lands and I would be lying if I didn't say I was pretty tired. So was my dog Maggie. With a little over a mile more to go to get to Colden Lake, I decided we should push on.

This is where things started to go south. Getting to the lake was nothing more then pushing myself one step at a time, though those steps were falling at a pretty slow rate of speed. Finally got there, and then, only then, did I learn that the leantos on Beaver Point were gone. Somehow I had never read this even though I am often on these forums and read the ranger reports whenever they arrive in my mailbox. I am an experienced packer but I did not have my tent with me (I decided to leave it in the trunk of the car since the trail registry showed that very few people were at Colden). I bent over pretty much devastated. Number one, the views from that leanto are almost indescribably beautiful, and number two, both Maggie and myself were exhausted. Had to backtrack to one of the leantos prior to the dam, and though very clean, had none of the views that Beaver Point had. Just past the dam, going back toward Upper Works, you have to get up and over that large boulder. Last time I had hiked into Colden seven years ago I also had hiked in with Maggie. At that time, when we arrived at the ladder that goes down to the dam, Maggie went up and down it like she was walking on a sidewalk. That was seven years ago, this time there would be no going down that ladder, so we couldn't get to the leanto that had been relocated on the other side. Poor Maggie struggled mightily trying to get up that boulder. I tried coming up behind her to help push her, but my damn boots were muddy and I kept slipping and was unable to help her from behind. I took her pack and mine up over the boulder and went back down to try once more to aide her. It probably took six or seven attempts before she did it, but those attempts completely wiped out any energy that she had left.

The leanto wasn't far after we scaled the boulder, and we arrived there in one piece and without any problems. Set up camp in the empty leanto, then went down to the river to get water. I fed Maggie and made sure she was comfortable, and then I tried lighting my Whisperlite stove that has never failed me in well over 10 years. I had fresh MSR fuel in the fuel bottle. It wouldn't light. My problem was that even after pumping up the bottle and then cracking open the valve, fuel would not flow onto the primer cup. The bottle was 3/4 full, but no matter what I did the fuel wasn't leaving the bottle. I had even taken the entire unit apart last year to clean and inspect everything. After putting it all back together it fired up like a brand new stove. Why this was suddenly happening left me completely confused. So there we were, very much safe, but with no means for heating water for my Hawk's Vittles - or coffee!!!

Tuesday called for great weather, and my original plans were to climb Marshall that day. After Maggie's struggles (and mine to some degree), Monday night as I lie comfortably in my sleeping bag and Maggie sound asleep next to me, I decided that the climb the next day would not be wise. That brought me to my next dilemma because the weather forecast called for rain starting Tuesday night and falling all day and into Wednesday night. That meant I wouldn't try climbing Marshall Wednesday, and we were hiking out on Thursday. With no stove to heat water, my two tuna fish sandwiches I was going to eat on top of Marshall on Tuesday certainly wouldn't sustain me till Thursday. I had four Cliff bars so I wouldn't have starved or anything.

As I pondered how muddy the trail was hiking in, then adding in the projected rain Wednesday, I wasn't looking forward to the hike out. All things considered, I decided it would be best for us to simply pack up and hike back out Tuesday. That's what we did. We were both very tired, but even though I walked at my extremely slow pace, we got back to the car in plenty of time. I salvaged the change in plans by heading up to Lake Placid and staying at Art Devlin's for the two nights we weren't in the woods. We didn't do much more than drive around and take it easy, but I was driving around and taking it easy in Lake Placid - enough said!!!

This was in all likelihood my last trip into Colden, and I will forever be grateful that I have been there on six different occasions. The only mountains I haven't stood on top of there are Cliff and Marshall. That's not a big deal. When I was at Beaver Point last time, and looking up at Algonquin, Wright and Colden, and knowing I had been to all of their tops, I felt extremely lucky and proud. They do look daunting from down there at Colden Lake!!!

Didn't go as planned, but being able to work around problems is as important as planning properly to begin with. With me being 70 and Maggie 9, we will still backpack and climb, but I will be setting up camp after hiking less then 5 miles, and we will throw in a rest day after hiking in. Small concessions, but necessary ones for us.

On a side note, no bugs at all, perfect weather, people we ran into were all great, and now I know exactly what Maggie can do in her later years so that I can plan accordingly. I just saw that Beaver Pt #1 was moved down the trail and uphill, means that I missed it because I simply didn't go far enough along the trail to see where they moved it to. Regardless, in retrospect I think Maggie and I did the right thing by packing out when we did.
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Last edited by rbi99; 09-20-2021 at 04:54 PM..
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