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Old 09-03-2017, 02:15 PM   #1
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Zach's Avatar
Join Date: Mar 2012
Location: Orwell NY
Posts: 893
Camp Santanoni by bicycle and canoe

I seem to have written another almost infinitely long trip report, and I also took an unnecessarily large number of pictures including a number of seemingly random things that I saw along the way, which can be found at this link, I hope:

2017 album

This year’s bicycle and canoe trip took me to South Pond, Santanoni Preserve and the Ermine Brook Slide, and Stillwater for a total of 294 miles on the road. The weather was a lot cooler than last year and felt rather chilly at times, but I always had fair winds when I was bicycling and that helped a lot.

I got up at 5 on the morning of Wednesday, August 23, with the intention of doing a last few things and being on my way by 6. I left at 6:08 and then left again at 6:14, having made a pleasant though unplanned 9/10 mile warmup run. My goal for the day was to reach South Pond, between Blue Mountain Lake and Long Lake on Route 28N/30, which is why I left earlier than usual. There was an intermittently brisk west wind through most of the day. I got into Old Forge just after 2, at about 75 miles. My plan was to get a water filter since I like to have two and one had died, and to get some extra food, but each of those goals ended up requiring two stops and some looking around so it took longer than I had planned. I saw my first bear in the Adirondacks, a small one that crossed the driveway to the Golden Beach campground as I was passing by the end of it on the road, but I wasn’t able to get a picture. There was a bit of drizzle as I was approaching Blue Mountain Lake, but I had brought a poncho so I was able to stay fairly dry. All day I would get hot climbing hills as usual, but then I would get cold coming down them. I was dreading the climb out of Blue Mountain Lake but it wasn’t bad, I ended up walking the bike up the hill for almost a mile, but when I got to the top it was easy traveling for the last few miles to South Pond where I arrived at 7:42, having covered 117.83 miles, not including the extra 0.9. This was further than I had ever gone in a day, but with the wind to help it wasn’t too bad. I had run down the path from the road to look at the pond once in 2012, but otherwise it was new to me. The campsite by the put in I had read about online appeared to be undesignated, and too close to the water, so I left it and paddled south till I found another one with the same problem. Neither of them had a ‘Camp Here’ disk, but they also didn’t have ‘No Camping’ disks, so I decided that even though it was illegal I would stay at the second one since it was after 8 and getting dark. I felt properly guilty for doing it, but I didn’t feel inclined to search further at that point. I set up my tent, put the baggage under the overturned canoe, ate some supper, hung up the food bag and went to sleep.

In the morning I headed out to explore the pond in the mist. I went further south and passed between a number of oddly shaped islands till I came to some private land, signified by some overturned aluminum boats and a satellite dish. I then went along the south shore of the pond and found one designated campsite on an island, and another island where people were camping but i didn’t get close enough to see if it was designated or not. I headed north again and crossed the pond back to my campsite, where I packed everything up and headed back to the put-in. I knew I had a short ride so I wasn’t in a hurry. Once I passed through Long Lake I was amazed by how nice the road was all the way to Newcomb, nice new pavement with none of the huge cracks I remembered from last time I was up there, very wide paved shoulders and miles of the nicest kind of guardrail, the ones that are flat on top and comfortable to sit on. I stopped for a snack at the Shaw Pond overlook where there were some picnic tables, and went to the ESF center in Newcomb to fill my water bottles and call home to say I had arrived. When I got to the Santanoni Preserve trailhead I was a bit baffled by the gate, which was shut, and after signing the register I was going to unhook the trailer from the bike so it could go under when a very kind older gentleman who was walking down the road showed me that it wasn’t locked and opened it for me. I should have thought to look at the latch, but it didn’t occur to me. The dirt road is in much better shape than it was on my previous visits, with no more of the sand traps that I had sunk into before. At the farm complex I found that someone had mowed a lot more of the area down over the hill that used to contain hotbeds and other outbuildings and that the foundations were visible. One, marked “Seed House” on the map, contained an old iron bed frame for some reason. The Farm Manager’s cottage was under renovation and couldn’t be approached, but the New Farm House was open in part, and inside it some clever person or persons had made a diorama of the main barns as they would have appeared when in use. It was a very nice job. There were also some old things stored in there, including some sort of device on a wheelbarrow frame that I didn’t recognize. The two farm houses that were accessible both showed signs of a lot of work being done since last time I saw them. The smoke house had a Danger sign on the door, but the door was open so I was able to peer in and see the racks hanging from the ceiling. There is also a hole in the downhill wall, at the bottom, and I wondered if that was how the smoke was piped in, not knowing much about such things. I was a bit concerned that the campsites might all be taken so I headed in to the main camp but found that they were all empty. Throughout my time at Santanoni I was surprised by how many fewer people there were around than on my previous visits. I failed to find site #1, though I did find a sign for it. Site #2 is right by the road, and far above the water, so I went across the bridge and looked at 3, 4 and 5, finally settling on 5 since it had a short, wide approach path by which I could wheel the canoe and baggage down into it. It’s the same site I stayed on in 2010, on my first Santanoni visit, at which time it was the only one unoccupied. Someone had left a large and surprisingly comfortable plastic chair, which I sat on quite a lot during my stay, and there were also two extremely old picnic tables. I fetched some wood from across the road and cut it up with my folding saw. I have found that sawing is one of the best ways to warm up when I feel cold while camping since it provides exercise without the cooling effect of moving around. I spent some time at the main camp complex and in the evening I paddled over to the Ward Pond Brook lean-to. I went around the north shore of the lake, but when I got to what looked like narrows on the map between the big island and the shore I found a flooded grassy field which I dragged the canoe across. I knew I was in the right place when I came across a huge and very gnarled pine tree that I had taken pictures of while staying in the lean-to in 2012. Since I failed to find the outlet of the brook where I expected it I asked the folks who were camping in and around the lean-to if they would mind if I left my canoe there in the morning on my way to Ermine Brook. They were very nice about it, and I talked about boatbuilding with one of them who had a guideboat with him that he had made that was very nice. Later in the evening I made a fire and toasted some of my supper on an old grill that was a bit bent out of shape, but I was able to straighten it enough to hold up bagels and tortillas. The nights were cold up there on this trip, so I made a fire every evening except the first one. In all my previous trips I’ve only made a fire once before, but this time I was glad to have them. Through all three nights at Santanoni I heard loons often, as well as barred and other kinds of unknown (to me) owls.

My goal for Friday was to find and climb the Ermine Brook Slide. I had failed to find it in 2012 and ever since it has been on my mind a little. In the morning i got going about 6 and on the water by 6:30, and headed over to the lean-to. I left the canoe on a bank off to the side and headed out on the trail at 7:10. At first I missed the left turn by the outhouse onto the trail I wanted, but when I came to the Ward Pond Brook bridge in a couple of hundred yards I realized what I had done and went back. Once I turned onto the Moose Pond trail I was very impressed with how much easier it was to follow than last time I tried to visit Ermine Brook Slide in 2012. There were lots of new marker disks and the brush and saplings had been cut back a bit, so in the whole length of the trail there was only one spot where I had to look around to see where the trail went. There still is a very wet section where the trail goes across or just below a couple of beaver dams, but since I was wearing sandals anyway I didn’t mind and I never was more than ankle deep. Once I got out to the old road the last 1.5 miles were very fast and easy. The picnic table at the Ermine Brook crossing has fallen apart since 2012, but otherwise everything looked very much the same. The brook has lots of interesting rocks, waterfalls, cliffs with hanging trees, rocks with trees growing out of the top and such. Alternately walking in the water, rock hopping and going off into the woods on the sides when it was too steep I eventually made it up to the point where I had given up last time, where the brook seems to fork in two. I took the right hand fork and kept going this time, and within a few hundred feet I came to the footwall of the slide (I think that is the correct term for it). For some reason I had expected it to come into the side of the stream, whereas in fact the branch of the stream that I was following went directly up the slide. I scrambled around through the woods to get to the top, and began following the slide up, stopping often to look behind me for views, which began pretty soon. I had to be careful to stop walking before I looked, and to stop looking before I started walking again due to the slimy wet areas on the bare rock and the roughness of the ground in between. Pretty soon Moose Pond came into view, and after a while even Long Lake, I think. I stopped somewhat before I reached the headwall when I got to an area where the slide seemed to be getting steeper and more of it was wet and thus slimy. It was just noon when I stopped, so I ate some lunch and took some pictures before heading down at 12:30. I got quite cold at first, since I had just been eating and the wind picked up and the clouds closed in while I was sitting, but once I got going again and got down more into the woods again I warmed up. I had my fleece clothes and a couple of emergency blankets in a small backpack in case of a mishap, but luckily I didn’t need them. I noticed at lunch that the stitching that held one strap on to the bottom of the pack was coming loose, but I put some repair tape on it and it held all the way back. It took me quite a while to go back down the slide and the brook, and when I got back to the old road I took the side road to the Moose Pond campsites and checked out the view of the slide from below. On the way back to Newcomb Lake my right ankle got rather sore, and I thought I must have overdone it while scrambling around in the brook, but it didn’t get worse and I was able to get back to the canoe easily enough. One of the people at the lean-to asked me if the trail I had been on went into the swamp, and said that they had tried to go that way but turned back. They were wearing hiking boots and didn’t want to get them wet, I guess. Since I always wear sandals on my trips I have an easy come, easy go attitude to water, though I dislike wading in deep, strong currents or on slimy rocks. I got back on the lake and took some more pictures, and went back to my campsite in time for another pleasant supper by the fire. That night had been forecast to be the coldest of my trip, so I wore all of the layers of clothes I had with me inside my sleeping bag and was warm enough, though not much extra. I should have brought a hat. I used to, but I never used it so I stopped.

Saturday morning was still rather chilly so I mostly stayed in the tent and read till 8 or so, when I headed under the bridge and into Upper Duck Hole. It was pretty with the mist rising, and when I came into Lower Duck Hole the peninsulas were very ghostly looking. The mist was being driven up by a light east wind, and I pushed on to the bottom where there was a large area of rocks as the river began. From what I could see I can’t imagine what Stripperguy and his crew must have gone through in paddling up to Newcomb Lake that way a few years ago, though I did read the report and look at the pictures. On the way back up the outlet I noticed again what looked like a trail coming in, so I stopped and found that it was a trail that went up a hill and came to a posted sign, with what looked like a dirt road just beyond. The sign was from a hunting club, but I have a vague notion that the Macintyre West and East tracts were acquired by the state at some point fairly recently. If so then that might be another possible way to reach Newcomb Lake, if the dirt road comes out somewhere convenient. Once I reached the open water on the way back I found that a quite strong west wind had come up, and I had to paddle hard to push my way back through it. I stopped to take some pictures of water lilies but found it difficult because as soon as I stopped paddling the wind would push the canoe back, so I had to go upwind past the flowers, and get a picture fast as I went back by. I found a couple of spots at my campsite where I could sit in the sun and somewhat out of the wind, and read my book and eventually ate lunch. At 1 I went over to the Great Camp porch for the guided tour, which they have 3 times a day. I thought the intern did a very good job, and I learned some things that were new to me even though I’ve read the book a few times. It was very cold up on the porch, but less so once we went inside. About 3 I paddled up the lake to explore the rest of it a little, and found campsite #1. It looked quite nice, though I don’t know how easy it would be to find one’s way to it from the sign at the road. I had followed a path for a ways on Thursday but it seemed to be getting fainter as I went so I thought I must be in the wrong place. The shoreline of Newcomb Lake is very variegated, and offers all of the kinds of riparian zone that I have come across in the Adirondacks, I think. There was a very odd little cliff with an eroded shape with columns at the bottom, and the Fishing Rock lean-to looked to be in a very nice spot with big rocks, though it was occupied so I didn’t get a close look. I enjoyed the way the views of the mountains changed as I moved around the lake. From the SW corner of the lake I could see a very regular conical mountain peak that looked fairly far off, and I assumed it must be one of the high peaks, but I don’t know which. At the inlet I followed Moose Pond Stream up as far as was convenient and found that it was easy to paddle as far as the bridge where the trail crosses. I had looked at maps and satellite photos and thought it would be too blocked with blowdown, but if I had known how easy it was I would have gone there instead of to the lean-to on Friday as it would have shortened the walk a bit. Going back down the north shore of the lake I found the missing Ward Pond Brook outlet a good bit east of where I had thought it would be based on my map, and in a very swampy area. It’s no distance from the bridge to the lean-to, but it’s pretty far by water so I think the stream must take a sharp left turn after it goes under the bridge. I visited a few islands and found some No Camping and No Fires disks, and also found those disks on a little point NW of the great camp with some huge white pines, one of which had had some of its roots burned by a duff fire, started when someone made a fire in a ring of stones. The stones were still there in the bottom of the hole, and it’s a good thing that the whole peninsula didn’t get burnt. I tried to get pictures of the artist’s studio and the camp from the water but the wind was still quite strong so I had to attend more to navigation than getting good pictures. After supper I went back out on the lake briefly to take some pictures in the dark, and listen to the loons. I tried to record the loon calls with my camera but the mic isn’t sensitive enough so nothing came through.

On Sunday morning I got up fairly early and packed everything up. My goal for the day was to reach Stillwater, 75 miles away. I got out to the pavement about 8 and remained pretty cold till about 9 when I got far enough away from the lakes to be out of the mist, and the sun came through. I had a nice light east wind to help me along, and made good time. As I was traveling into Long Lake I met about 10 bicyclists all going the other way, spread out over 8 miles or so. Most of them were wearing matching yellow long-sleeved jacket-type things, though one had on red. I assume they must have been traveling together, but they were quite widely scattered. Leaving Long Lake I met a couple of bicyclists coming out of the road to Buttermilk Falls and beyond, who called out approvingly about the canoe trailer as I went by on the main road. I said ‘thank you’ and carried on, but then I thought I should have stopped and talked to them since they seemed interested. I stopped a few miles up the road and since it turned out they were going the same way they caught up with me. One was from Brooklyn and the other from Alaska and they were doing a 400 mile loop around the Adirondacks that was laid out by a group called the Adventure Cycling Association (or something like that) in 8 days. I followed them into Blue Mountain Lake where our paths diverged. I called home again and then headed for Inlet. I stopped to eat some lunch on a rock by the road a little before Raquette Lake. A couple of miles past Raquette Lake I was going down a slight grade at about 15 MPH when suddenly my seat post broke off (from metal fatigue, it seems) at the point where it leaves the frame. I didn’t know what had happened at first. I put the brakes on and turned a bit off the road and thought I could maybe ride it to a stop but the bike and trailer sort of jackknifed and I dropped as the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath. Luckily the only damage I had were some scrapes on my legs and one shoulder. A kind person who was driving just behind me at the time pulled over to see if I was okay, and offered to call her uncle who lived nearby to come and pick me up with a truck, but I figured I would be fine to walk into Inlet which was only another 8 miles from there. Then her husband suggested putting the shortened seat post back in the frame so I would be able to ride, though not with as much efficiency. This was a great idea, and once I got the handlebars aligned again, and straightened out a small bend in the trailer tongue I was able to ride. I had to scrape the burr from the broken end of the seat post on a roadside rock to grind it down so it would go back into the frame, but since it was aluminum it didn’t take long to grind off. I was very lucky on several points about this mishap, that it happened when I was close to Inlet and heading there, that I didn’t land in the road, and that the bike was heavily built enough to survive being partly landed on without sustaining serious damage. Once I had thanked the Good Samaritans for stopping I was on my way again, although a bit more slowly since my knees were almost hitting my elbows on the upstroke. I had to walk a few of the hills into Inlet but most of the way I was able to ride, and I wasn’t too much later than I had intended to be. I stopped at the bike shop, and while they were out of new seat posts that fit they had a used one that was almost as long as the old one had been before it broke. For $16 I was back almost to full efficiency again, and after getting some more food I decided to stick to my original plan and push on for Stillwater. It was after 3 by the time I left Inlet, but I figured I should still be able to make it well before dark. The 10 miles of dirt road from Big Moose Station to Stillwater were the hardest I have ever biked, as far as I can recall, and took me an hour and 45 minutes to travel, even though I was losing elevation overall. The road seemed to work fine for the cars and trucks on it, but it was very soft sand liberally sprinkled with ice-cube sized gravel, and I kept sinking in and skidding sideways in it when I tried to pedal, even on level ground. There were some hills that I almost couldn’t walk the bike and trailer up because my feet were sliding backwards so much. It was like the soft sand on a beach, in most places. I kept thinking that I didn’t remember the other end of the road from Number Four to Stillwater being nearly that bad. When I got to Stillwater the lady who runs the lodge was out on the deck and very kindly offered to let me leave my bike and trailer in her driveway again. I signed up for campsite 36 since it was on an island and was not too far out, and I was pretty tired by then. I got on the water about 6:30 with just a couple of miles or so to paddle, though it was into the wind that had been helping me all day on the bicycle. Once I got to the island I took some pictures of the sunset and set up camp, made a fire, ate supper and went to bed.

My plan for Monday was to mostly relax and enjoy the scenery and I was able to do both, but not at the same time. In the morning I paddled across and followed the shore of the southern arm down from where the state land begins. I left the canoe on a muddy peninsula and walked up to the road and over to the trailhead for the Stillwater Mountain Fire Tower. It only added an extra 1/4 mile or so to the walk, and I didn’t want to have to bicycle back down the two miles of road to get there. The trail up to the tower is nice, with a cute little bridge and a yellow birch with huge roots that ran for 12 or 15 feet both ways along the trail. The fire tower has been newly restored and is very nice, with windows that open and shut and a nice map table with a spinner thing to sight along in the cabin. The folks who did the work certainly did a great job. The near view is somewhat limited to the east by trees, but there’s still a lot to see. There was a huge clearcut on an adjacent mountain that’s privately held, and lots of lakes and other mountains, and part of Stillwater can be seen. On the way back down I met three pairs of people going up. Back on the reservoir I checked out a rocky island with a cliff and then a bigger cliff on the shore, but the stable flies were very bad, so I headed back to camp. The wind was very light all day, and I think if it had been stronger it would have helped a lot with the flies. I had 3 or 4 dozen at a time in the canoe, and while I killed a lot with the fly swatter I couldn’t make a dent in their numbers. I would paddle a few strokes, and then they would come and start biting me, and i would put down the paddle and pick up the swatter, and when they had gone back out of reach or been squashed I would start paddling again. It was a slow way to proceed. I had gotten a couple of small spiders in the canoe while it was sitting and at one point I heard a frantic buzzing and saw that one of them had grabbed a fly and was making a meal of it, much to my (and I presume the spider’s) satisfaction. I don’t know much about stable flies since they don’t seem to be around here where I live except very occasionally, but they seem to be smarter than other bugs. They always land on the part of my legs where I can’t see them, in the canoe, and if I turn my legs so I can see them they move out of sight again. Back at my campsite I ate lunch and read in my tent for a while with the screen closed, and then I paddled across to the island with the giant tree stump, which was larger than my island and offered more scope for perambulation. I found that if I walked along the beach they wouldn’t bite me, but as soon as I stopped walking they would begin to bite, so I walked around and looked at the scenery for a while. About 4 it must have been shift change or something because they went away completely for about 10 minutes, and I thought they were done for the day but then they came back. Soon afterward I headed back across and collected a small canoe-load of firewood from the shore just across from my island. There’s none on the island, and some illegal tree cutting has been done which is always frustrating to me. There’s all sorts of firewood lying on the ground just inside the tree line on shore, and I got a lot of branches from a fallen beech tree that were just at the stage where they break nicely but are not too rotten to burn well. I went back to the tent and read some more, and about 7:30 when I came out to light a fire and have supper the flies were gone. I stayed out by the dwindling fire till 9:30 or so and took a last swim. I did very little swimming on this trip because it was a good bit colder overall than it usually is when I go, but I did get to swim briefly several times on Monday since it had warmed up somewhat.

On Tuesday morning I got up about 6:20 and ate breakfast and packed everything up. I had a nice strong east wind again to help me back to the boat launch, and I had everything loaded on the bike and ready to roll by 8:20. I found that the part of the dirt road I was on this time was indeed much nicer, being somewhat bumpy (like most dirt roads) but solid. I found it much easier going and made pretty good time out to Lowville, called home to say I was on my way, ate some lunch and kept on. The wind backed around to the southeast later in the day, so part of the last 20 miles it was helping me, and part of the time it was holding me back, but up till that point it was an unmixed blessing and sped me on my way much more easily than I had expected. The only part where I got really hot was the few miles climbing west out of Lowville up onto the Tug Hill, and with the wind to help even that was easier than last time I made that trip. I got home at about 3:40, having covered 74 miles for the day.
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Old 09-03-2017, 03:30 PM   #2
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Great photos and trip report! Thanks for sharing!
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Old 09-03-2017, 05:15 PM   #3
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nice thanks for the report! we saw you along 28 after we did a 90miler training run thru Browns Tract last weekend.

"Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after." - Thoreau
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Old 09-04-2017, 07:37 AM   #4
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Camp Santoni by bicycle and canoe

Great trip and report Zach. Quite an adventure. Missed you on this years canoe campout trip. Steve
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Old 09-04-2017, 08:08 AM   #5
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Very enjoyable report. The wife reads aloud while I work a second monitor tracking progress on Cal Topo and your photos. Nothing like a good slide climb, Ermine has been added to my list. My worst fear when cycling is a seat post failure, you're very lucky it broke at the base and not at the top. Is the gizmo in the cylindrical container on the wheelbarrow thing a pump? Maybe used when collecting maple sap? Keep up the good work!
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Old 09-04-2017, 05:11 PM   #6
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Thank you all very much. Conk, that is quite a procedure to have the report read while looking at the pictures and CalTopo. Your wife must be a very patient person to get through all of that. This was my first time visiting a slide, and it was nice. I have the impression that a lot of them are steeper and would not be suited for an amateur like me, but this one was quite manageable till I got pretty far up. I had not heard of a seat post breaking before, but I guess that for a fatigue break it makes sense that it would be at the bottom since that is the point where the most leverage is exerted, especially with a post that sticks out of the frame as far as mine does. I have tended to be more worried about front end or handlebar failure but so far it hasn't happened to me yet.
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Old 09-04-2017, 09:19 PM   #7
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Great trip report and pictures. You packed a lot into that trip!
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Old 09-05-2017, 05:40 AM   #8
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The thread has been cleaned up and is ready for posting.
The best, the most successful adventurer, is the one having the most fun.

Last edited by Neil; 09-05-2017 at 07:47 AM.. Reason: Added the word "thread".
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Old 09-05-2017, 06:43 AM   #9
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Neil, thank you very much. I appreciate all of the work you do to keep the forum running smoothly.
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Old 09-05-2017, 08:40 AM   #10
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I certainly appreciate the time and effort putting this report together.
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Old 09-05-2017, 10:55 AM   #11
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I'm six time zones away from home but absolutely had to take the time to tell you what a fantastic trip report you've written with
Your combination of thoughtful introspection and descriptive style
I still am impressed by your resolve and your stamina
Haven't seen your photos yet but I always enjoy them
You definitely make this forum better by your presence here
Thanks, man
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Old 09-05-2017, 12:39 PM   #12
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great to see an ermine brook slide trip! i enjoyed your pictures, thanks for the report.
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Old 09-05-2017, 01:55 PM   #13
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Great photos and great write up. Love seeing your human powered adventures. Where was the firetower? (or did I miss its location in a photo caption?)
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Old 09-05-2017, 08:10 PM   #14
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You're all very kind. I wouldn't let my keyboard run away with me so much if it didn't only happen once a year. Stripperguy, 6 time zones is a long way, I hope you'll have a safe trip home when the time comes. Bmike-VT, the firetower is on Stillwater Mountain, about 2 miles from the T on Stillwater Rd. It was newly renovated and reopened to the public recently as I understand, and there is a thread about it on the fire towers sub-forum which is where I heard about it first.
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Old 09-08-2017, 02:26 PM   #15
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Nice report. I was at Newcomb Lake recently & camped at the Ward Pond Brook lean-to (also in 2012!). The conical mountain you saw from the west end of the lake is in fact Marcy. The trail to private land is a little too south to be in the MacIntyre West Tract.
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Old 09-09-2017, 01:06 PM   #16
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Nehasane, thank you very much for the information. I get confused when trying to figure out which mountain I am seeing, and I don't know if I ever could have figured that out. The NG map I had with me is older so it doesn't show the new state land acquisitions, but now that I've looked it up I can see what you said about where the new tract is.
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