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Old 07-10-2013, 04:15 PM   #21
wildchild
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Yes great point! And I agree it is sooooo helpful to know at the outset! Especially with a kiddo in tow!
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Old 07-10-2013, 04:25 PM   #22
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RE: Fires at primitive sites:

The DEC actually discourages most backpackers from using primitive, non-established, non-designated sites, even if they conform to the 150 foot rule. The reason for this is that the average backpacker doesn't have the skills necessary to truly camp in a primitive site and leave the site untouched when they leave. Unless you are well versed in minimum-impact, LNT camping, the DEC would rather you camp in an established, designated site.

And the chief cause of this is campfires. Having a campfire in such a way so that after you've left, you leave behind no signs of your fire is something that takes a fair amount of work. Many backpackers falsely believe that all you have to do to contain a fire is simply throw up a ring of rocks around the fire, which is incorrect. Rocks around the fire actually provide very little protection against the impacts of the fire.

In order to properly have a fire at a primitive site, you need to insulate it from the ground. This prevents the fire from spreading into the duff layer (which is flammable in many areas of the Adirondacks), and also from killing micro-organisms and roots and such that live the in the ground. The best way to do this is with a fire mound constructed of a layer of mineral soil, free of any organic materials, that is at least several inches thick. To find mineral soil, look for an uprooted tree; you can usually get access to mineral soil beneath the root ball. Keep your fire small as well, which will also cut down on the amount of heat that is absorbed by the ground. Building your mound on top of a tarp will also help with cleanup when you brush in your camp. Don't bother with rocks, as the effort necessary to collect them will further impact the area. If your mound is wide enough and you keep your fire small enough, you'll be fine.

When packing up, take all of the ashes and the dirt from your mound, and re-bury it beneath the uprooted tree (make sure the fire is out!) (this is where having the tarp beneath your fire mound helps). LNT protocol for half-burns (wood that has only been partially consumed by the fire) is that they should be carried with you to your next campsite rather than left behind, so if you don't want to do this, be sure to use only small sticks in your fire and let them all burn completely to ash. Any wood that you didn't use should be scattered back into the woods. Brush in your campsite with leaves to undo any compaction that occurred during your stay. When you're done, there should be no evidence of a fire- no half burned logs, no scorched rocks, no pits in the ground, just an natural forest floor.
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Old 07-10-2013, 04:32 PM   #23
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Wow, great post. Very informative.

I usually don't make fires outside of designated pits but I've never went to that extent (and I doubt many on here do as I've seen pictures of fires in 'secret' sites not necessarily conforming to all that).

IME rocks are effective when dry litter is around, although I'll usually scrape that up to avoid starting a leaf burn. Shouldn't be an issue out there now, very, very wet.

There are some spots (in PLW) where fires have been and are not properly dismantled. Or at least there were... they may have sorted themselves by now if no one has re-kindled them.
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Old 07-10-2013, 04:44 PM   #24
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DSettahr is correct about campfires. You should try to Leave No Trace (LNT). There are many, many desgnated sites that are wonderful and you can have a fire in an already established fire ring.

If you contact the wagonmaster at Newcomb Lake, he may be able to take your canoe in to the lake for you, leave it at a predetermined spot and you can walk in the 5 miles. There *MAY* be a discount for just taking the canoe & gear???

Queer Lske gets a lot of use and not always the right kind. There are kids camps who use the lake and bring a dozen or so kids from ages 9+. Some groups are good, some not. Some dump extra food in the lake, bathe in the lake with soap & shampoo and try to kick people out of the LT by using a phony permit. Swimming is nice, but I've found a lot of broken glass in the lake. Firewood is extremely scarce.

Chub is a much better place to go. It's a muddy trail until you turn off for Chub itself, but I've never seen anyone stay or even visit there in all the times I've been. Swimming is great (put flips flos on anyway in case of glass) and the tentsite is good.

I've camped at Cedar Lakes (West Canada's) and seen no one. I've also been there when the LT's and a good tentsite were nearly full. I've seen people bring a canoe with a chainsaw (illegal in a Wilderness area) and a firearm which they discharged at sundown.

As for your dog...please leash it at all times. You never know when another solitude seeker comes along with their dog. You may have a nice dog, but not everyone else does.

The LT along the Siamese Ponds Trail could be a good one. You will see folks, but many are day-trippers or backpackers headed to the ponds themselves. There is a good tentsite near the LT on the river. You probably would have to share either the LT or tentsite.
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Old 07-10-2013, 04:46 PM   #25
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I worked for the Forest Service for years and fought fires out west which is actually why I choose to use designated sites (when we can find peaceful remote sites). I can rehab a site with the best of 'em but just in terms of impact if I'd rather keep it to the designated areas.... but I don't want to sacrifice as close to a wilderness experience as we can get if I can help it... off season that seems reasonable to expect, but summer.... no idea how it will be!
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Old 07-10-2013, 05:52 PM   #26
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The campfire thing.... if you are not at a designated site with a designated campfire ring... do you really need to have a roaring fire? Most of my travels are bushwhacks in the western Adirondacks, far from any trail. Most cases, if I use a trail at all, it is as a means to travel and camp far away from any trail, not simply 150 feet away. A fire is not really necessary in primitive sites, nor is it desired in most cases.

By the end of the day I find little use for a fire. I cook on a simple alcohol or wood burning stove and enjoy the quiet solitude, including solitude freedom from the work and focus of maintaining and cleaning up a fire. With no fire the entire wilderness is open to you. The dimming natural light, the dark adaption of my eyes, and the sounds of night creatures become the varied and enjoyable focus, not single point of the flame. Try it for something different. You may enjoy actually being a part of the wilderness.

I sleep in a hammock, and when I leave the site there might a couple of broken ferns or lightly trampled grass that will recover in a day or two, that's about it. Whenever I come across a fire ring that has been left behind at a primitive site I do my best to dismantle it, scatter the residue, and cover the ash scar the best I can so that it will recover as quickly as possible.
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Old 07-10-2013, 06:13 PM   #27
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Love my hammock as well, and as grownups we don't really need the fire either - and never roaring! But the kiddo.... hence the trails and the designated site search :-)
We're thinking orienteering is on the list for some practice this trip!
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Old 07-10-2013, 06:38 PM   #28
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The campfire thing....Whenever I come across a fire ring that has been left behind at a primitive site I do my best to dismantle it, scatter the residue, and cover the ash scar the best I can so that it will recover as quickly as possible.
As a fellow bushwhacker, when I come across a neatly kept, hidden campsite with a fire pit far away from any trail, road, or water, I usually note it for possible future use someday, and leave it alone figuring others may also wish to return to use the site for hunting, climbing, birding, further explorations, etc.
If the site happens to be trashed however, that's a different story.

Point is, if you're comfortable with getting away from the main trails and popular camping areas, it is more likely that you will be able to find the type of wilderness solitude camping experience that you are seeking.

Just please always remember to keep it clean, follow LNT ethics, take proper precautions if you choose to have a fire, and maybe you just might want to return there someday.

Last edited by Justin; 07-10-2013 at 09:15 PM.. Reason: added a couple thoughts
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Old 07-10-2013, 09:02 PM   #29
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Queer Lske gets a lot of use and not always the right kind. There are kids camps who use the lake and bring a dozen or so kids from ages 9+. Some groups are good, some not. Some dump extra food in the lake, bathe in the lake with soap & shampoo and try to kick people out of the LT by using a phony permit. Swimming is nice, but I've found a lot of broken glass in the lake. Firewood is extremely scarce.

Chub is a much better place to go. It's a muddy trail until you turn off for Chub itself, but I've never seen anyone stay or even visit there in all the times I've been. Swimming is great (put flips flos on anyway in case of glass) and the tentsite is good.
Sorry to get off topic but this is really sad if true.

Isn't it illegal to take a dozen kids in a Wilderness area? I'm not against taking kids out in the woods, in fact I am very in favor of it, but the group of 6 rule makes more sense there where you have to try to control a rowdy herd of pre-teens.

I also never saw any broken glass but I will beware from now on. That is a real kick in the shorts because it won't go away. How can people be so dumb? I'd rather see a tin can than a glass bottle, although both are egregious.
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Old 07-11-2013, 11:03 AM   #30
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Last question - a ranger said not a lot of traffic in west Canada lakes wilderness so far this summer... if we chose to go there, would it be safer to stay off the NP Trail (i.e. Pilsbury Lake or Whitney Lake)... I know nothing of Whitney, and Pilsbury does have a lean-to... Newcomb has always been on our list, but thought we'd want our boat and we are shooting for on-foot only this trip...
Whitney doesn't actually have any designated tent sites. There are a few established sites but they are technically illegal. So your mileage may vary on this one as to whether a ranger would let you camp there or not.

In the West Canadas, Cedar Lakes, Pillsbury Lake, and Spruce Lake all get a fair amount of use (relatively). It's not uncommon for the Pillsbury Lean-to to be taken on most weekends, and you'll usually see a few groups at Cedars and Spruce. If you're looking for solitude, I would actually recommend staying in the vicinity of Mud/West/South Lakes. There are 4 lean-tos there and it's very rare that all 4 of them will be occupied on any given night. South Lake and West Lake #1 are very popular. West Lake #2 gets very, very little use. You may end up sharing a lean-to with NPT through hikers, but they tend to be very courteous and respectful. Unfortunately, there aren't any designated tent sites in the vicinity (the only existing designated tent sites in the entire West Canada Lakes Wilderness are at Cedar Lakes).

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Sorry to get off topic but this is really sad if true.

Isn't it illegal to take a dozen kids in a Wilderness area? I'm not against taking kids out in the woods, in fact I am very in favor of it, but the group of 6 rule makes more sense there where you have to try to control a rowdy herd of pre-teens.
It depends on if it's a day or an overnight trip. It sounds like in dundee's example they are on day hikes, in which case it would be legal. There technically is no day use group size limit in the Adirondacks outside of the High Peaks. There is a regulation that says that you can't have "organized events" with more than 20 people without a permit. IMO, it's hard to argue that a group of more than 20 people hiking together isn't an "organized event."

The overnight group size for wilderness areas outside of the High Peaks is still 9, but plans are to lower it to 8 in the near future. Generally, organized summer camp groups are pretty good about following this regulation.

Last edited by DSettahr; 07-11-2013 at 06:25 PM..
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Old 07-11-2013, 11:02 PM   #31
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Speaking of Pigeon Lake Wilderness, the north side of Cascade Lake, a little over 2 miles in, has a some nice sites on a spit of land that juts into the lake providing a place to swim. There is also a well established fire ring if it makes you feel less guilty about building a fire. It's pretty busy though as I've seen people camping there are horses ridden in the area.
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Old 07-12-2013, 06:31 AM   #32
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Sorry to get off topic but this is really sad if true.

Isn't it illegal to take a dozen kids in a Wilderness area? I'm not against taking kids out in the woods, in fact I am very in favor of it, but the group of 6 rule makes more sense there where you have to try to control a rowdy herd of pre-teens.

I also never saw any broken glass but I will beware from now on. That is a real kick in the shorts because it won't go away. How can people be so dumb? I'd rather see a tin can than a glass bottle, although both are egregious.
As DS says, it's legal for DAY USE, and they do use Queer Lake for day use, but they also use it for overnights. They wil get a DEC permit for the large OVN's, but they think (and act like) it's a permit for the lean-to. They've tried to kick several people out of the LT with this permit over the years, perhaps with some success.

BTW, it's not just a group size thing just for Wilderness OVN's, it also applies to WF areas as well.

I've sadly seen quite a bit of glass in Queer Lake and I always pull it out. I've also seen bars of soap left near or IN the lake itself.
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Old 07-12-2013, 06:36 AM   #33
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As DS says, it's legal for DAY USE, and they do use Queer Lake for day use, but they also use it for overnights. They wil get a DEC permit for the large OVN's, but they think (and act like) it's a permit for the lean-to. They've tried to kick several people out of the LT with this permit over the years, perhaps with some success.

BTW, it's not just a group size thing just for Wilderness OVN's, it also applies to WF areas as well.

I've sadly seen quite a bit of glass in Queer Lake and I always pull it out. I've also seen bars of soap left near or IN the lake itself.
I thought I read somewhere the DEC was no longer going to give camping permits for larger groups in wilderness areas? Can anyone confirm?
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Old 07-12-2013, 11:30 AM   #34
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Speaking of Pigeon Lake Wilderness, the north side of Cascade Lake, a little over 2 miles in, has a some nice sites on a spit of land that juts into the lake providing a place to swim. There is also a well established fire ring if it makes you feel less guilty about building a fire. It's pretty busy though as I've seen people camping there are horses ridden in the area.
That site is quite popular, especially with horse campers.

The few times I've been to Cascade there were horses AND campers there.
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Old 07-14-2013, 03:51 PM   #35
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As DS says, it's legal for DAY USE, and they do use Queer Lake for day use, but they also use it for overnights. They wil get a DEC permit for the large OVN's, but they think (and act like) it's a permit for the lean-to. They've tried to kick several people out of the LT with this permit over the years, perhaps with some success.

BTW, it's not just a group size thing just for Wilderness OVN's, it also applies to WF areas as well.

I've sadly seen quite a bit of glass in Queer Lake and I always pull it out. I've also seen bars of soap left near or IN the lake itself.
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I thought I read somewhere the DEC was no longer going to give camping permits for larger groups in wilderness areas? Can anyone confirm?
Yes, the DEC is no longer issuing permits for large groups in Wilderness Areas. The overnight group size limit is a hard and fast 9 (soon to be 8 for all Wilderness Areas).

And yeah, permits are not the same thing as reservations- the don't entitle a group to kick another group out of a site/shelter just because the first group has a permit to be there. I'm pretty sure it even says this on the permit.
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Old 07-16-2013, 07:00 PM   #36
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Thanks so much to everyone for all the information and help we have such a good list now. We were torn and seriously had settled on 4 different places by Thursday when we left! We decided on Cedar Lakes for this trip as we have such fond memories of Spruce and love West Canada Lakes Wilderness area.

Interestingly, the road had been washed out until that day when they finished replacing a culvert. Apparently after all the rain week before last some folks had gotten stuck further up and had to be rescued. The road was good to the Pilsbury Trailhead road but was still closed further up Jessup. Maybe clear by now? And despite the ranger's admonitions about driving up to the Pilsbury trailhead, the road was fine - we've seen much worse.

We got as far as the first lean-to on Cedar Lakes and had to stop. The kiddo was a champ but pushing her further would have been no good! The trail was very muddy - lots of sucking muck spots - on the way in, but seemingly more tolerable on the way out (4 days without rain may have helped!).

The snakes were an interesting surprise. Family of garter snakes living in the firepit. Our daughter was much more enthusiastic about them than we were. One curled right up in the dog's empty bowl in the lean-to. We actually got used to each other so I grudgingly have to say it worked out just fine.

Lean-to one was pretty trashed when we arrived and glass along the trail cut our dog's pad on the way in - there was quite a bit of glass, tried to pick up what we could. We cleaned up the garbage (quite a lot!), and stacked the grates and metal "artifacts" that people had put randomly around, cleared a little of the vegetation on either side of the trail down to the lake just so as not to step unknowingly on snakes which we almost did on several occasions before trimming it back little. Someone had cut down a very much alive yellow birch and tried to burn it. Bummer. Anyway, all in all, I think we left it significantly better than we found it at least!

We saw a 2 -3 groups of "loopers" doing the loop in a couple of nights, one thru-hiking couple with 3 dogs and the steward of Lean-to 3 and his hiking companion (the latter were a hoot and full of great info!). And since it has come up in this thread, I should mention, one group was well over 10 people (lost count) staying in the same site.

So in summary, even with the fair amount of traffic... more than we would do again - it was definitely very beautiful and we thoroughly enjoyed it. We also knew and expected there would be traffic which makes a difference I think! Everyone we met was pretty great! Although that big group was a little worrisome because they were definitely out of their depths when it came to backcountry camping... One of the guys coming out said they passed through their site and one woman had brought only a sheet to sleep under and they were trying to light their stove with a flint.... hmmm... worrisome, as I said. Thanks again so much!! Until next time...
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Old 07-16-2013, 08:00 PM   #37
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Sounds like you made the right choice
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Old 07-16-2013, 08:21 PM   #38
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Sounds like you had a great trip...How was the lake level? The dam is slowly disappearing, all of June's rain must be taxing it even more.
And what, no pictures? Did you see any paddlers out there?
How was the trail? Still washed out up to the Pillsbury split? and bridges still missing?
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Old 07-16-2013, 11:59 PM   #39
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sounds like a cool trip, glad you had some fun!
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Old 07-17-2013, 12:10 AM   #40
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Yeah, Cedar Lakes #1 has both a reputation for the snakes that live there, as well as groups that don't take very good care of it, since it's the most accessible of the 3 lean-tos on Cedar Lakes. I feel like every time I've been there, I've always found a collection of "things" that should've been carried out by whomever carried them in.

At least the snakes probably help keep the rodent population under control.
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