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Old 03-07-2013, 02:51 PM   #1
tanston
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Pharaoh Lake 3-21 conditions?

First let me say as a long time lurker who is posting for the first time, thank you all for such an informative and interesting to read forum.

I am planning a trip up to the Pharaoh lake area on the weekend of 3/21 as an overnight or possibly 2 nights and I have no idea what to expect as far as trail conditions go. I am pretty new to the area so this is my first winter in and around the Adirondacks. What can i expect as far as snow in that area in mid-late march? Am I going to regret lugging my snowshoes on my pack or will there still be enough snow to use them?

How is the wind down near the lake this time of year some of my group only have 3 season tents.

Thanks for any information.

Last edited by tanston; 03-07-2013 at 05:20 PM..
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Old 03-08-2013, 01:54 AM   #2
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It's kind of hard to say this far out. By that time of year, the snow around Lake George is usually starting to melt significantly. But Pharaoh Lake is a little bit further north, and a little bit higher in elevation.

I would bring the snowshoes with you and make the decision at the trailhead. You don't gain all that much elevation on the hike into Pharaoh Lake, so if it looks like you don't need them at the trailhead, you'll probably be fine without them all the way to Pharaoh Lake.

I would definitely bring them if you plan to climb Pharaoh Mountain, though.

As far as wind... it probably wont be too bad if you camp near the outlet, as the lake is a lot narrower there, and the prevailing winds are typically from the west. There is a decently sized campsite on the south shore about 200 feet west of the first lean-to- you'll see it before you get to the lean-to. There is also a small but nice site on the north shore, about a quarter of a mile past the bridge over the outlet.
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Old 03-08-2013, 08:17 AM   #3
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Awesome thank you for the info, very much appreciated.

One last thing I thought of, Bears.....i know canisters aren't required in the high peaks till 4/1....i'm not sure how that reflects on the lower elevations like pharaoh. I'll take any excuse i can to not have to pack that bulky canister, am I safe to leave it home or am i better safe then sorry this close to spring?
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Old 03-08-2013, 09:03 AM   #4
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The bear canister regulation only applies to Eastern High Peaks region. Generally, bears are not a problem in the Pharaoh Lake Wilderness. You should be fine without a canister as long as you keep your campsite clean. The mice in the lean-tos would give you more trouble than bears will. Hanging your food is a good idea.
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Old 03-08-2013, 10:13 AM   #5
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Yep, there is no bear canister regulation for Pharaoh Lake. And there isn't really a big bear population in the area, either, like there is in other areas of the Adirondacks. Which is fortunate, because it's a high use area, and many people back there aren't as good about food management as they should be (it gets a lot of beginner use).

And yeah, like Justin said, watch out for the mice. Pharaoh Lake has some of the boldest mice I've ever encountered in the woods. There are literally swarms of them living at some of the lean-tos and campsites. A couple of mouse traps isn't a bad idea.
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Old 03-13-2013, 08:32 AM   #6
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Pharaoh Lake

Tanston,

Four years ago I snowshoed Pharaoh on 36" of snow pack in the second week of March, and also encountered a significant snowstorm. All trails were clearly marked and well broken out, with a significant exception. Where beavers are active, signs/DEC markers attached to trees may be lying on the ground. The ponds move around, so must the trail routes. Under these circumstances, it is possible to get turned around, so maps, compass and GPS can be handy. Overall, I had a great time.

This year is not a big snow year, so likely your experience will be different.
Enjoy!
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Old 03-14-2013, 10:13 AM   #7
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Thanks for all the replies. It looks like there might be about 6-12 inches there now if i'm reading one of those noaa snow depth maps correctly (probably i am not) Either way I just bought an awesome new pair of snowshoes at an end of season clearance sale so now I'm really hoping for some snow for at least a couple of miles so I can try them out.....half the weight of my old pair If there is no snow at all I might end up packing out early on the last day to find a day hike somewhere that lets me try out the new shoes.
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Old 03-14-2013, 06:00 PM   #8
Justin
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Tanston,
I was in the Pharaoh region last weekend on & near Desolate Hill, which is on the other side of Pharaoh Mtn from Pharaoh Lake, and there was about 4-6 inches of hard crusty snow down low (which got softer during the warmer afternoon hours), and about 8-10 inches or so higher up on the hill.
Some spots at lower elevations under the hemlocks & pines didn't have any snow at all.

The trail to Spectacle Pond was very hard & well packed and didn't really need to wear my snowshoes on that trail, but I was glad that I had them on as soon as I went off trail. The snow was just deep enough to make it slightly dangerous not to have them on...didn't want to chance twisting an ankle or knee (or worse) breaking through the deeper pockets of snow, and the higher up I went the more they were needed.

I would imagine that the rain & warmer temps this past week has melted some of the snow, but I would guess that there's still enough to enjoy some snowshoeing in the area.

And just to add a couple other suggestions for a fun side-trip... maybe try a loop around Whortleberry Pond... and if you're comfortable with a short bushwhack, combined that with a trip up to the cliffs on the unnamed hill just to the northeast of Whortleberry Pond which have some great views of Pharaoh Lake & Mtn and beyond.
Or if you're looking for something a bit longer maybe try a day hike over to Springhill Ponds and back.
Anyone of these trips should be a good choice to break in your new snowshoes.

Here's a couple photos just to give you an idea of what the snow cover in that area was like last weekend:




...And here's a view toward Pharaoh Lake & Mtn from the cliffs northeast of Whortleberry Pond:


Good luck.

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Old 03-14-2013, 06:37 PM   #9
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I echo Justin's info on the trail conditions. They're probably packed down pretty good, but off trail is a little different. We were in Hammond Pond Wild Forest on Saturday and took this shot of the snow depth on a log. At least 18". Not to say it's like that now after the warm temps and rain earlier in the week. Probably going to be a little crusty.
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Old 03-16-2013, 05:20 PM   #10
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This was the first year since before the turn of the century our group didn't go to (or attempt to go to) Pharaoh on/around St. Patrick's Day, something I predicted when one member bought a house on Lake George a few years ago. Anyway, over many of those years the toughest part of the trip was the 3/4 mile from the parking area on Pharoah (anybody know why it's spelled differently on all the maps?) Rd. to the old parking area near the meadow. The ice over the puddles can be thin and the water knee deep. Getting around them often means jumping flowing water. Expect about a half a dozen before you're to the meadow and onto the trail. With the amount of traffic there it gets icy in more than a few spots.
And can anyone report if the roof of the lean-to on the point was rebuilt?
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Old 03-16-2013, 10:02 PM   #11
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And can anyone report if the roof of the lean-to on the point was rebuilt?
If you are referring to lean-to #5 near Watch Rock Point (as opposed to #3 near Wintergreen Point), yes. When I was there last November there was a new roof and lots of gathered junk scheduled for removal (this winter) at Watch Rock Point including several old wrecked boats, canoes, shingles, stoves, full garbage bags, etc...
I haven't heard anything back if all that junk has been hauled out by helicopter yet or not, but I sure hope that it has been...kind of takes something away from the boasted view from Watch Rock Point imo.
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Old 03-17-2013, 01:10 AM   #12
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Yes, both #5 and #2 got new roofs last summer.

Lean-to #5 is apparently on "thin ice," though. It was supposed to be relocated/removed as per APSLMP requirements (it's less than 100 feet from the water). It was given a temporary reprieve on the condition that the impacts on the peninsula can be reversed, and it may still be moved or removed in the future if this can't be done.

It will certainly be an uphill battle... that site is one of the most impacted campsites I've ever seen in the Adirondacks. It's surrounded by numerous cut stumps, and I've been out there at times where there was literally 20-30 distinct piles of human waste on the ground scattered throughout the woods nearby. It's also pretty common to see groups set up on the tip of the peninsula, which is not a designated campsite (and is quite clearly marked with "no camping" discs). I know that the DEC has tried to re-vegetate the peninsula before, but the saplings were pulled out of the ground by campers to make room for their tents. Once when I was at Pharaoh Lake, there was a group of 30-40 people camped at the lean-to... the peninsula was covered in a sea of tents.

On the other hand, if the impacts at the lean-to #5 area are successfully mitigated through revegetation and education, that would be evidence that maybe the APSLMP could be amended to permit lean-tos closer to water, and the DEC could possibly no longer have to keep relocating them away from shorelines. So it's definitely a lofty ideal with rewards worth pursuing by the backpacking community.

I wouldn't be surprised, though, if there was eventually a fire ban at Pharaoh Lake, similar to the one in the Eastern High Peaks.
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Old 03-17-2013, 02:38 PM   #13
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Beautiful morning for a hike into Pharaoh Lake and Whortleberry Pond! Lean-to # 2 looked like there may be some leaning issues. No snowshoes were necessary on the trail but we did use microspikes due to the ice. The trail from mill brook was packed solid, and snow was very thin in spots. Off trail there looks to be a lot of snow, but the surface was tight and temperatures cold enough to hold us up.

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Old 03-18-2013, 08:18 AM   #14
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Thanks for the report ADKeagle, did you go over the mountain at all? Our planned route is to try and get to the parking area on crane pond road that's like 1/4 mile before the goose pond trail and then road walk from there the rest of the way up crane pond to the trailhead.
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Old 03-18-2013, 10:45 AM   #15
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Thanks for the report ADKeagle, did you go over the mountain at all? Our planned route is to try and get to the parking area on crane pond road that's like 1/4 mile before the goose pond trail and then road walk from there the rest of the way up crane pond to the trailhead.
I did not, we came from the south. If you're going over the mountain I'd be sure to bring snowshoes. Make sure we get a trip report afterwards!

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