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Old 09-18-2021, 10:56 AM   #1
rbi99
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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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Old 09-18-2021, 11:39 AM   #2
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Cleaned out the fuel line and fuel valve under the burner after I got home and it is firing up just fine. Two lessons learned, remember how to do simple repairs in the wild, and check the stove out prior to leaving home.
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Old 09-18-2021, 12:17 PM   #3
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Been there five times and calling it Lake Colden - my bad!!!
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Old 09-27-2021, 12:55 PM   #4
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This post stayed with me long after I read it. It takes a lot of courage and humility to record when things do not go well in a forum for others to read.

Usually when I hike it's with the absolute minimum - a tiny bike hydration pack with my keys, water and an energy bar. Last week when I did the 7 mile loop hike of Botheration Pond I took a day pack, guidebook, compass, space blanket, matches and fire starter, an extra layer, flashlight and an ace bandage. Also extra food and water. You never expect anything to go wrong - but if it does and you're not prepared you're really screwed. So thank you rbi99 for reminding me.
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Old 10-01-2021, 09:06 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Deb dePeyster View Post
This post stayed with me long after I read it. It takes a lot of courage and humility to record when things do not go well in a forum for others to read.

Usually when I hike it's with the absolute minimum - a tiny bike hydration pack with my keys, water and an energy bar. Last week when I did the 7 mile loop hike of Botheration Pond I took a day pack, guidebook, compass, space blanket, matches and fire starter, an extra layer, flashlight and an ace bandage. Also extra food and water. You never expect anything to go wrong - but if it does and you're not prepared you're really screwed. So thank you rbi99 for reminding me.
Thanks. After so many backpacking trips I was due one that really didn't go as planned. I didn't kick myself for not knowing about the lean-tos being moved, because I am always on the forums. I just never saw it. I now have the lean-to rescue site bookmarked!!! The stove I should have been prepared to repair in the field, but with the weather and my dog, we would have packed out the next day regardless. The biggest take away from this trip is my new knowledge that longer backpacking trips aren't in the cards for myself or my dog any longer. You don't know your limit until you reach it.
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Old 10-02-2021, 10:17 AM   #6
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I too have reached my limit. At 74 I no longer backpack for fear of having to be carried out myself. We learn by making mistakes, experience and know when it’s time to make adjustments, shorter hikes, checking out gear ahead of time, and the wisdom to get out when it’s time. This is a great thread and I admire your willingness to share….thanks rbi99
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Old 10-02-2021, 04:21 PM   #7
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Thanks Deb and Jack, means a lot to me. With so many people on this forum capable of doing things I can't even or ever imagine being able to do, sometimes we need to hear from an "average" Joe!!!
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Old 10-02-2021, 08:02 PM   #8
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I guess I need to keep your challenges in mind as I go on my solo trips, whether it's paddle/bushwhack, backpacking, BC skiing or even lift served skiing at a ski area.
At 65 I'm doing OK, but I suppose I'm just one mistake away from getting stranded or worse.
Quite a while back I read the book "Between a Rock and a Hard Place", written by the dude that had to amputate his own arm to do a self rescue.
That story stuck with me for a long time, maybe even helped me avoid some potential disasters.
While I know it must be disappointing to realize you need to scale back your trip effort levels, at least you're still doing them. None of us really know how much we have left in the tank until we're running on fumes, right? Better to know and adjust, I say.
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Old 10-04-2021, 09:52 AM   #9
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rbi, thank you for sharing. I had to chuckle with 1mph because that is the number we use for trip planning. And often is the actual speed for uphill work for me. I also cherish my alky stove for its simplicity after having a similar situation.

My hiking partner is my double varsity HS athlete now in college, 20 year old daughter. But she taught me something this summer (actually, she teaches me something every outing). She did a seven-day Cold River loop with a family. They hiked maybe 5 miles per day. She still wants her peaks but was telling me how enjoyable a more easy-going approach was. Used the term "saunter."

We always use Caltopo's profiling tool to measure ascent on any given trail and try to factor that in.

I also enjoy my canoe and sail/oar boat for outings. Massasauga park in Ontario is a portage-less wonderland for boat camping.
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