Weekend at Duck Hole

Thursday, 9/9/99

Bob and I left work about 11:30 and drove to Upper Works. We got some lunch at Old Forge McDonald's and arrived at the Upper Works trailhead about 3:30. I hiked in without a shirt, as it was extremely muggy. I could not believe how much sweat poured off me the entire way in. We didn't stop at all, since we needed to get there and set up camp and cook before dark if possible. It took 3:03 of hiking to get there, so it was about 6:45. Both lean-tos were occupied, the older one by two guys, the newer one by a couple with a dog. We turned up to the open area where I camped three weeks ago, to find a guy already set up in the clearing. He invited us to share the space, but we set our tents up across the trail and hung a bear bag. We shared the bear bag line. The fellow was Bob Brooks, from Chenango Bridge, NY. He had his two dogs, a 13 year old male Ike and a younger female Buffy. They had bells around their necks, and were very friendly and well-behaved. No begging for food, or annoying you at all. Bob invite us up to cook at his fire ring, and we did. by the time I had my bivy up, and things put away for the night, a clothes line and bear bag up, it was already dark. I filtered a bag of water and proceeded to cook. My headlamp batteries were very low, and Bob Brooks lit things up for me with his. Bobby was setting up his bivy and went down for a bath in the lake. When he got back, dinner was all ready, with an instant lunch for each of us, and two dinners - beef stew and chicken stew - to share. After supper, we cleaned up, bagged the garbage, hoisted the bear line, and were set for the night. I noted that the barometric pressure was 28.10"Hg.

During the night, we were able to see some stars at first, through the trees. Later, I woke up and there was lightning, but no thunder. It didn't get very cool that night, with the humidity hanging in there. I woke up a second time, asked Bob if he saw the lightning, and he said he did, and to be quiet because he was going back to sleep. There were a few raindrops, but not enough to wet things.

Friday, 9/10/99

I woke up at 6:55 and got up, then tried to lay back down, but couldn't get back to sleep. My barometer still read 28.10, and I set my altimeter to 2150 after consulting the topographic map. I walked across the bridge over to the dam, and noticed the guys in the lean-to were packing up. They said they were hiking to near Averyville Road. So I walked around a little more, and began putting my things together. When they left, both Bobs were up, and I let them know we could have the lean-to. So we carried things down. As we were taking Bob Brooks' things down, the couple was leaving the newer lean-to, and so Bob Brooks set his things up in there. We decided we could cook together, but we never did.   After moving everything, we cooked breakfast of coffee and oatmeal and hung a new bear bag.

After breakfast, Bob started fishing, and I started reading. We also spent some time watching two loons eating in the lake, using our binoculars. While Bob fished, I read on the bridge, to absorb as much warmth as I could. It was a little sunny. I was also trying to dry my boots and pack, which were sweat-soaked from the hike in. The boots never dried out until Saturday night. The pack was dry by Friday afternoon. We boiled water for lunch, made instant lunch, and ate some fig newtons and salami. I ate one bag of GORP in the afternoon on the bridge, while I read and Bob fished. He caught a fairly large trout, but it got off the hook while I was running for the net. After that, he kept the net with him while he fished, but he never got any more bites. Brooks and I brought some large driftwood over from the lake and I sawed it with Bob's saw while he held it for me. We planned a large campfire.

Late in the afternoon a couple from Ithaca arrived and set up a tent between the lean-tos. Bob and I went for a run up the truck road, about 2 miles out, beyond the NLPT turn-off. When we got back, we went in the lake to clean up. I eventually got all the way in and dunked my head, but it took a lot of doing, since the water was pretty cool. After drying off and putting on clean clothes for the night, it was time for dinner.

Dinner was dehydrated beef enchiladas and beef burgundy, along with instant lunch and hot cocoa. After dinner, we set our bivys up in front of the lean-to, and then lit the campfire. We were using mostly driftwood that had been left on the new beach caused by the drought. The water level here was about 18 inches below normal, judging by the watermarks under the bridge. The driftwood had a very aromatic character that was very pleasant. The Ithaca couple joined us, as did Brooks and his pets.  Brooks and I discovered that we both tended bar in Rochester in 1972-5, and we found we knew a number of people in common. That was pretty weird.  We had a nice fire for a couple hours, eventually everyone retiring about 9:30. It got a lot cooler Friday night, down to 48, and I was up during the night to add clothes. A moderate dew had things a little wet when we woke up.

Saturday, 9/11/99

We got up and lowered the bear bag to fix breakfast. I noted that the barometer had risen to 28.15, and reset the altimeter to 2150. Much to our dismay, it had been violated, by a red squirrel, who ate all the peanuts and soy beans in my GORP, and left all the raisins.  It also got into my fig newtons a little, but didn't bother anything else.   Breakfast was again coffee, oatmeal and cream of wheat.

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Right after breakfast, the sun came out violently, and we hung our things to dry in the sun. That lasted for about an hour, and then clouds blew in from the west really fast, and it began to rain, and we brought our things into the lean-to. The rain only sprinkled for a little while, and then the weather was changeable. Bob fished, and I read. We watched a heron or a crane feeding between the big island and the east shore. It would stalk its prey, then gulp into the water and tip its head back. I got a little bored, and decided to do something for the lean-to. The fireplace was full of ashes, and I decided to see what it actually looked like. I used a tin can someone left there to start scraping the ashes out onto an old plastic bag someone had also left at the lean-to. While I was cleaning the fireplace out, three guys rode in on horses.

They wanted to know if any of us were familiar with the trails in the area. Of course, we all had maps, and had hiked some of them. These guys were from Malone, and apparently had rented horses. They had ridden in on the Cold River Horse Trail from Corey's, but they didn't know it, and they weren't sure where they were. They also crushed their cigarette butts our on the ground and left them there. We finally showed them which way to go, and they walked up the trail. They had to find a place to get on their horses, since they couldn't get their legs over the packs behind their saddles.

Bob helped me finish cleaning out the fireplace, and we got it down to the original masonry. We placed the rocks back around it and had a nice fireplace. After lunch, of salami, fig newtons and instant lunch, Bob went fishing and I read some more. I got a little tired and laid down for a nap, but before I drifted off, a young couple walked in. They had very little with them. They were Sebastian and Sylvia, from Switzerland, and were on a day hike from Moose Pond. We had a nice conversation, and they went over to look at the other dam. Bob took their photo, gave them some granola bars, which they had never seen, and then they went back towards Moose Pond. And I laid down to sleep again. Bob was writing in his journal. I noted the barometer had risen to 28.25.

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I was just about asleep, when two guys walked in and started talking to Bob. I was laying there with my eyes closed, and the leader announced that he was Mike Douglas, the lean-to adopter, and he wanted the logbook so he could replace it. The logbook was very decimated, since people seem to rip pages out of it to start fires, whether the pages have been written on or not. This guy stepped onto the lean-to floor, and was about to step across me, laying there trying to sleep, when I sat up and grabbed the book and gave it to him. He lay it on the deacon's seat, and it stayed there for several hours. I don't know what his big hurry was, that he had to wake me up. Well, we had no more peace that weekend. This guy was with an older companion, Sam. He had an opinion on everything, and since he taught the ADK winter mountaineering school, he felt it necessary to share all his opinions with us on everything. No topic was discussed that he did not add in his expert opinion. I guess that's what he thinks the wilderness experience should feel like to other people. They insisted on sharing the lean-to with us.

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Bob and I ran again, this time up the NLPT. A couple guys resting at the intersection to Upper Works scared us. We came back, and then ran back up the truck road, and then back. The two guys were brothers, and tented between the lean-tos. Bob and I tried to get in the lake, but it was enough colder tonight that I couldn't go in beyond my knees.

We boiled water and had supper - instant lunch, and Spicy Thai Chicken, and another chicken dish that Bob brought, along with hot cocoa. By then it was dark, and we started the fire in the "new" fireplace. I announced to the entire company that everyone was welcome to share the fire, and Brooks came down, and the brothers. One had a 12 pack, the other a guitar. The guitar music was really very good. I turned down the gracious offer of a bud, since I knew it would require many extra trips during the night. We finally retired about 10. There was already a heavy dew that had soaked the outside of the bivy, but the inside was dry. I left my door open until about 4:30. The stars were outstanding.  Eventually I got cold enough that I closed the door, and I pulled the fleece liner I was using for a sleeping bag over my head. I never did close my tunnel vent, though, and of course the foot vent was open as well.

Sunday, 9/12/99

During the night, it was very clear, and it got very cold. My watch read 38 degrees in the morning, and the barometer had risen to 28.45. I almost got up and put on my rain gear, since I had 3 layers on and was still shivering, but by then it began to be daylight. I got up at 6:45, and so did Bob. It was pretty cold, but we wanted to get going. We got our bear bag down, and nothing was molested. I started boiling water for coffee and oatmeal. We started hanging things up and packing our packs. I made the coffee, and started a second pot for oatmeal, and the fire went out. I was very surprised to find I had run out of gas. First time for that. Well, we ate fig newtons instead. The mountaineering expert went and retrieved his bear bag from under the bridge, a big secret he was going to let us in on the night before, but we had put ours there in July. He was very chagrined to find that the squirrel had eaten through his very fancy stuff sack and gotten after his GORP, too. Oh well, too bad...

Bob and I had things packed up and the sun was out and warming things up.  We left at just about 9:00 and headed out. Brooks had come down to say goodbye, as he was staying another night. We had terrific hiking weather, cool, sunny and not very humid at all. We each stopped once to adjust boots or socks, and we hiked out in 2:53, arriving at the trailhead at exactly noon. The drive home was interrupted by stopping for gas at Long Lake and another terrible meal at the McDonald's in Old Forge. We were back in Manlius by nearly 4.

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