Recon of Upper Works to Duck Hole

Saturday, August 21, I got up early and packed up and left for Upper Works.  As I hadn't been to this part of the park before, I kept a few notes for future reference.    And since this was basically a reconnaissance mission for an upcoming journey, I wanted to be able to refresh my memory.

It took about 2 hours to get to Old Forge, and a little less than that to get to the trailhead.  There were over 30 cars at the Upper Works trailhead, but looking in the register I could see that nearly all of them were headed for the Flowed Lands and/or Colden or Mary areas.  So I hoped to have a little solitude at Duck Hole.

The trail guide adequately describes the way.  The first 1.5 miles is shared with the trail to other places, and is blazed with yellow markers.  At 1.5 miles, the trail to Duck Hole turns left and crosses to bridge over Indian Pass Brook on a large bridge.  The trail to the Henderson Lean-to (0.2 miles), Indian Pass and Mt. Marcy turns right.  Note the mileages posted on the signs are not all correct.

dh53.jpg (62490 bytes)                                                                                                           hl.jpg (45856 bytes)

The water levels were very low due to this year's drought.  However, the lakes were still wet, although I was able to walk out "into" Henderson Lake and keep my feet dry.

A little farther down the trail, a right turn is marked with signage.  This is the turn amidst the interesting board walks noted in the trail guide.

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And again, with only 3.1 miles left to Duck Hole, another marked turn, near the North end of Henderson Lake where a left turn takes you down to the shore, but on private lands.

dh_north.jpg (61077 bytes)  Here is Duck Hole from the south - the side of the lake you see from the Lean-Tos.

nlp.bmp (1637294 bytes)  Here is the junction with the Northville-Lake Placid trail, a mere half mile from the Lean-Tos.


dh0.jpg (79860 bytes)   And here we are at the Duck Hole Lean-To site.

Now, I didn't expect to have lots of company, but there were about 20 from Colgate University at the left Lean-To, on some sort of freshman orientation gathering.  A couple had set up their two-man tent inside the other lean-to.  I set up my bivy and a clothes line in the clearing on the N-LP trail just above the intersection, and hung my bear bag across the trail.  It took a couple hours to set things up, including my Siltarp tied to the clothes line and hanging over the south end  of my bivy.    This was to have a dry place in case of rain.  Then I filtered water, from the lake, which was about 30" lower than it had been this summer.  A group of 5 guys had come down while I was putting up the bag, and they went back up the trail, but I invited them to share my space.  Instead of tenting next to me, they put theirs up across the trail, under my bear bag.  Another couple of guys put up a tent somewhere else.

My boiled dinner was quickly prepared, with my large pan of water making both the beef stew and two portions of Maruchan.  I boiled the small pan and made two cups of cocoa, and I was stuffed.

After dinner, to walk off my over-eating, I walked over to the dam and looked things over.  It was beginning to mist a little, so back to the tent.  Since I was tired, and not going to build a fire, I got in the bivy with my boots and read for a while.  I put my pack inside a large garbage bag, and put it under the tarp at the foot of the bivy.  It felt good to lay down, and I was soon asleep, despite the noise made by the rest of the camp.

During the night, I was awakened by loud, close howling.  I thought maybe it was a coyote, maybe near the Lean-To, but couldn't see anything.  I also became aware that it was raining softly, and eventually had to zip the door closed on the bivy.  I got out of it at 2:30 with my headlamp to find relief, and there didn't seem to be anything near my camp.

In the morning, there was no sign of molestation, and I was up at 6:30, boiled one pot of water for coffee, and packed up while it steeped.  Without the need for breakfast, I was back on the trail by 7:40, and back to the trailhead at 11:00.  On the way, I met a single young lady, going in for 9 days of solo, another group from Colgate, and a snobbish couple whole couldn't speak.  After the 4 hour ride, stopping only for a coffee at Long Lake, I was home, in spite of the heavy, pre-Labor Day traffic.

Mission accomplished!!  A few blisters, but my first solo hike was history. I also found out there's no need to carry a cell phone in to Duck Hole - no signal.

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