1012 Duck Hole
Up Gear List Photo Page

The plan is to hike into Duck Hole from Corey's on the Ward Brook Truck Trail, do a little scouting around, spend the night, and hike back out Sunday.  Maybe explore up towards Bradley Pond, or possibly bushwhack around Duck Hole time, weather and daylight permitting.

Here is the GPS map and the track profile (Trailhead to Duck Hole, left to right):

wpe1.jpg (195142 bytes)  wpe2.jpg (164509 bytes)

I left home about 0330 and drove up in rain all the way to Tupper Lake, and then it stopped raining.  At the trailhead, it had not rained and the ground was dry.  The parking lot was pretty full, but no one was signed into the register for Duck Hole; most of them were bagging the three peaks in the Seward Range from the Ward Brook Lean-To area.  There was a notice posted at the register that DEC has removed the bridge across the dam at Duck Hole and marked a crossing of the Cold River below the dam that can only be crossed in times of low water.  I started hiking shortly after 0800.

I passed a group of 7 heading for Ward Brook Lean-To at the first trail intersection.  Shortly thereafter a group of three passed me heading for the same lean-to.  The Blueberry Lean-To, 4.5 miles in, appeared to be full plus a couple of tents.  At the Ward Brook Lean-To, there were many tents and a family of 5 putting up another tent in front of the lean-to.

At the next lean-to pair, one lean-to was full, the other empty, but a tent nearby.  And at Cold Brook #1 and #2 there was no one.  I hiked on after taking photos.  Not having had any breakfast, I was taking bites of Clif bar and alternating with drinks of water, but not really hungry.  My knee was getting sorer.  It tried to sprinkle a few times on my hike in, but every time I put up my umbrella it slackened off and stopped, and nothing got wet.

About a quarter mile above Duck Hole, my knee locked up completely and for a few minutes I couldn't take a step.  I decided there would be no bushwhack or hike to Bradley Pond, and had actually been considering hiking back out rather than spending the night.  Now it appeared my best idea would be to rest my knee overnight and see if it was better in the morning.

I got to Duck Hole about 1300 and found 3 guys in the "new" lean-to, number 2, and lean-to 1 empty.  So I filtered some water and spoke with a guy eating his lunch who had just hiked in from Upper Works and was hiking right back out.  I put up my bear bag near the tenting spot that Bob and I used in 1999.  It was a long way from the lean-to, but the nearest thing I could find.  

Then I sat at the picnic table drinking water, taking ibuprofen and eating a few slim jims.  Then I set up to cook some lunch and made my soup and stew.  A guy hiked in from the Czech Republic while I was finishing my lunch.  He spoke fairly good English and said he was planning to hike to Moose Pond but it was so beautiful here he thought he would spend the night.  He cooked his lunch and spread out on his side of the lean-to while I tried laying down and wrote some thoughts on the backs of map pages.  It was very windy and getting windier.  Sitting or laying in my bag was nice and warm and mostly out of the wind.

Directly out the front of the lean-to you can see a mountain with a tower on top.  The Czech asked what that was, and I looked it up on my map - Mount Adams, and it does have a lookout tower.  This was how I brushed up on my map and compass skills, as I figured out how to align the compass to the map and account for the magnetic deflection.

At 1638 it was 54F and I wrote 

"There were > 12 cars at the trailhead.  There were mosquitoes on the way here, and big flies crawling around trying not to die.  It is very windy.  It sprinkled a little on the way in, and I used my rain jacket and umbrella.  One of the fellows at the other lean-to is fishing, and he says they're biting, but all really small.  I can't straighten my right knee.  The bridge is gone (see photos).  Cold River can only be forded if the water is low.

I wonder if cold food has fewer calories than the same food heated?"

At 1818 it was down to 52F and the barometer was at 28.45, and I wrote

"I tried a nap but my knee hurts too much.  I hope I can walk out tomorrow.  The Czech is sharing my bear bag.  I hope he hung it up right.  I read the lean-to log - only a couple of months of entries.  Some good artwork in there.  It's still very windy.

I've found that if I put a 6" roll under my right calf and keep the knee bent it takes the pressure off.  I need to see someone about it.  I lit my candle lantern but it isn't bright enough to write without my headlamp.  Only 1845 and nearly full dark."

By 2030 we were ready for sleep.  I found it difficult to sleep.  The only way to stop the knee from throbbing was to put my tent in it's stuff sack under my calf and lie on my back.  This somehow took the pressure off the joint, and kept the knee bent.  It seemed to throb the most when the knee joint was fully straightened.  Of course, I made numerous trips to the privy all during the night.  I remember one time about 0400 when I went up the hill there was a clear sky and the impressive number of stars that are always there in the wilderness.  When I came back from the privy, maybe 3 minutes later, the sky was completely obscured.  That was the last time I got up, but I heard the Czech get up later.  I woke up about 0630 and everything was wet.  My bag was wet on the outside.  It had begun raining, and the wind howling in from the direction the lean-to faces, about SW, blew the rain into the lean-to so that the front half was soaked.

We both seemed to wake up at the same time, and I went to the privy, then over to get the bear bag down, having shared the setup with my new friend.  Our bags were unmolested, but wet.

Back at the lean-to I fired up the stove for oatmeal and coffee and began packing up.  Of course while my coffee was steeping and I was fixing the oatmeal, the coffee cup tipped over, but I didn't notice until I had used all my hot water, so I got no coffee.  Couldn't sit on the deacon's bench or the picnic table since it was soaking wet and still raining and blowing hard.

We shook hands and I took off about 0800.  My knee seemed better, and I decided to try walking without straightening my leg.  I had on a rain jacket, but I knew my pack was getting wet.  I was not bothering with the umbrella today either.  I just wanted to make tracks to the car and head back.

I was getting pretty disappointed about my knee and the rain and feeling miserable as I approached the "alpine meadow" that Bob and I had discovered last year while running.  Just as I rounded the bend and could see across the little raised causeway across the old beaver bog, I saw a black bear about halfway across the meadow facing me, right on the trail.  I was probably 100 yards from it.  It saw me at the same instant and it handled the situation much better than I.  It immediately wheeled and ran the other direction, disappearing from sight after covering about 100 yards in probably less than 8 seconds.  I was just walking along thinking I didn't have time to get my camera out.  I was amazed at the bear's agility, speed and size.  It appeared to me to be 7-8 feet long from head to tail, and weight about 300 pounds.  It seemed to lope away without appearing to be sprinting, but it covered the distance amazingly fast.  Of course it was preceding me up the trail, but I figured it was just trying to get into the woods and out of sight before getting into the woods.  I paid close attention for another mile, but only saw a couple of pheasants, or maybe they were grouse.

Seeing that bear was the pay-off for the whole trip.  Now I can't say I've never seen a bear while I was in the woods.

Hiking on, Cold River #1 and #2 were both still empty.  At the lean-to pair there were roughly two dozen students, I think from Cornell.  They were thinking about going to Duck Hole and were enamored of my GPS.  At Ward Brook, there at least 6 tents in site and many people milling around.  At Blueberry, the lean-to was still full but no one around.  It quit raining about the time I passed Ward Brook, and I wasn't getting any wetter.  Although I'm not sure I could.

I met a couple hiking in with trekking poles.  Then I met a group of 8 people hiking in.  Then I met a group of 4.  Then I met two guys, one of whom I know from work.  and then another pair.  and as I was changing into dry clothes to drive home another pair of guys pulled in and headed up the trail.

The hike out took about 4 hours walking time, and I left the parking lot about 1300.  Traffic on the way home was as frustrating as always on Sunday afternoon, tourists bringing it to a complete stop in Old Forge.

A good trip, seeing the bridge gone at Duck Hole is good knowledge, but too bad.  I hope they rebuild it.  Seeing the bear was the high point.  I may have to go back and re-write some of my bear story.

horizontal rule

Copyright (c) 1997-2004 Gazelle Software, Syracuse, NY  All Rights Reserved.   Page Last Changed 11/27/04 16:18