Northville to Woods Lake – Day 1
Morning Thoughts 8/23/2023
You could see the moon last night from the big window in our AirBnb. It was bright and distracting, at least for me. At some point, I finally fell asleep because I woke up to the bright sun flooding into the bedroom and knew that it was time to pack up all our bits, use a flush toilet one more time, and hit the trail.
I was the first one up, thanks anxiety. I wasn’t hungry and I couldn’t go to the bathroom either. Great start! Eventually, Baby Legs and Tarzan joined me in the kitchen. We made some coffee and they ate breakfast (our delicious leftover Chinese from Dragon City.) Uninterested in food, I sat on the ground in front of the big chalkboard wall the hosts had and began drawing a loon. It came out pretty good but not before it looked like a seagull 6 times! The familiar trail banter I remembered from the Long Trail began—I was pretty stoked! We cleaned up the house, took out the trash, packed up any non-perishable food in the car and hit the road back to the Northville Waterfront Park just a few blocks away.
Slowly, I pulled the car through the Northville Placid Trail Gate and into a specially marked NPT parking space. We got out and slowly put our bags together—we had hopes of making it about 15 miles to Woods Lake. Tarzan had to run to the gas station across the street one more time for milk and sunglasses. It felt like an eternity for him to return. We used the porta-johns one more time, danced to early 90s club music in, and laughed until we just had not more excuses left to move our party up to the arch where we employed some women getting out of their car to take photos of the three of us in front of the NPT arch. Luckily, they didn’t think we were too crazy! With nothing amis and no more time to waste we walked through the arch and walked down Bridge Street toward Great Sacandaga Lake where the long road walk began.
The Trek Begins
New Yorkers certainly are not as stoked as Vermonter’s seem to be about thru-hikers. Surprisingly, we got a ton of odd looks as we started our journey. Not a single car beeped as we carried forth in the early morning light! To make things a bit stranger we even passed a dead Cedar Waxwing bird on the sidewalk over the bridge… Baby Legs commented that dead birds are “a symbol of chapters in life ending and new ones beginning.” We all agreed this was certainly a new chapter and decided a positive one!
Adjusting to the weight of our packs and finding our trail legs was fun. The sun was bright and strong and I was hungry now that we had gotten moving! I reached for the egg roll Tarzan had stuffed in his kangaroo pouch and started munching away. A few bites in I choked! I was no longer allowed to walk and eat. That was a new rule…
The first few miles of roadwalk sort of go in a weird half circle for seemingly no other reason than to make sure we’re committed. We crossed NY-30 and continued through a small neighborhood where one of the locals has an 8′ prank bear trap in his yard… literally! Shortly thereafter we started up the last hill of the roadwalk before Shaker Mountain Forest and spotted Big Foot too. I guess some New Yorkers are alright and do have a sense of humor.
Into the Woods
It appeared a new lean-to was under construction just before the Shaker Mountain Wild Forest. What a great addition this would be for hikers. Aside from lodging in Northville there isn’t another roof for nearly 20 miles at Silver Lake lean-to. We stopped at the first trail register where we met a man, Grey Squirrel, who had just done Long Lake to Northville in 6 days. This gave us great hope for big miles in the days to come. He said the trail wasn’t too bad but certainly muddy and tons of mushrooms! As an amateur mycologist, I was really stoked to hear the news. After a short break we said goodbye and began our first climb. Baby Legs powered off and Tarzan and I took it slow and steady. I like to say, if my trail name wasn’t “Panic” it should be Carburetor because I sure need to warm up like one, sometimes stall a few times in the process.
We didn’t see Baby Legs again until Mud Lake where we stopped to enjoy the view through the trees and have a cold lunch. Mine was fruit leather, gummies, and a breakfast bar—so healthy—and some Nuun Hydration tablets. We didn’t stay super long before Baby Legs was off again. She was really setting the pace for us!
Tarzan and I hung back at a much slower pace and enjoyed the views and nibbled on emerging blackberries warm and ripening in the sun. I had my eye out for any fungus I could find. I had found some sad Black Trumpets earlier but nothing edible since. Eventually we made it to a series of streams where we ran into Puddle Pirate who had seen Baby Legs not long before.
We stopped to take a rest and chat with our new friend, an older gentlemen, who was telling us about Woods Lake where he slept the night before. He mentioned his bear can was stolen. Immediately we assumed by a bear in the area and we were shocked! But no, by people! He had been camping down by the water where I guess there was a John boat. He had the campsite to himself and he went to bed early after placing his can away from his camp. Later that evening he heard a commotion of people entering camp and he thought maybe they were hikers arriving late. In the morning, Puddle Pirate realized the John boat was moved and his bear can was completely missing! This poor hiker had been hiking in the sun all day without any food or electrolytes.
Wasting no time Tarzan and I reached into our bags to give him protein cookies and Nuun Tablets. He was so grateful at the generosity of our tramily as Baby Legs did the same thing and gave him some things from her bag as well. We vowed to be vigilant of our camp since we planned to stay at Woods Lake also and if we found the can or the culprits we’d be in touch on the NPT Facebook Group. After a short while we finished up filtering our water and parted ways. I sure was glad that there wasn’t a ruthless bear in the camp though!
It was the 2 o’clock hour when we reached the banks of West Stony Creek where we found Baby Legs on a rock near the water’s edge eating a tuna wrap with her Hoka’s off waiting for our arrival. West Stony Creek is a big ford and I was excited! The water was running but didn’t seem too bad or unsafe to cross. Nothing worse than trying to ford the rivers to get to Owl’s Head in the White Mountains in October last year (It was up to our knees, haha.) I stopped for a snack on the same rock as Baby Legs and Tarzan and his Crocs took off across the river. The grass is tall leading to the proper crossing up stream a little ways and I ended up with a super tiny tick on my hand which I noticed after crossing so be aware!
Tarzan was swimming while Baby Legs and I took to the stream with our trail runners in our hands. The water was only mid-calf and felt really good on my sore calves and feet. On the other side we saw pretty wild flowers and butterflies and even more bizarre, we saw a sign for a lean-to! This lean-to was not indicated on our map or our 5th edition Northville – Placid Trail guidebook. We didn’t believe it at first but it’s true. As of 2018 (guidebook was 2017) a shelter was added. So note that if you find yourself heading to the Adirondacks to hike this crazy wilderness trail yourself someday. It was tempting not to stop for the night here instead of continuing on to Woods Lake.
To Woods Lake
The remainder of the trek was less eventful. We found some old Chicken of the Woods, old Oysters, and a few small Chanterelles which I plucked for supper. There was a number of blowdowns that could use trail maintenance and we only saw two other people with their dog that day along the way. The trail became wet and mushy in a section of pine dominated forest and it was impossible to avoid getting our feet wet. This is where we learned we’d probably have wet feet and shoes for the rest of the trip.
I think this first day was 15 miles and I couldn’t have been happier to reach Upper Benson Road and see Baby Legs waiting patiently for us again at the sign indicating we only had .3 miles to camp at Woods Lake. They had me lead so we would all arrive together and when the lake came into view, let me tell you, we RAN. The campsite was GORGEOUS. There was a big stone firepit and a small path down the bank to some big rocks and a sandy bottom swimming hole.
Quickly, we set up camp and took our water supplies down to the bank. We stripped down, and got into the water just in time for golden hour. The water was cold and refreshing and so clear! The sun was sinking behind the mountains and we played with the excellent echo for a while. Not a leech in site either. It was a perfect experience. Eventually we filled our water bladders and headed up to camp to get into warm clothes. Tarzan started a big fire and we enjoyed our first hot meal on trail.
Soon, the Loons started calling and the Barred Owls started hooting. The sun set about 30 minutes ago and the light had just about teeterd from purple to black. I scuttled to get my bear bag up in the tree and headed to bed with a big smile on my face. This night really set the tone for the rest of the trail. We were lucky!
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