Spruce Lakes and the Loons – Day 5
Morning – 8/27/2023
The morning was quiet at the campground. There weren’t even any loons the night before. As I slowly eased into the waking life I heard Baby Legs stirring in her tent next to mine. The subtle shuffling noises traded back and forth from her and I signaled that neither of us were quite ready to admit we were awake and should start the day. I felt something damp in the bottom of my bag. Disgusted, I realized it was fluid from my blister and decided I’d better get up and take a look at it. I unzipped my bag and crawled out of my tent to head to the bathhouse.
At the bathhouse, I realized I had some more unlucky news. I had started to spot. This was unexpected as I had already had a cycle in August. Maybe the stress of the trail was throwing off my hormones or maybe it was just my PCOS. Another issue to add to the tally! What would thru-hiking be without the struggles?
Finishing up my business, I cleaned up my blister which had broken open sometime in the night. I carefully cut back some of the skin without overdoing it. The blister was located over a deep and old thick scar from when I was about 13 years old. A BMX bike pedal had sliced into my heel when I decided trying to ride the bike that had a flat tire to deliver papers was a great idea. The bike slid from under me and the sharp pedal just gouged my heel but smart teenage me decided to wrap a tee shirt around it and go to the mall. Because I’m smart. Now the scar haunts me like this always putting up fight whenever I wear new shoes since it causes my foot to be almost a 1/2 size larger than the other.
The skin under the scar was a deep deep purple/red. It was hard to tell what it really looked like since I was not willing to cut back the skin that far yet. I injected some neosporin under the skin flap and completed the job with a folded piece of gauze and trusty leukotape. It felt good enough. At least it had the night to dry out and was clean. I headed back toward our campsite.
Surveying What’s Next
The lake was still and the day was calm. People were starting to wander around the camp. Baby Legs and Tarzan were eating breakfast and starting to breakdown their tents. I reported the status of my blister. Baby Legs determined it wasn’t infected and that if I kept up good care of it, it should be just fine through the next section.
The next section would be longer than the last and even more remote. It would lead us through the West Canada Wilderness which includes Spruce Lake, West Canadas, and Cedar Lakes. Then it would take us past Wakely Dam and through a Forest Preserve to Lake Durant Campground. We wouldn’t stop again until we hiked up and over the Blue Mountain Wilderness to Long Lake. We expected the trail would be more challenging terrain wise. Reports of knee deep mud and water, numerous blowdowns, unkempt trails, and a serious lack of trail markers and certainly no cell service. At least that’s what we had been reading! Determined to get an early start in good spirits, I got to breaking down my camp.
Piseco to Fall Stream
We were out of there no later than 8am that day which was awesome! Usually we’re out by 9am. We had just a short roadwalk to Haskells Road where we’d pick up the trail that entered the woods at the road’s end. As we walked on we saw a familiar face riding up on a bicycle. It was our buddy Matt from Bob’s house! He was on his way to see how we were doing since I had been in such rough shape at Bob’s garage. Matt was pretty stoked to see we had rested up fine and were on our way. All of us had a good chuckle and we thanked him for his hospitality.
Haskells Road is a pretty roadwalk past some cute homes that each had a pretty view of the mountains in the back. The road ends at a large property that has an easement into the woods where there’s a covered register. We were all a bit stiff but we made it out of town! It was time for a quick stretch and to pop a few vitamin I to start the day right.
Before we headed off I noticed something orange growing off on the other side of the forked trail. Of course, I had to see what sort of fungi I had spotted. As I approached I noticed that it was a nasty Chicken of the Woods that was past due for sure! But what was interesting was it had a beard of sorts. I couldn’t tell if it was fungal or something else. Whatever it was, it was nothing I’d ever seen before and I was leaving it right where I found it.
Shortly after I had rejoined the group at the register from my fungal exploration, we started off. The path was absolutely lined in nettles despite the New Yorkers at Hamilton Stream swearing there were NONE! Maybe the nettles are new this year on the NPT—hehe. It also seemed to be lined with Green Jelly Babies—another exciting fungal find that both Tarzan and Baby Legs hadn’t seen before so I was happy to share.
Still, I was slow as molasses and my body struggled to warm up so Baby Legs hustled on for the first few miles while Tarzan stayed loyally by my side. We tackled the first half of the day together, nettles, hills, eroded mud pits, and all. But, the trail was a cross country ski trail so it was easy to follow. There were many small streams in this section. We stopped to snack on chicken jerky, peanut butter crackers, and candy while we appreciated the sun that had finally poked out from behind the gray morning clouds.
Fall Stream Camp to Spruce Lake
It wasn’t long before we reached Fall Stream camp. Baby Legs had not been there long and was just hanging up her tent on a tree in the sun to evaporate some of the moisture that accumulated the night before. The camp was fairly dry and flat. There are whispers that the ADK is even considering building a shelter at this lovely spot by Fall Stream. Wouldn’t that be nice!
The stream was clear and running nicely and made for a great watering hole. I set up my stove and made some ramen noodles with added jerky and siracha. Baby Legs set up her new couch she found at one of the shelters and Tarzan made his home in the dirt. It wasn’t even noon and we had covered 5 miles already! This was cause for a celebration for sure. We chuckled together thinking about how we were worried about making miles. My blisters weren’t even bothering me and my feet were dry for a change! We studied the map that continued to deceive us and deduced that there was going to be “two bullshits, a down, and then a fuck around before home.”
The Jessup River
Jessup River was just about 2 miles ahead and Spruce Lake #1 was just 2.5 after that. Totally tangible. I hardly remember the next section to Jessup River but remember finding Baby Legs about 2pm on a log just before we reached it. We stopped and had another quick snack at the little campsite right on the river bank. There was even a little fire ring and space for a tent or two and certainly some hammocks. If only we would have lucked out with better weather this trip! The river was just high enough we had to get our feet wet but nothing terrible. We were actually having a bit of fun!
The trail began to roll up and down and was actually quite pleasant and mostly dry as we headed toward the intersection that brings hikers down to NY-30. Best of all we were all in such high spirits and such a good rhythm, we even hiked as a tramily! Before long we were bounding downhill to the intersection. At the intersection Baby Legs and I split a protein bar and some emotional support sour patch watermelons. We rested a minute and hydrated before heading toward Spruce Lakes.
Spruce Lake Lean-tos
Reaching our usual 10 mile burnout phase, the trail started to become wet, boggy, and tedious again. Of course at a slightly uphill grade! There were sections of dense forest you could tell was regrowth after being logged many moons ago and then sections of mud and runoff from all the rain we had been getting. I kept imagining “Sun on the horizon”—that the light between the trees was most definitely a lake in the distance and therefore home was near. These 2.5 miles dragged on!
Spruce Lake #1
But just like magic the little brown sign with the yellow words “Lean-To” and a yellow arrow appeared and we were home! It was barely 5pm and I was absolutely starving! The lean-to was a little run down and dirty. There was no broom in sight and the area in front to the lean-to and around the fire pit was a bit muddy. There was a little trail out to Spruce lake where there was a small grassy clearing, a jon boat, and canoe! I was tempted to take the canoe to Spruce #3 and not walk another mile. Canoeing is like thru-hiking, right?
Since it was still so early, we debated if we should carry on to the next lean-to since this one wasn’t that great. We realized we probably should eat before making any rational decisions! Baby Legs and I made a really good quinoa black bean thing and while we waited for our meals to hydrate, we enjoyed a super delicious peppered salami I put in our resupply. Tarzan carefully sliced pieces for each of us in the round one by one.
Salami Papi Side-Bar
It was a spicy little salami! We enjoyed it so much, we started calling it a Salami Papi. What a perfect trail name for someone we thought. But who? Baby Legs offered up perhaps, Ian, her partner who we met on the Long Trail last year but unfortunately could not join us this year. He currently goes by Justine after I asked him what his name was and I mistakenly heard “Justine” when he was only saying “Just Ian.” Maybe he will like this name better. Still no reports on if he accepts. Baby Legs is determined to make it stick so that he will always have to carry salami. Shouldn’t be too difficult of a requirement! (we were definitely losing it.)
Now that our bellies were full and we cracked into the last beer, from the nice man who passed us road sodies headed to Bob’s yesterday, my tramily convinced me to move on. I had a nice tiny feel good buzz going and decided it was a perfect time to recite all the Eminem lyrics I could remember as well as all of the Smash Mouth and Sugar Ray I could sing as we shuffled over to Spruce #2 just .8 miles ahead.
Spruce Lake #2
Spruce #2 did not impress us. Though, it considered sprinkling so I was happy if we stayed! There was no broom and lake access wasn’t great, it was down a long hill. Baby Legs made the executive decision for us to carry on .2 to Spruce Lake #3. Begrudgingly I left but it wasn’t all that bad!
Once we crossed the Balsam Lake outlet, which was actually quite an impressive boulder field with cascading falls the brown and yellow lean-to sign appeared on our left leading us down a rocky trail toward Spruce Lake. The sprinkles had stopped but the trail we were following had all kinds of strange dig patches along it… like a dog or something had been pawing up at something. Maybe a young bear? Raccoon? Coyote? We weren’t sure!
Spruce Lake #3
Soon Spruce Lake was in full view again and over to our right was a huge fire pit and a nice lean-to right next to the shore surrounded by low grass. The sun was settling into golden hour and lake access was perfect! There were two sets of loons splashing around across the way too! We quickly put our stuff down in the shelter and stripped to get into the lake.
Salamanders and Loons
Although the lake wasn’t as clear as the others, it was certainly clean and the bottom wasn’t too mucky either. Friendly salamanders swam right into your hand and it felt good to wash off all the sweat from the day. The loons put on quite the show for us in the glimmering gold light. We all dunked real quick before climbing out of the water to change into camp clothes for the night and set up our beds.
Tarzan started a nice warm fire for us to dry out our clothing that was still wet from the previous section and boost morale. I’m really not sure what we would do without him. His fire tending efforts always kept us going! Meanwhile, I strung up my bear hang and then spent some time reading the shelter log trying to determine what was digging up all around camp. Alas, there were no notes of any animals coming into camp, so at least I had that reassurance. There was an entry from the family who was taking the month of August to hike the NPT with their 4 year old. I really enjoyed reading about their adventures and hoped to find more entries in the future!
By the time the sun was settling in behind the mountains across the lake I realized no one had located the privy yet and hurried to find it. It was not an easy task! Finally we located it way up behind the shelter and it was not usable. The inside was totally destroyed and seemed as though a poo bear got a hold of it… cat hole it was.
As the moon rose we settled into bed and drifted off to sleep. Unfortunately, I kept waking up for various reasons. One of which was my pillow deflated on me. After blowing it up it deflated again and I realized my pillow was done for. I had trouble going back to sleep the second time and no sooner did I fall asleep did the loons take their shenanigans right in front of our shelter and wake me up again! Everyone was shifting around so I commented,
“How is anyone supposed to get any sleep with these goddamn loons making all this racket!?”
Everyone laughed and Tarzan said, what a Steve thing to say! (Steve is my father, and he would be the guy to be mad at nature for being nature.) Seriously though. They were LOUD but, eventually they moved on and we all fell back asleep. Overall, I’d say Day 5 was a really great day!
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