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Archive for April, 2013

6/18

Awoke to thunder heads crossing the blue sky. The fear of deluge galvanized me and I packed quickly. It was slow going as I’d bruised my knee retrieving my shoes, and every wet article in my pack was twice as heavy. When I reached the exterior, I was never so happy to see civilization, if only for the temporary conveniences it offers up… Don’t get me wrong, I still look forward to going back to the woods, but after falling in the Cedar River at its seasonal high point, I wanted to rest and return strong… What does not kill you, slowly kills you.

6/21

Spent 3 days in Vermont. Shot skeet with Pat and Jenny. Went about 50%. Not bad for my first time with a shotgun.

Going into Brooktrout Lake with my flyrod. I was told by an old timer, camping in Moose River Plains, that he’d heard of a man easily taking his limit (ten trout) before noon, and I wanted to see if I could verify such success. I was convinced it was a dead lake, but I had to see for myself if this had been a fish tale, or perhaps a fib in location to throw people off the scent of his real fishing hole… In hindsight, I do not know why I chose the fly rod for lake fishing… I have had great luck with it on the Adirondack streams, but I have not ever had much luck on a lake. Too much surface area… The preferred method of fishing the Adirondack lakes is to troll, and if you cannot troll, you use a spinner lure. Most fishermen here swear by it. I, however, find there is something sacred in the dry fly. The rhythms of the line, back and forth, then spreading out over the water in a straight line. The way the fish pounds the surface and rips the fly under. You can feel the battle more acutely on a fly rod. Each run the fish takes, and you try to draw him in, or if you have to wear him out. Then, when there is desperation, the fish will leap above the water, and try to shake the hook, and sometimes they do. It is a marvellous thing to see the fish this way, in its struggle. There are few things I admire more in this world than mountain Brook Trout.

On the way into Brooktrout Lake, I cut through many sections of new Spruce growth. If you have never seen a trail through a Spruce forest, it is something to behold. There is a strong evergreen smell… Somewhat acidic, but also fresh… Then, the light always looks like that long orange light of sunsets, coming through the canopy. You can see the rays of light as they fall upon the ferns and fallen trees and running brooks. It is a mystical place, but also dark. It feels like how I imagine the boreal Black Forest of Germany must. But, how the hell should I know, I have never been there… Anyways, where the path goes, there is always new growth coming in… Spruce grows quickly, and what was once a trail, is no longer, after a short time. I cut through just such a patch, and though I spent two hours in cutting, I maybe came 100 feet. There is much work left to be done.

6/23

I awoke to a foggy lake. Everything was still on the water. I figured on breakfast, while I waited to see the fish break the surface.

While I cooked I heard a familiar sound. Like a jet plane tearing across the sky. In minutes the sky clouded over from a beautiful dark blue, perfectly clear morning, to massive thunderheads, ripping violently through the woods. It was not long before the rain came pouring in buckets.

Just yesterday I was cursing my lazy bones for not doing any real work. I had a feeling, despite the blue, that there would be a big storm coming. It made me lethargic, but I forced myself to split some firewood, should I need it.

I found a dead tree and ripped it into three manageable parts, which I carried to my camp. There I proceeded to rip smaller logs, stacking them by a stump. I wedged into the top of each log with the hatchet, and tapped them against the stump until they cracked apart. After a few whacks they would split apart and my hatchet would be left sticking out of the stump. By day’s end, I had a good pile. The only problem was, I hadn’t really done work… At least not work I was supposed to do. I justified it as lean-to maintenance. If I could cut enough wood to leave behind, it would prevent the next group of campers from cutting live trees.

I suppose its a bit ironic that today I feel like an ant instead of a grasshopper. The rain is now pouring heavily, turning all the ground into mud. The thunder rips, like Thor echoing across the mountains. I am surrounded by the storm, but I am ready to ride it out.

 

Meeting Ranger Jay, upon leaving the woods, he seemed surprise I had made it through the storm. He said there had been hail at his house. I told him, I made it alright, but I very nearly started believing in god…

 

 

6/26

I went down to the Catskills with the other interns, Nathan and Rebecca. Nathan and I hiked up Kaaterskill Falls. It was a short hike, and well populated, but the view was well worth it. On the way up we met an ADK club train crew, lifting boulders out of the stream with a rock bar. They were a good, hard-working bunch. Rough around the edges, but good people.

At the bottom of the falls, the trail ends. It is 500 feet of loose dirt to the first plateau, and another some 300 feet to the top. There are few places that allow an easy hike. One has to scramble across loose soil and up rock faces until you come to the pool on the first plateau. From there the falls seem as enormous as Yosemite. Water fanning out from hundreds of feet up, spraying outward and dropping to the pool, filling it with green, mineral rich water.

From there, it is a scramble to the top, finding foot and hand holds on slippery rocks. From the top, the falls feel less grandiose, but there is a view of all the Catskills laid out, as though propped up, the mountains rolling on into the Palisades.

After we scaled the falls and hiked out, we found an abandoned kitten in the parking lot, and dropped it off at the SPCA…

 

6/29

Found the geocache in the caves below Chimney Rocks.

 

It was a hell of a squeeze into the cave’s mouth. We lay flat on our bellies and shifted into the cave. We dropped a rope ladder down and dropped into the heart of the cave. It was cold and wet (as would be expected). The rocks all dusty and jagged. We found our way into a room called the Spaghetti Bowl and then down into what is called the Birth Canal. It was as tight a squeeze as its name suggests. We had to jam our bodies against the rock walls on either side of the crevasse, then, climbing out the other side, one is pressed in so close to the wall that you cannot turn your head at all. Just on the other side was the geocache. There were heavy gold looking coins as a reward. They had, “I’ve been to the furthest reaches of Eagle Cave,” inscribed on them, with an image of the mountain emblazoned on the front of the coin.

 

It was easier climbing out. I have to say, I was glad to see light again, but I was proud to have found the geocache. We climbed to the top of Chimney Rocks and ate lunch. Bruce pointed out all the mountains, with which I was now already familiar… Snowy, Blue, Panther, Wakely… Towards the northeast, Marcy loomed, and still does in my imagination…

 

6/30

I hiked into Cedar Lakes from the Cedar River. I brought my tent, which I had become accustomed not to do. Early in the season, I had decided to just hike leanto to leanto. However, I had seen a few campsites that had intrigued me with their seclusion. There was one in particular, before the bridge, on the way to leanto #2. It was not an easy one to spot. Many people walk past and never see it is there. There is just a little spur path that leads between two balasm firs. The path leads to a clearing with a small fire ring. I decided to set up camp there for the night. After a while, I heard some talking from the leanto, just across the pond. So I crossed the bridge and met the group, who were hammock camping in the trees. After a short while, they revealed their intention to hike to the early 1900’s hermit French Louie’s cave on Cobble Hill.

 

Cobble Hill, on old USGS maps was an almost insignificant bump between the two Cedar Lakes. Before the lumber companies build the dam at the headwaters of the Cedar River, the lake had been three separate lakes. Now that the dam was deteriorating, it was likely that the lakes would return eventually to their former size. Each year more water breaches, and the lakes, at their mid-summer height are lower and lower. Cobble Hill was between and to the north of lakes 1 and 2. It is made up of glacial erratics on one side, that are full of caves. The caves look to the south east.

 

The hermit French Louie is a long story. Too long to tell here… Though there is a good deal of literature about him. Basically, he at one point had lived in this wilderness, before it was considered possible. He was a fur trapper, hunter and fisherman. He had several hunting camps, and eventually acted as a guide for those who wanted to exploit the abundance in the West Canadas.

 

After considering the work I ought to be doing, I decided I would hike with my new friends to the cave. We agreed to meet early, and I called the assistant ranger on the radio, so he could join us to. We all met at a rendezvous down the trail, and took a spur trail. We followed our compasses about due north from a trail out of the Wagon Wheel campsite.

 

After a ways of marching, and reaching the height of ground, I realized that this other crew had not known as assuredly where the cave was. So we had to trouble shoot, come down of the height of land, and scale around the front of the hill. It was immediately apparent that this was correct, as the walking became easier, and we came around to the cave before long. There was an old wood frame bed and a table, and nothing else, present at this cave. We found a sign for a spring, but the spring was dry. It seemed that somebody had an interest in preserving this place, but it was not evident who it might be.

 

After a round of pictures, sitting on Louie’s bed, we hike back down from the cave. The way back we would need only set a due south course, and eventually we’d reach the Northville Placid Trail that ran east to west on that section. Still, we separated into two groups, quite by accident, and the group of which I was not the leader took a was finding their way back to the trail. They wandered a bit off course, and in the underbrush we quickly lost sight of each other. They apparently met with a cliff that was insurmountable and had to go a ways around it. I had no trouble. I sauntered across a low land swamp, but it was mostly dried out. I was at the trail a good 15 minutes before the other group. I did not understand why they had such trouble following due south…

 

I parted with the assistant ranger and passed the night with my new friends at Cedar Lakes #2. It was a good feeling of woodsman camaraderie.

 

7/12

Hiked int Pillsbury Lake. I was delighted to find the trail well taken care of, besides a garbage dump about 100 years old, along the lake side of the trail. Likely it is and old hunting camp gone to ruins. There is much rusted old metal strewn about, with many newer plastics added to the heap. Besides this fact, it was nice to follow below the ridge, with a clear look at it.

 

I got to camp early and spent a lazy summer afternoon reading and napping. At one point I awoke to the sound of a woodpecker hammering away at the roof of the leanto. When I went out to investigate, I saw him now hammering at a spruce tree. Splayed out in blue and white, I thought he may be a common flicker. When I went back in the leanto, I could see two white tail deer come down from the hill on the opposite shore. They soon saw me, but ignore me until they were satisfied with water and vegetation. They looked s noble and strong. The sun casting shadows across their muscular bodies. In the later afternoon, I saw a vulture drifting over the lake effortlessly, and a juvenile red-tailed hawk joined him and seemed to glide endlessly upward. I drifted back to sleep with the sun on my face. I heard a loon rising from a dive, and opened my eyes to see it emerge on the water.

 

This is truly a wonderous place to spend so much time alone. When I am still there is very much that I am able to see. I hope that I can sleep easy and reawaken early.

 

7/20

Left for the Cedar River Flow early with Nathan. we hoisted the 2 man canoe to the roof of the car and packed her full with more than a man would ever use in a day and night in the woods.

 

Cedar River Road is a long winding mountain road. It is a long haul upward, bending wit the line of Wakely Mountain, before turning to gravel and flattening out in the white pine forest. After a ways, the trees open up and there is the flow.

 

The flow starts where the Cedar River empties out below the Blue Ridge, and then it empties out below Wakely Dam, before flowing in long bending oxbows out to the Upper Hudson. The current is often slight, but always pushing toward the dam. Yet, it remains navigable a long ways through a fresh water estuary and inland to the carry, where there is a leanto.

 

Nathan and I paddled the whole long way across the flow and up river, stopping overnight at the carry. The carry is a slow moving stillwater, with many spring holes keeping the water cold and well oxygenated. When you find a spring hole, you need only sit still and stay quiety and soon you will see the brook trout jumping… The long muscular brown bodies breaking the surface with a crash as they pursue flies on the surface. They often jump several times, aggressively and with great force. If you are patient and place a fly with skill, you can land many of these speckled brown and pink beauties…

 

I fished many hours in the evening and caught 3, which is saying nothing of the many that had teased a strike or spit the hook. Toward dinner time I slung the rod low and false casting to give myself distance, threw the line lightly over a slow pool, drifting the fly over a spot I had seen many jumps. In a moment I heard a great crashing thud, saw the spray of water and my fly had disappeared below. Hearing the sound, Nathan came to watch the fight. I set the hook with a jerk that sent the fish out and over the water. He was a lunker. Well over 12″ and with a beautiful pink belly and bright orange speckles fading into brown. He dove down, taking line out and fighting with tremendous force. My belly got the best of me and thinking of dinner I pulled hard. He, undaunted, continued to dive, and in an instant my leader came snapping to the surface, and my fish was gone… That was the last bite I had all evening.

 

Nathan and I went down stream and set up camp. I slept in a hammock and he slept on the ground. We ate well, but still longed for the fish I had so nearly caught. I had caught fish of 18″ with less fight, and I imagined a 24″ lunker as I thought of the way he dove… Knowing to go deep like that… It was just like a Marlin.

 

I finally drifted to sleep, reading Joyce’s The Dead, imagining my fish to be some kind of Michael Furey. When I first awoke it was still dark and cold, so that I had to do my best to pull in my body and conserve warmth. The second time I awoke it was dawn and I was awakened by a crashing thud in the water. I jumped out of the hammock and rod in hand, ran to the bank of the river, where there was the springhole. The action was immediate… Within minutes I had a 12″ and before long another of 8 or so. By the time I quit at 9a,. I had caught 8 brookies altogether. I kept 2 and smoked them over the morning fire… All before Nathan had arisen.

 

We were a long time in the journey back out to the flow. The current was this time with us and we did not have to take so many pains to get back. On the way we were treated with views of Great Blue Heron, Sandhill Cranes and a River Otter. On the flow there were the loons calling and diving, and along the estuary there were many Grebes.

 

8/3

The fishing was not so good as it had been. With the warm August water, it seems the trout are hunkering down low. I managed to catch 3 small brookies on dries that had sunk below the surface on the retrieve. I hadn’t felt any of the strikes, though the first one had some pull to him. I pulled him up cautiously, thinking he was bigger than he was. I threw all three back, though around lunch I wished I’d kept the first.

 

When the bite turned off I took a nap and read The Sun Also Rises, and for lunch I drank wine and ate Pepperoni. So far the day has been fine, with a cool, gentle breeze. I will see about the fish again this evening and again tomorrow morning.

***

The wind started up around 2 and by 3 it was blowing in a gale. I had been drinking and the wind felt good. I’ve been alone all day, but wine is good company.

 

The fact that the wind kept the temperature had my hopes up for the fish. There may be an evening bite, but even more so, the morning should be good. I will try to use flies that have been effective here, and keep my leader straight. I wonder if the fish are getting leader shy at this point in the season…

 

In any case, it has been a pleasant day with low humidity. I can see clearly to the three brothers and if there were no trees, I’, sure I could see Wakely Mountain.

 

I have been feeling the end of the season creep into my thoughts already. It is better to let pass this depression, while I am here alone. I still feel bad, but one cannot live in a fiesta without consequences forever…

 

8/16

The sky was high and cool driving into the plains. There were mountains rising up over the tree line and the Moose River ran through it. I walked a long way, feeling the cool breeze on my face, and there was nobody else in the woods. When I cam to the river I set up camp and waded slowly into the water. I caught a Brook Trout in the late afternoon, and cleaned her, and had her for dinner. It was a beautiful evening. I will walk into the Cedars tomorrow.

 

8/23

Hiked in from Pilsbury about noon. It was mild and breezy and all of the humidity of two weeks ago is gone. Its amazing how quickly fall is showing itself here. Everywhere the leaves are changning and the crisp smell of autumn sneaks in on the North winds. It is a lucky thing to see it out here.

 

I got to camp about 4 in the afternoon, and read much of A Sportsman’s Sketches by Turgenev. I split much wood and had a white man fire. When I fell asleep to the lonesome sound of a solitary loon, the fire was still cracking.

 

I hope tonight to make the third leanto, where to after that? I do not yet know…

 

 

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