Northbound on the Northville Placid Trail

Northbound on the Northville Placid Trail

May 16, 2019 6 By Ciara Groesbeck

Is there a way to fully prepare yourself for the adventure of a thru-hike– the ups, downs and mishaps along the way? I’d like to think not, because the unknown is the part I like the best.

As part of our 2019 goals, Erik and I decided to hike the Northville Placid Trail. We threw it up on our vision board (post its on the wall) and decided even though May wasn’t the most ideal time to hike the trail we wanted to do it before life altered our plans. May 3rd was our departure date, it couldn’t have come soon enough.

We prepared and dehydrated meals, rearranged our decently heavy packs and studied the map in anticipation of all yet to come.

The Northville Placid Trail was going to be conquered; one step at a time.

Day 1 | Northville to Woods Lake

The 90-minute drive to the Southern Terminal was filled with wind, rain and excitement. Today is the day. Today is the day we start hiking North to Lake Placid. I could hardly believe the day had come.

My mother, Tuesday was our Trail angel along the way- providing us with rides, smiles and some of the most delicious vegan trail food (more of this to come!).

We decided there was no time to mill around and wait for the rain to “maybe” stop, so up went our hoods, a hug good-bye and we were on our way through the arch that adorns the start of the trek.

A few people stopped to ask us excitedly how far we were going, others complimented the adorableness of the boys in their packs, and a few even cheered us on from their cars. There was something quite special about starting this hike.

The rain subsided by the time we reached the official “into the woods” trailhead, 3.5 miles in. We signed the register 2+2 pups, like always and continued into the eerie forest.

..and so we walked.

We walked until our feet were tired and muddy, and the day light started to dim. We popped our tent up next to Woods Lake, and fell asleep to the sounds of our neighbors and the loons having a singing contest (I think our neighbors won).

Stats for the Day:

  • Miles Hiked: 14.7mi
  • Hours Hiked: 7hr 23min
  • Elevation Gained: 2356′
  • Place Camped: Woods Lake Tent Site
  • Difficulty of the Day: Crossing Stony Creek. Talk about SCARY!
  • Favorite Part of the Day: Committing to something, even in the darkest of weathers.

Day 2 | Woods Lake to Canary Pond

The Northville Placid trail runs through some of the most remote parts of the Adirondack Park, yet we found ourselves with a friendly neighbor and his dog that we named Truman and Ricketts. They departed camp a bit earlier than we did, but we soon caught up with them as they were helping maintain the trails (which was a blessing, because the blow downs were significant!).

We quickly learned that our feet were going to be wet, all day-every day. Deciding on our trail runners was the right choice when it came to our feet. We were light in our shoes, heavy on our backs and we dodged down trees throughout our day.

The boys chilling while we filter water at Silver Lake

Erik and Crockett were still trying to get accustomed to one another, while Boone and I had our rhythm down nicely. I led the pack with Boone by my side, Erik and Crockett followed– Crock pulling every step of the way.

Silver Lake is where we would refuel and filter– the boys taking every chance they got to get some sleep in while not missing out on treats.

We would soon enough arrive at our camp site which hugged the edge of a beautiful pond. We ate dinner, let our feet breath and fell asleep to the owls and loons chattering back and forth.

Stats for the Day:

  • Miles Hiked: 16.78mi
  • Hours Hiked: 9hr 28min
  • Elevation Gained: 2408′
  • Place Camped: Canary Pond Tent Site
  • Difficulty of the Day: Getting poked in my (bad) eye with a stick
  • Favorite Part of the Day: Watching Crockett look for frogs at our campsite.

Day 3 | Canary Pond to Piseco

Each morning we would wake with dawn– the boys snuggled by my sides. We’d stuff our “home” into a bag, make breakfast, slide our dry, warm feet into cold, wet shoes and hop on the trail.

I woke this day with some nausea and lethargy. It wouldn’t pass until about noon, which made the miles ever so slow. We passed over suspension bridges, through lush forests and slowly but surely into the town of Piseco.

I was being generous in calling Piseco a “town” as it only has a post office, but being in civilization was a nice change. It is funny to think about going on a thru-hike to get away from civilization, only to find you slightly miss it from time to time.

The sign read: Try to get a bulls eye for $1.00 (As many throws as you’d like)

I was able to hop onto a public WiFi channel (thanks Judy) and video chat with my mom in order to finalize our plans to meet in a few days for our resupply.

We continued on down the road, enjoying the different houses and listening to the geese honk and the ducks quack.

A green Subaru outback drove by us, but soon reappeared with the jolliest man emerging. He offered to get us water, food, and a place to stay. He owned a property that had GRASS, and a creek and even a hatchet throw (which neither of us attempted!). We walked the remaining miles to the camp site and our feet got reacquainted with the soft and forgiving grass.

Today, we were thankful.

Stats for the Day:

  • Miles Hiked: 17.75mi
  • Hours Hiked: 9hr 20min
  • Elevation Gained: 1660′
  • Place Camped: in Piseco at Bob and Matt’s property!
  • Difficulty of the Day: Hiking with nausea and cramping
  • Favorite Part of the Day: Meeting our first trail angel– such a thoughtful man

Day 4 | Piseco to ~ Mud Lake

The rain drops on our tent delayed our start. We decided to trek on to a lean-to for breakfast which left our tummies grumbling for the majority of the morning.

We passed a group of guys who carried their canoe to the lean-to– 10 miles in! What an achievement; made me feel grateful to only have a pack on my back versus the awkwardness of carrying a canoe that far!

Lunch was accompanied by loons diving around us, and the sun greeting our cheeks as I held my face to the sky. I laid with Crockett and dozed in and out of sleep. After a short slumber and a full belly we pushed on down the trail.

The loons were lovely

We encountered much blow down this day and were pleasantly surprised to come to a beautiful lake; West Canada Lake. Instead of camping for the day, we decided for one final push to the nearest tent site. We never made it to the actual tent site, yet we trudged through 3 feet of snow and called it quits when we were wet, cold and tired.

The snow forced me to encounter my first low, but after a full night of rest I was ready to conquer the next day.

Stats for the Day:

  • Miles Hiked: 18.98mi
  • Hours Hiked: 11hr 14min
  • Elevation Gained: 2605′
  • Place Camped: Next to a creek before Mud Lake
  • Difficulty of the Day: Hiking through 3ft of snow (after 17 miles of hiking!)
  • Favorite Part of the Day: Taking two hours for lunch, naps and loon watching

Day 5 | ~Mud Lake to campsite right before Stephen’s Pond Lean-To

We may not have awoken to rain, but soon into our day we were blasted with a cold, wet drizzle that could have wiped anyone’s smile from their face. We walked through dense forest, where every pine tree seemed to hug the trail, soaking me from head to toe.

I started to notice that my heels were a bit achy, making each hill a more demanding effort. We ticked the miles off, words rarely exchanged throughout the day.

Around 3PM, the rain stopped and we were left with the decision of calling it a day or trekking on. We trekked on (mainly to keep warm).

My feet pained in a way I was not used to, so we chatted about everything from favorite childhood candy and cartoon to the way the woods made us feel so present.

We found a flat spot on an adjacent trail that was adorned with moose prints. I set up a makeshift trap to deter moose from trampling us in the night as we shivered ourselves to sleep in our sopping wet clothes.

Praying our clothes would dry!

There will always be light at the end of the tunnel. That is what we told ourselves all day.

Stats for the Day:

  • Miles Hiked: 22.87
  • Hours Hiked: 10hr 47min
  • Elevation Gained: 2251′
  • Place Camped: Jeep Road adjacent to our trail
  • Difficulty of the Day: Walking for 8+ hours in cold rain
  • Favorite Part of the Day: Video chatting with my mom at the end of the day!

Day 6 | ~Stephen’s to Tent site above Tirell Pond

Today was the BIG day! The day we got to see my mom, resupply and consume massive amounts of food! Rationing our food preceding this only made the hiker hunger stronger.

We seemed to reach the road just as quickly as the little white SUV pulled up and we were greeted with all the hugs– she didn’t even seemed repulsed by our odors!

We drove to the nearest picnic area overlooking Lake Durant and enjoyed a spread– almost overwhelming. There were tofu sandwiches, hummus, grapes, fresh juice, date balls, cookies and so much more.

After an uplifting afternoon, we put our now very heavy packs back on and headed into the wilderness– waving our good-byes, bittersweet it was.

We went through logging areas, around Tirell pond and landed next to the water at a perfect camp site. We attempted to make fire, but found nothing dry enough to burn.

Off to sleep we went, with happy hearts and warm bellies.

Stats for the Day:

  • Miles Hiked: 14.73mi
  • Hours Hiked: 7hr 17min
  • Elevation Gained: 1349′
  • Place Camped: Tent Site along the river.
  • Difficulty of the Day: Leaving the comfort of my mom and all the food
  • Favorite Part of the Day: Getting to see my mom, and dry our clothes out in the warm sun.

Day 7 | Tent site (above Tirell Pond) to Plumley’s Lean-To

Waking in the cold, makes it easier to cuddle than escape into the morning dew– and that is exactly what we did.

We saved time and decided to eat date balls for breakfast and hit the trails early. We would be reaching Long Lake today and couldn’t be more excited for this section as we heard it was very beautiful– and it was.

Crossing over a half mile long board walk, main roads and more woods– we reached the water. This was very different terrain than we were accustomed to, adorned in flowers and driftwood– making it even a bit more exciting.

We reached Plumley’s Lean-to early in the day and were excited to stretch out in the grass. With little concern for neighbors showing up, we plopped the tent in the lean-to adding an extra level of coziness. The weather was calling for thunderstorms and this was the safest, warmest place to be.

It was noted that I got 10 hours and 43 min of sleep that night– just what the body ordered.

Stats for the Day:

  • Miles Hiked: 17.29mi
  • Hours Hiked: 8hr 46min
  • Elevation Gained: 2418′
  • Place Camped: Plumley’s Lean-to
  • Difficulty of the Day: Dealing with my progressing foot pain
  • Favorite Part of the Day: Staying in a lean-to, relaxing for an afternoon

Day 8 | Plumley’s Lean-To to (past) Duckhole

Snuggling with your partner and two pups in a lean-to; it doesn’t get much better than that. The predicted rain was more of a sprinkle, yet we still decided to cozy up for intermittent naps until 9. I didn’t hear a peep of complaint from the boys.

Stepping foot on the trail at 10:30 felt odd, yet refreshing. Our goal of 20 miles for the day seemed a bit lofty at this point, but we trekked hard through the now pouring rain– managing to keep smiles on our faces for the majority of the day.

We had read the day earlier that a bridge had been removed to access the trail towards Duckhole. It read that the river was impassable. Erik was optimistic in saying that the sign looked old– aging the staples at about a year old or so (too funny). We had high hopes until the bridge did indeed lay upon the river bank.

Northville: 120.5 miles. Dang– that was an exciting sign to see!

We checked our maps to ensure our trail crossed then held our breath as one by one we crossed a slippery, shiny log set aside for those that dare to attempt it. There is something so mesmerizing about rushing water when you are balancing yourself and all of your belongings on your back.

We safely made it across and scurried down the trail, chasing daylight.

We went as far as we could, and then when we couldn’t navigate the trail (even with our headlamps) we popped our tent and tried to catch some Zzz’s.

The large boulder in my back prevented many Zzz’s from happening.

Stats for the Day:

  • Miles Hiked: 20.19mi
  • Hours Hiked:10hr
  • Elevation Gained: 2343′
  • Place Camped: Along trail before Moose Pond campsite
  • Difficulty of the Day: Crossing that slippery log over chest high raging water
  • Favorite Part of the Day: Cuddling in the tent until 9am; breakfast in bed.

Day 9 | (past) Duckhole to Finish!

We were quick to emerge from our tent, hoping to gain feeling in our very cold bodies. The rain still persisted, leaving us sopping wet. I slid my camp sock (3 sizes too large for my feet) into my trail runners and hoped for drier weather.

We met two middle-aged guys about 7 miles in. They were seeing “how far two fat guys could make it down the trail” (obviously their words). We were inspired as they had done the trail 2 years previous, and section hiked many other parts throughout the years. Their optimism about the weather and trail conditions eased my mind and we were most thrilled when they said we were almost there!

“Almost there” meant another three incredibly slow miles and a wrong turn. We would stomp down the trail admiring our surroundings, feeling excited we could hear traffic and wincing in pain as our packs ached into our bruised shoulders.

The register came. We smiled. We did it.

We hiked the Northville Placid Trail.

…..and we would do it again.

Stats for the Day:

  • Miles Hiked:10.61mi
  • Hours Hiked: 5hr 2min
  • Elevation Gained:1070′
  • Difficulty of the Day: Finishing the NPT
  • Favorite Part of the Day: Finishing the NPT

Northbound on the NPT

This trek will forever remain a favorite memory– our first thru hike, true adventure.

So, can you truly prepare for a thru-hike? Physically– sure. Mentally– no. I hope with every low comes a higher high, ride the waves of emotion you will feel throughout your journey. These are the true testaments of our strength and you will be so much happier in the end that you accomplished something so grand.

Feel your body grow stronger, your feet tougher and your skin dirtier. Wear each scratch with pride and embrace every drop of water that enters your body.

There is something so frightening, exciting, and liberating about thru-hiking. It is the sort of thing you want to become addicted to. Nature heals: mind, body and soul.

I hope you enjoyed taking this journey with me and my companions and may you find your own adventure in your lives.

Until the next thru-hike.

Any guesses what it will be?

Happy trekking,

Ciara, Boone & Crockett (with Erik in mind)

May you find some paths to wander down, too.