Saturday, June 11, 2016

ADK Backpacking: Cedar Lakes Loop

This is a review of a 19 mile backpacking loop in the West Canada Lakes Wilderness region of the Adirondacks over Memorial Day weekend 2016 - also known as Daniel's first backpacking trip! The trail head is the same parking lot that's used for Pillsbury Mountain, just outside of Speculator NY.

Here we go!

Our first night we arrived to the trailhead parking lot around 5PM, so we had an easy 3.3 miles planned to the first lean-to on Pillsbury Lake. We were prepared to camp-out if we had to, but picked the route specifically aiming to get lean-tos each night!

The hiking was easy, gradually uphill for about 250ft of elevation gain up to the trail junction that marked the start of our loop.

Lucky for us, we arrived to the lean-to around 6:45PM and there was no one else there! It was at an absolutely beautiful spot, facing out to the secluded little lake. From there, we went for a quick dip in the lake to cool off (it was frankly muddy and gross, unfortunately), fired up the stove and cooked up dinner, saw a beautiful sunset, and then were in bed by 9:30PM with dark fall to the sound of peepers and loons.

The next day, we had roughly 6-6.5 miles slated out to the lean-tos near West Lake/South Lake/Mud Lake - there are 3 right in a row along the Northville-Placid Trail, so that was our shooting point for the next evening. 

I have to say - while we enjoyed this loop, we enjoyed our time on the Northville-Placid MUCH more. We've definitely got that trail on our list for future backpacking adventures.

The spot where we joined up with the NPT, where it crosses over West Canada Creek at its initial point off of Mud Lake

West Canada Creek flowing out of Mud Lake
The first lean-to we came to along West Canada Creek was RIGHT on the Northville-Placid Trail, so we decided to move along, as we knew there was another one along South Lake, and two along West Lake coming up.

Unfortunately, the South Lake lean-to was taken when we came to it - that was such a shame, because it was in an absolutely stunning location! Regardless, we kept going to West Lake.

South Lake

Bridge over the marsh-y area off of South Lake

Marsh by South Lake
The first lean-to at West Lake was also taken, so we kept going... holding out hope that the final one (slightly off of the Northville-Placid Trail) would be available still, and lucky for us, it was!

It wasn't in as beautiful of a location as the Pillsbury Lake Lean-to, but West Lake was much prettier than Pillsbury. We spent an hour and a half swimming around and hanging out in the warm shallow water.

We spent the night eating, playing games like 20 questions, and taking in the sunset over West Lake.

The next day, we were prepared for thunderstorms. Our initial plan for the day was to pack another 5.5 miles to Cedar Lake, where there are several campsites and lean-tos. However, we could see from morning that the rain was imminent, and we were running low on bug spray (and May brings heavy black flies in the Adirondacks). It was 10 miles back out to our car, and we decided we would shoot for that, in anticipation that the night out would involve a thunderstorm, just to finish the last 4.5 miles on the last day - so with that, we shot to finish our loop a day early!

This was a great test, though - as we got through it, really well even! It was a great time to realize that we could definitely cover 10 miles in a day in future trips if we wanted to. We hiked from about 10:30AM - 4:30PM, which was great time, considering the length of breaks we took. Turns out Daniel is fantastic at setting a good hiking pace, and really kept us on track while we were hiking. 

Also, lucky for us, every single lean-to and campsite in the Cedar Lakes area was taken when we passed through at 2:30PM - we were thankful we set out with the idea to return to the car, as we would've had nowhere established to stay on a thunder-y night (and when we were driving home, oh did it thunder and absolutely downpour!).

Spotting a loon!

So that was it! We thought about going to a campground for the night, but we finished around 5PM and it was only a two hour drive home, so we drove out!

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