Thru-Hiking the Northville Placid Trail, NY

150ish (heavy “ish”) miles through the remote Adirondack wilderness (Mileage updated as of 2019 including re-routes)

9/13/2019 – 9/21/2019

DAY 1: NORTHVILLE, NY TO WOODS LAKE CAMPSITE #1 (9/13/2019)

Mileage: ~14.3

After Brads brother Michael dropped us off at the trail head at waterfront part, Catherine, Kolby, Brad and I excitedly made our way to a Stewarts .05 miles into the trail. We spent about 45 minutes talking to locals, dropping layers, and using real bathrooms for the last time. We started hiking for real around 10:30am. The trail began with a 3.5 mile road walk out of the Village of Northville.

Not long after that we got to the woods. Much to my dismay, there was no “Lake Placid 132.5 miles” sign. The trail quickly made up for that though. With high spirits we trekked along through rolling hills and windy single track. Another thru-hiker named Chuck passed by us at a blistering pace with barely a word. He had gotten a late start and was trying to make up for it.

Around 11:30am we came to a beautiful spot on Mud Lake. Perfect for a lunch stop!

A few miles later we came to our first river crossing. The water was pretty low, so we were able to rock-hop across. We relaxed in the sun on the other side the river for a while before continuing on. Around 4:30pm we arrived at our first campsite; a gorgeous spot on Woods Lake with no other campers in sight.

We realized today that Catherine forgot toothpaste, and Brad forgot tent stakes. Kolby and I seem to have remembered everything (so far). We have also noticed that the map is not very accurate as far as mileage goes – we wound up hiking 2 miles longer than anticipated today.

DAY 2: WOODS LAKE CAMPSITE #1 TO MUD LAKE LEAN-TO (9/14/2019)

Mileage: ~20

Today started out really great. The rain held off until after we packed up camp. We started hiking around 9am. Things went a little south as Brad was having foot troubles and the map continued to be inaccurate. We did another 2 extra miles today.

The section of trail we hiked today was really pretty – we crossed a few bridges over scenic streams and passed by lakes with beaver dams. We also passed by Chuck, who unfortunately is planning to end his hike tomorrow due to some pretty gnarly blisters.

After a tough 20 miles we finally arrived at Mud Lake Lean-to around 7pm to find a few other North Bound thru-hikers already settled in for the night. The first two are a father-son pair who are taking three weeks to hike the trail together. The third is a solo-hiker named Max, who is attempting to hike the trail in 10 days. Max is a travel nurse who currently lives in Burlington Vermont. He has no hiking or backpacking experience and learned about the trail from his coworker. It sounds like the trail has been a lot harder than he expected, but he’s got the right gear and seems to be doing well as far as I can tell.

Moral is bit low among the group this evening – today was tougher than any of us expected and the extra miles and steady rain really wore on us mentally. Brad’s feet are in pretty rough condition too. I hope tomorrow brings better weather and brighter spirits.

DAY 3: MUD LAKE LEAN-TO TO CROSS FALL STREAM CAMPSITE (9/15/2019)

Mileage: ~18

Today started out better than yesterday. Spirits seemed higher and we hiked out about 3 miles to the Sacandaga River before stopping for breakfast. There was an awesome spot by a suspension bridge where we hung out for a while and brad taught us how to floss (the dance).

Then we made our way to the Town of Paseco. Along the way we got some pretty sad news – Brad’s feet had continued to worsen, so he was going to drop from the hike and get picked up in Paseco. We are all really bummed, but he is going to meet back up with us at our re-supply in Lake Durant in a few days and hopefully we can find a way for him to do more of the trail with us later on.

Once we got to Paseco we all headed to the Oxford inn Restaurant and had a much-needed meal together while we waited for Brads parents to pick him up. I got a salad, sweet potato tots, and a whole pizza. I wrapped a few slices in tinfoil and took them with me to have for dinner later. It was a welcome break from freeze-dried meals.

After bidding Brad farewell, we hit the trail again and hiked in to Cross Fall Stream Campsite. We fell a few miles short of our goal today, but we are going to try and make them up tomorrow. Moral is very low after losing Brad, but I am hopeful we can turn it around if we push through tomorrow and make it far enough that we can spend extra time in Lake Durant.

DAY 4: CROSS FALL STREAM CAMPSITE TO CARRY LEAN-TO (9/16/2019)

Mileage: ~23

Today was long. Very very long. We were up and moving by 7:20am and ate lunch at a gorgeous spot on west lake. After lunch we went for a swim. It’s amazing how clean that can make you feel when you haven’t showered in 4 days.

The trail was a bit more rugged than it’s been, but it’s also changing to look more like the northern Adirondacks and it’s so beautiful. The weather today was perfect too, which really boosted our moral. We’ve seen a few other north bound thru hiking groups not too far ahead of us in the trail registers the last two days, but we haven’t caught up to any of them yet. We only saw one person on trail today – a solo-hiker who was just doing an overnight trip on West Lake.

Today is the first day I really started feeling the hike. My feet are killing me, and my knees hurt pretty bad too. I think they’ll be fine by the morning though. Tomorrow will be shorter, and we get to shower and eat real food and see Brad.

We got to Carry Lean-to around 6:30pm and we are the only ones here aside from some Beavers. Not much view of the water, but the sunset was stunning over the hills. Today also marks the halfway point of the trip both in days and miles. The trail is flying by.

DAY 5: CARRY LEAN-TO TO LAKE DURANT (9/17/2019)

Mileage: ~18

We were awake most of last night due to near freezing temperatures and a pack of coyotes howling a little too close to the lean-to. It was a really nice morning though and the trail was pretty mellow for the first 11 miles.

We ate breakfast at Cedar Lake Campsite which was really beautiful. It looked like an ocean until the fog lifted to reveal rolling hills speckled with shades of red and yellow. The trees are turning more and more each day.

We reached Wakley Dam at mile 11. Wakely Pond is pretty, but the dam itself is just concrete with a chain link fence across the top.

The trail between Wakely Dam and Lake Durant was pretty rough. It was re-routed recently and is now this seemingly never ending zig-zag of barely broken trail that adds two miles to the original distance. It was also the least scenic section we have hiked so far. We were all struggling pretty hard but pushed through to arrive at Lake Durant at 2:50pm. Brad came with our resupplies and brought a ton of extra food for us – chips, salad, seltzer, candy, pretty much everything we needed. He cooked us dinner and helped hang our bear bags before heading home.

DAY 6: LAKE DURANT TO LONG LAKE CAMPSITE (9/18/2019)

Mileage: ~17.6

We were all dragging our feet leaving Lake Durant, but the amazing food and good night’s sleep did wonders for us. We felt 1000x better today than we did yesterday and really enjoyed the trail. There was a climb we named “The Something” – an unnamed peak that at 3,000’ is the highest point of the NPT. The map says there is a scenic view at summit, but we have come to learn that the map always lies and there is in fact no view whatsoever atop The Something.

There was a really cool section of trail today right before the 28N road crossing that was about ¼ mile stretch of wood planking.

Around 5:45pm we arrived at Long Lake and found a really awesome spot a few campsites past the Long Lake lean-to. We met a couple who were thru-hiking the trail with their young boy. They are on day 14 and still have quite a few days ahead of them.

We got an incredible view of the stars tonight. I haven’t seen the milky way like that in years. I took my sleeping pad down by the water and stared up at them for a while before heading to sleep.

DAY 7: LONG LAKE CAMPSITE TO COLD RIVER LEAN-TO #3 (9/19/2019)

Mileage: ~11.5

We spent a long time in camp this morning sitting by the fire drinking coffee and eating breakfast. Long Lake has been one of my favorite spots on the trail. Around 10:30am we started hiking. We are all a bit tired and worn, largely due to improper nutrition. Food is a challenge on the trail – you can’t pack too much weight, but you need so many calories. The most calorically dense foods are typically not the healthiest so it’s hard to get the nutrients your body needs to recover. You also need a lot more sugar and salt than any of us realized.

We talk a lot about what we are going to eat once we are back in civilization. I am dreaming of a maple latte. And salad. And potatoes. Really anything that isn’t pre-packaged or freeze-dried.

We stopped for lunch today at a lean-to right before the trail moved north of Long Lake. We sat by the water for a while and Kolby and I swam. The miles after lunch dragged a bit, but our lean-to on cold river is really cool. There is a suspension bridge and a bit of a waterfall on the river.

It’s crazy to think that we’ve already been out here for 7 days. The trail is flying by, but it also feels like we’ve been hiking for a lifetime. Work, mortgages, responsibilities, mundane daily routines, it all feels so far away. It’s like we are living in an alternate reality.

DAY 8: COLD RIVER LEAN-TO #3 TO WANIKA FALLS CAMPSITE (9/20/2019)

Mileage: ~17.5

We had coffee by a fire this morning before hitting the trail around 7:15am. It felt good to get an earlier start. 3.3 miles in we stopped at Seward lean-to for breakfast and met a couple thru-hiking the trail with their dog. They both worked for the DEC and were taking 3 weeks to complete the trail. I think they were doing it right, taking it slower. There are so many amazing places along the trail to stop and explore.

After that it was a quick 8 miles to Duck Hole lean-to for lunch. Duck Hole is one of the more popular spots on the trail. It sits on a shallow river surrounded by rolling hills.

The trees have a ton of color now.

The miles after lunch dragged on (as they usually do), but we made it to Moose Pond lean-to in good time and stopped to talk to some older section hikers a bit before continuing on to Wanika Falls. It was awesome to see a group of retired folk still out here backpacking. I hope I end up like that.

We also passed by the remains of the hermitage of Noah John Rondeau, who lived the majority of his life as a hermit in the woods on the Cold River. After spending the past 8 days on the trail, I totally get the appeal.

Camp tonight is a really cool site tucked away off the trail on a waterfall. There is one other hiker here, Brett, who is out solo-hiking for a few days. He is also hiking out tomorrow and is hitching a ride home with the group we stopped to chat with at Moose Pond lean-to. We all hung around a campfire for a while before heading to sleep for the last time on the trail.

Only 1 more day until Lake Placid!

DAY 9: WANICA FALLS CAMPSITE TO LAKE PLACID, NY (9/21/2019)

Mileage: ~8.25

We were up at 6am today and hit the trail early after a quick cup of coffee and some oatmeal. After only a few hours we hit the trailhead at Averyville Road. Kolby’s car was parked there, but the trail doesn’t technically end until 1.2 miles down the road on the town line of Lake Placid, so we walked the last bit to a pretty anti-climactic sign on the side of the road that signifies the northern terminal of the trail. We were all a bit disappointed by the ending, but I think that it’s fitting in a way. The NPT is a hidden gem of the Adirondacks and its lack of publicity and traffic are a large part of its charm.

After a quick photo with the sign, Kolby dropped his pack and ran back to get his car while Catherine and I waited on the side of the road. We drove into Lake Placid for a much-needed meal at the Breakfast Club and I finally got my latte.

We mapped out the distance we hiked with the Garmin in-reach at 153.7 miles, for a total of 15.7 miles added to the distance on the map due to reroutes created in recent years.

The end of the NPT is very bittersweet. The trail was tough at times, but it was an all-around incredible experience that none of us will soon forget. I hope I get the chance to hike it again someday. Maybe just a little slower next time.

 

 


 

Sarah (Wet Foot) Governale

About: Sarah is a 46Climber that has a lot of miles under her feet as a trail-runner, hiker/backpacker, and biker (touring and MTB). In 2015, she biked 4,600 miles across the United States as part of 4K For Cancer. On an average day, you can find her doing something outside with her partner in crime, Denali (her black lab). Follow Her on Instagram