My two nephews-in-law have a slogan that evolved from an almost 1/2 marathon run home from drinking (maybe too many) margueritas on a recent Eve- On, On! This past Saturday, 11 Tramp & Trail members picked up the banner and went On, On! to Baldwin Springs on a 11mile snowshoe and hike. The activity took place on the Oregon Trail off Route 8 northeast of Wells, NY. The group had 3 choices: a 6.2 mile hike to North Bend where Stewart Creek winds around a peninsula, an 8.5 mile hike to the next bridge or a 10+ mile hike to Baldwin Springs and the junction with the Arrow and Bartman trails. At each point the cry was On, On!
Still smiling - On, On!
The last time we did the hike it was fall and we had a lot of rain that year so climbing the first hill was like walking in a stream and the rest of the trail was slogging through mud and rock hopping. We had to navigate a seldom used foot trail that skirts the vlie around North Bend due to not being able to "walk on water" and never got farther than North Bend due to standing water of undetermined depth and remnants of a foot bridge about 20 feet from shore. However, this time all conditions were favorable.
We used snowshoes for the first 3 miles but the trail was so hardpacked from snowmobile use and the recent melt we had that it was soon determined that crampons were all that were needed. Most of us left our snowshoes at the first bridge but a few of us decided to strap them on - just in case; they proved to be excess weight that was never again needed. Due to very cold nights the trail continued hard-packed until we reached the vlie. Here, the combination of melting and refreezing created some dicey conditions which required careful planning and even more careful steps. We spread out so as not to have too much weight on the ice in one place and tried to stay on the snowmobile trail where the snow was packed down. The above freezing temps earlier in the week, combined with the rain that fell, decreased the snow cover by about 1 foot therefore some of the areas were very soft and had little between us and the water waiting to suck us in. Quite a few hikers got wet feet, but noone broke through the deep areas so we proceeded on. The trail was rife with tracks and we had fun trying to guess what animals made them - was this a mouse or squirrel? this one a coyote or fox? the only ones we were sure of were the rabbit tracks and there were many!
who lives here?
crossing the vlie
At North Bend we enjoyed the scenery of frozen stream and marsh against the dark green pines. The trail was relatively easy up to now, but the next miles consisted of many small hills with stands of beautiful pine in between. The third bridge was a marvel of engineering and offered another vista of a pond on one side and a stream on the other. On the map (Lake George/Great Sacandaga-National Geographic) it appears the stream flows into East Stony Creek. It was nearing 12 noon at this point so the group was again asked if they wanted to continue on and if they wanted to eat or wait to the end. The cry was On, On! and we would eat at the end. When we scouted the hike the previous weekend this was as far as we went so the next miles were virgin territory for us all and we really didn't know how long it would take. We decided to stop at 12:30 for lunch - no matter where we were - and turn around at 1:00pm.
This part of the trail, about .75 miles, took us up and down more hills, through some magnificent stands of towering pines as straight as telephone poles and we wondered about their age. In another 100 years they may be the "new" Pine Orchard. Wintergreen peeked through the softer snow at the side of the trail illustrating how it got its name. Chickadees sang in the pines and the sun even tried to come out. When we reached what used to be the final bridge over East Stony Creek we thought we might not reach our destination as there was no bridge, only ice and water. After exploring the ice with ski poles, one of our more fearless members decided to give it a try and discovered the water was very shallow there due to a sand bar under the ice. We all made it across, but the clock was ticking and we only had 10 minutes left to either reach our destination or call off the search. We noticed that the trail seemed to be wider and there was evidence of 4-wheel drive traffic. Within another 500 feet we saw a "junction ahead" sign and knew we were close. Suddenly the trail opened up to a large clearing and the trail marker said we were at Baldwin Springs. We even saw the spring down over the hill and felt a real sense of accomplishment! The day was completed with a stop at Logan's in Speculator where we solved the problems of the world. On, On!!