At Least for A Night
The 2007 winter trip brought a return to Tirrell Pond near Blue Mountain Lake. Tirrell was the destination of the 2004 trip. The 2005 and 2006 trips were made to Stephen’s Pond in the same general area, so the 2007 trip made it four consecutive years that the starting point for the trip was the pullover on Route 28 near Lake Durant state campground just a couple of miles from Blue Mountain Lake. Cascade Pond near Blue Mountain Lake was also the destination of a couple of NCMC winter trips in the past, so it’s been the venue for at least six expeditions.
Bill and David couldn’t make the 2007 trip, so Jay, Jack and Tom made up the team. They met at the trailhead for Tirrell at about 2 p.m. on a cold and sunny Friday afternoon. It had been a terrible winter in the Adirondacks until not long before the trip, with little snow and unseasonable warmth, as was the case throughout the Northeast. The Tirrell Pond area, however, had been the recent beneficiary of late winter “lake effect” storms off Lake Ontario. The warm winter had delayed the onset of lake cooling and freezing, allowing for moisture from the lake to be dumped as snow.
The three campers quickly packed for the trip and headed in to Tirrell. In a break with tradition, all three selected snowshoes for the hike rather than skis, no doubt a concession to advancing age. The snow was quite deep in the woods and, although the trail had been broken by other snowshoers, they still sank in a bit as the somewhat packed snow was compressed further by the hikers and their heavy packs. With the temperature in the teens, the campers were soon sweating. The only person they encountered on the trail was a young man post-holing back to the trailhead after scouting a rocky face for ice climbing.
Having gotten a late start, they didn’t arrive at the lean-to near the outlet of Tirrell Pond until it was almost dark. The lean-to was a new one that had replaced the one that the NCMCers had camped at in 2004. Unfortunately for them, the new shelter was in a new spot that caught the full brunt of the cold, stiff breeze coming down the pond. There was a big snowdrift at the front of the lean-to and quite a bit of snow had been blown into the shelter. They swept the snow out and moved in. They also set up their kitchen in the lee of the shelter, so they would have a chance of keeping their stoves lit. Jack had brought some camp dinners of the pour-boiling-water-in-the-plastic-bag-of-dried-stuff-and-stir variety. He said that the salesman at Eastern Mountain Sports had raved about it. After sampling the offering, Tom concluded that the raver had probably sampled the stuff following a bong-toking session in the store’s backroom with his fellow granola heads, which had led to the munchies. In fairness, however, the cold and wind made following the meal’s recipe challenging. Jay, who has made many a fine dinner for the club’s winter trips, was no doubt seriously non-plussed at the quality of the dinner.
With the wind continuing to blow well after dark, they crawled into the their bags and went to bed. As he lay on his back, Tom noticed that the wind was blowing snow on his face. He turned this way and that, but it didn’t seem to matter. In the morning, they had a light layer of snow on their bags from the wind’s work overnight. It was fairly cold, and the wind was still blowing down the lake.
They hung around the lean-to and had a meager breakfast of coffee and oatmeal. At some point Jay, who was no doubt starving, opined that he had no intention of remaining in this windy camp with lousy food for another night. Tom looked for a signal from Jack of agreement or dissent with Jay’s pronouncement. There was none, as Jack was keeping his cards close to his vest.
Eventually, Tom and Jack decided to ski down the lake and do some skiing on the trail that led toward Blue Mountain. They put on their skis and headed off. When they got to the far end of the lake it was like they had skied into spring. The sun was shining brightly and the hills rising up just past the shore of the lake blocked the wind that had been battering them at the lean-to. They entered the woods, found the trail and skied to the lean-to that sat near that end of the lake. The lean-to was occupied by four campers who were moving in after traveling in from the trail off Route 30 near the Adirondack Museum. They had all dragged their gear in on sleds, and they had a lot of it, including plenty of whisky. Tom and Jack each had a sip to be neighborly. The campers were also creating a woodpile that looked like it was going to be about as big as the lean-to. Tom imagined the group sitting on the edge of their lean-to, protected from the wind, sweating in front of their bonfire and sipping bourbon on a starry night.
Tom and Jack left the campers and skied along the trail that led to Route 30. The snow and weather were perfect for the ski. After heading up hill for a while, they turned back to enjoy the downhill schuss and were soon back out on the sunny lake. They did the old kick-and-glide back to the lean-to, where the sun and calm air of the other end of the lake was replaced by the gloom that shrouded the lean-to and the wind that whined around it.
At this point, the threesome decided to pack up and head out to the Semler retreat at Saranac Inn. They packed quickly and donned their snowshoes for the slog out, headlamps at the ready in the deepening gloom. Walking at their own pace, the three snowshoers soon had space between them, with Jay leading the way and Tom in the middle of the group. At one potnt Tom heard someone behind him and thought that Jack was coming up to him. He turned, however, to see a young man walking alone with little gear. He was part of group that was doing a series of one-way winter hikes, and he was going to be picked up on Route 28 by his friends. Tom let him pass and he soon caught up to Jay. Rather than pass Jay, however, he simply walked in step behind him. Tom figured that Jay figured that he (Tom) was behind him (Jay). This went on for a bit until Jay finally turned around or spoke to the guy and realized it wasn’t Tom, and the hiker then passed Jay and was off into the darkness ahead. It was dark and cold when the NCMCers got back out to the highway and headed off to Jack’s house in Saranac Inn. They stopped in a dismal-looking Tupper Lake to pick up a pizza and some beer, and they enjoyed the food and drink, enjoy along with the warmth of a fire in the woodstove, at the Semler house.
On Sunday morning they went for a ski on the truck trail, which they could walk to from the house. Their goal was Fish Pond, and they probably got fairly close before turning around. Someday soon they will actually complete a day ski to Fish Pond. They encountered some other skiers on the trail, as the snow and weather were perfect, and also chatted with a couple of experienced-looking winter campers who had been camping at the aforementioned Fish Pond. The campers acknowledged having been as cold at Fish Pond as the NCMCers were at Tirrell Pond. Admittedly, they had toughed it out for the second night, but they did not have the option of the warm and comfortable Clubhouse on Kimpton Road!
Gallery: Tirrell Pond 2007