ADK #5 - Touring the Lowlands

6-30-17 – 7-6-27

The Northville-Placid Trail

I decided that it might be a good idea to take a little break from the mountains and check out what happens below the majestic high peaks. So a little 7 day stroll on a 135 mile trail from Northville, NY to Lake Placid, NY.

Day 1 – Starting in the Rain

I thought I was going to be out of the mountains, but there was still a good amount of climbing and huffing and puffing. Having a full pack on my back did not help at all. The trail was well marked and fairly easy to follow and it looked like it was going to be a nice, easy hike. Then the skies opened and the thundered clapped and the rain fell. And fell. And fell. And within 30 minutes I was soaked, crossing rivers, and wondering when by boots would ever be dry.

Eventually the rain stopped and I found a nice place to camp for the night next to a family of four with a dog.

The sunset over Woods Lake was wonderful.


The prayer for the day was from Tomas Aquinas:

God of all goodness, grant us to desire ardently, to seek wisely, to know surely, and to accomplish perfectly your holy will, for the glory of your name. Amen

It seemed like a good prayer for this different, quest-like trip that I was starting.


Day 2 – More Rain

Feeling somewhat dry (except for my boots) and full of energy I started off trying to ignore the low clouds rolling over the lake. On the way I met two guys (brothers-in-law) hiking the trail together and an engineer constantly trying to figure out a way to improve the efficiency of the trail. Just before lunch the skies opened again and we were blessed to experience an encore of yesterday’s rain antics. I managed to make it to a lean-to just in time by the brothers-in-arms and the engineer did not. Alas. I was hoping that lunch would outlast the rain but no luck, and we all had to head back out into the rain.


I started to worry that maybe God had forgotten the promise about the flood and the rainbow and all that, but did not share my concerns with others.

On the way to the lean-to that we were planning on staying at for the night (no one wanted to set up a tent in that kind of rain) I passed a group of four – two sets of fathers and sons – who were also heading to the same lean-to. This would mean 8 people in what is not a very open space. Yet with the use of a hammock we somehow did it.

We ended up staying at Mud Lake – hoping the name was not a foreboding sign.

Aquinas’ prayer for the day seemed even more fitting with the rain. Somehow I needed to ask God to be made patient. Somehow.

Make me, O my God, humble without pretense, cheerful without levity, serious without dejection, grave without moroseness, active without frivolity, truthful without duplicity, fearful of thee without despair, trustful of thee without presumption, chaste without depravity, able to correct my neighbor without angry feeling, and by word and example to edify him without pride, obedient without gainsaying, patient without murmuring.

Day 3 – Fire trucks and High Water

I said good bye to the father/sons and to the brothers-in-arms (they were hiking at a different pace) and made off with the engineer to the next lean-to for the night. We got to cross a pretty nicely made bridge.


The trail took us through the town of Piseco, which meant three miles of walking on the road. Bleh. I was hoping for a New England type hamlet with a town green, Italian Ice vendor, and jazz band, but no luck. Just lots of road and sun… and a Fire Truck:


At the next trailhead the engineer decided to let me loose – I wanted to go a little farther and at a slightly faster pace then he did, and we said our goodbyes.

Much rain makes for high waters and there were multiple times when I had to take off my boots, but on my sandals and cross streams. Tricky and not fun and time consuming. But I guess this is all part of the experience.

I finally made it to Spruce Lake where I was going to spend the night. I had a tip that I needed to pass the first and second lean-tos and made it to the third one which had a great view of the Lake. There I met Caps, an outdoor enthusiast who kept referring to Downstate NY as “The South.”


We had a loon visit us multiple time – birds of a feather…

The prayer from Aquinas seemed to put the purpose of the trip (and overall experience) in proper perspective. I am searching and wondering and looking for a sense of who I am, who God is, and what that all means. Three days into this trip I started to really wonder if I would ever find answers. I suppose the desire to continue asking is the good thing.

Grant me, I beseech thee, almighty and merciful God, fervently to desire, wisely to search out, truly to acknowledge, and perfectly to fulfill, all that is well-pleasing to thee. Order thou my worldly condition to the honor and glory of thy name; and of all that thou requires me to do, grant me the knowledge, the desire, and the ability, that I may so fulfill it as I ought, and as is expedient for the welfare of my soul.

Day 4 – Great Canada Lakes!

I would say that this section was the most breathtaking (aside from Cold River). I entered the West Canada Lake section of the wilderness. I took a moment, sung the O’ Canada that I knew (about one line) and continued on. To see lakes that are deep in the wilderness is an amazing and wonderful blessing.


It was also on this day that I passed what I think was the halfway mark of the trail


Other than that it was a fairly good day. I camped near another lake (Cedar River Flow) with lots of bugs and more loons. Minus the bugs it was a good spot.

I am always weary about a prayer for chastity, but wondered if perhaps it is not only abstaining from sex but abstaining from that which gets in the way of my relationship with God. That meant I needed to do more thinking and digging into my own deep thoughts. Thanks Aquinas.

Dearest Jesus! I know well that every perfect gift, and above all others that of chastity, depends upon the most powerful assistance of Thy Providence, and that without Thee a creature can do nothing. Therefore, I pray Thee to defend, with Thy grace, chastity and purity in my soul as well as in my body. And if I have ever received through my senses any impression that could stain my chastity and purity, do Thou, Who art the Supreme Lord of all my powers, take it from me, that I may with an immaculate heart advance in Thy love and service, offering myself chaste all the days of my life on the most pure altar of Thy Divinity. Amen

Day 5 – The Wall

Everyone hits a wall. Sometimes on purpose. Today was my wall. In the middle of the night my glasses broke – I had no great story about fighting a wild animal or scrambling up a cliff, they just broke. It was a discouraging moment. I was also developing blisters. I was starting to get lonely. I was starting to not want to be on the trail.

I have a problem in that I hike too fast. This makes me push my body more than I should and this added to my exhaustion. So this day I hit a wall and wanted to be done. But I still had almost halfway to go.

Today was also my resupply day which meant my pack was going to get heavier.

And, it was the 4th of July.

I hiked and hiked and met a group of people who were connecting with family for burgers and beer and a shower – sigh.

I came to the place I planned on staying at (O’Neil Lean-to) and decided to continue on – it was still early.

I came to the next place and didn’t much like it and saw that it was early and decided to keep going.

I kept going until it was starting to get late and I knew I would need to stop somewhere. Then, the woods opened into a meadow with a stream going through and I knew that this would be my home for the night. So I decided to “stealth” camp. I found a good place by the trail, set up my tent, had supper, and enjoyed the sunset on the bridge in the beaver meadow. And I felt better.

Aquinas led me to pray for God to change my heart – is it possible that God can do that through nature itself?

Give me, O God, an ever watchful heart, which no subtle speculation may lure from thee. Give me a noble heart, which no unworthy affection can draw downwards to the earth. Give me an upright heart, which no insincere intention can warp. Give me a firm heart, which no tribulation can crush or quell. Give me a free heart, which no perverted or impetuous affection can claim for its own.

Day 6 – Long Lakes

More miles to go – I was beginning to think that I might be able to finish the trail a day early. My feet were full of blisters and bruises and were sore and tired, but with two 20 mile days I could be done a day early.

Today I entered into the Long Lake area – the name says it all.

While this is a spectacular lake, it didn’t have the same feeling as those which are more closed off from civilization. I was underwhelmed with the houses, boats, and planes all around the water and wanted to get away from the lake.

After a while (it is a very long lake) I crossed an amazing bridge over Cold River. Back in the deep wilderness! For three miles I walked along this river enjoying the eddies and falls and wonderful sounds until I came to the lean-to for the night – Seward. Dinner was amidst the waterfalls, but because of the bugs I slept in the tent.

Today I started prayers with John Calvin:

Grant, almighty God, that as you have, in various ways, testified and daily also prove how dear and precious to you is humanity as we enjoy daily so many and so remarkable proofs of your goodness and favor – O grant that we learn to rely wholly on your goodness, so many examples of which you set before us, and which you would have continually to experience, that we may not only pass through our earthly course, but also confidently aspire to the hope of that blessed and celestial life which is laid up for us in heaven, through Christ alone our Lord. Amen.

Day 7 – Heading Home!

I did it – in one less day then I planned. I do not think I would recommend this approach because it hurt a lot. If I were to do the trail again (and I might) I would rather take 9-10 days and do it with someone.

Midway I passed the remains of the Rondeau hermitage. It is a kind of homage to the last hermit of the Adirondack. After spending 7 days in the wilderness I felt that I could connect with his ethos.

When I got to the car I was disappointed that there was not a group of people with ice cream or a band playing or anything else of that matter. Just another trailhead. But I knew where I have been and what I have done and I could not suppress the exhausted smile on my face.

Calvin’s prayer had a benediction feel to it that seemed appropriate:

May the Lord grant that we may engage in contemplating the mysteries of his heavenly wisdom with really increasing devotion, to his glory and our edification. Amen