Waking up to a little depression on the last day of an Adirondack backcountry outing is pretty common. At least it is for me. My morning at Sitz Pond, after five days in a rarely visited part of the Park, even by the northwestern Adirondack standards, certainly is no different. The idyllic experience at Sitz the previous afternoon did not help any, nor did rhythmic, loud and obtrusive radio alarm at five in the morning.
Luckily, the bird chorus enthusiastically greets me, which brightens my spirits a little. The accompanying mosquito chorus, louder than I would ever imagine, has an opposite effect. The little pests must prefer the relatively warm and humid conditions already present this early morning. Dreading the continuous probing by hundreds of little proboscises, I roll over in my sleeping bag, putting off the inevitable struggle for just a little longer.
Date: June 22, 2013
Length: 1.2 miles (1.2 total daily miles; 16.1 total trip miles)
A tentative appointment with a work-related retirement party (who plans just things on a Saturday anyways?) in late afternoon compels me to finally emerge from the warm comfort of my sleeping bag after only a short period of procrastination.
As I pack up my sleeping gear, the day’s hiking agenda plays over within my mind, including bushwhacking back to Middle South Pond, crossing over to Upper South Pond, reintroducing myself with the terminus of the marked trail and finally hoofing it back to my car – all before noon. That just leaves the hour-long ten-mile drive out on Bear Pond Road back to civilization (i.e. a paved road) and a two-hour ride back home.
What could possibly go wrong?
After devouring my cold cereal breakfast, I break my campsite and stuff what remains of my provisions and gear into my gaunt backpack, now looking decidedly slimmer from the lack of stores consumed over the course of my trip.
Before taking off toward the South Ponds, I leave my usual backcountry breadcrumb behind – indicating the date and direction of travel with random sticks in my body’s indentation on the ground under where the tarp stood overnight.
My watch reads a quarter past seven by the time I start my slow bushwhack west along Sitz Pond’s north shore. The terrain lacks the typical aggressive slope along a remote pond, which gives me ample time to gain my bushwhacking legs.
I pass through several flat sites for potential camping, though they are more heavily vegetated than my previous site, and lack an obvious access to the water. Flat terrain remains the norm as I continue westward, making Sitz Pond’s north shore a pleasant exception to the steep slopes typically surrounding most ponds in the area.
Upon reaching the western end of Sitz Pond, I finally seek the assistance of my trusty compass, pulling it out of my light jacket and setting a bearing of about 280 degrees toward a small pond that acts as the source of Sitz Creek. The fact that the eponymous creek does not flow out of the pond that shares its name is not lost on me – whether it is a map or naming error, who can say.
Before leaving, I turn and take a quick glance back toward the pond. The surface, still and reflective, undisturbed by wind or waterfowl appears as liquid glass. Despite my short stay, this pond captures a spot on my favorite places list for the northwestern Adirondacks. I shall not soon forget it. After a short period of reflection, I turn and disappear into the forest, ready for my last bushwhacking adventure before exiting from the area.
The plan is for heading west between an open wetland to the south and the small pond to the north, with my eventual target being the northern bay of Middle South Pond. Although initially quite level, a steeper climb shortly begins, forcing me southwards where the climbing is less arduous.
Unfortunately, this small detour proves less helpful than I would like, as the surrounding mixed forest makes the climb a little more daunting, but still better than what I might encounter farther northward. As the elevation and distance from Sitz Pond increase, I hope the hardwood portion of the forest increases as well, making the going a little easier.
A leaf makes a giant leap from under my boot during my climb. As I creep closer toward its new location, I realize it is no magic leaf at all, just an ordinary green frog. I stop briefly and engage in a little small talk, but the frog proves less than an enthralling conversationalist. Apparently, it had its fill of Sitz Pond, and is now searching for a new home. Maybe it is going to a retirement party too.
Once reaching the height of land, the going becomes easier, with a gradual descent through mostly hardwood forest. The understory is rather scarce, making for some relaxing bushwhacking, but becomes increasingly thicker as the slope decreases. With the thicker understory, a clearing appears through the trees, indicating an open wetland nearby.
Struggling through the increasingly thick forest, I emerge at the edge of a rather wet, extensive and boggy clearing. Normally such a clearing is a boon, but when one appears where it should not, it quickly becomes a cause for concern. Rather than standing there dumbfounded, I retreat back into the forest, hoping to lose some of the mosquitoes, which are pulling out all the stops today. Between the humidity and the mosquitoes, it is impossible to figure out where I am or how I got here.
A nice log provides an ideal place to contemplate my error, so I shed the backpack and take a water break. A quick glance at the map and a little water is all it takes before my mistake becomes apparent. The climbing forced me to veer too far south, resulting in my reaching the wetlands that eventually feed Middle South Pond. Setting a new bearing of 70 degrees, I once again plan on attempting to thread the needle between the wet area to the south (whose edge I am at) and the small pond to the north.
Before leaving, I drink more water to replenish what has saturated my clothing. Although the air temperature is not high (the temperatures seem lower than that of the previous day at Sitz Pond), the humidity is debilitating; wading through the air feels more like swimming than anything else. The sweat sticks on my body, coating an already filthy skin and soaking my clothing. Complete overcast replaced the partly cloudy skies of early morning, with the very air screaming rain showers, most likely sooner than later.
After bushwhacking through a mostly open hardwood forest for a short while, I spot another clearing through the trees. From my position on the GPS, this clearing should be the small pond that acts as the source of Sitz Creek. The pond is long gone now, most likely along with its resident beaver. All that remains in its place is a boggy area, with a clear brook flowing through the center.
Now once again fully oriented on my USGS map, I head due west, resolute that I will stay north of any wet areas from here on out. The only hitch in my plan being that once I start to consistently climb, I need to change course to the southwest, heading directly toward Middle South Pond. From there, I can lose the compass and use the ponds as my guide back to the marked trail.
If I can manage that, I might just get to Bear Pond Road in time to make it back home and to that retirement party after all. If I get off track again though, I might just need to reassess my plans. I wish spending more time in the backcountry than I planned is a problem I dealt with more often.
Affiliate Disclaimer: Some links within this blog post may send you to a retailer’s website. If you chose to purchase any product on that site, this author may receive a small commission at no extra cost you. These commissions provide compensation for the author’s time and effort necessary to provide the content at the Bushwhacking Fool.