“So the heart of Pharoah was hard; neither would he let the children of Israel go, as the Lord had spoken by Moses.”
Well, the heart of Pharoah might have been hard toward the Israelites, but Pharoah Lake Wilderness in the Eastern Adirondacks was especially kind to those of us who ventured out this past May 4-7. I had the great priviledge of spending 4 days there with my brothers in Christ – Paul (with sons Sean, Matt, Bryan and Josh), Matt (with sons Sam and Barry), and Dave (with son Noah),as well as Josh Gordan.
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Group shot at Putnam Pond
Sometimes the hardest part of hiking is the actual drive to the trailhead. Once we left New Jersey and it’s thunder showers behind, the miles seemed to fly by. After we reached our exit on the Northway we split into two groups. Paul took one car to the Putnam Pond trailhead, while Dave followed me to the Crane Pond trailhead. Dave would be leaving us a day early due to some personal obligations, so we spotted him for an early exit.
Once we rejoined our group at Putnam Pond two things were evident – spirits were high, and the black flies were abundant. Thankfully, as long as we were moving the flies were mostly a very minor annoyance.
And so it begins
I have never hiked the Pharoah Lake Wilderness, so I was very surprised at how dry the trails were. I expected a lot of wet hiking since the area has a large number of lakes. Instead we were greeted with beautiful trail, and a rather pleasant day for a walk in the woods.
Well maintained trail
The best part was that there was water everywhere, so I only had to carry 1 liter at a time, instead of my usual 2 liters.
Noah makes a friend
Outlet of Grizzly Ocean
Even though the mileage was modest, day one was tough due to work and the long drive. Everyone was glad to finally see Pharoah Lake lean-to #3, but then who wouldn’t be with such a gorgeous view. There before us was Pharoah Lake spread out just 50 feet in front of the lean-to, with Pharoah Mountain setting the backdrop for an impressive finish to day one. This truly is God’s country!
Life is good!
A few of the younger guys decided to fish, and they caught a couple of good lake trout. Noah decided a swim was in order. There’s certainly something to be said for youth. The rest of us set about cooking and setting up camp.
Try as I may, I had to give up the fight and I hit the sack with the last of the sunlight slowly fading. At some point during the night it rained hard, but that was the only rain we would see the entire trip.
View from my hammock
I have to admit, it was really nice to sleep in, and I finally got up around 8am. I think I can get used to this hammock hanging thing. By the time I got moving everyone was up and about, and the coffee drinkers were getting their first cuppa down. Normally I don’t actually cook breakfast, but when I planned my meals for this trip blueberry pancakes sounded good. The only problem is they don’t cook well on a Vargo Jet Ti stove. The heat pattern concentrated the heat in the middle, so the center was over cooked while the edges were just getting done. Plan B was to eat my day 4 breakfast and figure the rest out later. In the end it all worked out.
After we packed up Paul led us in the word with a study from 1 Kings 2:
“Now the days of David drew near that he should die, and he charged Solomon his son, saying: I go the way of the earth; be strong, therefore, and prove yourself a man. And keep the charge of the Lord your God: to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His judgements, and His testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn”
What better message could a father pass along to his son? And what could be better than to spend time in the word in such a beautiful place? This is something we would repeat each morning, and I personally believe every morning should start this way.
As we readied ourselves for the day ahead a decision needed to be made – do we follow our original itinerary and cross Pharoah Mountain, or do we take a shorter and easier route up through Glidden Marsh? Looking across the lake Pharoah’s summit was socked in a cloud, so we decided not to waste our energy making the climb up a viewless Pharoah. Given that we (meaning the older members) were still a little tired from day 1, the route through Glidden Marsh turned out to be the right decision.
We hiked to Split Rock Bay, at the top of the lake, and grabbed a quick meal. Soon after a steep climb took us to the height of the land were we would pass a number of beaver ponds.
Matt took the group on ahead as Paul, Sean, Matt, Dave and I ambled along at a leisurely pace. Soon enough we turned away from Glidden Marsh and made the short climb to Oxshue Pond, where once again the setting could be nothing less than God inspired.
Oxshue Pond and lean-to
One of the advantages of sleeping in is that even though our mileage was reasonably low each day, we still wouldn’t get to camp too early. Each day we strolled in around mid afternoon, leaving the boys enough time to enjoy fishing and exploring, while everyone else set up camp and started dinner. After dinner, firewood was gathered, and everyone started to wind down. This backpacking thing is a simple existance if you allow it to be. No cell reception, no noise pollution, no worries. A lake, a tarp, a warm sleeping bag, the sound of the coyotes and the loons, and of course (at least at Oxshue Pond) the serinade of hundreds of tree frogs at dark. Life is good!
It cooled down during the night, and while everyone else was toasty, I spent a fitfully chilly night in the hammock. This was only my third night hanging, and I had some things to learn. That’s ok because I’m a fast learner, lol. I stopped trying to get comfortable and finally decided to get up around 7-ish.
Mountain House no cook scrambled eggs with bacon were on the menu this morning, and they are one of my favorite breakfasts. The warm food did much to warm my bones, along with some tea from Matt (I forgot mine). About this time a couple of guys paddled up the pond (they had camped at Crane Pond the night before) and took out right at our campsite. They would be doing a portagé to Horseshoe Pond. I have to admit I was somewhat intrigued by the prospect of carrying a pack AND a canoe up the same trail we would be hiking. It did help that their canoes weighed 12 and 17 pounds, but still!
After everyone packed up it was Matt’s turn to share from the word. 1 Kings chapter 3 was the place to be as Matt spoke of Solomons request for wisdom:
” Your servant is in the midst of Your people whom You have chosen, a great people, too numerous to be numbered or counted. Therefore give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours? The speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing.”
Lord grant unto me not only the wisdom to discern good and evil, but also the heart to do what is right in Your eyes!
Finally it was time to move on. Dave and Noah would be hiking out at this point, so we said our goodbyes and parted ways. We had a great time with them and they would be missed.
Crab Pond outlet
A short walk along the Short Swing Trail brought us to the outlet of Crab Pond and more amazing views. The entire walk today was along pleasant trail and it just felt like a perfect day to take a hike. It was a little more hilly today, but nothing you could call tough.
We stopped to take a break at the junction to Rock Pond for snacks and to regroup, but the black flies made sure it was a short one. One tenth of a mile later we came to Lily Pad Pond lean-to, which overlooks it’s namesake pond – who put me in charge of the map? Before we knew it we were at Rock Pond. Again, we had a decision to make – camp here or push on to Clear Pond. It wasn’t a very tough decision actually, it was early and the lean-to at Rock Pond was occupied so onward we went.
This proved to be an excellent choice. After skirting the pond and crossing a low ridge we finally came to Clear Pond. What an amazing place to call home for the night. Not 50 yards in front of the lean-to a penisula juts out onto the lake, making for a perfect place to fish, take a swim, or just take it all in.
Looking out from Clear Pond lean-to
Everyone decided to cook down by the lake and take the views in, but I was a little chilled and tired, so I layed down on the floor of the lean-to and half dozed while waiting for my water to boil. A tasty dinner of Hawk Vittles Baked Beans provided the warmth and energy I needed, and setting up my hammock for the last time went from chore to blessing.
By this time everyone had finished eating, and Matt and Paul took the group on a hunt for firewood. Normally a campsite this easily accessible is a shambles, but this site was beautiful, clean, and well maintained. The only issue was a lack of firewood. A short walk over the hill (too much effort for most visitors, I guess) solved the problem as everyone came back with armfuls of wood.
One last campfire
I was determined to stay up as late as possible to ensure a good nights sleep, and it was great to enjoy this last campfire together. At some point we all started to get a little giddy and I threatened to start telling cheesy jokes if things didn’t settle down. How do you catch a unique rabbit? Unique up on him! Good times.
What a glorious day! I had the best nights sleep and was up early and refreshed. Slowly the camp started to show signs of life.
Matt, Barry and Sam sleeping in
I went down to the water to listen to the loons – their call is beautiful and yet haunting. I’m not much of a birdwatcher, but I can’t get enough of their call. It just adds to the experience for me.
Remember I said my day 4 breakfast would work out? Turns out Paul had about 10 packs of uneaten Ramen noodles and I happily took two packs off his hands. I think ramen might become a breakfast regular for me!
After we were mostly packed up it was my turn to share in the word. Luke 15, and the parable of the prodigal son was this mornings destination, as I spoke of God’s faithfulness:
“But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I haved sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand , and sandals on his feet. And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”
We serve an awesome God! He’ll meet you wherever you are and restore you if you will come with a contrite heart. Never underestimate the love of the Father.
Day 4 and still smiling
The hike out was short one, just 2.4 miles, but it was ever bit as enjoyable as each of the previous three days. At one point, since it was Monday, Paul started singing The Mamas and The Papas Monday Morning . Matt and I started hamonizing (fa la, la la la la), but at some point Paul realized that was all the help we were giving since only he knew the words.
The hike out was over before we knew it, and our next goal was Golden Corral for the lunch buffet. In the end what can I say, we had the campsites to ourselves every night ( a rare feat in the crowded northeast), the company was the best, and the weather was perfect. I’m sure we’ll be back soon!