On October 11th, I started the Cranberry Lake 50 with my husband and two of our closest friends. Due to an unforeseen circumstance, we had to stop about 13 miles short of our goal, but we still had a great time overall. All we have left to do is the High Falls Loop and then we will be able to get our completion patches. Here is a breakdown of how each day went!
On Monday we started out by leaving Long Island at 5:30am. Once we got to the parking lot in Wanakena it was about 1pm. My dad lives nearby and just happened to be kayaking in the area so he saw us off. After we were on our way we crossed the Wanakena Footbridge, and then did a decent amount of road walking until we reached the trail at the SUNY ESF Ranger School. Due to our later start and the location of the campsites, we did between five and six miles the first day before setting up camp. The campsite was along the Peavine Swamp Trail. This was not on the lake but it did have a stream nearby for us to fill up our water filter bags. It also had some great trees to use for hanging up food to avoid drawing in bears at night.
On Tuesday we did ~10 miles from our campsite on the Peavine Trail to campsite 8 on Brandy Brook Flow. This section was also fairly flat and included some road walking. During this stretch we went along the Lost Pond Nature Trail, the Oswegatchie River Walk and then went through the town of Cranberry Lake. Unfortunately, most of the businesses in Cranberry Lake were closed for the season, so the much desired Gatorade never happened. The Brandy Brook Flow campsite we got was directly on the water. The water was great for refilling our filter bags and for a well earned (fully clothed) trail bath. Tuesday was the only night where I was able to get pictures of a beautiful ADK sunset.
This was the first night that we had encountered other campers. Luckily this area had several campsites set up so there are plenty of places to stay without doubling up. However, should doubling up be necessary, the site we used had more than enough room to accommodate multiple tents. Always Remember: It is good practice to share your site with fellow hikers should the need arise to ensure the health and safety of others (this will be important soon).
Wednesday ended up being the hardest day of the trip by far. The terrain was mostly flat our first two days but Wednesday felt the need to make up for that. There was a lot of elevation changes and it was also planned out to be our longest day (we had a goal of about 12 miles or so). We stopped for a decent break at Dog Pond to rest and filter more water. While we stopped we saw two other couples. The first couple was going in the opposite direction and also refilled their water filtration systems. The other couple sat on the trail to the campsite we were resting at in hopes that “we would just leave”. That was not the last time we saw that particular couple.
After a long, exhausting day we made it to Chair Rock Flow at about 5:30pm. We had given ourselves just enough time to set up camp before dark. We noticed that the couple from before had already made it to the campsite, but as it was a large site, we asked if we could share it with them. The husband became very rude and told us to “try 100 feet down the trail” for another site. When we said that the next site was in two miles he just shrugged at us and sent us on our way. What he did not realize was that he just sent us off to descend a boulder field in the dark. There were no sites available to stealth camp so we had to press on another two miles mostly in the dark..
By the time we set up camp Wednesday night we were too exhausted to even eat and the sun was long gone. I enjoyed a “gourmet” dinner of Sweetarts and two plain tortillas. Due to the darkness we were unable to find the official site so we stealth camped on the shore of the West Flow. Our total mileage for the day ended up being around 15.5 difficult miles. We were incredibly lucky that none of us were seriously injured during our night hiking. If you are ever in a situation where fellow hikers request to share your site to avoid hiking in the dark I sincerely hope you have more decency than the man we encountered Wednesday night.
Unfortunately, Thursday ended up being a very low mileage day. We were so mentally and physically exhausted from the day before that we only accomplished about two miles. This portion of the trail still had some elevation changes and my legs were not able to handle it. There was also a lot of beaver activity in the area which was trying to submerge much of the trail. For the sake of safety we decided to spend the day at Olmstead Pond.
Olmstead Pond has a lovely lean-to that was very accommodating to us in our time of need. It was most likely due to the exhaustion but I found this lodging to be better than any hotel I have stayed at! We used a clothesline and the fire to dry our gear. Although it was a low mileage day, Thursday was probably the most fun day of the whole trip. We all got to sit around the campfire while enjoying each other’s company. I also treated myself to a spam and cheese burrito (don’t knock it until you try it).
One of my favorite things to do when I’m in a lean-to is to check the journal that is kept inside. This journal did not disappoint! I would like to thank Sam Eddy, the man who appears to be in charge of maintaining the lean-to. He is doing an amazing job.
Due to our low mileage the day before we chose to bail out via the Janack’s Landing trail on Friday. I had an obligation Saturday evening and there was no way for us to finish in time. Our legs were in much better shape after resting the day before but the amount of miles we covered were catching up to us. The first few miles were very muddy thanks to the beavers and it was nearly impossible to keep our feet dry. There was also a moderate amount of ups and downs along this stretch.
Once we got to Dead Creek Flow the terrain leveled off quite a bit but there was a still large amount of beaver activity. They had fully submerged the trail in one spot and we had to find our way around the flooding so we could pick the trail back up again.
By the time we made it out of the woods it was about 4pm. My husband and I stopped at the Circle K in Star Lake for a large victory dinner before heading to my Dad’s for a much needed shower. Friday happened to be my 25th birthday so I was happy to spend it with my friends and sneak in a bonus visit with my family. I was also happy to be inside for the thunderstorm that hit Friday night.
This trail was difficult but seriously fun! I could not have picked a better group of people to go with. While I may not be doing anything this long again for a while (my feet need some healing time) I would definitely try my hand at this again in the future. Everyone I met on trail (with the exception of one person) were wonderful people. It was great learning about myself and I look forward to my next challenge! Below are the maps of the route we took: