Catskills - NY,  Hikes

Echo Lake, Catskills – 1st Solo Backpacking Trip

I was SICK of being inside after the holidays, and hubby was busy, so I planned my first solo backpacking trip for the first weekend of 2019. I say solo, but I did bring my 140 lb love of a dog Nova with me.
I love snowshoeing, and hadn’t gotten to go yet this 2018/2019 winter season, so when planning this trip, I wanted to aim North, like the Adirondacks. However, I knew the High Peaks had been slammed with snow and cold, and I didn’t want to subject Nova to that, nor did I want to drive that much! I decided to aim for the more southern areas of the ADK’s and chose the Lake George Area.


I am apparently a “go big or go home” person when it comes to challenging myself… My first solo backpacking trip was in the winter, with a 140lb dog, and I wanted to do around 8 miles a day… I chose the Tongue Mountain Range because the photos looks gorgeous, and it was around the mileage that I had wanted to cover. I got all of my crap and Nova in the car and headed off around 6AM to Lake George!

Nova and I arrived around 9:30AM, it took me much longer than normal to get my boots and gaiters, then get Nova all geared up with her jacket and backpack!
We set off at 9:51 and I kid you not 42 seconds into the “hike” before we even hit the trial head, Nova climbs herself up a little 3′ berm on the side of the road and poops…  I then, like any good pet owner have to pick it up!… I attempt to crawl up this little leaf and snow covered berm with my significantly larger and heavier bag then normal while Nova keeps trying to pull me towards the trail head! I do manage to pick up her poop, waddle back to the car to put the bag on my bumper for safe keeping.
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Finally I think we are all ready to go and we head back towards the trail head…
We start hiking, and I notice Nova’s back paws slip out from under her a little. Imagine a cars tires spinning out. I tell my self that if I see her do that 4 more times we will turn around and head out… Probably 30 steps after I make that decision I see her paws do it again and I fall HARD! (Yay gravity! An extra 45# on your back makes you fall that much harder.)
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After my fall I put my micro spikes on and kept moving. I felt bad that I had nothing for Nova’s feet to help her with traction on this snow covered ice. Being the awesome dog she is, Nova didn’t seem to mind the ice and how slick the trail was, she is just happy to be hiking!
I kept count and at slip number five we hit the sign to either turn up toward 5th peak, or hug the shore of Lake George before the accent.
00000img_00000_burst20190105101318778_coverimg_20190107_185216_861I tried to rationalize if there was ANY logical reason that it would be more icy on this low section of the trail and that accenting towards the 5th peak lean-to would be an okay option. I couldn’t come up with any reason, and made the very difficult decision to turn back towards the car, with no clue on where we would be hiking or if I just wasted all of that time and gas driving up north for no reason!
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In the Adirondacks that day we hiked for a total of 0.73 miles over 18 minutes and 50 seconds.
While back at my car I considered my options… hike somewhere else in the Adirondacks, with the likely chance that those trails are icy too, research another hike (oh wait, I had no cell service at the trail head, and no other maps with me!), or head home royally pissed off that I didn’t actually backpack by my self…
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The only map I had for our new plan!

I realized that I had actually did have another map, sort of… I had taken a picture of another hike in the Catskills that was recommended to me by a fellow Women Who Hike member. The hike was to Echo Lake!
The Echo Lake hike was in the Catskills, which I assumed would be far enough south to not be quite this icy! We pulled out of the parking lot with no cell service, re-tracing out route in hoping that it was the right way to get to the new hike.
Eventually I got service again and was able to map to the Overlook Parking lot. We re-traced our drive from that morning about 2 hours and arrived at the Overlook parking lot around 1PM.
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My feet post panic in the parking lot!

I will not sugar coat this… I stepped out of the car onto a sheet of ice and panicked. I immediately called Zack in near tears… I had just driven more than 5 hours to have MORE ice?! Zack did not answer, and I had a decision to make. Do I panic and leave LIVID? I decided to assess the situation a little more. I left Nova in the car, put on my micro-spikes, and walked towards the trail head. To my great relief the parking lot was the only sheet of ice, the trail not 20′ away was just a dirt path. No ice, we were good!
I got Nova and myself together, took my snowshoes off my pack, and lightened Nova’s load from two 1.5L Nalgenes to two 1L Nalgenes. We started hiking at 1:16PM. Normally I would HATE to start hiking that late in the day, but lucky for fate, this hike was just about 4 miles, and only about 1000′ of elevation gain, so I knew we could handle that before the early January sunset.
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Signs at the Overlook Parking lot trail head! – Might have stretched that “No Horse” rule!

The first 2 miles for this trail are all uphill, 1,000′ and are essentially on a dirt road.IMG_20190105_133603.jpg
 
Nova did not mind the dirt road, just my pace as per the usual…

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Nova approaching the old (and abandoned) Catskill Hotel at the top!

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As you can see in these photos, it was an overcast day, so I decided to not hike the extra half mile to the fire tower & overlooks. Nova and I turned off and started to make our way towards our destination Echo Lake!
The trail we turned down was actually like a trail, Narrow and surrounded by trees! Woot woot! I totally got a second wind and was super excited about what we would come across as we hiked down! I also noticed that my heals were hurting, but we were both too excited to give that a second thought…
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We reached Echo Lake! (If you look really hard you can see the lean-to up ahead of Nova!)

We arrived down by the lake just 2hrs and 15 minutes! We read the posted sign, and saw that there were 7 camp sites. I was a good girl despite now REALLY feeling what was going on with my heals, and hiked to camp area #1 and started to set up my tent (by myself for the first time). IMG_20190106_083547.jpg
I was very grateful to have the lake to myself while setting up the tent for a few reasons.

  1. No one could see me and there for judge me for how LAZY I being, and then subsequently tell me “I told you so, when my laziness came back to bite me…”
  2. Wrangling Nova by myself while setting up a camp would have been quite the challenge, she just wanted to smell, and I just wanted to take my boots off!


Nova continued to smell around as I pulled out food supplies and got ready to make some dinner! After dinner I was able to finally feel like I could settle down. I walked with Nova along the shore a little and let her drink and go in the water.

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After relaxing by the shore I cleaned up dinner and Nova set herself up quite nicely, perched up on a rock to oversee her kingdom.

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We crawled into the tent and started to settle in.
I did my best to try and calm Nova, but I think the flapping tent (which I eventually fixed by actually staking the tent down) combined the fact that it was just me (she is protective of me) made her stay on alert for most of the first few hours we rested in the tent.

Over the course of the night… we heard some creature howel in the night… slightly overcame my horrible fear of the dark (Yay Luci String Lights awesome xmas gift from Cait!)… had a few potty breaks (OMG the Kula Cloth folded in my pocket made this SO much easier!), and eventually snuggled up next to each other and slept.
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I should have taken care of this and not just taken a photo!!!

We awoke in the morning to light snow! I also woke up and noticed my feet, and immediately hid them into my sock and boots. I stupidly did NOT take care of my blisters as I should have, and regretted that decision for the following two weeks! (Should have put moleskin on those bad boys!)
I immediately woke up and started packing us up for our journey back to the car! Packing everything up by my self was pretty straight forward. I was certainly NOT as neat packing with Nova staring at me in the tent as I was at home, so it did not all perfectly go back in my pack. I did give Nova the opportunity to carry a little more on the way out #badmom!IMG_20190106_082633
The lake looked beautiful with the sun/clouds and the icey cover!
We began hiking up and out of our little secluded spot and towards the car. I again immediately began to get warm and hiked out in a 3/4 sleeve quick-dry shirt and my vest!
The trail looked beautiful as the snow was coming down! I was very happy with myself for the rate at which I hiked out of the little echo lake area and up onto the path back to Overlook Mountain!

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As Nova and I hiked up I trailed behind Nova, pleading that she cut me some slack (or maybe me pleading with myself to not be so hard on myself for my pace). We hiked up and I was happily at ease with everything! What an INCREDIBLE feeling!

If anyone is a sponge-bob fan I hope you appreciate this one…
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That’s right Nova, the pioneers used to ride these babies for miles!

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This is what falling on ice/snow looks like…

We made it up the ~1000′ (~2.5 miles) in just over an hour, which I was very pleased with! Yes, I know I will never break any land speed records, and I am OK with that!
This area started to get icy, but I thought I would be OK without my micro spikes…
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Trail & sign leading to Echo Lake!
At this point on the trip I saw my first human beings since mid-day the day before! We started to hike down at the same pace as another solo backpacker and we began chatting. He had been out on the trail since the middle of the week and we were both happy to chat! For some reason I find chatting with strangers on the trail to usually be quite fun/interesting! I think it is because there is already a clear common interest. We made out way back to the car pretty quickly. I was very happy with how I did on my first solo backpacking trip and even more excited to be back in a warm car!
Once I got home and showered I got to see the real carnage from being lazy and not taking care of my feet. Below is proof that you should ALWAYS listen to your body and try to fix something, not ignore it and let it get worse!
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Don’t be like me, take care of your feet!

 
Some Lessons Learned:
Initially while setting up the tent, I did not feel like dealing with the stakes… So I just tossed our bed set-ups in the tent and started to get dinner going… That soon turned into just putting in a few stakes… which in the middle of the night, as it got windy, I decided to properly stake the entire tent… Which is what I SHOULD have done from the beginning… and now we know, lesson learned…
I also packed in a 3 season tent, that is completely mesh on the top. Zack and I both decided this should suffice for this trip. Plus our 3 season tent is lighter and packs smaller (2 person instead of 3 person)! That was probably also a poor decision… Nova seemed to be plenty warm the entire night, but I got quite chilled (I think from sweating too much, and not initially drying myself properly). I think our closed top tent would have made the difference in keeping me a bit warmer and giving me a better night sleep.
Thoughts I had while hiking this 2 miles:

  • Wow, I hope I never gain 45lbs this is terrible, my little legs were NOT designed to do this.
  • I hate the dark, why the hell am I hiking into a place with no lights alone.
  • This area is flat, why don’t I camp out here? It would save me all of that walking!
  • Why am I so sweaty it is raining/snowing?!
  • Oh no, I am in a tank top and vest, these people hiking down must think I am insane.

I learned a lot about myself while hiking along. I ABSOLUTELY talk to myself, like out loud, as if I need to hear it with my ears not just in my head. I am my own worst enemy and spent half of my time thinking about why I should/could stop and give up/turn around/camp where I was instead of reaching my goal. I also learned that I CAN overcome the voice inside my head telling me to stop. We made it to Echo Lake, and it was SO worth the extra effort. Not only was it beautiful, but I was able to prove to myself that I could do it!

HIKE RATING: 7/10 ~ 2 days ~ 8 miles and 2,000 ft of elevation gain

I would recommend always being cautious. I am very happy to have driven the extra 4 hours and not have pushed Nova and I in the icy conditions that we faced in the Adirondacks. We wound up doing a wonderful hike in the Catskills and we were both safer and in a better position because of it. Sometimes the hardest choices are the best ones to make.

TECHNICAL: Attempted 1/5-1/6/2019

  • Saturday:
    • 9:51 AM – Clay Meadow Trailhead 
    • Nova slips and I slip.
    • ~0.3 miles we arrive at the sign heading to 5th Peak Lean Too and I decide it is not a good idea and we turn around and hike out. BoltonHiking
  •  Saturday – Take 2:
    • 1:16 PM – Depart from Overlook Mountain Trail Head
    • Hike 2 mi & 1000′ of elevation gain to the Overlook Mountain House Ruins, all of this is essentially on a rugged dirt road.
    • Hike 2.1 mi & ~ 900′ of elevation loss to Echo Lake, all of this section is on more of a trail/in the woods
    • 3:30 PM Arrive at Echo Lake camp site #1. EcholakeSaturday
  •  Sunday:
    • Wake up around Sunrise ~7:20AM
    • 8:30 AM – Begin hiking out of the Echo Lake area
    • Hike ~2.1 mi & 900′ of elevation gain to the Overlook Mountain House Ruins
    • Hike ~ 2 mi & 1000′ of elevation loss back to the Overlook Mountain Trailhead
    • 10 AM – Arrive at the car!EcholakeSunday.PNG

FINAL RECOMMENDATIONS & SUGGESTIONS:

  • Be flexible. Plans do not always work out. Be willing to adjust your plans!
  • Do not be stubborn and do not give up!
  • You can be your own worst enemy when it comes to motivation, but remember why your out there and why you love it!
  • Take care of your feet, don’t be lazy!
  • Do not half-ass setting up your tent, you will wind up spending more energy re-fixing it than if you just took the time to do it right initially!

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