Okay, so a 50 mile hike barely qualifies as a long-distance hike, and this is a bit short of 50 miles actually, but I find
something deeply satisfying about a loop hike, so here’s the story.
Cranberry Lake is in the Adirondacks in New York. The lake itself is accessible by road so that power boats can cruise the lake. There are a number of campsites around the lake as well as a number of trails. These trails don’t go just around the shoreline but pass by a number of ponds in the interior. Oh, the interior is about half divided between state designated Wild Forest and Wilderness. The difference? Legally you could ride a mountain bike in the Wild Forest. Practically speaking you couldn’t (at least I couldn’t) along much of the trail. One new trail had to be built to actually circumnavigate the lake.
Back in 2008 the Adirondack Mountain Club magazine published a story about this then new trail. It took a while to get the trip organized but this year, Zenith (the hiker formerly known as King Biscuit) and I finally got it together. We drove up to the Adirondacks and got to the trail head about 3:30 pm on a Saturday. We had planned on camping at a site on the lake about 3 miles in. When we hit that at 4:30, we decided to keep going. That first three miles was pretty much an old dirt road and, in fact, is used as a snowmobile trail (wild forest allows motors-wilderness does not). We finally set up camp about 6 miles in. A word about camping. Camping is permitted anywhere as long as you are 150 feet away from the trail or water. Or at designated campsites which are often on the water. Most of these sites are really very pretty. A couple even had bear cables. Many had privies.
The only problem with our campsite was that there were mosquitoes. More than a few.
The next morning the mosquitoes quit but the deer flies took their place. We found that two ways to discourage deer flies are to turn your hat backwards so the brim covers your neck or to take a bandanna & stick that under your hat so it covers your neck. This keeps them (mostly) off your neck but not off your hands and arms. This gave us the incentive to hike to Olmstead Pond. Olmstead Pond has two campsites and one lean-to. We passed by the campsites, which were beautiful and right on the pond to get to the shelter. The shelter was not on the pond and there was no view. I tented near the shelter. This night there was an addition to the mosquitoes. Something seemed to be tapping on the trees. Not just one tree but many trees. I finally deduced that these were beavers gnawing on the trees. Perhaps
that was why the shelter was set back from the pond. The beavers might knock a tree down onto a shelter nearer the water.
The next morning we again got up before daylight and headed for the High Falls Loop. We decide to go to High Falls (it is only one mile off the loop). It was worth the trip. We each had a swim at the falls. It was great. We continued on the loop to Wanakena. If heaven is half as nice as Wanakena, it will be perfect. Picture a hamlet on a good sized river. A white wooden footbridge built in 1901 crosses the river. In the center of town there is a green with a gazebo & a water tap. There was also a port-a-potty there, too. Next to the green are the post office & general store. Kids ride their bikes to the general store to get treats. Speaking of treats there were sandwiches there. Shaved beef with
horseradish sauce. Zenith & I each had two! The proprietor was glad for our business and very helpful. There is a free campsite in town near a trail head. We camped there. The bugs were not quite so bad there.
The next morning we decided to make breakfast at the gazebo. A picnic table & tap water. What more can you ask for? There is a bit of a road walk then onto another trail and then the least nice part of the hike. We came out onto Route 3 (a main road with a 55 mile limit). It does have wide shoulders, though. This part was touted as 5 miles and was close. It passes through the village of Cranberry Lake. We stopped at the Cranberry Lake General Store and as warmly as we were treated at the Wanakena store here we were badly treated. We trudged on and finally came to our starting point slightly less than 69 hours after we had started.
Pluses: While there are some hills it is pretty easy and relatively flat. Great campsites and views over water. We saw a few people on the trail the first day, two the second day, and about 20 the third day-all between High Falls and Wanakena. Water is plentiful. We carried little and were never near running out. The Wanakena General Store.
Minuses: Much of the trail is through designated wilderness and, so there are a goodly number of blowdowns. Much of the trail is wet, crossing over beaver dams or through standing or flowing water. (Actually you may consider these pluses). The road walk. The Cranberry Lake General Store.
If you go: avoid bug season, consider going in September or October. We had planned on 4 days but finished in 3. You won’t need many days of food. Do plan on stopping at the Wanakena General Store, but it doesn’t open until 9 am. You can get a good map from the Cranberry Lake 50 website for $5, but they were free in Wanakena.