Backpacking the Northville-Placid Trail

by Perette Barella

This travelogue follows a 2011 hike of the Northville-Placid trail. Although I had planned on hiking the whole trail, I aborted half-way through when an emotional excursion got the better of me.

This log lacks pictures.


1. Trailhead to Silver Lake (7½ trail miles)

Thursday 2011-06-02

Sitting by Silver Lake waiting for Chicken Teriyaki to brew. Estimate it's 19:30 by sun position. Long day, tired, feet sore. Hot spots but no blisters.

Weather has been overcast but only a few drips. Clearing up now for a nice sunset with dinner.


Belly full! Nice sunset, feeling like it will be cold tonight, hope I'll be warm enough.

Shelter is okay, lacking a great view, but there are some rocks by the lake that have a better view.

Road walked 4 or 5 miles today, total 12-13 miles.

There were several pretty little waterfalls where the trail follows the West Branch of the Sacandaga River.

Today's agenda:

  • 05:30 Depart Rochester.
  • 09:30 Arrive Amsterdam. Hoof it ~3 miles to Rt 30 beyond strip malls.
  • 10:30 Stop for a Boston creme donut.
  • 11:30 Eat a granola bar.
  • 12:15 Start at trailhead.
  • 13:30 Lunch at grassy area at end of Rod & Gun club land near junction at North Branch of Stony Creek. There's a nice little swimming spot where the trail crosses the creek. Lunch was a bowl of soup and hot chocolate.
  • 15:00 Cereal bar.
  • 17:30 Soak feet in West Branch Sacandaga River.
  • 19:00 Camp.
  • 19:30 Dinner: a few bites of pepperoni, 2 servings of chicken teriyaki with rice
I also ate about a ¼ pound cheese throughout day.

2. Silver Lake to Mud Pond (6 miles = 13½ total)

Friday 2011-06-03

Slept okay, no critter hassles. Brisk this morning but not cold. Up around 8, now 9 or 9:30. Six miles today to Mud Pond, should be easier than yesterday but tonight may be buggier.


Underway around 10:00, arrival maybe 13:30. Stopped once to dip feet in head waters of 9 Mile Creek where trail crosses, trail rerouted there to avoid former beaver pond that's now on its way to being meadow. Refilled on water while I was there.

  • 08:30 Breakfast: 2 packets of oatmeal and 1½ hot chocolate and tang.
  • 11:00 Snacks: Pop-tart
  • 14:00 Lunch: ½ bagel with peanut butter, chicken noodle soup.
  • 18:00 Dinner: Pepperoni and cheese.
And another ¼ pound of cheese throughout the day.

Rinsed clothes in lake. Nice day, low humidity, mid-60s, blue skies.

Just remembered to change belly button dressing—need to remember that lest it get nasty. Seems to be healing though.

Looking forward, my first half of trip in morse code will be:


which puts me in Blue Mountain Lake on Friday when the post office will be open so I can resupply. The two long days look intimidating but by the second one (15 miles or so) hopefully I'll have weight down and endurance up.

About ¼ pound cheese left—probably finish it tomorrow. Thankfully weather has been cool so it hasn't gone nasty.

3. Mud Pond to Piseco (10½ miles = 24 total)

Saturday 2011-06-04

Up late today, chilly morning, cloudy around sunrise but clearing.

Navel infection has puss—will have to try to wash out at camp tonight. General bathing would be nice anyway.

Was worried about Sacandaga River crossing, but day hikers yesterday mean it's fordable. 1 

View from lean-to was not great; overgrown. But okay night overall, no problems. Heard a loon on the lake a few times. Bird living in the shelter was nervous about me being here. Chipmunk kept begging for food.

  • 09:30 Breakfast: ½ bagel with peanut butter, ⅛ pound cheese, 1 packet oatmeal, hot chocolate.
  • 11:00 Snack: Granola bar
  • 13:30 Lunch: Trail mix, ⅛ pound cheese.
  • 16:00 Snack: Peanut butter bagel
  • 18:00 Dinner: Banana, tangerine

Changed plans and went into Piseco to avoid 17-mile day. Estimated today with road 12½ miles total, hotspots on left foot. Staying at Irondquoit Inn tonight, $74.00 includes breakfast. Will enjoy real bed I think. Pretty view of lake from Inn's porch.

Feet hurt, looking forward to a soak in tub.

The folks at the Inn, Pam & Lorren Asia, were exceptionally friendly and gracious hosts.

4. Piseco to Spruce Pond (10½ miles = 34½ total)

Sunday 2011-06-05

A good sleep on a nice bed. Nice not to have to bear bag, a hot bath, water that doesn't need treating.

Hotspot just posterior to halucis major, not sure moleskin would do any good given location. Maybe tighten boots.


Definitely glad I did the Inn—stopped now at 2nd shelter along Spruce Lake, beautiful view here—but I'm exhausted. Splitting up the days, saving 4 miles to the state campground and back, and a real bed for the night were all good.

The shelter here is a bit beat up and in need of love—looks like the 4th roof is at its end, the deacon's seat is broken at one end, the floor is dodgy. Hopefully it keeps me dry, it looks/feels like rain.

I remembered to add rice to the chicken soup today. Just a bit of mix left, more spice powder than noodles but should yield some flavored rice.

Black flies are out here, but light breeze keeping them away. Bug blouse working well—good investment. Mosquitos were nuts in a few spots, but DEET working (mostly). Bye-Bye Black Fly efficacy... remains to be seen.

How I miss being in David's arms. God I miss him. I miss really cuddling, we don't do it as much since his prostatectomy. Sometimes I worry he's not interested in me anymore and is just going through the motions, and I wonder if I should leave. But he says he loves me.

Bridge on tomorrow's hike is out—hope river is fordable or I'll need to go longer, less pretty route around south ends of lakes. Three shorter days would be really good.

Solitude, loneliness, peacefulness—so similar, or at least related.

Loon flew by, making a sweep around the bay. Flapping of their wings sounds like a steam engine chuffing. I'm not sure their airspeed, but it looked like he was really cruising.


  • Breakfast: Pancakes with blueberries, with real syrup—mmmmm—and a banana.
  • Snacks: Pop-tart, gorp
  • Late lunch, I think: Ms. Gras chicken soup with rice added.


  • 6 packets of hot chocolate
  • 7 packets of oat meal
  • 9 bagel slices and plenty of peanut butter
  • plenty of trail mix
  • 2 pepperoni
  • dried meats—light at least
  • rice—also light—and a bit of soup mix
  • broccoli soup mix
  • double-serving mountain house meals

Despite knowing there is enough, I still worry. It's silly, but I worry I'll eat the wrong things and not have the right food for the right meals or something.

5. Spruce Lake to West Lake (6 miles = 40 total)

Monday 2011-06-06

Beautiful night—not too cold, loons singing their meloncholy on the lake occasionally. Clouds broke up right at sunset with some spectacular golds flaring as they left.

Black flies are out now but not crazy like at Caroga Lake 2 weeks ago. My face itches, though; I wonder if it's one of the repellants, or maybe placebos because I know they're trying to bite.

Shadows are gradually retreating off the lake, supposed to be hot today so I should get a move on before the heat. Currently 08:00ish.


West Canada Creek is fordable! They've got a rope to stabilize yourself which was helpful—I think I could have crossed anyway but with risk of falling in and gear getting wet. This means 3 easy (6 mile) days.

Stopped at the Creek overlook shelter to put boots on and nibble trail mix. Shelter looks in better repair than Spruce Lake ones but not a great view. Will go on to South or West Lake.

Stopped enroute at 3rd Spruce Lake shelter—also showing age but not quite as noticably. View is nice and has a grassy tentable area. Lorax must live there, not as many trees cut down.


Feels like it's about 14:00 now. Passed right by South Lake shelter without seeing it, but that's probably okay—very swampy, buggy lake. West lake is beautiful, shelter has southwest exposure, not in bad shape—has cedar roof—but some trash here from the slobs.

Immediately jumped in the lake for a swim and rinsed some cothes while I was at it. Cold aways from the shore but it feels good. West Lake is surrounded by mountains and I swam out a little to get a nice view. There are some clouds today, it's interesting watching them and their shadows as they move. Sun feels good when it's out, probably in 70's fahrenheit today.

Made chicken breast with potatoes and chive Mountain Meal for lunch. It's a good one.

Right foot okay. Left foot, the hot spot behind big toe still irritated.

Beautiful yellow moth flying around. There was a pair of them earlier. Also assorted flies, but they aren't too aggressive & the bug vest keeps the rest off.

Spent the afternoon in quiet contemplation, listening to the lapping of the waves, watching the clouds. I need to integrate this sort of thing into my life in a regular way rather than special trips.

Thought about wanting to see David. I want to put the touch back in our relationship. I don't think we should just give up because his penis is broken or I don't know what I want or how to achieve it. We have 7½ years history, a great friendship... if anything, it's my own fault for being scared/introverted and not doing my things on my time effectively. Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays are for me, but how well do I use them?

On jobs: the "core values" I have:

  1. To neither exploit people or the planet and to not be exploited.
What would I like to do? Take the exploitation out of capitalism. Of the options I have, I think a series of audio tracks has the most likelihood of success—people don't have time to read (or the attention). But if I could be witty like in Inventory Hell, include emotion, maybe I could make it interesting enough for people to listen to.

As a job—maybe a credit counselor?

I've been having dreams—a lot of them—where I'm male again. I'm also having orgasms in my sleep, maybe because I'm not masturbating since the "reboot" happened. At least in some of them, I'm having penetrative sex using my penis.

I feel like I'm settled and happy in female identity—this worries me there's something wrong subconsciously.

I think the crux of what is confusing and upsetting right now is that before, I knew who I was even if I wasn't able to make life mechanics (a job) work. As I've tried to figure that out, the self-model I've had has been brought into question. And little by little, that uncertainty is increasing:

  • Was I ever a good programmer?
  • Do I know what love is?
  • Do I know what sex I am?
  • Has anything I've done ever been meaningful?
  • Am I meaningful?
I've heard there are philosophy therapists that will argue these with you and help work them out. Maybe that's what I need in addition to Lindsey.
  • 07:00 Breakfast: 2 oatmeal & hot chocolate, tang
  • 09:00 Snacks: Trail mix
  • 10:00 Snacks: Granola bar
  • 11:00 Snacks: Trail mix
  • 13:00 Lunch: Chicken & potato Mountain House
  • Dinner: Pepperoni, chicken soup with rice

6. West Lake to Cedar River Flow shelter (11 miles = 51 total)

Tuesday 2011-06-07

Metabolism is picking up, I think, because I was very hungry at dinner and hungry by morning again.

Warm night, didn't need second blouse until wee hours. Lake is very still this morning except for the occasional radiating circles of fish eating things on the surface.


Made it to second Cedar Pond shelter, near Beaver Pond. Decent easterly view to Pillsbury Mountain. Pretty view from a water spot by the lake.

Would be a nice place to stop, but I'm so lonely. Want to be with people too.

But then, I cleared my calendar for this. I should take advantage while I can.

I was thiking that my chorus—all the different parts of me—are sort of like imaginary friends. Most people aren't as smart as me, and maybe it's a way for me to have equals to talk to, since I find most people to be inferior. Yet, I long for social contact, even though I drive others away with an elitist attitude. But if I didn't, the inferiors would annoy me with their limitations.

I don't know where I find people worth knowing, but I feel there is a cost—either money or some adherence to get myself into the collective. On reflection, though, I'm not sure that's right, with the exception of time and the effort to be involved.

I do like the beauty here, but—after a swim—I think I'll move along.


I'm so, so lonely. Physically, I know I could finish the trail. But emotionally... even if there were just other hikers to talk to at night. But there's not, and I feel so alone.


I feel better, less panicky after eating.

The second half of today was better hiking than the first. Passed the old Cedar Lake dam—was there some industry here? There was some open evergreen areas, open deciduous, none to hilly. Dipped in Cedar river along the way because of the heat, and again when I got in.

Cedar River Lean-to is in lowlands, where the rivers moves slowly. It's humid, making the heat worse, and bugs like anything.

I'd love to be wearing less clothing because of the heat, but the bugs... it's like I'm always in the middle of the swarm of mosquitos. The deer flies keep circling around, driving me crazy with the buzzing.

The bug vest, at least, is holding them off. I'd be eaten alive without it—they're happy to bite right through my light shirt if they can, and the mesh vest might be slightly cooler than that.

Had Chicken ala King tonight. It's alright, different if not my favorite.

Regarding the rest of the trip...the 30 mile segment from Long Lake to Placid follows a river, and I'm worried about it being buggy like this. It's all in valleys between the high peaks. West Canada Lake, which I've just done, is supposed to be the most beautiful section. But then, the Keene Valley is beautiful too. I just don't know though, between bugs and loneliness...

Tomorrow is a long day, 14 mile or so... then the day after, a short trip into Blue Mountain Lake, my mail drop, food, a chance to call David, and a decision.

There's a spider repelling off the lean-to's overhang. Good business he's in here.

Oh! The yellow moths! So beautiful, a little splash rainbow of color on their body side. They've been around here and there, but at this shelter on the sand by the river, hundreds of them. Most took flight when I intruded, it was like the butterfly museum with them all fluttering around.

Nearing sundown. Hang food, brush teeth, and climb into my bag.

  • 07:00 Breakfast: ½ bagel with peanut butter, 1 packet oatmeal, 1 hot chocolate, tang
  • 10:30 Snack: Pop tart
  • 12:00 Lunch: Pepperoni, broccoli & cheddar soup

7. Cedar River Flow to Blue Mountain Lake (17 miles = 68 total)

Wednesday 2011-06-07

The day started poorly with the return of the mosquitos. They'd gotten progressively worse on Tuesday evening as dusk approached until the whole air was filled with mosquito whine, punctuated by those flying around the head of my sleeping bag which was too hot to be bundled in, hiding from bugs.

I finally set up the hammock, which fixed the onslaught. It's still difficult to sleep in, I kind of slide down but I slept a while. When I awoke in what I think were early hours, the bugs had quieted down and it was getting cold. I moved back to the shelter after putting on another layer.

I made a quick breakfast and got on my way. The trail really wasn't bad, with pretty views of the Cedar River Flow.

I hadn't realized Wakely Dam had camping, but I talked with a few guys there in a camper to stave off loneliness. After a break, I went on to Stephen's pond.

I made it with a dunk in a stream and by shedding clothes. Without the bug vest I was a target, but with it I would overheat.

I approached the pond from the south only to find another swampy wetland area. The shelter itself was on more dry ground with lakier lake, but it was still early and there were a lot of bugs already.

And did I mention the deer flies that had been buzzing around my head all day?

I wanted to be safe with others, without bugs. After refuelling I went on to the DEC campground.

The groundskeeper was nice and got me a weather report: storms. There was a place to lodge in town, though, so I hitchhiked in—first car gave me a ride—only to find the place unattended and the phone number to call out of order. I hiked down a bit more to a general store, where on my entry, the power went out. They pointed me down the road, warning about storms.

The next placer was cottages, no keeper around.

The Inn was devoid of any people.

Pleasant Point cottage office closed at 4:30pm, and I had a number to call but no phone. I turned around, hoping maybe someone would now be home because the whipping winds were pushing me around, picking up sheets of water off the lake and throwing it around. Dust stung my eyes.

I planned to stop at the telephone booth in town and try calls again, and worst case call mom for backup. But Liz saved me.

She'd advised me of the Pleasant Point, and offered to take me around to try other venues. I accepted and in the next two minutes as we went, she said something about Albany. I jumped on my chance, and she agreed to take me with her, if I could wait a few hours. Agreeable.

So after 2 or 3 hours of dealing with a tree on her roof, we headed out to her conference hotel and my escape route. So here I am, on a bus in Albany, on my way home.

It was a good trip, but clearly I've got limitations about being alone too long. I become fragile emotionally, when I'm alone; my resilience to chaos and problems weakens. I long for protection and safety.

That's probably a weakness, an exploitable point. I also wonder if I use emotions/panic to manipulate my decisions of those of others.


  • 1.   It turns out it has a bridge over it.