Island, Duck Hole

Island, Duck Hole


The following was received from Richard Fenton, DEC Supervising Forester, on April 24, 2006. Richard writes:

“I noticed on your web posting that you have a message about the former McCane's Resort. Please update it to indicate that Mr. Macaluso [the present owner] now allows through-hikers to just walk through with no advance permission required. He doesn't want anyone parking on his land or just popping in for a day hike to Stephens Pond.” This is very good news, and thanks must go to Mr. Macaluso for permitting this. The trail passes extremely close to his house, so his concern was not unjustified!

For specific questions on the trail, I strongly recommend the ADK forum.

Last, but not least, several major re-routes are in progress, one of which will bypass the Macaluso property and avoid the road walk.

The Northville-Placid Trail

What follows is my account of a ten day-through-hike of the N-P Trail in September of 2003. PLEASE NOTE: I would like to add additional trail accounts, reports of trail problems, images, maps etc. in order to make this a useful resource for those wishing to hike the trail. If you wish to contribute a hike report please contact me at

The Northville-Placid trail, the first major project of the ADK after its inception, currently runs from Upper Benson in the southern Dacks to Averyville in the High Peaks region, just outside Lake Placid. It’s a generally lowland trail, traversing lake country; with an aggregate elevation gain of no more than 10,500 feet it is like an antiphon to the rugged peaks that surround it. The single highest section is near Long Lake, an approximately 1200-foot ascent & descent over a ridge. The generally accepted distance (from the ADK’s handbook on the trail) is about 122 miles, although, as the auto ads say, “your mileage may vary.” We had food drops at the Piseco and Long Lake Post Offices to help keep pack weight down, and the detour into Long Lake adds at least three miles onto the total. There are many reroutes along the way, most because of beaver activity, but the trail is generally very clearly blazed with the standard DEC blue plaque.

I did the hike with David Galvin, known to the hiking lists as “Porky,” despite the trail name a lean and implacable hiker (the origin of his nom de guerre lies with Walt Kelly’s “Pogo,” not his build). Quite possibly the worst part of the entire journey is the initial car shuttle. We stayed over in Lake Placid the night before starting, dropping one car off at the northern trailhead, which is reasonably secure, situated on a well-traveled road. The following morning we made the long haul down to Upper Benson; a failure to turn at the right point sent us off to Cranberry Lake and back, an hour-and-a-half detour. After arriving at the (confusing and ill-marked) southern terminus we parked the second car on the lawn of a house nearby. For a buck a day the added security seemed worthwhile, though trailhead vandalism and theft are comparatively uncommon. We hit the trail by the early afternoon.

For those interested in such things, both of us were shooting for a low (but not ultralight) packweight on this trip. I was somewhere between 13 and 15 pounds weight, using a GoLite Gust, David was carrying a Mountainsmith Ghost, probably weighing in at much the same. To this base weight, of course, must be added food, water and fuel as variables, which after mail drops, with a couple of quarts of water factored in, may well have brought the packs up to nearly thirty pounds at times (still light by most standards). We were using a Trangia alcohol stove, with Ezbit tablets as emergency backup. Several sections of the trail are extremely remote and a backup fuel source is a sound idea. We also had a secondary method of water treatment—a good thing, as the gravity filter failed.

Night one was on Silver Lake, one-time home of one of the Adirondack’s many “hermits,” often hermitic by circumstance, not choice. We strung Hennessy Hammocks some short distance away from the lean-to. We had walked a fairly short distance through deciduous woodland, very pretty indeed, as was the lake itself, though the site showed (as do many of the lean-to areas) evidence of heavy use. The weather was sunny (and, indeed, we had well-nigh perfect weather for the whole trip, with mild days and cool nights and only one day of partial drizzle).

The following day we pushed on to stealth-camp (I use the term to designate low impact, not illegality) at Dead Vlei, a mile or so short of the highway into Piseco. We had lunched pleasantly as the suspension bridge that crosses the west branch of the Sacandaga River, at the site of the old camp at Whitehouse, now marked by one single chimney. Dead Vlei was not idyllic, but not nearly as bad as the name sounds! A few mosquitoes (a commonplace of the trail) buzzed around, but we were to hit greater concentrations elsewhere. Earlier in the day I had been pleased to note the remains of wild orchids (one of the ladyslippers, long since slipped from bloom) and in fact along our entire route we were to see many orchids of various species, none of which were in flower this late in the season.

Next morning we hit the road, stopped at a tiny diner for a cooked breakfast and then retraced to the Piseco Post Office. This is a fairly substantial section of road-walk, though Piseco is a pleasant little village, with an airstrip, no less, all of which relieves the tedium. We added four days of food to our packs for the next section of the hike and sent back anything not needed, mostly a few oddments for the wash. A couple of miles after the P.O., we hit the end of the paved road and returned, with some relief, to the trail proper.

Last modified 9/14/2007