Planning My Thru Hike of the Northville - Placid Trail
Updated: Jul 26, 2020
I've enjoyed backpacking for years now but have done surprisingly little of it since moving to Glens Falls. This is ironic as I'm living on the doorstep of one of the largest wilderness areas in the country. But the proximity of the high peaks has meant that when I've had time, I've tended to go on day trips with Rashna (aspiring 46er!) or lead outings with the Glens Falls chapter of the Adirondack Mountain Club. I've known about the Northville-Placid Trail (NPT) for years since it was one of the first long backpacking trips my friend Chris Austen completed. As we've done many long hikes together (including a thru hike of the Long Trail in 2016), he had many opportunities to tell me about it. This "trail talk" led me to imagine the NPT as a walk through some of the most remote areas of the Adirondack Park replete with dense forests and innumerable lakes. As Chris related this to me on a particularly parched section of the Long Trail, the idea of jumping into a pristine lake each evening was extremely appealing. The length of the trail also makes it less of a commitment than the Long Trail. At about 138 miles, I knew I could complete it in about a week if I wanted to. Its proximity to home is attractive- logistics are simply easier when the southern trailhead is less than an hour away from my home. My involvement with ADK in the last few years has piqued my interest in the history of the region and environmental stewardship in particular. The NPT was the first major project of the fledgling Adirondack Mountain Club and was completed in 1923. I knew that this was a piece of area history that I wanted to experience for myself.
As I'm writing this, I've made some progress in planning my hike. I hope to complete a South-North thru hike in 8 days and 7 nights. I'm counting on my wife Rashna to be able to drop me off in Northville to start my hike and pick me up in Lake Placid at its completion. Both her and my sister Olivia have expressed some interest in spending a day on the trail with me at some point which would be awesome.
Although the trail is not so long that I couldn't conceivably carry all the food I would need for the whole trip, I know how much a light pack can contribute to an enjoyable hike. For this reason, I'll be doing two mail drops to post offices along the way (Piseco on day 3 and Long Lake on day 6). This means that the most food I'll ever have to carry will be 3 breakfasts, 3 lunches, and 3 dinners.
I'll be leaving my stove at home and will be using the "cold-soaking" method. Instead of cooking, the meal is placed in a watertight container with enough liquid to hydrate it several hours before mealtime. I've done this often when hiking last summer and am willing to forgo hot meals (not essential in the July heat) for a slightly lighter and more simple load out. This isn't really a decision based on weight (the stove, fuel, and pot would only add about 1 pound). Simplified meal preparation in the evening is appealing and I know from my experiences with cold-soaking in the past that the results are delicious enough, especially when seasoned with hunger. I'm looking to step up my meal game a bit and will be trying a few new recipes including a rice curry and a couscous with (dehydrated) hummus. A perennial favorite of mine, burrito stew, is still on the menu. I'll be trying instant coffee with dehydrated coconut milk as a caffeine delivery device. This tastes surprisingly good, even when served lukewarm! Some high calorie lunch snacks, such as Bobo Bars and Complete Cookies, should pad my daily caloric intake a bit. I'm hoping to avoid the hunger pains I experienced during the first half of my Long Trail hike...
Much of the gear that I'll be using for this hike was assembled using lessons learned from my Long Trail thu hike and my various outings in the Adirondacks in the last few years. That said, there will be a few changes to my "standard" backpacking kit. As I mentioned above, I won't be carrying my stove, fuel, or my titanium pot. Instead, I'll be using a plastic peanut butter jar to soak my dinner in and a smaller plastic spice jar as a cup for coffee. Instead of my Sawyer Mini water filter, I'll be bringing my SteriPen. This has proved to be reliable on previous, shorter trips. I'll be carrying a larger battery pack (a 20,000 mAh model) as this can be used to charge several items I'll be carrying including my SteriPen and headlamp.
I'll be using a trail bidet instead of toilet paper. I haven't used one of these on the trail yet, but home trials are encouraging! I'll also be using a "Deuce of Spades" trowel to bury poo. Both of these changes should help me do a better job of "leaving no trace."
Instead of any kind of bug spray on this hike, I'll be carrying a pack of Natrapel picaridin wipes. I'll also be treating my socks and shoes with picaridin before the hike.
I'll have Merrill Moab Ventilators on my feet (low top). I know that this trail has a reputation as a soggy one, but my feet are most comfortable when they are cool and waterproofing layers tend to cause my feet to heat up and blister. I've also found that these shoes dry out easily when they get wet (which I have no doubt they will).
I'll be carrying a tent for this trip (Big Agnes Copper Spur UL 1). I'd normally consider just using shelters at night as we did on the Long Trail but I will need the added flexibility of a tent since sharing lean-tos with strangers should be avoided due to the pandemic. I don't expect this trail to be as well marked as the AT or Long Trail, so I'll be bringing my real Brunton compass (instead of the whistle combo job I usually carry). I'm also considering bringing the slim ADK guidebook on the NPT. I wouldn't normally do this, but it's pretty svelte and I think I would enjoy having it.
I'll be hanging my food at night. Bear canisters are required for overnights in the Eastern High Peaks but not on the NPT. I have new stuff sacks and bear bag from Z-Packs that I'm looking forward to trying out.
Here's a picture of my ULA Circuit pack with the items I'll be carrying in the belt pockets and my Z-Packs shoulder pouch. I'll likely also carry my phone in a belt pouch.
Here are the items that will go in a small dry bag that will be in the outer mesh pocket of my bag (the InReach will actually be clipped to an outer strap):
This ditty sack will rest in the larger dry sack in the outer mesh compartment of my bag. It includes a small first aid kit/repair kit, headlamp, tent lamp, back-up water purification, and a few toiletries.
This photo shows the bulk of my other gear, including sleeping bag and sleeping clothes, insulated pullover, rain jacket/pants, sleeping pad, bear bag, cold soaking jar/cup/spoon, and tent. I don't wear rain pants in the rain but generally use them as a very lightweight leg covering in camp when it's buggy.
Finally, this is gear I'll be wearing on the trail. I'll probably also wear a pair of transition-style sunglasses.
I'll carry two 1-liter plastic water bottles (Smart brand or similar). It seems that this trail has many water sources along the way so I'll only carry 1-liter of water at a time if I can get away with it. I'll try to weigh my bag before I head out, but experience tells me it will weigh about 30 pounds including food and water.
I think that's about it! I'm excited for the trip and look forward to writing about it when I return.