Falls on the West Branch of the Sacandaga

Posted on 14 Jun 2021 by Steve Markham

Kyle and I had a double-adventure on our overnight last night. We tried out hike #8 from 50 Hikes in the Adirondacks, ‘Falls on the W Branch of the Sacandaga’. The hike to the falls involved quite a bit of bushwhacking, and then there were huge rocks to climb around on at the end. And in case that wasn’t enough adventure, there was an incredible thunderstorm overnight, and a torrential downpour at breakfast time.

Those are the 'first falls' in the background. The 'second falls' weren't any better. We won't be taking the family to this spot.
Those are the 'first falls' in the background. The 'second falls' weren't any better. We won't be taking the family to this spot.
The book paints a lovely picture so feel free to read the text, but mostly I included this for the map. 3 miles (each way), but the lack of established trail made it slow-going.
The book paints a lovely picture so feel free to read the text, but mostly I included this for the map. 3 miles (each way), but the lack of established trail made it slow-going.
It's bug season, and Kyle was talking about having a fire wherever we camped to hopefully smoke out the mosquitoes. I told him we might just be hanging in the woods to the side of the trail, and we'd only do a fire at an established fire ring.
It's bug season, and Kyle was talking about having a fire wherever we camped to hopefully smoke out the mosquitoes. I told him we might just be hanging in the woods to the side of the trail, and we'd only do a fire at an established fire ring.
We passed lots of fire rings, though, including one only a mile or so from the car, but Kyle ended up going to bed early instead of making a fire.
On the way out we mostly stayed along the river, but occasionally there would be paths into the woods, often right where the rocks in the river were too far apart (or too under-water due to our recent rains). On the way back, we stuck to the river.
On the way out we mostly stayed along the river, but occasionally there would be paths into the woods, often right where the rocks in the river were too far apart (or too under-water due to our recent rains). On the way back, we stuck to the river.
Obviously I'm not captioning the pictures, but this one I will. The rocks were so big. This shot shows the edge of a rock. Not a cave, just a big honking rock that stuck out form the rock it was resting on with a big enough gap to walk under.
Obviously I'm not captioning the pictures, but this one I will. The rocks were so big. This shot shows the edge of a rock. Not a cave, just a big honking rock that stuck out form the rock it was resting on with a big enough gap to walk under.
Kyle and I kept each other safe. We took no risks while climbing around near the falls.
Kyle and I kept each other safe. We took no risks while climbing around near the falls.
We had intended to carry our packs the whole way to the falls, even though we knew we were headed back to the fire rings to camp. Andy is taking us on an 8-day trek in August, so we need to get in shape. But going over the rocks with packs was no fun at all, so eventually we left them by the river and just took poles and a water bottle to the falls.
We had intended to carry our packs the whole way to the falls, even though we knew we were headed back to the fire rings to camp. Andy is taking us on an 8-day trek in August, so we need to get in shape. But going over the rocks with packs was no fun at all, so eventually we left them by the river and just took poles and a water bottle to the falls.
The falls were actually quite nice, except that in the last month or so I've been to the Plotterkill and Alan's camp, each of which have multiple falls that are 3x taller/bigger/better than these.
The falls were actually quite nice, except that in the last month or so I've been to the Plotterkill and Alan's camp, each of which have multiple falls that are 3x taller/bigger/better than these.
Kyle asked me to take a picture with no one in it, so Janet could work her magic and we could print it and frame it and hang it on the wall. I'm not sure my photography skills are up to snuff, though.
Kyle asked me to take a picture with no one in it, so Janet could work her magic and we could print it and frame it and hang it on the wall. I'm not sure my photography skills are up to snuff, though.
This is the outlet of 'Cold Brook', which was the scariest part of the trip to the falls. On the way back we just walked on rocks in the river (which is where I'm taking this picture from), but on the way in we crossed up on the hill, a hundred yards upstream. It felt like rock-climbing, except with a pack on.
This is the outlet of 'Cold Brook', which was the scariest part of the trip to the falls. On the way back we just walked on rocks in the river (which is where I'm taking this picture from), but on the way in we crossed up on the hill, a hundred yards upstream. It felt like rock-climbing, except with a pack on.
We camped at Hamilton Lake Creek, which was a lovely spot for wading, except it was too buggy to expose any skin. Kyle tried out the featherlight hammock (which I call Lewis's hammock since usually he sleeps in it) and really liked it. It's a pound lighter than the double-hammock Kyle usually sleeps in, so Kyle might take it on Andy's trip to save some weight.
We camped at Hamilton Lake Creek, which was a lovely spot for wading, except it was too buggy to expose any skin. Kyle tried out the featherlight hammock (which I call Lewis's hammock since usually he sleeps in it) and really liked it. It's a pound lighter than the double-hammock Kyle usually sleeps in, so Kyle might take it on Andy's trip to save some weight.
Last year on the Glastenbury we figured out how to camp during bug season, and it's paying off. I came home with a few bites, and it definitely stopped the evening swim I would have taken otherwise, but it didn't keep me from enjoying a lovely trip with Kyle.
Last year on the Glastenbury we figured out how to camp during bug season, and it's paying off. I came home with a few bites, and it definitely stopped the evening swim I would have taken otherwise, but it didn't keep me from enjoying a lovely trip with Kyle.

I didn’t take any pictures this morning, what with my phone not wanting to get soaked. When we packed for the trip, the forecast called for a 40% chance of T-storms overnight. We didn’t bring rain jackets, and I only packed one tarp for the two of us, which I did not expect to use. Around 1:30am I woke up to lots of thunder that was 10-15 seconds away. I enjoyed the flashing light and rumbling thunder for ten minutes or so. Just as I was drifting back to sleep I thought, “It would be awfully embarrassing to get rained on after such a clear warning. So I got up, hung the tarp just to the side of Kyle’s hammock, then hung straps from the double hammock Kyle had brought but wasn’t using around trees on the other side of the hammock. I figured Murphy’s Law at this point would keep it from actually raining. At 2:30 Murphy’s law failed me. I could hear rain on the creek, though I wasn’t really feeling drops under the trees, yet. I unclipped my hammock (with UQ still attached, all my hiking clothes laying over the ridgeline, and all my bedding inside it) and moved in next to Kyle. It started really coming down around 2:40, at which point I discovered that 18” of my hammock was sticking out from under the tarp. Nuts. Kyle offered to be helpful, so while I used a shirt to mop up the water that was already in, he used my pack cover to extend the tarp over the end of my hammock. And it worked!

The rain was heavier and lighter and heavier again, and the thunder came and went, but by 3:30am we were no longer taking on water, and had fallen back asleep. I woke up a few times when Kyle rolled over and bumped my hammock, but easily fell back asleep. I’m listening to Eye of the World, so I was dreaming High Fantasy all night, in a good way. Around 6 or so we got up and packed up everything except the tarp. I could have boiled water for oatmeal, but Kyle wasn’t hungry, and I wanted to get a move on so Kyle wouldn’t miss any school. Just as I was going to suggest we head out, the rain started coming down in buckets. I told Kyle I’d set a timer for 7 minutes (the timer I had used for dinner last night) and we’d go even if it was still raining hard. But within two or three minutes the clouds had rained themselves out, and we departed. By the time we got to the car we couldn’t even feel it anymore, though I did have to use windshield wipers so it must have still been lightly sprinkling. Kyle made it to his first class at 9am, so I consider this a very successful trip.