This is Part 2 a trip report for a recent adventure through the Pharaoh Lakes Wilderness in New York’s Adirondack Park and will concentrate on planning for camp. The Pharaoh Lakes Wilderness is a 43,883 acre wilderness preserve situated just a few minutes outside of Ticonderoga, NY. It is a favorite hiking and camping destination for my friends and I.
As I explained in Part 1 of this series, we have started to take camping more seriously in the last few years, as we mature and develop an appreciation for nature. One of the major differences this year is that about half of our group participated in a short backpacking trip before everyone else arrived. Even though this one night trip into the wilderness was relatively short, it required logistical planning beyond what we are accustomed to. This installment discusses some of the planning and preparation that went into making this trip a success.
Planning for our annual trip is continuous, but gets into high gear about six months ahead of time, when we reserve our campsites. We book our sites through Reserve America, a great resource for finding and securing campsites all across our great nation. Reserve America consolidates the registration process for thousands of public and private campsites. The website is complete with maps, photos, and descriptions, as well as information about local attractions. I recommend checking it out.
My friends and I are all gear junkies, and if we do not coördinate what each of us is bringing, we might end up with 7 stoves and no lanterns. Each year during the planning process, we are careful to discuss the group’s needs in terms of equipment, and jointly decide on what each of us is going to bring. Planning out our camp kitchen is critical. To support a group of 10 in base camp, we typically plan to have the following:
1 Propane Stove
- 1 Propane Grill
- 1 Propane Coffee Maker
- 1 grill for cooking over the fire
- Assortment of 4-6 propane or electric lanterns
- 2 Dutch ovens
- 2 Frying Pans
- 2 large pots
- 1 set of cooking utensils
- Box of assorted zip lock bags, aluminum foil, paper towel, dish soap and sponges
- Box of assorted condiments and spices
One change we have made recently is that we have stopped purchasing paper plates and bowls and greatly reduced our consumption of plastic cups and cutlery. Now, each of us brings up a personal mess kit that we clean after each meal. This is the first year that we strictly enforced this policy, and we ended up cutting our garbage haul in half! Not only have we saved a lot of money, but we are also making a lot less garbage, which is great for the environment. Personally, I like Sea to Summit’s Delta Bowl, Delta Plate, and Alpha Set.
We used to buy most of our food before driving up to camp. Some years, we each pre-cooked specialty dishes to share with everybody. This year, half of our group went on a short backpacking excursion before settling into base camp. This meant that we could not buy our food ahead of time because we did not think it would be smart to leave it unattended for two days in the campsite. Instead, we wrote out our menu for the week, and then went down to Wal-Mart to buy the food after we returned from backpacking and met up with the rest of the group. This worked out well, and we did not end up with as much extra food after the trip as we usually do. Planning your menu out ahead of time is an important way you have plenty of important things like meat and vegetables so that you do not pig out on pop tarts all week.
We camp on an island, which means everything we bring is transported by boat. Boats are built for many purposes, and not all of them are great for heavy hauling. We find that towing a canoe with a faster boat powered with a gas or electric motor is the most effective way to transport a large amount of gear. Small 1-2 man fishing boats and kayaks do not have the cargo capacity to transport equipment and toys for 10 man-boys.
Sleeping arrangements for our trips are each individual’s responsibility. Most of us choose to bring a 3-4 man base-camp style tent. We usually have a pretty wide variety of these, which is fun. One thing to make sure of is that you do not exceed the maximum number of tents you are allowed to place in a campsite. Putting up too many tents too close together has a high impact on the environment, and after time this practice will ruin the wilderness experience for others. Please be responsible!
Finally, we used to bring a large amount of fire wood with us from home. Not only has this practice become inconvenient because of the number of other toys we bring along, but it is also bad for the local ecosystem. When you transport wood across state lines, you risk bringing harmful invasive insects which can cause serious damage to the local environment. In New York State, it is illegal to transport firewood more than 50 miles from where it was harvested. It is now our practice to buy firewood locally or to use only the dead-and-down wood we find in the forest.
That about sums up planning for base camp. In my next entry in this series, I will discuss the planning process for our backpacking trip.
Photo Credits: Evan Marchesini, David DiGregorio, Paul Gebhardt, Chris Puglis