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Black Duck Hole and Cat Mtn 9-28/29-2013



We decided to go somewhere different in lieu of Lila, as I had mentioned in my 'what's planned for the fall' thread.

A short and sweet overnight from Wanakena to the northern Five Ponds via Cranberry Lake.

Weather was exceptional as was the color. I don't think I've ever seen better colors than this trip.

This was my first time on Cranberry. I've drove past it many, many times but never had the urge to go out. I always thought this section of the Adirondacks was featureless and boring. Well, I had never given it a chance. I don't know if it was the colors or the weather but this was one of my favorite trips this year.

I had done my hw and read that Cranberry was best this time of year. I don't dispute that. There was a little motor boat traffic but not much. Most I saw were fishing and not making much noise or waves.

Ankle biters were bad on Saturday. Calm winds and warm temps had them on a last ditch biting frenzy. I had a whole swarm of 5 or more on my water shoe at one point trying to bite through! A couple did

Off the water the bugs were non-existent.

We pulled into Black Duck Hole and picked a site shortly after noon. A quick lunch and setup and we set off down Dead Creek Flow to Janack's Landing.

Our hike for the day was Cat Mtn. We had our Chihuahua with us and we had a bit of a late start so I was sure to keep track of the time and turn back even if we didn't get all the way to the top. My wife was concerned we wouldn't make it back before dark but I planned it very well. The dog did OK considering her size. Some of the rocky sections were tough for her and I had to carry her. It doesn't take much of a rock to make a boulder for a little Chihuahua. Luckily for me she only weighs 10lbs.

Anyway, we made it to the summit with enough time to look around and take some pictures. We ran into a few people along the trail, some were chatty, and I was on a tight schedule so I may have been a bit curt, but still pleasant. The one group was a father and son who followed us up Cat and were planning on camping out up top. I'm told there is a site up there but I didn't have time to look for it.

I found the trails in the northern Five Ponds to be very good. Only minimal mud pits this time of year and very clear of blowdown. I'm guessing the CL50 and it's popularity has something to do with this. I'm not complaining. It was a great hike and not what I was expecting.

Cat Mtn itself is a pretty easy climb. I compare it to Fredrica although she is even more mellow. The first 200' of vertical has a little pitch, then it is very gradual leading to a very steep section right before the summit. The steep portion is only maybe 50-60' of vertical - hardly enough to even get the heart pumping. The view is very rewarding and shows the vastness of 5 Ponds. The pictures don't show but the land is actually quite rolling, although low. Again another nice surprise. I think I am starting to like this area.

On the way back to camp I thought maybe I had seen my otter in Dead Creek Flow! My wife spotted a head swimming along towards the canoe and I was trying to make out what it was. A second or two later, it dove and made a powerful splash with it's tail. Beaver! Damn! Oh well. Next time maybe.

We made it back to camp right around 7pm, just as I had planned. Good thing too because it was getting dark (and I knew it would be).

A quick search for some downed wood and we had fire and started about our chores of making dinner and setting up our beds. My wife was tired and retired early, along with the dog. I stayed up and tended the fire. Most of the time I just lay next to it on my back, sucking up some warmth, and staring up at the clear night sky. It was a wonderful night to be in the woods. The stars seemed extra bright and some owls sung me a lullaby.

I started to get chilly after a couple hours of this and doused the fire and went to bed. Sleep came quickly curled up in my warm quilt. I haven't slept that well outside in quite some time. The cool weather and sweet smells of fall helped me into my blissful slumber.

I learned a valuable lesson in the morning. Cranberry can get WINDY, FAST! I slept in. My wife wanted to get going early but I was basing my planning on yesterdays weather, which was calm. It was calm until about 9am when I finally got out of my quilt, but it didn't last long. By the time we ate and packed it was a real blaze out on the main water.

The wind was so bad (and it didn't feel that bad, but it was) that we had to cut straight across the flow and carry up the west side before we caught the channel to Wanakena. Going as the crow flies was an exercise in futility. Waves and wind were pushing us everywhere.

Once on the narrower channel towards Wanakena the winds died down, at times, sometimes they were downright violent, but only in short, say 10min bursts. We were headed straight into them this way, and they did little to hurt our tracking.

All in all we managed to make it back to the car in 1-1/2 hours of paddling. Not bad I thought considering the conditions and the slight detour.

Even though Cranberry is shallow, the water was COLD. So cold, in fact, that I wish I would have brought some neoprene boots. My feet were freezing standing in the water when loading the boat back at the site.

It was a great fall trip, and would definitely do it again, although next time I will heed the warnings of others and get on the lake early. It wasn't horrible, and I'm sure it could have been worse, but compared to the glass it was when I woke up, it was quite formidable. I'm sure I had at least 3hrs of placid water and daylight if I would have woke up before sunrise and packed up.

Last edited:
Jul 25, 2012
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Thanks Bird for the trip report! I enjoy your writing. Those photos were really nice to see. I don't care all that much for wind either, sometimes the only way for me to make any progress is to break out the kayak paddle.
You're a lucky man to have a wife who will go with him! I especially enjoyed the expression on your Bear-Dog's face, "Not going to let anything get my people!"

Best Wishes,



She was actually jumping up and down and whining when I took that picture. She looks like she has a tough stance but that was just in between jumps.

I tied her to that tree because I was worried she'd go sniffing around and sniff herself right off a cliff. She's a house dog mostly - she doesn't have a lot of outdoors sense...

We didn't have anyone to watch her so we had to take her along. She got a little seasick and threw up once at camp, but other than that she did OK.