My family hike into Spruce Lake
I'm not much for roughing it in the great outdoors. My idea of a vacation is a nice plush hotel with a big comfy bed, room service, and maybe, if I'm lucky, a swim-up bar. So when my fiancé told me his brother, who was coming home for our wedding, wanted the whole family to go camping, I got a knot in the pit of my stomach. Not only did he want to camp, he wanted to hike to camp, which meant no beds, no bathrooms, no cell service, and definitely no room service!
Here We Go
So one week after our wedding, my husband and I set out for a weekend of camping with our two kids, my mother-in-law, my brother-in-law, my niece, and our dog. Saturday morning, after bartending until 2 a.m., I got up and hit the road at 7 o'clock. I was exhausted to start the day and all I could think was, "Is this supposed to be my honeymoon!?!"
The spot that was picked to camp was all the way into Spruce Lake, an almost 4-mile hike. We drove back into Perkins Clearing and down Military Road until we found the trailhead, where we parked the cars. We threw on our packs, made sure we had plenty of water and food, and started our hike at about 8 o'clock.
Slow and Steady
It was certainly slow going. My 3-year-old was not loving all of the walking and wanted to be carried, so his dad ended up with a 40-pound pack on his back and 30-pound toddler on his shoulders for most of the trip. My daughter, on the other hand, had way too much energy. She kept running way ahead and then coming back to meet us, making her trip probably three times longer. We also made frequent stops for our 10-year-old dog to rest. This was a lot of work for everyone involved!
The First Lean-To
We met very few people on the trails on the way in, but the ones we did meet were very friendly. They let us know that of the three lean-tos on the lake, the first two were open but the third was occupied. This was incredibly helpful because we were planning on going to the third, so this saved us some walking!
It took us about three hours to reach the first lean-to. This was where we decided to stop for lunch. It was only about 10:30 but we were all starving. The kids ran around and played, the grownups cooked, and the dog napped! The lean-to was situated a few hundred feet away from the lake, but you couldn't quite see that far through the trees, so I took a little stroll. It was a beautiful spot with lots of beautiful foliage and perfectly still water. I almost argued that we should stay right there for the night. I didn't think the view could get much better, but I was wrong.
We cleaned up after ourselves and carried on. After just under another mile we came to the second lean-to. It seems that within the last few years they moved the lean-to back away from the water, so it sits up on a hill overlooking the forest. If you look hard enough you can see a little bit of the lake. That's where we set up camp but it certainly wasn't where we spent most of our time.
Off to the left of the lean-to there was a little trail that seemed to go up and down and around, but took us down to a beautiful clearing right by the lake with a nice stone fire pit.
By the time we got there I was beat! While the kids played and my husband and brother-in-law finished setting up camp, I took a nap. It was quite possibly the most refreshing nap I have ever taken! I'm not sure if it was from sheer exhaustion or the fresh air of sleeping outside, or maybe both. I woke up rejuvenated and ready to go.
We played cards for a few hours and tried to come up with some fun and safe games to play with the kids. Tag is kind of hard with lots of rocks and roots sticking up, and hide-and-seek made me nervous with all of the woods and water around us. So we ended up playing Simon Says and I Spy. The kids even tried their hand at fishing (with no luck).
After we had dinner and watched a beautiful sunset, we sat around and listened to some music and relaxed. As we attempted to get the kids to wind down from a long, tiring day, we all sat still and all we could hear was the fire crackling and the call of a lone loon out on the lake. This resulted in an impromptu loon call lesson for the kids from their uncle. They thought that was just great!
Soon we were all snuggled up in our tents, staying close for body warmth! It only dropped down to about 50 degrees, but it certainly felt much chillier! Even the pup snuggled up with us, although I stuck her next to my husband — her breath was terrible!
After a restful night of sleep, we all woke up refreshed and sore from the hike in the day before. But, we needed to get up and have breakfast so we could pack out before it got too hot! The walk out was much slower, but more lively. We met some hikers who had come across the Northville-Lake Placid Trail from Piseco, and a woman and her dog who were attempting to go the full length of the trail, a whopping 133 miles! And I was complaining about 4!
Soon we could tell we were starting to get close to the end, and the pup knew it too. She was worn out and thirsty. After making it down an embankment to a stream for a drink, she struggled to make it back up. Our 60-pound, 10-year-old pit bull ended up getting carried the rest of the way out. Luckily, I didn't have to do the carrying! (Don't worry, she was back to her normal spazzy self the next day after a good 24 hours of rest.)
I couldn't have been happier once I could see the trees thinning and the sun shining through. We were out! I will admit, though, I had a really great time. Much better than I was anticipating. Honestly, I would do it again, maybe with a shorter hike. I do have to say, however, that I'm glad it wasn't my honeymoon.
Dog days in the ADKs: