A description of campsites and tent areas along Gill Brook, near the Adirondack Mountain Reserve (AMR) in Adirondack Park, including:
– their locations,
– water availability,
– views from nearby Fish Hawk Cliffs & Indian Head,
– and some of my experiences there on the long weekend of October 3-6, 2013.
Day hikes to Blake & Colvin and Nippletop & Dial in separate posts.
An hour and a half from the Lake Road gate, I arrived at the first Gill Brook campsite, helpfully described by Dacker Dan. He called it; the first site is the best of the three. I settled into the open, flat area a few meters from the central fire ring. By 2:00 PM, I had set up my tent, hung my bear bag, had lunch, and was ready to explore.
Thursday afternoon: Fish Hawk Cliffs and Indian Head, with their gorgeous views of Colvin, Lower Ausable Lake, Sawteeth, Pyramid, Gothics, and the Wolf Jaws. Encountered three more hikers here, including a woman who took the photo of me in the white shirt. In the afternoon, the sun is beyond Colvin and sunlight doesn’t hit Sawteeth and Gothics directly. Full morning light would be better.
Back at camp, three backpackers came by and I invited them to share site #1, but they preferred to go up to site #2 instead. (The site #s I mention are wholly informal, just numbering them as you would encounter them when hiking up from the Lake Road.) But on this weekend they made a wise choice, as later events showed.
Gill Brook Campsites’ Details
Site #1 is by far the best campsite that I have used so far (Lake Arnold, Avalanche lake, Feldspar, Bradley Pond, and a site just west of JBL). It is large, flat, fairly open hardwoods (unlike Bradley Pond’s dense evergreens and slopes), with Gill Brook’s clear water just a few steps away. Also, being in the Dix Wilderness Area, fires are permitted and bear canisters are not required.
Site #1 is on the left, its little yellow DEC campsite disc 60 paces beyond the AMR/state land border (which itself is well marked with large AMR and DEC signs). The site itself is across Gill Brook. It is just a tent site; there is no lean-to. And as far as I could tell, no privy either. Size? By Saturday morning, it accommodated a dozen tents.
Site #2 is another 175 paces, on your right. No photos of this site, but it is flat and open. Fires are also permitted here. Water from Gill Brook is fairly close.
Site #3 is farther up the trail, also on your right, almost to the Fish Hawk Cliffs trail junction. Precisely, it is 140 paces before that junction. At this point the trail has diverged somewhat from Gill Brook and the brook is in a deeper ravine, so fetching water could be time-consuming. Also, I was surprised to see a “No Fire” disc at this site. There was a small fire ring and remains of a fire, which I broke up and scattered.
The Ausable Club
The Gill Brook campsites are very near to and most easily accessible from the Ausable Club’s private land, the AMR, which hikers can use, if we stay on the designated easement trails & roads, do not bring dogs, do not camp, do not bushwhack, donot build fires, etc.
The Ausable Club (and the ATIS) maintains and makes available to hikers its excellent network of trails and roads. At no charge to us! I appreciate that the AMR is the club’s private property, so I stay on the easements and follow the spirit & letter of its rules. That being said, it seems the club’s wardens and members are not outgoing and friendly to hikers. Fair enough. I am delighted to be able to use their trails on their terms, but do miss bringing my dog.
Friday morning, October 4 – Fish Hawk Cliffs & Indian Head
Awake at 5AM, I loaded up a day pack and headed for Fish Hawk Cliffs. I munched my breakfast on Fish Hawk Cliffs while a Raven croaked in the distance. Pink, dawn-lit clouds reflected off the lake and the dark mountains sat there massively. At one point, the sunlight poked through and hit Gothics and Sawteeth. But it was cloudy day, and the morning light that I envisioned really would be optimal in mid-morning on a clear day, rather than dawn on a cloudy day. Duly satisfied with what I had seen and photographed, I headed back to my tent site.
On Friday, I hiked to Colvin and Blake, High Peaks 26 and 27 in my quest for 46.
Friday Night Camp Follies
When I got back to the site late Friday afternoon, I was delighted to see three more tents at site #1. I welcomed the thought of some company on a wet night.
My bright red bear bag dangled over twelve feet in the air, which I had oh-so-cleverly suspended with a PCT bear hang. I released the tie-off, and amidst a tangle of twigs and branches in the way, the stick rose up to meet the carabiner. As called for (and as I had done several times on my Santanoni trip), I pulled the rope to haul down the stick. Uh-oh. Something had snagged or caught or looped, and the stick was stuck fast. The 80-lb. test rope was not going to give an inch. The bag HAD lowered to about 10 feet high, but it might as well had been on the Moon. Without food, this was going to be a rather short trip.
I enlisted my site-mates’ help, and after my abortive attempt to stand on a log, Mike rigged a torch. Lighting a roll of toilet paper & some birch bark encased in a plastic bag, which he tied to a long branch, he held that right on the polyester rope and in half a minute burned through it. The bag of food plopped down on the ground. How relieved and thankful was I!
Mike’s fire-starting abilities included making a roaring campfire, in the rain, with wet (but dead) logs from the stream bed. Ken and John arrived in the early evening. I went to bed, thinking that the site was pleasantly full. Not exactly. Then the 10 o’clock group arrived, waking me up as the circled the area with their headlamps, talked, and set up tents. Back to sleep.
Then about 1:00 AM, a loud voice boomed out from the trail, “It has to be here somewhere. The map shows it’s here.” Headlamps flickered from the trail, 50 meters away.” Briefly quiet, and then the same voice hollered out, “Look! It’s a cairn. That has to mean something .. Oh, a yellow marker!’ So, in a few more minutes, Loud Dad and his two sons stomped into camp. They proceeded to walk in circles around my tent, lighting it up every few seconds with their brilliant head lamps. Loud Dad kept booming away and they noisily set up tents. When he announced, “I want to sleep until at least four,” I resisted the urge to holler back, “START NOW!”
After they settled down, John’s snoring began in earnest. Saturday morning, I counted twelve tents at the site. and took some photos of the backpackers.
Hmmm … So site #3 is far from water, does not permit fires, is lonely and empty, but is quiet? Maybe next time. These are the options for tent sites at Gill Brook.