May, 2008

Northville-Placid Trail
Author: Jeffrey and Donna Case

Review by: RICK KARLIN

Adirondack Mountain Club, 2007 Softcover, 136 pages, $19.95 Includes topographical map

Adirondack Mountain Club, 2007
Softcover, 136 pages, $19.95
Includes topographical map

No one knows the Northville-Placid Trail better than Jeffrey and Donna Case. They have hiked it each spring for more than 20 years, so it’s only natural that they would be called on to rewrite the Adirondack Mountain Club’s guidebook for the 132-mile trail.

ADK released a new edition late last year, the first update in 13 years. It has been thoroughly rewritten to reflect changes in the route and mileage counts. “We went through it from stem to stern,” said John Kettlewell, the club’s publications director.

For example, the bridge at Sampson Bog, between Spruce Lake and West Canada Lakes, washed out last spring and may not be replaced. The Cases suggest that hikers should be prepared to wade across the stream there. Also, the book cautions that day hikers are not allowed to cross the Macaluso property (formerly McCane’s) off Cedar River Road. Through hikers are still allowed.

The Cases, who live outside Syracuse, are well-known to fans of the NP. They sign in at trailheads with distinctive green ink and carry many of the comforts of home on their backs, including portable showerheads and a hand-cranked radio.

The book reflects their attention to the woods around them. Jeffrey carries a micro-recorder for dictating observations, which he later enters into a spiral notebook. Many of those descriptions ended up in the new guidebook. Referring to the site of a former cabin at First Cedar Lake, the Cases write: “It is surrounded by a variety of rusted artifacts salvaged from the surrounding brush. In the late spring there are several delightful patches of daffodils and chives, no doubt remnants from the former occupants.”

The Cases always hike from south to north, that is, from Northville to Lake Placid. That way, the afternoon sun is at their back rather than in their eyes. The trail descriptions and distance logs are presented with that direction in mind. (The previous edition included distance logs for hikers going in either direction; north-to-south hikers may miss this feature.)

The book divides the trail into 10 segments, ranging in length from 9.0 to 16.4 miles, and provides sample itineraries for one-week and two-week trips. The book also offers advice on what gear to pack, how to mail supplies to post offices located near the trail, and where to park. One useful tip is to park your car on private property (with permission) rather than worry about vandalism during your trek.

Authors Donna and Jeffrey Case.

Authors Donna and Jeffrey Case.

Like other new editions in ADK’s Adirondack Trails series, Northville-Placid Trail has a glossy full-color cover. This one pictures a pair of well-worn hiking boots. Tucked into the back cover is a topographical map of the entire trail, broken into six sections.

The next edition will see bigger changes. Plans are under way to reroute the Northville-Placid Trail away from Cedar River Road as well as from roads near Piseco and Northville. If all goes as hoped, work on the new sections of trail will be done within five years.

As it is now, many people avoid the first 10.3 miles at the southern end—with good reason. Beginning at the Northville bridge, hikers are expected to walk north on Route 30 and then follow a series of smaller roads to Upper Benson. Plans call for the rerouted trail to start about eight miles southwest of Northville, near Jackson Summit, and wind through the woods, crossing the West Branch of Stony Creek.

ADK built the Northville-Placid Trail (initially called the Long Trail) in 1922, the year the club was founded. As a low-elevation trail, it lacks the dramatic scenery found on top of the High Peaks and other mountains. In compensation, hikers will find tranquility and solitude. “You can be here in the middle of the summer and you can spend the whole day by yourself,’’ Kettlewell noted.

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