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Duck Hole via Couchie-10/8-10/9

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  • Duck Hole via Couchie-10/8-10/9

    My friend Robin and I planned this trip as a way to piece together two agendas: he needed to hike the Santanoni Range to wrap up his last few 46-er peaks and I have been wanting to revisit Duck Hole since the dam gave out. We had talked about bushwhacking Couchsachraga from Cold River while hiking last spring, and this trip seemed like a great opportunity. In addition to PERFECT weather, we both had long weekends with the dual Canadian and American holiday. Sometimes everything just seems to line up perfectly....

    Our plan was to meet at Bradley Pond at 9AM Friday, and we happened to converge on the parking lot at the same time, 7:30. We decided to leave a car at Upper Works to eliminate the need to walk the road at the end of our hike. The hike in to the beaver dam before the leanto was uneventful and we made good time. We had to cross at the outlet of the beaver pond, as the beaver dam is no more. We cruised up to Times Square in good time. It was already heating up.

    We stashed our packs near Time Square and made good time to Santanoni and then Panther, where we took in the sunrays, views, and some fuel. The open rock on Panther provided a great vantage for us to plan our route. We were on Couchie an hour after leaving Time Square.

    I had originally been eyeing a descent route directly north from Couchie's summit ridge, but after researching a few trip reports (particularly Mudrat and WWBF's) and talking it over with Robin, decided to head over to the west/northwest bump and descend the faultline into the drainage. Robin led us down on a nearly perfect northwesterly bearing, initially close to the stream flowing through the drainage (this is the western-most fork shown on some maps). Naturally, things got tight and vegetation got thick near the stream, so we decided to climb up and out in favor of the more open ridge above, to the west. This plan was reinforced by the blaze orange and yellow maple and birch leaves we saw to the west--we'd seen this inviting hardwood ridge from Panther as well. The forest was mixed, thick and brushy at first, but began to open up after descending a few hundred feet. Eventually, only halfway down to the Cold River valley, it was almost exclusively colorful maple trees with a fresh coating of dried leaves underfoot. Very nice

    We eventually felt the need to veer more directly north toward the river, so set out on a new bearing and re-crossed the main stream. It was beginning to get late in the afternoon and the Northern leanto's seemed like a good option to set up camp. Just before the stream crossing, we came across a fern-filled old lumber clearing.

    The terrain was a bit more hilly than expected as we neared the river/horsetrail. In hindsight, we were slightly further east than we thought. No big deal-we intersected the horse trail approx. 1.5 miles west of the leantos. It was great to be on the beautiful Cold River again.

    The horse trail is pretty much as bad as people say it is. It was relatively easy to follow but overgrown in a few sections and very wet and muddy. The final few miles to the river crossing were really bad, and it's hard to imagine riding a horse through there.

    We chose the closer of the two Northern leanto's. There was small flood debris throughout the campsight and the outhouse was tipped over on it's side. Not sure whether that's Irene-related...???

    The next morning we broke camp and hiked the rolling, saturated horse trail to the stream crossing, which was blocked by approx. 10 feet of piled up flood debris. The ford was shallow but painfully cold. Coming upon Duck Hole was a bit shocking. I'd only visited the pond once back in 2009, and this was a dramatically different sight. I'd imagine it won't take long for nature to take over and re-vegetate. We briefly chatted with D Settar and his group and continued on, stopping to check out a few of the dried up bays and mud flats. BTW, nice photo essay D.

    Overall, I thought the trail from DH past the Preston's was intermittently beautiful and wet. The infamous garter snakes are still thriving in this area. Again, the incredible weather and scenery made the hike out extremely pleasant.

    I drove directly home from the trailhead that afternoon and Robin went up to finish his 46 on Street, Nye, and Wright the next day.

  • #2
    Nice report, Greg. It brought back memories! Did you go up on the bump of West couchie? It's beautiful up there. I'm glad the trip report and PMs helped as well. I haven't been to duck hole since Irene, but I imagine that my response would be much like yours. It's always been a placid calming place for me with good memories. Thanks for posting the details!
    May your ambition for the goal allow you to be a student of the journey.