Cranberry Lake 50: A Journey of Resilience and Discovery

Exploring the Rugged Beauty of Cranberry Lake, NY
Expedition Dates: November 10-13, 2023

Day 1: The Beginning of a Remarkable Journey (Nov 10th)

From Rochester to Wilderness:

Our journey commenced with an air of anticipation as we left the urban landscapes of Rochester behind. The drive to Cranberry Lake was a transition from the hustle of city life to the serene embrace of nature. As we approached our destination around noon, the scenic beauty of the Adirondacks began to unfold, setting the stage for our adventure.

Into the Heart of Nature:

Upon arrival at Cranberry Lake, we staged our cars and eagerly began our hike. The trail, leading clockwise around the lake towards Hedgehog Pond, was a splendid introduction to the region’s natural splendor. The path meandered through a mosaic of dense forests and alongside the tranquil lake, offering us glimpses of the wilderness that lay ahead. The crisp air and the muffled sounds of our steps on the leaf-laden path created an almost meditative hiking experience.

Setting Camp in the Snow:

As the daylight began to wane, we found an ideal spot near Hedgehog Pond to set up camp. The process of pitching tents on the frozen ground was both challenging and exhilarating, as we worked together to create our home for the night. With our camp established, we gathered around to cook a warm, comforting meal of luxuriously-hot Mountain House beef stew and instant mashed potatoes. The simple pleasure of dining in the wilderness overlooking Hedgehog Pond, with the soft sounds of nature as our backdrop, was an experience in itself.

As night descended, the temperature dropped to around 20 degrees, turning the landscape into a frosty wonderland. We huddled in our tents, nestled in our sleeping bags, and let the tranquility of the wilderness lull us to sleep.

Total Mileage:

Our first day’s hike was a modest 6.67 miles, but it was far from uneventful. The gentle elevation gain was enough to warm us up and get our muscles working, preparing us for the days ahead. This initial leg of the journey was not just about covering distance; it was about transitioning from the structured world we left behind to the unpredictable beauty of the wild.


As we rested on the first night, the reality of our undertaking began to sink in. We were not just in nature; we were part of it. The day’s journey was a vivid reminder of the stark contrast between our daily lives and the raw, unfiltered beauty of the wilderness. It set the tone for the adventure that lay ahead, where each step was a step deeper into the heart of nature and ourselves.

Day 2: Embracing the Unpredictable (Nov 11th)

Dawn in the Wild:

The second day of our expedition greeted us with a serene, frosty morning. As the first rays of the sun pierced through the trees, we stirred from our tents, greeted by the crisp, cold air of the wilderness. Our breakfast ritual was a simple yet hearty affair, consisting of oatmeal with powdered peanut butter, and steaming cups of instant coffee. This warm meal not only satiated our hunger but also provided the much-needed energy for the day’s hike. The quiet moments of the morning, surrounded by the untouched beauty of nature, were a gentle reminder of the day’s endless possibilities.

Off-Trail Adventures:

Post-breakfast, we packed up and set off from Hedgehog Pond. Our route for the day was less conventional, as we decided to explore beyond the marked trails. Our off-trail journey led us towards the ESF Cranberry Lake Biological Station. The path, unmarked and crunchy with frozen leaves, was a thrilling challenge, requiring us to rely on our navigation skills and instincts. The thrill of charting our own course through the wilderness was exhilarating. Eventually, we intersected with a snowmobile trail, which provided us with a clearer and somewhat easier path to traverse.

Encounters and Camaraderie:

One of the most memorable moments of the day was an unexpected encounter with a group of hunters. In a display of wilderness camaraderie, they offered us each a Bud Light, which we gladly accepted. This spontaneous interaction was a refreshing reminder of the bonds that can form in the wilderness, where the usual barriers of everyday life seem to dissolve.

Night by the South Bay:

As the day drew to a close, we found ourselves at a picturesque campsite overlooking the south bay of Cranberry Lake. Setting up camp here was a rewarding end to a day filled with adventure. As we pitched our tents, prepared dinner, and filtered water, the view of the tranquil lake, framed by the setting sun, was a sight to behold. The evening was spent sharing stories and experiences around a crackling campfire, under a canopy of stars.

Total Mileage:

Our journey on this day covered a total of 10 miles, a significant distance compounded by the off-trail segments which added to both the mileage and the elevation gain. The day’s trek was a testament to our physical endurance, mental toughness, and our ability to adapt to the unforeseen paths of the wilderness.


This day, more than any, taught us the value of embracing the unpredictable. The challenges of navigating unmarked terrain and the joy of unexpected encounters enriched our experience. It was a day that tested our limits and expanded our understanding of both the wilderness and ourselves. As we retired for the night, the feeling of accomplishment was palpable – we had not only traversed a physical distance but had also journeyed deeper into the heart of exploration and adventure.

Day 3: Nature’s Panorama (Nov 12th)

Trail Amidst Majestic Views:

The third day of our Cranberry Lake adventure dawned bright and clear, promising a day of spectacular views and serene hiking. After dismantling our camp, we set out on the Six Mile Creek Trail, eagerly anticipating the natural wonders that lay ahead. As we meandered through the trail, we were surrounded by the awe-inspiring vistas of Indian and Cat Mountains. The towering peaks, with their majestic presence, served as a stunning backdrop to our journey. Every turn on the trail offered a new perspective of these natural giants, leaving us in a state of wonder. The crisp, fresh air and the gentle rustle of leaves underfoot added to the trail’s enchanting ambiance. This section of the hike was not just a physical journey but a visual feast, allowing us to fully immerse ourselves in the splendor of the Adirondacks.

A Night by Glasby Pond:

As the day progressed, our path eventually led us to Glasby Pond, a hidden gem nestled in the heart of the wilderness. The site for our night’s camp was right on the water’s edge, offering panoramic views of the pond and its surrounding forest. The tranquility of this location was unparalleled – the still waters of the pond reflecting the sky and trees created a picture-perfect setting. Setting up camp in this idyllic spot was a moment of pure bliss. As the evening unfolded, we were treated to a spectacular sunset that painted the sky in hues of orange. The night sky soon followed, a vast canvas of stars twinkling above us, adding a sense of wonder to our already magical surroundings.

Total Mileage:

The day’s trek covered a distance of 7.1 miles. This journey, though shorter in mileage compared to the previous days, was rich in varying terrains and elevations. The trail took us through dense forests, open meadows, and along the serene edges of Glasby Pond, each offering its unique challenges and beauty. The varied landscapes not only tested our physical capabilities but also provided a diverse experience of the region’s natural terrain.


Day three of our expedition was a testament to the beauty and diversity of the Adirondacks. As we lay in our tents, lulled by the gentle sounds of nature, we reflected on the day’s journey. The stunning views of the mountains and the peaceful night by Glasby Pond were reminders of the serenity and beauty that nature holds. This day was not just about covering distance; it was about experiencing the profound peace and beauty that only the wilderness can offer. It reinforced our connection to the natural world and the importance of preserving these untouched landscapes for future generations to explore and enjoy.

Day 4: The Final Stretch (Nov 13th)

An Early Start:

The final day of our Cranberry Lake 50 journey began with an air of excitement and a touch of melancholy, knowing this marked the end of our remarkable adventure. With the first light of dawn, we were up and ready, filled with renewed vigor and a sense of accomplishment. Our trek for the day started past Janacks Landing Shelter, leading us towards the quaint hamlet of Wanakena. The trail, bathed in the soft morning light, seemed to have a different character, almost as if it was aware of our impending departure. As we moved through the path, each step was a mix of reflective appreciation for the experiences we had and anticipation for what the last stretch would hold. The trail offered a serene ambiance, with the gentle sounds of nature accompanying us – a fitting soundtrack for our final day.

Celebratory Conclusion:

Upon reaching our staged car, a sense of achievement washed over us. We had completed what we set out to do, and now it was time to celebrate. We made our way to Otto’s Abode, a local haven known for its delightful assortment of baked goods and refreshments. The warmth of the establishment was a stark contrast to the chilly wilderness we had just emerged from. Here, we indulged in the simple pleasures of fresh baked goods, coffee, savory snacks, and refreshing beverages, relishing each bite and sip. Did I mention hot COFFEE? This celebratory meal was not just about satiating our hunger but was a toast to our journey, the challenges we overcame, and the bonds we strengthened.

Total Mileage:

The day’s hike added another 4.65 miles to our journey, culminating in a fulfilling descent towards Wanakena. This final leg of the trek was relatively more relaxed, allowing us to truly soak in the last moments of our expedition. The descent was a physical representation of our journey – starting from the heights of anticipation and excitement, moving through the valleys of challenges and unexpected joys, and finally descending towards a satisfying conclusion.


As we drove back towards the familiar landscapes of our everyday lives, we carried with us not just memories but a transformed perspective. The total mileage of 4.65 miles on the final day brought our adventure to a respectful close, encapsulating a journey that was as much about internal discovery as it was about exploring the great outdoors. The Cranberry Lake 50 was more than a trail; it was a journey of self-discovery, resilience, and connection with nature. It reminded us of the importance of stepping out of our comfort zones, the beauty of the natural world, and the enduring strength of the human spirit. As we left Cranberry Lake behind, we knew that this experience would remain with us, a cherished chapter in our lives’ adventures.

Expedition Summary

Total Mileage: 28.42 miles

Over the course of four days, our expedition across the Cranberry Lake 50 trail covered a total of 28.42 miles. Each mile brought its unique landscape, challenges, and experiences. From the initial gentle trails near Hedgehog Pond to the rugged, off-beaten paths near the ESF Cranberry Lake Biological Station, every step tested our physical limits and deepened our connection with the wilderness.

Elevation Gain: Varied Across the Journey

The varied elevation gain throughout the journey added a significant layer of challenge to our expedition. The terrain shifted from gentle slopes to more demanding ascents, especially during our off-trail adventures. These changes in elevation not only tested our physical stamina but also our ability to adapt to the changing demands of the trail. Climbing higher, we witnessed breathtaking views that were a reward in themselves, offering panoramic vistas of the Adirondack Mountains and serene lake views that will be etched in our memories forever.

Key Takeaway: The ‘Mind Over Mountain‘ Philosophy

This journey was a profound embodiment of the ‘Mind Over Mountain’ philosophy. It was a constant interplay between our physical abilities and mental fortitude. The expedition required more than just physical endurance; it demanded mental strength, adaptability, and resilience in the face of unpredictable elements of nature. Each day presented its own set of trials – from braving the unexpected cold nights to navigating through uncharted paths, and even forming spontaneous connections with fellow nature enthusiasts.

The trek was a reminder that true exploration is as much about discovering the unknown paths of the wilderness as it is about exploring the uncharted terrains within ourselves. It taught us the importance of perseverance, the joy of overcoming obstacles, and the beauty of embracing the journey as it unfolds.

In essence, this expedition was more than a hike; it was a transformative journey into the heart of resilience. It reminded us that the most challenging trails often lead to the most remarkable experiences and that sometimes, the toughest paths bring out the strongest in us. As we concluded our journey and returned to our everyday lives, we carried with us not just the memories of the beautiful landscapes but also the lessons learned and the strength gained from this incredible adventure.