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A taste for unique adventures

November 11, 2011
By MIKE LYNCH, News Outdoors Writer
About four years ago Oneonta resident Erik Schlimmer visited the 46,000-acre Pharoah Lake Wilderness as a field instructor with SUNY Adirondack Community College in Queensbury.

After the visit, Schlimmer came away impressed with the wilderness area located in the eastern Adirondacks near Schroon Lake. When he returned home, he decided to review a map of the region to learn more about it. Upon doing so, he noticed that nearly every mountain, body of water, shelter and waterway was named. Of those named features, he counted 51summits, 44 bodies of water, 14 lean-tos and 11 streams. Overall, there were 120 named features.

The geographic names range from Grizzle Ocean, Thunderbolt Mountain, Oxshoe Pond and Desolate Brook.

Always one who enjoys challenges and adventures, Schlimmer then decided he wanted to visit each and every one of those named features.

This spring, Schlimmer achieved that feat. Overall, he spent about 40 days and nights in the woods doing so. About 30 of those were as a field instructor working for colleges and 10 were in his free time. He visited about 70 of the sites from the spring of 2010 to the spring of 2011. During the four years, his visits always occurred during the warmer months and never in winter.

“What’s so cool about Pharaoh is that large expanses of that wilderness area have been burned over in wildfires,” Schlimmer told the Enterprise. “So what you get is the forest gets incinerated, the root system get incinerated and then there’s really nothing left to hold the soil on the side of the mountain. Then you get your next heavy rain and it keeps washing the soil off. So there are a large concentration of bald peaks.”

Schlimmer also said that the area has some of the biggest maple trees he has seen in his life, in addition to open pine forests. The pine forests are very open with little ground cover, he said.

“The overall theme of Pharaoh is that the off-trail travel is very easy — and I bushwhack more than I hike on trails in the Adirondacks — and there were sections of forest in Pharoah that you could carry a kayak through sideways,” Schlimmer said. “The trees are so far apart, where most off-trail travel in the Adirondacks is more akin to a South American jungle.”

In addition to having many pine forests, another distinguishing feature is that the mountains and hills are small. The tallest mountain is Pharaoh Mountain, which is 2,556 feet in height. Many of the hills that are in Pharoah are bald due to past fires and offer good views, Schlimmer said.

“Above the hills right near you to the east, you get the Vermont skyline,” he said. “To the northeast, Lake Champlain. Then you look west and you are looking at the southern High Peaks.”

For Schlimmer this was one of many outdoor adventures that he has undertaken. The 38-year-old wilderness instructor has climbed all 770 mountains above 3,000 feet in the Northeast, including the 100 highest in the Catskill Mountains and Adirondacks during the winter.

A former mountain bike racer, he rode from Canada to Mexico, with two-thirds of the trip taking place in the backcountry. He has also served as a paratrooper in the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, specializing in nighttime parachute operations.

In the fall of 2008, he hiked the 132-mile Northville-Placid Trail in three days and eight hours. That would be an average of 39.9 miles per day.

In 2010, he trekked 220 miles from the northern Adirondack Park border to its southern one. That trip, which he did alone, took 12 days.

His next adventure is to paddle the five largest rivers in the Northeast from source to sea. He’s already knocked off two: the 460-mile Susquehanna River and the 360-mile Delaware.

Article Photos

Photo by Erik Schlimmer
Erik Schlimmer at the top of Desolate Hill, which was named feature No. 120 of his trip.



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