2008-04 Tenant Creek Falls

In early April we had our last “winter camping” trip of the season. Mark, Matt and I revisited the Tenant Creek waterfalls. Tenant Falls is a series of three separate falls , 30-50 feet each, on Tenant Creek. The hike to the falls is a 3-mile round trip.

We have been losing snow rapidly, but some snow remains in the woods at higher elevations. Mark did most of the planning on this trip in stark contrast to previous years when we tried to get Mark to plan a trip.  Mark has a new solo tent that he wants to exercise.

Getting there.

Located north of Northville, Tenant Falls can be reached by two routes. From Northville, Reed Street becomes Old State Road, County Route 15, which becomes Old Northville Road at the county line. Proceed northward to Hope Falls Road, a right turn.  From Points north, via NYS Route 30, look for the County Route 15 and Old Northville Road signs pointing eastward. At approximately two miles, turn left or northward onto Hope Falls Road. To reach Tenant Creek Falls, after turning onto East Stony Creek Road, also known as Hope Falls Road, drive for 7.4 miles, to the end where a parking area is seen on the left with room for about 5 cars.

ADK’s Guide to Adirondack Trails: Southern Region gives a description of the trail in.


We met in the parking lot at noon and had a quick lunch (sandwiches) before hiking in.  Matt, a hot chocolate fanatic, sampled a self-heating Hillside hot chocolate beverage as we reviewed the trail in.

The Trail in.

We had an easy relaxed hike in with warm temperatures under a sunny sky but snowshoes were advised.

Mark had been experiencing alignment issues with his snowshoes.  He got them discounted through Sierra Trading Post and we finally decided the binding had been mounted in reverse.  So instead of the tail of the binding being left on the outside of the snowshoe, the snowshoes had to be put on with the tail to the inside (reverse L<->R snowshoes).

Tenant Creek was flowing strong and we took a lot of pictures on the way in; some serious, others not so much.

On our hike in we passed a deer carcass that appeared to be a recent coyote kill.  In my experience coyotes eat and clean up almost the entire carcass.  The picture below shows the widely scattered deer hair, a few bones and bits of hide.  What we couldn’t figure out was the brown lump shown in the middle of the picture that wasn’t eaten by the coyotes.  Upon closer examination it was the partially digested twigs, buds and browse that was in the deer’s stomach.  At this time of year the deer exist largely on browsing twigs – a fare with so much roughage even the coyotes won’t eat it.

The Waterfalls.

The waterfalls at Tenant Creek were impressive. When we last visited in November of 2005 Mark took a group shot with everyone standing on a ledge at the lower right. As you can see in the video below that ledge had a sheet of ice and was being doused by water. The falls are a nice destination for a short hike this time of year.

View the Tenant Creek Waterfalls Video from November 2005

Setting up camp.

We climbed the steep icy slope above the main falls to set up camp in an open mixed forest of beech and large hemlock trees.  We were still getting sunlight as we set up our three solo tents. Matt went floor-less with his tarp, Jim set up a Sierra Designs Baku and Mark puzzled over his new solo.

It is always high containment to watch someone set up their new tent in the field for the 1st time.

Finally everyone was set up.

Fire and snacks

We turned our attention to our afternoon tea.  There was some nearby standing dead trees, one of which nearly came down on our heads as we rocked it over.  We cut up our wood and prepared for our experiment – starting a fire with a magnesium fire starter to “initiate” the fire. Both Matt and I have carried these fire starters on many camping trips and decided that a little practice would be in good order.  If you are not familiar with the device it is basically a block of magnesium with a flint rod embedded within the block. One shaves off slices of magnesium and then creates sparks igniting the magnesium.

Granted there may be differences among the various brands, but ours (probably both from Campmor) didn’t work. It was too hard to get any shavings using a knife. I did a little research and saw where some users recommended bringing a small hacksaw blade to make shavings, but that was more to save the edge on a knife than due to any complaints about making shavings. Maybe our blocks were cheap or old or something, but they didn’t work.

We got frustrated. We lit our fire with matches and then put one of the magnesium blocks in the flame to see how long before it would ignite.

Again, there may be problems with our blocks, and maybe there is a need for the increased surface area offered by shavings, but it took several minutes (5 or more) to ignite the magnesium block. However, once going it created a white, hot, intense flame warranting a welder’s helmet.

High Tea

After we had our fire going we had some warm beverages and Matt cooked up some tasty cinnamon fried flat breads.

Night Time

We sat up during the evening watching the fire (WinterCampers’ TV) and chatting. We turned in on the early side and slept great.  I heard a couple of owls communicating during the night and one faint coyote howl.

The Hike Out.

The next morning we packed up in moderate temperatures.

The snow froze overnight and was firm and crusted, permitting us to walk out without snowshoes.