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Welcome to my Blog!

“The mountains are calling and I must go.” – John Muir

On this site you’ll find trip reports from my personal journeys through the mountains as well as my photography portfolio. Read through my diaries to stroll with me though the woods, accompany me on my solo 46er adventures, and learn from my triumphs and failures. “Only by going alone in silence, without baggage, can one truly get into the heart of the wilderness. All other travel is mere dust and hotels and baggage and chatter.” – John Muir

Click HERE to view my photography portfolio and take a part of the wilderness home with you.

Big Crow Mountain

9/15/20

Despite the name of this one, it is the shortest of the Lake Placid 9ers at 1.4 miles round-trip. Immediately after finishing Bear Den Mountain in Wilmington, I and my two hiking buddies (and Juno) made our way up the narrow dirt road toward the Big Crow trailhead. The drive up gave us a fantastic view of the mountain we were about to climb, and I was thinking, “Wow, that sure seems like a steep climb!” until I realized the road we were on took us nearly all the way up! Since this hike was so short, I opted to leave my pack behind and take only the essentials up with me to give my back a break. We lingered just for a moment at the trailhead to enjoy some beautiful huge red leaves, then made our way up to the register at about 3:15pm.

The trail started off relatively flat, but before long we were certainly gaining some serious altitude. With an elevation gain of 570′ over only 0.7 miles, of course this was going to be a steep one!

The bright side of this hike is that before you know it, you’re at the top! It took us half an hour to reach the summit at about 3:45pm.

The view at the top was a little bit clearer than at our previous summit, but not by much. Still, there is no better way to spend an afternoon than looking down on the adirondacks with it’s reddening foliage.

After about 15 minutes, we took our leave. I was trying to be in my car by 4pm; it’s a 3 hour drive home, and I didn’t want to spend it in the dark! As we were heading out, we passed the sweetest little family – a mom and dad with 3 little kiddos – who were so excited to greet Juno as we descended past them.

Within 20 minutes we were back to the flatter part of the trail, where I spotted a HUGE orange mushroom that I must have missed on our way up! Jeepers this thing was the size of my foot!

On the way down, we talked about how this trail is a perfect little Adirondack hike; it has all the elements of a real high peaks trail, just scaled back. We arrived back at our cars at 4:25pm. The lot, which had been so busy just over an hour before, had emptied out. I learned this lot is also another trailhead for Hurricane mountain! I had no idea there were multiple ways up Hurricane, but that explained how there were so many cars but almost no people on our trail. Not that I’m complaining! As I drove home, I watched the sun set in front of me, that same odd orange ball that I had seen that morning, with the distinct aura of being seen through a screen of wildfire smoke.

Big Crow Mountain: 2815′ Elevation Gain: 570′

Total Distsance: 1.4 miles

Total Duration: 1 hr 10 minutes, including time at top

Happy hiking!

Bear Den Mountain

9/15/20

Now that summer is basically over, the crowds have dispersed, weather is cooler, and I have Tuesdays free, I figure it’s time to get my lazy butt back into the mountains. I’m starting to push myself again to see if I’m ready to hit those high peaks, so I thought a good place to start would be with the Lake Placid 9ers. My plan was to go up Bear Den, then head into Keene to try for Big Crow as well.

I left home by 7am and drove the three hours to Wilmington, with the most bizarre rising sun ahead of me. The only time I’d seen a sun looking like a floating orange ball in the sky, with no aura, is when I’d seen it through smoke from wild fires. Considering the circumstances out west, that isn’t exactly a crazy assumption. I made it to the trailhead of the Flume Trails off of 86 where I met two of my very best friends, Gavin and Steve!

We tried to sign in at the trailhead (“tried” because there were no free spaces on the sign in sheets) and set off on the wide mountain-biking trail at 10:30am, with Juno zipping between the trees left and right. My map didn’t have very clear markings for these trails, but fortunately I snapped a picture at the register of the trail map, which came in handy as we reached each of many many junctions. We stayed on the Corridor trail heading towards the Upper connector trail.

After some climbing, we reached a beautiful “sugar bush” which Gavin was particularly excited about, full of strong maple trees just starting to drop their bright leaves on the forest floor. Gavin gushed at all of the maple trees, hugging a select few special ones, while I oohed and aahed at the MUSHROOMS. The mushroom situation on this trail is unreal. I had to fight the urge to pick them every time I found a large strand of shroomies, so instead, I took photos of them!

It was around this time when I started to realize how out of shape I am. I’m trying to assess if I’m ready to get back into the high peaks, logging 20-mile days with a full pack, so I thought I’d try hiking with my full pack for these smaller hikes to see where I’m at. DANG BUD, IT’S ROUGH. Of course I wouldn’t tell my hiking buddies at the time but my god I felt like I’d be better off dragging my carcass along the trail with my arms! Instead, I insisted on frequent breaks to catch my breath, using the opportunity to get Gavin talking about trees to extend our break (Sorry Gav! I’m shameless), before continuing on. It wasn’t a particularly long hike, but it was a bit more strenuous and a bit more UP than I suppose I was expecting!

Along the way, we passed only one older couple heading down, so I was looking forward to having the summit to explore on our own. We climbed and climbed and finally I could see a break in the trees! We scrambled up to a gorgeous view of Whiteface Mountain practically looming over us at 12:30pm.

We three dropped our packs to soak in the view and have some lunch, and after a few minutes Gavin and I realized we lost Steve! Jokingly I said, ‘Maybe he took a wrong turn and wound up on Whiteface!’, but instead we found a narrow trail leading further up. As it turns out, we weren’t actually on the summit. We left our packs behind, and I felt positively bouncy! I felt so light without the weight of my pack as I bopped my way along the trail. After just a few more minutes we were at a slightly higher outcropping with a slightly nicer view, where we found both Steve and Juno.

Naturally, I immediately set about capturing some photos. I was feeling very frustrated as I stalked around, crouching and leaning to get various shots of the landscape, but the sky was just so….UGLY. It was ugly. There was not a single cloud in the sky, so logically the sky should have been blue, right? But no, it was this greyish-whitish haze that settled to a ruddy orange around the peaks in the distance. It made all of my shots look slightly out-of-focus. One of my biggest pet peeves as a photographer is when people saturate the sky when taking pics, so the sky just looks totally white instead of showing any dimension or clouds…..AND THAT’S WHAT ALL OF MY SHOTS LOOKED LIKE! But they weren’t saturated, just…ugly! So that was the second indication of the day that we were seeing massive amounts of smoke, high in the atmosphere, that had drifted in from the wild fires out west.

Despite the ugliness of the sky, we marveled at the pops of red sprouting in the canopy beneath us.

We hung out for a while regardless, and I turned my focus to a lovely model to distract from the ugly sky – Juno! Her poses were really on point. Check out this saucy look:

At 1:15pm we decided to head back down so that we’d have time to make it to our 2nd peak of the day. Right about at this time we encountered our second pair of people for the day, a couple who also thought the first rocky outcropping was the summit. We directed them to the path to the top, and hustled down the trail.

The descent was much more smooth than the climb, and I was thrilled to find that my knee didn’t hurt! Since we were making good time, I didn’t feel guilty about stopping and climbing into a stream to get some pics.

As I was climbing out of the stream, I noticed Juno acting real odd next to me up on the bank. She was jumping around, wiggling and scratching, and I noticed a small bright yellow wriggling mass sticking out of her haunch: a hornet was repeatedly stinging her viciously in her hind hip! I swatted it away, but it continued to dive-bomb us so we ran ran ran back to the trail to the boys. She was still acting erratic and scratching at her head when Gavin saw another hornet fly out from behind her ear. We looked back at where she and I had been near the stream and spotted a hive on the ground, surrounded by the swarming assholes. Once we were sure Juno was fine, we wasted no time in getting the hell out of there.

Before long, we were back to the mountain biking trails above the marshy pond. We saw a few odd groups of older folks slowly ambling up the trail; for some reason they seemed quite strange to me. Maybe it was the way they were dressed, or that they gave us wary looks as we passed and wouldn’t make eye contact. Whatever the case, we made it back to the parking lot at about 2:30pm, had some snacks, and headed off for Big Crow. Juno never stopped running today, so the first thing she did was pass out in the back seat. Poor thing thought we were done for the day!

Bear Den Mountain: 2650′ Elevation Gain : 1300′

Round Trip Distance: ~4.5 miles

Total Duration: ~4 hours, including time at the summit

Next up : Big Crow Mountain

Mt. Van Hoevenberg

8/16/2020

It’s a gorgeous Sunday, with perfect weather, AND it’s my Birthday! All I wanted was to spend some time in the mountains. I only recently learned about the Lake Placid 9er challenge, since I’ve been recovering from a persistent knee injury for a few years I must have missed it! Now I’ve got my sights set on completing this challenge too, and since the high peaks are overwhelmingly swamped with hikers these days I thought it would be a great opportunity to explore some less-popular trails. So off we went to Mt. Van Ho! There are two main trailheads for this peak – one that starts at the Mt. Van Hoevenberg ski center, and one that starts either at the Loj or at the South Meadows lot. I wanted to avoid the crowds and the parking issues present in the high peaks lately, so we opted to start at the ski center. There were several cars in the lot, but we realized most of them were there to mountain bike, not to climb the mountain. We signed in, I peed for the millionth time that morning (having downed an entire nalgene with Nuun – see Noonmark mountain – to prevent dehydration during the hike), and we set off around the building and over the bridge into the trails right at 1pm.

The trails are fortunately VERY well marked, and it’s very clear that hikers should follow the yellow markers all the way up. There were even distance markers every 0.5 mile. The paths were wide and grassy, and if not for the many many signs at every junction it would have been very easy to get turned around.

The going was very easy along these paths, almost boring, but I was just so content to be out in the mountains, smelling the wildflowers.

After a mile of walking, we reached the junction where the REAL trail branched off and meandered up to the summit. I love the feeling of being nestled beneath the safety of a green canopy, and felt right at home….as did Juno!

As we walked the steady switchbacks, it became very apparent that this trail is undergoing very active maintenance! It was so cool to see! We engineer nerds can’t help but to always wonder how on earth the trail crews move such large boulders and create paths….well, now we have a better idea!

It’s going to be a great trail once they’ve finished, and I imagine it will help a ton with trail erosion. We happily walked along, and as we climbed we started seeing these great boulders with awesome caves built-in! I’m not sure why but my mind always says “Yeah, we could hide in there!”

On our way up we passed only a handful of people coming down. Before we knew it we were at the first incredible lookout with a pair of women sitting and enjoying the peaks.

We chatted for a few minutes before hopping back onto the trail toward the true summit. Just a hop and a skip and we were approaching the next clearing, this time with a sign:

And sure enough….

So cool! I hope that someday I will be able to volunteer on a trail crew to help maintain these trails that I love so much! Plus, I just really wanna know how they do everything 😀 For some reason, we weren’t quite sure that this was the summit (to the best of my knowledge, it was) so we kept going ahead, past another overlook, and back into the woods. At some point I noticed we were now following blue markers and were heading somewhat downhill, so we turned around and settled in at the last viewpoint we had passed.

Check out Saddleback and Basin in the image above! They’re almost exactly in the center of the image, you can see a big saddle-like dip in between the two peaks…Yep, can’t wait to haul my carcass up those high peaks! As ready as I was for my lunch and of course my VICTORY CHOCOLATE, I was super excited to try out an app that I recently put on my phone. It’s called PeakFinder, and it’s not very easy to use, but it identifies all of the visible peaks on the horizon!

I fiddled around with that for quite a while, and enjoyed the knowledgeable feeling I had when a few people from out of state asked which peaks we were looking at and I could answer them! We could even see the ski jumps in Lake Placid.

I can’t believe this little mountain doesn’t get more attention. The climb up couldn’t have been easier and the sights were breathtaking.

We were in no rush as we enjoyed our sandwiches and stretched our bones. Juno, however, was not too happy with us; we tied her to a tree because she kept STICKING HER SNOUT OUT OVER THE CLIFFS. This is why she doesn’t go up high peaks with me anymore! Kids these days…

As much as we enjoyed the summit, we began to grow weary of the sun beating down, so we packed up our things and headed back the way we came, stopping for a few last photos of course.

The descent was gentle, and I relished feeling no pain in my knee or hip….just some in my back, but hey, I’ll take what I can get, I’m an old lady now! 🤣

Just a few minutes later we were back at the wide ski trails heading downhill toward the ski center. I was kind of dreading this part a little bit because it is pretty boring; it’s not what you think of when you think of hiking in the ADKs….That is, until we realized that the trails are lined with red raspberry bushes the whole way down! So obviously we really took our time and snacked during the whole descent – Juno included. Sometime in the last few months, after watching me forage for berries, she learned how to forage too, and now I can’t keep her away from them.

The photo above was taken on our regular walking trails, not on this hike, but you get the idea.

We made it back to the car at about 5pm and wasted no time in packing up and heading down Rt. 73 to the Cascade Lakes to take a refreshing dip before driving the 3 hours back home. And OF COURSE we stopped for Stewart’s pizza and ice cream before heading back, what kind of hikers would we be if we didn’t?! (Campfire S’moreo, in case you were wondering 😉 )

I can’t wait to go back and finish the rest of the 9ers! It feels good to be completing a challenge until my knee can handle the 46ers again.

Happy trails!

Mount Van Hoevenberg: 2940′

Round Trip Distance: 4.4 miles

Total Duration: ~4 hours, including who knows how long at the top.

Noonmark Mountain

7/18/20

Weather: 85 F and Humid

All right. This is a hard one to write, but the most important one too. Please read until the end.

I left home at 4:30am and started driving towards the sky brightening with the rising sun and a perfect yellow crescent moon. As I hopped on rt 73, I became increasingly aware of how full the little side lots were already, so before I even made it to the AMR lot at St Huberts, I knew it would be full (it was full at 4am!). Of course I checked it out anyway, and indeed it was full, so I went back up the hill and parked at Chapel Pond with several other cars with rock climbers prepping their gear. I took out my map and decided, hey, I came here to walk, what’s another mile or two added to my route?

I found that I could hike downhill along 73 to get to the trailhead, then summit Noonmark and continue down the south side of the mountain to exit near round pond, finishing with a short downhill walk along 73 to my car. So at 7:30am I set off down the road, stopping to gaze at Chapel Pond and two serene loons cruising her surface.

I joined the caravan of bewildered stragglers journeying to the high peaks. I didn’t mind walking the extra distance, but I could have done without the cars dangerously zipping past me while I ambled along the shoulder. Fortunately, the road is all downhill until AMR, so it was an easy warm-up. Along the way I discovered a hidden drive/lot for climbers (the Beer Wall) and saw some impromptu camps set in the woods along the road. I made it to St. Huberts lot at 8:00am and followed the road until the Noonmark Trail adjacent to the golf course where I signed in at the register, noting the printed list of important items to bring hiking and mentally checking them all off. There were only two groups ahead of me so I was looking forward to a quiet hike.

I trotted along the gravel path studded with stately private homes until I reached the yellow markers indicating the trail to Noonmark.

The trail started off pretty tame, gently but steadily gaining altitude. I stopped for my first hourly break at 8:30am, sitting on a rock in the middle of a dried-up creek bed to eat, drink, and stretch. I’m still coming off of a knee injury from several years ago, and I know I don’t eat or drink enough when I hike, so my method is to stop every hour for at least 5 or 10 minutes to take care of myself. I took a moment to jot down some notes for this trip report, then headed on behind the couple that had just passed me up.

Soon after I heard a rush of water and peered over the edge to see the most beautiful clear water and waterfalls. I wanted so badly to jump in already, but it wasn’t even 9am, so I carried on and soon passed up the couple ahead of me, and made it to the next trail junction! Only 1.5 miles to the summit!

The climbing got more vigorous after that, but it wasn’t technically challenging so I went slow, took many pauses, and made it to the first lookout at 9:15am. I took this opportunity to take another break and drink my gatorade and water, and eat some goldfish, fruit, pickles, and a protein bar. I was feeling a little tired already so I lied back to take a long rest in the shade. I was unaware at the time, but this was the start of my troubles.

After resting for a while, I gathered my things and continued my uphill slog. I found I had to move very slowly and was feeling a bit lightheaded, so I stopped frequently to rest in the shade and drink water and eat my snacks. At 10:30am I made it to the next lookout and took yet another long break.

At this point, I knew I wasn’t feeling well, but I thought my best bet would be to make it over the summit to take the gentler descent back down to my car. So I continued moving forward 10 yards at a time at most, taking many many breaks in between. I could see the summit (or at least what I thought was the summit) from where I was sitting, and it was close, so my choice made sense at the time. I didn’t understand why I was feeling so bad; it was hot out, but windy too, with some clouds, and I really wasn’t sweating much and I didn’t feel hot.

I was now feeling nauseous, dizzy, lightheaded, and weak, and I was getting concerned because I’ve never felt this way before. I was wearing the right clothes, the right materials, I had my hat on to keep out of the sun, I took breaks, I ate the right foods and drank the right things. So I just kept inching my way up, thinking that eventually the nutrients from my food would kick in and I’d feel better.

To be honest, at this point I wasn’t even interested in the scenery, which in retrospect was astonishing. I took a few photos while I rested, but not my usual fare. I took some time laying against my pack at this false summit. I tried closing my eyes, but I would feel the world spinning beneath me. I stood up to move toward some shade and felt my head spin and my heart absolutely race. I felt like I was going to faint at any moment, and was worried I’d hit my head hard if that happened. My situation was getting very real and very scary. I took a second to quiet my tears and call my boyfriend, who was camping elsewhere, but I didn’t know who else to call. As I left a message, I realized that I was having trouble stringing words together; I was aware enough to realize that I was quickly losing awareness. I hung up and called the DEC Ranger’s office at around 11:45am. SAVE THIS NUMBER IN YOUR PHONES if you’re an ADK hiker: 518-891-0235 . That is for the DEC Ranger’s office for the Adirondack region. The man who answered was kind and calm. He asked my name, where I was, and what was happening. I tried to be clear that I would MUCH rather make it out on my own two feet, if he just had some advice for what the hell was going on with me; I didn’t even want anyone to come help me because I didn’t want to be a drain on resources. I didn’t even think it was dehydration because I’d been drinking my water and gatorade and eating plenty. He told me to stay put and that he’d have another ranger call me with more instruction.

I am not a panicky, scared person. I am usually unflappable and stubborn as hell; if I’m in pain, I hike through it. I carry a map, I don’t get lost, and I feel comfortable and safe in the woods. This was like nothing I’d ever experienced before and I was TERRIFIED. I want everyone to be clear, that I was PREPARED. I was EXPERIENCED. And this still happened.

A few minutes after I made that first call, I got a call from a ranger saying she was on her way, and she had two assistant rangers coming up the trail to meet me. I hung up, finished the rest of my gatorade, and was starting to feel slightly better so I started heading downhill to meet them. I did NOT want to be carried out of the woods, but to be honest I had no clue how on earth I would make it in my current condition.

I walked for a solid 10 minutes before I started to feel much much worse. I even passed groups of people going up and had the clarity to reassure them that they were almost there. I didn’t want help from any of them though; I’ve been staying clear of people during this pandemic business, and I didn’t want to burden some hiking family with feeling obligated to assist me off the mountain. So I sat off to the side with my head between my knees to let them pass. At this point, even when I was sitting my heart was beating incredibly fast. I would stand up, stumble a few paces down the path, which was actually technically challenging at this point even for a healthy hiker, then have to sit again to catch my breath. I was texting the ranger all the while, trying to give her a better idea of where I was located on the trail.

At about 1:30pm I spotted two women in tan uniforms heading up the trail. I was so relieved. They sat me down and started taking my vitals and my information. Turns out that my heart really WAS racing; it was above 100bpm even when I was sitting and resting, and would shoot up to 120bpm after I’d very very slowly walked only 10 paces downhill. And I’d have to sit again.

After about 30 minutes of this, the ranger made it to us on the trail and gave me a Nuun tablet with a bottle of water. It’s a dissolving tablet with sodium, protein, and sugar. I downed it, though it was a struggle because I felt so nauseous that the last thing I wanted was to put anything in my stomach. I ate some fruit and had another half bottle of water, and another bottle with a Nuun tablet.

All the while we were slowly making our way downhill, stopping very frequently. Even though I was taking the tiniest, slowest steps, and they were carrying my pack, I still felt too weak and shaky to make it more than a few yards at a time.

Finally, midway through the second bottle of Nuun, my vision stopped swimming. Feeling started to return to my fingers and lips; they would tingle and go numb every time I stood up before. I wasn’t so nauseous and dizzy. Still felt weak, but it was a big improvement. By the time I finished the second bottle, the color had returned to my face, I was joking with the crew (they were actually a ton of fun to hike with, despite my feeling so crummy), and I was feeling strong enough to even carry my own pack. I finished the trail in a final 30 minute push that I was able to do without stopping. The longest stretch I’d been able to do since before 10am. I waited at the bottom of the trail with the assistant rangers while the ranger went to get her truck to drop me back off at my car. I was so relieved to finally be going home. To the rangers, should you read this: Megan, Chrissy, and Sarah (I hope I spelled your names right!) – You were all SO AMAZING. I felt so comfortable having you there with me; I can’t tell you how scared I was up on that mountain alone feeling like I would lose consciousness. I can’t thank you enough, and I hope to run into you again sometime under much different circumstances.

So that’s what happened. (After thinking about the symptoms more and more, I am fairly certain I was experiencing dehydration and heat exhaustion. Check out the chart at the bottom of this page). Once I sat down in my car and started driving, I finally started to feel hungry…VERY hungry. I ate almost everything else I had in my pack by the time I made it home. In fact, my heat exhaustion/dehydration was so severe that I was feeling just as sick when I walked in the door of my house that I didn’t feel I had energy even to make something to eat. I managed to heat up a bowl of Campbell’s vegetable soup (you know, with noodles, veggies, and more salt than the ocean) and ate the whole thing with a few crackers. To top it off I enjoyed a hot bath with epsom salts! At this point, why the hell not.

I’m writing this the day after. I woke up exhausted, with a headache, and HUNGRY. Other than that, I’m ok, and I’ve already bought 3 different kinds of salt chews and gels and tablets to keep in my pack. You can bet I won’t be in the woods without them ever again.

If you made it this far, thanks for reading. Learn from my mistakes; if it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone. I’ll say it one last time: I was prepared, experienced, and smart, and I still needed emergency assistance to get off the mountain. All I was missing was salt, because apparently gatorade and goldfish are not enough when you find out the hard way that you are sensitive to lack of salt.

Happy Hiking.

Noonmark Elevation: 3556′ Elevation Gained: 2175′

Total Distance: I’m not sure how close I was to the summit; in hindsight I think I was much closer than I realized. I’ll guess I only went about 5.6 miles in total, including the walk to AMR from my car.

Total Duration: 9 hours.

Bald (Rondaxe) Mountain

12/28/2019

It’s been several months since our last hike, and a day in the woods was desperately needed for my own sanity. We’d reviewed the weather for this day over the past few days, and it appeared to be the only sunny day in the forseeable future! So we’d decided to head to Old Forge to try to catch the sunset on Bald Mountain. Now we don’t have the best track record for successful sunset hikes…Our first ever hike together was up Indian Head in March 2018, with the goal of seeing the sunset….Sparing any details, let’s just say we missed the sunset…by 6 hours! 

We made it to the trailhead at 2:30pm and were OVERWHELMED by how sunny and bright it was! (There should be a special font for sarcasm…). Heck, the weather guys couldn’t have been more wrong, it was just a regular overcast grey day. We weren’t about to let that dampen our spirits though, especially Juno, as she neared flight speeds while careening down the trail.

We were surprised by the number of cars in the parking lot for a hike on a winter day, not realizing just how popular this trail is. Nevertheless, we signed in at the register, took our starting photo, and headed off.

Look at Juno’s face! 😂

Soon after we began, a pair of people with two sweet bouncy dogs followed behind us, so we decided to stop and wait for them to be sure the dogs were friendly with Juno and to let them meet. Unfortunately they were not wearing appropriate footwear and decided smartly to turn back when we came to our first steep section, down which a large group of kids were struggling, also lacking appropriate footwear. We decided to put on our microspikes right at the beginning of the trail, noticing how icy conditions were immediately; I have no clue how people wearing smooth leather street boots made it so far up that mountain, and I’m surprised we didn’t find anyone with a broken ankle along the way!

We navigated even the trickiest sections of “steep” eroded trail with the help of our microspikes, and in no time at all we arrived at the first lookout.

Juno has the interesting habit of rolling and flopping around in the snow, and I was seriously worried she would roll herself right off the edge of the mountain, so we wasted no time here and continued on our way.

After this point, the minimal climbing was already just about over, and the trail began to follow along the spine of the mountain ridge. We found it a very exciting and interesting landscape, though it was a bit daunting at times to walk on the balance beam ridge covered in ice. We didn’t opt to use it, but there is a herd path through the woods skirting the ridge for those too harrowed to skate across it.

A few short minutes of rock-hopping later and we had our first glimpse of the firetower! Juno often likes to run ahead, but this time she chose to scamper right up the firetower steps to get a better view before we even got there.

The first time Juno went up a firetower, I had to practically carry her back down; this time, she led the way! How far she’s come. It was clear by now that there would be NO SUNSET due to the overcast skies, but we chose to hang out for a while and enjoy the brisk air on our skin for a while longer. Figures, we finally make it up in time for the sun to set, on a day when there is no sunset!

And of course we took some obligatory summit selfies, but we FORGOT TO PACK VICTORY CHOCOLATE! 😭 A mistake that wont happen again!

Since there was no sunset, there was no sense in waiting around for darkness to fall, so we headed down while it was still light. We made it down in no time at all, and were again incredibly grateful for our microspikes. We saw so many people on the trail with sneakers and street shoes struggling where we were able to walk right on by. Juno of course has the gracefulness of a mountaingoat in most conditions, but even she is cautious on the ice!

We made it all the way back to the trailhead and hopped into the car to head home. I was ecstatic that I made it a whole hike without any debilitating knee pain, and so so refreshed after a few hours in the woods.

Juno in her natural habitat, on her couch with her pillows and blanket

Enjoy those winter hikes, and WEAR SOME DAMN HIKING BOOTS AND MICROSPIKES!

Bald Mountain: Elevation – 2350′ Elevation Gain – 500′

Round Trip Distance: 1.9 miles

Total Duration: <2 hours including time at summit

Snow Mountain

9/13/19

Holy moly, it’s been a while! We’d been so busy traveling this summer that there hasn’t been much time for hiking, so we decided to set out on a lovely Friday afternoon and climb Snow Mountain. This was also my chance to experiment with a certain mix of stretches, balms, CBD oil, and stride-adjustment to see if I could work past my knee issues and get back into the high peaks.

While Snow Mountain is accessible via the main Roostercomb trailhead on Rt. 73, we opted to take a lesser-known trail following deer brook. To access the trail, park just North of the trailhead (marked with a green sign) in a small turnout past the little bridge.

We made it to the trailhead at about 12:30pm, after a late start that morning and my pre-hike stretches, along with applying CBD balm to my leg, taking ibuprofen, and a very full dropper of 33mg CBD oil.

After just a few minutes, we reached a small bridge below some private property. At this point, the trail joined up with the driveway that was just a few feet further past the trailhead. You have the option here to continue straight up the road with private driveways, the “high water route”, or turn right to follow the brook. We turned right to continue our stroll.

I’d never climbed this peak before, nor taken this trail, but I’d heard good things about it – it didn’t take long to see why. The woods are lush and vibrant with life surrounding a sweet little brook.

We really took our time ambling up the slight incline along the brook, stopping frequently to admire the little waterfalls. Of course Juno admired them too, in her own way.

Immediately soaking wet and filthy

At this time of the year, following the brook was quite easy despite the 4(ish) stream crossings back and forth. Though some of us chose to make it more difficult…

In all, the trail conditions were pretty good, with no particularly difficult sections (at least compared to the high peaks). Even so, I wasn’t quite quick enough for Juno, but at least she checked in on us ( or maybe, taunted us) from time to time!

After about 45 minutes, we reached the junction with the high water route. Shortly after came the junction with the path to Lower Wolf Jaw. We continued straight, following the brook.

Just a few minutes later and we were at a two-log bridge over deer brook with a spur trail to the falls. Naturally, we hopped on over to the falls to do some exploring. Well, they did some exploring, while I sat on a large rock and stretched my legs. At this point, I was starting to feel sloooooooow, an after-effect of taking the CBD oil, I’m sure.

Across the bridge, the trail widened and climbed along a hill until it met the junction with the St. Hubert’s trail about 20 minutes after the falls. I’ll be honest here….. I’m writing this only 2 days after the hike and I can barely even recall any details, other than that I felt sloooow and lazy, and pretty goofy I think….so there’s that CBD kicking in! (Keep reading, it gets better).

We’re pretty sure that the distance on this sign is incorrect, since it’s about 1.9-2.0 miles to the summit from the trailhead. That, at least, I remember! A few minutes later and we were at the final junction to the summit of Snow.

I don’t know how the other two tolerated my pace on this trip! I recall remarking how Juno is like a mountain goat and I’m a tortoise…actually, I think I repeated the word “tortoise” a few times because I liked how it sounded (yep, definitely felt goofy).😅 ANYWAY, the good thing is that I was moving so dang slow that I spotted some tiny beauties hidden away in rotting logs…I remember thinking (oh dear…and saying) that maybe there are some small bug adventurers exploring through the tiny forests of lush pine-y mosses, just like us…..yeah, I know……See, the problem with walking so slow is that I had a LOT of time to think!

Somehow I managed to drag my daydreaming self up the mountain to get our first peek of scenery about 2 hours after leaving the trailhead!

That view gave me just the boost I needed. We scrambled up the last bit and reached the summit 5 minutes later.

Juno’s face here makes me laugh so hard

What an outstanding view of the high peaks! Towards the left, we could see Giant Mountain and Nubble, with Round mountain and Noonmark on the right of Rt. 73. Right below us was the Ausable Club.

We sat down in the sun to stay warm in the gusty wind and to enjoy some snacks (but I forgot to bring our victory chocolate 😩)……..And the next thing I knew, I woke up half an hour later. That’s right. I, the person who takes sleeping pills every night because even in the best of circumstances I can’t fall asleep, FELL ASLEEP ON A ROCK ON TOP OF A MOUNTAIN. I woke up….confused. But instantly grabbed my camera to capture these two, taking in the scenery quietly to let me sleep.

Let’s talk about Juno for a minute. This dog has the uncanny ability to find a tennis ball or base ball EVERYWHERE we go, no matter how remote. So, you guessed it, she of course finds one somewhere on top of this mountain. I’m guessing Venus Williams was visiting the Ausable Club and whacked a tennis ball right up onto the mountain. Seems legit.

We hung out on the summit for about 2 hours. At 4:45, we began our descent. Since I was apparently well-rested, it went much more quickly than the climb! Before we knew it, we were already back at the bridge to the falls.

As we crossed, Juno, who’d carried her ball down from the summit, repeatedly dropped the ball down the flume only to frantically retrieve it from the water….to bring it back up and drop it immediately. I thought the flume looked like it’d be a fun water slide!

On the way back we decided to take the high water route for a change of scenery. We stopped once or twice to stretch out my leg. Despite all of my preventative measures, I hadn’t stopped the pain, and it can become crippling if I just power through it (which is usually my mode of coping). We made it back to the car at about 6:30 after picking up HEAPS of trash along the roadside on the 1/4 walk from the trailhead to the car. Yikes!

So, I learned a few new things on this trip….CBD oil makes me basically useless, BUT it totally helps me sleep, AND prevented my asthma from rearing it’s ugly head! So it’s back to the drawing board for the knee, but I guess those other things are cool?

Until next time…

Snow Mountain: Elevation – 2360′ Elevation Gain – 1177′

Round Trip Distance: ~4 miles

Total Duration: 6 hours (including many, many, many breaks)

Mount Colden (11)

10/14/2018

It was a month and a half into the semester and I really needed some solitude in the mountains to replenish my spirits, so I settled on heading out on Sunday to climb Colden Mountain. I woke up at 4am on a cold, dark morning and made it to the trailhead at the ADK Loj right at 7am. The lot was already about half full, and I was a little disappointed that I wouldn’t have the trails to myself, but that was to be expected. While I waited in a short line to sign in at the register I took a picture of this amazing sign instructing hikers to poop responsibly and took a super glamorous selfie of my drowsy face.

I headed down the path at 7:30am with a smile on my face, so happy to be spending a day in the woods. After 20 minutes, I arrived at the first junction in the trail. Whenever possible, I like to hike a loop instead of an out-and-back, so I chose to climb up from Lake Colden (the steeper path) and head down via Lake Arnold. With that in mind, I turned left at this junction to head toward Marcy Dam and Avalanche Lake.

About 30 minutes later I arrived at Marcy Dam, 2.2 miles from the trailhead. I took some photos of the rising sun’s rays on the surrounding mountains and took my obligatory 5 minute break at a rock on the other side of the dam at the “Marcy Dam Outpost” sign. I try to take a 5 minute break once every hour to stretch, drink water, and give my back a break from my pack.

At 8:30am, an hour after leaving the trailhead, I reached the next junction and continued to the right to head towards Avalanche Lake and Lake Colden. 30 minutes later I was at the next junction. I continued to the right, and took note that I would be returning on the path to the left toward Lake Arnold.

I was excited about the next portion of the trail, which is surrounded by large mossy boulders alongside the Avalanche Pass Slide.

I was having a heckin’ hard time with my camera today! Every time I brought it up to my eye, everything would fog up! With that in mind, I apologize for the “misty” images on this trip report 😅 I made it to Avalanche Lake at 9:40am, a little over 2 hours after leaving the trailhead. Avalanche Lake is one of my favorite spots in the high peaks. This 9-acre lake sits at over 2800′ in elevation right between the vertical cliffs of Mount Colden and Avalanche Mountain.

I started my way around the lake and stopped for second breakfast on a nice rock overlooking the lake. While sitting there, I passively noticed a boat on the other side of the lake…after several minutes, it occurred to me….How did that boat get there?! I assume it was helicoptered in, but I can’t help to imagine a person hauling it over their shoulders on the 5.2 mile trail in!

AFter a few minutes respite, I continued on the trail around the lake. Boy, I had forgotten how intense this trail is! Between the huge boulders to climb over and around, the ladders, and the hitch-up matilda’s along the way, it takes me a solid half-hour to traverse the lake.

At 10:20am I happily found myself at the other end of the lake. I snapped a few lousy pictures before continuing ahead toward Lake Colden.

The trail here because quite muddy, which pretty much set the stage for the trail conditions for the rest of the day. While I was trekking toward Lake Colden, I had an AMAZING moment where I was walking across some puncheon over a muddy bog while a Ranger was coming the opposite way on his patrol. OF COURSE I stepped on the end of a puncheon board and OF COURSE it wasn’t secured at the other end, so there I am flailing my arms while the board flies up in a comically dramatic teeter-totter fashion….AND OF COURSE I did the exact same thing at the OTHER END of the board…At the ONE MOMENT IN THAT LAST 4 MILES that someone else is on the trail.
My gracefulness is really astounding sometimes!

There were a few portions of the trail along Lake Colden that were completely submerged in the lake itself from all of the recent rain and snowmelt, so some bushwhacking was involved to make it across. Before long I had made it to the next junction at 11:00am. I turned left to leave the lake and head up to Colden.

The initial trail up was quite pleasant. It was never particularly steep or too muddy. I foolishly thought “Hey! Maybe it’s not as steep as everyone said it would be! This is nothing!”….Yeah, you all know where this is going. OF COURSE it was way more difficult, I just hadn’t gotten to that point yet. But in that brief moment of bliss, I happily traipsed along and let a large group of French Canadians pass me by.

After about a mile the conditions changed…a bit…(read: The trail amped up to a 10 to cruelly haze the unworthy). Thankfully some AMAZING trail crews had built ladders and steps to traverse the truly difficult sections.

At about this time, I kept catching up to the back end of the large group that I had let pass me. I was getting quite frustrated to have to keep stopping every time they stopped, so just as the trail started to get icy I opted to pass them all and hustle a bit to make sure they didn’t catch up again. (They were quite nice, it was just a large group and I didn’t want to hear voices behind me while I was hiking!) At this time, a couple were coming down the slick slides verrrry carefully and they informed me that there was a lot of ice up ahead. With that in mind, I trudged on.

Sure enough, they were not lying. And I am SO SMART that I, being the stubborn mule that I am, opted not to put on the microspikes that were conveniently strapped to the back of my pack for easy access.

I clawed my way up tooth and nail very carefully along Colden’s smooth rock slides until I reached another ladder, and I just KNEW that this one would bring me to the top.

I turned around at the top and let out a hearty laugh in awe at the views. Those views make everything worth it, every time.

I had really thought I was close to or at the summit, but, and I’m sure this comes as no surprise, I most definitely was not. So onward I went, but now I had some stunning views every step of the way.

I loved seeing the path that I had taken up there from the “almost summit” or whatever it was that I was on. And even better, I had a fantastic view of my favorite trio of peaks along the MacIntyre range.

I climbed up one final stretch to see a stunning view of a chilly Mt Marcy, with some supplied that may have been dropped in for some impending trail work.

I was a little bit confused, as I continued along the snowy trail and was unsure of exactly where the summit was. I came upon a sign designating where to leave a rock carried up from the trailhead, and wandered down a path to a rock in a small clearing. At 1pm, while I was standing on that rock, a couple of fellas came down and “tagged” the rock, at which point I shouted (or yelled and frightened them probably) “WAIT. Is this the SUMMIT?!?” and it was! How anticlimactic! So I snapped a picture of some circle on the rock (I’m so technical) and wandered back out of the clearing to find a nice spot to have lunch.

I enjoyed my lunch of a sandwich, babybel cheese, and some gherkin pickles (oddly delicious after a day of hiking) while looking out towards Algonquin. And can’t forget the victory chocolate!

Now, let’s talk again at how intelligent I am. AFTER I had passed over all of the steep icy sections of trail, while I was sitting at the summit, I thought, hey, it’d be such a great idea to put my spikes on now! So I did….and encountered no more ice along the trail. Ha! At least I tried. As I headed down the path toward Lake Arnold, the trail passed over a bare rocky outcropping, so I sat for a break and to take in the breathtaking sight of Mt Marcy right next door.

At about 2pm I left again for Lake Arnold. The trail down from Colden was quite tough. It was all mud and rockhopping. Almost immediately, my right knee began to ache, so I stopped frequently to stretch and roll out my IT band with my trekking pole. Who knew trekking poles were so versatile?

By the time I made it to the junction with Lake Arnold 45 minutes later, the twinges in my knee had ceased to subside and an old injury in my SI joint was starting to cause lightning-like spasms in my lower back. It’s so fun having a body that acts like it’s been bowled over by a steamroller with the slightest provocation! So I chose not to visit Lake Arnold but went left to keep slowly making my way down the mountain.

Along the way down, I met a couple coming up who seemed perturbed. They thought they were on the wrong trail coming down from Colden because it looked so different from the path they were on that morning. After looking at the map, I suggested that there was no other path down from the previous junction, and that the trail looked so different because all of the snowmelt was turning it into a veritable river. Still unconvinced, we all continued our way down. I passed them up, and about 30 minutes later I came to another junction which verified the path we were on was the correct one. It’s incredible how much water just a little bit of snow can create!

I didn’t take many photos after that. The pains in my knee and back were intense and it took all of my mental acuity to focus on getting down the mountain. Finally, at 4pm, I made it to the junction and lied down on this wooden bridge to stretch my legs and back.

After I probably freaked out a few passing hikers by lying there on that bridge, I continued my way back toward Marcy Dam.

And that’s the last picture I took of the day. The pain was relentless and I lulled myself into a trance-like state to focus through the pain. I continually reminded myself to take one step at a time, and that the worst was behind me. After continuing on like this for 3 more miles, I dragged my aching body out to my car just before 6pm and let out a frustrated huff as I sat down to drive home.

I’m so disappointed that these so-called “overuse” injuries are still plaguing me, considering I’ve been resting with minimal straining activity for 15 months. Back to the drawing boards, hopefully I’ll be back soon.

19 down, 27 left!

Mount Colden: Elevation – 4714′ Elevation Gain – 2535′

Round Trip Distance: ~14 miles

Total Duration: 10.5 hours

Tabletop (19) and Phelps (32)

07/19/2018

Nearly 1 year ago to the day I unknowingly climbed my last 46ers for an entire year (Iroquois, Algonquin, and Wright). Shortly after what was the best hike of my life, I developed a brutal overuse injury in my right knee/leg and was left unable to hike for MONTHS. Not just mountains, but any trail at all. This past year has been quite a journey. From getting my PhD and being hired as a professor of Electrical Engineering, to getting divorced, launching my professional photography career, and learning two new instruments, all while sloooowly recovering from my knee injury, this year has been fraught with personal growth and change.

A few weeks prior, I had climbed Hopkins Mountain and used that as a test of whether I was ready to return home to the high peaks. Needless to say, that adventure was a success, so I set off at 4:30am to head to the Loj. I arrived at 6:30am, paid the $10 parking fee, and was just a little excited as I signed in at the trailhead.

It was a balmy 43 degrees F at the start, but I quickly warmed up as I treaded along the packed dirt trail.

I really love starting hikes early in the morning and catching the rays of light as they filter low through the trees.

There were more people than I expected on the trail this morning, but no one else had signed in for Tabletop and Phelps, so I was hoping to have the summits to myself. I was however leapfrogging with a young couple (I won’t get into how ill-prepared they were assuming they were headed up Marcy…in flat tennis shoes and cotton >.<). I let them go ahead because I was stopping every 10.5 seconds to take pictures. While I slowly crossed this bridge, I spotted this little snake warming itself in the early suns rays!

After half an hour I came to the first junction sign and headed left toward the Marcy Dam lean-tos.

The trail up to the dam is so nice to walk. Packed earth, no mud, and a gentle easy ascent. I feel it’s a great warm-up to a strenuous hike. As I crested one hill, I heard a loud rustling to my left, and caught a snowshoe hare foraging in the woods! Of course it started to move just as I got my camera ready, so this is the best I got:

At 7:30am, an hour after leaving the trailhead, I found myself at Marcy Dam alongside a large group of trailworkers enjoying their morning breakfast.

I didn’t want to disturb them, so I crossed to the other side of the dam to follow my “1 hour” rule and take a break to stretch and drink water (and have a snack of course).

I read this heap of signs from my perch on a large rock while I stretched. There seems to be a discrepancy in the overall distances to Phelps and Tabletop between my guide book, map, and the trail signs. Perhaps they need updating?

After a good 5 minute respite I continued on my way and signed in at the next register before starting the next leg of my journey.

After this point the trail (the Van Hoevenberg trail) climbed a bit more steeply and steadily, however it was still very easy going. There were no sections where I had to pull myself up or figure out how to make it from one point to another. As I watched the rising sun filter through the trees, I reflected on how far I’ve come in the past year, from my knee recovery to living the best version of myself. As I strolled through the woods I momentarily closed my eyes and breathed, letting all else go and relishing the freedom of the woods and feeling so, so thankful for the progress I’ve made.

About 15 minutes after leaving Marcy Dam I came to a high water bridge. I was unsure at first which way to go forward; I could continue on the right side of the stream, or I could cross the bridge; either way the trail continued with blue markers. I had figured there is another rock-hopping crossing further up ahead, and I was correct; the trail diverges slightly just to reconnect further up ahead.

After this point the trail was like a freaking highway. I’m thinking it would be a good choice in a night-hike since it’s super easy to follow and relatively free of tripping hazards.

Two hours after leaving the trailhead I reached the junction to Phelps. I had decided to grab Phelps after hitting Tabletop, so I passed it on up and continued on my way, passing a pretty cascade and sooo many toads along the way.

I passed a couple of other signs leading the way before finally arriving at the junction to Tabletop at 9:15am. I was feeling pretty darn good at this point, but I still took a short stretch-food-water break before starting the inevitably steeper ascent.

I had heard that there were no views from the summit of Tabletop, but I was really enjoying the trek up to the summit. It was more rugged, narrow, with lots of towering pines and verdant moss. Though this is technically a “trail-less” peak, it’s nearly impossible to accidentally end up off trail.

At this point I was finally feeling like I was on an Adirondack trail! That highway up Marcy is really deceiving and not at all indicative of the real Adirondack experience.

I was enjoying the trail so much that I was a bit surprised when it spit me out right at the summit, with the summit marker AND A VIEW!

I was so pleased that there was a view! Why is everyone saying there are no views from up here?

I immediately sat my butt down and started shoveling food into my face hole. PB&J sammich, victory chocolate, victory cheese, and a pickle! I’m so proud of my 4:30am food prep!

I was so happy to have the summit to myself. I couldn’t believe that after a year I was finally back on a high peak. The 46ers had become on a pedestal in my mind, and every day that passed and I still couldn’t hike made them seem that much more insurmountable.

I hung out up there for about an hour, collecting my thoughts, before heading back down just before 11am. As I headed down, I heard someone coming up the trail, and lo and behold it was a friend of mine, Gavin! So naturally I took a candid photo as he was dragging himself up the mountain.

We chatted for a moment, then continued on our way, planning to meet up on Phelps. Half an hour later I was back at the junction, turning right to get back onto the Van Hoevenberg trail and heading toward Phelps. I made it back to the Phelps trail at 12:07pm. I was getting exhausted at this point, but there was nothing in the world that would keep me from climbing this one too, so up I went.

This trail was definitely steeper than the Tabletop trail. Certainly not the steepest I’d done (see the hike up to Boundary peak from Avalanche lake….holy moly), but it was steeper than anything I’d done in a year! I stopped probably a dozen times for short breaks to curse and stretch and question my life choices.

And the damn thing JUST KEPT GOING! The sign at the junction denoted the summit at 1 mile away, but it must be longer than that. At some point, a guy descending said “You’re almost there!” and I looked at him exactly like this after clambering clumsily to the top of a boulder:

I was full of sass and said “I hope you’re being honest!”. Naturally he was a little taken aback because how weird can I be, but he assured me that in 1/8 mile I would be seeing the first views. To be honest, I didn’t believe him, but I slogged on anyway. And, I admit it, HE WAS RIGHT! I climbed to the top of this boulder along the trail to get the first AMAZING views.

Mount Colden towards left center, Iroquois, Algonquin, and Wright on the right

I was immediately energized after this, practically smelling the summit so close by. A woman coming down had warned me that the path to the top was confusing, and I suppose it was, but I followed the yellow blazes and made my way just fine.

At 1:30pm, 7 hours after starting, I planted my feet on the summit of Phelps Mountain. I couldn’t find a summit marker, but the group of people lounging at the top were a good indicator that I’d made it. And boy were the views STUNNING!

Naturally, I sat down to have second lunch, which consisted of another victory cheese, another victory chocolate, a pickle, and a fruit cup…and a couple of fig newtons…And some gatorade. 😀 Make sure you eat enough while hiking! And eat things with electrolytes! I try to stay away from dry food (like trail mix bars and crackers). I stretched out a bit up there and talked with some other hikers, and we helped each other identify the peaks in the distance with the help of my trail map and compass.

From left to right: Giant, RPR, Lower wolfjaws, Upper wolfjaws, Armstrong, Gothics, Saddleback, Basin, Haystack, Tabletop, Marcy

I was SO glad to have climbed Tabletop first. It would have been so demoralizing to be sitting at the top of Phelps looking at Tabletop, seemingly 42 miles away. I definitely recommend Tabletop first!

After spending nearly at hour at the summit, my buddy made his way to the top too, looking just as miserable as I had felt during that climb. I hung out up there with him and an eccentric school teacher with a weeks worth of supplies crammed into a day pack for another 25 minutes or so while trying to photograph one of the dozens of huge dragonflies patrolling the area.

It was pretty darn hot up there though, and the sun was causing my contacts to shrinkwrap to my eyeballs, so I decided to set off before my eyes completely shriveled in their sockets (like that imagery?). Gavin wasn’t ready to leave yet though, so I said I’d wait for him at the bottom and took one last glance before descending.

I took a little over 2 hours to make it back to the trailhead. My knee had been doing pretty great all day, but there was some definite pain during the last two miles, requiring me to stop and stretch quite frequently. I finally hobbled out to my car at about 5pm, and struck up conversation with a gentleman who’d climbed Marcy that had passed me twice along the way. I love meeting interesting people while hiking! I feel like that doesn’t happen as much when I’m hiking with other people. Another benefit to solo hiking, I think! I waited for my friend at the bottom, and we decided to hit up the new eatery at the info center near the parking lot, the Hungry Hiker. I recommend it! It was just what we needed after a long day in the mountains.

I’m so, so happy to finally be back in the high peaks where I belong. After a couple of weeks to recover and grow stronger, I’ll be back for more. 18 down, 28 to go! Happy hiking!

Phelps Mountain: 4160′

Tabletop Mountain: 4413′

Elevation Gain: 3818′

Round Trip Distance: ~12-13 miles

Total Duration: ~8 hours + 2.5 hours at summits

Hopkins Mountain

06/21/2018

It’s been almost 1 year since I’ve been in the high peaks….The last real trip I had was Iroquois, Algonquin, and Wright, my absolute favorite trip to date, and my absence from the high peaks has been slowly eating away at my soul. A week after that trip, I suffered a mysterious injury to one of my knees, and haven’t been able to hike since. Lately I’ve been able to tackle small, easy mountains, so I made a deal with myself: If I could manage to climb Hopkins mountain without issue, then I would get myself back in the 46ers in 2 weeks. With that thought in mind, I set off determined to climb this peak.

I arrived at the trailhead for Rooster Comb mountain on Rt. 73 at about 9am, crossed the road and headed away from Keene Valley toward Ranney Way. Ranney Way is a private road, hence parking at the nearby Rooster Comb lot.

This is a nice little gravel road. I continued down this way for about 0.25 miles (continue straight when the road forks to the right) before coming to the trailhead. There’s no register for this trail, just this old sign.

This wood was absolutely GORGEOUS. The trees towered tall and broad with no undergrowth beneath, with verdant rays of light filtering through a leafy canopy. Forests like these always make me feel safe and protected, and it’s so tempting to set up a hammock and lounge. Today however I was on a mission, so that would have to wait.

Much of the trail follows along the Hopkins Brook, providing a nice ambient sound of trickling water and numerous photo opportunities. Unfortunately it seems that many of the smaller off-shooting streams have dried up from lack of rain. At least it wasn’t muddy!

The path is soft and packed, climbing moderately and consistently through the pines with some steeper inclines interspersed. After about 1.8 miles I reached the intersection with the Mossey Cascade Trail and turned left to continue up to Hopkins Mountain.

The going was a bit easier at this point, with some flat sections interspersed with the climbing. I continued to employ my technique of frequent stretching breaks to take care of my bad knee and hoped desperately that it would prove effective to abate the pain during descent. During one of these such breaks, I heard a very peculiar sound coming from the undergrowth to the right of the trail…It sounded like the most pitiful animal I’ve ever heard, accompanied by the rustling of leave as the critter scooted around through the brush. Recognizing the sound as something I heard while climbing Coney Mountain in the middle of the night (and thought it was a snake eating an animal???), I was extra curious to determine the source….It was a ruffed grouse hen! I had never seen one on a trail before, and it turns out the sounds she was making were alarm, distress, and distraction calls! The calls were probably because I scared the guacamole out of her, BUT HEY IT WAS COOL! I was too focused on observing the bird to even consider recording audio or visual, so here’s a link to a video from someone who didn’t totally drop the ball (like I did :P) showing exactly what it sounded like.

These trails continued together for about 0.7 miles before coming to the next junction. At this point the forest became much more lush, full of mossy rocks and ferns, and of course many many many spider webs, which my face  considerately caught for all those that would follow in my steps later in the day. Yep, that’s me, totally magnanimous…

I always get really excited when I see that “0.2 miles to summit” sign…I know the climb is going to be steep, but knowing I’m so close puts a serious pep in my step and I fly right up the trail. This trail did not disappoint! Though not very long, this trail has over 2000′ of elevation gain in a little over 2 miles. It’s not as easy as it seems just looking at a map, which is why I chose it as my “test” to see if I’m capable of climbing high peaks again.

I was soon scrambling out on open rock faces at about 11am and I ran ahead to see this first view.

I won’t lie to you. I knew I had been really missing the high peaks, but I don’t think I realized just how much until I reached this point. My soul, my very essence, seemed to exhale a sigh of relief to finally be HOME. I’ve never felt to belong anywhere as strongly as I feel that in the high peaks of my beloved Adirondacks. There is an almost magnetic attraction to them…After all, home is where the heart is, right? Never in my life have I shed tears of happiness, but as I stood there gazing upon the vistas of the welcoming wilderness, I cried. And I couldn’t stop! Seriously, I’m so glad I had the peak to myself for a while because I had tears streaming down my face for a solid 30 minutes. The past year has been full of trials and tribulations, and the knowledge that I was physically unable to climb the 46ers had weighed on me with a blanket of depression, seemingly deepening with every passing day. Finding myself at the summit of beautiful Hopkins Mountain, sans knee pain, the realization that I would FINALLY be able to climb again seemed to whack me over the head. I’ve rarely been so happy in all my life….but I digress.

From left to right: Dix , Dial, Nippletop, Colvin, Sawteeth, Gothics, Armstrong, Wolfjaws

I climbed my way up to the summit and sat my emotional butt down to eat some lunch and bathe in the splendor of the mountains.

I stayed at the summit for about an hour and a half. A few people stopped by, but they didn’t linger, and I was thankful. I sat to stretch my legs and enjoy my victory snacks before standing up to head back down.

It took a solid 10 minutes for me to be able to drag myself away from the summit, but at 12:30pm I turned away for the last time and made my way back down the steep trail.

I was a bit nervous about impending knee pain, but after 30 minutes of very careful, measured steps and an agonizingly slow pace, I relaxed a bit, realizing that knee pain would not plague me on this perfect day.

A mere 1:15 after leaving the summit and I had arrived back at the Ranney Way road.

Another short 0.25 miles and I was back at my car, taking my leaving photo. This trail, though relatively short, is an absolute joy. Beautiful forest, just-difficult-enough grade, and stunning summit views. Having successfully completed this trek, I can now confidently say to expect a new trip report from the high peaks in the next 2 weeks!

Happy hiking!

Hopkins Mountain: 3156′ Elevation Gain: ~2100′
Round Trip Distance: ~6 miles (from Rooster Comb lot)
Total Duration: 4 hours 45 minutes (including 1.5 hours at summit)

All images are property of adktrailtalesandtails and may not be used without express permission.

Coney Mountain – Astrophotography Mission!

06/11/18

As I walked out of band rehearsal at 9pm, I looked up and saw a burgeoning star-kissed sky, and realized that with new moon being only days away, tonight’s sky would be stunning. So I packed my camera gear and took off for Coney Mtn. I arrived at the trailhead at 11pm, shut off the car, and was immediately hit with the overwhelming pressure of darkness and quietude of the surrounding forest. It was a bit eerie, until I stepped out of the car and looked up. Through gaps in the trees I saw a veritable sea of myriad stars shining down on me. To be honest, I was a bit nervous to be climbing alone in the middle of the night, but having climbed this mountain once before I had a bit more confidence than if I were to climb something new in the dark. So I strapped my utility knife to my leg, donned my headlamp, and set off up the trail.

I cannot express how incredibly quiet it was. In the dark and quiet, even the tiniest sounds seem to be from massive creatures lurking in the shadows. However, after just a few minutes, I was feeling comfortable and right at home in the woods. Since I tend to be a quiet walker, I decided to whistle some tunes to give warning to any animals in the vicinity so I didn’t startle them. For whatever reason, the only melodies in my mind were Civil War ditties, like this, this, and this…..Yeah, I’m not sure what’s wrong with me either, but at least the animals got some historical music to listen to! Anyway, after a mere 20 minutes I had climbed the 1.1 mile trail (I must have really hustled….There were some spooky sounds out there!) and found myself on the summit, blown away by the splendor of the milky way arcing over the distant mountains.

I dropped my pack and skedaddled further up the summit to get the full view of the luminous, shimmering night sky, and was greatly rewarded.

I had downloaded a cool app called Star Walk 2 which uses your location and phone orientation to show you what stars and constellations you’re looking at…I think I need to work on the calibration though because no matter where I pointed my phone, I was apparently looking at Jupiter.

After taking some shots (Canon Rebel T5 with a Rokinon f/2.8 14mm wide angle lens), I lay back to marvel at the sheer number of stars. Unfortunately, some cirrus clouds had swept in to obscure the view, so after about 45 minutes I decided to take my leave.

I was feeling pretty sure of myself on the hike down, until about 5 minutes in when I heard a huge CRASH across the trail in front of me and to the forest on my right. After the pounding in my ears from my adrenaline-pumped heart subsided, I realized it was a deer I must have frightened bounding off into the woods….So I resumed my whistling so as not to startle any other animals. So noble I am, thinking of the animals, because of course I wasn’t at all spooked by the incident! (heavy dose of sarcasm there, folks) After that it was easy going, and before I knew it my headlamp was illuminating the taillights of my car in the parking lot. As I walked out and gazed skyward, I saw that the clouds had dissipated during my trek down.

I cannot wait to get out and do this again! What an incredible experience. Happy trails!

All images are property of adktrailtalesandtails and may not be used without express permission.