Macomb (21) + South Dix (37) + Grace (42) + Hough(23)

5/29/2022

Memorial day weekend. Weather was nice and the snow and ice were finally gone from the peaks, so I decided it’s now or never. I knew there was no chance I’d get a parking spot with having to drive 3 hours from home to get to the trailhead at Elk Lake, so instead I drove up Saturday and made it to the primary lot at 10pm. I’m glad I did, because there were only 3 open spots in that lot when I arrived. Presumably the lot was full of campers’ cars. The next closest parking area is 2 miles down the road, which is for sure where I would have ended up had I not gone the night before! I set up in the back of the car and had a fitful nights sleep listening to the sounds of the loons on nearby Elk Lake.

My route would ideally cover the whole Dix Range, starting with Macomb (1, in blue, below), then to South Dix aka Carson (2, in purple), then to East Dix aka Grace (3, in green), back up South Dix, over to Hough (4, in yellow), and finally to Dix (5, in red), then down the Beckhorn trail. I knew it was unlikely that I would manage to do the whole range successfully in a day, so I also planned an “emergency exit” down Lillian Brook (in white) in case I had to bail. At minimum I absolutely wanted to meet Grace, and not orphan it out, so that was my goal.

At 4:00am my alarm went off and I promptly ignored it. I decided it’d be a good idea to let another hiker go first down the trail to scare off any bears, so I closed my eyes for another few minutes while the first hikers showed up. Eventually I didn’t have any excuses not to get started anymore, as by 4:45am I signed myself in at the trailhead and started along the path.

I trod along the path with my headlamp for just 5 minutes before deeming it unnecessary, and within 15 minutes the sun had lit the trail, the forest was alive with the sounds of the birds, and I was already ready to shed my outer layer despite the brisk temperature.

The path started off smooth but rocky and I made quick progress without much effort along the first 2.3 miles of trail.

At 5:40am I reached a nice bridge over a stream with a beautiful little waterfall, and I knew I must be getting close to the campsites and thus the junction to go up the Macomb Slide.

The trail got a little muddy here and there but nothing unmanageable, especially given the recent rain. Until now I hadn’t seen a single person on the trail.

There were several small stream crossings with VERY helpful ‘bridges’ to get across them, but I didn’t mind the challenge even though it wasn’t even 6am yet!

Just a minute after crossing the last stream, I saw the signs indicating campsite, and a cairn marking the start of the herd path up to Macomb. You can see above the camping sign on the right is a yellow marker with “Macomb ->” written on it.

I turned right at the cairn and walked…..straight into a campsite, with some folks up preparing their coffee and breakfast. I looked around and couldn’t help but feel that I was just utterly barging in on their camping, until a nice man pointed me towards the really quite obvious pair of cairns marking the start of the herd path. Time / distance from trailhead: 1h15m / 2.3 miles.

This path started off quite pleasantly. I enjoyed the sounds of the stream nearby and the trillium flowers dotting the forest floor.

After 30 minutes, I decided to stop on a nice log above the stream to have some breakfast, and take a selfie of myself while I still looked clean and presentable :D. While I sat there, 2 different pairs of hikers passed me by on their way up.

For a so-called “trailless”, unmaintained peak, this path was really not in bad shape at all. It wasn’t particularly muddy, not particularly narrow, and not particularly steep. Not bad at all for a Sunday stroll!

At about 7:00am I got my first glimpse of Macomb, and the notorious slide that I’d be climbing up. Check it out below, by the purple arrow.

On the map, you can tell exactly where the slide begins because the map shows an absolutely straight section leading up the mountain. Before that, the trail deviates from the stream for 1/4 – 1/2 of a mile, so I knew I was getting close when I couldn’t hear the sounds of Slide Brook anymore.

A bit more of climbing and within 10 minutes I was standing at the base of an impressive, long, scrambly, rocky slide with tiny little dots of people skittering up the slope.


A cairn and a rusted iron…thing mark the opening to the trail I’d just come from for those brave enough to come down the slide. This slide is the product of a hurricane in September of 1999, and has now become the main route of Macomb mountain.

Looking back from the slide was a real treat with stunning views of Elk Lake. I stood there for a minute wondering if there are any amazing little campsites on those islands in the lake before continuing up.

The slide is LONG. The first photo doesn’t do it justice, unless you zoom in to see the tiny little dots near the top and realize those are people. Let’s just say….I would NOT want to come down this slide. Though I bet it’d be a quick trip down, given that I’d most certainly just be tumbling my way from the top. The earth here consists of loose rock and sandy dirt, and almost nothing is stable. I tried to look for patches of dirt, because even though my feet sink into it and it moves a bit like sand on a beach, I had more confidence in the dirt than in the rocks. I mostly stayed towards the left side of the slide, until close to the top where the stone becomes flat and dark, and slick from the rain. When I got to this point I stayed to the right. A tip for climbing this slide with friends – give a good amount of space between you and the person in front of you! I dislodged more than a few rocks while I was climbing that could have whacked someone if they’d been behind me!

At the very top of the slide, you have two options – go left or go right. Both paths take you to the same place, though the Left one is the more popular of the two. I turned back just before leaving the slide for one last look at the views.


Things got interesting when I left the slide. The path left leads you almost immediately to a very large boulder / cliff. So here’s the thing. There is a CLEAR AND OBVIOUS PATH AROUND TO THE LEFT OF THE BOULDER. Did I take it? Nooooooo. Why? I don’t knooooooow.

So here I am, literally going straight up the side of this boulder cliff, wondering how I got here, but I was already committed so I just kept on moving my way up and towards the right. Ugh. Don’t do what I did, folks. Just go around the dang thing.

All three paths then converged at the top of the boulder – the path from the left that normal people take, the path from the right that adventurous people take, and the path from the boulder that idiots take. From here it’s hard to tell on the map how close I was to the summit, but I was sure I was almost there.

Sure enough, less than 15 minutes later I was standing at the top of Macomb Mountain!


A nice lady offered to take a photo of me after I took some of her and her family, and I happily obliged. Friends….Look at me 不不不不不 Oh how the tables had turned since I’d had breakfast almost 2 hours earlier! Lookin gooooood! Anywaaay, I had made it here at 8:15am, 3.5h and roughly 4.5 miles from the trailhead.

I took a 5 minute break, stretched my legs, and took the obligatory picture with the summit sign, and set off toward South Dix (aka Carson) promptly.

On the map, it looks like the distance to South Dix from Macomb is maybe 1 mile. I always dread the downhill (and uphill, if we’re being honest with ourselves) on these trailless peaks because it’s usually a pretty brutal vertical descent (I’m looking at you, Couch). However the path down from Macomb wasn’t bad at all! I don’t recall any tricky or technical sections that I had to navigate, just a bit of mud here and there, which is completely expected in the ADKs.

If you look at the map, there is what looks to be a shortcut going from below the summit of South Dix over to Lillian Brook, intersecting when the trail down Lillian Brook has passed all of the steepest sections already. So when I passed this little cairn on the left on my way toward S Dix, I assumed that’s what it was. (Note that I did NOT see the other end of this trail when I was on Lillian Brook later in the day).

Just before 9am, 30 minutes since leaving Macomb, I arrived at the base of some rocky business and looked around for an obvious way up it. There was none, so I approached this like a choose-your-own-adventure game. There were some cairns sporadically scattered about but they weren’t particularly helpful to me.

I reached the top to find a handful of people milling about near a boulder seated on top. We talked for a minute to get our bearings and figure out where exactly we were. What we were standing on was the false summit to Dix, but a glorious false summit it was. The actual summit is in the trees, so I took a few minutes to enjoy the scenery while everyone else continued on.

Looking back to the summit of Macomb


The peak all the way on the right is Hough, while the sharp one to the left of Hough is the Beckhorn. Dix itself is hidden by the Beckhorn from this angle.

From my Peakfinder app – always making me feel so clever when people ask what mountains we’re looking at

I headed back to the trail at 9:15am, passed by the junction with a small cairn marking the way to Hough, and 10 minutes later I was standing on the true summit of South Dix, which is marked by a little yellow disk.

If you continue just past the summit there is a nice outcropping to the right for some views. I’d had my fill at the false summit though and continued straight down the path towards my next target: Grace (aka East Dix).

Yet again I was pleased to discover the gentleness of this path leading to Grace. This one descended very gradually, given that it is essentially on the ridge straight to Grace from S Dix. It wasn’t overgrown at all; a bit muddy in some places but nothing unmanageable.

I was a bit surprised however by how long it was taking me to get to the next mountain. I’d expected another 30 minute jaunt but for some reason it felt much longer than that. After 20 or 30 minutes of descent, a man came from the opposite direction and we chatted a bit. It’s nice to meet other solo hikers on the trail when you’re out there alone! He let me know that I only had another 20 minutes to go, and asked me if HE only had another 10 to go. I replied that I really had no idea because I’m agonizingly slow on the trail, and felt like I’d been descending for an hour 不 How helpful I am!

Sure enough, the trail did eventually start to climb up….

Until I popped out onto the bare rock of the summit, 45 minutes after leaving S Dix. (I swear it felt like hours though).



I climbed onto the rock that is officially the summit, though there’s no indicator of it being so besides being a high rock, and took some shots of the mountains I’ve come from, and those I’ve yet to do. And I’ve got to say…..Dix looks like it’s a hundred miles away. It might as well be across an ocean. It’s true that they’re never as far away as they look, but at this point in my hike I had a decision to make. I’d been having a growing pain in my left hip flexor and in my left elbow, making it impossible for me to put any weight on my elbow and making it very very difficult to lift my left leg to climb, which was troublesome because literally half of the hike is climbing up. I know these pains are of course coming from my Ehlers Danlos Syndrome and my brittle, stretchy collagen, but still it’s so frustrating to not be able to do anything about it. I’d worn my knee braces in the hopes that my knees would be OK, and so far they were, but I just wasn’t sure if I’d be able to make it up any more mountains. I decided to head back to S Dix before making any final decisions however.


I stayed on the stunning summit of Grace for 45 minutes, enjoying conversation with other hikers and some much-needed snacks, before heading back to S Dix. This time, it seemed like time flew by and 45 minutes later I was back on the summit at 11:50am. I passed by the summit and reached the junction to Hough a minute later.

I decided at this point that I had to head this way regardless of whether I could make it up Hough or not, since Lillian Brook was in the same direction and that was my emergency exit. I was super thrilled to have made it up Grace, but at the same time Hough was right there and it would be really painful to have to just wave at it as I descended Lillian Brook.

After a bit of descent, again very gentle and surprisingly easy, the path began weaving it’s way uphill again. This little mountain between S Dix and Hough is unofficially dubbed “Pough”, pronounced like “Puff”, as in, “you’ll Huff and Puff your way up these mountains”. I reached this summit only 20 minutes after leaving the junction on S Dix, at 12:10pm.

As I stood atop Pough, and looked to my right…..My God. There is Hough. Ahhhhh why is it so far away! I decided in that moment that I probably couldn’t make it up to the summit, and definitely wouldn’t be making it to the summit of Dix, so I continued down the trail to descend Pough.

20 minutes later I was standing at the junction to Lillian Brook, feeling very torn. The summit to Hough was sooooo close, but my hip was really in immense pain, and I couldn’t even help it along with my poles because my left elbow was out of commission as well. I couldn’t help but laugh a little because of all of the things I was worried about hurting on this day, these were none of them. Lately my lower back, right SI joint, right elbow, and neck had all been giving me problems. I was especially concerned before my hike that the weight of the backpack would not be ideal for these reasons. And yet….all of those things were absolutely fine! At the end, I thought, what the hell. I’m already planning on having to come back for Dix, and probably coming from rt 73 to do so, and I reallllllllllly don’t want to have to climb up and over Dix, down and up to Hough, then back down and up over Dix and back down to 73. Just….no. So instead I gave myself a little pep talk and passed by the cairn to Lillian Brook to go up up and up.

Some mud was present as always, but also this luscious green mossy stuff on either side that looked like it was straight out of a fairy tale.

The climb up was expectedly very difficult, slow, and painful for me. I had to stop a few times to sit and stretch on a rock while questioning my life choices. I finally mustered up the strength to continue on up, and before I knew it I was at this notorious cool rock ledge that leads to a sort of false summit on Hough. If you have the energy (and ideally, functioning hip flexors and elbows) you can climb right up the side of this, but I chose to go around.

I had to sneak through this cool gap in the rocks, up some more rocky ledges, and I found myself at the false summit of Hough with some pretty fantastic views – no shortage of those in this range!


I could see the true summit from here and didn’t linger. (See the peak on the right in the photo below).

45 minutes after leaving the junction with Lillian Brook, I was standing on the summit of Hough, taking a selfie with it’s little yellow disk!

Ah was I ever happy to have made the decision to come up here! I was feeling so proud of myself, and on top of that I’d had the most perfect weather imaginable. Though for anyone feeling concerned about the black flies this time of year, don’t worry! They are alive and well and ready to welcome you into the mountains 不 Fortunately though I’d treated my shirt and hat with permethrin at the start of the season, so I just lowered the bug net contained within my hat when I wanted some peace on the summits.


So here I am. Imagine you are me, standing on the summit from which the photo below is taken, and looking to the right to see….the Beckhorn, approximately 96 miles away. There was no debate this time, just an absolutely nope from me on making it up to Dix today, and I was ok with that. Not only was it not exactly close, but you have to go allllllllll the way down just to go alllllll the way back up. Nope nope nope. I don’t hate myself that much.




Visibility was just spectacular. I could see all the way to the Green Mountains in Vermont with ease.

I’m not sure what time I left to go back down. I was really not concerned with timing at this point, having given up on Dix for the day. I calculated the distance I’d have to go to get back to the trailhead at between 6 and 7 miles, and was hoping I could make it there by 6pm.

I reached the junction back at Lillian Brook at 2:20pm. I was again nervous that the trail would be very rugged. I could see on the map though that it would be clearly steep for the first 1/2 mile or so, and it should be pleasant walking after that. So off I went.

And yes, the path was a bit steep at the top, but it was also BEAUTIFUL.

Unfortunately, before too long, a familiar pain began in my right knee, and my stomach dropped. Of all the pains I get with EDS, there has only been one so far that I absolutely cannot handle – the knee pain that happens when my outer quad muscles get too tight from climbing and pull my patellas off track during the descent. And it was happening, despite wearing my magical braces that had always worked to prevent the pain until now. I presumed it was happening because my right leg bore the bulk of my weight during the climb up every mountain except Macomb since my right hip was hurting so much. So the quad must have gotten extra tight. I steeled myself for the pain, and moved at a snail’s pace to baby that knee and keep the pain minimal for as long as possible. Which wasn’t easy when the trail was steep, wet, and full of rocks, but I managed.

Did I mention that this trail is BEAUTIFUL? Despite the pain, I was in heaven here. The colors, the sounds, the smells….I felt like I was home.

I knew when I reached the Lillian Brook that the steepest part was over, judging from the map, and I had a much easier time navigating while trying not to bend my right knee too much on the smoother, flatter ground.

The upside of going so dang slow is that you have lots (and I mean LOTS) of time to observe things around you, like….

MR SLUG YOU ARE VERY LARGE

I didn’t want to dawdle because I was already moving pretty slowly, but at some point I couldn’t resist sitting by the stream and pouring some fresh, cold water over my face. I swear I felt a half-inch of grime wash away from my skin.

*** Sound ON ***

Along the way down this trail, I kept hearing things that I thought were people talking far away. Sometimes it was the brook babbling away, sometimes it was a particularly large fly buzzing around, so when I was rockhopping and yet again thought I heard people talking, I dismissed it. Until I looked up and saw two women that I’d run into a few times earlier in the day. They asked “Are you coming down Lillian Brook?” I said, “I am! Are you on the real trail??”, they said “we are!” and I rejoiced to be back in the land of maintained trails with trail markers at 4:15pm! Do note that the trail up Lillian brook is not easy to spot from the main trail in. If you’re coming from the Slide Brook leanto though, you’ll cross one small stream only before coming to a larger wider stream, which is basically the start of the Lillian Brook Trail.

30 minutes later, I’d gone the 1.3 miles from Lillian Brook to the Slide Brook Lean-to and campsites. Only 2.3 more miles to go.

The ground here was blessedly flat. Unfortunately though, by this time my feet were feeling every tiny pebble, stick, bug under my boots if I was stepping on anything not dirt. It was so achy that I started purposely going through mud even if there were rocks to hop across because the mud felt great! I was grateful however that my technique of babying my right knee and going soooo slooooow had paid off, because it really wasn’t bothering me on the flat section. I did stop at the bridge after Slide Brook to sit and rest a bit. Then I thought I could lie on my back and rest a bit. Then I thought, maybe I could just close my eyes a bit? After a few minutes I thought this was a good way to accidentally camp on the trail overnight, so I hauled my aching self to my feet and carried on.

That said….This portion of trail, after 12 hours of hiking in the incredibly stunning but exhausting Dix range, was just. so. BORING. I eventually resorted to counting my steps – not as a mental escape from the pain as I’d done previously in other treks but just for something to DO.

Imagine how pleased I was when, 1,900 steps later, I reached the trailhead….EXACTLY AT 6pm! Which was my goal time I’d calculated up on Hough!

I hopped in the car and took a solid 20 minutes just trying to wrestle my knee braces off, then started the 3 hour drive home. 29 down, 17 to go. Happy hiking!

Macomb Mountain: 4,405′, elevation gain: 2,400′

South Dix: 4,060′, elevation gain: +260′

East Dix: 4,012′, elevation gain: +350′ (+400′ back to South Dix)

Hough Peak: 4,400′, elevation gain: +630′

Total Duration: 13 hours 15 minutes (including maybe ~2h mulling around the summits)

Total Distance: ~14 miles

All images are property of adktrailtalesandtails and may only be used with express permission.

Panther Peak (18)

3/5/2022

My first REAL winter high peak! I’ve hiked plenty in the shoulder seasons, and as much as I enjoy it, I’ve always secretly thought the people who say “Winter hiking is the best hiking!” were a few peas short of a casserole….. So here I find myself up at 4:30am, driving 3 hours to the trailhead, and sitting in the car looking at the “4簞F” on the dash, wondering whyyyyyy are we doing this??

After half an hour of donning all of my layers, knee braces, and snow shoes (LITERALLY. 30 minutes to do this.), we signed in at the very broken register at 8:30am, and started the 1.8 mile walk up the gravel road.


We’d been here back in November just when winter was first dusting the mountains – we started in the dark, and finished in the dark after only summiting Santanoni and Couchsachraga. So we’d never actually SEEN this road! And it was beautiful – a thick layer of snow covering the ground, with a perfectly packed path broken out ahead of us.

After a little under an hour of walking, we reached the junction with the trail at 9:20am.


We trudged along in our snowshoes – they take me an hour or two to get used to – and when we looked to our left coming down a small hill, we saw written in the snow with a pole “MOOSE TRACKS”! And sure enough, we looked around and spotted them! No moose, but that’s the closest I’ve ever been to seeing a wild Adirondack moose! I didn’t stop to take any photos though, and 10 minutes after the junction we were at the bridge.


Shortly after the bridge, we began following a stream steadily uphill for the next ~1.3 miles. As we started to gain some elevation, we caught some glimpses of the massive Santanoni looming through the trees, covered in snow and almost blending into the sky.

We only met a handful of people turning back towards the trailhead as we climbed. I was super envious when two guys on skis came smoothly gliding down the trail – it looked so fun and must be so fast to get back to the trailhead!

At some point we stopped a few minutes to have a snack and I spotted this cute little tree with a snow hat, and couldn’t resist giving him a face with my pole – now he’s just happy to see ya!

20 minutes later, we came to the viewpoint on the left on a rocky outcropping in the brook between a line of cascades.

200 yards later and we were at the junction with the express trail up Santanoni. The cairn marking the junction was completely buried in snow, which left me wondering – how did the people who broke the trail know to turn there?? It looked almost no different than any other patch of forest, so kudos to them!

After the junction, the trail leveled out a bit for the next mile until we reached the trail up to Times Square 20 minutes later.

We were going to turn left to head up the ridge, buuuut of course I wanted to see the Duck Hole Lean-to and have lunch there, so we continued straight ahead. On the map it looks like the lean-to is right there. So first we climbed one hill. Then another one. Aaaand another one. Until I got pissed at adding unnecessary mileage to our trip and turned around

So there we were back at the junction….again….We walked down a small hill and onto a clearing which is presumably a small pond when it’s not frozen, and had lunch in the sun. And I got to use my little inflatable cushion! One of the toughest things for me in the winter is staying warm when I stop to take a break, especially when I’m sitting directly on the snow and ice.

It worked so well! I sat all bundled up, enjoying my cream cheese and jam sandwich with a waaaaarm butt. Life is good.

After a nice break, we hit the trail again. For a while there was little elevation gain, but then it got very steep very fast as we passed Bradley Pond on the left. After a few minutes of steep climbing, we found ourselves perched on a boulder with a glimpse of the mountains.

It seems like every hike and every mountain we’d climbed since the beginning of winter had been during a blizzard and required not only that we break trail, but had us dealing with wind and snow buffeting our faces, and no views from the summits. I forgot what it was like to hike in such beautiful weather – and the sun?! And we passed these amazing rock cliffs to our right that were just dripping in huge icicles.

An hour after brunch the climbing briefly stopped and we slid on our butts under this tree until we reached Panther Brook shortly after.

I was actually pretty nervous about this section of trail based on what I remembered when we were here in November. We hiked down from Times Square in the dark, directly in Panther Brook, climbing over large icy boulders the whole way, and I even took a rough fall at some point. So here I was ready with my microspikes, my crampons, and revenge, but the trail was pristine so far – no rocks, no mud, no ice, not NOTHIN. Just snow.

From the bottom of the brook until the top of the ridge at times square, the trail climbs steadily and steeply. It seemed to go on and on and on, but we kept our spirits high by calling out “heeeeere kitty kitty kitty *smooch smooch smooch sounds*”….because we were climbing PANTHER…..We were sleep deprived and exhausted and this was hilarious to us. I do wonder what other hikers must have thought if they’d heard us! The nice thing though was the trail was so steep that every time we turned around, we had gorgeous views.

Peep how steep the trail was there….It was like that the WHOLE TIME. It was hard work – obviously – but all we could think about was how we were clearly going to be sliding down this entire mountain on our butts and it was going to be EPIC.

With the thoughts of butt sliding to energize us, the steepness got even steepier and I knew we were almost there – I even identified the spot I fell at last time. Then, 2 hours and 20 minutes after leaving the junction, we reached Times Square!

It shouldn’t even have to be said that the first thing I did was blow up my inflatable cushion, sit down, and scarf down some lunch and niiiiice salty chips. This was as close to Panther as we got the last time – it killed me at the time, but I was in so much pain that there was no way I could have made it up Panther and back. This time though, I was in great shape, feeling pain-free and energized as we trotted down the herd path towards Panther. After about 5 minutes, I caught a glimpse of the summit through the trees and my goodness it looked like it might as well be in Ohio. Nevertheless, 5 minutes of nearly-flat walking later and we reached a lookout just before the summit.


The only difficult section of trail lie directly ahead of us – a huge ice-coated boulder with just a very narrow ledge we could walk on.

Instead we took an alternate path someone before us had forged to the right, and we popped right out on the summit!

We explored the off-shooting trails to find some beautiful lookouts, and the summit sign. There was so much snow up here that we had to kneel to be at the same level as the sign!


And of course – victory chocolate!

We wandered back to the larger open area to soak in the views. Weather couldn’t have been more perfect – temperature was hovering right around freezing, the sun had been out and now was unfortunately hiding behind some clouds, but there was NO WIND. None.


That littttttttle bump is Couchsachraga….Still don’t know how that one’s a high peak!

And played with my Peakfinder app!


At 2:50pm, we made our move to head back to Times Square.

The trees up here were caked in crusted snow – it was a winter wonderland. And this time we were wearing the right clothes so we stayed completely dry! Yaaaaay dry feet! It’s the simple things.

We made it back to Times Square in literally 15 minutes, met a few other groups of hikers finishing up from Santanoni and Couch, and headed back the way we came up with our sights set on BUTT SLIDING our way down the mountain. We’d apparently gone 18,000 steps by that point – I was so optimistic at our butt sliding prowess that I thought we wouldn’t get any more steps in until we were at the bottom. You can probably sense where this is going….And you know, we tried. We really really reallllly tried. But when butt sliding somehow becomes more exhausting that just walking – using arms and legs and core to drag yourself through the snow – what even is the point?

My friends, it DID NOT GO WELL. After a while we pretty much gave up and just walked down the mountain – until we got to the steep section near Bradley Pond and I just couldn’t resist. Naturally Gildo followed after me with….less success…..

For reference, that’s the trail on his right. He is not in any way on the trail. At this point, the trail was more on him. We got ourselves back on our feet and reached the junction just before 5pm – 2 hours after leaving the summit of Panther.

I was determined at this point to make it the ~4.5 miles back to the trailhead before 7pm, so we pretty much booked it. Unfortunately, I’d forgotten to bring my own trekking poles with me on this trip, so I’d been using a pair of Gildo’s ski poles that were in the back of the car, but they were about 8 inches too tall for me, and the trail was narrow enough that they really got in the way more than anything. So on the walk back, rather than bothering to carry them or use them, I started just dragging them behind me. I even gave them names, as if I was walking my two long skinny dogs – Rover and Grover, of course.


At 6pm we were crossing the bridge again and looking for moose tracks shortly after, and by 6:10pm we were back on the ‘gravel’ road.

We put our headlamps on with 3/4 of a mile to go, and by 6:50pm we had reached the trailhead and signed out at the register.

This was hands down the best hiking day I’ve had in ages. Nothing hurt! My knee braces did the trick, and kept my body from having a flare all day. Plus the weather and trail conditions were just perfect. That said, it still felt amazing to get into the car and peel off so many layers of clothing that I’d been wearing all day. 25 down! Marshall, I’m coming for you next 予 Happy Hiking!

Panther Peak: 4442

Total Duration: 10.5 hours of hiking

Round Trip Distance: ~13-14 miles

All images are property of adktrailtalesandtails and may only be used with express permission.

Santanoni (14) and Couchsachraga (46)

11/6/2021

Ah, the dreaded Santanoni range. Santanoni, Couchsachraga (pronounced “Kook-Suh-Krah-Guh”), and Panther – these three do NOT have the greatest reputation, to say the least. They’re unmarked, unmaintained trails and notoriously muddy. To prepare for an inevitably long day, we headed up the night before and stayed at a nearby hotel – it was absolutely adorable, but unfortunately it was the single most uncomfortable room I’ve ever stayed in, and I didn’t sleep for a single minute all night. I was thrilled when it was finally 5am and we got ready to head out to the trailhead 30 minutes away. We arrived at the trailhead at 6:30am, geared up, and headed out into the dark cold morning by 6:45am.

The trail starts off along an old road for about a mile and a half. It’s nice easy walking and a welcome warm-up to the rugged trails in our near future.

As we walked, the rising sun began brightening the sky through the trees. Which is fortunate, because it would have been easy to miss the junction with our eyes glued to the ground as we walked in the dark!


At 7:30am we reached the junction and turned right. As we walked we heard a growing sound of rushing water, and 15 minutes later we were crossing a wooden bridge over a stream.


It was definitely below freezing when we began the hike but we were comfortably warm while we walked, and we spotted some cool patches of permafrost emerging from the earth!

For the first hour and a half of walking, the trail had been blissfully rock and mud-free, and I was starting to think, “Maybe it’s not as bad as everyone says!”

Literally – and I mean LITERALLY – 5 minutes later, and we were walking up an actual stream that was calling itself a trail, complete with slippery corduroy striping the lengths between the mud pits.

The trail became pretty rugged at this point, despite being maintained. There was lots of running water, slippery corduroy, and icy puncheon, but fortunately the elevation gain was gentle and gradual, following by the REAL stream all the while. Going slow, it wasn’t too bad to navigate and I was grateful for the logs that had been put down in the wettest spots. Two hours after starting, we reached the closest point to the stream and took a moment to sit and enjoy the waterfalls.


After 15 more minutes of tactfully avoiding plunging our boots in the mud, we reached the junction to the Express trail up Santanoni at 9:15am.

We realized immediately that we were the first people of the day going up the express trail, despite a handful of groups the signed in ahead of us. We chose to go up the express route and down the Bradley Pond trail rather than going DOWN the express trail, potentially in the dark, as it seems to be more steep than the way down by Panther. The bad news of trailblazing an unmarked trail – at times, it was difficult to know where to go. We ended up following a series of snowshoe hare and fox prints most of the way, imagining some action-packed tale of what must have gone on while we walked. The good news – the path was covered in stunning ice formations the whole way up!


We soon passed a flat wetland-looking area that we had to skirt around, hopping back and forth over small streams.

We really didn’t anticipate more than a dusting of snow, but fortunately we did of course pack our microspikes and didn’t waste any time in putting them on. On the flip side, we didn’t think to pack our waterproof gear, and with all the overnight snow piled on the trees bordering the narrow trail, each time we brushed past them we were showered in clumps of heavy wet snow.

We took our time, enjoying the journey, and stopped for a refreshing popsicle along the way…



The climb seemed to go on and on, and got icier and steeper higher we got.

An hour and a half after leaving the junction, we started to catch our first glimpses of the views, and it was shaping up to be a gorgeous day!

30 minutes of climbing later and we were nearing the top of the ridge.

Finally, 2.5 hours after leaving the junction to the express trail, we reached the top of the ridge.



We hung out for just a few minutes before taking the path left from the junction and going up the ridge toward the summit of Santanoni.

And 15 minutes later, at 12:20pm – 5.5 hours after leaving the trailhead – we reached the summit!


We didn’t stick around too long as the cold was sinking in and headed back toward the express junction.

Notice the little peak to the left of the range in front of Gildo – THAT is Couchsachraga. I won’t lie, I definitely cursed when I saw how far away it is from the range, and how absolutely small! It’s well below 4000′ and is the smallest of the 46 high peaks. Not to mention it has no view, but it’s a mud slop to get to, and is the furthest removed from the trailhead. So. I was not thrilled, and Gildo had a laugh at me bad-mouthing a literal land feature.


We enjoyed the junction for another few minutes, then descended the path towards Times Square, where the paths to Bradley Pond, Panther, Couch, and Santa converge.


An hour later and we were standing by a large boulder with a view at Times Square.

We took a few minutes break to soak up the sun before continuing on to the junction with Couchie. The map is a little deceiving here. It looks like all 4 trails converge at the same point, but really coming from Santanoni you’ll meet the junctions in the following order: Couch, Bradley Pond, Panther. Turning down the path to Couch, we went down down and down some more through steep, icy rock slabs. I was shocked to see some people wearing sneakers without spikes, and cotton sweaters. They must have been tougher than me as I struggled with my boots and spikes on the ice! Part way through the descent, my dreaded knee pain reared it’s head in my left knee. I took a few moments to adjust my brace to try and keep the pain from worsening, but it didn’t really have an affect. I wasn’t about to abandon Couch being soooo close, so I took a deep breath and padded on.

Anyway. After an hour of the most demoralizing descent in history, we reached the mud bog in the col between the ridge and Couch. There is definitely a lot of hype about the mud here, and sticking my pole in the mud I can see how disastrous it would be to land in it up to your hip, but it really just took a couple minutes of careful foot placement to cross it without any mishaps. Poles are certainly an asset here!


After the bog, we headed straight back up to false summit after false summit, and finally after an hour of this we reached the summit of Couch! I found a nice root on the ground, immediately perched myself on it, and started stretching out my legs to try and relieve the pain. It was already 3:45pm, we’d been hiking for 9 hours straight, and had taken almost no breaks to sit and stretch due to the cold, wet conditions of the trail. I’d found out the hard way that my boots have apparently sprung a leak, so my feet had been enjoying an indoor swimming pool for the last 4 or 5 hours – I didn’t want to risk sitting still for too long and getting cold from that, and from our damp clothes.

As we prepared to leave after enjoying a snack and of course some victory chocolate, a sense of dread filled my stomach as I realized that it was already 4pm, the sun would set in 2 hours, we were as far from the trailhead as we could get, and my knee pain was not exactly indicative of a speedy return trip. With probably 2 miles ahead of us to return to the top of the ridge, we headed off.

The descent from Couchsachraga wasn’t bad at all – only maybe 300 feet or so and we were back at the bog, carefully navigating the fragile ice sitting atop waist-deep mud, and some sparse branches to use as flotation devices.

And then the climbing began. The climb back up is just as deceptive as the climb down – there are several ‘bumps’ or false summits to climb up and over that misled us into thinking that we were closer than we actually were. I was hopeful that we’d make it to the ridge in time to head up Panther before sunset, as it’s only about half a mile from the junction on the ridge. Even if we made it in time though, my knee was in no shape to add extra miles. At this point, it was even hurting to go uphill. At 5pm, we crested yet another bump in the trail and caught the gorgeous golden light of the setting sun.

With one last push up a steep portion of trail coated in thick ice, we were back on the ridge at 5:35pm. At this point we knew we’d be descending in the dark, so we chose to take a short break back at the boulder with the nice view while watching the sunset. I also took the opportunity to change out my socks for some nice dry ones, and cleverly folded the tops down over the lip of my boots to prevent snow from going in the tops. With the worst timing ever, I’d misplaced my gaitors somewhere at home and didn’t have them the one time I needed them most!



At 5:45pm, we gathered our things and headed back towards the junction to Couch, only this time we continued straight towards the junctions for Bradley Pond and Panther. There are no markings for any of these junctions, so we just had to keep our eyes peeled. The first junction after passing the path to Couch, we turned right and started the descent.

At this time we were just starting to put our headlamps on as it was becoming more difficult to see. I was pretty disappointed that this path didn’t seem any less steep than the express trail, despite appearing so on the map. I was relying on my trekking poles very heavily to take the weight off of my left knee and to try and baby my right one just in case it might start to hurt too. It’s so odd – I used my new knee braces just a few weeks prior to climb Seymour, and both knees did great! My right knee is definitely the worse one, and this time the right one seemed to be fine but the left one was in agony even with the brace. So maybe it’s back to the drawing board.

Somewhere along the descent, I was going down a steep sheer rock face coated in thick ice, and had braced my poles and my right foot’s microspikes so I could lower my left leg, and something went wrong. It happened so fast that I’m not sure what exactly happened, only that I was suddenly crashing down on top of some sharp branches jutting into the side of the trail. Fortunately I didn’t fall far at all, but I did land on my ribs and shoulder on those branches and felt pretty banged up. After a minute to make sure nothing was bleeding, I stood back up and carried on.

Obviously, there are no pictures to document our journey because at this point we were in total darkness. For a while, the trail was super rocky and difficult to navigate with running water and ice flowing over uneven surfaces. My left knee had started to stiffen, as it does when this pain happens, so imagine trying to rock hop from icy rock to icy rock without bending your knee! Slowly, we made our way down, and I was grateful to not be alone this time. Fortunately for us, the snow on the ground and the traffic from earlier in the day made it pretty easy to stay on trail despite being in the dark, and by about 8:30pm we had made it to the junction at Bradley Pond.


From here, 4.4 miles to go. We turned right and carefully navigated the corduroy until we were back at the junction with the Express trail up Santanoni – 3.5 miles to go. By now my poor body was clearly in a flare. If I over-do any repetitive physical activity, especially if some part of my body has already started to experience abnormal pain (like my knee, not muscle soreness), it will trigger an inflammatory response so that all of the joints in my body will start to experience the pain and stiffness. That’s where I’d been at for the last 2 hours – every single joint hurt (expect for my right knee??). Everything from my spine to the littlest joints in my fingers. It got so bad that I lost all grip strength in my hands and needed help unscrewing the cap from my water bottle! How pathetic!

I had decided to keep my microspikes on to help me navigate the slippery corduroy and puncheon traversing the wet wet path, and what a lifesaver they were. On flatter portions of trail I was able to make great pace, even without being able to bend my knee, and by 10:30pm we were again crossing the bridge over the river near the trailhead. ~2 miles to go!

At about this time, the fitness app that Gildo had been using to GPS track our journey recorded us as having gone over 16 miles over 16 hours just before his phone died. We felt such a sense of elation as we reached the junction with the road – 1.5 miles to go. I was cruising here – the ground was flat, dry, and so easy to walk on compared to everything else that day. It occurred to me that we started on this road in the dark, and finished in the dark, so we didn’t really get to see what it looked like. Gazing upward, however, we were treated with the most stunning starscape in the absolute darkness of the high peaks wilderness. I didn’t take any pictures, but just image a milky way bright enough to just about light the path for us. At 11:45pm, 17 hours of almost non-stop hiking since we began, we arrived at the register. I signed us out, then we both collapsed into the car before immediately changing out of all of our dirty clothes.

My 23rd and 24th peaks are done – I’m officially over halfway there! I can’t bear the thought of going allllllll the way back up that range for Panther; maybe that will be a trip for the winter when all of the mud and rocks have been covered in snow. Until then, happy hiking!

Santanoni: 4607

Couchsachraga: 3820

Total Duration: 17 hours of hiking

Round Trip Distance:~16 to 18 miles (GPS says 18, alltrails says ~16 without Panther)

All images are property of adktrailtalesandtails and may only be used with express permission.

Seymour Mountain (34)

10/23/2021

Ah, it’s my most favorite time of the year! Just for a minute, I need to talk a bit about the last year to impart just how monumental this hike was for me. The last high peaks I climbed were Redfield and Cliff back in September 2020. During that hike I experienced the absolute worst pain that I have ever felt. It was the pinnacle of the last several years of trying to figure out why my knees hurt SO much when I hike, and pretty much only when I hike, and it’s only gotten worse and worse and worse. I’ve been searching for answers for YEARS and the only thing I’d found myself with was less and less hope. I decided to do one last push to try and get a diagnosis (there’s more than just the knee pain, but that’s irrelevant!), and in Spring 2021, I GOT IT! I have Ehlers Danlos Syndrome! EDS is a degenerative genetic connective tissue disorder and it explains everrrrrryyyyything. The first thing I did was see an excellent PT who helped me understand why my joints seem to be falling apart. My tendons and ligaments are like old stretched-out rubberbands, so my muscles are the things holding my joints together – when they’re unbalanced, problems arise. Then I found Bauerfeind – a company that makes very specialized braces for all sorts of things, and I found one that’s suited for exactly the problem I’m experiencing. I was pretty cynical, but I ordered just 1 for my worse knee just to see if it would work. I’ve tried all kinds of braces, everything you can imagine, and nothing has ever helped. Nevertheless, a few weeks ago, I went to climb Noonmark Mountain from round pond – a ~7 mile trek – and by the end of it, my worse knee with the brace on felt fine and my better knee was hurting! Which leads us to this hike. I needed to try out both braces on a more strenuous hike to see if they really do work. So I loaded up my car on Friday night and headed up to Tupper Lake to stay the night before starting the hike at sunrise.

The trailhead for the Seward range is located on Coreys Road near Tupper Lake. **Do note that a gate ~3 miles from the trailhead may close in the winter after hunting season to allow for logging trucks to use the road. ** I made it there right at sunrise around 7am, layered up, and signed in at the register.


The trail starts off flat with some muddy patches but otherwise is very nice and easy to walk.

The lot was surprisingly full when I pulled in with many signed-in hikers seemingly headed up the Sewards, and a few going up Seymour. I was hoping all the cars were for hikers anyway, since it’s firmly hunting season and I didn’t think to get myself an orange vest before heading out! After 20 minutes or so I came to the first junction – the split with the horse trail. I stayed to the left to keep on the walking trail as apparently it’s in better condition.

From here, the trail got a bit messier with large mud patches that required some careful navigation (oh poor sweet innocent me just did not know what was in store for this hike), but I was happy to see there was still some color on the trees!

Not far after the split with the horse trail I reached another junction with a private road.

The air was brisk and chill but I was making good pace and stripped off my puffy jacket, hat, and gloves. I was already really kicking myself for misplacing my gaitors at home, but I managed to tactfully avoid plunging any appendages into the mud or into the water rushing down the many streams I passed over.

About 2 hours after I left the trailhead, I crossed a nice long line of puncheon over an area noticeably lacking in mud, followed by Blueberry Lean-to 30 minutes later. I was a little bummed by how long it was taking me to walk the 5 miles to the junction with Seymour, but nonetheless I stopped at the lean-to for a short break and a bite to eat.


A few pairs of hikers passed by me while I rested, and after just a couple of minutes I packed back up and followed behind them. These 5 miles to the junction are very flat, with maybe 100ft of elevation gain the entire way, so it was a really great warmup for the real hike to come.

At about 9:45am, I passed by the cairn marking the way up to Seward. This junction is immediately after a bridge over a stream. Then 10 minutes later I was at the junction to Seymour.

There was a couple just ahead of me and almost immediately we all lost the trail. This trail is technically ‘trail-less’, meaning it’s not marked or maintained. A tree had fallen across the path, and it almost seemed like we had to cross the stream. However just going around the tree would take us back to the trail – so stay on the left of the stream at the start of this trail. The creek was beautiful with many small waterfalls dotting the way.

After about 0.5 miles of very pleasant, easy ascent, the path took a decidedly vertical turn following the stream up slick rocky steps.

About 1 hour after leaving the junction to Seymour is when things started to get tricky. The trail was becoming sloppy, with slick smooth flat rock surfaces covered in interwoven tree roots, some of which already had a thin layer of ice covering the tops.

As I climbed and climbed the slippery mess, I caught my first few glimpses of the views, and it was shaping up to be a beautiful day if I ever escaped this steep slog!

The higher I climbed, the worse the conditions became. The trail became a muddy mess. There was no stable, solid ground – everything was either thick slopping mud, rocks with water running over, or slick tree roots covered in mud and ice.

Fortunately, I was in the midst of several small groups of people all struggling through the same situation. I had to laugh when I heard a loud profane outburst first in front of me, then behind me, as someone maybe lost their grip on a root, or lost their boot to the slurping mud they were navigating over. We were all having the same exact experience, no matter the level of hiking knowledge – there was no going fast, no rock-hopping, no cruising up this mountain. Just a very slow careful drag for everybody, and there’s something kind of special about sharing that with a whole group of strangers.


After about an hour of this, we started to catch glimpses of light shining through the tops of the trees ahead of us. It’s so easy to let yourself thing “Gee Whiz! We must be nearly there!” but come on. Of course we’re not. What kind of 46er would this be if it didn’t lull you into a false sense of security before cruelly ripping that away? I scrambled up a few very tricky large boulders to find myself with two other gentlemen gazing at a far-off lump beyond the trees. “So that’s it, huh?” “Yup.” Aaaaaaand I kept on moving.

Fortunately there wasn’t really any elevation loss when moving towards the true summit, but boy howdy did the mud step up it’s game! I’d done well with mitigating the mudpocalypse in my socks and boots up until this point, but here’s when it all started to go downhill.

Something went horribly wrong in one of these many mud pits when my trusty boots BOTH slid sideways down a duplicitous submerged tree root, engulfing my left boot entirely in muck, even coming up over the lip. My right boot was mostly unscathed, and thanks to my poles the rest of me didn’t get a mud bath either, but the damage was done. I had one cold mud-foot from this moment onward, and I could feel it squelching with every step that I took. Finally, at 12pm on the dot, the trail forked and I took the path to the right for a cramped lookout full of my fellow hikers.

I plopped my muddy butt down, layered up, and took in the views.


We chatted about how nice it would be to just take our chances paragliding off the summit rather than facing the hike back down while I enjoyed some hard-earned lunch and VICTORY CHOCOLATE!

Within only 15 or 20 minutes I was feeling quite chill, so I took one last photo before heading back to the junction and going to the actual summit.

Just a hop and a skip and 2 minutes later I was standing at the summit!


With a pit of dread in my stomach, I left the safe happy summit and returned to the mudpits of doom.

It’s safe to assume that I submerged my boots a handful more times before it was all said and done, so there was minimal care taken here. It just didn’t matter anymore, I could not have been more muddy.

I’ve never gone so slowly in my life down a mountain. I was really babying my knees considering that I still had around 7.5 miles to go to get back to the trailhead. This trail was also just extremely treacherous, especially going downhill, so I couldn’t have gone faster if I’d wanted to.

I really don’t know how I would have done it without my ol’ reliable trekking poles. There were an alarming number of times when my boots entirely lost traction and I ended up either hanging from a helpful tree or planting all of my weight into my poles. (Sorry mom ) Obviously I was a little too busy to be taking photos…of the mud…. But I was thrilled to be back at the stream and took a moment to rest by a waterfall.

The descent was a comparative cakewalk after this point, and I was THRILLED to finally be back on flat solid ground. I couldn’t image the folks that were going on to complete the rest of the Sewards after all that! There was no way I’d be going right back up another slop like that! 2 hours and 15 minutes after leaving the summit, I was back at the junction with the main trail.

At this point I was pretty ready to be out of the trail. But you know what? MY KNEES FELT FINE! I really had a pep in my step and headed down the trail at a very fast clip. Before I knew it I was back at the Ward Brook lean-to, stopping for a few minutes to relieve my back of the too-heavy pack and relishing lying flat on the floor.

It’s astonishing how quickly I get cold after just a few minutes of inactivity. So before long I strapped my pack on and took back off down the path. It almost felt like the trail was stretched out while I was on that mountain – it seemed to take forever to go those 5 miles back! My only goal was to make it back before sundown.

At least by this time, I didn’t even bother trying to avoid the muddy patches and just clopped right through them. I didn’t encounter any people on the way out, and was so lost in thought, I just about jumped out of my mud-boots when I saw glaring red lights through the trees. Taillights?… THE TRAILHEAD! By jove, I’ve done it!

I couldn’t stop smiling while I signed out at the register 2h and 15 minutes after leaving the junction to Seymour. My knees were fine!! I mean sure, every inch of the rest of my body was throbbing, but this time I wasn’t agonizingly hauling my broken carcass on hands and knees back out the trailhead! The bar is low friends, but this was a resounding success! Now I just have to wait for the mud to freeze and come back for Seward, Donaldson, and Emmons

Happy Hiking!

Seymour Mountain: 4091′ Elevation Gain: 2798′

Round Trip Distance:~15 miles

Total Duration: ~10 hours

Redfield (15) and Cliff (44)

9/26/2020-9/27/2020

DAY 1

It’s been an entire year since I’ve last been to the high peaks. I spent the last 8 months doing daily yoga practice and hiking progressively longer trails like the LP9ers to assess whether my knee issue is better. I’m still determined to summit all 46 high peaks solo, but all of the ones I have left would be looooong day hikes that I’m definitely not ready for. Instead, we decided on a compromise: Gildo and I would hike in from the Upper Works on Saturday, set up camp at the Uphill Lean-to, then hike Redfield and Cliff alternately the next day, then hike out. So that’s what we did! We arrived at the trailhead with our newly-rented bear-proof food canister from The Cloudsplitter at about noon on Saturday the 26th, signed in at the register noting many groups ahead of us and a surprising number of people carrying in canoes. This is the first time either of us had ‘backpacked’ in the high peaks and we were so excited! We signed in at 12:30pm and hit the road down the Calamity Brook trail.




It was a surprisingly warm, sunny day, and Juno hasn’t had a haircut in a while so she was pretty fluffy and prone to getting too hot, so at the very first junction 50ft into the trail we followed a spur trail down to the river to coat her paws and belly at least in the cool clear water. Naturally she got the zoomies after that and spent her energy fighting Gildo over a stick.


5 minutes later we were back on the trail, and Juno was back on her leash. Unfortunately for her, dogs are required to be on leash in the high peaks region, even if they are trained with a remote collar like she is, and they are VERY strict about this. It took some time for all of us to adjust to hiking this day – Juno to being on a leash, and Gildo and I to having much larger heavier packs on our backs. But we were happy, and the weather was perfect.


Gildo and Juno having a heart-to-heart about not pulling on the leash

We followed the signs to Lake Colden and stopped many many times to admire the fall foliage.


At 1:15pm we stopped, yet again, at an irresistible pool in the river to let Juno go for a swim. She made it look so nice that we both climbed down too, and I soaked my shirt and cap in the water before dunking my face and hair under. Ahhhh so refreshing! I took a minute to stretch and take care of my knees before we climbed back up the bank and carried on.


By 1:50pm, we reached another junction. Apparently we’d only gone 1.8 miles in the hour and 20 minutes we’d been hiking, so we stepped up our pace a tiny bit as we were a bit nervous about finding open tent sites at the uphill lean-to.

At 3:00pm we reached the river-crossing, rock-hopped our way across, then continued a gentle incline up the hill on a markedly rockier path. We had about 2 miles to go to reach the Flowed Lands.


At about 4pm we reached what looked on the map like a tiny pond, indicating that we were very close to the next junction. We weren’t quite sure until we passed through increasingly muddy portions of trail. Gildo suggested we were next to the pond; I suggested we were IN it.


Sure enough, 20 minutes later we were at the Flowed Lands trail register. We paused just for a moment before heading left into the woods for the next mile.

After another 20 minutes we reached a nice bridge with a deep stream underneath. Well, deep enough for Juno to jump in and splash around for a bit!

Immediately after the bridge was a cairn marking the path up to Mount Marshall.


We passed it on up and by 5pm we were at the Colden Dam. We took a nice long break here, enjoying the sights of Colden Mountain on the right and Algonquin on the left, and entertained several groups of people lounging on the dam with Juno’s dock-diving skills. She has no fear, and leaped right off of the bridge to chase after rocks that Gildo was throwing for her. She never has a chance to get them, and I think she knows that, but it’s her all-time favorite game!



After an enjoyable 10-minute break, we climbed up the other side of the dam and followed the signs for the uphill lean-to. Shortly after we paused at another beauteous little spot with a suspension bridge in front of a waterfall. We stayed here in photographers paradise for probably longer than we should have.




The trail took a decidedly steeper ascent alongside Uphill Brook. A few times, we opted to take our ascent in the river itself, climbing along the bare rocks and and waterfalls

I was starting to feel a bit anxious. It was nearly 6pm and we still weren’t at the campsite, and I was all too aware of how much earlier the sun sets in the mountains. However I still couldn’t pass up the chance to glimpse into the gorge the brook had cut into the mountain.

We stopped maybe once more to admire the crystal clear water and the shapes of the rocks beneath the surface. We were both tempted to jump in, but time was not on our side, so we continued on uphill.


Finally the trail started to descend a bit and I was wondering when the hell we were ever going to get to the campsite when we met a pair of hikers coming the other way who told us we were literally 50 feet away. Well hot dog! We scampered on and sure enough, there it was, with the two established sites and lean-to already taken. Fortunately we found a flat, clear spot within 20ft of one of the tent site markers and set up shop there. I collected and filtered water from the river just down the trail (with a mini sawyer filter, the BEST) while Gildo set up the tent, we ate our mountainhouse meals, packed the bear canister and stowed it well away from the camp, and hit the sack.


DAY 2


Despite taking a load of CBD oil and my regular sleeping aids, I slept for maybe an hour or two that night. Not for any reason, that’s just how I am. It was a quiet night – no bears, no activity of any kind besides a sporadic drizzle of rain during which Gildo jumped up to relocate some of our things that were outside the tent. I was groggy and didn’t get up until 8am, but that was quickly remedied by some camp coffee and breakfast scramble!


As we got ready for the day, we were met by a pair of rangers inspecting the sites who informed us that where we had set up was not an official site, despite being very clearly used. We were humbled by that knowledge, and quickly packed up our camp so no one else would be tempted to set up there, and for good measure dragged a few fallen trees and logs over the clearing to dissuade others from making the same mistake. It was almost 10am before we made our way to the cairn just beyond our camp marking the trail to Redfield and Cliff.


The trail was slick from the light rain the night before, but within 5 minutes we were at the next cairn marking the junction between Redfield and Cliff. I had opted to climb Redfield first, as it’s the longer of the two at 1.3 miles, while Gildo climbed Cliff, and we planned to meet somewhere in between in the cross-over to have lunch together.


Markings on the tree show: <-C ->R

I felt bouncy under the light weight of my day pack, a delightful contrast to the previous day lugging the hefty overnight pack. The trail was rugged, rocky, and slick with rain, and before long I was back at the Uphill Brook, weaving in and out between the brook and the trail.

At some point I decided climbing in the brook was much easier, and it gifted me beautiful views of the foggy mountains. I couldn’t see any of the high peaks, which would probably frustrate most hikers, but I was just so happy to be there. Plus there’s a unique beauty in mountains shrouded by fog.

I was extra grateful to my hiking poles for saving my clumsy hide NUMEROUS times along the trail. However, some scrapes and bruises were inevitable. Being a trailless peak, the path is narrow and crowded by pine boughs, which showered me with collected rain with each step. So I was soaked, but fortunately it was a warm day, and I wasn’t cold despite the on and off sprinkling. I also seemed to impale myself CONSTANTLY with many many cutoff shards of sticks, branches, and logs that jutted into the trail, but it wasn’t enough to dampen my spirits. After about a mile and an hour of slow clambering and enjoying the stream, the brook came to an end and I entered a trail straight out of a fairytale.

After leaving the stream, the trail seemed to drag on and on more steeply than it had previously, and I wondered when it would end. So I started counting my steps – after 100 steps, I would take a short 30 second break, then start up again back at 0. Along the way, I turned around to look behind me and thought, “Wow! I’m gonna have an awesome view from the summit!”

HA! Yeah right! I took to counting my steps again and didn’t even make it to 100 when I became aware of how near I must be to the summit. With a pep in my step I hurried along until the trail ended with a vast ocean of cloud vapor before me.

Wow, what a nice view of Allen Mtn!

I turned around, spotted the summit sign, laughed at my misfortune of weather (Curse you, weather men! How can you always be so wrong 不). Undeterred, I sat down to enjoy my hard-earned victory chocolate. Time at summit: 11:30am.


I really only stayed for 5 minutes or so. It’s not like there was anything to see from up there, and I had a lot of miles in front of me, so it’s best to get moving. As I descended I noticed my eyes squinting occasionally. I was a little confused until I realized it was because the SUN was out! The sun? What’s that?? HA! Anyway, I could see the clouds starting to break up a bit, and grew hopeful of some views on the way up Cliff.

I was making my way sloooooowly one step at a time down the bouldery brook when I saw a very familiar pup pulling at her leash to greet me. Gildo had taken Juno since I can’t manage her on a leash while using my trekking poles, and evidently she was not happy with that arrangement! He had had to drag her all the way up the trail to me because she was convinced I had gone back to the camp! At 12:20pm we happily sat down on a boulder in the middle of the brook to enjoy our lunch together.


We continued our separate ways after just a few minutes together. Besides a minor incident wherein I was lowering myself down a steep section with my left hand holding onto a small stump and my right leg braced on the slippery rock, until my right foot slipped and the stump I was holding onto flopped sideways out of the earth and I skidded on my elbows for a foot or two, the going was smooth. After another 30 minutes I was back at the junction to Cliff, where I scared the jeepers out of some poor girl who didn’t hear me padding down the path until I cheerily said “Hello!” . We both apologized and laughed for a bit, traded some wisdom about the peaks – they had just come from Cliff, where I was headed. I warned them of the slick rocks on Redfield, and they warned me of the mud on Cliff, then we set off. Distance to Cliff summit: 0.8 miles.

Ok. The mud….was no joke. It was dog-deep (DONT ASK how I know that…more on that later), but fortunately I had my pole to help balance as I crossed various branches and logs, however every time I tried to remove my pole to move it forward, the mud held on tight until it released with a wet squelching sound. I though for sure I would lose part of my pole to the mud, but we all came out ok!


After the mud fields the trail took a gentle ascent for 10 minutes until I found myself squeezing through a narrow path, ducking beneath downed trees and brushing through sharp pine boughs that encroached upon the trail. More than once various parts of me and my pack got snagged on the tree bits lunging into the path, and I had to retrieve my water bottle several times after it had been knocked out of my pack.

After a miserable 100ft of this, I decided that though there were old puncheon and man-placed logs beneath my feet, this COULD NOT be the trail. I wasn’t about to go back the way I came, because it SUCKED, so instead I ventured just to the right of the trail where there was more space between the trees and started heading back downhill. I stopped for a moment to gather my senses when a loud WHOOSHING sound erupted to my left, causing me to shout “F*** ME!” to the woods in surprise. Hopefully no one was around for that….Not my best moment. Turns out it was a grouse – that I obviously hadn’t seen – taking flight from right beside me. By this point I was bruised, battered, and pissed in general, so I ducked my head and charged down the hillside barging through dense pine shrubs until I found my way back onto the trail, still wondering how exactly I had lost it in the first place.

Ok so the hike up Cliff hasn’t exactly been ideal so far, but it had to get better, right? WRONG. The trail soon took a decidedly vertical ascent, where many many times I stood at the bottom of a massive vertical rock slab wondering just how in the hell I was going to get up there without breaking my neck. Thankfully I have long legs, I’m 5’9″, because if they were any shorter I’m not sure I would have been able to make the climb on my own. It was pretty technical, complete with slick dampness from the overnight drizzle, and I added a few more scrapes and bruises to my collection, including a new hole in my pinky finger from when I grabbed a pine branch to keep myself from falling and a broken twig speared through my skin.

Image above – Looking up from the base of a vertical slab

Image below – Looking down from the top of the same rock slab

Fortunately, the weather was starting to clear, so I actually had some views at the tops of those cliffs! Not that I enjoyed them much, I was pretty determined to be pissed at this mountain . At some point the climbing was too difficult to manage with a camera dangling from my neck, so I stowed it in my pack. Finally I passed over the last of the cliffs – every time I mounted one just to look ahead and see another one – and crested a little hillock that offered a view of the true summit. Just then a group passed coming the other way and told me I would descend and then climb right back up to the true summit.

False summits, love them, right?? UGH. So I just climbed up all those god forsaken cliffs only to climb right back down the other side and back up to the true summit. Fortunately the trail on this side of the mountain was a whole lot easier, and by 2:20 I had reached the true summit. Which has absolutely no view. None at all. THIS PEAK ISN’T EVEN 4000′ WHY IS IT ON THE LIST. Ok ok rant over. I took a few pics to show how happy I was to be there and to document my battle wounds, enjoyed some victory chocolate while stretching my legs, then got the hell out of there.




You guys, I was MISERABLE on this mountain! That’s so unlike me, but it’s almost funny now, considering I had no single major injuries but TONS of constant scrapes and bruises, which at some point had me shouting profanities at the mountain on the way back up to the false summit.

When I got there, I saw two very familiar faces greeting me – Gildo and Juno had come back up Cliff after completing Redfield at lightning speed to make sure I got down the cliffs safely. Awwww. Too bad I was a bitchy mess! I was a bit conflicted with them being there because I am set to climb these 46 peaks on my own, but really I’d already done the climb, and it was nice to have some company on the descent. Within a few minutes, at about 3pm, we were back at the top of the highest cliff, looking out at the mountains across from us.


I was really really nervous to go back down the cliffs, but they actually weren’t that bad. After my pole got stuck in my way for the 40th time that day, I angrily chucked it down the cliffs and crab-walked my way down. The rocks are super steep but textured, so they aren’t very slippery, and before I knew it, we were at the bottom. I’ve decided that Juno isn’t a labradoodle but a mountain goat the way she bounces from ledge to ledge like it’s nothing! 30 minutes later, we were at a junction in the trail that I obviously missed on the way up. Since my eyes were down as I climbed up the rocky, wet path, I totally missed the little cairn sitting atop a high embankment, which was where the trail was supposed to go. I could see now that there were sticks and logs placed to prevent people from going the wrong way, but it clearly had no effect on me! Gildo took a minute to make the incorrect path a little more inaccessible and obvious, then we continued on.

My knee was unfortunately starting to ache, which was a terrible sign since I still had ~8 miles to walk out downhill to the Upper Works, so we hurried through the muddy path (which is how I realized that the mud is dog-deep, as poor Juno trudged her way through, using much effort to extricate each limb from the muddy trap with a squelching sound at each step) and found ourselves back at the campsite just before 4pm.

We took some time to hydrate, have a snack, and filter more water while I stretched my hips and knees hoping to alleviate some of the pain. I’d started each day by taking an Aleve-which I took again at midday-which has been doing wonders for the knee issues, along with daily yoga practice and hourly stretch breaks during hikes. I realized I’d been way too lax with my stretch breaks, keeping too close an eye on the minutes passing by, all too aware that we wouldn’t make it back to the trailhead until very late. We hefted our packs back on and left our site at about 4:30pm, and headed back along the Uphill Brook.

At 5pm we reached a deep pool along the trail that we just couldn’t pass up, and took the opportunity to wash Juno’s leash – it’s usually a lovely aqua but you wouldn’t know it by how black it had become – and Juno. Our jaws gaped open when Juno leapt into the water and instantaneously a CLOUD of brown mud exploded out of her fur. It’s not like she left a trail as the mud came off while she swam, it was instant. But you know what they say – a muddy dog is a happy dog!



We stopped briefly several times along the trail to admire the waterfalls and the gorge, and an adorable community of teeny mushrooms nested on a mossy rock.

At 6pm we were back to the suspension bridge, and a few minutes later the Colden Dam. By this point I was in substantial pain. And for the first time, I had mindnumbing pain not only in my right knee, but in my left knee too. I knew it was only a matter of time, since I’d relied on my left so heavily in the years since the pain had started, but it was a sinking realization nonetheless. We stopped for just a few minutes at the dam to enjoy the last rays of light on the mountains across the water, then climbed back up the bridge toward the Flowed Lands junction.


Colden on the right, Algonquin on the left


We reached the junction at 7pm. I had been moving increasingly more slowly, cursing the rocks and boulders as we passed over them. Nothing hurts my knees more than the unpredictable walking surface of a rock-strewn trail. At this point both of my knees were screaming, and after a particularly earth-shattering lightning bolt jolted through my left leg from a misstep, I stopped on a large boulder and sobbed. More from the prospect of having to walk 4 more miles like this than from the pain.

At that point it was dark, we donned our headlamps, and Gildo provided me with another trekking pole in the form of a large stick since I usually only use the one pole. I adjusted my walking technique with them and found that it helped considerably! I still couldn’t bend my knees without extreme pain, but I could at least pour my weight into both of the walking sticks and hobble along. I don’t have any pictures from this stretch (it was dark anyway), and to be honest, I don’t really recall any details. At some point my mind had retreated to some safe place to exist outside of the pain. When that didn’t work, I counted my steps. Gildo had taken my pack; I guess it was too hard to watch me dragging my stiff legs painfully along the trail, so he was carrying BOTH of our overnight packs. He was such a trooper; he must have been hurting from carrying the weight of both packs, but didn’t say a word. Time trickled by. I reached 1000 steps counted. Then 2000. Then 3 and 4. At some point I stopped counting and just let my mind live someplace else while my body toiled. Finally, we reached the first junction from the Upper Works – only 0.4 miles to go. I can do that. I’d managed to pick up the pace quite a bit with both sticks on the heavenly flat, smooth trail out of the upper works. I resumed counting my steps after that, and was so shocked when, at 410 steps, our headlights shone on the reflective lights of a truck! We had made it to the parking lot! It was 11:15pm. We quickly changed clothes and hopped in the car for the 3 hour drive home, stopping someplace in Old Forge to creep out a convenience store clerk sometime after midnight, as we were covered in mud, bruises, probably blood, and looking like we’d been through hell. We gorged on all manner of salty goodies, and Juno on a bagel, while we made our way home.

I woke up Monday morning feeling like I got hit by a Mack Truck – EVERY joint in my body hurt – even my knuckles were swollen. They improved a bit throughout the day. It’s been 3 days now and I’m feeling pretty good! Knees are still a little achy but not nearly as bad as I had expected.

Battle Wounds

I’m invigorated now to try my new method of using the trekking poles for my next hike to see if I can escape the joint pain. For now, it’s back to yoga and stretching. I was so utterly devastated during that hike that it’s been 4 years and this pain is still haunting me. BUT I made it so far without the pain setting in – about 13 miles over 2 days – I’m definitely making progress, and hope to be out there again sometime soon. Mount Marshall, I’m coming for you next.

Thanks for reading


Redfield Mountain: 4606′ Elevation Gain: From base of mountain – 1340′ Overall -3225′ from Upper Works

Cliff Mountain: 3960′ Elevation Gain: From base of mountain – 694′ Overall – 3919′ total

Total Distance: ~19 miles

Total Duration: ~18 hours, including many snack breaks and much putzing

Day 1 – 5 hours

Day 2 – Redfield: 3 hours Cliff: 3 hours Hike Out: 7 hours

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 wasjust a littleexcited 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

Whiteface Mtn. (5), Esther Mtn. (28), and Marble Mtn.

11/01/2016

It had been nearly 2 MONTHS since I’d last climbed a 46er, and I’d been thinking for a while that I was long overdue, however every weekend that I’d planned to climb these mountains, the skies decided to open up! So I said, I’ll show them (…the skies, I guess), I’ll go on a Tuesday! So after a sleepless Halloween night, I got up at 4:30am to head down to Wilmington. There were a couple of trails to choose from, but I decided to choose the less-traveled one that’s a mile shorter just to try to avoid still being on the trail when darkness falls considering that I had planned to climb Marble, Esther, and Whiteface Mountains all in one day. The trail I was aiming for started at the Atmospheric Science Research Center (ASRC). I had never been there before, so when I arrived a little before 7am (still in the dark) I was a bit concerned, because the trail was not obvious. So I parked in the big parking lot in front of the ASRC and proceeded to wander aimlessly for about 30 minutes, sometimes stumbling up a trail-that’s-not-a-trail before getting lost and deciding that could not possibly be the right way. Just as the sun started to illuminate the parking lot, I stomped frustratedly back to my car to regroup. Should I drive to the more well-known trail? Surely I wouldn’t get there until at least 8am, and it’d be an extra 2 miles of hiking. I’d definitely be coming home in the dark if I go that way. What are my other options? Just go home? Just then–I looked up and saw that early morning light had illuminated a previously invisible, MINISCULE sign that said “Hikers <–“. OMG. I started the engine, drove literally a minute more around the loop, and there was a little parking area on the side of the road, and a trail leading off of it. So without further ado, I started hiking at around 7:30am.

The trail quickly descended down where it joined up with another much wider trail; I turned left here, and kept going.

Shortly afterward, another trail branched off to the left. I continued on the wide path, hoping it was the right way, but not super confident considering the way my morning had gone so far.

A few minutes later I was almost sure I was again on the wrong path, because I came across this big metal cube of machinery, but when I went to investigate, the trail did indeed continue onward; sure enough, a trail sign appeared!

This is where that actual trail began! Huzzah! There was no register or anything, but I continued straight up the path where the climbing began. It then occurred to me that the machinery at the bottom was from an old ski lift up the mountain; this trail just followed the ski lift straight up. It was actually really cool to be able to look back and see exactly where I had started, because it was a straight shot.

At this point, my earlier frustration was just a distant memory; I was so happy and zen-like out there, enjoying the crisp air, the morning’s first light reddening the mountains, and the exhilaration of the climb. I was in such a good mood, that I nearly considered climbing inside this squat little structure I discovered on the way up, before I decided that I absolutely did not want to do that.

45 minutes after leaving the roadside, I alighted upon the top of marble mountain, where I encountered the twin to the cube machine at the bottom of the slope.

I rested here for a couple of minutes enjoying the early light, but when I started to shiver I decided it would be best to move on and warm up.

Almost as soon as I left the summit, I met the junction with the other trail that led up Marble Mtn., and took the right path to carry on up the ridge.

The trail was a lot snowier up here out of the light of the sun, but I was reassured knowing that my microspikes (crampons…whatever) were tucked in my pack, ready when I needed them. Boy was that false hope. (More on that later).

As I climbed, I was lucky enough to catch some glimpses of the mountains through the trees, and what a sight they were.

The trail was a total and complete mess. Some areas were running water, some were solid ice, some were a miserable mix of both. If nothing else, it made for some interesting structures along the way.

Oh, joy! I’ve found another creepy little sled hut, and look! This one comes complete with a moth-eaten burlap blanket too! How cozy :/. Let’s just hope I won’t have to use it, and will be back well before dark.

After climbing up this ridge for almost an hour and a half, it finally flattened out, and I knew I must be close to the junction for Esther.

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Whitefacemtn in the distance

Not 10 minutes later I had arrived at the giant, obvious cairn and the sign for the
herd path up Esther Mountain. I had put my microspikes on at some point climbing up the ridge when it became particularly icy, and they were giving me a bit of a hard time by not staying square on my feet; the left one kept slipping off the side, and I had to adjust it constantly. It wasn’t too bothersome though, I was definitely better off with than without, anyway. So off I went, down the trail to Esther. Along the way, I captured a glimpse of a verrrry far away mountain, and hoped with all I had that it was not Esther. After viewing the same mountain occasionally becoming ever-so-slightly closer, however, I determined I was indeed climbing Esther. To make it better, this herd path was horrible. Ice was covering almost all of it, only it wasn’t even thick enough to hold my weight; I kept punching through, splashing into muddy mucky disgusting water every other step. To make things even better, my brand-new microspikes were not doing so great; the left one continued to slip, and one of the bands on the right foot had snapped completely, leaving it unbalanced and threatening to slip off of my foot. I decided to just keep an eye on it, because I really had no other option. So the going was quite slow, but eventually I made it to the summit of Esther, an hour after leaving the junction.

Apparently this mountain was named for the 15 year old girl who first summitted it. Woah! I’ll settle just for climbing a mountain, not discovering one. I cleared a little patch of rock to have a seat and take a sip of some piping-hot hot chocolate, which I was SO glad for prioritizing at 4:30am.

I didn’t stay long, however, because when I looked up and saw the tower of Whiteface like 4.2 lightyears away, I knew I needed to get moving or I wouldn’t get back to the car until 3pm tomorrow.

This is when the poop really hit the fan for me. The heckin lousy microspikes. During the hour it took me to return to the junction on the ridge, the other strap on the right one broke, so the set of spikes under the front of my right foot kept slipping and popping up over the top of my boot, often stabbing my other leg when it happened. To make matters worse, both straps on the left one also broke during that hour. I was so frustrated and angry at this point, I very nearly chucked both of them off of the mountain, good riddance, but decided to strap them onto my pack in case of emergency, or to burn maliciously later, or whatever. I resolutely took both poles out of my pack, and very carefully made my way up Whiteface. Wow, it looked soooo far away, and TALL. At one point, I reached a really cool clearing that must have been an old ski slope or something, and it was nicely shielded from the wind, so I decided to have a seat on a convenient boulder and have some lunch.

Who can argue with that view? I didn’t stay long (didn’t want to wait for the cold to seep in) and 20 minutes later at about 1pm I reached the giant wall signifying the base of the wall bordering the Whiteface Memorial Highway! I must be close!

I took about 40 pictures of the dang wall, all of which look almost exactly the same, then climbed some slippery rocks up to the road itself.

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Ski lift!

I knew the trail would come to the road, but I wasn’t exactly sure where it would pick back up. I decided to explore the road a little bit, which overlooked some incredible scenery. That said, I wouldn’t want to drive up or down this road, EVER. I’m saying, even in the summer. Nope.

Looking up the road toward the observatory, I decided that the trail must’ve continued up this impossible-to-climb cliff, covered in ice, that I saw when I first climbed up to the road. So for future reference: you never actually walk along the road. I didn’t think any of the buildings were open up ahead, so the only way up would be the precarious trail. Just dandy.

I climbed up very carefully, and at about that point realized that there was NO WAY that I would make it back down the whole mountain without my microspikes. Even the slightest decline can be extremely difficult when icy. I was a bit nervous, but decided to worry about it more after I had reached the summit, because there was no way I was turning back now.

The trail continued along this really cool ridge all the way up to the summit. It would have been even cooler if I was afraid of being blown right off the edge by the omnipresent gusts of wind.

But oh myyyy the views were spectacular! I’ve never seen anything quite like this.

FINALLY, at about 1:30pm, I reached the deserted summit. Not a soul in sight, which was a little creepy, I must admit, but it didn’t bother me much.

I stayed up here for all of 5 minutes. Seriously. It was cold, and it was soooo much later than I had anticipated arriving (stupid microspikes!). So I took a few last pictures, and turned back. Unfortunately for me, the road was closed past that point, so I had to go back the treacherous way I had come up, until the trail met the road again.

And this is where the photos end. I had some very tricky decisions to make at this point. Do I go back down the mountain the way I came up, risking falling on the ice (or worse) with no one around to help for miles and miles, risking returning in the dark (even though I have a headlamp, I’d prefer to not have to use it)? Or do I take the Whiteface Memorial Highway back down, risking the road being immensely long, or not ending up near where my car was parked? In the end, I went with my gut, which was telling me something bad would happen if I took the trail back. I also figured that, if nothing else, the road could lead me to people who would hopefully help me, if need be. So down the road I went, and I didn’t turn back. Though the views were sublime, I was so focused on getting home that I didn’t even think to take out my camera. After an hour of walking, I was getting really nervous, because I didn’t seem to be getting anywhere. I still seemed to be really high up in the mountains, nowhere near the elevation at which I’d parked my car, and there was not a soul in sight. I realized now that the road was definitely closed at the bottom, and reasonably so, but I was afraid the road was 15 or 20 miles long. So at this point I just started running, my heavy pack slamming down onto my shoulders with each step. Soon after, I saw a sign indication the downward slope would continue for another 5 miles. I was simultaneously overjoyed and devastated: the road wasn’t 20 more miles, but I still had 5 miles to go and my whole body was hurting. I decided I had no choice but to continue on; my phone was dead (of course) and the road would EVENTUALLY lead somewhere, hopefully somewhere close to my car, and not on the wrong side of the mountain. I steeled my resolve, and kept running. And running. And running. Then, up ahead, a toll booth!! Are there people in there? Either way, I must be getting close to somewhere. There were no people inside, but when I passed the booth, I looked to my left and had to do a double-take: a LAKE. Somehow, I had reached a low enough elevation for there to be a gorgeous little lake; on top of that, I heard cars nearby! I slowed to a walk, and came to an intersection. Another tough decision: do I turn down the new road, or do I keep going? I had studied maps of the Adirondack region quite a bit, and reasoned that I should stay on the Memorial Hwy. Less than a mile later, I came across a sign, which I read about 6 times just to be sure and not get my hopes up: Marble Mtn. Road, ASRC. I jumped and danced and cheered and ran (read: limped) down the road to where my beautiful gorgeous little blueberry-mobile sat waiting for me (it’s a bright blue subaru…we call it the blueberry, naturally.). I was so grateful to be so lucky, and I peeled out of there to head home. Finishing time: ~4pm. Hey, I beat the sunset!

Whiteface Mountain: 4867′

Esther Mountain: 4240′

Marble Mountain:2753′

Total Duration: ~8.5 Hours

Round Trip Distance: I have no idea…fitbit says 17.5 miles, but that can’t be right….maybe 10-11 miles?

All images are property of adktrailtalesandtails and may only be used with express permission.

Giant Mountain (12) and Rocky Peak Ridge (20)

09/10/2016

I woke up bright (er…dark) and early and got out of the house by 4:30am to do this hike. My parents were due to visit from Ohio sometime in the evening, and there was a possibility of rain (and even thunderstorms) in the early afternoon, so I thought I’d get this done quick and easy, the earlier the better. So I arrived at the trailhead on 73 for the Roaring Brook Trail, signed in at the register, and set off by 6:45am.

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I call this my ‘Up at 4am’ look

Immediately after leaving the register, I got a view of the so-called “Roaring Brook”….Not a single drop of water. This was really depressing, because the reason I wanted to use this trail was to visit the top and bottom of roaring brook falls, and it wasn’t looking like much would be going on.

Two minutes after leaving the register I came to a junction, and went right to see the bottom of the falls. I wasn’t expecting much, but I could definitely see how this would be an incredible sight with a lot of water. Guess I have to come back in May!

The walk through the forest was uneventful but pretty. It was still dark in the woods with the sun so low, and I passed a few campers still asleep in their tents. After the short walk back to the junction sign, I started the climb up the trail, which was relentless but not technically difficult. After 10 or 15 minutes, I came to another junction sign for a spur trail to the top of the falls. I though, what the heck, it’s right there so I might as well go see it even if there’s almost no water.

HOLY COW was it worth it! This was the COOLEST place! There were places for camping right nearby, and I could climb out into the brook on rocks and see the mountains in the distance. I stayed here for longer than I should have, enjoying the crystal clear waters and indescribable view.

Standing at the tippy-top

Is that the mountain I’m climbing?

The trail leveled out a little bit after the top of the falls, and after about a mile I came to the junction leading to Giant’s Washbowl on the right, and Giant Mtn on the left. I went left, with the intent of descending via the other trail and meeting up with this trail again at that junction.

The going was easy for a little bit after this point, with the trail crossing the brook once or twice more.

Then the real climbing started. And it did not let up. It was some serious climbing, but the path was relatively easy, increasing in scrambli-ness the further up I went. I encountered a few wearied backpackers descending the mountain at this point, but that was it. About 2.5 hours after I left the trailhead, I was excited to find some built-in stairs, which in my mind meant that the summit was near…false hope! It was not!

At this point, the trail increased in difficulty. I was much steeper and not as easily navigable, so the going was slow.

Not 10 minutes after climbing the ladder, I arrived at the junction sign for Ridge Trail, which leads back to Giant’s Washbowl, and the sign saying ‘Giant Mtn: 0.7 Miles’. Woohoo! 0.7 Miles! That should take me less than 30 minutes!…There was a lot of false hope on this trip.

The climbing picked up immediately after that sign, with lots of scrambling and slides, until I came to this amazing ridge. I could see the mountains around me looking both left and right through the trees, and I could see the looming shadow of Giant up ahead, and boy, it did not look close.

The ridge led to the base of Giant, and the climbing was very very steep and difficult, often straight up slides. Towards the top, I passed a junction sign for Rocky Ridge Peak, saying the peak of Giant was 0.3 miles away. Finally, after 3.2 hours of hiking, I reached the wiiiindy summit.

The views were stunning, but I could only stand to be on the very top for a few minutes at a time. My thermometer read 62 F, and it was incredibly windy. I was wearing long trail pants and a running jacket, and still needed to put on my windbreaker. I was so glad that I had it on hand! I climbed down a little bit to take shelter from the wind, and enjoyed my midmorning snack. After resting my feet and warming up some, I ventured back up to the summit to take a picture with the summit plaque.

I didn’t stay long up here; it was cold and windy and I wanted to head over to my second peak. So I headed back down to the junction, and turned left at the sign.

Shortly after descending a few feet along this trail, I encountered an older gentleman enjoying the view from a rocky outcropping. We chatted about how far down we have to go before climbing back up rocky peak, then he let me pass him and I carried on.

He was not kidding when he said this trail would make us work. The trail was only 1.2 miles long, but it was just straight down. It was so very demoralizing, and all I was thinking was how I’d have to come right back up on the way back up Giant, and how there was no way I’d make it back to the trailhead by 2pm. Nevertheless, I carried on, and while I stopped to take a picture of Rocky Peak Ridge looming in the distance, the gentleman (named Tim) passed me right up. Did I mention I’m incredibly slow climbing down?

After what felt like losing 1000ft, I reached the col, and snapped a photo of RPR standing in front of me. The climb up was so much easier, it was relatively gradual and I made it in about 20 minutes from the Col, passing Tim along the way.

An hour after leaving the junction, I made it to the summit at 11:30am. I told myself I could enjoy the views until noon, the I had to be back at the junction by 1pm. I quickly walked over what was clearly the highest point of the bare summit to get to a slightly lower portion of the ridge that was less windy so I could enjoy my lunch and victory chocolate.

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I was here for several minutes before Tim rejoined me, and an entire troupe of tired-looking young backpackers filed up the mountain shortly after. The didn’t stick around though, and neither did Tim, so I had the mountain to myself. I was getting a little bit nervous, however, because it was getting even windier, to the point that it nearly knocked me over, and dark grey clouds were rolling in. So I went back up to the true summit to take a few last pictures and headed back down to the col.

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A cairn, and Giant Mtn

Along the way, I passed the large group resting along the trail, and learned they were an outing club at a nearby college. I got back to the col, and started the exhausting climb back up Giant. Actually, it was a lot worse coming down this part than it was going up. I flew right up it in about 20 minutes, passed Tim again, and took a few minutes break back at the junction since I made it before 1pm.

I enjoyed my last view, then headed as fast as I could back down the mountain. It was getting increasingly dark and windy, and I was sure the skies would open up before I made it to the bottom, so I decided to forgo my side trip to Washbowl and go back the way I came up. The trip down was absolutely uneventful though. I kept pace with a few groups as we leapfrogged each other, and my knees were killing me. I didn’t take many pictures on the way down, just a few of some pretty little berries and flowers growing alongside the trail.

As I neared the bottom, light rain started trickling through the leaves above me, but nothing serious. In the last mile or so, I knew I was getting close, so I started jogging and TOTALLY missed the junction between washbowl and the trailhead, and ended up going half a mile in the wrong direction. I even kept thinking to myself “This doesn’t look familiar…” but I didn’t know for sure until I reached a little junction sign to Nubble. I turned right around, and ran the rest of the way back. I made it back to my car at 3:10pm, almost 8.5 hours after leaving. I jumped in without even taking an exit photo, ripped my boots off, and sped home to make it there before my parents did. 39 more to go!

Giant Mountain: 4,627 feet Elevation gain: +3050 feet

Rocky Peak Ridge: 4,420 feet Elevation gain: +990 feet

Round Trip Distance: ~10 miles

Total Duration: ~8.5 Hours

All images are property of adktrailtalesandtails and may only be used with express permission.

Big Slide Mtn (27) with Bushnell Falls and the Three Brothers

Date: 08/26/16

Well, classes start back up on the 29th, and since I’m both taking and teaching a class, and working on my dissertation, and applying for jobs, I really wanted to get out an have a nice long day of hiking while I still can. I decided to go on a weekday in hopes that the trails wouldn’t be too packed, and it was a great decision. So I packed up my stuff Thursday night, and didn’t get a single minute of sleep before I was out the door at 5. I was really excited to climb this mountain and take the little detour over to the falls, and I’d been seriously looking forward to going swimming. I arrived at the trailhead dubbed “The Garden” in Keene at exactly 7am,paid my $7 parking fee, and took almost 30 minutes to get my socks and boots on…in my defense, I had to apply blister bandages, and 3 layers of socks to each foot, and it took a while! It was raining lightly anyway, so I didn’t see the harm in waiting it out a little. At any rate, I signed in at the register at about 7:30am, and took a sharp right to head up the 3 Brothers trail to Big Slide.

The trail starts climbing right out of the gate, and I was SO TIRED from not being able to sleep at all, so I really took my time going up. After about 10 minutes, I came to a junction with the trail to Porter Mountain and stayed to the left to keep on track.

It was so peaceful being in the woods with the sound of light rain hitting the leaves of the canopy above me, I considered curling up to nap under a tree on more than one occasion. But, considering it had only been like 10 minutes since I’d left the register, I figured I shouldn’t go to sleep yet, and kept slowly shambling up. After about 40 minutes, I reached my first incredible view of the surrounding mountains and the storm that was beginning to dissipate. I took about a thousand photos on the way up first brother, since after reaching the first lookout, the rest of the way up is ALL lookouts! I thought I was at the summit so many times. It was like climbing a spiral staircase, but you can’t see through to the other side, and sometimes you cross right through the middle…I know that doesn’t really make any sense, but it would if you’ve climbed this mountain. The views were spectacular, and while the view from each lookout is pretty much the same, the weather was changing constantly and drastically and I was whipping my camera out at every possible opportunity.

Just as I was putting my camera away, the lowest foggiest clouds started floating up on updrafts and dissipating! It was SO COOL! You don’t get to see that many times in your life (well, at least I don’t…) so I brought my camera back out and continued snapping. I must’ve wasted at least 30 minutes just taking pictures.

Look at those rays!

I eventually decided I needed to get my butt moving if I was ever going to reach all of my destinations, so I packed my camera away continued along the trail. I soon found myself inside of a cloud, and the fast wind was blowing it right through the trees, and it got COLD! My little thermometer indicated 60 degrees (on an 84 degree day), and it was so damp, so I bundled up and moved my legs a little faster to keep warm.

I finally made it to the summit of 1st brother after about 1.5 hours of hiking. I didn’t want to spend too much time taking in the sights, since I still had 3 peaks left to summit, but it was hard to tear myself away.

Cute little cairn absolutely not marking the right way to go.

Looking toward the summit of 2nd Brother

Not even 10 minutes later, after descending a bit then climbing back up and then some, I reached the summit of 2nd brother. In retrospect, I’m really glad that I chose to go up this path and down the gentler grade, because there were some definite difficult areas climbing up enormous boulders.

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Looking back on 1st Brother

The trek over to 3rd brother was a little bit longer, taking me almost 50 minutes, but it wasn’t particularly difficult. Somewhere between 2nd and 3rd brother my stomach started yelling at me to eat some food, so I was eager to get to the summit for a snack break. There wasn’t much in the way of views from this summit, but I sat on a nice rock under a tree where I had a vantage point through some trees and enjoyed some cheese ritz crackers.

After a brief break, I began the descent down to the col and when I turned around to look behind me, I saw that I was again in a cloud and light from the sun was filtering through it in the most amazing way! I threw my pack on the ground and tore through it to find my camera, muttering hurried profanities under my breath because I didn’t want the phenomenon to end before I was ready. Of course, by the time I got my camera pointed in the right direction, the cloud had pretty much passed. UGH! I ran a little ways down the path to where there was still some cloud hanging around, and snapped a picture. I tried, guys, I really did.

About half an hour after leaving the summit of 3rd brother (and 3 hours after leaving the trailhead), I came upon the most gorgeous little creek running through the forest. The whole area was so lush and green, I just had to sit down and enjoy it (and have another snack, of course). I remember thinking I could have lived at that little spot forever.

After another half hour, I had finally reached the col. The signs showing the path I had just come from and the path up Big Slide were very clear, but I was confused because there were two more trails leading from the junction, and they weren’t labelled, so I didn’t know which one was Slide Brook Trail (my intended route back down). I decided I’d figure it out later, and began the 0.3 miles ascent up Big Slide.

This trail was a right bit of work. It was just intimidating! There were several areas where I had to scratch my head for a moment to figure out how to get up and, more importantly, back down without dying. There were two terrifying ladders built up one of the slides, but the second ladder literally only had like 3 rotted wood rungs, so it didn’t do much good.

In all, it took me about 20 minutes to climb to the summit. The views were nice, but I’d already been spoiled by the first two brothers, and was more inclined to lie back and have a nap after chowing on a delicious PB&J Bagel.

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Behold, BAGEL!

Up until this point, I had had the mountains and trail completely to myself, and it was really nice. I was feeling rather antisocial from being so exhausted without sleep, and I welcomed hearing only the sounds of the forest around me. Unfortunately, after about 15 minutes of resting at the summit, I was joined by another group who, for some reason, just struck me as strange. I didn’t really want to share the crowded little summit with them, so I snapped a few more photos of the glistening slides on the distant mountains and what is (presumably) the summit marker, and went on my way.

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Summit marker? Maybe?

On my way down, I luckily ran into a really fun group who were just having a blast climbing up the mountain. They were resting after having just climbed the ladders, and told me they’d came up via the Slide Brook Trail, and to go straight when I got back down to the col. We wished each other well and I continued my descent, mostly on my rear. The path was so steep and slick from the recent rain! At the col, I ran into a woman and her daughter, who had also come up via the brook trail, and they reaffirmed that it was indeed the trail straight ahead. So, with a pep in my step and looking forward to following the brook down the mountain, I headed off. The trail was pretty boring for a mile or so, but soon after all of the little streams heading down the slope joined up to form a gorgeous brook. I really wish I’d spent more time here. The brook seemed to be flowing down some old slides, and it would split off and re-converge all the time, forming little islands that the trail followed. It was just constant waterfalls and deep pools all the way down, with crystal clear water and sandy floors. I was apparently really thirsty, because I kept thinking how much I wanted to go swim in those pools. I took a little break here and there, letting my hands soak in the freeeeezing water to try to bring some of the swelling down in my fingers. They were like sausages at this point, I could barely make a fist.

After following the river for quite a while, the trail diverged and led me down a looong slippery slide before coming back to the water.

When I got to the bottom of the trail, I encountered a junction sign that said “Trail <-” as in, go left to stay on the trail. I knew that I had to go right at the bottom of the trail to get to John’s Brook Lodge and Bushnell Falls, but I figured that maybe I just wasn’t totally at the bottom yet, so I followed the stupid sign. I made it to a cool outcropping on the Brook, and had my solitude broken once again by the family from the summit. I took a few pictures, and continued on a little ways, only to discover at a trail register that I had gone the totally wrong direction and turned to head back up the half mile or so that I had gone.

I was a little peeved about that sign at the base of the slide Brook Trail, but I made really good time coming down so even though I went ~1 mile out of my way, I was still right on target, and reached JBL at 2pm. It was my goal from here to make it to the top of the falls 1.8 miles away by 2:45, so I set out at a pretty quick pace. The trail was getting pretty crowded at this point with all sorts of people staying at the lodge, which was super cute, by the way! I’d like to stay there sometime.

The trail got a little confusing about 0.5 mile in, because it leads down onto the base of the river, where you’re just walking on the rocky bank without any direction. So for those of you that plan to go this way, just know that the trail never actually crosses the river! I just kept going until the trail picked up again through the woods. After about a mile of easy walking, the trail really started to climb, until it evened out and I found myself walking along a cool ridge with water flowing far below on either side. After walking for about 40 minutes, I was getting a little nervous that I was somehow on the wrong path again, and resolved to get my map out in another few minutes, when I came to a clearing and saw the sign to Bushnell!

It was a mere 0.1 mile near-vertical drop down to the base of the falls below. I had a lot of close calls and very nearly wiped out more than once, but 10 minutes later I reached the falls!

I quickly changed into my swimsuit, had a little snack and my victory chocolate, and jumped into the FRIGID water. I think they need to rename these falls “Giant’s Icepop” or something. So I pretty much got in, stumbled around on the rocks, and got right the hell back out. Even though it was cold, it felt sooo good, and I felt a little less slimy after 7.5 hours of hiking. I wrapped myself in my nice warm towel, and sat on a rock to rest my body and mind, listening to the falls and enjoying the breeze.

I took my leave about 45 minutes later, managing the ascent back to the top much more easily, taking only about 5 minutes. I had really wanted to make this whole trip in 10 hours, so I really hustled to get back to the garden. After I passed the Lodge though, I came upon a high-water bridge over the river. I steeled myself to go up it, and my legs wobbled because only ONE SIDE of the bridge has a railing! WHAT?! Anyway, I went out about halfway, decided that was enough for me, and scrambled right back down.

A few minutes later I came back to the misleading sign. If you see this, go the opposite way than the sign is point to get to JBL!

Several minutes later, I made it back to the place where I originally had to turn around, and saw that I still had nearly 3 miles to go to get back to the Garden. Luckily the going was easy and could really move quickly.

I finally made it back to the parking lot at 6pm, stripped my socks and boots off of my aching blistered feet, guzzled some water, and talked with the people who had come out just after me. They must have left super early, because I parked next to their truck when I arrived, and they had climbed 3 of the 46! We said our goodbyes, and I headed out of the lot satisfied with a successful and gratifying day.

Big Slide Mountain: 4240 Elevation Gain: 2800
Round Trip Distance: 16 miles (according to fitbit), 13 miles according to map (including my getting-lost)
Total Duration: 10.5 hours

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