Mount Colden (11)

10/14/2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

19 down, 27 left!

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

Round Trip Distance: ~14 miles

Total Duration: 10.5 hours

Tabletop (19) and Phelps (32)

07/19/2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Phelps Mountain: 4160′

Tabletop Mountain: 4413′

Elevation Gain: 3818′

Round Trip Distance: ~12-13 miles

Total Duration: ~8 hours + 2.5 hours at summits

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.

 photo IMG_2914_zpsu1ty3mil.jpg
Whiteface mtn 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

All images are property of ADK Trail Tales and Tails and may not be used unless with express permission.

Street (31) and Nye (45) Mountains

08/15/2016

Weather: Unpredictable, apparently. (mostly sunny, some clouds, 75 degrees)

I’d been planning to climb these two on my birthday (tomorrow!), but weathermen said it’s supposed to pour all day, so I decided last minute that we’d go today. It was supposed to be sunny in the morning and overcast in the afternoon, which didn’t really matter to me since there aren’t views from either summit. So, with our (my) bags packs and boots on, we left the house at 7am to arrive at the Adirondack Loj sometime before 9. It’s a Monday, and it was already packed at the Loj! Luckily most people were doing the more popular peaks. We took the trail back behind the welcome center, and got a nice view of Heart Lake along the way, and thought maybe we’d take a dip when we were all finished!

We passed a cute little museum that I’d seen when I climbed Mt. Jo back in June, but it still wasn’t open 😦 The flowers and their little description signs were cute though!

I didn’t reaaaally know exactly how to get to the mountain trail, I just assumed I’d figure it out along the way. The last time I stayed at the campground, I walked the trail all around the lake, and I thought I remembered a sign with “Nye” on it somewhere, so that’s all I was going on. At the first junction, I continued straight and passed the trail up to Mt. Jo. Soon after at 9am on the dot, I came to the register for Street and Nye, and signed in. While I was signing in and taking an only somewhat creepy photo of myself (took me 4 tries to get a decent one, so it was obviously going to be a really photogenic day), I heard loud splashing in the lake to my left…Juno had taken it upon herself to catapult through the brush, down the bank, and take a dip in the lake…twice. So she was pretty much soaking wet right from the get-go.

At first, I really did try to keep her on leash, as you’re supposed to do with dogs. The problem became that she is just really bad on a leash. She’s really not great off-leash either, but she usually comes when I call her, and she at least can’t pull me down when she goes charging off after chipmunks.

After a few more minutes of walking along the rocky trail, I came to the sign I had remembered! Except it said “Old Nye Ski Trail,” which really threw me off. In retrospect, I have no idea why it’s called that, I couldn’t possibly imagine anyone skiing down that trail. No way. Upon closer inspection, however, I saw someone had thoughtfully scribbled “& Street” onto the sign, so I was feeling a little more confident. And if I was wrong, well, at least I’d be on a trail somewhere, on some mountain, maybe. Who knows. Better than being at home all day.

So apparently I missed the sign saying the “Trail is not maintained after this point,” which I thankfully knew already and had an idea of what to expect. For being unmaintained and trailless though, it was a decent trail and definitely looked cared for (puncheon, sawed logs, etc.). I’m not sure how I missed the sign, it is literally in the picture I took of the sign for the other route up Mt. Jo (on the left, cut off). I made it here only 10 minutes after signing in. Time to start the real trail!

About 20 minutes later, we came to our first little stream. Actually, it was not-so-little, thanks to all of our recent rain! The trail up to this point was a little damp, but no real mud issues, and I was optimistic the rest of the trail would be the same (lol) and bug free (LOLOL). Juno enthusiastically jumped in and splashed around a bit, and we continued on our way. Up until this point, the trail had been just a nice (albeit uneventful) walk through the woods.

Not more than 5 minutes later we came to a much more boisterous…creek? River? Brook? I don’t know, but it was pretty. It was this point that I was sure we were on the right trail, as I’d read that you have to cross the water just by your own will…there is no bridge, fallen log, or stepping stones, just a cairn to tell you that you do indeed have to cross. We hung out for a few minutes and shared our first snack (cheese crackers!) while a group ahead of us took their time getting their boots back on after crossing. After being thoroughly SOAKED by Juno leaping out of the water, carrying a veritable wave of water with her which of course landed all over me and my pack, I took off my boots and double-layered socks, and VERY carefully stumbled my way ungracefully through the cold water. I was not looking forward to doing this on the way back! We safely arrived at the other side, and while I was drying my feet and stuffing them back into my boots, Juno pulled her leaping-water-wave thing again. So if I wasn’t already soaked, I was now, and I might as well have just swam across the freaking river.

At any rate, we continued on, and soon came to another stream crossing, though this one was a lot more lowkey. There was an impressive tree to cross over on for those more confident in their balance, but I wanted to live, so I just crossed in the shallow water 2 feet away.

After this point, the trail followed several more streams, and we had to rock-hop across one or two of them, but it was easy going. We hadn’t even started to climb yet, and it had already been over an hour!

Finally, after about an hour and 20 minutes, the trail started to climb along a brook or stream or creek or something, as it wound up the mountain. It was getting muddier the farther up we went, and I stopped to bathe myself in deet, which of course didn’t bother the flies at all but it made me feel better about ticks. There were tons of little waterfalls and crystal clear pools of water, so we stopped frequently so June could play in them.

It was about this time that Juno started to drive me NUTS. The trail became a literal mudhole, stinking wet glopping mud, and she LOVED it. This meant that she would gallop from in front of to behind me, splash around in the muck, then go sprinting past me, spraying flecks and globs of muck all over my legs along the way, and then do it all over again. Sometimes she’d pass too close and slam right into my legs. I have no idea how I made it out of this hike relatively unscathed! I put my camera away so it’s life at least would be spared, and we continued to climb…and climb…and climb. I was getting hungry, and Juno was starting to snack on bits of grass sticking up out of the mud, so when we reached a flatter area a little before noon I decided we should take a break and enjoy our gourmet feasts: kibble and dehydrated chicken for Junybean, PB&J sammich and apple for mom! I was so glad I had actually prepared food this time, and wasn’t just stuck eating crackers and trail mix!

About 5 minutes later, we made it to the junction between Street and Nye. I took my camera out of its pack, snapped a picture of the handy (but illegal?) carving in the tree to denote which path is to which mountain. We took a brief break, drank some water, and headed down the path to Street. Of course, I was able to catch a glimpse of the mountain in the distance, and it looked leagues away. Like literal years away. I knew it was closer than it looked, because they always are, but it was still demoralizing to say the least.

That’s it. The green mound peaking between the trees.

The trail got even muckier after that, with just puddles of water hanging out on the trail. We passed some cool forests though and enjoyed the overwhelming greenness of the leaves and moss and ferns. It was absolutely lush! *burning into my memory to remember come winter*

After going down, and then back up up and up, we came to the summit of Street Mountain and chatted with some people we met along the way (they go to a university right by me, go figure!) They were super nice, and the girl (Rhea?) even shared some handpicked crabapples with me, and they were surprisingly tasty! We took pictures for each other, and took our turns at the “lookout,” though there wasn’t much to look out on. June and I took a little break to have a summit snack, then we said our goodbyes (or see-ya-laters, since we were all headed to Nye) and took our leave.

Observing the mud, courtesy of Juno.

We made it back to the junction after what felt like forever of sludging through the mud, and met a lady there who was just coming off the trail to Nye and heading up Street. We talked for a moment, but were too exhausted to speak words well, and just shared how long it took us to get to the junction from each peak. Luckily for me, Nye was only a 10 minute jaunt away! We made it there in no time at all, and hurriedly took a picture. The place was swarming with flies for some reason, the sun was beating down (overcast, my butt, weatherman!) and there were no views to speak of. Side note: it took me like 5 tries to get a decent picture; every time I took one, my face looked like there was something foul-smelling under my nose (well…flies). I finally got a semi-decent one, and we got the heck out.

On the way back, I spied a little trail leading off from the main one that I hadn’t seen coming up; Juno led the way, and found a nice little overlook! I climbed to the top of a large rock and got the best views I had all day. Better than nothing! I snapped a few photos, left, and ran into my new friends from Street mountain, the friendly crabapple people, and informed them of the little offshooting trail. We said our goodbyes, and carried on.

There’s Street Mountain!

I didn’t take my camera out again until we were at the bottom. After we passed the junction, we came across a nice Bulgarian man (the father of the crabapple girl) who had just finished having a snack; Juno ran up to him, and STOLE the plastic cup that his snack had come in! I couldn’t believe that! What a brat. She ran around a bit, he laughed like it was the funniest thing, I told her to drop it, and she did. I felt bad, so I offered to take the slobbered-on garbage back down with me (my pack was already 40+lbs, it wouldn’t make a difference) and he obliged. We continued on our way, very carefully slipping and butt-scooting down the mountain. We had been going for more than an hour when I realized: I NEVER HAD MY VICTORY CHOCOLATE! Juno and I had just shared some fig newtons next to the steep brook, and I saw my little chocolate in my pack, scared and alone. Of course I took that victory chocolate out and crammed it straight into my cakehole, no-regrets style. As I was chomping on a mouthful of dribbling, melting chocolate (with raisins and peanuts and omg) I looked up to see a troupe of like 8 teenage boys slogging their way up the mountain. So as each one miserably greeted me, I had to reply with a mouthful of chocolate. No wonder they looked so miserable though, they were thoroughly unprepared! No hiking boots, no packs, minimal water, and no victory chocolate. I shrugged my shoulders at their naivete, and carried on. When we got back to the big river, it was actually really nice to put my shriveled, blistered feet in that cold, cold water and slip and slide my way across. We rested up for a minute and had another snack, and carried on. My goal from here was to make it back to the trail register by 4pm, so we hurried along. We eventually made it, after getting turned around once or twice, at…4:05. UGH so close! Oh well, close enough for me. We continued down the path all the way to the Heart Lake docks, where I tried to get Juno to swim. She plopped all 4 feet about 2 inches into the water, and looked back at me scornfully, as if to say “You have got to be joking. After what you just put me through, you want me to SWIM?” I nearly jumped in myself, but thought better of it by imagining the freezing soaking 2 hour drive home.

We got back to the car at 4:25, after 30,000 steps, 270 flights of stairs, and 7.5 hours of hiking (according to fitbit). I opened the door, and Juno passed out triumphantly, with paws and legs sticking every which way. Side note: after I snapped this final picture, I didn’t see her head pop back up for the rest of the drive home, except twice: Once to lean forward suddenly, lick my cheek, then disappear just as suddenly to the back seat, and again after I had opened a trail mix bar to eat while driving, and I turned my head and saw her snout-deep into my pack looking for morsels. She sniffed my face, then resumed her nap. After this successful, if muddy day, I decided I’ve learned 3 things: chocolate is to me as spinach is to popeye, never trust weathermen, and I am officially an Adirondack 4-er! Woohoo! 42 more to go!

Taken moments before the hound passed out

Street: 4166′ Elevation Gain: 2300′
Nye: 3895′ Elevation Gain: +400′
Round Trip Distance: 9.1 miles
Total Duration: 7 hours

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

Cascade (36) and Porter (38) Mountains

08/07/2016

Weather: Partly cloudy, high 75 🙂

I was SO EXCITED to climb these mountains today, that I was already up at 5am a full 40 minutes before my alarm even went off. I’d read that Cascade mountain in particular is extremely popular, and the parking lots can fill up quick especially during summer weekends, so I though it would be best if I got there early. I had already made all of the preparations the night before, so all I had to do was fill my Camelbak and walk out the door. I arrived at the trailhead on 73 at about 7:45am, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Good thing, too; there were already a fair amount of cars when I got there, parked in all three available lots. The day started off great as I walked right past the entrance to the trailhead, down past the 3rd lot (I parked in the 1st lot, the trailhead was behind the 2nd…oops), so I snapped a picture of some mountain nearby and asked a couple of guys if they knew where the trailhead was. They pointed my in the right general direction, and I happily headed down the steps. In my defense, it was not very obvious.

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I stopped by the register, signed in as maybe the 7th hiker of the day, and set off. It was slightly chilly, so I started off wearing a light jacket, but took it off not 10 minutes into the hike.

The trail started climbing right out of the gate, but it was a nice wide path relatively easy places to step, with no shear faces that I had to figure out how to get up. I climbed at a pretty good pace (for me), stopping frequently for just a few seconds at a time to give my lungs a rest.

After about 30 minutes of climbing, I lost all trust and respect for the weatherman, because it started raining. I took shelter under a tree when the drops got more frequent, and then stopped just as suddenly as they began. (There’s rain in the picture below, not that you can see it…)

I made it to a short, flat section just as the early morning sunlight filtered through the trees, and took the opportunity to catch my breath and let a fit young couple pass me while I took some pictures.

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Too soon, the trail began to climb again, and I clambered up some squarish rocks (bottom picture, on the right) that had a cute little smiley face painted on! It sort of lifted my spirits after climbing for more than an hour.

Shortly after, I came to a very steep, flat rock face that climbed maybe 20 feet up. I scrambled up, and met about 6 people hanging out at the top taking a breather, and enjoying the incredible views from Cascade’s first (and only) lookout.

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We chatted some, and discussed how far we thought we had left to go. No one had been up this trail before, so we all relied on my memory of having read about it; I recalled that there should be a junction sign at the split between Cascade and Porter, and after that it should be 0.3 miles. Rejuvenated, our group broke apart and continued up the mountain. Luckily, my knowledge proved to be correct as we encountered the junction sign not a quarter of a mile later, and Cascade was just 0.3 more miles to go.

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The trail was mercifully flat after this point and offered only minute glimpses of the scenery beyond the trees. I imagine the whole trail is usually very muddy (and buggy), but it was mostly dry and bug-free for my hike.

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At long last, I came to the base of the summit. Looking up, it was quite an impressive sight.

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I had a renewed burst of energy, and ran almost all the way up. When I got to the top, however…

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It just kept going! This was the coolest part of the trail; I had never climbed a mountain quite like this before, and the experience was humbling. There were cairns and blazes to show the path to the summit, and numerous signs saying to stay off of the alpine vegetation.

I got to the top at 9:30am on the dot, and looked around me. Views were complete 360, but unfortunately I didn’t take a panorama…There were just too many people up at the top (maybe 5 different groups of 2-4?). So I’ve resolved to do this climb again, but in time for sunrise! Meaning I’ll leave the trailhead at around 3am to get to the top just as the sun starts to peak between the distant mountains. At any rate, I sat down to have a snack and talked with the people around me. Though it’s nice to have the mountain to yourself, it’s also equally nice to talk with people and head their stories. One man, who had climbed up with his daughter (around my age) and her little beagle puppy (Louie!) said that of the 39 states he’s lived in, including Colorado, Wyoming, Montana…etc, New York is absolutely his favorite. His reason was in part because the mountains in the Adirondack are like no others; they have ranges, but they also have solo peaks, and when you get to the top and look down, all you see is green forests and lots and lots of lakes. I’m sold! We laughed at how so many people think NYC is all there is to New York, and how people think Albany is upstate, and then we took some photos for each other. That’s another nice thing about having other people at the summit!

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After resting up and taking in the sights, I set to work trying to capture the beauty of the mountains (and had my turn at the summit plaque). While snapping pictures, I met the guys I had asked for directions at the bottom, and took some pictures for them. I found out that one of them has climbed the tallest mountain in every state, and the ADK 46ers are his next challenge! Wow! I’d like to do that someday…One thing at a time, though.

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Looking back the way I’d come up

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The mountain in the distance on the right is Marcy Mtn, the tallest in the state. The mountain right in front is Porter, my second summit of the day.
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That road at the bottom is where I parked.
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Several light aircraft flew by. This one was so close I could practically touch it!

I’d been up there for half an hour and was getting pretty cold (it was so windy!) so I reluctantly headed back down, taking one final picture of the impressive slope  and cairns as I went.

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Now we already know that my navigation skills certainly were not at their best today (i.e., I couldn’t even find the dang trailhead), but I really didn’t think they’d be so bad that I’d miss the junction to porter….twice. I did find it eventually, after going down and up and down and back up again for a good workout. Once I found it, I took the path to Porter and immediately started a rapid descent. It leveled out some,  I passed through an interesting forest of really skinny pines, and then the trail got muuuuddy. Luckily I had doused my cap with bug spray near the beginning of the trail, so no critters bugged me. Get it? bugggged? Well, I shouldn’t say that. One did fly straight into the back of my throat, because apparently the ENTIRE ADIRONDACK PARK was too small for it, and my mouth looked like the better option. Ugh. I tried to cough it out, but to no avail. So looks like I got some extra protein today! -.-

I soon came across a giant boulder, and of course thought “Hey! Maybe that’s the summit!” Oh how optimistic I can be. I climbed to the top, got a nice view in front of me, turned to my left, and saw the real summit. I absolutely should have known better. But at least I did know that it always looks much farther than it is. So I climbed down, and continued on.

I reached the summit soon after, and met a nice family who were also beginning their 46ers challenge by climbing these two mountains. We took a photos for each other, and I took photos for a man and his super cool kid, and for a couple, and….on and on. I did eventually get out of there, and snacked on some chocolate as a reward for successfully summiting two mountains. The peak in the top left picture is Cascade, where I had just come from.

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Victory chocolate! A brilliant idea from a fellow hiker

I made it back to the junction (and didn’t go the wrong way this time >.<) and headed back down the mountain. I passed probably between 50-100 people making their way up, and reassured them that they were almost there, and the views are well worth it.I couldn’t believe how many of those people were thoroughly unprepared, wearing jeans, sneakers, no day packs, no water, even! Come on, people, this is a mountain, not a walk in the woods! Anyway, going down actually wasn’t that bad! It was a tricky enough trail to be fun, but I didn’t have to go super slow and I didn’t get bored, either. My knees took it like champs too, I never even had to break out the hiking poles! On the way, I passed one family in particular with a kid who was playing PokemonGO; he said the whole trail was on there! So of course I had to get my phone out to see for myself…

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Ha! Way too funny. Anyway, I finally made it out after only about 4.5 hours, which wasn’t bad considering how much I dilly-dallied. When I went to sign out at the register though, there were so many people added to it that I had to go back 2-3 pages just to find my name! Wow. They weren’t kidding when they said it’s a popular hike! I proudly walked back to the car, arriving by 12:30pm, and had a quick snack of an apple and downed some water before stripping off my shoes. Notice how my feet, in particular my pinky toes, never bothered me this trip! Well, that’s because of my ingenuity…see below.

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Normal boots…
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Normal dirty socks…
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FUZZY PINK TOE SOCKS!
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And blister bandages!

My method worked! In retrospect, the toe socks probably weren’t even necessary, but they didn’t hurt! All in all, today was an amazing day. I walked out of those woods so happy, and proud, having met lots of interesting people and climbed my first two 46er peaks. I can’t wait to do more!

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Cascade: 4098′  Elevation gain: 2000′

Porter: 4059′  Elevation gain: +400′

Round Trip Distance: 6.2 miles

Total Duration: 4.5 Hours

 

All images are property of adktrailtalesandtails and may not be used unless with express permission.