Noonmark Mountain

7/18/20

Weather: 85 F and Humid

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Hiking.

Noonmark Elevation: 3556′ Elevation Gained: 2175′

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

Total Duration: 9 hours.

Jay Mountain

05/20/2017

Today was a perfect day for hiking, so Juno and I loaded up our packs and headed out at 7am to get to the trailhead at 9am. I just have to say, ::SPOILER ALERT:: this was in the top 2 of the COOLEST MOUNTAINS I’VE EVER CLIMBED! Seriously, even though this mountain isn’t a high peak, it should not be overlooked. Clearly, other people already know that secret, because the little parking lot at the trailhead at the intersection of Jay Mountain Rd and Upland Meadows Rd was already full when we arrived. We parked on the street, took our starting photos, and headed off.

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New hiking backpack!

The trail started climbing right from the start, gradually and continually via switchbacks. We signed in at the register a few minutes after leaving the trailhead, and soon after followed a cool low rock wall along the trail.

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Rock Wall

Juno was so excited to be sporting her new pack so that she could carry her own water! Or maybe just I was excited to not have to carry her water! Either way, she trotted back and forth excitedly, while I trudged up behind her.

I’ve come to realize that the first 30 minutes of any hike are the hardest! I’m constantly checking my watch, thinking “It must have been an hour already!” and it’s only been 15 minutes. After those first 30 minutes I tend to find my stride.

Juno was on her best behavior today. About 20 minutes in, this little cream colored poodle came running up to us from behind, owner nowhere in sight, and started BITING JUNO! She jumped back, looked at me like “What the heck, Mom?!” and then chased him off. She made sure the dog stayed away from me, then came back, and we waited together for the irresponsible owner and his dog to pass us. I thought this would be a one time thing, but unfortunately those two would continue to haunt our beautiful hike. This happened two or three more times throughout the day. The owner claimed the dog was just afraid of big dogs, but  scared dogs tend not to run up to big dogs trying to fight. No, sir, your dog is just aggressive, not scared. I don’t want to go on about this anymore, just, if you have a dog that’s not friendly with other dogs and doesn’t respond to your commands, KEEP IT ON A LEASH! My poor pupper was snapped at/possibly bitten 4 times during this hike, while she has never bitten anything/anyone in her entire life, and there were so many other dogs on this trail that the angry little dog could’ve hurt. Anyway, that’s enough of that. We were determined to enjoy our day to the max anyway, and continued on our way, enjoying the bright greenness of everything around us. What a welcome sight after dreary winter!

After about an hour of steady but gradual climbing, we paused for a short snack and water break, and to let a couple of young guys and their sweet hound pup pass us. A little bit afterward, I looked to my left and saw a tall mountain through the trees. I thought, “Hey! That might be Whiteface! I remember reading that there’s a great view of it from Jay!”, then I realized, nope, that tall mountain that looks sooooo far away is, in fact, Jay Mountain. So, we picked up our pace.

So I learned for sure during this hike that my dog requests my permission to do things (you wouldn’t know at home, when she’s constantly scheming and stealing socks). She saw these big boulders, ran over to them, then looked at me and started heading back, expecting to be told “No”. So when I encouraged her to go up there, she ran back excitedly, hopped up on the biggest boulder, and literally posed for the camera. Later, she did the same thing at a much more dangerous rock cliff that she wanted to climb up, I told her no, and she sighed and fell into line behind me.

Since Juno and I apparently dawdle–a lot–we had to stop quite a few times to let speedier people pass us up. We don’t mind though! Everyone was so happy today, and happy to see my sweet little girl, and she was happy to see them. After about a mile, mile and a half of climbing, we reached a little col over to Jay mountain, and Juno got a nice refreshing drink from the stream.

I was well prepared for bugginess today, with deet and permethrin, but there really weren’t many out! I also thought it was be a sea of mud, but again, nothing! It was really a perfect day, clear blue skies, moderate temp, and I couldn’t have asked for more.

Nearing 2.5 miles into the trail, the woods cleared out quite a bit, and we got a sneak peek of the amazing views behind us.

Shortly after, we reached a small junction where the trail split to the left and right. We chose to go left, which led us up to a gorgeous bare-rock lookout where a few of the people who passed us were lounging and having a snack.

I looked to the right, saw an impressive-looking rocky peak, and asked the nearest couple if that was indeed the peak of Jay. They confirmed this, and said that even though the ridge looks like it’s wooded from this angle, we’ll be walking along the other side where it’s open.

We were excited about the ridge, and didn’t want to waste any time, so Juno and I took a last look at the views, then headed off. We went back to the junction, met a really fun group of young men heading up to the lookout, then turned left at the junction to head up to the ridge.

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Whiteface Mountain, with it’s many ski trails.

This is where things got interesting. Very soon after this point, the foliage really thinned out and I could see we were indeed following a trail across a ridge where we could see out all around us. It was INCREDIBLE!! I couldn’t stop pausing to stare in awe. There were some thin trees that I could see through and around, and a lot of green ground foliage.

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This is the ledge where Juno would later find her own dog pack

The trail continued climbing steadily, but I really didn’t notice it since I was so absorbed in the scenery. When we surpassed the little thin trees, we were basically in open air, often climbing on bare rock ridge in between following dirt trails.


The mountain in the distance, in the center, is Big Slide Mountain with the smaller Three Brothers leading up to it just to the left

The summit(s) looked so far away, but honestly it was nice to know that we’d have so much time to travel along the ridge. It was like a great book that you don’t want to finish because then it’d be over; we wanted to prolong the adventure for as long as possible.

There weren’t any blazes or trail markers along the ridge, but luckily, there were many many cairns leading the way. There were so many times when I’d stop and look around, unsure of which way to go, and I’d spot a cairn placed just perfectly to guide the way.

While the trail up Jay is pretty mellow for the most part (until the final stretch up to the real summit), there were a couple of places where I had to pause and plan how to climb up a huge vertical boulder. Juno of course just popped right up to the top with no effort at all, and would sit at the top to watch over me while I dragged my butt up there too.

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False summit on the left, true on the right.

We followed this for about a mile and a half before we reached what we had been thinking was the peak at about 11:45am. Well, it turned out that it was a false peak, and to get to the “real” summit we would have to first descend, then ascend very steep, large rock faces to get to a slightly higher elevation than we were already at. It was probably only less than 0.5 miles away, but I guessed it would take at least half an hour to climb. As much as I hate not making it to the summits of mountains, I didn’t want to make Juno come back down that steep trail to the summit and risk hurting her joints. I decided to just stay where we were and enjoy more of our time at the false summit instead of using that time to hike to a slightly higher peak. Plus, there were a bunch of people at the true summit but I had the false one to myself for the time being!

Juno and I sat down and enjoyed our lunches, she ate almost all of her kibble and half of my Babybel cheese on top of that. Refreshed, we put our feet up to soak in the sun and feel fresh mountain breeze and I enjoyed my victory chocolate.

After a few minutes, I unpacked my tripod, switched to my wide-angle lens, and trekked over to the other side of the ridge to take some photos.

Looking East to Lake Champlain below the horizon with Vermont’s Green Mountains beyond.

After about 25 minutes, a large group arrived and set up near where I had left my pack. Juno and I headed up there and made quick friends with the boisterous group. They were so funny, cracking the same weird kinds of jokes that I do, and we enjoyed each others company while Juno cozied up to them trying to get food. I offered to take a photo of them, and they excitedly obliged. Meanwhile, while they were lining up, one of them shout-laughed at Juno to “Get out of my bag!”. Yup, my little schemer was using the opportunity to snoop and look for morsels. That’s my girl! Then she and I lined up to have our photo taken.

I really enjoyed the group of people I was hangin’ out with, and we sat and chatted for quite a while. Just as Juno and I were getting ready to go, a group of 4 older people came to the false summit from the real summit, fawning over Juno. Seriously, it must be nice to be such a cute dog. The other group left, and June and I sat and chatted with this awesome, energetic, HILARIOUS new group for a few minutes and took a photo for them, too. We were so lucky to meet such awesome people today!! So many times, people we pass just look miserable on hikes, and just mumble as we pass them, but the thrill of hiking was contagious today.

We talked for a few minutes, the we all headed down the mountain at about 1pm. This part of the hike was hilarious. While climbing up the rocky ridge, there are a lot of very well-placed cairns to show the way exactly where and when they were needed. However, on the way back down, there wasn’t such luck. The 6 of us got turned around about 5 times, slipped gracefully down some very loose scrabbling, and tripped over Juno since she’d adopted them all as her packmates for the day.

After a while, I ended up leaving the little group behind. They were enjoying the views, and I was concerned about getting Juno back into the shaded woods, out of the sun. I had hoped to see them again before we left, but no such luck 😦

At one point, I had paused to admire the scenery, and when I turned back to the right, Juno was up on a rock ledge…with 3 other dogs!! They were all SO CUTE with each other! She fit right in, like they were all just a pack of sweet dogs that had known each other forever. Then, yet another dog showed up, a mastiff who looked like she was really over all of this “exercise” business, and all four dogs went to greet her, tails wagging. This was just the sweetest thing, they were all so happy together.

We left them to continue on their way, and made our way back into the forest. The rest of the descent was completely uneventful. We didn’t encounter any of the fun groups we’d met on the way up, just a hiker or two here and there making their way up the mountain. We kept up a good pace, with Juno mostly following right on my heels. I was almost surprised when we made it to the trail register and signed out by 3pm, and couldn’t believe the amount of cars now lining the road!

We took our leaving photo together, which didn’t go very well, and headed to the car to pack up. This was such a great day, with great people and perfect weather. I can’t wait to climb this one again, and make it all the way to the summit! Happy Trails!

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My fabulous hat hair

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One sleepy pupper

Jay Mountain: 3600′ Elevation Gain: ~2000′
Round trip distance: ~8 miles
Total Duration: 5 hiking hours + 1 summit hour

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