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

5/29/2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Looking back to the summit of Macomb


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MR SLUG YOU ARE VERY LARGE

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

*** Sound ON ***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Total Distance: ~14 miles

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

Panther Peak (18)

3/5/2022

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

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


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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


And of course – victory chocolate!

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


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

And played with my Peakfinder app!


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Panther Peak: 4442

Total Duration: 10.5 hours of hiking

Round Trip Distance: ~13-14 miles

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

Santanoni (14) and Couchsachraga (46)

11/6/2021

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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



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

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

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

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



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

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


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

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


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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Santanoni: 4607

Couchsachraga: 3820

Total Duration: 17 hours of hiking

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

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

Seymour Mountain (34)

10/23/2021

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Hiking!

Seymour Mountain: 4091′ Elevation Gain: 2798′

Round Trip Distance:~15 miles

Total Duration: ~10 hours

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

Colvin (39) and Blake (42) with Indian Head and Fish Hawk Cliffs

6/3/2017

Weather reports for this day had been spotty all week, with everything ranging from sun to clouds to rain to snow, but I had been set on hiking no matter what, and at least if weather wasn’t great, then the trails shouldn’t be very crowded. I got up at 4am, checked the weather again, and it looked promising! So I hopped in my car and headed to the St. Huberts parking lot off of Rt. 73 (technically on Ausable Club Rd.). I arrived at around 7am, the lot was already around half-full, and headed up the road alongside a very difficult looking golf course.

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Ausable Club

I met and chatted with a friendly couple from Ottawa along the way, and 10 minutes later I signed in at the register by the gate with a pep in my step.

Surprisingly, there were no bugs out yet, but I fully expected o be swarmed later in the day. At any rate, the walk along Lake Rd was a nice warm up before starting any climbing, and it follows a scenic brook along the way.

My initial plan for the day was to hit Indian Head first, because people are always talking about how amazing it is and I wanted to see what all the fuss was about, then to hit Fish Hawk Cliffs, Colvin, Nippletop, then Dial, and I wanted to follow Gil Brook on the way up. So when I saw the first sign for Gil Brook, I followed that trail.

I absolutely have to recommend this trail to anyone and everyone looking to hike in this region, and I recommend going up it instead of down, because you can see all of the waterfalls as you come up to them. I spent soooo much time putzing around by the brook, but it was only 8am and I wanted to get to know my new camera (a mirrorless Sony a6000, much smaller and lighter than my big Canon, which was also in my pack of course)!

If at any point along a trail you encounter a sign with two arrows, one for an “easy” route and one for a “Scenic” route, take the scenic route!

There were two such signs along the path, and boy were they worth it. It wasn’t even a difficult traverse, and the waterfalls were stunning. What is it about waterfalls that makes me want to be standing under them?

Shortly after the last waterfall, I came upon a junction for Colvin/Indian Head/Elk Pass, and as I paused to snap a photo, another hiker approached from the trail I had just been on. We stopped to talk for a minute, and he suggested that I absolutely do not want to orphan out Blake Mountain, since the way to get to it is generally by climbing Colvin first. So if I didn’t do it today, I’d have to come back and climb Colvin again to get it. So I said, Ok, this hike is getting really ambitious, but sure, I’ll add Blake to the list! He continued on, and I admired the Gil Brook for a moment more before continuing on.

About two minutes later, at 9am, I encountered the same hiker (shoutout to Josh) at another Junction sign. He was debating whether to climb Indian Head, but was hesitant because he hadn’t told anyone he would be going there. I said I was planning to climb it too, so together we set off up the path to Indian Head.

30 minutes later we arrived at the summit and our minds were blown. Honestly, I could have stayed there all day, it was so incredible. But, alas, I’m an aspiring 46er and didn’t want to miss the chance to bag some high peaks.

We stayed up there for almost 30 minutes enjoying the views and trying to figure out which mountains were around us. It was really nice having someone to hike with; not only did I have someone to talk to besides myself (I’d already caught myself mumbling to myself a few times that day,which was mildly concerning), but I had someone to take my picture! I had taken my tripod out of my pack that morning, so I wasn’t really planning on being in any photos.

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The peaks behind me are Colvin and Blake

Having enjoyed our fill of the beautiful landscape, we next set off for Fish Hawk Cliffs, and arrived there 15 minutes later at 10:15am. NOW I KNOW WHY IT’S CALLED INDIAN HEAD! I was really wondering about that on the climb up, and itwas so freaking cool to see Indian Head from another angle.

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Indian Head, in the center

We didn’t linger long there, and began our descent down to the col between Colvin and Indian Head. Now, as I’ve mentioned before, I am SLOW when hiking steep terrain. I have very weak joints, and landing wrong could collapse my knees, so I go very slowly, using my arms a lot to lower myself down to avoid any injuries. My new hiking buddy, however, was much faster, so I encouraged him to go on at his own pace so I wouldn’t slow him down and, at some point along the way to Colvin, he did. This was fine with me, because now I could go exactly as slowly a I needed without feeling rushed. After reaching the col, the climb back up Colvin was a bit tricky and just never seemed to end. It was getting pretty muddy and slick, and more than once as I walked through a muddy patch I felt my boot sink in and schlurrrp as I pulled it back out. At least there were still, somehow, no bugs! At some point I started hearing people talking, and finally, 2 hours after leaving Fish Hawk Cliffs and about 5 hours from the trailhead, I made it to the summit!

The summit was a glorified rock with about 6 people already hanging out at the top. My hiking buddy and I reunited, and I immediately sat my butt down and ate food. And then ate some more food. And then a little more. I was really hungry, guys.

The summit was very windy, and it was about 52簞F, which is probably why bugs weren’t an issue all day. While the views from the summit certainly weren’t 360簞, it was incredible to be right in the middle of the Adirondacks and so close to the other high peaks.

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Looking back toward Indian Head

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Mt Marcy behind me, with snow still towards the summit

This was my 10th high peak, so I’m officially in double digits! Talking with the other people at the summit, it seemed the overall consensus was that Blake Mountain SUCKS. It’s a steep climb down from Colvin, and a steep climb up to Blake, which has no views and isn’t even 4000ft, then back down Blake and up Colvin again. Now, on the climb up to Colvin, I had had my cap on and was looking down and completely missed BOTH junction signs just before the summit. Yikes. We left the summit at about 12:40pm and headed down towards Blake.

The descent didn’t start out too bad, albeit expectedly muddy, and 20 minutes later I had the first glimpse of Blake. Boy was that a demoralizing sight.

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Blake Mtn

As we headed down, things got STEEP. The mud made things very tricky and slick, and it was a bit intimidating. Luckily there were a few ladders to help with the worst spots.

Both of us decided to descend next to the ladder rather than actually using the rungs due to how steep and widely spaced the rungs were. Now, being the graceful moose that I am, I lost traction part of the way down, and slid down on my butt. On the way, my hiking pole got caught under my pack, which jammed the pole about a foot into the mud at the bottom of the slope. I had to laugh at myself, as Josh asked me “Is your pole stuck in the mud?” and I replied, “Sure is!”. I unearthed it, and we continued on down to the col.

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The hole from my pole, circled in red

As I’m writing this, I’m surprised because it felt like that descent took forever, but was apparently only 35 minutes. At 1:15pm, we reached the col between the mountains.

My hiking buddy went on ahead during the ascent up Blake, and another hiker or two passed me as well, looking tired and covered in mud, but still in good spirits. Everyone I met this day had been absolutely awesome, and I stopped to talk with many of them. I even met a group of students from my university coming down Blake, one of whom I’d actually taught before! Even though Blake is kind of a really awful mountain, the people I met along the way more thanmade up for it, probably because the only people who would be out there are people who just love hiking, like me. No matter how tough the hike, everyone is willing to meet one another and lend a hand.

As this climb was dragging on, I saw a man who had passed me earlier was now coming back down. When I asked him if the summit was anywhere close, I heard Josh yell up ahead “It’s right here! Keep going!” so with a last burst of energy, I scrambled up to the summit at 2:15pm, which was noted with a small pile of rocks and no view. Time from Colvin: 1.5hrs. Time from trailhead: 7hr 15min.

We both had some snacks and victory chocolate, and I gratefully let my heavy pack fall off of my shoulders.

While we were up there, another gentleman reached the summit with us, and the first word out of his mouth was an exasperated “F**k!”. We burst out laughing; that one expression completely summed up the hike to Blake. The three of us sat together for some time chatting and dreading the trip back to Colvin.

Nevertheless, at 2:45 we headed back the way we came. I was moving so incredibly slowly sown the steep, muddy rocky slopes, and was soon left behind by my hiking buddy, which was again fine with me. At least if I fell on my rear no one would be there to see it! Surprisingly, despite my lack of grace, I never did fall. I was so incredibly relieved when I made it back to the col to Colvin, because the worst of the descents for the whole trip were over. I made my way back up Colvin, and again the climb never seemed to end. Every time I though I must be close, it just kept going.

I sat once again upon the summit of Colvin at 3:50pm, alone this time, and enjoyed the most delicious fruit cup I’ve ever eaten in my life. At 4pm, I left my perch, now drained of any ambition to climb Nippletop and Dial. It was getting windier and the clouds were more forboding, and I didn’t want to be on a summit in the rain. As I headed down, I met another group of really fun people heading up for Colvin and Blake, and encouraged them to keep going because the summit was literally 2 minutes away. We talked for a few minutes, then parted ways. Climbing down from Colvin was tougher than I had anticipated, with lots of slick muddy rocks, steep descents, and rock hopping, and my knees soon started to ache and feel weak. I finally reached the junction after an hour of very careful descent.

The going was much easier after the junction, and I sped right along the Gil Brook trail, bypassing the scenic overlooks that I’d already seen. I made it back to Lake Rd at about 6pm. I hadn’t used a restroom since 7am, and the rushing water of Gil Brook alongside the road was not helping my bladder situation, so I really picked up my pace to make it back to the parking lot! Along the way, I rescued a small bright orange salamander from the middle of the road and chatted with a nice fellow from Montreal (shoutout to Maxim) while we walked back to the gate. I signed out, then practically ran back to the parking lot. I made it there at about 7pm, after 12 hours of hiking, and was SO HAPPY that I had a change of clothes, socks, and shoes waiting for me in the car.

I drove the two hours back home all with a stunning sunset in front of me. 11 down, 35 more to go! You’re next, Dial and Nippletop.

Colvin Mountain: 4057

Blake Mountain: 3960

Indian Head: 2700

Fish Hawk Cliffs: 2600′

Total Duration: ~12 Hours

Round Trip Distance:~15 miles

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