Mount Arab

5/29/18

I’ve slowly been attempting more and more difficult peaks to get back into hiking shape, so when I’d decided to attempt the Tupper Lake Triad a few days before, I though, OK, I’ll get to sleep good and early so I can get out there early morning and have a great time! So I’m in my bed, trying to fall asleep around 11:30pm the night before, and I feel something *ping* onto my head. Naturally I jumped up in a panic flailing my arms around and shaking out my hair, and through my blurry semi-blind eyes I see an inch-long SHAPE scuttling across my bed from my pillows. With horror-filled realization I immediately knew EXACTLY what it was despite not being able to see. That’s right. A centipede managed to FALL ONTO MY HEAD while I was trying to fall asleep. Literally ANY other creature wouldn’t have bothered me too much, but centipedes are my #1 most hated insect in existence. So OF COURSE that’s what fell on my head. Juno was absolutely no help, so I did what any rational human would do and launched a hard-cover book at it and hoped for the best. I screamed and jumped out of bed to put my glasses on, because at this point the battle was raging and I needed all of my wits about me. Slowly, silently I moved back toward my bed in enemy territory, searching for the intruder….and I couldn’t find it. I COULDN’T FIND IT, PEOPLE! I calmly removed the covers from my bed (read: I tore every damn linen off of my bed while shouting profanities), waiting for hell’s own creation to come darting out with it’s too-many-damn legs….and nothing. I stood there for a while, unsure of what to do, and unable to stop scratching my head feeling like there were things on it. After tossing my covers again, I finally gathered all of my sheets around myself in a make-shift cocoon and hours later managed to fall asleep in this burrito-style fort, with dreams of creepy-crawlies running through my mind.

So. I did not get an early start. Despite the traumatic events of the previous night (I seriously might need therapy after that), I still wanted to climb these three mountains today, perhaps even more so than before just to get away from my apartment. So I packed up my things and headed out around 8:45 to reach the trailhead and start the trail right at 10am.

I signed in at the register, happily noticing that I had the mountain to myself for now, and headed off.

This trail is a short 1 mile jaunt to the summit, and it starts climbing almost immediately, though the climbing is only moderate at it’s worst. The ground was dry and the path was very easy to follow, making this a great family hike.

I was thrilled to be back in the woods for a day on my own. There’s something about solo hiking that brings me so much fulfillment. Hiking with friends and dogs is great, but I really need time alone in the woods to de-stress and become myself again. I was even happier to see how GREEN everything has become!!

Wildlife was abundant today, especially toads and tree frogs. These things were everywhere! And so cute and plump! But they are not the greatest escape artists…I couldn’t keep track of how many times I’d nearly step on one before it sluggishly rolled out of the way.

After about 20 minutes of steady, easy climbing, I had a feeling I was starting to get close when the terrain became rockier.

Sure enough, just a moment later and I was up on a ledge with this adorable little bench overlooking the scenery. Time at summit: 10:25am (25 minutes from trailhead).

The flies were BRUTAL today so instead of resting at the bench, I carried on to the restored 1918 fire tower, passing the observer’s cabin (in which there is a little museum, but it was closed when I was there) on the way.

Ok. So notice how that image above of the firetower is super blurry? It took me a moment to realize this, but I thought, “it’s not like me to take such a lousy firetower shot, what happened here?”…Take a look at the pic below. This is how bad the black flies were; they literally interrupted my shots!

So with that lovely in-focus shot of a fly in hand, I zoomed up the tower to escape the clouds of angry flies. I opened all 4 windows and closed my eyes to feel the bug-free breeze through my hair.

The views were stunning. I love when there are some clouds in the sky to add texture and shade!

There were these cool plaques in the tower to show you what mountains you’re looking at in the distance. This is excellent for someone like me who is terrible at identifying the peaks! See if you can figure out which peaks are in the shots below.

I sat down for a bit to enjoy much lunch, when I realized I FORGOT MY VICTORY CHOCOLATE! The horror! SO instead I enjoyed a nutricious victory babybel cheese 🙂 Good enough.

While I sat, I looked at the graffiti marring the tower. Most of it was obscene or stupid in some way, however one bit of writing really resonated with me. “Some people are so poor, all they have is money.” I love this, and it’s exactly how I feel. I may not have a lot of money, but I feel so lucky to have everything that I do, and to be able to enjoy the splendor of the mountains in my free time. I know who I am, and I’m at peace with that. What else could I ask for?

I started to make my descent at about 11am, but not before taking one last pic for the road.

The way down was uneventful and seemed to fly by (well I guess it did; it only took 25 minutes after all).

I’d been fortunate to have the mountain to myself the whole time, and only met one couple just starting out when I was leaving. Time out: 11:30am. On to the next peak!

Mount Arab: 2545′  Elevation gain: 764′

Round trip distance: 2 miles

Total duration: 1.5 hours (including 30 minutes at summit)

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

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St. Regis Mountain

05/13/2018

A few friends and I had decided today would be a perfect day for a hike, so at 8am we packed all three of ourselves plus two doggos into my Subaru and headed down to St. Regis Mountain. Though I’ve climbed this one twice before, neither of them had done it and myself and one other are still recovering from knee issues, so I thought it would be a perfect climb for today. We arrived at the trailhead at about 9:15am, took our starting photos, and headed off.

The trail initially follows a wide path/road before reaching the register. We signed in, noticing the few groups ahead of us already, and continued on our way.

On the drive down, we had remarked on how much foliage was already blooming on the trees, but here in the mountains most trees were still bare. Se we enjoyed the warm sun on our shoulders and the semi-occluded views through the trees. There were plenty of water sources early on the trail including a flooded section of a valley and the pups enjoyed splashing around in them whenever possible.

For about an hour, the trail meandered slowly up and down while reaching up toward a bit of a ridge. It’s a very nice warm up before starting the actual climbing up the mountain, and my knees were grateful. After about an hour of walking and chatting, we reached the bridged stream crossing that I recall being the last point before the trail begins to climb. We took a break here, letting the dogs soak themselves (well, Juno did of course, but Vas-y wasn’t so sure of swimming) and having a snack.

That is, until the pups began a rousing game of fetch/tug/chase. One of them would find a stick, the other would grab on, and they’d run around together holding it until one of them got it, then the chase would begin.

We lingered here for ~10 minutes letting several other groups pass us, then slung our packs back on. Up until this point the trail had been quite dry but we starting getting creative to avoid stepping in mud and having our boots slurped off (something one of my unfortunate companions still experienced today!). Of course Juno ran right through the nastiest puddles and LIED DOWN IN THEM. Oh well. At least she’s already black! I distracted myself by looking at the beautiful spring wildflowers in bloom.

On this mountain, a tell-tale sign that you’re starting the real climb is the presence of larger and larger rocks and boulders. Some are even arranged in a sort of staircase to make life a bit easier!

After about an hour of climbing since we left the bridge, the foliage started thinning out into juvenile Birch trees, and it was then that I knew we were close.

While climbing, we began hearing a LOT of chattering voices up to our lefts, so we knew we were getting close to the summit, but they were so loud we opted to visit the offshoot in the trail first to hang out at a peaceful overlook for a few minutes.

I have to admit, I’m a little jealous of how photogenic Vas-y is! Juno is so freaking hard to photograph; not only is she rarely sitting still, but even when she is she just shows up as a dark shadow in the picture. I mean look at how regal this guy is!

Although she does take a nice picture when she feels like it 🙂

After a few minutes of this we decided to join the raucous crowd at the summit and have some lunch. Just a hop and a skip and we were on the summit of St. Regis at 11:45am!

The pups made a new friend with a golden retriever and tried to steal food from anyone they could. Juno was surprisingly on her best behavior today though! She obeyed every command I gave her! Go us!

This mountain is seriously awesome. Just a little work for a huge reward, you really can’t beat it. For us, it’s only an hour from home, the climb is really quite easy, and the views…

After enjoying my victory chocolate and a bit of lunch, all 5 of us decided to climb up the fire tower to see the 360 degree views.

Holy Cannoli was it WINDY up there! It was turning out to be a nice warm day (73 F at the summit!) but even with that sun the wind was making me chilly, so I snapped one last pic and Juno and I headed back down.

I have to say, I’m so proud of my little pup. Once at the bottom, she noticed that Vas-y was too scared to come down and refused to move (something she was familiar with once herself). So she ran all the way back to the top and led him down! She ran over to me so pleased after to have helped her friend.

We all sat back down to have a rest; or so I thought, before the dogs were up again playing their stick game and spilling literally all of their water.

 

At about 1pm we finally decided to make our way down. We had a few close calls with the slippery mud, but fortunately no major incidents. As we neared the bridge however, and Juno was of course off chasing some chipmunk a few dozen yards away, we all caught wind of the same unmistakable skunk scent. My eyes went wide and I yelled for Juno to come back, thinking she’d actually been chasing a skunk and omg how would we ride for an hour in the car with her?! Fortunately, she came right back sans scent and we quickly retreated before pressing our luck any further.

At this point we were all hot, sweaty, and thirsty, and were ready to get back to the beginning of the trail so the pups (especially my black sheep) could cool off in the flooded valley again.

We reached the “pond” about an hour and a half after leaving the summit and lingered for several minutes enjoying watching the dogs play in the water.

We left when black flies started to become irksome and 20 minutes later (3pm) we were packed back in the car, smelly, and taking our leaving photo.

~A muddy dog is a happy dog~

Happy hiking!

St. Regis Mountain: 2874′ Elevation Gain: 1260′
Round Trip Distance: 6.6 miles
Total Duration: 6 hours (including 1.25 hr at summit)

Jenkins Mountain

05/06/18
I woke up on this Sunday morning itching for a hike. So around 1pm I loaded up my pack, called my hiking buddy, and we hit the road. I was originally planning on hiking St. Regis mountain, but when we pulled up to the trailhead there were several cars still there and I was in a mood to be away from people. So instead we parked at the trailhead on the opposite side of the road and headed into the VIC trails to climb Jenkins Mountain. There were a few people finishing up a fishing adventure, but the lot was otherwise empty, so we took our starting photos and headed off at about 3:00pm.

We stopped to sign in at the register and look at the map before leaving. The route we were taking is outlined in purple. We did end up taking an ill-advised shortcut, but more on that later.

Right at the start of the trail is the beginning of Black Pond, so naturally Juno had to christen our hike with the first swim of the day.

About 10 minutes later we reached the first lean-to on Black Pond. I keep saying I want to come here for stargazing some night, hopefully soon I’ll make it happen!

The trail was surprisingly dry, with only a few spots that were low enough to be flooded from the high water levels as we made our way around the pond. We stopped frequently to view the water and two loons that sporadically surfaced, only to disappear and reappear 5 minutes later halfway across the pond.

Black Pond lean-to visible on the right

About half an hour later we reached the fish barrier dam between Black Pond and Long Pond, and continued straight to skirt Long Pond. Within about 5 feet along this trail we spotted 3 little snakes soaking in the sun in the middle of the path! Somehow Juno missed all of them….I’m not sure that my dog is, in fact, a dog.

At 4:15pm, a little over an hour since we’d left the trailhead, we arrived at the Long Pond lean-to. We checked out the dock for a few minutes before discussing a shortcut we were curious about.

So we noticed on the map that there is a roundabout way to get from our path to the path up the mountain, so we decided to climb up to the ridge to cut out all of the extra path. We scrambled up the side of the ridge, past the privy, and reached the top….only to realize that we would have to descend the other side of the ridge and climb up another adjacent ridge to get back to the trail! I’d just like to state for the record that, while curious about a possible shortcut, it did occur to me that seemingly roundabout paths are usually that way for a reason. So now we know!

We followed this meandering path for quite a while, frequently wondering when on Earth we would start the climb, because up until this point we had been gently ascending and descending alternately. My hiking buddy continually vented frustration that the path was so inefficient, going for a mile in one direction without climbing at all before turning back in the other direction (see the map, haha). I, on the other hand, didn’t mind it. It was a ridiculously easy, gentle climb, and my knees were grateful.

While the climb was very easy, it was made more difficult by all of the blowdown from the recent wind storms. We couldn’t walk 20 feet without having to navigate around fallen limbs and trees. My hiking buddy may have a future in trail work, as he stopped just about every time to clear the trail of debris. It definitely made the descent easier! There wasn’t much to photograph along this trail, besides the occasional teasing glimpse of a view through the trees. Finally, 3 hours after leaving the trailhead (remember that we stop constantly for photos and scenery-viewing…most normal people would have done this much faster!), we reached the last marker before the summit.

Check out all of the blowdown!

We scrambled up to the top to take in the views, have some snacks, and relax.

St. Regis mountain in the center

The views were way more than I was expecting! No one ever talks about this mountain, so I wasn’t sure what the summit would be like, but I was pleasantly surprised.

We hung out up here for about an hour. Upon realization that the sun was setting on the opposite side of the mountain and we wouldn’t be able to watch it, we decided to take our leave. The climb down seemed to take no time at all, and along the way we passed a few cool beaver ponds with frogs singing their cacophonous anthem all around us.

This time, we opted not to take our lovely shortcut but to follow the actual path, and we encountered this gem:

If you’re thinking, “Did a tree fall down, so they removed the section with the trail marker and placed it back on it’s stump?” Then you are correct! You win a pat on the back from yourself. This was so funny, I just had to take a picture. Soon after (9pm) we were back at the Long Pond lean-to checking out the dock again.

The hike out was enjoyable; I submerged my foot in water by making the rookie mistake of thinking a clod of grass in a flooded section of trail was stable, and we saw a MASSIVE salamander while walking on some flooded puncheon! Juno sensed my excitement (I mean it wasn’t hard, I was kind of shrieking in excitement) and started wailing and barking along with me, with NO CLUE WHATSOEVER why she was barking. I wasn’t able to get a picture before he scooted away, but luckily internet has plenty of pictures:

At 10pm we made out way back to the car, passing through another frog chorus so loud it left my ears ringing, and headed home. And hey, NO KNEE PAIN!!!!!! Woohoo!!

Jenkins Mountain: 2513′ Elevation Gain: ~900′ (? There are conflicting numbers for this, but 900 seems right)
Round Trip Distance: 8-9 miles
Total Duration: 7 hours (including 1 hour at summit and countless minutes putzing around)

 

Happy Trails!

Iroquois (8), Algonquin (2) and Wright (16) Mountains (+Boundary Peak)

7/16/17

It’s been a couple of weeks since I climbed Nippletop and Dial, and with my PhD dissertation defense looming over me (it’s on the 24th of this month, and I’m dreading it), I desperately needed to get into the mountains. I signed in at the trailhead at the ADK Loj at exactly 6am, grabbed a rock to take to the summit, and set off.

The trail was nice and wide and flat, with nice puncheon and walkways throughout. A few times, I had to check the map because the trail intersected with several ski trails, but I just continued straight, following the blue trail markers.

Not long after starting, I came across a junction sign and followed the path towards Avalanche Lake, 4 miles away.

Most people climb these three mountains by going right at that first sign to hit Wright first, then Algonquin, then Iroquois, then BACK OVER Algonquin, then back down the way they came up. I was determined to make this hike a loop by going up the steep pass after Avalanche Lake, going up to Iroquois, then to Algonquin and Wright.

Half an hour later, I came upon a trail sign for Mt. Marcy, and Marcy Dam followed shortly afterward. The dam itself wasn’t crossable, but a sign led me down towards a nice bridge.

Moments later I encountered another junction sign and went right to continue towards Avalanche Lake. 15 minutes later I came across another bridge over the brook, and took the opportunity to sit on a rock and have a snack.

Yet again, only a few moments after I left the bridge, another junction sign pointed the way towards my destination. Up until this point, I’d been leap-frogging with another hiker (Chris!) and we’d continued to do so all the way up to the summits, so I passed him up and continued on my way.

I knew I was starting to get close to the lake when I started feeling like I was in Nelson’s Ledges (look it up…then book a trip to Ohio).

I crossed another little bridge along the way, and when I turned to look behind me I saw the most perfect spider web catching the light from the morning sun.

At 8am, I made it to Avalanche Lake and it took my breath away.

I went right, slogging through the thick mud, and was super grateful for my gaitors. I followed the trail for just a few minutes before stopping on a big boulder to enjoy another snack and take a few photos.

The trail around the lake was tricky, and included awesome hitch-up Matildas (which are being replaced in August, and are named for a story about a woman named Matilda Fielding back in 1868), giant boulders to climb over and between, and steep ladders. It was a ton of fun.

Good thing they’re being replaced, because this one was missing a board. I’m glad I wasn’t there when that happened!

I reached the other end of the lake an hour later at 9am, and another register just a few minutes later.

The trail was so luscious and green after that point, and several minutes later I crossed another bridge.

After I crossed it and started to descend again, I looked back up and saw a junction sign that I had missed on the other side of the bridge. I’m so smart guys, because I decided, ‘Nah, This path feels right!’ and unknowingly proceeded 0.25 mile in the wrong direction. I reached this little outpost, and a junction sign thereafter, at which point I took out my map to figure out where the hell I was.

Just as I was reaching the conclusion that I had to backtrack, a group of badass backpacking women came through and set me on the right path, back at the junction I stupidly passed.

I was back on the right path at 9:40am, and the path immediately started climbing and following a beautiful brook full of waterfalls.

At one point, I reached the top of the falls, and the trail actually went out into the stream bed. It was so incredible to be up there, looking up at the falls.

Despite being overwhelmingly beautiful, this trail was *expletive of your choice* BRUTAL. It involved tons of boulders to climb up, and the trail continued to follow the stream, often being directly IN the water. I was baffled at how there was water when I was up so high. Where does it even come from?? The ground, I guess, but…I just don’t know. This trail was sort of becoming my own personal hell. It just kept GOING, and going and going and….I seriously considered more than once that I had never actually woken up that morning, and was instead having a nightmare about being on a neverending stairmaster.

I was frustrated, tired, and getting a bit lightheaded from the constant UP, when I met a small group of people who asked where I was headed. I told them, Iroquois, and they looked at me confused and said I was going up Algonquin. My stomach dropped. They asked how far down until they would reach the top of Boundary….I asked, were they certain the junction wasn’t behind them? Because the trail I was on literally hadn’t stopped ascending, for even a second, since I had started it. I left them there to consider their options while I continued up, certain that I hadn’t reached the junction yet. After seriously questioning my life choices for a few moments, lo and behold, I FINALLY reached a large cairn at 11:30am, to the right of which was the looming Algonquin, and to the left was a narrow, overgrown trail that could be easily be missed by anyone.

The views were beautiful, and the ascent up to Boundary Peak was quick and painless. I was so excited, the pain in my legs and feet just faded away. Boundary peak was supposedly named because it was the boundary between the Iroquois and Algonquin Native American tribes., however I’m not sure how true this is. Despite being 4,829 feet high, is not considered a high peak because it does not have enough prominence.

Looking toward Iroquois from the summit of Boundary Peak.

At about Noon, I had reached the impressive summit of my 14th high peak, Iroquois!

Looking back toward Algonquin.

Mt. Colden behind me.

The views were phenomenal, with complete unimpeded 360 panorama. I immediately sat my butt down and ate my sammich and victory chocolate.

I enjoyed seeing the beastly trail around Avalanche Lake and up to Boundary from the summit.

Lake Colden toward the middle, with the Flowed Lands to it’s right.

While there, I met many awesome people, including the trio that had unintentionally given me a heart attack. We chatted for a time (shoutout to Matt Cook!) and took photos for each other.

I ruefully left the summit at about 12:45pm, and made it back to the junction 15 minutes later to look up at the monster Algonquin.

The way up Algonquin was steep and exhausting, but the thought of the views at the summit kept my feet moving.

20 minutes later and I was sitting near the summit ripping my boots and socks off of my blistered feet to roam around barefoot. I HIGHLY recommend this! It was made even better by the fresh clean socks I kept in my pack for afterward, so I wouldn’t have to put the same nasty socks on again.

I enjoyed my time at the summit for about an hour, talking with a bunch of awesome people and enjoying another snack (of course). I spoke with one group who had brought their friend up for his first ever mountain. Not even first high peak, but first MOUNTAIN. This guy was hilarious, he was just yelling nonstop about how he couldn’t believe how amazing it was, and making phone calls to presumably ever person he had ever met to tell them he was on top of a mountain. It was really funny to witness, and I had to turn away to stifle my laughter, noticing as I did that several other people were doing the same.

I took my turn at the summit to take a photo of my beat-up feet with the geo marker.

At 2:15, I began my descent and deposited my rock at the pile designated by a small sign on the way down.

The descent was stunning, walking above the treeline to see out to the mountains around me.

Along the way, I joined with another hiker making his descent (shoutout to Fred) and we had a fun time talking, until I fell flat on my ass on my way down a slippery, steep rock slab. Nothing was hurt, besides my dignity (and some scrapes on my hands) and we carried on our way.

Lake Placid towards the upper middle.

Below the treeline, the descent was quite steep and time consuming. I finally reached the junction to Wright Mountain about an hour after leaving the summit, and turned to head straight back up.

“Wright” is written on the rock.

It was only 0.4 miles to the summit, however it was exceptionally steep and I was very nervous about coming back down. Nevertheless, I put one foot in front of the other and was soon above the tree line, once again.

Towards the summit, there was a little sign pointing right towards the summit, and left towards the plaque for the plane wreck. In 1962, a B-47 bomber practicing low-altitude bombing runs over Watertown veered 30 miles off course in inclement weather and high windes, when the wingtip clipped the summit of Wright Mtn. The mountain shattered the plane, scattering the wreckage along the southwest side of the peak. Read more about the accident here.

I popped right up to the summit, where a couple was hanging out shouting Tarzan-like ululations, and we took photos for each other.

Algonquin.

I was on a bit of a tight timeline, wanting to be back at the trailhead at 6pm, so I stayed at the summit for all of 5 minutes before heading down to explore the plane wreck.

Just a few minutes of descent and I was at the plaque with the scraps of debris.

I scampered back up to the peak, and began my descent at 4pm.

Surprisingly, despite seeming so steep on the way up, the climb down really wasn’t that bad, nor did it last very long. After 20 minutes, I was back at the junction to Algonquin. The descent after that point was rather rocky and steep, and I really had to take my time. That stupid song from one of those puppet christmastime cartoons started playing in my head, and it drove me a little bit more insane, the one that goes “put one fooot in front of the other, and soon you’ll be walking out the dooooor”. UGH. Of all things to be in my damn head. Anyway, after an hour of that, I made it to a nice waterfall where another group was hanging out. I took the opportunity to rest my feet and have another snack.

After that point, the trail was significantly easier, finally with some flat dirt path instead of constant rockhopping. For once in my life, I was passing everyone on this trail! I was not the slowest person on the mountain! But really though, this NEVER happens. A few uneventful miles later and I was back at the trailhead, signing out at about 6:20pm, 12hrs 20mins after I began. I headed straight to my car, changed into clean clothes to try to pretend like I didn’t stink as much as I did, and headed home.

This was absolutely my favorite climb, to date. Every single summit had complete 360 degree views, it was a beautiful day, and I felt so accomplished at having taken the tougher route to climb these three. 16 down, 30 to go!

Iroquois Mountain: 4,840 feet

Algonquin Mountain: 5,114 feet

Wright Mountain: 4,580 feet

Boundary Peak: 4,829 feet

Round Trip Distance: 13.4 miles

Total Elevation Gain: 4300′ feet

Total Duration: ~10 Hours of hiking +2 Hours at summits

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

Nippletop(13) and Dial(41) with Bear Den and W. Noonmark Shoulder

07/04/17

I had the day off of work, and decided that the day couldn’t be better spent than by climbing the two peaks that I left out when climbing Colvin and Blake. I left the house at 4am, thinking that the trails might be crowded despite being a Tuesday since it was Independence Day. I enjoyed the sights of dense fog lifting with the sunrise on the drive down.

Barnum Pond

I arrived at the trailhead at St. Huberts just before 6am, put my boots on, and set off toward lake road.

15 minutes later I arrived at the register, signed in, and started my long trek down Lake Rd. I had read mixed reports about whether to climb these mountains clockwise or counterclockwise; many people suggested climbing clockwise, going up Leach trail and coming down Elk Pass because Elk Pass is very steep despite being only 1.5 miles long. However, I would much rather climb up a steep path than down it, and I wanted to do the long lake rd walk early in the hike as a warm up, so I chose to go counterclockwise, anticipating a miserable climb up Elk.

I noticed two signs for “Flume” while I was walking, and decided to check out the latter. Without backtracking all the way, I walked just a few feet along the little spur trail to see some awesome waterfalls.

Usually the walk along lake is boooring, however this time, just as I was cresting a hill, a sweet little spotted fawn came galloping toward me from the other side! She skidded to a stop, as did I, and we stared at each other in shock for a few moments before she bolted into the brook alongside the road, and watched me while floating in a little pool. Hopefully that baby’s momma was close by!

I passed the first sign for Gill Brook, and continued until I saw the second sign for Gill Brook cutoff, while I reached at about 7am, an hour after leaving from the parking lot.

The trail climbed slowly but steadily from this point until reaching the junction with the Gill Brook Trail 20 minutes later.

I went right, up towards Colvin, and ruefully continued straight past the junction for Indian Head a few minutes later. Indian head is amazing, but I’d already been there a month before and wanted to see new things.

The trail climbed pretty steadily on the way up towards Colvin. I hadn’t been bothered by bugs yet, but it was still quite early. I had also expected a ton of mud due to the recent deluge, and though there were muddy areas, none of them were sloppy, boot-slurping mud. After climbing up some rock slabs and stone steps, my stomach started complaining loudly, so I decided to take a short break just before 8am and have a snack.

After a little over a mile of climbing, I reached a decrepit sign at the junction for Elk Pass, Colvin, and Lake Rd at 8:30am. Two of the signs had fallen (presumably recently, because I think they were intact when I was there before), and I spent a moment with a couple of other hikers to ensure we were all going the right way. I headed left from the direction I came to go towards Nippletop.

The trail picked up again, climbing steadily, and I started hearing sounds that seemed out of place for a mountain trail….Frogs. It didn’t make any sense to me, and definitely made me pause for a moment or two in confusion, until the trail took a downward turn and I found myself on a muddy, overgrown little path through a bog. I excitedly took a little spur in the trail to view the bog, and the lumber supplies that hopefully mean a bridge will be built in the future.

It was so beautiful here. After a very quiet morning, the birds were waking up and the frogs were certainly lively. More than once while walking I stepped in what I thought was shallow mud and nearly left my boot behind in foot-deep muck. I’d laugh to myself, remove my foot, and immediately do it again. I was pleasantly surprised moments later to see another small pond, on the right this time, and took the opportunity for a short break.

At this point, the trail was almost lower than the level of the ponds, and boy did it show. The mud was ridiculous, and much more along the lines of what I had expected. I passed through the absolutely worst of it by balancing precariously on a sodden, broken log, and made it to dry land. THEN I took out my pole to help with any future mud. Better late than never!

I had reached a nice dry clearing with views of another small pond, which I later saw was a campsite, and then headed up the trail again.

This is when the real ascent up Elk Pass starts. Honestly, I wasn’t even really convinced I was on Elk Pass until I was almost to the summit of Nippletop because it was so much easier than everyone made it seem. I was expecting some beast with giant rock slabs and slick slides all the way up. While it was indeed steep and constant, it wasn’t at all technically difficult. For reference, I always carry my camera around my neck while hiking and put it away during difficult sections; I never even had to put it away during this entire hike.

The grade was certainly tiring, and I made myself stop for 5 minute breaks every hour (which really helped with muscle fatigue), but it was made so much better by the views I had almost every time I turned around.

While it wasn’t technically difficult, this trail seemed to go on FOREVER. Finally, at about 10:15am, I reached the crest in the ridge and the junction for Nippletop and Dial, and headed right.

20 minutes later and I was standing next to a big rock, asking a man standing nearby “Is this it?” It was indeed! Climbing out onto the rocks, I was blown away by the views of the Dix range.

I hung out at the top for about an hour, chatting with a few different people (shoutout to Doug from Delaware, the surgeon!–I’m trying really, really hard lately to remember things about people…like their names.) and enjoying my lunch and victory chocolate.

I took a photo for a pair of ladies, they returned the favor, and I convinced them to do the loop down elk pass to visit Indian Head. Seriously, the views from Indian Head are some of the best around.

Elk Lake just visible to the South (left)

Finally, at around 11:30, I decided I had to make the move to head towards Dial. Bugs had started to show their ugly stupid faces with the warming sun and mud, flies and sandflies and mosquitos and all, but they weren’t really a nuisance while I was moving, so off I went. I passed the junction with Elk Pass and marveled at the view of Giant Mtn to the NE.

Everyone I had previously spoken to had said that the trail was all downhill after leaving Nippletop heading toward Dial, Bear Den, and back to Lake Rd. This was totally not true, and I had gotten pretty frustrated at having expected it to be so much easier. It was more like, down then up, then down then up to Dial, then down then up to Bear Den, then down then up to Noonmark Shoulder, then down….Anyway, I passed several people travelling the other way while heading to Dial, and asked every one of them if I had accidentally passed over Dial without realizing it…I just kept going downhill, I thought for sure I had missed it!

Along the way, I spied a little spur trail off to the right just before noon, so of course I took it and found some beautiful views from a large boulder!

Finally, 2.1 miles and about an hour after leaving the summit of Nippletop, I reached the summit of Dial Mountain. For some reason, I was expecting the summit to have no views, however I was thrilled to see a huge boulder outcropping.

I hopped right up, and eagerly sat down to enjoy an apple, and snapped a few photos.

Unfortunately, within 5 minutes of being up there, I was SWARMED by sandflies! These things are awful! Despite having a cap coated in permethrin and being covered head to toe in deet, these things just did not care. One after another I was swatting them off of my hands, my neck, my face, and even from up under my cap. At one point, I took the deet out of my pack and literally sprayed it into the swarm, and they gave me one of these:

So I packed my stuff up and courageously ran like hell off of the summit, without even having my apple snack. After a hundred feet or so I slowed back down and lamented my short stay on the summit. The trail immediately went downhill for about a mile before climbing again up to the summit of Bear Den (1:30pm). There weren’t any views from Bear Den that I could see, and I didn’t even realize I had reached the summit until I saw the sign at Noonmark saying I had already passed Bear Den.

After a half mile descent from Bear Den, The trail again began climbing. While somewhat demoralizing to be climbing again (my knees were hurting from all of the ‘down’, and going up only means climbing right back down, and then some), the trail up to the W shoulder of Noonmark Mtn was stunning. A fire had ravaged the area in 1999, creating now-beautiful views from the summit of the shoulder and a unique young forest full of birch and aspen trees, with white bark and bright green leaves.

I climbed the slab up to the shoulder and plopped my butt down. The views were AMAAAAAZING. I wanted to sit there for so much longer than I did, but alas, bugs. Writing this the day after the hike, I have a number of itchy bites, where mosquitos had bitten THROUGH MY DEET-SOAKED PANTS. What even are these things?! How do I prevent this?! Grenades?! Ugh.

After only a few minutes respite, I continued on up and over the shoulder and again headed downhill through the beautiful forest and some mud.

From here on out the trail was much easier. There was less mud and the decline was less rocky. At some point I passed this beautiful little mushroom, still somehow intact despite residing in the middle of the trail.

A mile and a half later I was back on Lake Rd, and at the parking lot at about 3:45pm, about 9hrs and 45 minutes after leaving.

I learned some valuable information on this trip:
1. Adirondack bugs don’t give a hoot whether you’re wearing deet or permethrin. If they’re hungry, you’re lunch.
2. Elk Pass wasn’t bad at all, and I would recommend any and everyone go up Elk and down Leach, for several reasons. First, you get the long walk down lake road out of the way early on, and it serves as a nice warm-up before any climbing. Second, you reach Nippletop for some awesome views faster than you would if coming from the Leach Trail. Third, it’s easier to climb up steep, slippery rocks than to climb down them.
3. The Fourth of July isn’t a crazy busy hiking day when it’s during the week (except maybe on a Monday or Friday). I only saw a handful of people all day. Good to know!

13 down, 33 to go! Happy Trails!

Nippletop Mountain: 4620′

Dial Mountain: 4020′

Bear Den: 3399′

Total Duration: 8.5 hours of hiking + 1.25 hours at summits

Round Trip Distance: ~14 miles

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

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 it was 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°F, which is probably why bugs weren’t an issue all day. While the views from the summit certainly weren’t 360°, 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 than made 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.

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

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

Lyon Mountain

4/23/17

It had been 5 months (gasp) since I’d last climbed a mountain, and I’d been itching to hike for quite some time. I wanted to start the season with a relatively easy mountain to get back into shape and knowing that there would most certainly be some vestiges of winter remaining towards the peak. It was a beautiful 60 degree day, and it was also Juno’s 2nd birthday, so I wanted to give her a really fun day. So, after a miserable winter of constant asthma, flu, and pneumonia (I really hate winter, guys), I excitedly set off with Juno to climb Lyon Mountain! We got a late start and arrived at the trailhead at 11:30am.

The trail was muddy, as expected, and not 2 minutes in we encountered our first pair of people, who remarked how cute Juno was as she raced by at 40mph. Surprisingly, despite the full parking lot, we didn’t encounter any other people until we were almost at the summit. 5 minutes after leaving the trailhead we signed in at the register, crossed a cute little bridge, and were on our way.

The trail immediately started out in a gradual climb. There are actually two trails up this mountain, the new one with gradual switchbacks all the way up to the summit, and the old trail which is literally just straight up the mountain. Knowing I was out of shape, I opted for the longer, more gradual route. I’m embarrassed to say that, as gentle as the climb was, I had to stop SO OFTEN to catch my breath and relieve some of the weight of my pack from my shoulders. I could already feel my lungs resisting me, but after about 20 minutes the trail leveled out onto a sort of ridge that we followed for quite some time over to Lyon.

This trail was really nice. There still weren’t any leaves on the trees, so we could see out behind us to the scenery beyond the trees (though the camera couldn’t quite capture it). Being early spring, there were also a number of gushing streams in which Juno had a field day splashing around. Despite the trails muddiness, there were no bugs out yet!! I was sure to tromp right through even the muddiest patches so as to prevent further erosion of the trail.

After about an hour, I was feeling pretty hungry so we stopped for a little trail mix break. At this point, Juno realized I had packed an extra-special summit snack for her–a hard-boiled egg. She lost all interest in her kibble at that point, haranguing me about that dang egg until we left again.

It was about this time that the climbing started to pick up again. We continued for another hour or so, and began to notice more and more snow lying in patches on the ground; it was only a matter of time before the trail would be covered as well, and I patted myself on the back for packing crampons this time (see the disaster that was ampersand mountain).

Well, as we continued to climb, there certainly were winter conditions, but there wasn’t really ice, just about a foot of snow packed onto the trail. It wasn’t SO bad, until my foot would go straight though the snow unexpectedly. Even poor Juno was having this problem, though she didn’t seem to care too much at first. We carefully trod along for about half an hour, until I heard voices. I pulled Juno off to the side, where my foot again crashed through several feet of snow so I was up to my thigh in snow, while the group carefully tried to pass us. None of the four people passing us were dressed appropriately (wearing shorts, regular sneakers, no packs, etc.) and they looked MISERABLE. I can’t imagine having done this hike with exposed legs and crappy shoes. They pointed out that I was about 2/3 of the way done, and that when I got to the intersection with the old trail up ahead, I should go left to take the old trail up the rest of the way; it was steeper but went straight to the summit. This…was bad, BAD advice, but I didn’t know that at the time, so I followed it. A few minutes after leaving the group behind and crashing through ever-deeper snow, we came to the intersection, and turned left to go UP. I can’t express how awful this was. There were literal FEET of snow, probably deeper than I am tall, sometimes over running water from the snowmelt. There was now way around it, and I could see tracks in the snow where people had decided to slide back down on their rears, which was a bad omen for our return trip. Juno and I SLOWLY made our way up, wondering if we would ever reach the summit, when I turned around for my first glimpse of scenery.

Imagine that the slide in the picture continues up past me, very very steeply, and that was what we were climbing. I was worried that my foot would crash through so deeply that I would get stuck, but I only ever went in up to my hip. As we climbed, several other groups passed us going both up and down. One of the pairs coming down was another group of thoroughly unprepared people wearing cargo shorts, and one of the unfortunate men had bloody scrapes all down his legs from punching through the sharp snow so many times. FINALLY the slope leveled off a bit, and we continued up. The going was a bit easier at this point, since the trail was in shadow and the snow wasn’t as melty, we were able to stay on top of the snow a lot better. Unfortunately, it was also starting to get slippery, and my crampons were still safely carbined to the back of my pack. With no easy way to get them on my feet, I just made my way up very slowly and carefully. Just as I was feeling like we would NEVER reach the summit, I looked up and saw this:

Somewhere along the way, Juno had discovered a sopping cotton glove, and when I looked up I saw her thrashing it around, water spraying outward like a sprinkler. She proudly carried it up to the summit, where were found a nice rock in the sun to enjoy our late lunches. I enjoyed my sammich and she downed almost all of the food I had brought for her, then delightfully ate her egg, and shared my apple with me.

I didn’t even realize until later that night at home that I NEVER EVEN ATE MY VICTORY CHOCOLATE! I was so focused on that stupid egg for the puppy. Anyway, after we had our lunch and relaxed our legs for a few minutes, I got my tripod out and trekked over to the outer rock ledges to take some photos. The views were really incredible from this mountain. Lyon is pretty much a standalone peak at the most northeastern point of the Adirondack park. From the summit, we could see Chazy Lake, with Vermont’s Green Mountains in the distance to the East, to the south we could see the magnificent high peaks of the Adirondacks, and, from the firetower, we could see straight through to Montreal to the North.

Chazy Lake
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High Peaks
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Wind Farm!

Now, let me preface this by saying that I HATE climbing firetowers. I know they’re safe and all, but high winds freak me out, not to mention climbing a rickety metal structure on top of a mountain. However, I really wanted those views, so I left Juno to hang out at the bottom (expecting she’d stay around there) and started to climb up, with the intention to go only to the second or third landing. Well, a few steps up, I look behind me and there’s my sweet, faithful little hound right behind me. I continued my way up, took some photos, and decided to go back down. I beckoned to Juno to follow me, she said “No can do, Mom,” and refused to come back down. Of course. I went a few steps down, urging her to come with me, when I looked up and saw some of her fluff peaking through the steps heading towards the very top of the firetower. So instead of going down, she went higher up. Of course she did. I made my way up there, and the winds were ridiculous. I took the opportunity to take in the views, then led her back down by the collar, her brave little legs shaking. I still cannot believe she followed me up there.

Before we went up the firetower, there were a few pairs of hikers enjoying the views, but when we came down everyone was gone. It was already 2:40pm, and I didn’t want to be the last person on the mountain (for safety reasons) so we packed up our stuff (well…I did. Juno needs to get a backpack.) and headed back the way we came.

I was considering just sliding down the whole mountain on my butt, taking the steep old trail, but was really dreading going back the way I came and sinking into the snow. At some point during the descent, I reached what I though was a little junction, and took the more worn-looking path to the left. The trail here was difficult to follow at times, but thanks to the snow I could follow the footsteps of other hikers. However, though I continued to see red trailmarkers on the trees, I was confused because this was definitely not the way I had come up. After a few minutes of this, I met an older couple who confirmed that I was following the newer, gradual trail, not the steep older trail I had turned onto on the way up. Let me tell you…this trail was GREAT! Sure, maybe it was a little longer, but I didn’t crash through the snow once, partly because I learned how to avoid doing that (stay towards the middle of the path), but mostly because it wasn’t steep at all and I had my crampons on this time. Shortly after meeting that couple, I came to the junction where I had left the safe trail before, and continued straight to stay on it. OMG the going was SO much easier this time. In no time at all, the trail was mostly cleared of snow, so I took off my crampons at a little stream, cleaned them off, and continued on down. At this point, Juno was flat out exhausted. She had been following in my exact footsteps the whole way down to avoid falling into the snow. I would occasionally look behind me to see where she was, not hearing her running rampant, only to find that she was practically on my heels. She was an absolute angel during the whole trip, actually responding to my commands even where there were other people around! I guess that’s the difference between being 1 and 2 years old.

The rest of the hike was bliss. I was much more appreciative of the gradual slope and the beautiful birch forests on the return trip than on the way up. There were no rock scrambles or difficult sections, and it was easy on my knees, which were hurting regardless. This hike would be beautiful to do in late spring-early summer, when it’s apparently abundant wildflowers are in bloom. Even the old trail would be nice to do, since you have constant views of the scenery behind you during the ascent, and even more so on the descent, though this path is much tougher due to it’s steepness and scrambly-ness. Lots of loose rocks and erosion. Juno and I made it back to our car at about 4:40pm, making our descent 1 hour faster than the ascent, which I contribute to not taking the old path down from the summit. That ate up so much time. So the two of us, covered in mud, headed home, where the birthday girl got to enjoy her ice cream and promptly passed out until morning, when both of us were loathe to get out of bed. That’s the sign of a good day’s hike!

Lyon Mountain: 3830′  Elevation Gain: ~2000′
Round trip distance: ~6.8 miles
Total Duration: ~5 hours
 All images are property of adktrailtalesandtails and may not be used unless with express permission

Hurricane Mountain

11/19/16

The weather was beautiful, 60+ degrees, sunny, and almost no wind, so of course Juno and I decided to go climb a mountain, spur of the moment. I didn’t feel like getting up at 4am to go climb a 46er though, so we opted instead for Hurricane Mountain, and boy am I glad we did. We left the house at 8am on the dot and arrived at the trailhead on 9N at around 9:40am. Unfortunately, another couple parked right behind us mere moments later, meaning we would probably be leapfrogging each other all day, but we were excited all the same.

We signed in at the register just as the next couple was coming up, then Juno and I took off running up the trail (read: Juno dragged me up the hill at 30 mph). We were soon well ahead of the other people, so I let her off leash to release some of that wild energy.

A few minutes after leaving the trailhead, we encountered a beautiful little stream, so we stopped so I could take pictures and June could splash around. We putzed around for so long that the people behind us passed us up, which was a relief since now we could take all the time in the world to enjoy our hike.

The trail climbed for quite a bit, until we got our first little view at about 0.5 miles. We paused to enjoy the scenery, Juno stretched in the sun, and then we carried on.

The trail was absolutely beautiful. It followed streams for much of the way, and instead of climbing straight up a creek bed as you so often must do when climbing ADK mountains, there were plenty of switchbacks! So it was a very technically easy climb, and we were grateful.

After about half an hour of climbing, the ground leveled out and we were met with nice puncheon through the woods. Juno, however, proclaimed she was too good for puncheon, and opted for a swim in the water below.

This is where the scenery got really interesting. After doing all of that climbing, we seemed to have reached a cool swamp/marsh, where we could see out on either side to the mountains in the distance. It was really muddy and wet all around us, and June had a field day leaping in and out of it, making me shout at her to KEEP GOING, because she kept turning around to come back to me all covered in stinking muck. Typical. After we passed through the marsh, we followed the puncheon back into the woods, and out of them again.

Around this time, the climbing started to pick back up a little bit, and Juno refreshed herself at the last stream we would encounter on the climb up.

Once we passed through this last stretch of evergreen woods, we entered a forest comprised almost entirely of deciduous trees. This was a really unique experience, because since there were no leaves on the trees, we could see all the way out in either direction; during spring and summer you probably can’t see anything. I imagine it could get pretty windy through here, but we had the most perfectly still weather that day, as we saw on the drive down admiring the reflections in still pools of water. I couldn’t really capture it in photo, but here’s one anyway.

Now the real climbing started. I put my camera away to make life a little easier, since I was now holding onto Juno’s leash after I heard some dogs barking up ahead. During the climb, several people with dogs passed us coming down, but none stopped to play with Juno. I always feel bad because all she wants is to run and play, but people never let their dogs have any fun! We passed one nice couple, and the man went right up to Juno talking to her in doggy voice, asking her if she was having fun, and she just smiled away and wagged her tail in response. So cute. Anyway, we continued to climb pretty much straight up (no more switchbacks), and eventually encountered the couple from the parking lot. They informed us we were about 30 minutes from the summit, and we passed them right up and soon came to an incredible overlook at about 2.8 miles.

It was almost tempting to just stay at the overlook ledge because of how far away the firetower at the summit looked, but after a minute or two gathered our resolve and pressed on anyway (nothing is ever as far away as it seems). 15 minutes later and we were standing at the base of the summit, looking up, trying to figure out the best way to get to the top.

We scrambled right up the side, which was a little tricky to do while holding onto Juno’s leash, and made it up onto the first ledge for a gorgeous view.

After a couple more minutes of making our way up the mountain following no trail in particular, we reached the summit! Unfortunately, there were a lot of people of there and almost all of them had dogs, so I never quite made it over to the fire tower (not that I would make the mistake of taking Juno up it anyway, after our experience at Owl’s head). It was very blustery, so we found a nice little niche in the boulders and hunkered down to have a snack and some water, and play with a stick.

Then, of course, I enjoyed my victory chocolate! Never underestimate the rejuvenating power of chocolate…

We met so many people and dogs while we were up there; unfortunately, Juno gets overly excited at the sight of other dogs and starts squealing and yowling, which gets the other dogs to do the same, so we were pretty much confined to our little rocky niche. One older gentleman did come over to greet Juno a few times, he absolutely loved her and asked where I got her because he’s wanted a labradoodle for a very long time. So I told him, and he said he’d be giving them a call that night! I hope so, because he told me he’d climbed this mountain 3 times that week, so any dog of his would be a very happy travel companion.

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Whiteface Mountain in the distance

After he left, Juno and I played and took some photos of ourselves, with much difficulty.

Let’s just say, it was not easy to set the camera up on a steady surface in the wind, run over to another ledge with puppy in tow, and get said puppy into position before the timer went off…

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Look at those ears!

After nearly an hour of hanging out at the summit, we ruefully began our descent. Even knowing that a blizzard would hit the area that very night, I wanted so badly to just stay up there. There’s just something about the mountains; I never get used to their splendor. So I snapped a few more shots, and we started the trek back down.

The descent went so much more quickly; we encountered a ton of people and dogs; a family we passed had been referring to this mountain as ‘Dog Mountain’ because of how many they’d seen! So needless to say, Juno was kept on her leash. About half an hour after leaving the summit, we met a man around my age who was also hiking with his dog, she looked like little lab/pit about Juno’s size, and only a little older. I was so happy, because his dog was off leash and he was totally happy to break for a moment to let our two dogs run and play together. I was a bit (i.e. EXTREMELY) jealous, because he was going up to watch the sunset, but it was sooo nice to see Juno running around with someone who could actually keep up with her! After a few minutes of playing, Juno could no longer instigate the other pup into chasing her around (but not for lack of trying), so we said our goodbyes and carried on. The rest of the descent was uneventful and we made it back to the car at about 3pm. This will definitely be a mountain I climb again, in early summer when the wild flowers are in bloom. What an incredible hike.

Hurricane Mountain: 3830′  Elevation Gain: ~2000′
Round trip distance: ~6.8 miles
Total Duration: ~5 hours
 All images are property of adktrailtalesandtails and may not be used unless with express permission.

Welcome to my Blog!

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

Greetings! I’m Natalie, welcome to my blog! I am a musician (check out my original folksy Adirondack-inspired music at https://www.nocturnnemusic.com/), an engineer, and an avid hiker and photographer. I also have Ehlers Danlos Syndrome – a degenerative genetic disorder that affects all of my joints, that’s resulting in my muscles being the glue that holds my joints together rather than my tendons and ligaments…As you can imagine, that makes hiking quite difficult! EDS is a little-known and underdiagnosed condition largely affecting women, with very little research behind it. Learn more about EDS here: https://www.ehlers-danlos.com/what-is-eds/

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

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