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°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 🤩 Happy Hiking!

Panther Peak: 4442′

Total Duration: 10.5 hours of hiking

Round Trip Distance: ~13-14 miles

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

Santanoni (14) and Couchsachraga (46)

11/6/2021

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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



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

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

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

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



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

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


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

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


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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Santanoni: 4607′

Couchsachraga: 3820′

Total Duration: 17 hours of hiking

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

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

Seymour Mountain (34)

10/23/2021

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Hiking!

Seymour Mountain: 4091′ Elevation Gain: 2798′

Round Trip Distance:~15 miles

Total Duration: ~10 hours

Redfield (15) and Cliff (44)

9/26/2020-9/27/2020

DAY 1

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




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


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


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

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


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


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

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


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


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

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

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


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



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




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

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

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


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


DAY 2


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


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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Wow, what a nice view of Allen Mtn!

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

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


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

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

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

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



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

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


Colden on the right, Algonquin on the left


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

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

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

Battle Wounds

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

Thanks for reading ❤


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

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

Total Distance: ~19 miles

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

Day 1 – 5 hours

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

Noonmark Mountain

7/18/20

Weather: 85 F and Humid

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Hiking.

Noonmark Elevation: 3556′ Elevation Gained: 2175′

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

Total Duration: 9 hours.

Mount Colden (11)

10/14/2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

19 down, 27 left!

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

Round Trip Distance: ~14 miles

Total Duration: 10.5 hours

Tabletop (19) and Phelps (32)

07/19/2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Phelps Mountain: 4160′

Tabletop Mountain: 4413′

Elevation Gain: 3818′

Round Trip Distance: ~12-13 miles

Total Duration: ~8 hours + 2.5 hours at summits

Hopkins Mountain

06/21/2018

It’s been almost 1 year since I’ve been in the high peaks….The last real trip I had was Iroquois, Algonquin, and Wright, my absolute favorite trip to date, and my absence from the high peaks has been slowly eating away at my soul. A week after that trip, I suffered a mysterious injury to one of my knees, and haven’t been able to hike since. Lately I’ve been able to tackle small, easy mountains, so I made a deal with myself: If I could manage to climb Hopkins mountain without issue, then I would get myself back in the 46ers in 2 weeks. With that thought in mind, I set off determined to climb this peak.

I arrived at the trailhead for Rooster Comb mountain on Rt. 73 at about 9am, crossed the road and headed away from Keene Valley toward Ranney Way. Ranney Way is a private road, hence parking at the nearby Rooster Comb lot.

This is a nice little gravel road. I continued down this way for about 0.25 miles (continue straight when the road forks to the right) before coming to the trailhead. There’s no register for this trail, just this old sign.

This wood was absolutely GORGEOUS. The trees towered tall and broad with no undergrowth beneath, with verdant rays of light filtering through a leafy canopy. Forests like these always make me feel safe and protected, and it’s so tempting to set up a hammock and lounge. Today however I was on a mission, so that would have to wait.

Much of the trail follows along the Hopkins Brook, providing a nice ambient sound of trickling water and numerous photo opportunities. Unfortunately it seems that many of the smaller off-shooting streams have dried up from lack of rain. At least it wasn’t muddy!

The path is soft and packed, climbing moderately and consistently through the pines with some steeper inclines interspersed. After about 1.8 miles I reached the intersection with the Mossey Cascade Trail and turned left to continue up to Hopkins Mountain.

The going was a bit easier at this point, with some flat sections interspersed with the climbing. I continued to employ my technique of frequent stretching breaks to take care of my bad knee and hoped desperately that it would prove effective to abate the pain during descent. During one of these such breaks, I heard a very peculiar sound coming from the undergrowth to the right of the trail…It sounded like the most pitiful animal I’ve ever heard, accompanied by the rustling of leave as the critter scooted around through the brush. Recognizing the sound as something I heard while climbing Coney Mountain in the middle of the night (and thought it was a snake eating an animal???), I was extra curious to determine the source….It was a ruffed grouse hen! I had never seen one on a trail before, and it turns out the sounds she was making were alarm, distress, and distraction calls! The calls were probably because I scared the guacamole out of her, BUT HEY IT WAS COOL! I was too focused on observing the bird to even consider recording audio or visual, so here’s a link to a video from someone who didn’t totally drop the ball (like I did :P) showing exactly what it sounded like.

These trails continued together for about 0.7 miles before coming to the next junction. At this point the forest became much more lush, full of mossy rocks and ferns, and of course many many many spider webs, which my face  considerately caught for all those that would follow in my steps later in the day. Yep, that’s me, totally magnanimous…

I always get really excited when I see that “0.2 miles to summit” sign…I know the climb is going to be steep, but knowing I’m so close puts a serious pep in my step and I fly right up the trail. This trail did not disappoint! Though not very long, this trail has over 2000′ of elevation gain in a little over 2 miles. It’s not as easy as it seems just looking at a map, which is why I chose it as my “test” to see if I’m capable of climbing high peaks again.

I was soon scrambling out on open rock faces at about 11am and I ran ahead to see this first view.

I won’t lie to you. I knew I had been really missing the high peaks, but I don’t think I realized just how much until I reached this point. My soul, my very essence, seemed to exhale a sigh of relief to finally be HOME. I’ve never felt to belong anywhere as strongly as I feel that in the high peaks of my beloved Adirondacks. There is an almost magnetic attraction to them…After all, home is where the heart is, right? Never in my life have I shed tears of happiness, but as I stood there gazing upon the vistas of the welcoming wilderness, I cried. And I couldn’t stop! Seriously, I’m so glad I had the peak to myself for a while because I had tears streaming down my face for a solid 30 minutes. The past year has been full of trials and tribulations, and the knowledge that I was physically unable to climb the 46ers had weighed on me with a blanket of depression, seemingly deepening with every passing day. Finding myself at the summit of beautiful Hopkins Mountain, sans knee pain, the realization that I would FINALLY be able to climb again seemed to whack me over the head. I’ve rarely been so happy in all my life….but I digress.

From left to right: Dix , Dial, Nippletop, Colvin, Sawteeth, Gothics, Armstrong, Wolfjaws

I climbed my way up to the summit and sat my emotional butt down to eat some lunch and bathe in the splendor of the mountains.

I stayed at the summit for about an hour and a half. A few people stopped by, but they didn’t linger, and I was thankful. I sat to stretch my legs and enjoy my victory snacks before standing up to head back down.

It took a solid 10 minutes for me to be able to drag myself away from the summit, but at 12:30pm I turned away for the last time and made my way back down the steep trail.

I was a bit nervous about impending knee pain, but after 30 minutes of very careful, measured steps and an agonizingly slow pace, I relaxed a bit, realizing that knee pain would not plague me on this perfect day.

A mere 1:15 after leaving the summit and I had arrived back at the Ranney Way road.

Another short 0.25 miles and I was back at my car, taking my leaving photo. This trail, though relatively short, is an absolute joy. Beautiful forest, just-difficult-enough grade, and stunning summit views. Having successfully completed this trek, I can now confidently say to expect a new trip report from the high peaks in the next 2 weeks!

Happy hiking!

Hopkins Mountain: 3156′ Elevation Gain: ~2100′
Round Trip Distance: ~6 miles (from Rooster Comb lot)
Total Duration: 4 hours 45 minutes (including 1.5 hours at summit)

All images are property of adktrailtalesandtails and may not be used without express permission.

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

Date: 08/26/16

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

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

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

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

Look at those rays!

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

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

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

Looking toward the summit of 2nd Brother

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

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Looking back on 1st Brother

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Behold, BAGEL!

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

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Summit marker? Maybe?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mt. Jo

06/18/2016

Juno and I had been looking forward to camping at the Adirondack Loj for a month since I’d booked our stay. I had reserved a canvas tent for us, in the hopes that it would keep Juno contained so she wouldn’t have to be leashed in there (spoiler alert: it did not.). The plan was to enjoy the lake and just hang out on our first evening there (Friday night) and then I had planned to hike Marcy in the morning on Saturday. Juno and I went swimming, and we had a nice time.

Well, it was about 40 degrees that night, and I had to hold onto Juno’s leash so she wouldn’t just duck under the canvas flaps, and she would get so cold that I had to scoop her up onto my tiny cot and wrap my sleeping blanket around her. Add to that the constant sounds of semi-large animals rummaging around outside the tent, and we did not sleep for a single second. When we got up in the morning, I was so thoroughly exhausted and didn’t think it would be the smartest idea to climb such a challenging mountain. Instead, I opted for Mt. Jo, a little mountain adjacent to Heart Lake, that would be an easy mile up-mile down hike. The trail started out right by the lake, behind the Loj, and I had beautiful views of the lake on the way up.

There were so many trail markers for all of the different trails that leave from the Loj, but I managed to find the right way. The trail up this mountain is actually a loop, with one path being much steeper and the other being more mellow. I opted go take the steep route up, and the gentle path down. The climb up was semi-steep, but I didn’t really have any problems. In fact, I felt so much better and energized than I had when I first woke up (well. Not “woke” up, since I never slept, but you know.). Eventually I reached a little junction that said the summit was very close, and I met a couple resting on a boulder there who were climbing their first ever mountain as their 20th wedding anniversary! They were so sweet, but I wanted to get to the summit, so I said I’d see them up there and carried on. I climbed over some large boulders, which was a little difficult, and emerged at the summit at 11:30am, after about 45 minutes of climbing.

The views were surprisingly gorgeous! I couldn’t find a summit marker (bummer) but the face was bald and offered gorgeous views of Mt Marcy and other high peaks, as well as heart lake.

I was up there for about 10 minutes before the couple from before made their appearance. We talked for a bit and they kindly took a photo of me, and I returned the favor. I snacked on some crackers and enjoyed the view, taking in the fresh air and feeling totally rejuvenated (good thing too, because I later had to drive my family 2+ hours home, and I didn’t want to be asleep for that). After about 30 minutes I took my leave, and descended on the nice gentle path back to Heart Lake.

Mt. Jo: 2876′  Elevation Gain: 639′

Round trip distance: 2.6 miles

Total Duration: 1.5 hours

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