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.

 photo IMG_2483_zps4chgajvy.jpg
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.

Cascade (36) and Porter (38) Mountains

08/07/2016

Weather: Partly cloudy, high 75 🙂

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Looking back the way I’d come up

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

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

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

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

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

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Victory chocolate! A brilliant idea from a fellow hiker

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

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

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

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

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Cascade: 4098′  Elevation gain: 2000′

Porter: 4059′  Elevation gain: +400′

Round Trip Distance: 6.2 miles

Total Duration: 4.5 Hours

 

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

Welcome to my Blog!

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

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

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