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

Mt. Adams

6/26/21

My buddy Gavin had been telling me about Mt Adams for a while by this point, but I’d never made it a priority to go hike it. This particular day was rainy and we were planning to meet up with some friends that we hadn’t seen since before the pandemic, and thought Adams would be a perfect hike. We met at the trailhead at about 1:30pm, signed in at the register, and headed off. Our friends (David and Kelley) had two pups with them, and we were a bit anxious to see how they did with Juno (and how Juno did with them), but after an initial sniff they all just pretended the other didn’t exist and ignored each other completely!

Just a few minutes after starting, we came across a water crossing (the Hudson River) with a rickety old bridge. Surprisingly, all 3 dogs walked right across it with only a little trepidation. We noted this spot as a proper swimming option for the way back….

Soon after we started the hike, rain started to come down a bit heavier so we donned our rain gear and hats as we padded along. Thankfully it was just the right temperature to not be cold from the rain or too hot from wearing the rain gear. However, we did nearly miss this turn in the trail because we were keeping our heads down!

Soon after we came upon a nice view of Lake Jimmy.

This trail is also the way to go to climb up Allen Mountain. It’s certainly not the most popular high peak, but I’d thought enough people would be doing it that the trail would be very well established. However, after another water crossing, the foliage closed in around us as we navigated on soggy puncheon through a dense patch of the forest.

About 30 minutes after leaving the trailhead, we saw what looked like a little abandoned building. The doggies went to explore but we admired from a distance, eager to carry on. (Just to be clear, all 3 of the dogs have remote collars and fantastic recall, not to mention we carry their leashes with us just in case. They stay on the trail and don’t run out of control.)

Not a minute later we arrived at the junction to Mt Adams, where the trail deviates from the one going towards Allen. We veered to the left and continued on up.

For the next 20 minutes or so the trail was still quite flat, and had been since the beginning of the hike, so we were getting a bit worried that we were, in fact, climbing Adams and not Allen by mistake?? I, however, wasn’t worried enough not to stop and ‘AWWWW’ at a little orange salamander dude on the trail.

Well, you know what they say, be careful what you wish for….

Of course the trail did start climbing eventually. And once it did, it was fairly steep as we had all of the elevation gain over only about a mile. We had actually stopped before this stretch to take a gander at the map to make sure we were on the right path (spoiler alert: we were). The climb had been gentle though and not technically challenging, but as we gained more and more ground the climbing got more and more tricky, undoubtedly made worse due to the fact that we were hiking in the rain….

Despite looking a bit intimidating, the rocks weren’t actually very slick due to their slightly porous texture, though we did avoid trodding on tree roots, knowing how they turn into a slip-n-slide when wet…

It was so nice hiking with these guys. Somehow we seamlessly took turns walking in pairs and chatting – first me and Gildo, then me and Kelley, then David, and we kept rotating positions. It did seem to make the hike go faster, until I loudly mentioned during a slightly downhill portion that we were probably very close to the summit because so often a trail will climb and climb and climb, then go a bit down, and a bit up, then you’re there!

Yeah. For every mountain EXCEPT this one!

Every time one of us would complain about the seemingly endless climb, another would shout – ‘It’s ok! We’re almost there!’

**Do note that exactly 0 of the 4 of us had ever climbed this mountain before, and 4 of the 4 of us had no clue how far we were from the summit**

We stopped for a minute to stretch below yet another vertical pitch, wondering how much further it might go on (the trail is only like 2.6 miles to the top….we’re just out of shape 😀 ). Once we got our tails moving again, we took another handful of steps uphill and spied a metallic structure up ahead! The firetower!!

We made it at 3:20pm, almost 2 hours after starting from the trailhead. From the summit itself there are absolutely no views, but once you climb the ridiculously high firetower, you have purportedly the best firetower views in the Adirondacks. I was a bit bummed because it was looking like we were socked in, but I climbed up regardless.

And….just wow. The views were stunning. Once I had been there long enough I started to notice clouds forming down below and drifting quickly up before my eyes to join their brothers in the sky.

The scene seemed to change constantly, and I stayed up there for far too long to take it all in.

Unfortunately the views we didn’t have were those that would see the high peaks directly in front of us. We were SO CLOSE to Allen but, for the second time, I was robbed of a view of that peak (see Mt Redfield).

I stayed up there for half an hour (apparently, looking at the timestamps on my photos) before taking some pics of the crew hanging out and snacking wayyyy down below, and heading down for some snackaroos myself.

Combos and victory chocolate. Lunch of champions. We stayed chatting about all of our past adventures for another few minutes until we started to get chill from lack of activity and headed back down. I didn’t take many pics at all on the way down, trading my camera so I could focus much more on the descent. I am soooooo slooooooow going downhill, but David was a trooper and stuck with me despite my urging him to go on ahead because, and I’ll reiterate this, I am as SLOW AS DEATH’S GRANDMA.

We had only one close call involving the aforementioned slip-n-slide tree roots, but other than that the descent was actually pretty eventless. I relied heavily on my lovely trekking poles, pouring my weight into them to try and help my knees, and something must have paid off between my PT, walking 6 miles every day, and hitting the gym, because by the time we finished the steep sections I had no pain! Anywhere! Is the me we’re talking about?? Wow. It was a great feeling, friends.

As we neared the junction to the Allen trail, we heard voices and sure enough some of the groups that had been climbing Allen that day were on their way out. Of the woods, not…you know….Anyway, I was super impressed by them, not only for hiking a ~20 out-and-back to get Allen, but for doing it in the rain and facing Allen’s infamous ‘Red Slime’, an algae that coats many of the steep slides going up the mountain, making them nerve-wrackingly slick. One of the hikers mentioned how helpful his microspikes were with the slime, so I stowed that bit of information away for the future….

After letting some long-haul hikers pass us, we decided to stop and take a proper look in the little cabin we’d passed on the way up. The inside smelled a bit musty and contained an old sink, a cot, and a table with some laminated sheets of paper. Apparently the cabin had been saved from demolition in the early 2000’s and had been restored, which we noted as we glanced at the seemingly-new roof.

Another few sweaty, stinky moments later and we were back rounding the ponds where the puppers considered going for a dip.

However we held out for the cleaner water just near the trailhead. After seeing how much the dogs seemed to be enjoying themselves, Gildo and I decided to jump in too, clothes and all. It was a great opportunity to scrub off the mud and muck before heading to dinner together!

We hung out at the water for 20 or 30 minutes, throwing sticks for the dogs and enjoying the feel of the cold water on our tired bodies. We made it back to the cars at 6:30pm, 5 hours after starting, toweled off, and heading back into town for some grub feeling the cleanest we have literally EVER felt after a hike!

I hope to see you out there sometime soon, Allen hikers!

Until then, Happy hiking ❤

Mt Adams: 3520′ Elevation Gain: 1753′

Round Trip Distance: From the Map – 5.2 miles (distances vary wildly depending where you look, but this feels right)

Total Duration: 5 hours (including 45min at the summit and 30min swimming)

Snow Mountain

9/13/19

Holy moly, it’s been a while! We’d been so busy traveling this summer that there hasn’t been much time for hiking, so we decided to set out on a lovely Friday afternoon and climb Snow Mountain. This was also my chance to experiment with a certain mix of stretches, balms, CBD oil, and stride-adjustment to see if I could work past my knee issues and get back into the high peaks.

While Snow Mountain is accessible via the main Roostercomb trailhead on Rt. 73, we opted to take a lesser-known trail following deer brook. To access the trail, park just North of the trailhead (marked with a green sign) in a small turnout past the little bridge.

We made it to the trailhead at about 12:30pm, after a late start that morning and my pre-hike stretches, along with applying CBD balm to my leg, taking ibuprofen, and a very full dropper of 33mg CBD oil.

After just a few minutes, we reached a small bridge below some private property. At this point, the trail joined up with the driveway that was just a few feet further past the trailhead. You have the option here to continue straight up the road with private driveways, the “high water route”, or turn right to follow the brook. We turned right to continue our stroll.

I’d never climbed this peak before, nor taken this trail, but I’d heard good things about it – it didn’t take long to see why. The woods are lush and vibrant with life surrounding a sweet little brook.

We really took our time ambling up the slight incline along the brook, stopping frequently to admire the little waterfalls. Of course Juno admired them too, in her own way.

Immediately soaking wet and filthy

At this time of the year, following the brook was quite easy despite the 4(ish) stream crossings back and forth. Though some of us chose to make it more difficult…

In all, the trail conditions were pretty good, with no particularly difficult sections (at least compared to the high peaks). Even so, I wasn’t quite quick enough for Juno, but at least she checked in on us ( or maybe, taunted us) from time to time!

After about 45 minutes, we reached the junction with the high water route. Shortly after came the junction with the path to Lower Wolf Jaw. We continued straight, following the brook.

Just a few minutes later and we were at a two-log bridge over deer brook with a spur trail to the falls. Naturally, we hopped on over to the falls to do some exploring. Well, they did some exploring, while I sat on a large rock and stretched my legs. At this point, I was starting to feel sloooooooow, an after-effect of taking the CBD oil, I’m sure.

Across the bridge, the trail widened and climbed along a hill until it met the junction with the St. Hubert’s trail about 20 minutes after the falls. I’ll be honest here….. I’m writing this only 2 days after the hike and I can barely even recall any details, other than that I felt sloooow and lazy, and pretty goofy I think….so there’s that CBD kicking in! (Keep reading, it gets better).

We’re pretty sure that the distance on this sign is incorrect, since it’s about 1.9-2.0 miles to the summit from the trailhead. That, at least, I remember! A few minutes later and we were at the final junction to the summit of Snow.

I don’t know how the other two tolerated my pace on this trip! I recall remarking how Juno is like a mountain goat and I’m a tortoise…actually, I think I repeated the word “tortoise” a few times because I liked how it sounded (yep, definitely felt goofy).😅 ANYWAY, the good thing is that I was moving so dang slow that I spotted some tiny beauties hidden away in rotting logs…I remember thinking (oh dear…and saying) that maybe there are some small bug adventurers exploring through the tiny forests of lush pine-y mosses, just like us…..yeah, I know……See, the problem with walking so slow is that I had a LOT of time to think!

Somehow I managed to drag my daydreaming self up the mountain to get our first peek of scenery about 2 hours after leaving the trailhead!

That view gave me just the boost I needed. We scrambled up the last bit and reached the summit 5 minutes later.

Juno’s face here makes me laugh so hard

What an outstanding view of the high peaks! Towards the left, we could see Giant Mountain and Nubble, with Round mountain and Noonmark on the right of Rt. 73. Right below us was the Ausable Club.

We sat down in the sun to stay warm in the gusty wind and to enjoy some snacks (but I forgot to bring our victory chocolate 😩)……..And the next thing I knew, I woke up half an hour later. That’s right. I, the person who takes sleeping pills every night because even in the best of circumstances I can’t fall asleep, FELL ASLEEP ON A ROCK ON TOP OF A MOUNTAIN. I woke up….confused. But instantly grabbed my camera to capture these two, taking in the scenery quietly to let me sleep.

Let’s talk about Juno for a minute. This dog has the uncanny ability to find a tennis ball or base ball EVERYWHERE we go, no matter how remote. So, you guessed it, she of course finds one somewhere on top of this mountain. I’m guessing Venus Williams was visiting the Ausable Club and whacked a tennis ball right up onto the mountain. Seems legit.

We hung out on the summit for about 2 hours. At 4:45, we began our descent. Since I was apparently well-rested, it went much more quickly than the climb! Before we knew it, we were already back at the bridge to the falls.

As we crossed, Juno, who’d carried her ball down from the summit, repeatedly dropped the ball down the flume only to frantically retrieve it from the water….to bring it back up and drop it immediately. I thought the flume looked like it’d be a fun water slide!

On the way back we decided to take the high water route for a change of scenery. We stopped once or twice to stretch out my leg. Despite all of my preventative measures, I hadn’t stopped the pain, and it can become crippling if I just power through it (which is usually my mode of coping). We made it back to the car at about 6:30 after picking up HEAPS of trash along the roadside on the 1/4 walk from the trailhead to the car. Yikes!

So, I learned a few new things on this trip….CBD oil makes me basically useless, BUT it totally helps me sleep, AND prevented my asthma from rearing it’s ugly head! So it’s back to the drawing board for the knee, but I guess those other things are cool?

Until next time…

Snow Mountain: Elevation – 2360′ Elevation Gain – 1177′

Round Trip Distance: ~4 miles

Total Duration: 6 hours (including many, many, many breaks)

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

Gear and Tips

Hiking solo is one of the greatest joys I’ve experienced in my adult life. You learn a lot about yourself when it’s just you and your own two feet conquering a mountain. There are feelings of wonder, peace, and pride at having accomplished something so great on your own. That said, hiking solo isn’t something that I take lightly. I strive to be Prepared, Informed, Strong, and Smart for every single trek, no matter how small. I research the trail location, plan my route, plan for backup routes, check the weather, and check the trail conditions all the day of the expedition. Here’s how it all starts:

Pre-Hiking Prep:

  • Clean and waterproof boots (once per year). I use Camp Dry Water Repellent Spray found here.
  • I wear a baseball cap during buggy months which I coat in Permethrin (once a year) to protect against flies, mosquitos, and ticks. Find it here. Now I use a hat with a built-in bug net! IT’S THE BEST! Check it out here.
  • Check trail conditions and weather, inform a friend of mountain name, trailhead location, intended route, estimated time of arrival and estimated time of departure.

What to Wear:

  • Here’s my typical outfit, from bottom to top, for warmer months (spring to fall):
    • Gel Toe Protectors to go on my toes to prevent blisters and calluses. These are THE BEST THING ever. Buy them.
    • Sock Liners to help prevent blisters (I also apply blister bandages to problem areas before I leave)
    • Wool Socks (and I keep a spare pair in my pack)
    • Shorts or Running Pants, or Water Resistant pants, depending on the weather.
    • Synthetic Fiber T-shirt or tank
    • Lightweight running jacket -> I love this, it keeps me cool when it’s warm out, and warm when it’s cool out.
    • Waterproof Windbreaker -> This is absolutely essential. I keep it in my pack at all times. You never know when it might rain, and the summit is usually much cooler than ground  level, not to mention much windier. I’ve gotten chilled even on hot days from the wind hitting my sweaty back, and this has been a lifesaver.
    • Baseball cap for when bugs are out
    • TIP: Avoid wearing ANY cotton while hiking, during any time of the year. Opt for wools and synthetics to help wick moisture away from your skin to keep you dry and prevent blisters.

In my Pack:

  • Here’s a list of things I typically keep in my pack during the warmer months:
  • My Pack  carries up to 50L, and while I do like it, I’m considering getting a slightly larger one to accommodate all of my gear. Though I LOVE hiking alone, one of the drawbacks is that I have to carry all of my emergency gear myself, instead of spreading it out across multiple packs. This pack also has a rain fly that you can remove and cover it with to protect the contents.
    • A 3L Camelback  + 1 bottle of gatorade -> Mostly for longer trips/hotter weather. This way, when the camelbak runs dry, I still have 1 bottle left while I search for more water.
    • The day of the hike, I pack my food, and always pack more than I think I’ll need. I include salty things (crackers and trail mix), sweet things (fruits and chocolate), proteins (bars), and sweet gherkin pickles for electrolytes to fend off cramps. 
    • I learned the hard way that dehydration and heat exhaustion hit me HARD, fast, and unexpectedly. (See the Noonmark Mountain adventure, where I had to be rescued by rangers). Now I will never be without Nuun tablets, Gu gel, and Salt Stick chews. 
    • An extra pair of wool socks and liners
    • Carmex chapstick, hand sanitizer, and tissues
    • Deet Wipes that I use to cover all of my clothes, bare skin, and even my pack. I like the wipes because I’m not inhaling the aerosolized vapors, and I put the used wipes in the mesh pockets of my pack to help keep bugs away. Reapply every couple of hours.
    • Bear Spray for obvious reasons
      • Learn about bear safety HERE
    • Gaitors to keep my legs dry in rain or muddy conditions, or when walking through a stream
    • A Headlamp + extra batteries for those early morning starts or in case of emergency
    • Trailbook and Map for the regions I explore
    • Hiking Poles -> These are decent and retract down to a small size, however be careful that they’re tightened properly before putting weight on them.
    • Water Purifiers -> I carry both Iodine drops and a Sawyer Mini filter. The Sawyer is the greatest, its tiny, and quick and easy to use.
    • I carry This first aid kit + an Ace Bandage + a knee and an ankle brace
    • Stormproof Matches
    • Emergency Kit -> including :
      • Whistle flashlight * 1
      • Multifunction calipers * 1
      • Mosquito Head Net * 1
      • Hand see-saw * 1
      • Flint bracelet * 1
      • Risers * 1 (10M)
      • Fast hang buckle * 2
      • Outdoor emergency blanket * 1
      • Earplug * 1
      • Hooks * 2
      • Fishing line * 1 (33M)
      • Bait * 2
      • Swivels * 2
      • Floats * 6
      • Compass Thermometer * 1
    • I also carry an additional emergency blanket, several large, medium, and small carbiner clips, a Swiss Army multitool, a Tactical Knife, Sunscreen, extra blister bandages, Ibuprofen, Tick-repellent bug spray, a large ziplock bag (which can be used in a variety of circumstances, including keeping my camera dry) in which I keep a roll of TP, a plastic grocery bag, a brick of super high energy emergency food (lasts for like 6 days), an external battery supply charger for my phone, and a waterproof container.
    • From late fall through early spring, I keep a pair of HIGH QUALITY Microspikes carbined to the back of my pack, because you literally never know when there might be ice (see Whiteface Mountain, where a lousy pair of spikes broke halfway up the mountain)
  • Extra Stuff (Camera Supplies)
    • My camera is a Sony Alpha 6000
    • A Lowepro shoulder bag that I carry my camera in outside of my pack
    • A sturdy, reliable tripod that collapses to fit in my pack (barely)
    • A wide angle lens
    • Lens filters, cleaning Q-tips, cleaning cloth, spare battery, spare memory cards

Winter Hiking/Camping

  • Hiking Gear :
    • Spyder ski pants
    • base layer – fleece-lined leggings
    • thermal top layer plus a 2-layer ski coat
    • Face cover
    • Ski goggles
    • Lightweight jacket/hoodie
    • Spyder ski jacket
    • Fleece Cowl -> I love this thing, it keeps everything warm, from neck to ears to chin to mouth/nose, and head.
    • Glove Liners -> These are awesome to wear just on their own or under mittens and have fingertips that allow you to use touch screens
    • Mittens -> I clip these to my coat sleeves to remove them easily without losing them
    • Microspikes, snowshoes, and crampons.
    • Zip ties to fix the microspikes if the rubber snaps – see Whiteface Mtn to know what I’m talking about.
    • A thermos full of hot chocolate or hot apple cider! DONT UNDERESTIMATE HOW MUCH YOU’LL LOVE YOURSELF FOR THIS!!!
  • Camping Gear :

I think that’s about it, though I’m certain I’ve forgotten some things. Now you know why I complain about my pack being so heavy! If you’re still reading this, I hope this helps you plan your own adventures! Any questions, feel free to ask. Happy Trails!

Lyon Mountain

4/23/17

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chazy Lake

 photo IMG_3153_ed 2_zpsdsofs4cs.jpg
High Peaks

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Wind Farm!

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

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

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

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

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

Owl’s Head Mountain

09/17/2016
This week, my parents were visiting from Ohio and we’d decided to take a weekend trip and stay in a cabin right on Long Lake. I definitely couldn’t pass up the opportunity to hike a new mountain, but I didn’t want to be away from my family all day long, so I decided to do a short one called Owl’s Head. I’d read online that it was a 3.2 mile hike, which I’d assumed was round trip…I was wrong, but happily so. When I arrived at the trailhead, there were plenty of cars already lined up, so I took my place in the back of the line and set out with my faithful hound, Juno, at about 12:15pm.

The trail started out with a bit of climbing, but leveled out soon after. I tried let Juno run around off leash for a little bit to burn off some excess energy, but there was an almost constant stream of people heading back down the mountain, and almost as many dogs as there were people, so I clipped her leash back on. Luckily for both of us, she was actually really good on her leash! (For once). After about a mile of completely flat walking through nice shaded woods, we reached a trail junction.

We had about another mile of pretty easygoing walking, and had to maneuver around a huge downed tree. Instead of doing the intelligent thing and going around the tree, June and I decided we could just duck under a part that was lifted off the ground. She of course slipped under really easily, but there was no way I’d be able to do the same while holding onto her leash. Luckily, there were a man and woman just on the other side who offered to take her while I climbed through, which Juno did not take well AT ALL. You’d think she’d been separated from me for a week by the way she was acting when I crawled to the other side less than a minute later.

After that, I set off ahead of the other pair at a pretty fast clip, and let Juno play in a few streams we passed along the way. Because I was holding onto Junes leash, I didn’t have my camera out and just didn’t take many pictures during the climb up, but honestly there wasn’t anything great to look at anyway. Just some regular run-of-the-mill woods. Anyway, I was starting to get real hungry, so we stopped on a nice big rock and had a snack. We shared some cheese crackers, and let the other pair pass us up so we wouldn’t feel pressured to go so fast. I didn’t mind, they were talking pretty loudly the whole time, and it was nice to be able to enjoy the sounds of the woods again. The trail got quite steep after this point, and the going was slow. It was a very scrambly trail and we had to watch our steps. I have to say, I was so proud of my little trailblazer pup; she hadn’t pulled me once, and kept right on pace with me. After what seemed like forever, we finally reached a high point, and were excited to see the remains of the old observer’s cabin foundation. (When I returned back to our cabin after the hike, I noticed a black and whit photo hanging on the wall showing a crew with their tents in the process of building the same observer’s cabin I saw earlier in the day!)

After this point, the trail dipped down to a col before leading us back up a very steep but relatively short ascent to the summit! We were so excited when we got here, we plopped right down and took a photo. We enjoyed some more cheese crackers and fruit leather, and took in the view while mustering up the courage to climb up the fire tower. We made it here at about 1:45pm.

Once we were rested up a little, I made the executive decision to climb up the tower. The problem is, dogs generally don’t like to climb giant swaying metal structures with steps that don’t have backs to them. She had to poke her head in between every single step and look at the ground below her, her little legs shaking as she tentatively climbed up behind me. With a few words of encouragement, I got her to the top, but she refused to climb up through the hatch to get onto the actual platform of the firetower, so she stayed on the top step. BOY was it windy! And cold! I did not stay up there long, since my dog is not the only one with a totally rational fear of heights, but I go some cool pictures of the 360 degree view, and we skedaddled back down onto solid ground where some trees protected us from the wind. Lesson learned, don’t bring dogs up firetowers.

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That peak is where the Observer’s Cabin was located

Back on the ground, we wandered around a bit enjoying the scenery and Juno enjoyed giving me a heckin’ big concern every time she got close to the edge.

We rested for about half an hour, Juno lying on my lap, and decided to take our leave as the wind was picking up and clouds were rolling in. We were nervous about being on top of a mountain next to a veritable lightning rod during a storm, so we hustled back down the mountain. Going back down was SO much faster than going up! We went pretty slow going back down the steep sections, but we were really moving once the trail leveled out. After about an hour since leaving the summit, we reached the trail junction telling us we only had a mile left to go.

About 20 minutes later, we were back at the trailhead taking our leaving pictures by 3:30pm.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After this gratifying day, we returned to our cabin to go kayaking and sit by the fire with our family, watching the sun set across the lake. Not a bad way to end the day!

* Side note: I looked and looked, but found no evidence of owl heads on Owl’s Head mountain. In case you were wondering. *

Owl’s Head Mountain: 2,782 feet, Elevation gain: 1,532 feet

Round Trip Distance: ~6.5 miles

Total Duration: ~3.5 Hours (Including time resting at summit)

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

Rooster Comb Mountain

11/21/2015

The weather was chilly as we set out to climb Rooster Comb, so on our way there we stopped at this awesome adventure gear store (The Mountaineer) and bought some convertible scarf things to keep our necks and ears warm. We got to the trailhead on route 73 in Keene Valley and signed in at the register, then started off following a wooden bridge around a little pond behind Keene Central School. The trail followed a little stream, so we of course stopped for pictures.

We really took our time with this hike. The temperature outside was so comfortable to be in (as long as we were bundled up) and the trail offered a lot of interesting sights on the way up.

At about 0.7 miles, we encountered a junction with Snow Mountain, which we considered going up as well, but decided to at least do Rooster Comb first since we probably weren’t as ambitious as we thought we were. The trail was very well maintained, and there weren’t any sections that were particularly difficult. We continued a steady climb until we reached another trail junction at about 2 miles; Straight led to Hedgehog and Lower Wolf Jaw mtns, and left was another junction with the Snow Mtn trail…It’s like the universe was trying to tell us something…

At 2.2 miles, we reached another junction with a little side trail leading to an overlook 0.1 miles away. I don’t recall taking the side trail, and think we just kept moving up to get to the true summit at 2.5 miles. The views were incredible from the top, which was a mostly-bare rock face that had cliff drop-offs on 3 of the 4 sides. It made for some impressive photos!

We relaxed up at the top for quite a while. We had the peak to ourselves, so naturally we goofed around taking all the pictures we wanted (and jumped off of some rocks, too).Lucky thing that we had stopped at that shop beforehand; we had our neck warmers pulled up over our faces to block out the biting wind.

The lighting behind the mountains in the distance was magnificent, but I just couldn’t seem to capture it. We enjoyed the scenery anyway, and the views of Keene Valley from high above with the high peaks surrounding.

After 30-40 minutes at the top, we started to get chilled from the wind, and took our leave. We took our time (as usual) and took a lot of pictures of the path on the way down as the sun was getting lower in the sky.

My hiking buddy for the day

We had decided against climbing Snow mountain due to the setting sun, but we regretted it later since it was only a little over a mile detour. Oh well, next time! We eventually made it back to the pond near the trailhead, and looked back on the mountain we had just climbed.

Rooster Comb Mountain: 2762′ Elevation Gain: 1500′

Round Trip Distance: 5 miles

Total Duration: 4 hours

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