If you’ve been following the saga of my bizarre excruciating joint pain that I experience while hiking, know that I’ve been to many many doctors to get it diagnosed but to no avail. However I am not ready to give up my dream of being an ADK 46er!
SO. I figured, since the pain is the worst when I’m going downhill, maybe hiking in the winter would be best since I can slide down on my butt?? There’s an actual fancy term for that…glissading. Such a pretty word for such a silly act! And I thought I could handle it even better if we can split up the hike by camping somewhere along the way. We’ve never winter camped before though, so we thought we’d do a trial run of sorts by camping overnight at Roaring Brook falls and summiting Noonmark the next day. That way, if anything went wrong, we were camped very close to our car for an escape, as opposed to being 8 miles into the middle of nowhere. This was also a trial for Juno to see if she would be able to winter camp too – she’s a labradoodle, or as I like to call her, a velcro-dog, because EVERYTHING sticks to her, including snow.
We arrived at the Roaring Brook trailhead at about 2pm and decided to scope out the campsites before lugging all of our gear out there. Just a few minutes of trotting down the trail and we had reached the waterfall, which was really more of an ice statue at this point, crossed the stream and investigated the 4 pristine campsites on the other side.
Roaring Brook falls was not exactly ‘roaring’
Satisfied with our options, we returned to the car, loaded up our packs, and came back to set up camp.
As they say, you don’t know what you don’t know, and our first lesson was to figure out how to secure the tent to the ground when the ground is frozen solid and there’s no snow on top. We ended up placing rocks over the tent ends and pouring some water over top so it would freeze in place. Surprisingly, it worked really well! Gildo gathered firewood while I set up the interior of our tent (**See our winter camping gear here**), so that by 4:30pm we were completely set up.
We spent the rest of the evening by the fire with some s’mores supplies that Gildo got from a run to Stewarts…Only problem was, they didn’t have normal sized marshmallows, just the tiny tiny ones! I fashioned some tiny skewers from twigs and cooked 4 at a time over the fire, giggling to myself at the silliness of it. And they were gooooood.
Our second lesson of winter camping came while we were trying to prepare our dinner (ramen with an egg. Very sophisticated.): our regular propane camp stove barely worked in the cold. We had read about this beforehand but didn’t know how significant it would be! Since we didn’t yet have a white gas stove, instead we just boiled water over our roaring fire.
*** Sound On ***
With our bellies full, we fed the last of our wood into the fire and crawled inside our tent to try and get some sleep.
Lesson 3: I need to learn how to sleep in a tent. In the summer, I usually sleep in my hammock, and I sleep like a baby! But in a tent….not a wink of sleep. Not even a single minute. So I have to figure that out, obviously hiking is not sustainable without sleep. When I finally peeked my head out of the tent, I saw we’d gotten several inches of snow overnight!
I perked right up with my morning coffee, stretched a bit, then we headed back to the parking lot to pack up for our hike: snow shoes, microspikes, warm bottles of water, and even a little red sled! We crossed 73 to the St. Huberts lot, and started our walk up the road toward the Noonmark Mtn trailhead at 11:30am. ** FYI: despite the prohibition of doggos on AMR property, the trail up Noonmark is NOT included in that, so you can bring your pup with you here! ** We walked maybe 1/4 mile up the road, then turned onto the Noonmark rd just before the golf course, and continued on that road for maybe another 1/4 of a mile (these distances are guesses, if you know the correct distance let me know in a comment!).
So this hike is a bit of a redemption for me. I had attempted to summit Noonmark back in July, and this mountain just about damn near killed me with heat exhaustion, something I’ve never experienced before. (Check it out here). It really isn’t that hard of a climb, I was just having a realllllly bad day. Until now, this mountain has been my nemesis as the insurmountable one who got away – so what better way to redeem myself than in the complete opposite weather conditions from the first time?!
It seems so simple, right? Just 1.5 miles to the summit from that sign. Mhmm. Right. More on that later. We were enjoying playing detective, trying to figure out how many people had gone up before us by analyzing the footprints in the snow, and we concluded that there were maybe 2 or 3 ahead of us, and that none had come down yet. We were really impressed by the people ahead of us because they’d broken trail and hadn’t made a single wrong turn! We stopped a couple of times to stretch and guzzle some water, but mostly we carried on slowly and steadily in their footsteps.
The trail conditions were pretty tricky. Beneath the ~4 inches of snow was a THICK layer of ice, so that you’d place your foot and put your weight on it to climb up with the other leg, slip, and go sliding right back down. Juno had issues with her boots, which offered little traction, and I banged the same knee several times. But we still had smiles on our faces!
The trail steadily got steeper and steeper until we reached the first lookout. I started recalling the stops that I had made on my last trip up the mountain, remembering stopping at this particular point for an hour to lie down and hydrate, feeling increasingly dizzy and nauseous. It’s a humbling feeling.
As the hike steepened, we left our sled where we could grab it on the way back down, and headed up up up. At some point I recognized the place where the rangers had found me the last time, stopping to take my blood pressure and to find my faint, rapid pulse. We soon came to a ladder up a steep section of rocks, and saw the group of people that we’d been following coming down on little round sleds. It looked so fun! Unfortunately our detective skills are severely lacking – we thought there’d been 2 or 3 people, but there were 6! Ha. I guess we’ll keep our day jobs. Finally we made it to the spot where I recall sitting against a rock calling the rangers to get help, being dizzy, confused, nauseous and with a hummingbird heartbeat. It was a lot lovelier this time around!
So this was it. This was as far as I made it the first time. To be honest, I have NO idea how I’d gotten that far. I was just determined to get to the top and go down the other side. This time, we could see that the previous group had stopped here at the false summit, and the path ahead had not yet been broken. And boy, that summit looked a million miles away. I reassured all three of us that it’s never as far as it seems, and took lead through the woods as we started the real climbing.
It…..was not easy. I had to eat my words as the summit was exactly as far away as it had seemed. But I couldn’t let this mountain beat me again, so we persevered. There were MANY places that I had to claw my way up tooth and nail, yelling, trying not to slip on the ice underneath the snow as I scaled up near-vertical rock slabs. With a smile on my face, of course!
We were getting to be INCREDIBLY skeptical that this trail was seriously only a mile and a half long. By our estimates, we had been going for 10 miles. That’s what it felt like anyway. If an Adirondack mile is equivalent to 3 miles, then a WINTER Adirondack mile is 8. That’s what I’ve decided! So we went like 20 miles that day as far as I’m concerned.
As we forged on, we heard voices up ahead and saw a couple sliding their way down the trail. We had a laugh together at the ridiculousness of it all, they reassured us that we were nearly there, and we continued climbing Everest. Sometimes we had to help Juno quite a bit by tossing her up onto the next ledge of rock, sometimes she walked by us like it was nothing while we clung to roots and ledges like our lives depended on it. I was NOT willing to give up though, and contorted my body in new and interesting ways to get there, to which Gildo referred to me as a ‘frickin spider’. Ok. I’ll take it!
The camera was absolutely tucked away in the pack for all of this, though I do wish we’d captured some moments it wasn’t worth wrecking our equipment. FINALLY finally finally we reached the windblown summit! I tried to make it to the absolute top and had to sit down or be knocked down by the wind. Juno was not thrilled.
** Sound On**
We stayed for a whole 30 seconds and scampered back down the way we had come, with our frozen eyelashes and strands of hair. THIS was the fun part! Butt sliding! Woohoo! And man it was a blast! All those passes that had taken 20 minutes each to scale took 20 seconds to shoot down. This alone makes winter hiking so worth it! We stopped for a minute below the summit to enjoy our victory chocolate before carrying on.
Soon enough we were back at the false summit, paused for just a moment, and continued sliding our way down. I must say I’ve developed quite a skill for seamlessly gliding into a glissade from walking, then popping right back up to a walk. I think that’s as graceful as I can get!
Of course at some point along the way my ugly knee pain reared it’s stupid head, but I made it much farther in the snow than I would have without it, so that’s a win! We did try to ride our sled down, but it literally shattered into pieces……..I’m not sure what’s up with that, but we decided that it’s probably unnecessarily dangerous to ride a sled down these trails anyway, being so hard to control and going way too fast. So, no sledding for us.
We reached the trail sign at about 5:00pm. That’s right. 5.5 hours. To go ~5 miles. Sorry, but I’m sticking with 20 miles, if anyone asks!
As we reached our car at the roaring brook lot, we re-assessed our situation. Juno was, as predicted, COVERED in clumps of snow. There was no way she would be warm and dry in our tent for another night in the woods, so we decided to pack up our camp and head home. Lesson number 4: Juno cannot accompany us up the high peaks in the winter. I felt nervous for her climbing such steep, icy passes anyway, so it’s for the best. Sorry Juney 😦
This is the fastest we’d ever torn down our camp – from start to finish, it took 1 hour to get to the site, tear it down, and haul it back to the car. We didn’t worry about folding everything up and packing it away nicely since it would all need to air and dry out at home anyway.
So that’s it! Our first winter camping trip was basically a success! Now time to plan for the next one and hope for more snowfall between now and then. Happy Trails!
Noonmark Mountain: 3556′ Elevation Gain: 2300′
Round Trip Distance: Either ~5 miles from roaring brook, or 20. I’m going with 20 😅
Total Duration: ~6 hours