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Gray Peak  |  Sat, March 28, 2015  | 4840 ft.  |  45th peak
Mt. Redfield  |  Sat, March 28, 2015  | 4606 ft.  |  46th peak

Now that we were so close, we were determined to fit our 46r finish in before the spring thaw, when the trails will get muddy and delicate.  So, for our 4th weekend in a row in the month of March, we were up at 4am on Saturday 3/28 to head to the high peaks.  Specifically, we were headed for Adirondack Loj and the HPIC trailhead to do Gray and Redfield, our final two peaks, via Lake Arnold.

As we noted last week, we tried for Gray five days earlier, and couldn’t find the entrance to the herd path.  This time we were better prepared; we searched for photos of the herd path location on other hikers’ blogs, read narrative descriptions in trail guides, and reached out to 46rs who have done it before us.  Thanks to all those folks for the help!

It had snowed quite a bit on Friday, and was still snowing when we left for Marcy Dam from the HPIC trailhead around 8:30am.

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HPIC trail register

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Bridge over meadows at the beginning of Van Hoevenberg trail

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Birch trees along Van Hoevenberg

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Birch leaves covered in snow along Van Hoevenberg trail

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Replacement water bridge bypassing Marcy Dam

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Marcy Dam

As was evident at Marcy Dam, we would have none of the views of last Monday’s hike today, although it did get a little clearer as the day went on.  Once we crossed the dam, we signed in to the 2nd trail register and headed out along the yellow trail toward Avalanche camp.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFrom there, it was a little bit of deja vu as we picked up the blue trail to Lake Arnold and Feldspar lean-to (for the 2nd time in 5 days).  We saw a few folks out on skis as we chugged up the ascent to Lake Arnold.  As we passed Lake Arnold and hiked down into the Opalescent River valley between Marcy and Colden, the sky brightened a little, although it didn’t exactly clear. We could just make out Gray between the trees.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA little over 6 miles in, we passed Feldspar lean-to, and the blue trail ended at a junction with the yellow trail that runs up along Feldspar brook.  We took our left and headed (what felt like straight) up to Lake Tear of the Clouds.  When we got to the outlet of Lake Tear into Feldspar brook, we started looking for the herd path entrance.  The snow on Friday had obscured any traces of footprints that might have been there, but we had a lot more confidence this time.  We took an educated guess at this opening in the trees and went for it:

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Entrance to herd path to Gray from Lake Tear outlet

We were relieved and pleased to find that the opening seemed to keep going … and going.  We took it up a little ways through some spruce trees, and then it curved left though a somewhat more open area.  From there (now heading roughly parallel to a downstream direction of Feldspar brook) it crossed the same ravine we’d been exploring last week.  We stepped carefully, because while we could not see any indication of the herd path, we could feel the difference between stepping on the herd path snowpack under the fresh powder, and stepping off into the deep powder.  After crossing the ravine, we came through a section that was a little trickier, and fell into a few spruce traps.  There was a little feeling our way around to find how the snowpack spine made it through the spruces, but up and up we went.  It wasn’t too long before we had views of Lake Tear over our shoulders, and the area was getting pretty exposed to the wind.  We knew the summit had to be nearby when the steep terrain flattened out; Gray has a bit of a domed summit.  Then we saw it – the summit marker disc! – a little after noon.

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Gray summit disc

We had expected to find a yellow-lettered sign on the summit, but couldn’t find it.  It might be under the snow.  We were satisfied with having found the disc.

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Gray summit – #45

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Gray summit – #45

Gray’s summit is only about a third of a mile (as the crow flies) from where the herd path meets the trail, and it’s a steep third of a mile, so we butt-sledded our way down our own tracks and were back to the trail in 10-15 minutes.

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We figured we earned ourselves some good trail karma, having correctly found and broken out the herd path.  When we left to head back down Feldspar brook toward Redfield, the Gray herd path was pretty easy to find:

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Looking toward Lake Tear – the dead tree points the way to the herd path.

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Looking downhill, away from Lake Tear – again, the dead tree points the way to Gray

Now we were at 45, and the prospect of finishing seemed real.  We headed back downhill along Feldspar Brook to where it meets the Opalescent, to Uphill Lean-to.  Across the trail from Uphill lean-to was our herd path to Cliff/Redfield (hello again, old friend).  Unfortunately about 200 yards in, where the herd path to Cliff splits off to the right, to the left was… only a vague indentation where a herd path might be if you squint and use your imagination.  Like Gray, it had not been broken out yet since the last snowfall.  So onward we went, slowly and carefully, looking for the slightest of indents in the snow that might suggest snowpack under the powder.

Eventually the herd path roughly joins up with Uphill Brook.  Trail guides give a water fall as a landmark, but with everything frozen and powder covered, it wasn’t very helpful.  We knew we were looking for the herd path to branch off to the right away from the brook again around 0.6 mile.  We guessed wrong, and started up a little too early, and earned ourselves a few spruce traps.

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After a little trial and error we went back to the brook to have another look, and this time we thought we could verrrrrry vaguely see a slight indent in the snow going up the brook.  We followed it up a little higher, and found the herd path on the side of the brook again.  Turns out, the branching of the tributaries is probably a better landmark in winter than the falls.  From there we were also able to finally see where the summit was that we were heading for.  The herd path the rest of the way up was reasonably easy to keep track of, and the climb was not at all technically difficult, just a little long.  Eventually, finally, we found it!  The final summit of our 7.5 year long 46r adventure.

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46r finish on Redfield

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46r finish on Redfield

Since we might have been the only people on Redfield all day (we had to break the trail, and were clearly the first people on the summit – at 4:30pm!), we didn’t have the luxury of asking someone to take a picture for us.  Selfie had to do!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

There wasn’t much in the way of views from Redfield.  You could only barely make out a small pond between Redfield and Allen through the clouds.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGiven the time, the miles left to go, and the cold wind, we didn’t stay long to celebrate on the summit.  We made pretty good time back down to the brook, at which point the clouds started to finally part.

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We were counting up hours and paces and time till sunset, and started our haul back to ADK Loj.  We stopped to change to dry socks at Feldspar lean-to, but otherwise it was a non-stop flight.  We made it as far as Marcy Dam before we needed to break out the headlamps, and finished the last 45 minutes by LED light.  Around 8:40pm, just over 12 hours after we started, we were back at the HPIC trail register to sign out.

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The whole route was about 19.7 miles:

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In celebration of finishing, instead of making the now-15 hour day an 18 hour day with a drive home, we spent the night at the Loj.  There we found hot food, hot showers, and bed (in that order) all within about an hour of getting off the trail.  It was fantastic.  In the morning we took one more picture

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before heading on to the next celebration:  a Noonmark Diner pie (peach/raspberry crumb).  MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.

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Saturday, Feb. 1, 2014

Panther Peak
4,442 ft.  |  Ranked 18/46 in height  |  35th peak climbed
Couchsachraga (Kook-sa-kra-ga) Peak
3,820 ft.  |  Ranked 46/46 in height  |  36th peak climbed

10 to go!

Three months is a long time to go without visiting the mountains.  We thought we’d try and use the cold weather to cross the infamous Couchsachraga Swamp without having to wade through the muck.

We were at the Bradley Pond Parking lot by 6:40 a.m. although we hoped to get out a little earlier.  If you have never been to the Upper Works parking lots before, the parking lots are MUCH farther off the road than the map makes them appear; allow for some extra travel time.  Our GPS said we walked about a mile and a half on the gravel road (covered by snow, ice, and snowmobile tracks) before turning right onto the blue trail toward Bradley Pond and, eventually, Duck Hole.  Both bridges were out, the first seemed to have been pulled up intentionally, the second bridge looked twisted and shattered.  The ice made crossing easy both ways.

The first bridge was out.

The second bridge was destroyed.

A look back down the twisted and destroyed bridge.

We munched on Eggo Waffles as we snowshoed (I had forgotten about these carb-bombs from childhood, but Jayme didn’t and they turned out to be very convenient to hold and a great way to eat on the run).  Happily snowshoeing for about three miles, we shot right past the herd path.  When we’d made it to Bradley Pond Leanto we knew we’d missed it and had to backtrack.  The beaver dam, easy to spot in the summer, might as well be any other small clearing covered with snow just off the trail.

The "beaver dam" referenced in guidebooks is hidden under the snow.  Turn left when you see this clearing - photo was taken on our return trip.

The “beaver dam” referenced in guidebooks is hidden under the snow. Turn left when you see this clearing – photo was taken on our return trip.

The picture above was taken on our return trip to memorialize our navigational error and hopefully help others avoid it.

Don’t look for a beaver dam in the winter.  Signage would have been great here.

Thankfully Jayme has a good sense of direction and was able to follow snow shoe tracks up over some rocks and into the woods; she found the herd path.

Jayme spotted the herd path in the far southwestern corner of the clearing.

Jayme spotted the herd path in the far southwestern corner of the clearing.

Eventually we made it to Herald Square and had a bite to eat.  This time it was Beef Jerky, I got a dehydrator for Christmas and hadn’t planned on dehydrating dinners until we were going to do some overnight trips, but Jayme (again, she’s two for two on food this trip) suggested I try making some jerky to add protein to our hiking fare.  I spent about half an hour one night last week prepping the jerky and then let the dehydrator run one day while I was at work.  She’s smart, it was delicious.

This small rock, with "TS +C" scribed onto it, marks Herald Square.  See the hand drawn map at the end of this post.

This small rock, with “TS +C” scribed onto it, marks Herald Square. See the hand drawn map at the end of this post.

We left the packs at the square and climbed up half a mile to the summit of Panther Peak a little before noon.  Our 35th High Peak!

Jayme's 35th!

Jayme’s 35th!

Me at the summit.  It was pretty cold.

Me at the summit. It was pretty cold.

Back at Herald Square ten minutes later, we had lunch and left for Times Square and Couch.  Just past Times Square we ran into a few folks coming back from Couchsachraga and they encouraged us to keep going the mile and a half to the remote peak.  There was a whole lot of down, but we eventually found the Couchsachraga swamp  that we so badly wanted to avoid having to traverse in warm weather.  It was frozen over, no mud is a win!

After a bit of climbing and scrambling we found the windblown summit of Couchsachraga at about 1:30 p.m., our 36th High Peak!

Jayme's 36th summit!

Jayme’s 36th summit!

Me at the summit of number 36.  Couchsachraga means dismal wilderness - it was chilly, but not dismal even though the snow started falling shortly after this picture was taken.

Me at the summit of number 36. Couchsachraga means “dismal wilderness” – it was chilly, but not dismal even though the snow started falling shortly after this picture was taken.

Of course we had to climb back down, cross the swamp again, and slowly re-ascend the backside of Panther Peak toward Time Square.  Near the end of our re-ascent we ran into two women who asked us if we’d just come from the Santanoni Express (A short-cut trail that makes Santinoni much easier to climb on its own) and we answered that no, we came from Couchsachraga and we’re heading back to Times Square.  They advised us we’d missed it.  

We knew we weren’t climbing back up Panther yet (having already done that earlier in the day) and we hadn’t turned right (how you’d get to the path up Santinoni from Times Square) so we shrugged and said “Great, that means Herald Square should be right around the corner.”  They agreed and we wished them a good hike.  

About twenty minutes later we found Times Square; the landmark those two ladies said was already behind us.  I hope they didn’t think that we were confused, and really coming down from the peak of Santinoni – if they thought they were climbing Santinoni and could use the Express to get down from the Peaks, but instead were climbing Couch (three miles round trip, difficult terrain, and no exit except to double back) they had a difficult evening ahead of them.

A rough map of Times Square showing the intersection of the unmarked trails.

From Times Square to Herald Square takes less than a minute, and then Jayme discovered/invented the Adirondack butt-sledding technique.  It looked far easier than hiking down, more fun, and a whole lot faster too!  I kept my feet beneath me and hurried to keep up.

Jayme found a faster, and much more fun, method of descending in a snow storm.

Jayme found a faster, and much more fun, method of descending in a snow storm.

By 5:00 p.m. (just before sunset) we were back on the blue trail, had another bite to eat, and got the headlamps ready.  The snow had been falling gently since our return trip from Couchsachraga but now the snow squalls hit their peak.  I wish there was a way to really capture our headlamp shining a beam of light bouncing off all the snowflakes with a pitch black background.  The camera didn’t do it justice.

Pretty Lights

We were tired, but the hike out was beautiful.  We made good time and were back to the car at 7:20 p.m., around 16 miles and two high peaks later.

Our GPS recorded most of our trip.  The little "tail" on the northeastern corner shows our trip to Bradley Pond Leanto.  You can follow our exploration of a little campsite as we backtracked toward the actual herd path.

Our GPS recorded most of our trip. The little “tail” on the northeastern corner shows our trip to Bradley Pond Leanto. You can follow our exploration of a little campsite as we backtracked toward the actual herd path.

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Saturday, March 10, 2012

Dial Mountain
4,020 ft.  |  Ranked 41/46 in height  |  25th peak climbed  |  21 to go

Nippletop Mountain
4,620 ft.  |  Ranked 13/46 in height  |  26th peak climbed  |  20 to go

Clockwise loop from AMR to Dial Mtn. via Leach Trail and Bear’s Den Mtn, south to Nippletop Mtn.  Descent via Elk Pass to Gill Brook Trail and out Lake Rd.  13.5 miles from parking lot to parking lot; map here.

AMR Gate

We arrived at the St. Hubert’s parking area around 7:30am, and headed off for Lake Road, the trail register, and the AMR gate.  For this trip we were joined by our friend Josh for his first and second winter peaks; our third and fourth.

The road had a light snow covering, which had fallen just in the last couple days, and was much appreciated.  Under the snow was a solid sheet of ice.  After signing in, we barebooted in beyond the gate to Leach Trail, but did so carefully.

Like Lake Road, the yellow-marked Leach Trail was only lightly snow covered.

Leach Trail

We continued to bareboot in for about the first mile.  Care had to be taken because of ice under the snow in spots.  Microspikes were helpful; snowshoes were overkill, and would in fact have been a liability getting around the tree roots. 

As we started gaining elevation and crossed from AMR land into state land, the snow started to get deeper, which made for easier going as we broke out the snowshoes.  We started looking for trail markers at hip height instead of eye level and above.

The ascent up Bear’s Den Mountain was pretty grueling, but we kept getting teasers of views to come.  It would’ve made the day easier if we’d realized at the time that this was the bulk of the hard work of the day; Nippletop would be easy after this.

The Great Range from Bear's Den

Going up Bear’s Den, we saw the remnants of a decade-ago forest fire.  The wood looked quite a bit like driftwood.

After we made it over Bear’s Den and down the col separating it from Dial, we had our last really challenging ascent push of the day up to Dial’s summit.

Once we got to the summit, our 25th and 3rd winter, a rock outcropping gave great views of the Great Range to the west:

and of Nippletop, our next stop, to the south:

After a snack and a change to dry socks, we headed off the summit toward Nippletop.

The still-yellow-marked descent into the col between Dial and Nippletop was steep and often icy.  Going was slow.  Snowshoes, even with significant bite, gave only barely sufficient traction.  Microspikes were the way to do this, particularly if you didn’t mind occasionally post holing.

After the col bottomed out, we eventually started heading back up.  As we got above the tree line, a few clouds rolled through from the west, and enshrouded part of Dial’s summit.

Once we got up to the tree line, the trail to Nippletop was a pleasant, rolling ridge walk.  Untouched snowdrifts, short stretches of ascent and descent alternated with faster moving, flatter stretches, and frequent views kept us going.

Trail from Dial to Nippletop

Looking back at Dial, enshrouded in clouds

The Great Range, from sub-summit Nippletop

Looking out at the Great Range, photo by Joshua Reap

Nippletop's namesake peak

Seemingly from out of nowhere, Nippletop’s peak emerged from the trees.  Shortly we came upon the junction with Elk Pass trail on the right, and to Nippletop’s summit on the left.  A cheerful Canadian group who we’d been loosely following all day was on their way down.  They told us it was maybe 3-5 minutes to the top.  Unbelieveably, they weren’t far off.  For how hard we’d worked to get Dial, it would be a stretch to call the last tenths to the summit of Nippletop a “push” at all.

Even if it had been a tougher go, it would’ve been worth it.  Nippletop offered the best views we’ve had on any winter summit so far.

 

Foothills running south of Mt. Colvin, Upper Ausable Lake in the distance

Mt. Marcy at far left, and part of the Great Range

Clouds rolling over the Dix Range

XXVI - our 26th peak. Photo by Joshua Reap.

After a short stay on the summit, which we had to ourselves, we headed back down to the junction of Elk Pass trail, already counting the hours of daylight left.  The goal was to make it to Lake Road before dark.

The going down Elk Pass trail was incredibly steep and slow, and the junction with Gill Brook trail just seemed never to come.  Of course it eventually did, but it seemed to take forever.  It probably didn’t help that we were all a little tired, and possibly a little hungry and thirsty.  It’s easy to neglect those areas a little when your hands are gloved and busy with poles, Power Bars freeze like rocks, and “communing with nature” is an uncomfortably cold production — although that’s still no excuse not to eat and drink plenty.

In the col between Nippletop and Mt. Colvin, a small beaver-dammed pond gave us a view of how deep the snow was over the marsh grass at about 3,380 ft of elevation.

Eventually, about 9 miles into our day, we made our way around the base of Mt. Colvin, and arrived at the junction with Gill Brook trail.  We were grateful for its frequent trail markers, and how easy it was to follow along the brook in the fading light.  We passed the trails marked for Indian Head and Fish Hawk Cliffs, and eventually gave in to head lamps around the time we passed an ambiguously marked signpost at a 3-way intersection, pointing to “Road” and “Indian Head/Fish Hawk Cliffs.”  We opted for the trail that we knew to be Gill Brook Trail owing to the brook over our northerly shoulder.  We thought the southern of the two west-bound trails was the Bypass, which would also lead to Lake Rd. further south (but more directly) but didn’t want to risk a wrong guess at the late hour.

Gill Brook trail is probably very pretty in daytime, but was hard to appreciate in the dark.  Lots of roots and a fair amount of ice and tree-hugging (literal) scramble made it slow going, especially in the dark.  The need for snowshoes was questionable; Microspikes were a better move.  Now down to about 2,000 ft in elevation, barebooting would probably have been fine, but for the lack of confidence in footing that darkness inspires.  We never lost the trail though, and eventually came out on the road.  From there it was about 3.5 miles via Lake Road and Ausable Club Rd. to the cars.

All in all, it was a longer day than we’d planned on, but a safe and successful one.

Photos Copyright Paperchasers Gone Wild, 2012 except where otherwise noted.

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Whiteface in Mid-Winter

January  15, 2011:

Whiteface Mountain | 4867 ft. | 5/46 in height | 1st winter peak

Looking for something new and exciting we took our friends Adam and Jen up on an offer to teach us to snow shoe.  Since they live very close to Lake Placid, near the base of Whiteface, and Jayme and I knew the trail from having done it in the summertime, we decided to give it a shot.

Careful gear planning is a must.  EMS sells a Tech-wick base layer (T3 – the heaviest), covered by micro-fleece pants, and then gore-tex rain pants over the top of that kept our legs warm.  Tech-wick layers, then fleece, then waterproof shells (5 layers) on top allowed us to keep from freezing when we stopped, but remove excess insulation when we got moving and our heart rates went up.

The snow shoes were MSR Denali EVO Ascents and I would recommend them to anyone; these shoes were more than enough to keep both of us floating, and had enough grip to keep us from slipping unless the snow was very loosely packed.

We woke up early at Adam and Jen’s, climbed into the Subaru, and were at the trailhead gearing up at 7:45 a.m.  The temperature was a mere single degree.

The first mile of the trail is extremely steep, first down and then back up to the summit of Marble Mountain.  It was cold, but clear and our best views were from the little summit near the beginning of the day. We saw (and heard!) quite a few birds in the barren deciduous trees atop Marble.

The view from Marble Mt.

Where the Wilmington Reservoir Trail meets the Atmospheric Science Research Center Trail

Just past and below the summit the trail merged with the main trail from the Wilmington Reservoir to the summits of Whiteface and Esther.  The second mile was just as steep as the first to where the spur trail to Esther diverged from the main path.  Now into the Alpine Zone (3,500 feet +) the woods took on a new look and winds picked up considerably.

Chris in the Alpine Zone

Jayme doesn't even see the wild Adam coming!

Eventually the trail meets the seasonal Toll Road (closed this time of year) where the tree cover vanishes and the wind begins to howl.  We noticed as we left the shelter of the woods that there was snow falling, and we could see the wind whipping up near the peak.

Jenny exposed to the elements

After a short trip up the road (the foot path was iced over and looking pretty treacherous) we found the castle atop the mountain (a strange and foreboding sight in the trackless winter) and made our slow ascent up the last few exposed rocks just below the summit.

The final push to the top.

Despite -18 degree weather and no way to measure the wind chill, all four of us pressed on, occasionally stopping to break ice off our faces from where the sweat had frozen to our skin.  Goggles will be a purchase in the near future, but even without them we found the top and got our first Winter 46’er Peak!

Jen and Adam on the summit.

Jayme and Chris at the summit.

We didn’t spend long on the summit.  The falling snow cut visibility to about a quarter mile and left me with an unnerving feeling of staring into oblivion.  Winter peaks are beautiful and alien at the same time.  Even though 1:30 is the warmest part of the afternoon, we were starting to get cold eating a quick lunch and made a break back down to the tree line.  Once under the cover of the pines, the wind was much easier to tolerate and we made quick work of the descent, returning to the car by 4:45 p.m.

This was our first winter hike, but won’t be our last – the snow was beautiful and in some ways made the hike much easier since the snowpack was easy to walk on and doesn’t require you to carefully choose where to step to avoid ankle injuries.  The biggest challenge, aside from keeping our faces from turning to ice at the summit, was keeping water bottles from freezing in our packs.  In the future the bottles will be filled with warm water and put into a soft cooler in the backpack.  Camelbacks (with thin tubes that freeze the first time they fill with water) will be left at home.

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The Art of Happy Redirection

(Or, how to make the best of a weekend without succumbing to the urge to key somebody’s car.)
Saturday, September 11, 2010

Nye Mountain
3,895 ft.  |  Ranked 45/46 in height  |  17th peak climbed  |  29 to go

Street Mountain
4,166 ft.  |  Ranked 31/46 in height  |  18th peak climbed  |  28 to go

We spent most of the week looking forward to a big peak-bagging weekend in the Dix Range.  I went to EMS to rent a bear canister, bought food, and arranged for dog care.  We drove to our friends house (Adam and Jen for those of you following along) in Saranac.  The place is fantastic, it is a camp along a river that they are lovingly converting to a year-round home in the woods.  (That said, we may wait until the bridge repairs are finished before we visit again; be warned that a “Summer ‘Road’” is an oxymoronic concept in case one of the locals tries to convince you otherwise.)  After being treated to steak, local beer, and good company we set the alarms and went to bed dreaming of mountains.

The morning of September 11th we got up at 5:00 a.m., had breakfast, took a look at the river in daylight, and got on the road to the trailhead by Elk Lake.  We were at the trailhead by 8:30 a.m. and there wasn’t enough room in the lot for Adam’s Civic.

Yes, a Honda Civic.  Adam could probably have stuffed it into that monstrous Gregory Whitney 95 on his back, but there was no way in hell it was going to fit in the parking lot.

What really burned me was that had one or two people parked a bit more courteously, we all could have fit without any issues.

After a few moments cursing the dearth of parking space, and the jealously guarded (and frequently tow-truck patrolled) private road over which the State has only an easement, we turned back and decided to head into Heart Lake to try Colden, Street, and Nye.

We arrived at Heart Lake only to find tour buses, mobs of college students swarming the HPIC, and a sign indicating that the parking lot was full.

There was no way we could even think about parking the Subaru in a congested lot, but now it was the Honda’s turn to shine.  Jen found a way to squeeze the little Civic in between two cars in the lot.

That said, parking cost us our early start and we didn’t hit the trail until 11:00 a.m.  Our plan leaving the parking lot was to climb Street and Nye with Adam and Jen, part ways afterward (Adam and Jen have dogs at home that needed their humans home for dinner), and then Jayme and I were going to pack into Marcy Dam, pitch a tent, and hike up Colden the next morning before heading home.

The trail began on the Heart Lake Trail (the same one you use to get to the base of Mount Jo) and continues on an unmaintained trail west onto State Land.  This trail is really pretty pleasant, flat, and easy to follow.  In about 45 minutes (give or take) we made it to a wide stream.  Last Columbus Day this stream was waist deep and raging, preventing us from attempting these two peaks.  This time the stream was much lower and we skipped across some rocks.  After passing a little swamp (in case you’re ever there, don’t bother with the bypass on the left, there are plenty of logs half buried in the swamp to keep your boots dry) we crossed the little brook twice more.

After the third crossing we saw the remains of a little lumber camp off to the left of the trail.  Several fuel canisters, a bottomless washbasin, and something that might have been a wagon tongue or piece of logging equipment are still in place.  The first three miles or so were fairly flat and follow the brook; the last mile is somewhat more steep and there is an odd notch in the trail where it appears to fork.

The first time you come to a place where the trail splits, look to the right side of the trail.  If there is a cairn there, go right.  In fact, if you aren’t sure if you’re at this little notch in the trail, or at the junction, turn right.  If you’re at the notch, you’ll start climbing the steepest last half mile to the junction.  If you were already at the junction, you’ll be at the well marked (albeit viewless) summit in about 8 minutes.

The junction has a tree with an N and an S on it and arrows pointing to the trails to the summits.  Nye is a quick job up and back, but Street was a little bit longer (perhaps forty minutes or so if you don’t stop to rest).

The summit of Street had no views (just a tree with a yellow sign) but just past the summit on the right hand side was a little clearing with some rock and a nice view of the MacIntyre Range to the south.  We had lunch there at about 3:30.

We left the summit a little before 4:00 p.m. and had a pleasant walk back down, arriving at the trail register at about 6:30 p.m.  After Adam and Jen left, Jayme and I cooked dinner on the big rocks by the HPIC before discussing our plans.  We were exhausted (more from long weeks at work than hiking, but tired is tired), hearing stories of groups of 20 people from colleges clogging the trails, packed lean-to’s and tent sites, and considering whether intentionally hiking at night was a good idea.

In the end we decided that it was 8:00 p.m., we’d had a nice day, enjoyed the company of friends, and salvaged two peaks from the vicissitudes of unregulated Adirondack parking lots, but that disappointment at having to change plans did not require us to do something potentially unsafe.

We washed up the pot, packed the Subaru, and drove home with two more flags to pin into our map of the big 46.

Editor’s note:
Jayme expended considerable effort and energy into picking out our family car this past winter.  Finding something that has a separate rear section for Guinness (our lovable but shed-happy Golden Retriever), four-wheel or all-wheel drive, gets decent gas milage, can be parallel parked in downtown Albany, and after all that was still affordable was quite a feat.
There are two trim-lines on the Subaru Forester; the more expensive version has a huge moonroof and heated seats.  Generally we are not “all the bells and whistles” people, preferring pragmatism and thrift to flashy vehicles, but since we found a fantastic deal on a gently pre-owned Forester, we wound up with the better trim-line.
Nothing (and I mean nothing) is quite as decadent as the feeling of heated seats relaxing your back after a day of hiking.  After a quick stop for some water, Jayme drifted off to sleep in the passenger seat – two peaks closer to our goal.

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Colvin and Blake

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Mt. Colvin
4,057 ft.  |  Ranked 39/46 in height  |  15th peak climbed  |  31 to go

Blake Peak
3,960 ft.  |  Ranked 45/46 in height  |  16th peak climbed  |  30 to go

Route:  Ausable Parking Lot to Ausable Mountain Club Gate (.77 mi.), Lake Road Trail (2.57 mi.), Yellow-marked Bypass Trail  from Lake Road to Red-marked Gill Brook Trail (0.53 mi.), Red-marked trail to junction of trail to Nippletop (1.23 mi.), stay to the right on Red trail to Colvin summit (0.79 mi.); continue on Red-marked trail over the top of Colvin, down into a col, and then back to the summit of Blace (1.03 mi.).  Return via same route, crossing back over Colvin’s summit.  Day total:  13.84 miles.

We met our friends Adam and Jen at the parking lot, walked through the Ausable Mountain Club, and signed into the trail register at about 9:10 a.m.

From there, we spent less than an hour on the very flat, almost paved, Lake Road alongside a small brook.  The walk was nice, and we chose to take the bypass trail to the Gill Brook Trail since the Lake Road Trail was as well maintained (paved) as we could ask for.

Gill Brook was raging from snowfall and made for pleasant views.  When we got higher up, we noticed a lack of snow and icepack until about 3,300 feet in elevation.  From there, though, the trail was sloppy and postholing slowed the four of us down.

After about two and a half hours we came to the Elk Pass junction, which leads to Nippletop Mountain.  From there, we had a nice walk up a creek (literally as it was frozen to the top of Colvin and stopped for lunch.

Chris and Jayme at the summit.

Adam and Jen at the top

After finding the summit marker (and being duly impressed by Adam’s knowledge of the first ascents in this part of the park, we descended the col between Colvin and Blake to start our assault on Blake Peak.  Little did we know that a 1.2 mile round trip would be marked by steep, almost technical, scrambles over exposed rock faces and trails full of sloppy snow.  It took almost three hours.

Climbing down a crack

The view from the top of Blake was hard-earned and unimpressive, but we made it up and stopped for a sock change.  We moved fast on the way out, but ran into even sloppier (and even postholier) snowpack on the way back.  Then it rained, slowing us down further.  Before we could make it to the Bypass Trail, the clouds and fading sun forced us to use headlamps.  Even better, on the way down the trail we heard what sounded like injured wild dogs or coyotes.  Adam and I were ready to skewer whatever came our way with hiking poles.

Almost all the way back to the Ausable Club gate, we saw sets of eyes in the woods on the side of the road.  Adam and I took our poles, steeled our nerves, and got in front of the girls… protecting them from a ravenous pack of deer.

We meant well anyway.

Two peaks, rain, snowy trails, and lightning outlining nearby peaks as we got in the car, but at the end of the day it was a great hike with good friends.

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