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Archive for the ‘Peaks’ Category

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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Mt. Skylight  |  Monday, March 23, 2015  | 4926 ft.  |  43nd peak

Cliff Mountain  |  Monday, March 23, 2015  | 3960 ft.  |  44th peak

Reaching 42 peaks last week with 4 remaining that are all in close proximity to one another has its up and its downs.  The down side is that it’s a lot of redundant miles, one trip after the other.  The up side is that when the trip doesn’t go quite as planned, you can improvise a little, and have a pretty good Plan B.  That was a big up side on this trip.

We chose to take Monday off to hike in large part because of the weather forecast.  It was predicted to be clear and cold, with mostly sunny skies and firmly frozen snow and ice (which in late March isn’t always a given).

Originally, we planned to do Cliff and Redfield, a logical pairing, and to save Gray and Skylight, the other obvious pairing, for a 46r finish on Skylight.  But as we drove west on 73 through Keene Valley, the sun was rising behind us and the pink puffy clouds and clear skies were calling.  It was a great day to do Skylight.

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View along Adirondack Loj Rd. as we drove in.

We signed into the trail register at HPIC at about 8am, with the tentative plan to head for Gray and Skylight.  We wrote that as well as Cliff/Redfield in the register just in case we changed our minds.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAConditions along the blue marked Van Hoe Highway to Marcy Dam were pretty standard:

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Van Hoevenberg trail

When we got to Marcy Dam, it was our first visit since Hurricane Irene washed much of it away several years ago.  It looks pretty different now:

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The erstwhile Marcy Dam

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The Marcy Formerly-Known-As-Dam

The high water bridge spanning Marcy Brook is now a couple hundred yards downstream, although we just walked across the ice near the old dam.

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At Marcy Dam, we signed into the second trail register, and took the yellow marked trail toward Avalanche Pass/Lake Arnold.  We were chugging along at close to 3 mph through these flat sections.  At our next trail junction, we headed for Lake Arnold, and started to gain some elevation.DSCN3384The trail to Lake Arnold was clear and easy to follow, despite the fresh powder and lack of footsteps between the last snowfall and us coming through.  The indentation where the trail is, from foot traffic all season, was plenty obvious.
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After passing Lake Arnold and the trail to Colden’s summit 1.5 mile later, the grade eased and we got to do a little easy descending down toward the Opalescent River.  The blue trail was relatively flat from there until we reached Feldspar brook and lean-to.  We got some nice views of Gray, etc. to our left,

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and as the trees thinned out, of Colden’s summit to our right.

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When we hit the junction with the yellow trail #121 along Feldspar brook, we headed left/uphill toward Gray and Skylight.  Like the previous trail, it was easy to follow, but there were no recent footsteps.

As we approached Lake Tear of the Clouds, we looked for the herd path to Gray, but couldn’t find it.  Any cairn marking it would be buried under a white fluffy blanket, and there were no footsteps to guide us.  We decided not to drive ourselves crazy, and instead just keep going to Four Corners to the trail to Skylight.  From Skylight, we could look across Lake Tear, and see if we saw the herd path, and if not, we could keep looking on our way back down.

From Four Corners, it was fresh powder about knee deep most of the way up Skylight.  We slipped a lot through the powder as we broke the trail (or what seemed like it might be the trail) on the way up.  Very occasionally, we saw red trail markers right at snow level, but most were buried.  Once we got right up to the summit, it turned to ice and then bare rock.  The wind was relentless and freezing, especially once our backs were no longer facing north as on the ascent, but the views were impeccable on our 43rd summit.

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Mt. Skylight – #43, with Colden and the Macintyre range behind

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Mt. Skylight, #43

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Mt. Marcy from Skylight

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L to R: Macintyre Range, Colden, Gray, Whiteface (in the distance), and shoulder of Mt. Marcy

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Western view from Skylight

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Skylight’s summit cairn

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Haystack from Skylight

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Four Corners

We didn’t stay long on the summit because it was so cold and windy.  On the descent we were facing into the wind, so we hurried to get down to the tree line quickly.  Once back at Four Corners, we headed back down Feldspar to look for the Gray herd path.

…and we couldn’t find it.

We explored around the outlet of Lake Tear into Feldspar brook, and followed the brook a little ways, looking north for anything that looked like an opening in the trees.  Then we looked around to see if we could find a way up through the trees.  No dice.  We looked in a bunch of places between Lake Tear and the couple tenths of a mile downhill but couldn’t find it.

Rather than go crazy trying, we decided to go pick up Cliff or Redfield, go home and study up on how to find the Gray herd path.  Then we could come back later for Gray (and the other of Cliff/Redfield).  So we headed downhill along Feldspar brook to Uphill Lean-to, across the trail from which is the herd path to Cliff/Redfield.  Fortunately, we found the herd path with no problem.  We opted to take the right branch toward Cliff on this trip, because it would probably be the trickier of the two if things warm up in the next week.

Cliff was hard work.  It might be one of the shortest in height, but it’s aptly named for some of the cliffs along its sides.  The terrain was steep, and the false summit that you have to get to the top of (before realizing no wait, the summit is actually way over THERE) was brutal.  There was a lot of clinging to trees and scrambling up, and slipping in loose powder.  As with Skylight, we were the first people through since the last snowfall.  Once on top of the false summit, though, there were actually some decent views.  After winding around the false summit, dropping into a col, and popping back up on the actual summit, we finally had our #44.

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Cliff Mountain – #44

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Cliff Mountain – #44

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Cliff summit views (summit marker disc on the left).  Algonquin is the snow-covered giant.

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Macintyre Range and Colden from Cliff.  Whiteface is in the middle in the far distance.

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Gray, et al. from Cliff

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Macintyre Range & Colden from Cliff’s false summit (from this angle we’ve lost Whiteface between them)

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Ice on some of Cliff’s cliffs

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One of Cliff’s cliffs on our way back down. (Those handy tracks were not there on our way up!)

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Algonquin from much lower elevation on Cliff

It turned out that Cliff was a lot easier to go down than up, if you just let gravity help a little and you’re willing to butt-slide down the mountain.  Once we got below the last of the cliffs, it was pretty smooth sailing returning to the yellow marked trail and heading back toward Feldspar lean-to.

From Feldspar, we picked up the blue trail and retraced our steps back up toward Lake Arnold, then down again toward the string of lean-tos between Avalanche Pass and Marcy Dam.  We stopped at Marcy Brook lean-to and changed to dry socks, which felt pretty awesome, except for the part where our hands froze out of their mittens.  Our water bottles (even with sports nutrition to lower the freezing point) were mostly frozen too.  At that point we were about 17 miles and 10.5 hours into our day, and it was looking iffy as to whether we’d need headlamps to finish.  We booked it through miles 18, 19, and 20, from the lean-to to Marcy Dam, signing out of the register there, and back to HPIC on the Van Hoevenberg trail and the HPIC trail register.  Despite being cold and tired, we were hitting close to 3 mph.  We broke out the headlamps about half a mile from the trail head.  11 hours and 59 minutes after we started, we signed out of the register at HPIC around 8pm.
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Somehow, even though we’d been on two summits instead of one, and went 20 miles instead of 18, this felt easier than Allen.

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Map viewable here.

We’re now one trip, and two peaks (if we can find Gray this time!) away from our 46.  So close!

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Mt. Marshall  |  Sunday, March 15, 2015  | 4360 ft.  |  42nd peak (12th winter)

We are closing in on finishing the 46!  Today was hopefully our final single-peak trip, to Mt. Marshall.  After how punishing the last two trips (Donaldson/Emmons/Seward in one day, and Allen) have been, it was really nice to have one come easy.

Marshall Map JPEG Elevation Profile

(Map available at EveryTrail and MapMyRun.)

Prep wise, we just put last week’s plan from Allen on repeat.  Same packs and snacks and 4am wakeup alarm, and same drive up 87, Blue Ridge Rd., Tahawus Rd., and Upper Works Rd.  This time we went all the way to the end of the road, to Upper Works trailhead.  Somehow we had managed to make it through 41 peaks without having used this trailhead yet.  Now we have!

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Upper Works parking lot at 8am

We were the first day-hikers to arrive; from the register we gathered that the other three cars belonged to folks in for the weekend.  We signed into the register around 8:05am and off we went.

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Upper Works trail register

Initially we were off on red-marked trail #121.  The trail was broken out and the snow was packed down widely and solidly.  It might as well have been a sidewalk in the woods.

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Trail #121

We crossed a stream with running water visible under the snow – winter will be coming to an end soon.

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Stream running from Henderson Lake to feed the Hudson River

Past the junctions with trails #125 and 126 to Henderson/Indian Pass/Duck Hole, we started gaining some elevation.  The trail was a bit narrower, and trees closer together.  We had occasional looks at Calamity Brook to our north side.

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Trail #121

Just after we passed Calamity lean to, we arrived at our 2nd trail register of the day, about 4.5 miles into the trip.  It is such a shame that black bears and mice carrying hantavirus make the lean-tos in this area less attractive to camp in during warmer months because there are so many great places to go from here.  I wouldn’t call it a hard “no,” but definitely a “think twice first.”

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We signed in, and headed down to check out the Flowed Lands, which can be a convenient short cut to Herbert Brook herd path when frozen.

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Flowed Lands

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Flowed Lands

Unfortunately we couldn’t see where the snowpack spine was to walk along without sinking in, and since it was 40 degrees yesterday, we were short on confidence that it was totally frozen.  So we stuck with trail #121 around the edge, in spite of its narrow spots, extra length, and elevation changes to Herbert Brook (and its lean to).

Once we reached Herbert Brook, we left the trail markers behind and turned left/west up toward Mt. Marshall.  For a little while, the herd path ran through the trees just to the right/north side of the brook.

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Herbert Brook and herd path

After only a little while though, we joined up with the brook bed and just took it straight up.

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Herbert Brook 

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Herbert Brook

It was easy to follow, and required almost no technical skill.  Just chug away!  Once we got near 4000 ft., the herd path left the brook, and the space overhead started to open up a bit.  You can feel the difference in the wind.  The last few hundred feet in elevation were a cakewalk compared to summiting on Allen a week ago.  We reached the summit about 3 hours and 45 minutes, and about 7.2 miles into our day.  Light snow was falling, as it did almost all day.

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Mt. Marshall summit – #42

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Mt. Marshall summit – #42

The summit itself doesn’t have any views, but it wouldn’t have mattered if it did.  I took a walk through the trees to look for a north view of Iroquois, and this is all she wrote:

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Gray oblivion from the summit of Marshall

With nothing to see, and chilly wind, we headed back down pretty quickly.  Since there was really nothing technical about the descent, we made great time bombing down Herbert Brook.  We stopped at Herbert Brook lean-to for a quick sock change, because dry socks are the best.  We met the hiker who had been camping there, and he pointed us to where he’d crossed the Flowed Lands to save us some time on our return.

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Herbert Brook lean-to

It was good to know someone had just recently walked across the Flowed Lands successfully, and to see the tracks (at least for a while).

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Flowed Lands

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Flowed Lands

We signed ourselves out of the register at Calamity Brook, and rejoined trail #121 to head back to Upper Works.  Along the way, we found the Henderson Memorial at Calamity Pond.  The memorial has been there since about 1850, and marks where David Henderson died in a shooting accident in 1845.

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Henderson memorial

After that, it was smooth sailing back to the trailhead.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA The trip checked in at 14.09 miles, slightly longer going up than down because of the shortcut on the way down over the Flowed Lands.  Trailhead to trailhead took just over 7 hours.  We were back to the car a little after 3pm, and home in time to shower, unpack, do laundry, write this, and still make it to watch Walking Dead on time.  Sweet.  The next (last!) two trips will be a lot longer, so it was nice to have this one cut us a break.  It would be awesome, though, if we could catch some views on our last couple!

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Allen Mountain  |  Sunday, March 8, 2015  |  4340 ft.  |  41st peak (11th winter)

Funny enough, exactly a year after driving up 87, west on Blue Ridge Road, and up Tahawus Rd. to do Santanoni (and Panther again), we were making the exact same drive on a March 8th again.  This time though, we passed the Santanoni Rd. trailhead on the west side, and the Macintyre Furnace on the east side, to the trailhead to Allen and Adams mountains.

Unlike some of the peaks we’ve climbed recently, there aren’t a lot of route choices to make when doing Allen.  With the most direct route checking in around 18 miles round trip, it’s not a trip to try to get fancy with.  So we went “the way”:  from Allen/Adams trailhead on Upper Works Rd. along trail #123 over the Hudson, over Lake Jimmy, and along Lake Sally and the Opalescent River to the turnoff to the herd path to Allen.

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Interactive MapMyRun map and elevation profile

EveryTrail zoomable map

We arrived at the trailhead around 7:30am, about 10 minutes after sunrise.  The alarm clock had been a hateful device, screeching at 4am — which felt like 3am because Happy Daylight Savings Time starting today! — but it was worth having a timely start.  We had a pace plan for the terrain that would have us finishing in about 12 hours, which meant we might or might not get out without using headlamps.

Tahawus Rd. and the lot had been plowed, but the lot wasn’t really marked – it was just the first lot on the right after the Macintyre Furnace.  I recognized the trail register, the “East River Trail Bridge Out” sign, and the downed tree from someone else’s blogged trailhead photo, so here’s ours to perpetuate that favor.  The register, etc. are partly obscured by the plow piles of snow.

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Trailhead to Allen

It was lightly snowing, and we were the 2nd car there.

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Allen trailhead parking lot

After getting the packs situated, the snowshoes on, and all that, we signed in to the register and headed off on the yellow marked trail at 7:55am.  Within the first tenth of a mile, we came to the Hudson River.  Not so much the Hudson that most people know, but the Hudson very near its headwaters, where it is spanned by a metal mesh and cable suspension bridge.

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Suspension bridge over the Hudson River

This time of year, it’s easier to walk across the ice than climb the steps to the bridge in snowshoes, but I’ve seen other peoples’ photos of the bridge in summer, and it looks like a godsend then.

After another third of a mile or so, we came to the upper finger of Lake Jimmy, our 2nd crossing of the day.

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Lake Jimmy crossing

Once again, I’ve seen other peoples’ summer photos of the submerged semi-floating “bridge” under the snowshoe tracks, and been amazed that anyone tries this.  But this time of year it’s no sweat (well, at least this water crossing is).

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View north from the middle of the Lake Jimmy crossing

There were trail markers pointing the way to a “Plan B” trail that went around the north edge of Lake Jimmy for the wetter months,

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View back toward the trailhead – crossing Lake Jimmy to the left; trail around to the right.

but we didn’t check it out.  No need!

After crossing Lake Jimmy, we followed the yellow marked trail along Lake Sally and the Opalescent River for several miles.  It was relatively open and exposed.  The sun kept flirting with the idea of coming out, but it stayed mostly cloudy and lightly snowing.

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Yellow marked trail #123

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Yellow marked trail #123

We followed the serpentine path of the Opalescent River for around 3.6 miles into the trip, then crossed to the south side.  This is no dice in the spring, but winter is easy crossing:

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Opalescent River crossing on trail #123

Shortly afterward, we parted ways with the Opalescent, and crossed Lower Twin Brook.  The trail followed the brook, but not always closely.  At about mile 5, we came to the end of the yellow brick road.  There were no tracks or markings going forward, a red trail to Mt. Marcy via Lake Colden with a hand-carved sign reading “Marcy” to the left:

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Junction where trail #123 becomes red marked and curves north, toward the Flowed Lands and away from Allen

and the yellow arrow marked “Allen” in handwriting to the right:

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Junction with the Allen “trail”

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Trail sign toward Allen

Maybe half a mile after the sign, the trail “dead ended” at a T-intersection with an old snowcovered road.  I’m told there’s gravel under there.  A sign marks the left turn to an open area, which I’m told is a gravel pit.  The trail to Allen is marked by a 2nd trail register:

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View over the pit/clearing, with the trail to Allen behind me.  Don’t ever be the jerk who goes the “wrong” way, making legit looking snowshoe tracks, just to go find a spot to pee.

From here, the trail was only loosely and occasionally, and definitely unofficially, flagged or marked.  It follows and then crosses Lower Twin Brook, and traverses the very low foothills of Mt. Redfield to Skylight Brook.  We crossed Skylight Brook around trip mile 7, then followed it for about half a mile before we reached Allen Brook.

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Icy waterfall on Skylight Brook

We turned east when we hit Allen Brook, and essentially followed it straight up.  Until this point, we’d been cruising at 2 to 2.5 mph.  Our 8th mile, up Allen Brook, was a slower 1.5 mph.  In this section we met and passed the trio whose car we had seen in the parking lot earlier in the day.

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Critter tracks, and one of about 86 downed trees crossing the path that we went under or over.

I kept looking at my Garmin and alternating between getting nervous and thinking its altimeter was broken.  I knew the summit was right about 9 miles into the day.  How was I 8 miles in, and still at only ~3000 feet?  The summit was a mile away and 4340!

Elevation profile

Oh.  Right.

Guys, mapmyrun.com ran out of colors for the % grade.  In the last half mile to reach elevation, we hit 61% grade.  We gained 1300 feet in a fraction of a mile.  Whatever anybody (including us) told you about the last .9 mile to Algonquin being the hardest .9 in the park is not true.  The last .5 to elevation on Allen is brutal.  I have no pictures because there was a lot of loose snow, exposure, and opportunity to slide.  Cameras were a luxury my hands could ill afford.

Once we got to elevation, we ducked back into the trees and had maybe a couple tenths to go to the north to the summit, marked by a sign and a yellow disc.  #41!

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There were no views to be had.  Even if you poked through the trees, it was socked in.  We didn’t linger long; it was cold, and we wanted to stay on pace.  We had hit the summit right on schedule, 9.05 miles into the trip, and about 5 hours, 20 minutes in — 40 minutes ahead of pace for our 12 hour plan.  Miles 1-5 had been as planned, miles 6-8 were faster than planned, and mile 9 (especially the last half to the summit) went slower than planned.

Getting down the steep stuff in the first half mile was a little dicey, then we were able to relax a lot.  A mile after the summit, we had all the hard work behind us — but we had 8 miles to get to the car.  Ooft.  Even at 2 mph, that’s 4 hours.

By the time we got down to lower elevations, our footprints were covered by the snow that had fallen during the day.  The path was still easy to find, but you couldn’t tell we weren’t the first to walk on it all day.

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When we crossed the Opalescent and especially Lake Jimmy, which were more windblown, you couldn’t even tell where people had ever walked, so you couldn’t really tell where the snowpack was vs. the loose snow that you’d sink knee deep into.  As we approached the 18 mile mark for the day, I was in no mood for that.

Finally, as we crossed the Hudson, we got some blue sky to the north.  Mother Nature is a tease!

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A little before 6:30pm, we reached parking lot and signed out of the trail register.  In daylight!  Woohoo!  The whole trip took about 10.5 hours, considerably faster than we expected.

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Mittens & pencils are a weird combination.

This was the most tired I’ve been in a while after a hike.  I’m not sure whether it was the mileage, the snowshoes, the short night’s sleep, or the recent pace of life in general, but it was a hard day.  Sleep fixes those things, though, and now it is successfully done, and we are down to 5 peaks left before earning our spot on the 46r list.  We think we’d like to finish on Skylight (others remaining:  Gray, Cliff, Redfield, and Marshall).  It is exciting that it’s time to start planning for that!

A few notes on things we’ve learned

  • Food and drink are hard to keep from freezing on long days like this.  On this trip, instead of bringing water, we brought Infinit (Isis) and Hammer Heed, one scoop per Nalgene bottle.  Not so much for fuel, but to lower the freezing point of the bottle contents.  Infinit turned to slushie by mid-day, but Heed was still liquid to the end.  Getting dehydrated means getting cold (among other bad things), so this is good to know!
  • Luna bars are easier to eat than Cliff bars because they get a little less rock hard in the cold.
  • Homemade beef jerky and string cheese stay soft enough to eat all day.

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Wednesday, December 31, 2014:

Donaldson  | 4140 ft.  |  38th peak (8th winter)
Emmons  |  4040 ft.  |  39th peak (9th winter)
Seward  | 4361 ft. | 40th peak (10th winter)

This year we opted to close out 2014 with a bang, serenely quiet Adirondack-style:  on the last day of the year, we hiked the three trail-less peaks of the Seward Range.  As far as we could tell, our group of 3 made up 60% of all the people on the entire mountain range all day.

Reader’s Digest version:  Counter clockwise loop from Coreys Rd. Seward Mtns. “summer” trailhead (gate open as of 12/31/14) to Donaldson/Emmons via Calkins Brook herd path, up Seward, and down the north side of Seward to Ward Brook Truck trail.  From there, red marked foot trail #129 back to trail register.  About 16.75 miles and about 12 hours.

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GPS map of our route

Route also viewable here on mapmyrun.com.

Illustrated version:  Around 7am, we turned onto Coreys Rd. from Rt. 3.  Christmas week’s thaw had melted all the snow on the unmaintained road, and this week’s freeze made it a skating rink.  The overnight dusting of snow gave just enough traction on the ice to drive relatively safely to the trailhead, as long as you kept the tires rolling.  When we got there, we found that reports we had heard were right:

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Coreys Rd. gate to the summer trailhead was open! 12/31/2014.

We drove past the winter parking lot on to the “summer” parking lot.  When we got there, we found the other Subaru Forester that made those tracks.  We would be the only two cars, for the only five people, on the mountains all day.

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(Dear Subaru:  we’re available for commercial casting.  Call us!)

We signed into the register, and were on our way at about 7:40am.  A tad later than we intended, but not bad.

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We lashed our snowshoes to our packs and bare booted at first, because there was so little snow on the ground.  The trail was icy in spots, and our red Subaru friends had even helpfully scratched “ICE” in the snow near one particularly icy patch–in many places it was hard to know what was under the thin layer of snow, whether it was ice or earth.  In some places there was even flowing water, despite temps around 10*F.

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0.5 mile in, at the junction between the red-marked foot trail and the horse trail, we bore right for the horse trail.  We thought it a more direct route to the Calkins Brook herd path, although either would have worked.

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Roughly 0.9 mi later (mile 1.4), we arrived at our next junction and turned right to head to Calkins Brook (and apparently, its lean-tos).  Still very little snow, and still bare booting.

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Onward to Calkins Brook!

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There were a few ice patches that were pretty perilous.  We slipped and slid a little at times, and tried to go around the obvious ice patches.  Mostly, we were postponing the inevitable decision of what to put on our bare boots until we were more sure we’d stick with that decision, since messing with gear means stopping and getting cold.  In retrospect, we should’ve just put on our microspikes right away.  We’d have walked much more confidently, and probably faster.

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Maps that I’ve seen have shown the distance on this trail to be 3.5 mi from the sign post (that we passed at mile 1.4) to the Calkins Brook herd path, but we measured it at only about 1.85 mi (mi. 3.25 from trailhead) to the bucket cairn marking the beginning of the Calkins Brook herd path:

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At the bucket cairn, we turned left and headed east for the Seward Range via the narrow and winding herd path.  The unmarked herd path was made easier to follow by the footsteps of our red Subaru friends.  Especially at lower elevations, where the trees are less dense, we could easily have lost our way, although we knew that as long as we followed Calkins Brook up, we’d have wound up in roughly the right area.  Theirs were the only footprints since the snow dusting, and in many places, the only way to tell that people ever came here.

We had only been on the herd path for about 1/4 mile when the footprints led right to Calkins Brook… and disappeared.

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We wandered a bit around the north brook edge casually looking for their footprints, and admiring the icy, flowing brook.

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After splitting up to look around the north brook edge for the footprints, we realized this must be where the herd path crosses Calkins Brook.  Since Donaldson and Emmons are on the south side of the brook, we knew we had to cross it eventually, we just weren’t sure where.

This led to another few minutes of looking up and down the brook for where we could most safely cross.  We certainly didn’t trust the ice to hold us, and the rocks were too far apart to rely on.  Eventually we each chose the spot we felt most comfortable with, and crossed our fingers.  All three of us made it across (almost) entirely dry, thank goodness.  Sure enough, there was the herd path on the other side, and there were the footprints to confirm it.

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The herd path ascended fairly gradually for a while.  The sun started to poke through the clouds, and we made our way up along the south edge of Calkins Brook.  When the conditions underfoot didn’t change with some elevation gained, we made a pit stop to put on our microspikes to give us traction on the ice. We got a few pretty views.

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We had expected to reach the ridge (such as it would be, in a col between Seward and Donaldson) around mile 5 of the day, but at mile 5 it was nothing but up, up, up.  It was just starting to get steep around then!

In a few more open areas, there was a little more snow, and we could see evidence of people having post holed on previous trips:

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The post holes weren’t fresh though, and were partly filled in by new fallen snow.  In the center of the herd path, we crunched right along on the snow.  The higher we went, the better and more frequent the views that poked through the trees.

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The last half mile to the ridge, from about 5.75 to 6.25 of our day, meant some business.  The Garmin advised us that we gained >780 feet in elevation.  We recognized the junction of the herd path running along the ridge as we looked north and saw a clear view of Seward, with the herd path curling around the left forefront pine tree:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn the opposite direction, it wound up and to the right toward Donaldson.  We opted to hit Donaldson first, followed by Emmons, then back over Donaldson to try for Seward, instead of Seward first.  Just in case we were to run out of time to do all 3, we decided we’d rather have to go back for Seward (which can be done on its own) than Emmons (which requires going over Donaldson on the way).

We passed some major icicles on the way up to Donaldson,

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and got a few views to the east:

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We also crossed paths with our friends in the red Subaru!  They were the first and only people we saw all day.  They had already been to Donaldson/Emmons, and were headed to Seward.  They were very nice, and we wished each other good days.  They said we were about 5 minutes from Donaldson, and that Emmons took them ~1.5 hour round trip.

Only a couple minutes later, the path appeared to split in two.  Thinking the left (east) path, up onto a rock, was a scenic lookout, we checked it out.  It was a lookout – but it was also the summit!  It was just before noon.

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Donaldson summit view

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Donaldson – our #38 (and #8W)

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Seward from Donaldson summit

It was chilly and we were keeping an eye on time, so we didn’t linger.  We went back down to the herd path, and continued on to Emmons.  We got occasional views as we followed the ridge.

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Southwest view/Long Lake from Donaldson

There were a few icy spots that required some negotiating as we dropped down into the col and then came up Emmons.  Some were readily apparent, and others were hidden under the snow.

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As we came around a large rock, we had another surprise summit – you’re climbing up and up, focusing on the terrain, and then all of a sudden there’s the yellow disc!  We hit Emmons’ summit right about 1pm (roughly mile 7.5).
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Mt. Emmons – our #39 (#9W)

There were no real views to speak of from Emmons, so we booked it back toward Donaldson, enjoying a few views in the opposite direction:

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West view

We spent several hours on the ridge in the middle of the day, and it only got feeling colder and more bitter as we stayed at elevation (as illustrated by the increasingly aggressive head gear I’m sporting on each successive peak).  We also had said we’d try for Seward if we made it back to the junction by 1:30, and we knew we were cutting that close.

We got back to the junction at 1:48pm, just a tad late, and had to decide whether to go back to the car early with 2 peaks, or almost-assuredly late with all 3 peaks that we’d come for.  We were about 8.5 miles into our day at that point, which was a little more than we had expected upon finishing Donaldson/Emmons and getting back to the junction.

Since I didn’t put a spoiler alert on the top of the post, you already know we went for Seward.  We were still enjoying the benefit of our friends’ (who we now knew to be a couple of 46rs from Saratoga area) footprints, and the herd path was mostly reasonably easy to follow, if a little steep.  The col dropped down deeper and steeper than the one between Donaldson and Emmons had, and with 9 miles and 2 summits already behind us, we felt it.  As we started to climb back out of the col, we got our first nice perspective view of where we’d already been.

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Donaldson (rounded near summit, at right) and Emmons (further, pointed summit, at left) from Seward

We could tell we were getting close to the summit when the look of the trees changed.  Seward is the tallest and northern-most peak in the range, and clearly the most exposed.  It was windier and snowier than the others, and the trees near the top looked flocked, kind of like frosted mini wheats.

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And finally, there we were!  9.4 miles into our day, and a little before 3pm, we were on our 3rd summit.

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Seward – our #40 (#10W)

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The next decision was how to go back to the car.

Option 1:  go back the way we came down the south side of Seward, up most of Donaldson (for the 3rd time), and down Calkins Brook (pros:  we know the way, it’s the “devil you know”; cons:  we know we have a significant brook crossing, and we’d have to climb back up Donaldson), or

Option 2:  make it a loop, going down the steep north side of Seward to the Ward Brook truck trail, and take that (and other marked trails) back to the parking lot (pros:  just go down; don’t have to go back up Donaldson; truck trail is flat and easy to follow even after dark; may avoid significant brook crossings.  Cons:  steepness, it’s the “devil you don’t know”; truck trail will be 5-ish miles of boring drudgery).

We chose option 2, even though the original plan was option 1.  We weren’t psyched about another brook crossing, didn’t want to do Donaldson again, and liked the idea of hitting wide, relatively flat, marked trails by the time we’d need head lamps.  Plus, the couple whose footsteps we’d been following went that way, so we wouldn’t have to do it “blind.”  So down we went.

The steepest parts went pretty well.  We were lucky to find a tad more snow on the north side, so we slid down the steepest stuff on our butts, with some care to watch for roots and ice.

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As we lost elevation, we followed a brook that went from icier at the top to running more freely at lower elevations.  As it got darker, the brook was easier to see than the footprints.  The descent felt no more difficult than what we’d have had to do along Calkins Brook, although every so often I looked up and thought man, glad I don’t have to ascend that.  The only remarkable part was how LONG it felt.

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It was just shy of 2.5 miles from Seward’s summit to Ward Brook truck trail (longer than we’d remembered from maps).  By the time we hit the truck trail, it was almost 5pm, and time for headlamps.  We had a little under 12 miles down, with 5 to go.  5 miles is a long way to go in the dark, in the cold, and on tired legs.  Shortly after we hit the truck trail, we came to the intersection with the red marked foot trail (#129), and we were back to the land of trail markers and signs with measured distances.  We made a brief pit stop at Blueberry lean-to for a map check/distance evaluation, some warm tea, and an opportunity to change socks without sitting on snow.  From there we knew we were in the homestretch, although I don’t mean to diminish the challenge of it.  It was a clear night, maybe 10*, it had already been a long day, and we had about 2 hours of hiking in the dark ahead of us.  We collectively filled it with day dreams about soft dry socks, Irish coffee, sitting down, laying down, bed, hot showers, pizza, Gatorade, gummy bears, salty things, seeing the trail register/car, and other mirages.

We kept a pace of just under 3 mph, which was strong work under the circumstances, I think.  We were surprised to see a headlamp bobbing behind us after a while.  It was our new friends again.  They had busted tail off Seward, gone the opposite way on the truck trail to the Seymour herd path, gone up and come back down Seymour, and were catching up to us on their way out.  (They are crazy for doing this, which I mean in the most complimentary way possible.)  There were trail junctions at 1.2 mile out and .5 mile out from the trailhead, which were nice landmarks toward the end.  Eventually we popped out at the register.  I’m never so thrilled to see our car as those moments.  We signed out, loaded up, and started the slippery drive out to Rt. 3 and toward all those things we’d been daydreaming about.

After our pizza, our irish coffee, and other dreams realized, we did indeed make it to midnight to watch the ball drop – but we took our cue from these two shortly thereafter.

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16.76 miles and almost 5k feet in elevation gain in 11 hrs : 55 mins.  Nice note to end the year on!

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Panther and Santanoni

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Panther Peak
4,442 ft.  |  Ranked 18/46 in height  |  redux
Santanoni Mountain
4,607 ft.  |  Ranked 14/46 in height  |  37th peak climbed

9 to go!

A month after hiking Panther and Couchsachraga, we went back with our friends Josh & Kelly to pick up Santanoni, to complete the range.  We met up early, and caravaned to the trail head for a start shortly after sunrise.  We joined 5 or so cars already in the trailhead lot, signed in at the trail register, and got on the trail promptly at 7:06am (you know, give or take).

Since we’d just come through the same way, we didn’t take many pictures.  There hadn’t been much snow to speak of in the first week of March, so it was well packed.  We barebooted in about 1.66 mile along Santanoni Rd., then turned right onto the blue-marked trail toward Bradley Pond/Duck Hole.  We continued to bare boot in past the missing bridge and the broken bridge,

Photo by Joshua Reap

the broken bridge being the first point when microspikes or something would have been nice for traction (but not really worth digging out just yet).  Once we got up the icy bridge steps, though, it was back to well packed snow and no need for anything on our feet.

As we hiked along, we watched to find first the Express trail to Santanoni at about 3.4 miles, which was off to the left at about a 30 degree angle.  We planned to hike down the Express, and wanted to see where we’d be coming into the blue trail at the end of the day.  Then at about 4.3 miles, we spotted the Panther Brook trail turnoff at the beaver dam.  A month earlier, we’d hiked past it.  This time, it was almost impossible to miss; the footprints in the snow all stopped and turned left.  Amazing the difference a month and a few snowfalls can make.

Around the time Bradley Pond came into view on our left,

and before we reached the cliffs,

we stopped to put on our snowshoes.  We still weren’t post holing, but it was getting steep enough that we needed the traction.  We got hints of blue sky above us, 

and even occasionally some actual, cloudless blue sky.  The higher we climbed, though, the cloudier it got.  By the time we got to the upper half of Panther Brook trail, where it really starts to get steep, there was very little view to enjoy as we looked over our shoulders.  Clouds rolled in from the west and enveloped the range.

Last month the upper half of Panther Brook trail had been a trial.  At its steepest, it’s a 20% grade – no walk in the Adirondack Park to be sure, but this time it didn’t seem half as bad.  Maybe the snow was more packed, maybe I was better mentally prepared for the effort.  It definitely helped to know that once we got to the top of Panther Brook and to Herald Square, Panther Peak was a quick and easy run.

At Herald Square, we met our first other hiking party of the day.  They took a photo for us 🙂

After saying cheese, we dropped our packs, grabbed a snack, and ran to tag Panther’s summit.  We had already been there a month ago, but it’s a fun easy summit from Herald Square, and we wanted to join Josh & Kelly on the summit.  Besides, we didn’t have a picture of us together on the summit from last time!

We had hoped for views, but there weren’t any to be had.  Just clouds and ice.  The trees that had puffs of snow on them a month ago were now covered with ice.

The Seward Range is out there somewhere, but who knows exactly where?

After the ~0.6 mile round trip jaunt from Herald Square to Panther and back to Herald Square, it was about 11:30am.  We picked up our packs, had some more snacks, and got ready to leave for Santanoni.  Since it was so early in the day, we told Josh & Kelly that we wouldn’t be offended if they wanted to take advantage of the 5+ hours of daylight left to peal off to pick up Couchsachraga.  I sure would’ve wanted to if we still had it left on the list!  But they decided to hang with us and stick to the plan.  Good company is always a good plan.  Onward to Santanoni!

The trail from Times Square to Santanoni was pretty narrow and closed in, with pine trees on both sides.  It was easy to follow, though, and overall a pretty pleasant ridge walk.  There were a few bald spots that were more open, and they were pretty windblown and exposed.

I think there were several false summits on the way to Santanoni, but I’ll be honest, I barely noticed.  The clouds were too thick to see them, so you never got that “I’m almost there!  Oh wait…” letdown.  We didn’t know we were there until we saw the summit marker.

37th high peak | 9 to go

Santanoni Summit – Photo courtesy of Joshua Reap

The summit sign was one major snowstorm away from being buried, but the disc was a little higher up.

We headed back down pretty quickly to get out of the wind.  We realized that we hadn’t seen where the Express trail peels off down the ridge on our way up, but figured we’d watch for it going back down, and worst case scenario we’d just head back down Panther Brook trail if we got back to Times Square without finding it.  It was only around 12:45pm when we were on the summit of Santanoni, so we had plenty of time.

Now that we were looking for it, we found the Express trail relatively easily, on the east side of the ridge, on the first sub peak/last false summit.  It branched off to the right (east) in a windblown open area, which was why we’d missed it before.  On the upper portion, the trees were thin, the terrain was extremely steep, and there were points where it was difficult to follow.

Snowshoe tracks led in a variety of directions, which didn’t help.  Once we got down below tree line, though, it was much easier to follow.  A lot of it was pretty steep, though, so Adirondack butt sledding abounded.  The snow was much less packed, and a lot more powdery.  I was glad we hadn’t tried to go up that way.

My Garmin running watch’s battery gave up around 2:45pm, just as we were rejoining the Santanoni Brook and the blue trail at the bottom of the Express trail.  3.4 miles to the car!  The area where we came into the trail was fairly open, so my guess is that when it isn’t frozen and snow covered, there’s probably quite a bit of standing water.  (Snowshoes:  yes please!)

We left our snowshoes on heading back to the trailhead, not so much out of necessity, but more out of snowshoes being easier to carry on your feet than your back.  We got back to the cars at around 4:30pm, with lots of daylight to spare.  My feet had been bothering me on the way out, but I chalked it up to a long day and wet socks.  When I took my boots off in favor of dry socks and slippers for the car ride home, I discovered what had been bothering me – a nickel sized blister on the bottom of one of my big toes.  It’s a spot I often get callouses when my running mileage gets high.  (Guess I need to get running!)  I shivered most of the way home, I think I also need to do a better job of drinking more water and staying better hydrated hiking in the winter.

Now that we are in the single digit peaks remaining, we are giving some thought to where we’d like to finish and what peak combinations we have left.  We are hoping to get one more trip this wintery season – not strictly another pre-vernal equinox winter peak, but another one before the snow melts.  Santanoni would be fun to do again on a clear winter day (I hear it has great views!) but probably not until we hit our 46.

If you’re interested, the interactive GPS map of our Panther/Santanoni hike can be found here.

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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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