Cool, then Snowy! Made mad dash to get microspikes. Rented like ALL of T-Max and Topos, good story there, …
snow was fluffy and an easy steady walk the entire way … we had some adventure …
The hard part of hiking, or should I say the hardest parts of hiking are (1) being as well prepared as you can for your own safety and enjoyment and (2) heeding the appropriate information from others and not-heeding others. With regard to the latter, just as with beer styles and flavors, or types of cuisine, or authors and so on, people have vastly different impressions, tolerances, abilities, and so one when it comes to hikes. There is perhaps no better hike that encapsulates this than Allen. To the uninitiated, when you see the data on Allen, you definitely get a whack in the face from pondering a 19 mile day “just” to hit one peak. Then you sample the forums and hiking guides and the term “steep”, “red slime” and “good view but miserable” sort of pops up much more often than when you examine the other hikes you might be doing. On top of the mileage and the slime, there are several (potentially) harrowing water crossings – with two right at the very start of the hike and one about halfway into the walk in. The initial crossing of the Hudson River used to be “easy” but a Hurricane blew off the bridge, and now one must ford it just seconds into the start of the hike. The ford is a piece of cake, unless of course floods are coming in. On this day the water was running well, but low and cool and it was a snap to get over.
Immediately upon crossing the Hudson (yes, THAT Hudson) you wander over to Jenny Lake. For years, there had been a long crossing of perilous planks that took you right through the middle of the Lake. Each step would plunge you a little into the water, and the images and discussions about it can lead you anywhere from thinking this would be fun, or the end of one’s existence when an alligator jumps out and eats you. But just as with the earlier crossing, these planks are no longer usable, and the trail has been rerouted to the North around the lake – which was sort of disappointing. This was also one of the many places in the Adirondacks where you stop to really appreciate the trail workers who do some much work to make our time in the woods so much more enjoyable. In this case, there were dozens and dozens and dozens of 2x6s (I think) strewn along the length of the new Jenny Lake detour, which makes the walking a lot quicker than slogging through the center of the Pitfall Harry mudpits.
Once past Jenny Lake, the trail is flat in the valley and really pleasant for many, many miles – you get a glimpse of the looming Allen in a few spots, and you get to temptingly walk past Mt. Adams and the former fire-ranger’s digs. It would be really nice to add that hike on to the end of the next Allen adventure which would add another 5 miles and nearly 2,000 feet.
As for this hike, as usual I was way overprepared. Brought 4 liters of water, my hiking boots and running sneakers, my water filter, my backpacking pack loaded up with gear, just to be prepared for contigencies. Wouldn’t need them on this day of course. That’s a better problem than the alternate one.
In addition to lots of water crossing, it was really, really muddy as the hike got into the beginnings of elevation gain. With the early water crossings, I put on my “water shoes” (which were my beat up used running shoes) right at Hudson River crossing at start, and never took them off. I kept them on around Jenny Lake, and the trail was so nice and soft and pretty that I just cruised along. The Opalescent was running healthily on this day, so fording it was a little adventurous – shuffle sideways diagonally facing upstream, and maybe use a stick for balance – and as soon as I crossed the trail really mudified. For some reason it felt quicker and no crazy challenge to plunge right through the dead center of every mud bog, not even finding the need to rock hop. By the time you are on the mountain itself, it certainly is slick, but I submit that the infamous “Red Slime” is more of an urban legend than something that is going to ruin your hike. It is tricky in spots for sure, but if I had not read tons on it I do not think I would have remembered it as being particularly bad on this hike. Once on the ascent, you get a pretty steep, steady climb in and around slides and brooks, it was quite fun picking your way through it.
There was a spot near the beginning of the ascent where the trail merges with an old access road that you have to be careful with, it took my 20 minutes or so of stopping and taking compass readings and examining before I found my way. I am sure I am in the minority here.
The views from the peak are wonderful, and again on this day I had the summit to myself. I recall seeing 2-3 people in total the entire way. The views from the summit are at least 270 degrees, with spectacular views to the lower peaks due South, and looking east and north toward the Dix Range, Giant Wilderness and the Great Range. Again, still being a newbie, at the time I did not figure out every single peak I was looking at, but I was also very distracted as I had spent a lot of time thinking about Andrew on the walk up. Also, getting up there on my own in the way that the hike went was the first glimpse I had about being able to finish the 46, despite the many challenges ahead.
I’ve been told now that the state has made the Essex purchase that there would be much closer and “easier” access to Allen. I don’t bemoan progress I suppose, but that long hike sure is a memorable piece of any experience in the Adirondacks. Was on the trial on this day by 6:15am, summited by 10:45am and was changed and back in the car by 4.
My first time to the end of the Upper Works Trailhead. Little did I know last year when venturing to the Santanoni’s that just a little way’s down the road would be the really neat McIntyre Furnace (and area where the Hudson was messed around with quite a bit) and then the southern approach to the High Peaks. Coming in this way requires a little bit different drive from Rochester, and enjoyed the drive through Newcomb (I would camp these nights at the Lake Harris campground just a few miles down the road from Tahawus). The plan on this day, since I was still not very optimistic about my ability to crank out big days, and also because tomorrow would be a bigger day, was to enjoy a pleasant hike to Marshall, and take my time to soak in the sites.
The Calamity Brook trail is really pretty, with glimpses of peaks off to your left as you set off down the trail, and some neat intersections with the Opalescent and of course Calamity Brook. The early part of the trail is really pleasant. Began the walk at apx 7:40am on a very dewey morning, which was an absolutely fantastic morning to reveal the thousands of grass spider webs that would normally be invisible to our inattentive eyes on dry days.
A little less than 90 minutes into the hike, you come upon the memorial to David Henderson. Even though the guidebooks tell you it is coming, it is still striking to see it there, and of course, that he was killed by an accidental shot from his gun as it was stowed in his backpack makes it all the more jarring. Here is the story along with a neat quick history of the Iron mine and furnace operation at Upper Works. At this point the trail turns up and slightly steepens until you come upon the Flowed Lands about 10 minutes later. You get a superb look at Colden here, and want to spend hours gazing up, but to get to the Marshall trailhead you must head left and through the tangly “witches fingers” of the trail about 20 minutes to the Lean To looking back over flowed lands. You will find a cairn marking the trail up Marshall just over the footbridge near the lean-to – it is not hard to find.
It was such a nice spot that I decided to have breakfast and relax for about a half-hour, and then began the walk up Marshall’s herd path by 10:15. The herd path on this day was dry (aside for the mud bogs near the top) and traveled along and in the brook most of the way up. It never really gets too steep and you keep a really nice, steady pace the whole way. Be sure to stop a few times short of the summit to get some views, as the views from the actual summit do not much exist, though wandering around up there still does give you some glimpses. It would have been neat to be able to see over to the entire McIntyre Range from here, but that was not to be without making an attempt over the Cold Brook Pass herd path, and I wasn’t much up for that. I was sort of looking forward to setting up camp and making a nice big meal to prepare for tomorrow’s long day.
Made the summit by about 11:30, where I stayed away from the actual peak boulder since a couple of guys were soaking in a moment there. They seemed to really be soaking it in more than most folks you encounter. It turns out that one of the gentlemen was just finishing his 45th (I think) peak, but the cool part was that he had been recovering from a major heart issue just a few years prior. He clearly worked hard to make it up the mountain on this day, and it was really cool to see how much he enjoyed being up there on a mountain that many folks put down because it does not yield gaping chasms below you or 360 degree views of all of the peaks. I still found this to be one of the most pleasant hikes of all 46 and am very much looking forward to doing it again.
After staying up there for 45 minutes or so, headed down to Flowed Lands again and tried to take some better photos of the range(s) in the background. After an uneventful walk out, with a few stops to enjoy the plants (red ones are Bunchberry which have ubiquitous dogwood like white flowers in spring and produces those berries late summer, maybe Blue Flag was the other one?) and birds and pebbled creeks, was back at the car just after 3:30pm. On the way back to the campground I decided to spend 45 minutes or so visiting the original Iron Furnace, I wholly recommend it. Enjoyed a great meal at camp and a lovely sunset over Lake Harris. Tucked into the tent a little after 8 to get ready for tomorrow’s trek up Allen.
From the Corey’s parking lot, decided it would be fun to hustle up to the ridge first, hit Donaldson, over to Emmons, back over Donaldson, then to Seward, drop down to the truck trail and then over to Seymour. The approach to Donaldson had wonderful footing and really did not steepen up until just below the ridge-line.
As is to be expected in the ADKs, once up top, do not be surprised to find yourself in a lot of mud. It wasn’t too bad on Donaldson, but the (quick) stroll over to Emmons was pretty sticky on this particular day. Despite there being few notable huge views up there, there is nothing quite like being on the ridge and walking, so I enjoyed it.
As you make your way back over Donaldson and onto Seward, which definitely has some views off to the East, there is a spot just south of the summit where you take a pretty deep plunge down toward the valley and East of the peak. You think you are off the trail – but you are not. From here, the climbing is very rocky and steep but actually the most fun part of the entire trip.
My mental model was that given the distance from the summit of Seward to the lean-tos and truck trail down below, I could hustle down to that point in something like an hour. Boy was I wrong. For my money, the trail heading north off the peak of Seward and down into the valley below is probably the gnarliest, garbled, wet, sticky, slow-going muck along the “formal” high peaks trails. It took me something like 2.5 hours to get down there. I can understand why so many folks who choose to do this entire range in a single day like to do it with Seymour first and then going south up the Seward ridge.
Had a nice little lunch stop at the Blueberry lean-to, and then the trail up to Seymour (marked with a cairn) was obvious. It was sort of steady going and a fun walk up. I actually quite loved the views from up here, looking back to Ampersand and the eponymous lake, which I was not able to see from up on Ampersand. The walk down and out (about 7 miles) was uneventful. I am thankful the valley was dry, as it looked like that trail could be quite the slog/sloshfest if things were wet. The day clocked in at something like 22 miles, 5,500′ of elevation and 11 hours, but it didn’t seem like it with the glaring exception of the walk off of Seward – this would be one of those treks I’d really enjoy trying in winter.
Let’s try a new way to recount this … the twitter version of a trip report.
How things have changed in just a few years – since I visited, the number of people attempting and completing the 46 has exploded, and the maximum number of summits recorded for Cascade was near 700. More on this elsewhere.
Anticipating crowds due to the short distance of this hike and the exposed and broad peak and easy access trailhead, I wanted to get as early a start as possible – so I took the car to the trailhead at night and crashed uncomfortably in the back seat for a few hours. At the faintest glimmer of light, I began up the very wet and slick trail. My headlamp was not really a hiking headlamp, that would come, and the footing was really tough to get a handle on to start. Once beyond an early stream that one sort of has to walk up and through, the trail is easy to follow and in good condition.
Noted the turnoff for Porter about a quarter mile from the summit. Until this point the walk was in the trees, so the walk was pretty dark much of the way. Scampered up the quarter mile to Cascade first, wanting to see some remnant of a sunset, and hope to have some solitude on a place where one usually wouldn’t expect to find it.
The rock was great to walk on, and as I popped up top, much to my delight was alone up there, and managed a solid 30 minutes up there to take in the expansive views – and breaking my own mini-rule, took a moment to send a photo to my mom and dad, since I know they’d love the view but never really be in a place like this.
This was also the first time that I really noticed that the summit signs indicating to stay on trail and protect the alpine vegetation was also in French. I am glad the signs are there, along with the well curated rock paths that help keep you on them, though I’m sure that despite the many efforts of the summit stewards and volunteers, the rules are not always well adhered to.
With clouds rolling in, made the mile walk over to Porter, and that was really cool because it affords a wonderful view looking back at Cascade (and the many, many people that were not accumulating on it). And the summit was cool because a neat storm came rollin’ in as I was up there. Donned the rain jacket and pants, tucked everything away and sat up there while it started to come in. As soon as it started to look a little gnarly, made my way down in short otder, with lots of people still making their way up.
Looking forward to this walk again with the kids, and certainly in the winter as well.
Just two weeks after the Dixes, picked at the scab and bloodied the heck out of it! I happened to be staying at my parents’ house in Pittsfield, MA, and in order to be on trail early enough to be able to take my time and to be flexible in case of trail contingencies, was on the road a little after 2am. As you are all well aware, the adrenaline kicks in, especially once on trail, and that 2am doesn’t really hit you until halfway on the drive home.
Quick summary this time: first couple of miles was quick going, with exception of a very wet beaver ponded area on the way. Took the express trail up, with a little signage help, and got tangled just below summit of Santa, but made it up without much incident in 90 minutes. Don’t remember the climb being all that brutal, certainly not like the previous hikes. From just beyond Panther you get a great view of the day’s hikes, including Couchsachraga (down below!) The story of how it ended up as one of the 46 highest peaks when it was not even above 4,000 was chronicled in the Spring 2017 AdirondackPEEKS magazine, and in some older books on the high peaks.
Long story short, you read a lot about how awful the out and back to Couch is, and how muddy the bog is – but on this day there were plenty of downed trees to pick one’s way through the bog, with perhaps a few spots where you happily splash a boot down in the mud. The walk there and back is on the order of 2.5 hours. Started the hike at around 7:15am, was on the peak of Couch around 11:10am – the small peak being shared by a group of 6 or 7 of us. The views North as you hike along the ridge from Times Square to Couchie is quite pretty, and the footing was mostly good.
Made it back to the intersection and was on the summit of Panther by 12:45. The summit here has a few steep ledges, but of course has the most sweeping views of the area – being only my second time in the ADKs I was not familiar yet with what I was looking at, especially since I was in a hurry to get out of there, but you are looking around Corey’s / Duck Hole, the Sawteeth, and more.
The trail down was the traditional non-herd path, and it runs right through a creek the entire time – but not as bad as I made it sound. Had the pleasure of meeting an older woman, in her 70s, in fantastic condition, happily hiking along on her own, with tales of wonderful hikes in both summer and winter, and a curious and engaging mind. I much enjoyed the company, surprisingly, as I usually try to keep to myself.
Was back at the car by 3:30. Knowing what I know now, I probably would have spend more time enjoying this hike, though I did, and taking the time to realize that the Santa trailhead was just seconds away from the Iron Works (very cool!), and two other important ADK High Peaks trailheads – I did not realize that at all until I came back later the next year to do those hikes. Again, just what one gets for planning this one in a hurry and rushing through it. But safely made the drive there, got up and down the place in less than 9 hours, and made my way over to Keene Valley. I really loved the Marcy Field area, so I decided to stop there to make my dinner, read my books, and then slowly make my way over to the next hike of Cascade and Porter, which I wanted to get an early start on.
Two days prior to going on the Dix Hike, camped at Fish Creek Ponds near Saranac Lake to try my hand at my first Adirondack hike as an adult. We never came here as kids, and any and all hiking I had ever done up to this point was either out west, in the Catskills, or what I could scratch out while sneaking away for very short trips while in college and beyond in New England and the Finger Lakes area. Given the combination of a demanding steep but sort of quick hike, I figured Ampersand would be a nice test case to see how I would do on the bigger Adirondack hikes, which from a “looking through the guidebooks” perspective looked pretty daunting, since most of them required many miles of trail hiking just to get to the steep climbs to the peaks, and all of them famously rugged.
In short, I basically failed on Ampersand. Woke up to a rainy and foggy day, took down a wet and soggy tent (already 15 years old at this point), packed up and was at the trailhead pretty early, probably too early for the fog to burn off, should it ever. From what I remember, writing this report 5 years after the fact, I enjoyed the slippery courderoy at the beginning of the trail, wondering why not just leave it muddy, but then, despite thinking I was in decent running shape, running into a brick wall about 40% through the hike. It was steep, or so I thought, and every step required work and mental toughness. In any event, after trudging through it, it was really fun to get near summit cone and walk up exposed rock being guided by compass and yellow paint on the rocks. When I got up there, hoping to see the famously expansive views to the south, I was treated to … cold and wind and rain and fog. I had lugged up not only a real camera, but also my spotting scope! Well, that was an epic fail. I stayed up for an hour or so, hoping the view would appear, at least a little, but to no avail. As I recall one other person was up there during my time. I trudged my way down – very happy to have done the hike, and of course enjoying the walk, but quietly worried about how I would fare on the entire Dix Range, which I planned to tackle tomorrow.
Not taking too much time to linger and enjoy sites, I took Rt. 86 into Placid and onto Rt. 73 and really was taken aback by the peaks and the view of the Cascade Lakes on the way South toward the Dixes. I remember stopping between the two lakes, parking the car, and taking out all of my wet gear and airing it out on the side of the road for an hour while exploring the steep rock walls nearby (with some folks – crazy to me – climbing on them on the east side of the road). Made my way to the Mountaineer shop (stunned by how cool it was, especially the pictures in the bathroom and appreciated the weather reports posted) to pick up a bear canister, and then down an exit of the Thruway and on to the Elk Lake entrance to the Dixes from the south. I can remember the playlist that bleated from my iPhone on repeat as I made the drive in, and found Elk Lake Road, and as my heart raced with both nervousness and anticipation for the adventure ahead. Could I do it? Would I get mauled by a bear? Would marauders come steal my stuff while I was out hiking? Would marauders come steal me while I was in there sleeping? And so on. I think the best way to deal with all kinds of fears is to meet them head on, and just, as they say, “dive right in.” I love the woods and I love solitude, but had always been fearful of them, as would many people – so my plan was to march right in alone and see how I did, with no help to speak of.
I packed my 15 year old backpack to the brim with my cooking stuff, food, hiking equipment, camp pad, tent, sleeping bag, clothes and good camera and marched into the Dixes. The plan was to see how the backpack felt (heavy!) for 2.5 miles or so as I made my way to Slide Brook. While there was a lean-to there, I wanted to pitch my tent, so I carried that in, and made camp at the cairn (and tent site) that marked the herd path to Macomb, which would be my first high peak. I was unfamiliar with these backcountry camp sites – but was grateful they were on the map, and that they were as well marked as they were, with a yellow disc with tent on it indicating where it was OK to camp. I remember the walk in quite well, the path was very mildly uphill (though buggy, as I would come to remember well, as Elk Lake and the area is obviously very wet and very low-lying), and rockier and ruttier than what you grow accustomed to hiking around NYC and on traditional hikes out west where the footing is phenomenal and the moisture non-existent. I probably left my car around 4pm to make the hike in, it was mid-week, so was not expecting anyone there. And at time I was in the Elk Lake parking lot there were no other cars there. After about an hour of hiking (in my 15 year old Merrell Hiking boots to boot!) walked across a footbridge over a rushing brook and quickly came to find the camping area at Slide Brook. After scouting a couple of the areas one could camp, I chose the one closest to the river, set up my camp, wrapped my pack in plastic and hung it away from the tent (it looked like rain again too), and attended to making a dinner near the brook – I honestly forget what I made that night, but I remember cooking it and thinking it was the greatest thing ever. As I was done stashing my bear can, changing my clothes, and reading and settling in for the night, I heard a couple of guys knock into the Lean-to that was not far away from my tent. They were two very nice older gentlemen from Montreal, and they quickly set up camp and opened up a nice bottle of wine to enjoy and help them get to sleep before their own Dix Range hike the next day.
At this point, I should definitely thank my former student Andrew Bowman for alerting me both to the awesomeness and wildness of the Dix Range. While I have for my entire life dreamed of hiking in the ADKs, I never made it a priority until he described his planning for the trip, until I saw his excitement about the trip, and until I heard his description of the Lillian Brook site they made as a home base, and the fun they had exploring the entire range. That convinced me, along with some other life issues, to make climbing the Dix Range my first order of business in the ADKs.
OK, so back to the hiking part – I chose the Dix Range because it seemed fun, and to test whether I could do that – if I couldn’t I’d see that the rest of the ADKs would be a real problem for me, if I could, well, I could – but I also chose it because it seemed to promise a LOT of time up on the ridges, posed a variety of challenges, and is probably the best overall sampler to what the ADKs has to offer. Plus, I was totally intrigued (though should not have been) by the idea of a “trailless peak” which a decent number of ADK peaks seemed to be. The only peak on this trip that nominally had a trail was Dix, and you could argue Hough, but certainly not Macomb, Carson or Grace. I had prepped and prepped and prepped with my maps, my compass, my orienteering just for this sort of thing, and it was exciting to try it.
So, I woke up on the morning of my hike – the plan was the climb the Macomb slide, then do all five peaks, return to camp and pack up and pack out, and even enjoy some time on the peaks, which is one reason I started from where I did (I should have probably started from trailhead and much earlier and I think day would have been no different). From the campsite, the herd path starts up along the left side of Slide Brook and weaves in and out of trees for 45 minutes or so. The path, though not marked, is entirely obvious, even in the places where it is not obvious, especially if you have your bearings in relation to the water you are traveling near, and have a bearing at all on the peak you are attempting. I don’t remember the walk being anywhere near as tough as the Ampersand Climb, but my memory is not so good, and it was very exciting to come out after a while onto the slide. I did not know what a slide was or slide climbing, but it’s basically a huge wall of slab and boulder/stone debris, and sometimes can run for hundreds if not thousands of feet. It’s a steep, albeit direct, way to ascend a mountain. I can see how they can be dangerous, but boy was this fun. The footing was slick and tricky in a few places, but there were enough cracks and heavy boulders to get leverage on, and we made good time up it. I noticed as soon as I got on the slide that my French friends from camp were also on the slide – they and I would be weaving in and out all day, though I recall that they descended from Hough to Lillian Brook while I continued on to Dix that day (ironically, I would see them again the first time I ascended Saddleback, or was it Nye?!?!).
The footing worsened and the trail was steep after the slide, but it was not far to the summit, and boy did I fall hook, line and sinker for the ADKs at that point. Camping in a wild area along a rushing brook. Hiking an unmarked path through a varied forest, then a slide, then climbing some rocks and boom – a summit, with just spectacular views of Elk Lake and the area I came from. The weather was clearing, the sky was Smurf Blue, and stretched out ahead of me like a lumpy carpet was a string of peaks that either made one want to yodel, or run or jump and just feel super-blessed that one would be able to wander through them all day. I also heard another group of hikers up ahead as I was basking on the peak – taking pictures, sitting on a ledge to enjoy the view, and even setting up my tripod to take a timed picture of myself (a practice I would soon stop – I am almost angry at myself for taking any pics of me). After a good 25 minutes on Macomb, peak #1, I followed the herd path, again obvious, over to South Dix, which quickly came into view, though the specific peak, to this day, is not clear to me where it was. As you approach the summit you are on a rocky face, open to Macomb, and then re-enter the woods as you get to summit. I walked over every square inch of the peak to find a summit marker, after seeing a USGS disc at Macomb I had expected one on every peak (I was wrong). The path from South Dix to East Dix is an out and back detour – but the footing was great and one could run the entire thing. I almost did. When I got up to East Dix (Grace), the view East of the river and Vermont valleys and mountains was so pretty that I think I stayed up there for 30+ minutes. Now, that is great, but when you are doing 5 peaks and umpteen miles in a day, you sort of lose the chance to spend hours on the summits – a regret I have to this day (now I just hike faster!). Making my way back to South Dix, and then onto Hough, I ran into a family that had started the day from the main trailhead, and then another woman who liked to call the hike “Huff and Puff” owing to the steep trails that were coming ahead. I don’t remember much about the walk over to Hough aside from the fact that some was above ridgeline and the views down and across were great, and that the peak was tiny with not much space to share the view, and I was visited by the quietest little Junco that sticks in my mind to this day. I did not see many birds in my ADK adventures, something I am sure I am the cause of – with my trundling noisy self scaring any and all wildlife that may actually have been near the trails, and so this first bird really sticks in my head (as do the White Crowned sparrows from Phelps).
After getting to Hough, you get just a wonderful view of the Beckhorn (a huge hunk of rock) and Dix from the summit and most of the trail over. The “best” memory I have of the hike over to Dix is that there were two tough sections. On one section, I simply almost could not squeeze through it with my pack on, and another section was a climb that was beyond the 5’4″ reach I have. I still don’t remember how I managed my way up, but I am owing my luck to a mysteriously appearing handhold that showed up once I committed to the rock. The rest of the approach was fun, rocky and rewarding, and you surely knew you were ending your day on the highest point, and the 6th highest in the ADKs at 4,839′. There was a broader summit rock here than all of the peaks today except Grace, and here there were both survey bolts from Verplank Colvin, as well as a USGS marker if I recall correctly. I took time here to pull out the map and to see and try to name the peaks that were all around me (mostly to the west and north), a view I cannot wait to return to. I had lunch and gatorades and congratulated myself for “finishing” all five peaks in one day. What an idiot! Of course I had to descend, and I had to descend from the highest point of the day, and about as far from my campsite as I could have been. Wanting to check out Hunters Pass, because I figured I’d be more likely to hike the Beckhorn in the future, I decided to take the long way out.
And boy, was that ever a tough decision. There were dozens of harrowing descents over brooks and rooted and knotted and gnarly trees with seemingly no place to go but down. And there was a lot of mileage to cover. But at the same time, the Pass was indeed a true pass – narrow, dark, steep and pretty. Once out of the harrowing stuff and on flat ground, the trail was easy going as far as ADK easy going is concerned, and you are able to make good progress going along the way through the valley back about 4 miles to Slide Brook.
I quickly packed up camp, and while tired, was just so thrilled to have made it through Hunter’s Pass in one piece that I was whistling all the way back to the car. All in all, the hike was about 17 miles, with about 5,000 feet of elevation gain, full of challenges, views and excitement. If the idea of the hike was to “get the ADKs out of my system and return to Rochester and be normal again” the mission was a failure. I fell back in love with the mountains of NYS. I gained a newfound respect for the challenges of NYS hiking, which after traveling all over this country I contend is the toughest hiking of all, and an extremely great respect for all of the original 46ers who did not have the luxury of forums, weather reports, detailed USGS maps and modern gear that I had. Nevertheless, I felt close to all those that came before me, and those that will come after, and was very excited at the prospect of being able to climb these hills as long as my health and good fortune would allow it.
Took an impromptu camping trip with Isaac and Amelia from July 4 through July 6 and decided it would be easiest for them, and most fun for all, to camp right in Lake Placid. We were lucky that by arriving on the 4th, many people had cleared out of Wilmington Notch campground and when we arrived by 5pm we quickly dropped off our kayaks (after a lovely paddle on Lower Cascade Lake on the way in) and headed for the town.
Despite it being the 4th and crowded, getting around town was manageable and everyone was in a jolly good mood. We had to, of course, stop for a couple of beers (Pacific Jade IPA and Black IPA) at the Lake Placid Brewery, where a yummy meal was had, a fun game of cornhole was played and we serendipitously ran into old friends from Rochester who were enjoying a drink in the courtyard.
As luck would have it, we had about an hour of a warm (yet with a slight refreshing cooling breeze) evening to stroll through the village, pass by the Olympic sites (can you imagine an Olympics being held there now? This website is not meant for this kind of commentary) and then making our way past the many restaurants, bars and ice cream shops until settling into a chocolate shop for our delightful late-night sweets. As it darkened past 9pm, we hurriedly made our way toward the public beach and found a nice place to sit on the grass outside the church and saw a terrific fireworks show that was being blown off on the north side of Mirror Lake.
Let the kids sleep in, a cool night, stopped in the Stewarts in Keene for a quick breakfast, and then made our way to the trailhead in St. Huberts (right across from the Giant/Roaring Brook trailhead) by about 10:15. The plan was to go slow, keep our feet moving, and hopefully make a summit in about 2.5 to 3 hours. The trail I picked because it would be sure to have plenty of open rock to explore, have great views, and be a “real enough” hike so that the kids could feel accomplished from doing it, and also to give them a glimpse for what a High Peak trail may look like, should that mood ever strike them. While I have trucked the kids all over the country and had them walking and hiking all over the place, I’ve never really challenged them. We figured Amelia might be in good enough shape to actually enjoy it, at least until the hike dragged on, and we hoped Isaac would be captured by the adventure enough to make his way up. The hike is roughly 2.5 miles each way, the trail I chose, and on a good day this could be a 3 hour round trip – it ended up being about 5 on this day — all in all not bad because we made it, plus it also enabled us to have lots and lots of extra time to enjoy the rest of the day, which we surely did.
In any event, without too much of the detail, the trail ascends pretty sharply the entire way – as any hike from St. Huberts and Keene Valley is going to start on a low elevation (for example, doing Porter from down in Marcy Field would require over 4,000 vertical feet of climbing). And this was no different. The trail climbed fairly steadily and sharply, and was in its usual Adirondack muddy glory – with nary a step on the first half of the hike being dry and not requiring our attention. With Isaac going very slowly (and accusing me of child abuse), Amelia was bounding, and I was just enjoying the sights and smells again of the ADKs, after 2016 was a no-go injury frustration year for me. I can certainly say that the big-hike bug has bitten me, and each step I was quietly taking on this little trek had me mentally planning all kinds of cool adventures. I think I’ve settled on a few – that will be in a coming post.
In any event, Isaac slogged his way very slowly, stopping very 100 steps or so, but still managed to make his way to the first real scenic overlook – my guess is at about 2,400 feet – with a commanding view of the washbowl in the middle of Giant and the peak. We were also able to see the AMR club down below, which helped the kids appreciate how much they had climbed already – well over 1,000 feet in a short distance.
After the first overlook, the footing improves, but the trail steepens and becomes rocky, and there seems to be a spectacular turnout/view every 1/8 of a mile or so. If one lingers on all of them you may never get to the top.
Ultimately, Amelia and I made it to 3,556′ – which puts Noonmark in the top 100 in the ADKs, and would place it easily in top 30 in Catskills. This was as rewarding a hike as you can do in the ADK’s – I should have counted peaks, but the view from the top, open in all directions, is as commanding as any you can secure in the high peaks. The entire great range is in view, with an expanse from southwest to northeast of Haystack and Marcy both looming way off in distance, and decent look at Basin and Saddleback, with terrific views of Gothics, Armstrong and the jaws (and Hedgehog) and the best view of the notch between the jaws I remember seeing, showing just how steep the short climb between them was. As you move south over the summit, you get wonderful views of Colvin and Blake (but can’t see the lakes below) and moving your eyes west of there see Bear Den, Dial and Nippletop (Amelia still giggles) and taking your gaze further east you have just an amazing view of Dix with many of its north facing slides – and the really steep, narrow, sharp ridged Hunter’s Pass running between the Dixes and Pinnacle Ridge – I don’t remember ever seeing that view, maybe you can get it from Giant, but it was cloudy/foggy/raining when I was up there so never had quite this angle. It was a site to behold. You could make out the peak of Hough popping up behind Dix, and you could make out Grace (formerly East Dix). We had such a clear day! Looking further east from here you could see well into the Champlain Valley and Vermont, and turning the gaze back toward the north had a wonderful look, really more of a smack in the face, of Rocky Peak then Giant. One could then turn North and have a spectacular look right up Keene Valley, with Marcy Field in view, with the AMR club in view, and with Whiteface way off in the distance to the north. Looking a little west from there you could see slide, and I am sure Cascade and Porter but I really don’t have a good image of where they are and what they look like in my head, and we sadly had to hurry down off of a peak one could spend hours and hours on. You could see dozens and dozens of other lesser peaks too, I’ll spare you from me naming them all here, but it is a fun orientation/orienteering exercise.
There were a few hikers we saw on the peak and along the way – a pair of young friends who clearly knew the other peaks around them, and several groups of young hikers which included a diverse group which was a nice change to see in the ADKS – light years ahead of what one would notice out West for example., We also enjoyed the company of a couple, about 70 years old and in terrific hiking shape, from Philly, who recommended we stop over at Big Crow on way out of town on next day. We apologize for not going there, but decided to spend following day exploring Marcy Field since weather was rolling in, and made a quick drive to Forked Lake (pronounced For Ked) since the weather to the west was better. We had a terrific time paddling our kayaks on this undeveloped lake, visiting a few islands, fishing, and dreaming of future paddles and camping trips here. In any case, we made our way down in short time, much faster than coming up despite the footing, and were back at the car by 3-ish. Isaac was feeling good about being done, and Amelia certainly felt accomplished not just by finishing, but bounding her way up, and being mentally strong for last 1/2 mile when the hiking was steep but rewards were great and focus was needed. I know neither of them ache to hike hundreds of miles, but Amelia for sure is motivated to do her first 46er soon, and both were enamored by the great views and wildness of even this not so wild hike.
With the hike done, we did of course have to go to the Noonmark Diner (even though we sort of stuffed our faces with apples, cheddar, almonds and M&Ms up on the mountain) and we shared a Blackberry Crumb Pie, a Strawberry Rhubarb Pie and a Chocolate Cream pie. All were delicious. I would say best we’ve had, but that might be hiker-speak talking.
We had lots of time for rest of day, as we drove past the excellent Mountaineer Shop we saw that they were installing a cool new road sign that seemed to be a wooden and iron mountaineering axe, drove our way up the Jay/Wilmington valley along the rushing Ausable, turned back onto 86, and made our way to 4 different supremely pretty (and buggy) fishing spots to cool off in the waters (where it was calm) and to try our hand at trout. With it being later in the day, and us having trusty marshmallows, I though we would land at least a small rainbow, but it was not to be. In any case, the kids and I spent a good 2 hours enjoying the lowering sun and gleaming river. We then drove to town and fished off the boat launch on the actual Lake Placid (paddling that to the other end up North to hike the backside of Whiteface would be a great paddle/hike!), then for a swim at the very pretty beach area on Mirror Lake, and then of course for a traditional meal at Mr. Mike’s pizza. I happen to love the place, and enjoyed a Big Slide IPA with our calamari, ravioli and pizza. Amazingly, kids had more energy than I did on this night, and they wanted to walk town again – this time we made it all the way to the end, almost going to see a 9:45 showing of Despicable Me 3 at the theater, but instead settling for ice cream in waffle cones from Emma’s. We took our time driving back to the campground and heads hit pillows and zonked immediately at 11:00pm.
Noonmark is a must-do hike regardless of one’s plans for the ADK’s. I imagine it compares very favorably to Ampersand – which I also hiked years ago but was again socked in by so much fog and rain that I could barely see the yellow paint marks on the summit much less any of the views to the south that would be so awesome. The views are as good as from any high peak, not just for their expansiveness, but for the variety of what you can see from up top – excepting much water, alas.