In the Clouds: Table Top and Phelps

Mtns are callingIn June the mountains are always calling but with a last-minute trip to Boston to visit with some family and then a vacation in Maine I decided to use a vacation day and squeeze in another hike in the ADKs. I picked Table Top and Phelps since the weather called for overcast with cloud cover and these two aren’t known for being the best views of the high peaks.

The Trail to Marcy Damn - beautiful and easy.

The Trail to Marcy Dam – beautiful and easy.

Starting at the Adirondack Loj, the first 2.3 miles to Marcy Damn via Van Hovenberg Trail are easy, well-worn and very little elevation change. Van Hovenberg Trail is the most popular route to Mt. Marcy and a few other High Peaks, so I have a feeling I’ll be visiting it again.

Unfortunately Marcy Dam view will never be the same. Hurricane Irene did a number on it and DEC will be dismantling it over the next five years. With views of Mt. Colden, Avalanche MT and Wright Peak (though I couldn’t see much above the clouds on my ascent) offers a nice easy beginning to the day.

From there I followed the Phelps Brook, with easy to slight inclines until 3.6mi (and a bridge over Phelps). And then some steady to moderate climbs before reach reaching Indian Falls (4.5 mi) and my one and only “river crossing” (nothing compared to my trip down Big Slide).  But atlas there was no view. The views typically are quite beautiful – but I enjoyed cold, wind, and clouds.

I made it!!

I made it!!

Then tracking back  .1 mi to the Table Top “trail”. It’s an unmarked “herd path” and the first route to be an officially designated/maintained herdpath (again I thank the ADK gods that I wasn’t doing this in the 70s when they were truly trail-less).

Up to that point I thought I was making awesome time – I remember thinking, wow I got this, easy peasy. Then I got smacked down. Only 0.5 miles to the summit – but those trail-less paths take more time and care for footing, as well as, giving a claustrophobic feel. The .5 climb to the summit took longer than 2 miles in the beginning. Huffing and puffing to the top with an approx. 900 foot elevation gain in those .5 miles but I swear most of it comes in the last half. The best part – didn’t see a single soul going up or down on this portion of the trail, just the sound of the woods, birds and wind. The worst: no view… No reason to hike it unless you are looking to be a 46er.

Phelps Summit

Phelps Summit

Tracking back on the Van Hovenberg Trail for .75 miles to the trail to Phelps. My Aunt Suzy said that Big Slide was the never-ending mountain but that’s what Phelps felt like to me. Approximately ~1200 foot elevation gain in 1.2 miles – getting steeper and steeper all along. Tired legs probably didn’t help – or the mental preparedness (or lack there of) for the steepness of this trail was probably the culprit. Only 1.2 miles no problem, right? Well, every-time I thought I reached the last steep part it just got steeper.

In the clouds and mist most of the day I thanked the ADK Gods for giving me my first real view (and sun) of the day just as I hit the summit. It is as if they rewarded me for all the work – as they earlier punished me for me arrogance thinking that it was easy. Lesson learned.

So worth bringing the change of socks – my shoes may have been moist but the relief with fresh dry socks are one of the best feelings around. It’s then a quick one mile down to Marcy Dam. What a difference a day of hiking makes – cloud cover gone I could see some good views and then a fast clip with the easy grade back to the trailhead.









Table Top and Phelps: completed 06/06/2014, total distance 10.6 miles, hike time: 11 hrs

  • Table Top: Elevation 4427, Order of Height 19
  • Phelps:  Elevation 4161, Order of Height 32
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