Santa’s Gifts Galore: Santanoni Peak

SantanoniMy goal was 20 mountains this summer. I barely told a soul because it sounded ridiculous and too lofty. After 14 last year I was pretty tired and had to skimp on many amazing Vermont activities and time with friends. Perhaps I just can’t walk away from a goal. Or that I really wanted to beat my Uncle’s record of 19 in one summer. Regardless, Santanoni (Santa for short) is done and#20 for the summer. Bringing my ADK46 quest to 40. Yep, that feels like a milestone.

As I write this I’m already trying to figure out if I can get another hike in. Something about the peacefulness, sweat, challenge and solitude of the trail that I want just one more to look forward to.  Now that it is done for the summer, it has brought me from that peak perfection to the feeling like a lover who has walked away… mid-sentence. Really?! The season is already over. There had to be an end at some point and the fond (and some not so fond) memories will have to do. But there is always next season to look forward to when I’ll rejoin my love in the ADKs.  They’ll beat you down and don’t always deliver the best of weather.  But nothing quite like that first hike after coming back – especially next season with the final four hikes and six mountains to look forward to.

SantanoniThe last time I ventured to this trail was for Panther and Couchsachraga with an epic, rainy, muddy, long day, hiking out in the dark. I was the lone car in the parking lot and the only one registered. What, no one else wanted have a miserable hike in one of the muddiest trails of the ADK? Crossing a slippery, broken bridge in the dark doesn’t sound like fun? This hike was the complete opposite. The trailhead parking lot was filled to the brim, but luckily there were a few emergencies spots on the drive.

The first 3.5 miles on the Duck Hole via Bradley Pond trail is pretty straight forward. But oh boy the difference hiking in September compared to June and a rainy day at that. Don’t get me wrong there was mud. But not miles and miles of mud. And not mud up to my thighs. Plus there is something wholly different about hiking a trail for the second time. You know what to expect. And you especially know where the missing and broken bridges are:)

SantanoniWith a shorter hike, it was also lovely to take more respites next to the cascades, beautiful brooks and watching the leaves change with the sun shining in. And for the most part in solitude, which is where I’m most comfortable.

Just after the cascades in Santanoni Brook there is a cairn marking the trail-less path. And boy, am I glad this is now owned by the state. It used to be an illegal trail – since it was owned by a private landowner and was shut it down to the public. From what I hear you had to really know where to turn off, bushwack it for a bit and then some peeps “maintained” it in sections as volunteers. Totally illegal. But that was then and I’m glad for the “unmaintained herd path”.

SantanoniJust after you start the hard path you cross over a brook that had to be the most peaceful spots. I may actually hike in there sometime and just to soak it in more.

The first mile of the herd path isn’t too bad. Sure you get sweaty and have labored breath. But no scrambles, modest mud (minus one messy blown down area from a storm that required some fun log balancing on knocked down trees). Oh and the trail is, well, what you’d expect from a muddy, unmaintained herd path.

Then the ‘fun’ really begins. You hit some cool scrambles. And the one I was most looking forward to (nicknamed Hillary Step) has a re-route around it. I didn’t realize until I had already past it and didn’t feel like going down just to go back up. But in hindsight I wish I had. It would have been a bitch and kinda scary, but I’ve been loving the scrambles and boulders lately.

SantanoniThis next section was my least favorite. Steep, on slippery exposed rock, that was in very tight bush. Essentially you feel claustrophobic and branches kept whacking me in the face. I’ll take it over “highway” trails any day but really who wants to get whacked in the face repeatedly. Not me, that’s who. There was one especially muddy scramble that was more like piles of slippery mud on open rock that kept going up and around corners so you thought you got to the top. You were wrong. P.S. mud does not make great footing on steep wet rock.

You then get to the junction to the Panther/Santa. In 15 min. you’re to the viewing point on the knob just to the N of the actual summit. There are a few a few mud crossings but they are short. At the summit the ‘view’ is through the trees but basically just a quick visit to the summit before heading back to the view for my break.


It boasted some great views. However, not being bald you had to stand up to see the views. And since I’m a rocking 5’4″ (when on my tippy toes) but hey a view is a view. And a view alone is better yet. Just as I was finishing off my favorite post lunch snack (ahem frozen snickers bar) a cute couple from Montreal came running up the summit. Yeah, I don’t run up a summit. The husband (I presume) talked about the trails in the 70s and was likely starting his ADK quest when my grandfather was finishing his. Love meeting those old time 46ers. Makes me wish my grandfather was here to hear the stories. I know he’d love to sit and listen.

On the way back, I got whacked in the face some more for my least favorite mile but after that it flew by. I was back to the car at 4pm. Feels odd to have such a “short” hike. I even took the scenic route home – it was a perfect fall Vermont evening and soaked it in.  Nothing like having dinner back at home at a normal hour and having a regular day the next day vs. the post hike “hangover”.

Certainly not the most epic of hikes. A solid summit view, not too challenging and great moments along the way. But one of my favorites this season purely based on how I felt. They don’t always shake out that way but when they do they are spot on.

Big SlideOn Deck: Nothing. I know I really am considering how I can squeeze another one in. But perhaps I’ll go off on some spontaneous adventure on my next free weekend or catch up on everything else I should have been doing this summer instead of hiking.Well, I did have one hike since Santa. My Cousin Dave and I met up for Big Slide. It is a repeat but was great to hike a 46er with him. It was perfect. Cut about 2 hours off my last time and we enjoyed great fall foliage views. Plus I love Big Slide for the ledge just before the summit where I can dangle my feet off the edge. Dave watched from a safe distance. I do love how those heights send adrenaline coursing through your veins all while your stomach is doing flip-flops. Pushing yourself to be uncomfortable and literally on the edge is good for the soul. I’ve uploaded some pictures from our hike to Big Slide here…

Santanoni Peak – completed 9/26/2015, total distance ~16.4 miles, elevation 4,607, order of height 14, elevation change 2860, hike time 8 hours

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