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:) Continue reading

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Wrapping up the Seward Range: Seymour Mountain

SeymourFollowing up on heavenly Haystack, with a “break weekend” in between for a quick trip home and some discgolf over labor day weekend the mountains were yet again calling. I saved a couple of single hikes for the fall time for ‘quicker’ hikes with the shorter daylight hours. The full Seward Range was too much for a single day hike earlier in the summer so I made the trek back over to finish it off with Seymour.

I’ll have to admit my expectations were pretty low. In part because Haystack was so amazing but this hike can be muddy, long and the “trail-less” section in particular is some serious elevation gain.

I had a rough start in the morning missing the first ferry. Detour driving across the bridge it is. I did catch a glorious sunrise coming up over Camels Hump. Not too shabby a way to start the day. The drive was long – 3 hours to the Corey’s Rd trailhead. I was expecting a long day hiking with reports that this is an average hike of 11 hours, with another 3-hour drive on the other end. I was tired just thinking about it.  Continue reading

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Mount Haystack is Heavenly

HaystackI’ve finally had an experience that I’ve heard many aspiring 46ers eventually have – an attempt without reaching the summit. To be fair I really only hiked a mile or so in. I was itching for a hike after a few weeks break soaking in a fabulous vacation. Luckily I grabbed the last spot at the Garden Parking lot (#victory) and hit the trail on a sunny but very hot day. Two miles in drama ensued. A mother/daughter hiking trip had an unexpected twist while they were taking a selfie on one of the low bridges. The mom lost her balance and fell backward hitting her head on the way down. Please people no selfies on bridges with no guard rails. At the end of the day, it was no big deal and no major injuries. But after walking the two out and waiting for her husband to pick her up I ate up too much daylight to make the venture to Haystack so back to Burlington it was. On the upside I enjoyed an unplanned ‘open weekend’ in Vermont with a picnic in the park and moonlit waterfront stroll so all is well that ends well.

HaystackThe next weekend (8/29) I was determined to not miss out again. You’d think 6:30 am was early enough to get a parking spot at the Garden. Nope. Luckily, the shuttle was running but I was feeling the time pressure. If I wasn’t back before the last shuttle I’d be walking a few extra miles. With an average hike time of 12 hours, I was going to have to shave an hour and do it in 11.

I once again hiked the 7 miles in past John Brook Lodge, up to Bushnell Falls and to Slant Rock. The third time this year and every time it is a little bit drier and I do it just a little bit quicker, but seven miles is still seven miles. Then I took the Storey Shortcut (again) that was just as I remember. Steep, steeper yet with rocky footing to only descend and give up all that elevation gain. At least I wasn’t bitter this time since I knew it was coming. Up to this point I only saw one other group. Yes and thank you:)

Now at the junction, rejoining the State Range Trail it continues a steep decent before climbing quickly with a rough and eroded trek for about . 6 miles. Not the smoothest but not the most challenging. Really I should have taken some pictures but figured I get them on the way back but I decided to descend via the trail toward Marcy so there are none. Not my fasted of the day – I’ll take scrambles over rock hopping, eroded trails any day.

View of Little Haystack from Haystack

View of Little Haystack from Haystack

Turning left at the junction the trail follows yellow markers to the first ledge and it is a dosey. And then the real fun begins. Some hiker’s call it “Devil’s Half Mile” a stretch full of extremely steep terrain. It is essentially a mix of calf burning open rock climb with some extra fun scrambles to the top of Little Haystack where you realize you’ve gone so far but still have the hardest to go. Climbing down Little Haystack is slightly nerve-racking, zigzag on ledges on a very steep open rock decent,  but after Saddleback it’s a piece of cake. And as my bouldering/scrambling chops have improved – other than being exhausted – pretty damn fun.

One group decided to not venture down – once they were 1/2 way down Little Haystack and had a nervous time getting back up. But really just take your time and focus on one section and it is not too bad. Don’t get me wrong, you need to be careful and it is challenging, but it’s not mountaineering. A quick walk through the col and then you climb some boulders, zigzag through ledges and another open face rock calf burning climb.

“The view from the summit is considered one of the finest with the abyss of Panther Gorge and steep cliffs of Mt Marcy.” Yep, I would totally agree. I soaked it in and probably longer than I should have, but it really is remarkable.

I also got to witness a lovely woman completed her 46 with a big group joining her for the celebration. After chatting about hikes and she realized I’m doing them all solo, she proceeded to introduce me to everyone else who made it to the top as the girl doing them all solo and that it’s incredible. Awe. I liked her for sure. You never know how peeps will react on hiking solo. But I’ve found the higher my number gets the less I get the judgey cautious folks.

After a quick climb back to the junction with the State Range Trail I decided I had no desire to be on the Storey Shortcut and made it a loop continuing on the State Range toward Phelps/Marcy. It climbs steeply to the top of a ridge. And then starts descending at a moderate grade, getting progressively steeper until it is at a near “vertical pitch” to the pass at the head of panther Gorge where the Phelps trail comes in. You can continue to Mt Marcy (left) or as I chose going back down to Slant Rock and back to the Garden.

I hiked it out fast. Normally I would have stopped for a snack but I was going to make that shuttle. And, I did with 15 min to spare and some jogging out at the end, with a hike time of 10 hrs 45 min. Wooohooo!

This marked the two-year mark working on my 46 with #38 done and only 8 to go! Not too shabby a way to celebrate the anniversary.

I’ll close with what others have said about Haystack and I couldn’t agree more. It’s demanding but not overly challenging and your body will feel it but worth every step.

Haystack is one of the most demanding hikes of the 46 High Peaks due to its rugged terrain and hiking distance. The summit of Haystack is a bald dome in the shape of a stack of hay. Its appearance is not like the other High Peaks in the Adirondacks. For the main approach it requires the climber to hike over Little Haystack as well, which may not seem like much, but adds even more elevation change for the day. Heavy winds often buffet this peak, but if you have it in you, it’s worth every step.

Haystack – completed 8/29/2015, total distance 18.3 miles, elevation 4960, order of height 3, elevation change 3570, hike time 10:45 hours



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Sky is the Limit: Wright, Algonquin, Boundary & Iroquois

Algonquin Summit

Algonquin Summit

After three weeks since my last hike I was itching to get out on the trail. But really I can’t complain. In those three weeks I enjoyed two weekends of sailing lessons. Yep. I’m now official for low wind up to 15mph. And had a weekend home to the southern ADKs for a fabulous family weekend.

After my last hike up Marcy in complete cloud cover I was due for some sun and open view. This hike delivered. Due to the weather it meant hiking on Sunday with no recovery day but was so worth it. And my feet were sure happy with some extra rest time between hikes.  And happy feet mean a happy hike.

Gotta love that footing.

Gotta love that footing.

Starting from the ADK Loj via the Hoevenberg Trail the first mile is on a well worn trail and mostly flat. At about a mile you come to the jct. to Algonquin Peak Trail (trail 64). Starts at an easy incline with a few steep pitches. The trail reaches the jct. with the Whales Tail trail at 1.5 miles. Bearing right at the jct., the trail is pretty rough with lots of rock and climbs moderately and then steeply. But all things considered and compared to other trails nothing too challenging. At 2 miles you cross a brook on to a switchback and then continues on a rocky and rough climb. Continue reading

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Marcy is Number One

Yep that's the summit. Gotta love that view of clouds.

Yep that’s the summit. Gotta love that view of clouds.

One of the best views in the ADKs and at 5,344′ is the highest in New York. I’ll have to take peeps word on the view since I enjoyed beautiful view of clouds. Oh joy. But it was worth it.

Marcy is one of the most popular hikes and known as a busy trail. Those like me who come to the trail to escape  – a highway is not my ideal hike. Using the opportunity for a mid-week hike since my Mom was staying in Lake Placid for work (aka a hotel room to crash), taking the less popular (and longer) route up via Phelps Trail – combined with a less than desirable summit day I was able to avoid the highway. Just the way I like it.

I once again started at the Garden Trailhead and a quick 3. 5 miles to John Brooks Lodge, then 1. 5 to Bushnell Falls and 1.9 miles to Slant Rock. Nothing too challenging, a few steep pitches, some crappy footing, mud and broken bog bridges. Even so, 6.9 miles still takes a few hours.  The big difference is there wasn’t any recent heavy rains and the water crossings were a breeze and easy rock hopping. Oh dry feet. Every hike is instantly made better with dry feet. Continue reading

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Dix Range is Done: Hough Peak, South Dix and Grace

Hough Summit

Hough Summit

The 4th of July brought a three day weekend. Hmmm…what to do? A friday hike knocking of three more trail-less peaks. Yes. Yes, I think that is an excellent plan.

As I expected the Elk Lake trailhead was packed. It doesn’t have much parking and fills up early. I thought arriving at 7:30am on Friday would be early enough – and certainly less packed than the following day – but nope it was already jammed pack.

The first 3.4 miles is pretty easy – though quite wet. Starts mostly level, with some rises and falls, crosses several brooks (Big Sally Brook, Slide Brook, and more.), some easy grades, hardwood forest, hiking over rocks, muddy, narrow at times, rock footing – the usual with ADKs.

Soon after after the Lillian Brook Lean-to (3.2 miles) the trail starts descending, crosses a small brook, and the split off to the un-maintained herd-path. It starts through a blowdown area that is muddy, slow and a bit claustrophobic. I couldn’t wait to get out of that section.

Hough, South Dix and Grace PeakToward the end of the blowdown area the trail reaches the left bank of Lillian Brook. This section is the easiest of the day. Soft footing, pretty hardwood forest and only gentle grades but I was dragging. My energy felt like I was running on 80% and knew I was not keeping pace and I hadn’t even reached the hard part yet. I suspect burning the candle at both ends was finally catching up with me.

The junction with the Hough (left) and the shortcut to South Dix (right) is where the elevation change gets real. Footing is easy and mostly on soft ground, with the occasional tree roots and rocks to climb up but no scrambles or bouldering. After climbing for a while it finally levels out and reaches a flat area with a junction that I chose wrong. I meant to do Hough Peak (left) first but headed to South Dix and Grace (right). Yep. Change of plans that is how it rolls sometimes.

From the Hough junction the trail has moderate to steep grades, a few scrambles and reaching a bump with a nice viewing ledge, then descends and one final climb to reach South Dix  summit. A nice, mostly open summit and while not 360 views was quite beautiful with Elk Lake and the mountains unfolding below.

South Dix Summit

South Dix Summit

From South Dix to Grace Peak was a quick 45 min hike. Mostly on the ridge with some descents, muddy, muddy section, scrambles, ascents and a couple of last scrambles. An even better view and again on a mostly open summit.

A quick break and even quicker pace back to South Dix – where I enjoyed it for a second time – now all by myself (just the way I like it). Now back to to the junction to Hough. The flat area is a bit confusing with some false trails so taking your sweet time to think it through is helpful. Knowing where I came from made it easy but seeing it a second time I’m not surprised I made a wrong slit-second decision.

Grace Peak Summit

Grace Peak Summit

The climb to Hough it is straight forward. Increasingly steep (and steeper still) but with easy footing. There is a bit of a false summit when you reach some cliffs that you go around by following them to the left. It is little tricky being tight – brushing closely to the cliffs to your right and an ever decreasing trail with small trees that remain coming loose from the roots off the mountain to your left.

At the cliffs you’re only about 15 minutes from the summit. It is a small summit but some great views. Even better that I didn’t see a soul while I enjoyed the last of the summits.

Hough Summit

Hough Summit

The 'cliff' I climbed down instead of avoiding.

The ‘cliff’ I climbed down instead of avoiding.

When I came back down from Hough I some how didn’t follow the trail to avoid the cliffs but ended up at the top. Rather than back tracking I just climbed down the front of them. No time like the present to build those  ‘cliff’ climbing skills.

From there going down flew by. While the elevation change was steep, the difference descending on easy footing (compared to scrambles or bouldering) is night and day. Once I was off the herdpath and back on the trail I was ready to be done and the number of people headed in was pretty constant. Not overly surprising given the holiday weekend.

It was push of day – while not the most challenging – I was running on empty and somedays your body is off. Unfortunately that day was a three mountain, 4 summits, trail-less kinda day. Oh well.

The Dix Range is done! And the name change from East Dix to Grace Peak is a great one. Renamed in honor of Grace Hudowalski, the long-time historian for the 46ers and the first woman to climb 46 High Peaks. I never got the opportunity to ‘write to Grace’ as my grandfather, uncles and old time 46ers did. But I’ve loved reading the letters from when my grandfather and uncles were working on their climbs in the 70s/80s.

South Dix, Grace Peak and Hough: Completed 7/3/2015, total distance ~14.9 miles, time 12 hours, elevation gain ~3200. 

South Dix – 4,060 – order of height 37
Grace Peak – 4,012 – order of height 42
Hough – 4,400 – order of height 23

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