Archives For August 2017

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Today I hiked to Rocky Peak Ridge and completed my thirty-ninth summit towards becoming an Adirondack Forty-sixer. I approached from the Roaring Brook trail that leads to Giant Mountain and then hiked out and back to Rocky Peak and descended the same way I had hiked in. I saved a little time by skipping the short detour to the summit of Giant because I had already been there twice before.

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The first time was on a cold November day in 2014, when I wore micro spikes and a heavy sweater and found the summit covered with a dusting of snow. The second time was on the backpacking trip I took in September, 2015.

As I merged onto the Ridge Trail I came upon a spot I remembered from that trip.

I was hiking that day with our leader, Hannah, my tent mate Adam and Paula, who was struggling, having just recovered from knee surgery. We started the day on the back side of Giant and our plan was to camp at the opposite base of the mountain at a pond called Giant’s Washbowl.

Paula struggled during the climb, but I was able to help her by supporting the weight of her pack as she scrambled up the rocks to the summit. The climb down was much more difficult for her and, exhausted with a throbbing knee, Paula sank to the ground and started to cry.

We all took off our packs, offered words of encouragement, and waited for our friend’s emotions and fears to run their course.

After a while, Hannah reached into her backpack and produced a chocolate bar. It had been a gift to her from someone she cared a great deal for but who lived too many states away from where she made her home. The wrapper had a message printed on the inside and after she divided the chocolate amongst us, I asked to see the wrapper.

The message printed there was a love poem and I read it aloud in my best impression of a Shakespearean actor. Adam and Paula laughed at my performance and with that we decided to push on to the campsite.

Hannah was very quiet as I read the poem. I handed the wrapper back to her and turned away to struggle into my back pack. As I regained my balance and adjusted the straps I caught a glimpse of her fold the poem and gently place it in her shirt pocket.

Then she smiled.

 

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I started swimming with a Masters swim team in the summer before I turned 50.

Some parents at the swim club where we belonged hired a coach who held three morning practices a week. After that summer I followed the coach to the indoor team she was coaching and I have been swimming year round ever since.

Together my teammates and I have swum up the Hudson River and across the Chesapeake Bay and the mouth of the Potomac and have trained together for Iron Man triathlons and marathons.

This weekend I hosted five of my teammates in Lake Placid where we competed in the annual race along the submerged cable that marks the Iron Man course. They each did fantastic, winning their respective age groups and being awarded the loaf of bread  that is traditionally given as the award for first place.

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The next day, they agreed to join me on a hike to Mount Colvin and Blake Peak, to bring my total to 38 high peaks summited of the 46 that I am trying to climb by next August 1st.

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The day was perfect and we were greeted with a rainbow as we started the hike. The trails were still muddy from the recent rain but the views at Colvin were spectacular and we watched Marcy emerge as the morning clouds lifted away. The hike out and back to Blake was hard because there were several rock faces that needed to be scrambled and our boots and shoes were slippery from the mud. We were pretty tired when we returned to Colvin to finish the food we had brought with us and to even out the water we were carrying.

I suggested that we detour on our way down to visit the Fish Hawk and Indian Head cliffs that overlook the Lower Ausable Lake. When asked how much further it would add to the trip I replied, “just a couple hundred yards more.” The side trip to the cliffs was closer to a mile and included a steep climb that was made even harder by the fact that when we reached it we were already exhausted from ten hours of hiking.

My companions took it in stride and we rested while enjoying the spectacular view of the lake and valley from atop the cliffs before hiking down to Lake Road and back to the car.

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Later, while eating pizza for dinner, the conversation turned to my estimation skills. While I had been nearly exact on all of my mileage and time estimates throughout the day, I had missed the estimate to the cliffs by nearly a mile. They joked about it and I am sure I will be teased about this miscalculation for years to come.

It has been nearly seven years since I started swimming and over this time coaches and teammates have come and gone. They have moved on to new jobs and new cities and have been replaced by the new friends with whom I train today. Eventually, the friends I hiked with yesterday will also move away as they build their own families and careers.

And like the swimmers who came before them, I will miss them and remind them as they leave that in life, just as in hiking, something great always awaits us down the trail, just a couple hundred yards more.

Skylight

August 10, 2017 — Leave a comment

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Twice before I thought I would climb Mount Skylight. The first time was when I hiked over Marcy to climb Gray and take a swim in Lake Tear of the Clouds. I decided to bypass Skylight that day because my plan was to climb back over Marcy and return to the trailhead the way I had come. I was tired and afraid that the one mile round trip to Skylight would take too long and too much energy.

I hiked over Marcy again last summer, but heard thunder in the distance when I reached the trail to Skylight and, again, decided to leave that hike for another day.

Yesterday I finally made it to the summit.

I left the ADK Heart Lake trail head at 7:17 AM and hiked to Marcy Dam, along th trail towards Avalanche Pass and Lake Golden, then turning uphill to Lake Arnold and Feldspar Brook.

 

The trails were wet and muddy, as they have been all summer. The bog bridges near the Feldspar lean-to were in bad shape with some sections floating. There was a gap with missing boards, but one board was within reach and I was able to rebuild the bridge without having to wade.

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The trail from the lean-to was a steady steep climb passing through 4,000 feet before reaching Lake Tear of the Clouds. The final hike up Skylight was short and relatively easy.

According to legend it will rain if a hiker fails to bring a rock to add to the cairn on the summit. I grabbed a rock, deposited it at the cairn and had lunch enjoying the view of Haystack and Marcy and watching as the hikers who arrived after me stopped at the cairn and deposited the rocks they had carried.

I hiked back the way I came and had not even made it halfway when it started to rain.

The Washout

August 7, 2017 — Leave a comment

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The weather in the High Peaks this summer has been dominated by cold rain, high humidity and afternoon thunderstorms. The trails have never really had a chance to dry out since the snow melted and the rocks and exposed roots that are prevalent on the trails are soaked and slippery. The conditions make for very slow hiking, with careful steps and heavy boots coated with mud.

On Tuesday, though, the weather was perfect when I hiked to Cliff Mountain and Mount Redfield from the Adirondack Mountain Club’s Heart Lake trailhead.

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I signed in at the trail register at 7 AM and made it to the Feldspar Lean-to by 10:30 AM. A few minutes later I spotted the cairn that marked the start of the “herd path” trail to Redfield. I met a group of teens and their counselor from a nearby summer camp at the summit and visited with them briefly while they finished their lunches.

After leaving Redfield, I turned left at the cairn marking the trail to Cliff. The hike to the summit is relatively short but starts on a flooded trail that leads into scrambles up long and steep rock faces. There’s not much to see at the summit and I headed back home after finishing another sandwich and visiting with a mother and son who arrived at the summit just behind me.

On Thursday I met Andy and Adam at the Noon Mark Diner. We had reservations at the Johns Brook Lodge and planned to stay there through Sunday. Adam and I hiked together two summers ago during a backpacking trip over Giant Mountain and along the Dix range to Elk Lake. He brought his father Andy along on this trip before heading to California to start graduate school.

It started to rain shortly after we signed in at the Garden trailhead register and we were soaked by the time we reached the lodge. We were assigned three bunks in the ten bunk room and spent the evening visiting with the other guests and talking about the hikes they had taken and the ones they hoped to take in the days ahead.

The lodge runs on propane fuel and the electricity generated from four small solar panels, which is stored in car batteries and powers the pumps, filters and chlorination system that sanitize the drinking water drawn from the nearby brook.

A helicopter is used each spring to transport to the property the cylinders of propane  used for lighting and cooking and the empty plastic barrels that are used in the latrines. The helicopter returns at the end of the season to retrieve the empty propane tanks and the latrine barrels that have been filled during the summer. Perishable food is backpacked in as needed by the staff who cook the meals, change the latrine barrels and maintain the property.

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On Friday we hoped to climb the “Ha-Ba-Sa,” by first hiking over Little Haystack to Haystack before backtracking to summit Basin and then Saddleback by climbing up the Saddleback Cliffs.

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The trails were wet and muddy from the rain the day before and it took us much longer than estimated to reach Haystack. We waited to watch the clouds lift and reveal Mount Marcy to us for the first time during our trip.

Dark clouds were forming on the horizon when we left Haystack and thunder followed a short time later. Rather than push on and risk finishing after dark we decided to turn back for the lodge and to return on Saturday to pick up where we had left off.

Unfortunately, it started to pour shortly after dinner and it rained steadily into the next morning. By the time we awoke the trails were drenched and too slippery for hiking so we decided to leave Basin and Saddleback for another day, cut our trip short and hike out to our cars.

I had planned to hike to three peaks during the visit to the lodge, but settled for only one. And while some could say that the trip was a washout, one of the lessons I’ve learned along the way on this journey is that the mountains will be here forever and it is okay to leave a summit for another day. Especially because there is nothing more spectacular than to be on the top of New York after the clouds have lifted away.