Sep 20, 2012 at 3:11 pm #1294285
I spend the summer working in New York State and got an unexpected long weekend early in the season. With nothing better to do I quickly decided to head for the High Peaks with the gear I had on hand for an overnight trip.
After renting a bear canister and buying a map I decided that my trip would be up over Algonquin Peak and down to Avalanche Lake and try for Mt. Marcy and any other peaks I could squeeze in the next day.
I went as light was I could with a baseweight of about 11 pounds including the bear canister. All I had was a Golite Jam2 so I didn't have much choice in going light.
I started out with great expectations of high mileages and ambitious plans to explore as much of the park as possible.
The trail quickly gave me a dose of reality.
The problem was that the trail was rough, muddy and wet. It doesn't matter how strong you are there is a limit to how fast you can hop from slippery wet rock to slippery wet rock. Its especially hard when you are wearing New Balance 101s which have horrible soles for gripping wet rock.
I was hopping to make it over Algonquin Peak about the time it got dark and camp at one of several campsites and shelters marked on the map. However I was not making good time. When I saw the waterfall I found my position on the map and decided I'd be doing a LOT of night hiking if I stuck to my plan. The problem with night hiking would be
1. I'd miss whatever views there were up on the peak.
2. I'd be descending a wet a slippery mountain in the dark.
With the forest being so dense and rocky there just weren't a lot of options for camping other than the official sites.
I went back a short distance to the campsite and this is what I found. It was more of a mud hole then a campsite. I managed to squeeze my Golite Shangri La-1 onto a dry corner of the clearing next to a couple who were also camping there. We sat on our bear canisters and ate dinner as it got dark.
The trail up Algonquin Peak quickly became even rougher then it had been the previous day. I was glad I hadn't done this in the dark. The subalpine forest closed in so closely I'm not sure where I could have found a place big enough to lay down.
I had to be careful on a few sections of steep and slippery rock where slip would have been dangerous.
After going over a couple of hairy spots I came to this natural slip and slide. Dry I would have scrambled up it without a second thought but wet it was downright scary.
This was followed by more tricky spots.
Once I broke out above treeline amazing views opened up making all the work worth it.
I took a few pictures on the windy summit and headed down. I was now VERY glad I hadn't done this trail in the dark, it would have been sketchy and I would have missed the amazing views.
After enjoying the views I headed down the east side of Algonquin Peak toward Avalanche Lake.
The trail quickly became steep and slippery again and this time I was going downhill.
In many place "trail" was a bit generous. The trail was flooded and hard to distinguish from the stream flowing alongside it and it was often blocked with blowdowns.
The trail became hard to follow as it crossed and recrossed creeks and the trail merged with small creeks.
After some sketchy moves down rocks and across a small river I found myself looking down a 20 foot waterfall.
I weighed my options and concluded
1. I wasn't going on this way (the only way forward involved a wet bouldering route above the waterfall).
2. Taking a compass bearing and bushwacking was impractical and unsafe due to the unstable footing (moss was covering up holes between rocks off trail).
3. Going back was unappealing but smartest.
I backtracked a bit and found that I'd strayed onto a side trail and the real trail was much better, although covered by some fallen trees that hid it.
The trail improved a bit as I went lower and the waterfalls were nice.
I reached the Avalanche Lake after lunch. Remember this is where I'd planned to camp the night before, score one for Adirondack trails.
I explored around the lake a bit and ate a late lunch.
At this point I decided to head back. At the rate I was hiking here I didn't think I had any time to see much else and get back to work on time the following evening.
I hiked out enjoying the scenery and the company of a fishing guide name Darrin and his son and nephew.
Soon I was back at my car ready to head home. I'd had a fun time and gained a new appreciation for how rugged and beautiful the Adirondacks can be.Sep 20, 2012 at 4:31 pm #1914162
Ike JutkowitzBPL Member
@ikeLocale: Central Michigan
Thanks for the report, Luke. Your pictures made me homesick. Hopefully will get back next spring for a combined hiking/packrafting adventure.Sep 20, 2012 at 6:50 pm #1914201
Eugene SmithBPL Member
@eugeneiusLocale: Nuevo Mexico
The ADK's look pretty rugged in your photographs, a lot of high relief in short distance. I hope you brought a rod to that lake!
I like that there wasn't a real defined trail on your trip, at least in your photographs, unlike those we encounter typically here out West. If you could go back, what shoes would you bring given a choice?
Securing trail running shoes that handle wet slab rock is an elusive endeavor.Sep 20, 2012 at 7:06 pm #1914203
Ah, Luke, thanks much. I grew up in the Adirondacks – like Ike this makes me a homesick! Great shots, nice text. Thanks for sharing.Sep 20, 2012 at 7:18 pm #1914208
Thanks guys. Shoes are a good question. Right now I think I'd take my La Sportiva X-Countries. They aren't perfect for wet rock but might be better then the NB-101s because of their softer rubber and more flexible sole.
Eugene the trail was interesting. At first it was very well defined, if rough. Later it was a lot harder to find in places. This was because of the dense vegetation, spring rain/snow damage, and flooding (a lot of small creeks ran across it and sometimes it was hard to tell the creek bed from the trail). I believe there was some hurricane damage as well so it might have been worse then normal. Considering how popular the ADKS are I doubt all trails are that rough (although if they were that would be cool).Sep 20, 2012 at 7:21 pm #1914209
Tom KirchnerBPL Member
@ouzelLocale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Wow! That is some rugged, and beautiful, country. I commend you on your excellent judgment. You kept the yin of desire and the yang of restraint in perfect balance, a critical backcountry skill, particularly when travelling solo. Thanks for sharing, Luke.Sep 20, 2012 at 7:41 pm #1914212
Just saw your post as mine was going up Tom. Thanks for the kind words but I'm laughing to myself right now. Just wait till you see my report on finishing the Colorado Trail last week (and my weekend death march on the AT). I don't always keep desire and good judgment in perfect balance. But that is another story for another time.Sep 20, 2012 at 7:52 pm #1914213
Tom KirchnerBPL Member
@ouzelLocale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
"I don't always keep desire and good judgment in perfect balance. But that is another story for another time."
You're in good company, Luke. It happens to all who push the envelope in the mountains sooner or later. With resourcefulness, self control, and more than a little luck, most of us live to hike another day. And chuckle at the memory later in life. Some are not so fortunate….Dec 2, 2012 at 2:22 pm #1932607
@glacierramblerLocale: NW Montana
This is a great report. I can't believe I missed it the first time around.
I hiked up Algonquin Peak three summers ago, and you're pictures of the trail brought back some very painful memories. The slip 'n' slide was just as bad then too. I remember standing on the summit of Algonquin (the hardest four miles I had done in some time) and wishing I could backpack the ADKs. Glad you got to enjoy some of them.
Thanks for this afternoon boost.
/*/EDIT: The English teacher used the wrong "your"/*/Dec 2, 2012 at 2:41 pm #1932610
Hey Clayton glad you enjoyed it. I'm interested in your opinion that it was just as bad three years ago. I'd wondered if the hurricane had made things worse then normal but perhaps not.Dec 2, 2012 at 5:01 pm #1932629
David ChenaultBPL Member
@davecLocale: Crown of the Continent
A lot of western trails would look like those in the High Peaks if they had been built straight up and down everything, then given a century to erode.
I love the hiking in that region. The ridge traverse from Rooster Comb over the Haystacks to Marcy and then down John's Brook is one of the best dayhikes I've ever done.Dec 2, 2012 at 5:20 pm #1932636
@glacierramblerLocale: NW Montana
Yeah, there was one point on the trail in particular when I remember almost climbing up the rock with water streaming down. My girlfriend (now my wife) was not too happy about that one. I knew that she was a keeper because she kept going all the way to the summit.
We were there on July 4, 2009, so the trail didn't look quite as wet as your pictures, but it wasn't far off despite the sunny weather.
I'm hoping to go back one day for a few days out in the middle of leaf peak. Fall around here can be pretty spectacular, but nothing beats New England/Upstate New York that time of year.Dec 2, 2012 at 7:56 pm #1932678
James MarcoBPL Member
@jamesdmarcoLocale: Finger Lakes
Yeah, the trails out have changed a lot in the past 10-15 years or so, at least the beginning parts out of Heart Lake. I've climbed Algonquin, Iroquois and down to Colden Lake and back through Avalanche pass a few times, those trails haven’t changed too much. Other trails have been drastically affected by Irene: Marcy Dam is gone, Basin changed with large sections simply washed away. A section of Wolfjaw Pass was totally washed away. It really depends on where you go up there. Coming down from Algonquin, the trail changes a bit every year. Once you get by the falls, it is often easier, and certainly no slower, to simply walk the creek.
Unfortunately, the High Peaks Areas only cover about 15% of the park. Typical mileage is about 1-1.5mi per hour even with a lite pack, sometimes 18mi days are possible, average is closer to 8.
I tried low trail shoes up there one year, but didn’t really care for them. My ankles took a beating on all the boulders and side stepping. I use mid-hikers. These are as good as any for traction and really protect my ankles against the few times daily I bang them on a rock or tree root, or, wedge my foot in between a couple rocks. Actually, I have found that mostly the wet rock is not all that slick. In times of drought, any dirt turns to dust which is slipperier than the plain wet granite.
Nice set of pics, btw. I had to laugh. My very first trip up that way was over Algonquin, and down the east side. I remember my daughter getting frustrated with the steepness and tossing her pack as far as she could down the granite face, hiking down to it, then tossing it ahead of her again. I had taken everything except her cloths, so, this was OK, but she was a tired girl. (She is 33 now, and has been to Katahadin and done a lot of canoeing along the central corridor of the ADK, Oswagatatchie on the north western corner, hiking near Woodlands -car camping – in the Catskills.) She remembers her days of peak bagging with a laugh.Dec 3, 2012 at 9:53 am #1932747
Elliott WolinBPL Member
@ewolinLocale: Hampton Roads, Virginia
Thanks for awakening memories of a typical hike in the Adirondacks…
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