Big Slide Mountain, NY (4,240') via the Brothers, Slide Brook and Phelps Trails September 28, 2013
Trails 15 (Big Slide), 13 (Slide Brook) and 1 (Phelps) in the ADK Mountain Club High Peaks Trails Guide.
Mileage: 9.5 miles (loop)
Elevation gain: 2,800'
Trailhead: Trail begins at a popular parking area called The Garden, 1.6 miles west of the village of Keene Valley. Route 73 to Keene Valley and heading east you'll see signs shortly after passing Marcy Field, take a right and follow the road to the end. The Garden parking area is small and fills up quickly (sometimes by 6 a.m.). Hikers park at Marcy Field, a well marked overflow parking area on Route 73, taking the shuttle bus up to the Garden (a few miles' distance). Parking is free at Marcy Field (there is a fee at the Garden of $7); shuttle fee is $5.
Lesson learned: Remember to pick up the other car before driving all the way home!
Hiked with a reluctant Rich. Rich was not reluctant to hike, or to try someplace new, or even to get away for the weekend. Rich dreaded the 5 hour drive that preceded this hike, a complaint you'll see in previous hiking reports. But Lake Placid was actually only four hours from where we worked and I convinced him if we left directly from work, it'd be an easier ride.
So Rich picked me up at work and we headed up to the Adirondacks, fully intending to pick up my car on our way back on Sunday.
If there's an easy way to get from New Hampshire to the Keene Valley/Lake Placid area I'd like to hear about it. Once we left I-89 we were on smaller roads dealing with slow cars and even a few mountain notches. After a long work day and four hour drive, the beer at the Lake Placid Pub and Brewery was most welcome!
The plan was to hike Big Slide via the Brothers on day 1, and Cascade and Porter on day 2; a good start to my ADK list, and the last leg to completing my Northeast 111 (actually 115 peaks).
|The Garden parking lot|
It was a beautifully clear and slightly cool when we got to The Garden around 8:00. The lot was full (no surprise). We drove back down to Marcy Field and took the very timely shuttle up to the Garden and the trailhead.
|We registered at the kiosk and then headed right, up the trail.|
The trail begins with easy grades; plastic disks nailed to trees lead the way. Sometimes I wished there were more of these disks particularly in several areas with herd paths. Being used to blazed trails (a shock of paint on a tree), looking for the disks took some getting used to.
The trail was very crowded, not surprising - the forecast for this fall weekend was warm, windless and clear and foliage was peaking. The trail steepens -we hopped up and around a few slabs. Wasn't long before we were partially out of the trees and seeing amazing views, particularly of Giant Mountain.
|One of the views on the Brothers.|
The terrain changes to what I would call easy rock scrambling. Many hikers of all ages were out and we seemed to be somewhere in the middle when it came to pace. We envied the slender Quebecois, dressed in black who blew up the slabs with ease; we politely passed those in sneakers and a few well respected old timers with their "46er" patches.
Never did know exactly when we were on each of the three Brothers. I looked for some sign, a cairn or something and after a while I just assumed each viewpoint or bump was one of them.
|Shout out to my LaSportiva's - you guys were very sticky on the steeps!|
|More slab walking, a few scrambles.|
Turns out each bump was the Brothers and we reached the trail junction with tired legs. That's where the fun begins.
|Johns Brooks Lodge is actually left, away from Big Slide.|
The pushed up the cone ("final very steep clamor" as 100 Classic Hikes of the Northeast calls it) enjoying each little challenge. There are small scrambles and a few diversions (small paths that lead to a view of the slide). One spot where we headed left by a large rock turned out to be a viewpoint. When you get to this spot (seems the natural pathway) head right - unless you want to view the slide (a steep rock face). There are stairs too, not quite ladders in my book, let's call them hybrids.
|There are two hybrid stairs; one new and one not.|
The top was C-R-O-W-D-E-D! We met a mom and her teenage daughter and between bites of our sandwiches we talked about making this trip a loop, going down Slide Brook and Phelps trail (our original plan was to go up and back the Brothers - it's shorter mileage-wise and the views going down are to die for!).
|Crowded summit on this beaut of a day!|
|We were loving this hike!|
Although over a mile longer, the Slide Brook trail is a tad more mellow than the Big Slide trail and we found the mellow part more appealing than going back over the Brothers.
So we returned via the Slide Brook and Phelps trails, making a 9.5 mile loop. This trail is very mellow with a not-so-steep descent at first, breaking into a very moderate pitch. There are at least six water crossings on this trail (all the same brook!). This area is tricky.
|Keep an eye out for cairns, footprints, survey tape and obvious paths.|
|We saw some disks indicating where the trail continues over the crossing.|
The path seems to melt into the brook and we searched around for the trail. Some of the trail is the brook (the side of it) and in some spots our only clues were wet boot prints and worn earth. There are disks on trees in this area but it took some looking to find where the path went and one area had a cairn and surveyor tape where I felt a disk should be. A walk about 100' down that path confirmed we were on the right track.
The Phelps trail is flat for the most part and we zipped along toward The Garden, skipping a visit to the John Brooks Lodge. We got back mid-afternoon, took the shuttle to the car and went back to the Lake Placid Pub and Brewery for a beer.
Rich wasn't feeling up to hiking the next day (we were out of shape!) so instead we canoed Lake Placid, had lunch at the Noon Mark Diner and headed home.
|Yes I was disappointed we didn't hike Cascade/Porter but who doesn't love a good paddling!|
Our trip home was leisurely - we took our time, had ice cream, bought apples, went to dinner. A bit too leisurely - we realized when we arrived home and opened the garage door that we'd left my car at my place of work! We weren't about to drive the 50 minutes back; I was able to catch a ride with a friend the next day.
Big Slide via the Brothers was an excellent choice to start my Adirondacks. The hike gave us a workout with fun scrambles and lots of view-reward.