Sunday, July 31, 2016

Mt. Esther (ADK 8/46), July 25. 2016

Mt. Esther (4,239) via #83 (old ski lift trail) and Unmaintained Trails, July 25, 2016.

Mileage:  7 miles (RT)

Elevation gain:  

Trailhead: This trail is accessed just beyond the entrance to the Atmospheric Science Center (which is located at 110 Marble Mountain Lane/Rd, Wilmington, NY).  From Wilmington center head west on Route 431 (Whiteface Memorial Highway). Turn left onto Marble Mountain Road and just past the entrance to the Science Center there is a sharp curve, parking area is there - on the right.

Esther McComb was a fifteen year old girl who in 1839, got lost trying to hike Mt. Whiteface and wound up on Mt. Esther. This is claimed to be the first recorded ascent of this peak.

Jill, Ken and I did this hike with an ADK group, our fourth 4k hike in as many days.  The forecast was for clouds, and showers were "likely." This was our last day in the Adirondacks and we planned to drive back to New England after right after we finished this hike.

Our legs were fried from four days of hiking.  If not for the fact that we'd already signed up for a group hike, we'd have been long gone, on the road to home and pamperment!

Our ADK guide's name was Andrew. Andrew works out of the Adirondack Loj (where we were staying).  Steve and Melissa also joined this hike.

When I mentioned that we'd recently hiked Street and Nye Mountains (see previous report), Andrew asked if we were the people looking for Mary Beth and Ryan! No, he didn't know them, just heard about them from another ADK Loj staff member (sheesh).

From the parking area we hopped onto a small trail and into the woods. 
Parking is on the right.
The trail begins just to the right of the wood planks.

The beginning of this trail drops sharply, spilling us out onto a gravel road - we turned left onto the road. On that road there are some offshooting trails, stay straight  - avoid any trail or road that's not the main trail/road (if you see an old generator, you are on the right path). 

Old gravelly road.

The road becomes a trail  - that was at one time a ski lift corridor.  We passed several concrete blocks.

It is steep.  Jill, Ken and I were wondering how our legs had anything left in them. But this part of the trail quickly tops out near a wonderful viewpoint - and a bigass concrete block.

It's steep!

Bigass concrete block.

Viewpoint is slightly off the trail.

From the junction of the viewpoint, the trail veers right, at a cairn, heading up small slabs.

We soon came to a trail junction and went right. We'd just skirted the summit of Marble Mountain. We were too busy concentrating on willing our legs to keep moving to notice, however.

Jill at the trail junction of the Reservoir trail (trail #82).

There are areas that are quite pleasant - some soft and flat parts cuddled in sweet woods. 

A large cairn marks the junction where the unmaintained path to Mt. Esther begins.  

The group by the cairn. Straight takes you to Whiteface - go right.

Things are a little rougher on the unmaintained path.  It started to drizzle and the woods look.... well, messy.  It was obvious we were walking on a ridge with glimpses of views on either side.

The summit comes up quickly, though I could tell we were close by the shorty trees and ominous wind.  We stopped for a photo and quick bite. The ground was wet and the drizzle had turned to light rain.

Plaque on the summit in memory of Esther.
View of Whiteface on our way back.  Saved for another day.

On our return it took no time to get back to the big cairn at the Whiteface junction. Going down the old ski lift trail was more challenging however, due to rolly "demon" rocks just waiting to sweep you off your feet.

Even with our whiny legs we very much enjoyed this peak. We got back to the car, changed, and tolerated the five hour drive home quite well (though first getting out of the car at the end wasn't pretty!)  

Looking forward to our next visit to the Adirondack in August.  

NE111 78/115

Phelps Mountain (ADK 7/46), July 24, 2016

Phelps Mountain (4,161) via Van Hoevenberg and Phelps trails, July 24, 2016.

Mileage:  9.5 miles (RT)*

Elevation gain:  

Trailhead: The Van Hoevenberg trailhead is located at the ADK/HPIC parking lot (at the end of Adirondack Loj Rd, Lake Placid). There is a fee for parking. 

Hiked with Jill and Ken, our third ADK high peaks hike in as many days. We were staying at the Adirondack Loj and Ironman Lake Placid had closed roads in the area so we opted to do a nearby easier hike; one with good views.

The well worn Van Hoevenberg trail starts out flat, a great opportunity to us to warm up tight and tired legs. In fact, the trail descends slightly as you head toward the dam.

We followed the signs to Mt. Marcy (blue discs) and 2.3 miles later arrived at Marcy Dam.

The last time I was here the bridge across was whole (see Mt. Marcy report).

Bridge across the old dam was removed.

We took the new bridge. There are lean-tos on the other side - and toilets (the one we used was pretty gross).

New bridge.

This toilet was....yucky

At 2.6 miles we rock-hopped a water crossing, noting that there is the option to use a bridge during high water (no high water this year!).  

One mile later we were at the Phelps Mountain trail junction. By this time we were ready to be off the Van Hoevenberg trail and onto the summit!

Phelps Mountain trail has red discs.

We read that the trail has easy grades and a few steeps.  There are signs of erosion - its a pretty popular trail.  But we enjoyed the variation of slab and rooty on the trail.  

Very close to the top the trail turns sharply right, narrows considerably, taking you on a fine tour of Mt. Marcy and the McIntyre Range.  

Views from the trail just before the summit.

The only indication that you are on the summit is a cairn on the high point of a large rock slab. There are several paths on the summit area and we did a bit of scouting around for a sign or USGS marker but all we found was a pair of drilled holes on the slab.

View from the summit.

Summit cairn.
We spent some time enjoying the extraordinary views, chatting and eating lunch, then headed back (and got down quickly, in time for a swim).  

NE111 77/115

*The High Peaks Trails book posts the round trip distance as 8.8 miles.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Nye (ADK 5/46) and Street Mountains (ADK 6/46), July 23, 2016

Nye (3,895') and Street  (4,166) Mountains via Old Nye Ski trail and Herdpath, July 23, 2016.

Mileage:  9.2 miles (RT)

Elevation gain:  

Trailhead: From the Adirondack Loj (1002 Adirondack Loj Rd, Lake Placidhead right on the Heart Lake trail  - toward Indian Pass trail. This will bring you to the Old Nye Ski trail. 

Hiked with Jill and Ken.  Once again p.m. thunderstorms were predicted so we decided to stay away from open summits and ridges and instead bag two wooded peaks.

Street and Nye from Adirondack Loj (at Heart Lake).

A sign by the entrance to the Adirondack Loj points right to get to Indian Pass - the Old Nye Ski Trail is on the way.

Ken signing in.
Go toward Mt. Joe and Indian Pass.

But don't go to Mt. Jo.

Go here. 

Just to the left of the junction is a sign indicating "Trail Not Maintained Beyond This Point." This is the trail you want, and it's in really good shape for an "unmaintained trail."  The trail is relatively flat until it drops down toward Indian Pass Brook.  

You'll skirt the brook at times - wait for the trail to reach the cairns before you cross.

Cross at the cairns.

The water in Indian Pass brook was very low but we were warned that a flash flood (such as during a heavy thunderstorm) can quickly make it impassable.  We hoped we'd beat the predicted storms.

The notorious brook was just a trickle when we crossed.

The path at the other end of the water crossing is narrow and rough, stay on it as it's just a cut-over to the main path.

Cross over this log if you dare.  I was able to rock hop just right of this.

Once on the main path it's pretty smooth sailing, though there are quite a few blowdowns in your way (with walk arounds). And these woods are gnarly - would hate to have to bushwhack here.

In our path.

For a while the path follows a secondary brook. The trail steepens with offshoots of the main path going every which way.  For the most part, we chose the "left and up" options.  The good news is that most of these hateful little paths wind up back on the main path (we tested this by breaking up to go on different paths).  Still, it's good to pay attention to this.

Up it goes, a well-defined path in seriously messed-up woods.  There are old rotted trees, widow-makers, mossy creepy holes, stumps - you name it!

I would've gone right by the junction sign if not for two hikers - Ryan and Mary Beth - standing by it.  Note: it's not a sign per se but "NYE and ST." carved in a tree.

Thanks Ryan and Mary Beth for pointing out the "sign."

It's a mere .5 miles to the summit of Nye Mountain and that's where we headed.  

Wooded summit, end of the path.

We didn't spend much time on the summit of Nye (which was very "NYcE!")  We were hungry for that summit lunch so we headed back to the junction and up to the summit of Street Mountain, which is about .8 miles from the junction. 

It was busy up there; we didn't think we would have company on our hike (it's a remote spot), but we enjoyed talking with the couples and families also bagging these peaks.  I never did see Mary Beth and Ryan again but managed to ask people I met if they'd seen them (which in turn, made the two pretty well known by the end of the day).

View on Street Mountain.

After lunch we poked around, enjoyed the view, and eventually headed back toward the Loj. About 1/2 mile before the Indian Brook water crossing we heard the rumble of thunder and as a result picked up our pace.  It started to rain as we crossed the brook and the storm danced around us for the rest of the hike before fading off (so we thought).

Just as we got to the Loj and opened a beer the weather came crashing down, with torrential rain and hail.  Better to watch it from the Loj than to be hunkered down in the woods!  

 - Hope Ryan and Mary Beth got down okay...... -

Later that day one of the Loj staff asked me if I was the one looking for Mary Beth and Ryan on the mountain.  She'd been hiking Street and Nye also and heard about them from other hikers (wow, chatty group).

NE111 74 and 75/115

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Cascade (ADK 3/46) and Porter Mountains (ADK 4/46), July 22, 2016

Cascade Mountain (4,098') and Porter Mountain (4,056) via Cascade Mountain Trail, July 22, 2016.

Mileage:  6.3 miles (RT)

Elevation gain: 

Trailhead:  Route 73 approximately 6.8 miles west of Keene. The trailhead is well marked, just beyond a small lake. There is a small parking area (hikers also park in cutouts above and below the main parking area).

Hiked with Jill and Ken. Thunderstorms were predicted in the afternoon so we chose a shorter hike.  

Being new to the Adirondacks (me: 2 peaks, Jill and Ken: 0) this was the perfect introductory hike for us.  Jill wanted a view to get the lay of the land, to see as much of the Adirondacks as she could from a vantage point.

Cascade's summit did not disappoint.

We were delighted to get a parking spot at 9:15. The trail is located on the far right of the small parking area (down a set of steps).  There is an outhouse off to the side about 100 yards down the trail.

Well marked (Pitchoff Mtn trailhead is across the street).

Small parking area..

Stairs mark the start of the hike.

The trail starts off easy but soon steepens, rocky and as we ascend, slabby.

Baby cairn - there were several random babies throughout the hike.
Views come up quickly.
As we go up we negotiated more slabs. When we got to the junction we went left to the summit Cascade, figuring we'd better hit the exposed top before the storms.

Go left to the summit of Cascade; head right to the summit of Porter.

There are fun scrambles as we closed in on the summit.  Ian, a summit steward greeted us and we latched onto him for more information about peakbagging (Ian is also a 46er, having completed the Adirondack 4k list).

Blazes mark the way up the rocks.

Heading to the summit with Steward Ian.

USGS marker at Cascade Mountain's summit.

We spent some time on the summit soaking in the extraordinary views. Only a handful of people were there (I highly recommend hiking this peak on a weekday to beat the crowds!). Then we headed down the knob and over toward Porter Mountain.

This crack must be tricky going down in winter.

The col to Porter is a combination of soft trail and slab. 

It didn't take long to get to the top of Porter Mountain but we weren't entirely sure we'd reached the summit. We looked around for a USGS marker on the rock. 

It's the summit alright but no marker.

I poked around in the trees, then headed further down the trail (which continues to The Garden trailhead parking) to be certain we were at the height of land. 

We were.

This sign is the only indication we may have arrived at the summit.

The view is nice from Porter Mountain, though not quite as spectacular as that from Cascade Mountain.  We had lunch and headed back toward the junction and our car.

On the way back we could see the rocky approach to the summit of Cascade.

We got to our car around 1:30 and headed back for a swim.  Thunderstorms never did show up that day.  But they would on our hike up Street and Nye (see report).

NE111 72 and 73/115