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.