Sunday, August 20, 2017

TableTop Mountain (ADK 19/46), New York, August 12, 2017

Table Top Mountain (4,427') via Van Hoevenberg Trail (61) and Herd path , 8/12/2017.

Mileage:  10ish miles (RT)

Elevation gain: 2,659'

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 BMS today (by myself). This is the third 4k+ hike I've done solo and I admit the thought of navigating an "unmaintained" trail alone concerned me (conjuring memories of recent bushwhacks to New England peaks).  Friends who've hiked Table Top assured me this is no bushwhack and I could not POSSIBLY get lost.  

Still, I brought my GPS complete with a downloaded track, and of course I always bring a compass and map. If all attempts to stay on trail fail I could simply walk west and eventually get back on the Van Hoevenberg trail. 

Since thunderstorms were predicted starting around noon I got an early start, arriving at the HPIC parking at about 6:40. On the drive there I could see that the peaks were socked in so I didn't expect much of a view on the summit. 

After signing in I sailed up the path, with just a few backpackers and a couple who thought they were on their way to the summit of Street and Nye. 




On the way to Marcy Dam I encountered tape across the trail, with a reroute to the right.


This reroute is so muddy and slippery. Too much use of the area has resulted in many bare downward roots - easy to slip. It's really an ugly mess.



Nasty slippery roots.

Back on the main trail I arrived at Marcy Dam, went left and over the bridge.

Follow the signs to Mt. Marcy and Indian Falls.




I registered at the outpost, figured if it came down to someone trying to find my lifeless body in the middle of nowhere they'd know I made it this far.


After the outpost I didn't see a soul for quite a stretch.  The woods were peaceful though, not a breath of wind - it was nice.  I figured I could hike at a leisurely pace, stop if I wanted to - no pressure - but the forecast didn't look great for the afternoon so I picked up the pace.



The trail skirts the brook.  At one point I heard a thundering noise, a low, throaty sound. At first I thought it was a plane overhead but soon realized it was just to my right, in Phelps Brook. I'd check out that noise on the way back.

Not a bad little path for a morning walk.

I came upon two women resting at the Phelps Mountain junction.  They were going to Table Top too.  Always good news to know that others are headed your way.  I told them I'd see them up there and continued on (I never saw them again).

Unless you plan on doing Phelps first, stay right.

The trail turns right and I just followed the signs.  


Deep, dark, rocky.

A ways up the trail there's this lone sign: "Indian Falls." I knew if I reach Indian Falls I've gone too far and given distance I'd already traveled, the sign to Table Top had to be coming up soon. Pretty certain I didn't miss any signs or trail markers, I headed in that direction and within a few minutes reached the TableTop sign.

This is also the way to Marcy and Table Top.

Yup it's hard to miss. I stared at the unmaintained trail - herd path. It was wet, rooty, looked like a walkaround.  


Ew, I'm going up THERE? :)


I set a waypoint in my GPS and looked at the downloaded track. It read .75 miles to the summit. At first I walked slowly, turning around often so I could see what the trail will look like on the way down.


Yes, still on the trail.

This too. This is the trail.....

After a while turning around wasn't necessary - the path is very easy to follow - both ways thanks to gullies.

Heavy rains washed the earth out of this path.

There are some slabs going up but it never gets steep. And, there are a few walkarounds in the path but overall it's very tame going.




The mud and dark earth stayed with me the whole trip; everything's wet and mossy.

As I rise the trees get shorter and I was able to see the clouds lifting and soft muted detail of the distant peaks (GPS indicates elevation gain is 800' from the cutoff).





Just below the summit the path levels out and the trees close in.


There are two flat areas sporting pools of mud just below the summit.  They are VERY deceiving, much deeper than they want you to think.  There are a few sticks laid across to keep you out of the mud but I didn't trust them.  I stepped and went in  - down about 6" -  retrieving a boot of glimmery brown!

Just there waiting to suck my boot in!



The trees started rustling - summit wind, I knew I was close. I saw an open spot ahead and the summit sign on the left, with a viewing area straight ahead.



Hard to see here but there are nice views of Mt. Marcy.

It was chilly especially in wet, sweaty clothing so I didn't stay long. I took a few photos and headed back down. After being especially careful around those two mud pits and the million bare roots on this path, descending got easier and I got back to the cutoff very quickly. On my way down I saw several groups heading up.

Back on the Van Hoevenberg trail, I fell into that leisurely pace I'd hoped for.  I figured I was close enough to getting back before any storm; the pressure was off. Besides, I was deep under tree cover and could see a clear blue sky.

I heard that low rumbling noise again so I decided to check it out.  


Water from the brook was fighting to get down this one big crack between two slabs causing it to rush and bubble.  I watched it for a while, then headed down, crossing the brook before the high water bridge.


I chatted with others way too much and for too long at the dam, then moseyed down to the parking lot and back to my car.

I got back to the inn caked in mud and feel genuinely sorry for whoever cleans the showers! But looking back it was a good hike, peaceful and quiet, and it never did rain on me!

View from Adirondack Loj Road.

Haystack Mountain (Saranac 4/6), New York, August 13, 2017

Haystack Mountain (2,874') via Haystack Mountain Trail, 8/13/2017.
Mileage:  6.2 miles (RT)

Elevation gain:
 1,847'

Trailhead: Haystack shares a trailhead with another popular Saranac 6 peak: McKenzie Mountain.  Parking for these trails is on Route 86, 1.4 miles west of the junction of Route 86 and Old Military Road in Lake Placid. There is plenty of parking - no fee. (for Google maps, click here.)

This is NOT the Haystack Mountain on the ADK46 high peaks list.  For that report, click here.

Hiked with Carol and Kari today. I was headed back home soon (after a fun week of peakbagging) and we were looking for a more comfy hike, one we could do before lunch. We chose Haystack, a Saranac 6er peak located in the Ray Brook area. 

We arrived at trailhead parking at about 9 a.m.  The lot was empty, surprising for a Sunday.



The first leg of the trail dips down, descends for quite a while. The woods are sweet today; mostly dry with just a few muddy spots.

Muddy, messy here.

The terrain levels out, then starts going up at a moderate pitch, running parallel to a creek. At about one mile the trail descends again, just a bit.



There are two easy water crossings on this hike, one of them at a small dam.

We quickly reached the junction of the trail to McKenzie Mountain (we'll save that for another day).

We went left.

After strolling up this mellow trail we knew eventually we'd have to pay the piper. A steep incline must be coming soon. 

We crossed a brook by the dam

The climbing begins after the dam, thankfully with alternating steeps and flats.


At 3 miles things get steeper still, and the going was slower.  Before long we reached a rock with a spectacular viewpoint.  This is it, I thought. No, it's not, it keeps going.


Viewpoint!

Behind the viewpoint the path continues, challenging rocks in comparison to what we'd just done.  A few minutes later we were on top (there's no sign or USGS marker).  The day was clear and there are mountains and lakes as far as the eye can see!


Nice view from the top.

After chatting with other hikers for a while, we headed back down to the car. Going down that first part was slow - it was wet and slippery. After gingerly negotiating the steeps, we hit the mellow ground and sailed toward the car - though those descents on the way in were now ascents on our way out (I huffed a bit going up them).

We got back to the car around lunchtime.  I'll be back here soon to hike Mt. McKenzie!

Ampersand Mountain (Saranac 3/6), New York, August 10, 2017

Ampersand (3,352') via Ampersand Mountain Trail (#102/9), 8/10/2017.
Mileage:  5.6 miles (RT)

Elevation gain:
 1,850'

Trailhead: The trail is located on Route 3, 12 miles east of Tupper Lake and 8 miles south of Saranac Lake Village. Parking also serves the day use area at Middle Saranac Lake.  This is a popular spot and the lot fills up quickly. Trailhead is across the road. (Click here for google maps.)

Hiked with Jill, Ken and Ed today.  Our legs were tired from two full days of high peak adventure (see Sawteeth, and Algonquin/Iroquois reports) and we wanted to do something less taxing. Ampersand seemed like a good choice.

We were pleasantly surprised at the challenges presented by this 3300' peak.


Lots of signage.

It's a half-day hike at best so we took our time getting out the door. The downside to this is the rest of our "neighbors" arrived earlier so we had to park a good way from the trailhead.



We signed the register and proceeded on the trail, which dips down for a bit.  The trail's wide and mellow with a few stream crossings.




Walking through a wet area (about .8 miles in).

Coolest silver birch ever!

About a mile in the path swings right and starts to steepen.  At first there are plenty of stairs; eventually steep slabs take over.

Nice rock stairs.


Don't expect a whole lot of trail markings. We saw just three trail discs and a handful of yellow blazes. In some areas it's hard to make out where the trail goes, particularly on and around the slabs. Were we on a trail with lots of mud and erosion, or picking through a walkaround?  The slabs were slippery and often we weren't sure if we were supposed to go up or around them.  

There's lots of erosion further up; lots of mud, slippery slab. A few times it appeared that the trail split -  with half of us going one way or the other.

After some intense climbing (more work than we'd anticipated), we reached a big split boulder. We'd read that this is the 2.4 mile mark so we knew we were getting close to the summit. 


Jill bravely holding up the rock for us to pass through.

It levels out in the col and we found ourselves on a windy path in the woods. This we discovered is not the trail but a short bypass. The trail (to our right) had been blocked off; it's in rough shape (mud, erosion). The bypass rejoins the trail further up. 

As the path circles the summit area it dips down and there's a tree across it.  It didn't seem right that we should be going down and we weren't sure if that tree had been put there to block travel.  We looked around for another option (there is a small herdpath to the right but we didn't take it).  We kept going straight, over the tree, which is the right move as soon things swing to the right and up a steep scramble.

There are two options on this scramble - take the left option, it has solid roots (on the way down just back down it).  

Just hang on to the roots!

A few minutes of climbing later and we were scrambling up the summit rocks and to the top.



Yellow blazes led us up.




A summit of bare rock is a great place for lunch on a sunny day. We took some photos, ate and spent some time admiring the view.



The trip back to the car was quick (though we were careful descending on and around the slabs) and we got down mid afternoon.  

Two sources have attempted to explain how this mountain got its name.  The first credits Middle Saranac Lake's crescent beach of "amber sand;" the second attributes Ampersand Creek, so named as it resembles an ampersand symbol  - &.  An unusual name for a peak with lots of character and great views!