Monday, August 20, 2018

Scarface Mountain (Saranac 6/6), New York, August 12, 2018

Scarface Mountain (3,088') via Scarface Mountain Trail (trail #100), August 12, 2018

Mileage:  7.4 miles (RT)

Elevation gain: 1,500'+

Trailhead: The trailhead is on Old Ray Brook Road in Lake Placid. On Route 73 heading north go left at the fork onto Old Military Road eventually turn left onto NY 86W. In three miles turn left again onto Adirondack Park/Old Ray Brook Road and drive .1 miles.  Trailhead parking is on the left.   

Hiked BMS* today. After dropping Rich off at the airport I drove the two-plus hours to Lake Placid.  It was still early (11:30) so I headed to the Scarface trailhead. 

This would be my sixth and final Saranac Six peak.  I was excited.  


Trail markers are red discs.



The path starts out flat and soon a clearing reveals railroad tracks.  The trail crosses the tracks and beyond is a rustic bench to honor Scott McKay, who died on this mountain several years ago.





Bench in honor of Scott McKay.  

There's no end to the cool things you come upon on this stretch of trail.  To cross Ray Brook there's an elevated bridge.

Bridge. Planks are spaced a little tricky.

View from the bridge. Scarface in the distance.


Path is not without a few obstacles.

The old foundation is still there about a mile in.  You can see some other stuff strewn about.


Building foundation

At 1.5 miles there's a left turn.  An old road continues straight ahead, don't go there. Much is written about making sure you go left!  There's alot of indication to turn so it wasn't an issue. 


Clear signage. Go left here.

I went left onto a path deep with pine needles, soft, inviting.


I just want to curl up in these soft pine needles!


Trail parallels the brook.

Then crosses it - pretty low right now!

After the brook crossing things get serious - well, as serious as they are going to get on this sweet hike! 
Easily negotiable scrambles.

lt's a Sunday afternoon and people are out and about. Still I only met a handful, all friendly, happy.  As the trail rises up there's a lovely view on the ledge.


I can see why some only go this far, it's a nice rock for a lunch break: sunny with pretty scenery. 

From here the path narrows and meanders.  Many times I wondered which way the trail went. There are discs fortunately but it's subtle up here: no big corridors, just smaller paths.


Path heads up a rock slab.


I wasn't quite sure how long it would be from the viewpoint to the true summit (books says about .6 miles) and kept wondering, is this it? Is this it?


This clearing with the overturned tree isn't the summit.

Tree across but it's definitely the path..

Fortunately I met another hiker who confirmed I hadn't yet reached the summit.  A few minutes later I was on the top, standing in the woods in front of the summit disc.



Summit area. Disc is on a tree on the right.

It's not the end of the trail, though.  There's a path that continues just to the right - as you face the summit (I am told there are views over there).  

In solitude I grabbed a snack, took some photos then headed down.  Several on their way up also asked the whereabouts of the summit.

Down was easy and fun; the sun was out, a beautiful afternoon to be in the woods.  

Excited that I'd completed all of the Saranac Six, I jumped in the car and drove to Saranac Lake to ring the bell at Berkeley Green!




Link to other 6er trip reports: Ampersand, Baker, Haystack, McKenzie, St.Regis, Scarface.

* by myself

McKenzie Mountain (Saranac 5/6), New York, August 9, 2018

McKenzie Mountain (3,861') via Jackrabbit and McKenzie Mountain Trails, August 9, 2018

Mileage:  7.2 miles (RT)

Elevation gain: 2,250'

Trailhead: This hike starts at the Jackrabbit trailhead located on Whiteface Inn Lane, Lake Placid. Take NY 86 to Whiteface Inn Lane and drive 1.3 miles to trailhead on the left (just past Lodge Way and Hemlock Way on your right). Parking is along the road. 

This is my fifth Saranac Six and the toughest.  

Cheated of "high peak" status by a mere 139', the spiteful McKenzie provides a good deal of slippery steeps and interesting scrambles - it's no easy trek!  


Hiked with Rich today.  We chose to reach the McKenzie trail via Jackrabbit ski trail as that route is shorter with less elevation gain than the trail that originates from NY 86 near Ray Brook.  And, the Jackrabbit trailhead is about two miles from where we were staying.



Well marked. Yellow discs.

And wide! (It's a ski trail)

"Private Land" signs pepper the trail. There are a few old roads/driveways with signs warning hikers and skiers to stay on the path and be respectful.  The path climbs gently, a nice warmup for us.  Placid Lean-to is on the right at 1.5 miles.  We stopped here for a few minutes.



At 1.9 miles you reach the four corners. We knew to go right but it doesn't hurt to double check the signage.


This would take you left, to the Raybrook trailhead.

"McKnz Mtn" carved in the tree. Follow the red discs!

Up we go, ready to tackle this portion of trail (the reason for all the warnings described in various trip reports). We were ready to meet this half mile that would bring us a quick and nasty 1,000' up.




Serious erosion plagues this trail.

We picked our way through the tough area: scrambles, none which would be terribly technical if not for the erosion.  The trail was wet too, which reduced any sort of traction in dirt and up stripped roots. 


Many decent scrambles.

At times the path appears to be a free-for-all.

It's a long half mile! The mountain seems to know when you've about had enough and the steepness gives way to more even ground.  But it's not done with the torment.


Thankfully the rough part subsides.

There are five summits, the last one being the true summit (of course!).  A big rock and beautiful view greets you at the first summit (2.6 miles in). It's a side trail on the right; we tried to find the trail there but the main trail's actually a left just before the right.

This rock is not the trail, just a viewpoint.



Still following the red discs.

So up then down then up we go, did we just do summit three or was that four?! 

Ah - there's the true summit!
Wet, mossy, muddy!

Incredible views peek through the thinning treeline. We knew we were close to the true summit after that one scramble that goes up and left, and just a few steps later came upon an oddly shaped ledge, too smooth to get much of a footing particularly if you're short.  Fortunately there's just enough root on top to grab and haul yourself up.  


Odd little ledge is McKenzie's last attempt to challenge us.

Twenty or so steps past that ledge the path splits, with the left leading to a viewpoint to the northwest. Straight ahead is the summit. 



Northwest view.


Other side of the peak - view of Lake Placid.

Beer was calling so we didn't linger. The hike down takes just as long as the hike up.  That half mile of gut wrenching steep is a monster trying to descend, especially wet. When it was the safer option we'd use walkarounds  - never recommended (many so overused, too worn to try to walk down) but better than slipping. Our pants got muddy, we fell a few times and I'm not ashamed to have crouched and crawled.

Once the steep was done however, it was smooth sailing back to the car and to Big Slide Brewery for a beer!

Link to other 6er trip reports: AmpersandBakerHaystackMcKenzieSt.RegisScarface.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Nippletop and Dial (ADK 20, 21/46) August 6, 2018

Nippletop (4,620') and Dial (4,020') Mountain Loop via Lake Road, Indian Head and Fish Hawk Cliffs (Trails 39-42), August 6, 2018

Mileage:  14.8 miles (loop)

Elevation gain: 4,482'

Trailhead: This hike starts at the St. Hubert parking area on Route 73 in St. Huberts, NY.  The parking lot is located 7.5 miles west of exit 30 off I-87; and 3.3 miles east of the Noonmark Diner (in Keene Valley). Parking is on the corner of Ausable Road directly across from Roaring Brook trailhead parking. The lot fills up quickly and parking is not allowed along Ausable Road or at the Ausable Club.  It's a half-mile walk up a small hill to reach Lake Road (and the AMR gate). Walk up Ausable Road and turn left between two tennis courts - the gate is directly ahead.  No dogs or bicycles are allowed.  

Hiked with Ed today.  We planned to hike Dial and Nippletop, then get Blake and Colvin the following day.  

Sunny and warm, the day held a lot of promise.  We headed up the road toward the tennis courts around 8:15, passed through the gate and started the walk on Lake Road.  


The gate.

We got the road walk done in the beginning.

Didn't go here.


Instead of taking the H.G. Leach trail, we decided to hike the loop counterclockwise approaching Nippletop via Elk Pass. We bypassed the Gill Brook trails as well, opting for the Indian Head trail to Fish Hawk Cliffs route.




Sign from the Adirondack Trail Improvement Society.


The trail is steep and got our heart rate up very quickly. It was predicted that temps would reach 90° in the valley today and we were feeling it in the woods. Views from Indian Head are breathtaking and after the short, very steep descent to Fish Hawk Cliffs, views there aren't too bad either!


View from Indian Head.

Steep descent to reach the cliffs.

After a few photos we continued on as the trail joined the Gill Brook trail and eventually reached the Mt. Colvin trail.

It seemed like such a long slog. It's rough, rocky, muddy, steeper than we were ready for and we had to stop to rest several times. We were thrilled to see the junction signs.



Someone had dropped their backpack on their way to Colvin (and possibly Blake).  I might have suggested we hike these two today instead of Nippletop and Dial but we were so excited to do this loop - it's considered to be such a nice hike... Colvin and Blake? not so much. We continued on toward Nippletop and soon were at Elk Pass.


4.9 miles into the hike we were feeling it.

Elk Pass was a much needed break from the steeps.  We enjoyed the scenery and flat terrain - looks like a great place to camp!


Flat, sweet area with ponds.



It's just under a mile from Elk Pass to where the trail meets the Dial/Bear Den trail (trail 42) but again the steep terrain is relentless!  An older guy wearing a 46er hat was coming down the trail toward us - looking crisp and cool.  He saw us hot, damp, maybe even looking a bit discouraged and said, "You have a LONG way to go but the summit is just beautiful."  I'm sure he meant well but the "LONG" resonated with us more than the "beautiful." (In fact we spoke of him often during the hike, wondering if he was real or just a hallucination!)

It's not that we were out of shape; we both had some significant hikes under our belts. I guess we expected cooler temps and more pleasurable terrain.  Looking back, if a sweeter path was what we were looking for, the better option would have been to go clockwise, starting up the H.G. Leach trail.

Finally we reached the Dial/Bear Den trail and spur to the summit of Nippletop.  We ran up the spur to the summit (it's gotta be longer than .2 miles!).  The 46er spoke the truth: beautiful it is!


That .2 miles to the summit seems longer.

Path to the summit.

Clear day, lovely view - what more could we ask?

It had been a tough morning and now, well into the afternoon, we still had about 6 miles more to go with some not-so-insignificant elevation gain left to do.  We headed toward Dial Mountain.

Burnside's book emphasizes the steepness if descending the way we came and perhaps that's why a group we met on the summit decided to return the way they came, going back over Dial, Bear Den, Noonmark.  Their decision lulled us into thinking the path before us would be much easier, more doable, with less grousing. 




Neither of us wanted to admit how hot and tired we were, how much we'd planned to be farther along the trail at this point in the day.  We trudged over toward Dial, stifling a groan every time we saw the trail head "up."


Trail's much nicer this way!

Dial Mountain came up quickly and without much fanfare. The summit was crowded.


Kids on the summit of Dial Mountain.

We stayed about.....90 seconds and off we went, anxious by this point to get off this mountain. It was almost 3 pm - we couldn't believe it!


We got to Bear Den and wasted no time heading down.  Soon we were back ascending again - to Noonmark's rocky viewpoint, which is very nice and on another day might be a destination in and of itself. It's a little tricky here on the rock slabs. We searched around for a cairn and found the trail with the sign partially hidden by a tree branch.


View from the side of Noonmark Mountain.

Love this new growth of birches and aspens!

Hot, tired, spent and probably dehydrated, we stopped alot to regroup, drink and get a fresher outlook!

Making progress.


As we walked on we gradually saw a change in the forest; we were descending toward the beginning of the H.G. Leach trail.  The Lake Road was a welcome sight and we were silent as we walked to the AMR gate and down to the parking lot.  We finished at 6:30 p.m. too tired to do anything but fall into the car and drive to the Inn.

The Dial-Nippletop loop requires that one climb three smaller peaks to get the two high peaks.  Today was supposed to be a spectacular day in the woods. It was more heat and work than expected.  

There are times when we recognize the need to step back from our thoughts. Plans to hike Blake and Colvin the next day were scrapped.  I spent the rest of my week hiking, but I chose lesser peaks, enjoying the trails and the weather.