Saturday, September 8, 2018

Mt. Marcy, New York, August 31, 2018

Mt. Marcy  (5,344') via Van Hoevenberg (#61) Trail,  August 31, 2018

Mileage:  14.8 miles (RT)

Elevation gain: 3,500'ish

Trailhead: Parking is at the High Peaks Information Center at the end of Adirondack Loj Road, Lake Placid. I-87 exit 30 to Route 73 toward Lake Placid, 26 miles.  Left on Adirondack Loj Road, 4.6 miles to end.  The lot is small and fills quickly.  There is a fee to park.

Hiked with Ed, Brian, Dana and Graham today. This is my second trip to Marcy's summit (see previous report) and I was anxious to revisit this wonderful place.  The forecast was fantastic, drier air and clear skies, promising a comfortable climb and great 360° views from Marcy's bald summit.

We got an early start, mainly to get a parking spot at the High Peaks Information Center.  The lot is designed to hold about 200 vehicles and often fills up by 8:00 a.m. or earlier.  Alternate parking is on Adirondack Loj Road a mile away and since this was the start of a holiday weekend, we weren't taking any chances. We got lucky and found a spot close to the trailhead's sign-in register (wouldn't want to add more steps to our 14+ mile hike just to get to the car!).

The trail is well establish, a moderate/sometimes steepish rise right up to treeline climbing just over 3,000' in over 7 miles - comfortable hiking. After signing in we headed down the trail. Down is exactly where the Van Hoevenberg trail takes you. The trail descends, crossing a wet area with a boardwalk, then ascends gently (with a re-route around badly eroded trail) before reaching the site of a former dam at 2.3 miles. 

The re-route is in better shape than last year!

Before Hurricane Irene struck in 2011, the dam was whole with a healthy lake but now it's simply Marcy Brook flowing.  We cut left, continued across a bridge and headed up the trail to sign in at the second register.

View of Mt. Colden from the dam's dried up "lake."

There's camping in this area, and pit toilets (I would not recommend using the toilets).  We continued up the trail, still ascending at a moderate pitch.

Just after the Phelps Mountain trail junction (about 3 miles) and the bridge crossing Phelps Brook, the trail steepens considerably, but not "scramble" steep.  We upped our game and made little work of the ascent.

Looking back at my 2009 report I see no mention of mud on the trail.  Today I noticed it in key spots between the the Phelps Mountain junction and tree line.  It rained the day before but it's clear these muddy areas rarely dry, just get wetter after a rain.  

How trail maintenance crews deal with vulnerable wet areas varies.  Bog bridges or stepping stones appear to be the remedy of choice. Bog bridges tend to rot quickly though, and they can be very slippery! I've walked over long-dead bridges with just the metal spikes sticking out of splinters of rotted wood. You'll also see bog bridges over bare ground, particularly during periods of dry weather.  

Handsome bog bridges on the trail.

Some areas have corduroy bridges, which appears to be a quick and easy remedy.  The logs are laid perpendicular to the trail, to eventually sink into the mud and harden the area. This too is subject to rot as you can see in the photo below:

Corduroy as part of the trail - still muddy.

Nothing beats this photo below. It looks like a new laying of corduroy but to me it appears the logs are trying desperately to escape the mud, which is trying to consume them like that jello creature in "The Blob." These logs are very slippery so take care walking on them.

Corduroy gone wild!

We followed the signs to Mt. Marcy's summit, passing the trail junctions to Tabletop Mountain and Lake Arnold. 

We missed Indian Falls (a short path on the right just above the junction of Tabletop), another important stop on the hike.  We'll visit the falls on the way down.  

Before long we were walking on the top of a ridge. At the trail junction we went right, the final push to the top.

Head right!

The trail to the summit.

Excited, we headed toward the rocks. We could see the summit - oh.. wait... a cloud just obscured it.  As is typical this time of year, a summit cloud was perched over the top, preventing our view of it - and of course preventing those on the top from seeing below.

All rock scramble have great footing (especially when dry).

Among the rocks and mist appeared a bog with boardwalk.  The route to the summit alternates open rock with small sections of shorty conifers. 

Who put this bog here?!

Back on the rocky trail, the scrambles are fun, never tricky and even wet, the glacial rock's surface provides grip. I did praise the stickiness of my Vibram soles, though.

More fun "ups."

It's an easy cruise to the wide, flat summit.  Unfortunately, that nasty summit cloud obscured the views. There was a little bit of wind and it was cool so we crouched up against the massive rock that bears a commemorative plaque.  It was fairly busy at the top and after a few photos we sat down to lunch.  A summit steward reminded us that NOTHING should go on any vegetation, not even the grass as it is all fragile.  I sheepishly took my pack off of a sandy area that also had a few blades poking through.

Summit marker on the big rock.

Obligatory photo by the plaque.

Heading down the mountain was easy and we found the Indian Falls path so we took a break there.  We'd descended about thousand feet, low enough to get great views of the McIntyre Range from the falls (Marcy's summit stayed in the cloud for most of the day).

It's a short trail to the right (when headed up the mountain).

The path off the Van Hoevenberg trail brings you to the top of the falls, a series of rock slabs over which flows Marcy Brook.  You can walk on the rock as the most of the slabs are dry (especially this time of year). The real draw is the view.  Today, though, a portion of the McIntyre range is also in the clouds.  

Ed and Dana hanging out at the falls (just a bit of stream on the rocks).

We got down to the cars around 5:00, after a terrific day on the peak.  Mt. Marcy is one peak that deserves to be revisited!

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Lower Wolf Jaw (ADK 22/46) August 27, 2018

Lower Wolf Jaw (4,175') via West River (#28), Wedge Brook (#33) and Lower Wolf Jaw Mountain (#5) Trails, 8/27/2018

Mileage:  9.8 miles (RT - not including our side trip to Beaver Meadow Falls)

Elevation gain: 3,031'

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 and gatehouse are directly ahead.  No dogs or bicycles are allowed.  

Hiked with Brenda today.  We got an early start as hot and humid conditions were forecast.

One of two small parking lots.

Parking area is limited.

Go between the tennis courts to get to the gate.

The West River trail is located to the right of the gate house, just before the gate.  After we signed in we went right, past the side of the gatehouse and down a wide path to the bridge over the Ausable River.

Don't go through the gate.

Gate house. 
Access to the trail.

Cross this bridge.

After we crossed the bridge we took a left, traveling south on West River trail.  There are several route options on this trail. We passed signs for the W.A. White trail and both ends of the Bear Run trail before finally reaching Wedge Brook trail, about two miles from the gate house.

It's a pretty mellow trail - follows the river.

Trail has yellow discs.

Keep going!

The trail junction is clearly marked.

Turn here onto a blue disced trail.

By the time we turned right onto Wedge Brook trail, the heat was settling upon us.  The cascades are nearby and we took a quick picture before continuing up. 

Portion of Wedge Brook cascade.

And up we went. For some reason I thought the steep part was....later!  Wedge Brook trail is a two mile path that climbs up the headwall of the cascade's ravine - of course it's steep! I was thinking Lower Wolf Jaw Mountain trail (the short section of summit trail that connects to Wedge Brook) was the majority of the elevation gain. The contour lines on the map don't lie, Wedge Brook is the lion's share of gain. Guess I confused the two trails. 

Though steep going, there are small areas of flat here and there.  We were already drenched from the humidity by the time we reached the campsite.

There's a sizable area for camping here.

The steeps continue above the campsite with rock steps and areas of erosion, though I'm happy to report the ground was dry and mud free for the most part.

Rock steps.

The first junction - to Upper Wolf Jaw mountain - can be confusing. The map shows three junctions in the immediate vicinity, making a triangle of trails. This is the first section of the triangle. Left takes you south to UWJ, Armstrong, Gothics, and the rest of the Great Range. We continued straight toward Lower Wolf Jaw, a path with views of the mountain's rock slides. 

Don't go left if Lower Wolfjaw is your goal.

Trail starts mellow.

Red discs for a short time,

The path flattens to an area with ferns; it's different, quiet.  After determining which among several offshoot paths was the actual trail, we reached the second junction of the "triangle."

Go straight, onto the trail to the summit

This brings you the ADK Range trail.

If you plan to tag Upper Wolf Jaw or other peaks of the Great Range, take the yellow disced trail here when you return from the summit of Lower Wolf Jaw. (For my previous trip report on Upper Wolfjaw, Armstrong and Gothics, click here.)

It's a steep but short jaunt to the top.  We spent a good amount of time trying to find the actual summit (no marker).  

Some fun scrambly things, no big deals.

Gets a little messy with erosion.

Nice view of the range from the trail.

The summit is a small clearing with two trail signs and partial views when standing on the nearby large rock.  Here is where the Lower Wolf Jaw Mountain trail ends and the W.A. White trail begins.  We poked around and found a path on the left to a viewpoint, and even went further up the main trail (which becomes the W.A. White trail) a bit to make absolutely sure we'd reached the summit.  When the trail started to descend the other side, we figured we'd gone far enough.  (Apparently the clearing and trail signs are considered the summit.)

Summit clearing.

Straight ahead: W.A. White trail.

Trail back to junction triangle .

Rock at summit.

Partial view (standing on rock).

Path on left with view.

After lunch we flew back down the trails and at the West River trail junction decided to go right and visit Beaver Meadow Falls. This added several miles to the day but it was early in the afternoon and we weren't ready to be done.  The side trip is well worth it!

To Beaver Meadow Falls!

The West River trail to Beaver Meadow Falls continues south along the river, a little rough in spots but it's easy to see where you need to be (just follow along the water).

Beautiful falls.

Bridge back over the river - to Lake Road (and back to the car).

I was surprised at how long the hike is from the falls to Lake Road (.8 miles). It spits you out about 2.5 miles from the gate, near the Mt. Colvin trail.  We walked the 3 miles back to the car and headed out for a beer at Big Slide.

Overall, I liked this hike.  It's short by high peak standards, allows you to enjoy waterfalls, and shows you a good time in the woods.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Belfry Mountain, New York, August 28, 2018

Belfry Mountain (1,850'), 8/28/2018

Mileage: .6 miles (RT)

Elevation gain:

Trailhead: The trailhead is located on 102-154 Co Hwy 7C, Witherbee.  From I-87 north take exit 30, go right at the end of the exit.  Make a left onto Tracy Road (Co Hwy 6) and drive for 7.7 miles, then take a left onto Belfry Road (Co Hwy 7c).  Trailhead is on your left at the top of the hill - about one mile (small parking area on opposite side of road).

This partially restored firetower was originally installed in 1917 and serves up amazing 360° views.  The steps of the 47' tower are weathered but sturdy and the cab is open.

Hiked solo today.  I had a few hours to kill and decided to chip away at the peaks on the Fire Tower Challenge

The trailhead is easy to find, in fact I drove by it and had to turn around.

This is a great hike for little kids as the wide access road is a short half mile to the top making for a quick reward.

There are discs marking the way.

Yup, this is the trail. It's a little gravelly.

I passed a radio tower and a second building before the road topped out.

Radio tower.

The tower is very sturdy and didn't shake when I climbed it. Steps are narrow and steep.

View of the steps from the open cab.

View of the tower base from the cab.

The view is spectacular!  Both the Adirondacks and Vermont's Green Mountains are visible today.


After about ten minutes, I climbed down and returned to my car.  This is number 3 of my firetower quest. 

St. Regis Firetower         Hunter Mountain Firetower