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!