Posts Tagged ‘hiking’

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Adirondack 46ers: Hike One, Get Three Free

For those who are trying to climb the 46 High Peaks of the Adirondacks — that is, the peaks originally surveyed at 4,000 feet or higher — there’s nothing better than getting four for the price of one.

There are many peaks where you can do two in a day, mainly when they share the same ridge-line. Cascade and Porter, for instance, are so close to each other you barely break a sweat walking between them. Likewise Esther and Whiteface, or Wright and Algonquin.

There are other cases where you’re traveling so far to climb two, you would be better off doing all three, such as the classic triad of Seward, Donaldson and Emmons in the western High Peaks. You have to climb over Seward to get to Donaldson and Emmons, and back over Donaldson and Seward again to get out.

Or there’s Panther, Santanoni and Couchsachraga, accessed via the road to Upper Works near Newcomb. The last of those mountains is notable not only for being the hardest to spell and pronounce of all High Peaks (most folks call it “Couchie” for short), but also for being the lowest. At 3,820 feet it’s obviously under the 4,000-f00t benchmark, but the original surveyors were off by a bit.

The Forty-sixers defer to history in this regard — there are several other peaks in the group under 4,000 feet. That also explains why MacNaughton Mountain, at 4,000 feet on the nose, is considered a “bonus” peak and not one of the 46 — the first surveyors thought it a bit shorter.

The point is, it’s nice to get a bunch of peaks in on a single day’s hike. That’s why one of my favorite trips into the mountains is the route I did last week: walking the Dix ridge from the south and hitting Macomb, South Dix, East Dix and Hough mountains in one go.

For this trip, I joined a group from Albany that drove to Elk Lake off of Blue Ridge Road (the gate, closed all winter, was fortunately open, saving us 2 miles of road walking to the trail-head). The route leaves the main hiking trail after a few miles to follow a “herd” path up a steep, rubbly slide to the summit of Macomb (4,405 feet — see photo above).

From there, it’s a short walk down and up to South Dix, an hour side-trail to East Dix, an hour back to South Dix, and another hour down and up to Hough. The views get better with each mountain, with Hough affording the best: the nearby, pointy top of Dix itself.

The descents and ascents between peaks is minimal — that’s us leaving Hough to the left. The total hike distance is about 15 miles walking and 4,000 feet of elevation gain overall. We took 12 hours for the trip, with lots of stopping. A fast group could do it in eight or nine hours.

Speaking of fast, on our hike we were quickly passed by a group from Syracuse. As we were staggering our way to the summit of Hough (pronounced “huff”), fellow hiker George took out a pair of binoculars. He pointed them north toward Dix (the highest peak in the range, at 4,857 feet) and said, “Hey, there’s the Syracuse group.”

Sure enough, they had bridged five peaks in the time it took us to climb four. Surely the best hiking deal of the High Peaks.

But for us, it was time to turn around. It was nearing 5 p.m., it was a long walk back to the car and we were all nearly out of food and energy. Still, four in a day isn’t too shabby either.

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To see more photographs of this hike by the author, click here. New users will have to sign in. Note that the slide viewing time can be adjusted by the timer at lower right.

The Dix range follows herd paths, not official trails. Hikers attempting this route should be in excellent shape, carry a guidebook, map and compass and be comfortable with travel along unsigned paths.


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

ADK to Host ‘Black Fly Affair: A Hikers Ball’

The Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) 14th annual gala and auction, “Black Fly Affair: A Hikers Ball,” will be held from 7:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m., Friday, May 21, at the Fort William Henry Hotel’s historic White Lion Ballroom, overlooking Lake George. The Black Fly Affair is ADK’s largest fund-raising event of the year, and proceeds from this year’s event will help support ADK’s education intern programs.

Recommended attire for the event is semi-formal dress (black tie) and hiking boots, although the dress code will not be strictly enforced.

Peter and Ann Hornbeck are honorary chairs, and Gregory McKnight will be master of ceremonies. Beverages will be provided by Adirondack Winery and Cooperstown Brewing Co., and there will be dancing to the music of Standing Room Only.

ADK boasts one of the largest silent auctions in the region in addition to its very lively live auction, where guests will bid on original artwork, outdoor gear, weekend getaways, cultural events and more. Jim and Danielle Carter of Acorn Estates & Appraisals will conduct the auction. A preview of auction items is available at the
ADK Web site, www.adk.org.

Tickets are $45 in advance and $55 at the door. To make reservations, visit www.adk.org or call , Ext. 14. To donate an
auction item or to become a corporate sponsor, contact Deb Zack at , Ext. 42. Discounted room rates for Black Fly attendees are available at the Fort William Henry Hotel and the Best Western of Lake George.

The Adirondack Mountain Club, founded in 1922, is a nonprofit membership organization dedicated to protecting the New York State Forest Preserve and other wild lands and waters through conservation and advocacy, environmental education and responsible recreation.


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Alan Wechsler: Suggested Hikes For Mud Season

It was T.S. Eliot who wrote “April is the cruellest month.” He also wrote, in his epic poem “The Waste Lands”: “I will show you fear in a handful of dust.”

Substitute “mud” for “dust,” and Eliot might have been talking about the Adirondacks after the snow melts (although, you want to talk about cruel, let’s talk black flies …but that’s a subject for another post).

Anyway, as we reach the spring mud season, and the state Department of Environmental Conservation issues its annual “please don’t hike on muddy High Peaks trails” request, may we suggest a few dryer alternatives?

For starters, cast your eyes southward. The Lake George region, which gets much less snowfall than other areas in the park, is also one of the first places to warm up in the spring. There’s enough hikes there to last a full season, but we can easily recommend a few: » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Long-Time Hiking Advocate Fred Schroeder Remembered

More than 200 people came to an Albany church April 1 to pay homage to Fred Schroeder, an avid hiker who introduced the Adirondacks to hundreds of underprivileged boys.

Schroeder, who lived in an assisted living center in Bethlehem (Albany County) with his wife Martha, died March 18 at the age of 85.

Schroeder, a long-time director at several branches of the Albany Boys Club, also directed the group’s Camp Thacher in the nearby Helderbergs every summer until it closed a few years ago. Part of that work included introducing the boys to hikes and camping trips around the nearby woods. And those who excelled at woodscraft were later invited to the Adirondacks.

One of those boys was John Antonio, now a retired music teacher living in the Albany suburb of Colonie.

“For many of us it was our first encounter with the forest,” said Antonio, who spoke at Schroeder’s memorial service.

Antonio’s first Adirondack mountain was Noonmark. The popular peak in Keene Valley, with its 360-degree view of the Great Range and beyond, was Schroeder’s favorite. Antonio grew up to be a counselor at the camp, and began to lead his own trips to Noonmark and other peaks.

“Every hike I go on from now on, his name will probably be mentioned,” Antonio said. “He introduced so many people (to the mountains), it’s amazing.”

Schroeder had very personal reasons for working with city children: he grew up in orphanages in New York City until graduating high school. He also served in Europe during World War II.

He was a member of the Adirondack 46ers, the Catskill 3500 Club, the New England 111 Club (whose members must climb all peaks over 4,000 feet in New York and New England). He was active with the Adirondack Mountain Club, the Appalachian Mountain Club, the Taconic Hiking Club, the New York New Jersey Trail Conference, and the Long Path North Hiking Club. He also designed and organized the development and maintenance of miles of hiking trails.

In 1998, Fred and his wife provided the funds to build and endow the Emma Treadwell Thacher Nature Center on the grounds of the former Camp Thacher.

For the past 30 years, he was an active member of the Albany chapter of the Adirondack Mountain Club, leading weekly hikes to the Adirondacks and every other mountain range within a two-hour drive of Albany. Even later in life , his hiking pace astounded his friends.

“When I met him he was in his 60s, and he could hike anything,” said friend Karen Ross.

To read more about Schroeder, click here.


Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Adirondack Family Activities: Mount Baker

We choose a typical spring day to climb Mount Baker in Saranac Lake. We pack the car with all the enthusiasm of a family caught in the thrall of spring fever. I can hardly keep my children in shoes now that the snow has melted, let alone convince them that putting boots back on after a winter’s worth of wear will be a positive experience. Flip-flops are not an option. I am also able to convince my daughter that rhinestone platform slides are best left at home.

Just 2,452′ in elevation, Baker is often referred to as a little mountain. For locals, it’s a quick hike during a lunch break while for others it’s an opportunity to see the High Peaks without investing a lot of time. For children it is a perfect segue to climbing steeper mountains.

Springtime in the Adirondacks presents its own unique set of challenges. Sections of the trail are a frustrating combination of sweet springtime freshness and thick mud and ice. Each step threatens to leave us either barefoot (from the mud sucking the shoes right off our feet) or flat on our backs from a misplaced step on ice. Though some people have cramp-ons, we manage to maneuver the path with ski poles and sticks.

The summit of Baker is only .9 mile from the base. Since we don’t have cramp-ons we opt to skirt the trail, following other footprints along the edge. It becomes a game of search-and-find for my son. The lower section of the main trail has become a frozen waterfall so he must search across and around it for safe places for us to walk. He willingly takes on the challenge.

The path is a gentle incline at first. We then start to see large rocks surrounding us and realize that the summit is near. The path cuts sharply between two boulders but it is too slick for us to approach. We cut back around to the right and climb over the rocks, avoiding the slippery rock chimney. The first vista we find overlooks the town. We identify Lake Flower and the shops surrounding it. The next overlook is behind us, a beautiful view of Scarface and the McIntyre Range.

After our well-deserved snack, we descend, but we do not have to choose our steps as carefully. We glissade down the slippery slope, avoiding the mud when we can. There is enough ice that we are able to avoid any damage to the trail.

To access Mount Baker, on Main Street in Saranac Lake, turn right onto Dugway. Take the first left, Forest Hill Ave, and continue straight to Moody Pond. The trail marker is on the left.

photo: snow seen on the distant McIntyre Range and Mt. Marcy from the summit of Mount Baker
photo credit: www.adkfamilytime.com


Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Alan Wechsler: Why I’ll Never Be A Winter 46-er

I was driving over Cascade Pass with a friend recently when we noticed all the cars parked near the trailhead to Cascade and Porter mountains, the two easiest of the 46 High Peaks.

Was there a party going on? There must have been hundreds of people climbing that peak on this warm Saturday in mid-March.

Then my friend hit upon it: it was the last day of winter. Anybody wanting to gain the honor of “Winter Forty-Sixer” needed to climb these peaks by the end of today, or have to wait another season. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Wilderness Travel: In Praise of Humanity’s Footprint

Yesterday, I climbed Allen Mountain.

At 4,340 feet high, Allen is the state’s 26th tallest peak (this is a view of Marcy and Haystack from the top). Its summit is wooded, though thin enough to afford a number of tantalizing views, especially in winter. But its reputation has been formed not by its height or its aesthetic qualities, but by its remoteness: it’s considered one of the hardest of the 46 High Peaks of the Adirondacks to reach.

To get there, you have to follow a trail for about five miles to Twin Brook, site of a former lean-to, from a parking lot near Upper Works. From there, you follow a herd path marked by occasional ribbons and homemade markers through the woods and up a steep slide to the top. By my reckoning, the round-trip distance is around 18 miles.

Allen appealed to me on this day because I had just read on the web site Views from the Top (a great place to learn about trail conditions) that a large group of peak-baggers had blazed a trail through deep snow to the summit, which would make things easier for me.

I could follow their route on cross-country skis for at least six miles, then bareboot the trail — now as firm as concrete — to the base of the slide without fear of postholing, and then slap on snowshoes for the final, steep ascent to the top. Which is what I did, making the summit after 5 1/2 hours of moderate exercise (and some huffing and puffing toward the end).

When I got to the top — this was the first “trailless” high peak I’ve climbed in many years — I saw the wooden sign that said “Allen.” And that got me thinking.

For decades, the summits of these trailless peaks (that is, no official trail, though most have herdpaths) were marked by metal canisters, eventually replaced by plastic ones. These canisters contained notebooks, which peak-baggers would sign. It was always fun to read the observations of those who passed before you, and add your own to the mix.

Then, nine years ago, the state demanded their removal. Canisters, the bureaucrats said, were a non-conforming structure. But a wooden sign was OK. The decision outraged dozens of hikers at the time, but the canisters were eventually removed.

So there I was on this beautiful day on this beautiful summit, contemplating the logic of this declaration. I had just traversed the woods, following the snowshoe prints of a dozen hikers, crossing two man-made bridges, along snow-covered dirt roads and trails cleared by man, following trail markers nailed to trees by man, past wooden signs pointing the way, up a route made by thousands of hikers over many decades, to a summit, where a wooden sign told me I had reached the top.

And according to the state, this was a wilderness experience because a canister had been removed.

Looking back a decade, it all seems rather silly. The notebook would have been fun for me to read — although, given the distance I had to traverse to get back to my car before sunset, I barely had time to eat lunch. But the summit was just as thrilling either way.

What can we learn from all this? Well, I’ve always found it silly to say what’s “conforming” and what isn’t in a wilderness. If we don’t want any signs of mankind in the woods, we should not have trails, bridges, markers or anything else.

But if we want to hike safely — and reach a remote site in a reasonable amount of time — we should accept the fact that wilderness can’t be entirely “pure.” We need trails and bridges, markers and arrows, so folks don’t get lost. And those who think such contrivances will ruin a wilderness experience? Go bushwhack something.

All I know is I would not have dared this hike if others had not stamped the route out for me. And I got back to my car by sunset, too. Where I remembered to sign the trailhead register before leaving.


Monday, March 8, 2010

Adirondack Legend Jim Goodwin Turns 100

Jim Goodwin turned a hundred today. It’s an occasion that all who love the Adirondacks should celebrate, for perhaps no one loves these mountains more than he does.

Goodwin first saw Keene Valley when he was nine years old and was smitten at once. At eleven, he began guiding hikers for fifty cents a day. At twelve, he led his first client up Mount Marcy, the state’s highest summit.

Have you ever admired the scenery from Pyramid Peak? Thank Jim Goodwin. He cut the trail from Lower Ausable Lake to Pyramid and Gothics in 1966. Many hikers contend that Pyramid has the most spectacular vista in the High Peaks.

Goodwin finished the Pyramid route nearly forty years after cutting his first trail, at fourteen, over Little Porter to Porter Mountain. Several years ago, Jim’s son, Tony, relocated the beginning of the trail and dedicated it to the elder Goodwin. Jim also cut the popular Ridge Trail, the most scenic route up Giant Mountain.

Incidentally, Tony followed in his father’s footsteps as a trail builder and as editor of the Adirondack Mountain Club’s High Peaks guidebook.

Jim also made his mark as a rock climber. He pioneered early cliff routes in the Adirondacks with the legendary John Case, who went on to become president of the American Alpine Club, and wrote parts of the first Adirondack rock-climbing guidebook. Goodwin took part in several first ascents.

He also was a backcountry skier and ice climber.

Goodwin, who taught at a private school in Connecticut, wrote about his adventures in the Adirondacks and other mountains in And Gladly Guide: Reflections on a Life in the Mountains. Neal Burdick’s review of the memoir appeared in the March/April 2004 issue of the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine. Click on the PDF files below to read the article.

Jim now lives in a retirement home in Keene Valley. And he still gets outside.

“He likes to take walks and say hello to the people he meets,” Tony Goodwin says.

Photo: Jim Goodwin, age 9, on top of Hopkins Mountain.

Page 1 of book review.

Page 2 of book review.


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Abandoned Trails in the Adirondacks

My first backpacking trip was on an abandoned trail.

It was around 1981 or so, and my uncle Evan Bergen of Grafton was keen to take his girlfriend and me on a two-day trip in late November to Cliff Mountain, one of the trail-less high peaks. And he wanted to do it on a trail that had been closed – a route that was originally called the East River Trail.

At the time, I hadn’t realized that my first attempt at backpacking would involve a wet snowstorm, a low of zero degrees, crossing bridge-less rivers on boulders glazed in ice or a snow-covered fallen log, bushwhacking skills and no actual view. Hey, what did I know of backpacking? Included in my external-frame backpack were a full box of raisins and a pair of binoculars – I had not yet realized how heavy a backpack gets after a half-day of walking. It was an Experience.

Traveling along part of that route several weeks ago – as reported here – got me thinking about that old trail. Why was it closed? Did anybody miss it?

So I called Tony Goodwin, executive director of the Adirondack Trail Improvement Society, to see what he knew about it.

Turns out the trail was once the primary southern route into the High Peaks. It followed an old road, made of logs, built to accommodate winter logging sleds. The road was built around the 1920s, about the time that the state acquired much of the land from the Adirondack Mountain Reserve (which once owned 40,000 acres and some of the state’s highest peaks).

When hiking became popular, this was the main hiking trail in. Later, the ghost town of Upper Works became the main southern route in via the Calamity Brook Trail, and the longer East River Trail fell into disuse. Goodwin says the trail was closed around 1980, not long before I hiked it.

“There were long stretches of sidehill bridging and corduroy,” he said. “And those were finally collapsing. The DEC didn’t feel there was any reason to restore those bridges or cut lengthy reroutes around them.”

I can certainly speak to the corduroy. On the second day of our hike to Cliff – we made it far as the height of land before the short day forced us to turn around – I was constantly slipping on the trail. Not because I was becoming hypothermic, as my uncle suspected, but because my rubber “Micky Mouse” Army surplus boots kept slipping over the snow-covered logs of the old roadbed.

My 1962 copy of the ADK’s Guide to Adirondack Trails: High Peak Region, describes this trail in the dry prose of the day. The trail at the time departed from Sanford Lake, closer to the Tahawus Mine, and not at the present-day parking lot near the old blast furnace. “The footing is quite treacherous, especially in wet weather, due to slanting, slippery corduroys,” the book even warns (a warning that, apparently, my uncle chose to ignore).

Reading about it today, I’m amazed to see that what took us a day and a half of walking was only eight miles (but there was those slippery rocks and logs, and Lynn did fall into a stream at one point, and then there were those damn raisins, which I didn’t even eat, and those binoculars, which I didn’t even use …).

It also got me wondering about other lost trails. Goodwin spoke of a few in the High Peaks, including some ski trails around Whiteface built for the 1932 Olympics, and a now-defunct route to Dix near the current trail from Route 73. There’s also the trail from Mt. Van Hoevenberg to South Meadow, now closed due to blowdown and a bridge that was washed away, but Goodwin says efforts may soon be underway to reopen it.

Elsewhere in the park there are other ghosts of trails. A 1930s-era map from the North Creek area shows dozens of miles of ski trails used by those who took the Ski Train up from Schenectady, now either part of Gore Mountain Ski Area or lost to roads or overgrowth (several routes still exist that follow the historic routes — one even goes by a 1930s shed for a rescue toboggan).

Further to the south, a route to the top of tiny Cathead Mountain near Northville was lost due to a dispute over private land access.

Do readers know of other abandoned trails? Should the state bring some of them back?

Illustration: USGS Map showing Cliff Mountain.


Monday, January 18, 2010

The Jackrabbit Trail and Other Epic Adventures

The other day I skied the Jackrabbit Trail from end to end, a twenty-four-mile journey starting in Saranac Lake and ending at the Rock and River lodge in Keene. When I got to Rock and River, I told owner Ed Palen of my heroic feat. “Oh, yeah,” he said. “I do that every year.”

OK, I’m a far cry from Herman “Jackrabbit” Johannsen, the legendary skier for whom the trail is named. But for me, it was an epic day. And it got me thinking about other epic adventures in the Adirondacks.

What’s an epic adventure? First off, it must be long, arduous, and exciting. The best give you a quintessential Adirondack experience—one that can’t be topped.

The Jackrabbit qualifies as there’s no other ski trail like it in the Adirondacks. It traverses wild landscapes while connecting human communities. Tony Goodwin and the Adirondack Ski Touring Council deserve our thanks for creating and maintaining it.

Following are a half-dozen other Adirondack epic adventures that can be done in a day. If you have other suggestions or comments, please let us know.

Mount Marcy Ski. If you’re a backcountry skier, it’s hard to beat schussing down the state’s highest mountain. Of course, you have to climb seven and a half miles before the descent begins.

Eagle Slide. A number of High Peaks are scarred by bedrock slide paths. Many climbers regard the Eagle on Giant Mountain as the best. It’s wide and steep. I’ve done it in hiking boots and rock-climbing shoes. I felt much more comfortable in rock shoes.

Trap Dike. The deep gash in the side of Mount Colden, first climbed in 1850, is a classic mountaineering route. It’s steep enough in spots that some people bring ropes. After exiting the dike, you climb a broad slide to the summit.

Wallface. The largest cliff in the Adirondacks. To get there, you must hike several miles to Indian Pass in the High Peaks Wilderness. You don’t have to be an expert climber to scale the cliff—if you have a good guide. The Diagonal is the most popular route to start on.

Hudson Gorge. Several outfitters offer rafting trips through this wild, scenic canyon, but if you have the whitewater skills to canoe or kayak, go for it!

Great Range. Backpacker magazine describes a trek over the entire Great Range as “possibly the hardest classic day hike in the East.” Starting in Keene Valley, you summit seven High Peaks, ending on Marcy. Total ascent: 9,000 feet. Distance: 25 miles. You’ll need lots of daylight, water, and stamina.

For more stories about outdoor adventures, visit the Adirondack Explorer website.

Photo of McKenzie Pass on Jackrabbit Trail by Phil Brown.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Adirondack Family Activities: Newcomb VIC

This is a last weekend in many ways; last weekend of Hunting Season, ending of Hanukkah and the final weekend for holiday shopping. If you want to get all “glass half-full” then it is the beginning of snowshoe season and the start of the ski season and beginning of holiday sales! For us it is a time to get outside and safely enjoy one of the many reasons we chose to live in the Adirondack Park.

It is easy to get caught up in the pressure of the holidays no matter what we celebrate. So whether you are looking for a safe place to hike to avoid any hunters using the last eligible days to tag a deer or wish to spend time rather than money, the New York State Adirondack Park Agency Visitor Interpretive Center (VIC) at Newcomb is well worth a visit.

Open since 1990, the Newcomb VIC is part of the Huntington Wildlife Forest preserve owned by Syracuse University and maintained by the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. The 236-acre property consists of an Interpretive Building that houses educational exhibits and a trail system for seasonal activities.

There are four trails to choose from: Rick Lake, a .6-mile loop; the 1-mile Sucker Brook (which allows for skiing along the northern section only); the Peninsula Trail, a .9-mile loop which intersects the Rick Lake Trail and the R.W. Sage Memorial Trail, a 1.1-mile trail open to both skiing and snowshoeing. The bonus track is the .7-mile connector trail from The Sage Trail that links to Camp Santanoni, a 12-mile round trip ski.

Snowshoes are now required so no foot travel is allowed on any of the trails. If you don’t have your own snowshoes, you may sign out a pair for free; just provide a license as collateral. For small children (seven-years and younger) sizes may not be available so bring a sled or your own equipment.

Please keep in mind that dogs are not allowed on the trails in the winter months to enable naturalists to lead winter tracking clinics so visitors can see wildlife rather than dog prints.

The Newcomb VIC is located 12 miles east of Long Lake on Route 28N. The trails are open from dawn to dusk while the building is open from 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday (closed Thanksgiving and Christmas.) No dogs are allowed on the trails during the winter months because of Call 518-582-2000 for current trail conditions. The VIC is free and open to the public.

Photo: Rich Lake Outlet in Winter courtesy Newcomb VIC


Monday, December 14, 2009

In the Adirondacks Quitting is Always an Option

The Climbing Code in The Freedom of the Hills has nine precepts meant to promote safety in the mountains. Some are common sense, such as No. 1: “Leave the trip itinerary with a responsible person.” Others are technical: “Rope up on all exposed places and for all glacier travel.”

Most of us violate some of the rules on occasion. Many times I’ve gone on a short hike without telling anyone or without carrying the ten essentials.

But I’ve had the hardest time over the years with precept No. 7: “Never let judgment be overruled by desire when choosing the route or turning back.”

When you set out to climb a mountain and you travel for hours in pursuit of that goal, it takes mental discipline to turn around short of the summit if, say, bad weather or fatigue slows your progress. If you’re a mountain climber, after all, you’re probably the sort who takes risks, the sort inclined to push on despite the dangers.

Several years ago, I violated six or seven of the precepts when I climbed the slides on the east side of Giant Mountain. I went solo, I didn’t tell anyone, and I got into a situation above my ability. I ended up ascending a very steep face, scratching dirt out of cracks to make holds. Essentially, I was rock climbing in hiking boots, and I had no rock-climbing experience.

It wasn’t the only time I got lucky.

This past weekend, I set out to climb Debar Mountain with Mike Lynch, the outdoors writer for the Adirondack Daily Enterprise. I needed to get photos for a snowshoeing story that will run in the January/February issue of the Adirondack Explorer.

It’s a round trip of nine and half miles. We skied in a few miles and then switched to snowshoes when the trail got steeper. We were breaking trail the whole time.

Most of the climbing comes in the final mile or so. As we ascended, Mike started to fall behind, so I waited for him. He told me his asthma was acting up. He also may have been worn out from skiing eight days in a row. We decided to go a little farther to see if he felt better. He didn’t, so with less than a half-mile to go to reach the top, we turned back.

No doubt we could have made it had we pushed on. In the past, I might have regretted turning around, but I felt we made a smart decision—especially as we were running out of daylight—and that gave me as much satisfaction as reaching the summit.

A wise man once said: “The mountains will always be there; the trick is to make sure you are too.”


Monday, November 30, 2009

A Great Range Dayhike of 10,000 Vertical Feet

The respite from winter’s grip is about over in the Adirondacks. I, therefore, decided to summarize a hiking route best done in the warm weather as a nostalgic farewell to temperate days. There are many ways to challenge ones hiking metal, one of which is to set cumulative goals such as total mileage, mountains climbed or total vertical gain. The Great Range is the premier Adirondack mountain range for such a venture as hiking over 10,000 vertical feet in a dayhike. As a matter of fact, the Great Range’s complete traverse was listed in Backpacker Magazine as America’s third hardest dayhike. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Short Adirondack Hike For Short Days

November is one of those in-between months, sort of like mud or black-fly season, where your outdoor activities are sort of limited. There’s no snow yet (not anymore, not like the old days anyway), it’s too cold to paddle unless you’re a die-hard and without any leaves the woods certainly don’t look terribly appealing. Not to mention the fact that it gets dark only a few hours past noon.

Our advice for a hike during these dreary, pre-winter days? Keep it short.

A good outing for those in the Lake George area, or living in the Capital Region, is Sleeping Beauty. This 2,162-foot-high treeless peak is less than two miles from the parking lot (assuming you’re brave enough to drive the one-lane, 1.5-mile road to Dacy Clearing from Shelving Rock Road — but I’ve done it several times in a sedan and never had a problem). And though it gains steeply toward the end it’s a climb any hiker should be able to tackle.

To reach the trailhead, 149 east of Route 9 in Queensbury, and make a left on Buttermilk Falls Road. Follow that road for a good 10 to 15 minutes until you enter the Shelving Rock woods. You’ll see a huge parking lot on the right, and at the end of that will be the road to Dacy Clearing (or park here and walk the road if you like). Don’t make the right onto Hogback Road.

Trail signs point the way to Sleeping Beauty, which at first follows an old, rugged dirt road. Eventually, the trail leaves the road and climbs steeply past rock cliffs to the summit, which provides a sterling view over most of Lake George.

If you left early enough you’ll have time to explore some of the many trails in this area. Bumps Pond, just north of Sleeping Beauty, makes a nice loop, and Fishbrook Pond further north will make the loop even longer. There’s a nice leanto at Fishbrook to have lunch and a number of other loop options if the short days still haven’t caught up to you.

While the trails are well-signed, an ADK Eastern Region trail map will go a long way to helping you choose your destinations. Remember to pack a flashlight and warm clothes, and enjoy.

Photo: Lake George from Sleeping Beauty.


Monday, November 2, 2009

Gearing Up: Snowshoe Season is Almost Here

Winter is nearly upon the Adirondacks and it’s time to blow the dust off your cold-weather gear including your snowshoes. Snowshoeing has increased in popularity and practicality in stride with technology. Gone are the days when the only choice was hand woven wood frame shoes. The framing, decking, cleats (crampons) and bindings are now made with high tech materials specialized for various conditions and preferences.

The first question becomes one of purpose. What environment will they be used for? Deep powder snow and packed trails are drastically different underfoot. Designs with increased length and width increase surface area and offer more stability and flotation in unpacked conditions. They are a bit less maneuverable, however, it tighter areas. They can also be used on packed trails in many instances. More compact models save weight and increase maneuverability when snow depth is minimal.

Specialized conditions sometimes require specialized shoes. Ascending to higher elevations via steep grades may require traverse through changing conditions: packed trail, unbroken powder, steep inclines with ice flows, summits with mixed conditions where, perhaps, crampons would be most valuable. Most models offer some crampons with varying degrees of aggressiveness for traction. MSR, for instance, offers a very specialized and maneuverable line of shoes that include aggressive crampons, metal “teeth” either around the circumference or in rows, a heel elevator to alleviate leg fatigue on inclines and an optional flotation tail to increase length and thus versatility across terrain.

No matter the environment, it’s also important to know which shoes perform best for your personal traits as well. Manufacturers usually have a weight chart to help choose between models or sizes of a particular model. Forums and product review sites can offer guidance on the positive and negative aspects of each.

As an aside, please remember that in the High Peaks Wilderness area, you “must possess and use skis or snowshoes when the terrain is snow-covered with eight or more inches of snow”. This helps reduce preventable rescues and protects both the wearer and other hikers alike.


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