Posts Tagged ‘hiking’

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Gear: The Perfect Bushwhacking Gaiters

A bushwhacker’s essential equipment list should include such items as a compass, a sturdy pair of hiking boots, a streamlined backpack and lightweight rain gear. One important and largely over-looked bushwhacking accessory absent from the list is the lowly gaiter.

Gaiters are protective clothing worn over the shoe and lower leg to prevent debris, mud, water, snow, etc. from entering the boot. Typically the amount of the lower leg covered depends on the season and activity (i.e. higher in wintry conditions). Bushwhacking gaiters tend to cover only the ankle during the warmer months primarily to keep debris and water from entering the boot.

It is critical for a good pair of bushwhacking gaiters to do more than keep debris out of your boots in the Adirondack though. Gaiters need to be waterproof not only for those rainy Adirondack days (which are more common than most would like) but for those early mornings where heavy dew has saturated the herbaceous vegetation in every beaver vly as well. While waterproof they still need to be permeable enough to keep the feet cool and dry. Durability is crucial for any piece of bushwhacking equipment and gaiters are no different. A rugged and durable gaiter will give the bushwhacker years of usefulness.

Integral Designs manufactures a pair of short gaiters absolutely perfect for the Adirondack bushwhacker. The eVent Shortie Gaiters are ultra lightweight, weighing at about only 2.5 ounces. They are made out of very breathable trilaminate eVent fabric so they will not overheat your feet. The breathable eVent fabric is an important feature since the gaiters lack both Velcro® and zippers, which makes them an effort to put on and/or take off as they require the removal of one’s boots. The lack of easy removal does increase their rain reducing potential however (read a description of my rain reducing method here). The insteps are reinforced with black supplex nylon to reduce wear and tear. The gaiters have a hook at the front for attaching to boot lacing plus shock cords which fit under the instep and around the leg to keep them securely in place. They come in two sizes (small/medium and large/x-large) and two colors (dark green and yellow).

I purchased a pair of Shortie Gaiters over two years ago and have been thoroughly pleased with them since. They keep my feet dry (combined with my Gore-Tex® lined hiking boots and rain pants) on both mornings with heavy dew and during intense rain fall. I have bushwhacked with the gaiters on in 80+ degree Fahrenheit heat and my feet never felt overheated or sweaty. The gaiters are extremely rugged as mine still have no rips despite my many backcountry adventures. They even survived a day of hiking along a scree slope in the Sierra-Nevada Mountains. Although very rugged, the gaiters are not indestructible as I severed an instep shock cord on my last bushwhacking adventure this past September. Mine are dark green gaiters as I found the bright yellow color too loud and offensive for this bushwhacker who would rather blend in with his surroundings than advertise a stylish choice of color.

The Integral Designs Shortie gaiters are ideal bushwhacking gaiters that will keep your feet dry and cool regardless of the conditions while preventing the inevitable debris from getting inside your hiking boots. Anyone planning on buying some bushwhacking gaiters for the Adirondacks cannot go wrong with these exceptional gaiters from Integral Designs.

Photo: eVent Shortie Gaiters by Integral Designs.

Dan Crane blogs about his bushwhacking experiences at http://www.bushwhackingfool.com/.


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Alan Wechsler: Jay Mountain Wilderness

Jay Mountain is surrounded by ominous signs.

To the east is Death Mountain. South of that is Slip Mountain. North of that is Bluff Mountain. So slip off bluff and find death.

Furthermore, without any official trail, and off any main road, these peaks are far off the radar. But after a visit last weekend — free of slips or deaths — I am proud to report that the Jay Mountain Wilderness is not only a lot more user-friendly than one might assume from its blank space on the map, but also that it’s well worth the visit.

To reach the trailhead — yes, there is one, though it’s unmarked — we drove through Keene Valley, passing hundreds of cars. Hikers were here by the flockload, it seemed, eager to take advantage of a sunny Saturday during fall color peak. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Adirondack 46er Trailmaster Wins DEC Award

Len Grubbs, a Trailmaster with the Adirondack Forty-Sixers, has received the Adirondack Stewardship Award from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), for his two decades and thousands of hours of time working on trails, organizing volunteers and planning trail work.

DEC Region 5 Director Betsy Lowe presented the award to Grubbs on Oct. 2 at the fall business meeting of the Adirondack Forty-Sixers at the Keene Central School in Keene Valley. The Adirondack Forty-Sixers Inc. consists of hikers who have climbed the summits of the 46 major peaks of the Adirondack Mountains.

“Stewardship is one of our most important tools in managing and preserving the beautiful lands and waters of the Adirondacks,” Director Lowe said. “It is truly gratifying to recognize Len Grubbs for the tremendous contributions he has made to protecting Forest Preserve lands, while ensuring the comfort and safety of hikers.”

The Adirondack Stewardship Award is presented by DEC to groups or individuals who demonstrate outstanding stewardship to the natural resources of the Adirondack Park.

DEC presented a certificate to Grubbs in recognition of his “two decades and thousands of hours of hard work maintaining trails and facilities on the Adirondack Forest Preserve, coordinating the work of others to the benefit and safety of those that use the trails, and conserving the natural resources of the Adirondacks.”

Grubbs began maintaining trails in 1989 as a volunteer with the Adirondack Forty-Sixers. In 1994, he became co-trailmaster a position he has held for 15 years, the longest anyone has held the post in the history of the group.

Grubbs has a total of 2,336 hours of service, which is 500 hours more than other “46er,” — and that does not include the time spent planning work, holding meetings, and writing reports. He has performed a wide array tasks, including: clearing blowdown, hardening trails, seeding summits, installing erosion control devices and building, repairing and moving lean-tos, foot bridges and pit privies. He also has spent time scouting and refurbishing “herd paths” on the trailless peaks.


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Dan Crane: Adirondack Bushwhacking Safety

There is no way around it, bushwhacking in the Adirondacks is an inherently dangerous activity. The aggressive terrain, vast amount of wilderness, frequently changing weather conditions and the lack of wireless communication access makes dealing with any emergency situation a challenge. Although it is impossible to make backcountry exploration a completely safe endeavor, the principles of risk management can be used to identify, prevent and, if everything fails, ameliorate some of the possible negative impacts of those risky elements associated with bushwhacking.

Although much of what can be said about safety in the backcountry applies to both trail hiking and bushwhacking, the remoteness encountered by a bushwhacker makes safety precautions an even higher priority. The bushwhacker is typically far from assistance and therefore must be prepared to handle any conceivable emergency situation, or deal with the consequences. Managing the inherent risk involved in exploring the backcountry can be accomplished by being prepared for an emergency and taking the proper precautions should such an emergency present itself.

Whoever coined the expression “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” must have been referring to bushwhacking. And prevention of any problem in the backcountry starts with physical training. Any training for bushwhacking should include both endurance training and core strengthening. Endurance training, such as running, swimming, walking or hiking is essential to prepare for the exertion necessary to bushwhack over steep terrain for many hours a day, not to mention crawling through blowdowns, stepping over logs and struggling through tangles of witchhobble. Core strengthening involves working the thighs, hips, abdominal and back muscles. These muscles assist with handling heavy backpacks, balance when stepping over logs or crossing beaver dams and navigating through rocky terrain. Preventing injury by preparing your body for the effort involved while bushwhacking is worth more than a whole backpack full of first aid equipment.

My training consists of endurance training four to six days per week augmented by resistance training on four of those days. The endurance training typically consists of running a minimum of three to four miles each day although I sometimes experiment with cross-training by biking, stair-stepping or using an elliptical machine instead. The resistance training consists of one to two hours of either core strengthening (i.e. chest, legs, back) or arms and shoulder strengthening. Each of the two training styles (i.e. core and arms/shoulders) is repeated twice per week. I perform my training year round since it is easier to remain in good physical condition than to get back into such condition.

Physical training is not the only way to reduce the inherent risks involved with bushwhacking. Traveling in groups, leaving a trip itinerary with someone and avoiding unnecessary risks are age-old backpacking precautions that should be heeded when possible by the bushwhacker. Typically a group size of 3 or more is ideal so at least one person could go for help while another can stay with the injured person. Although ideal, it is not always possible to find enough people interested in bushwhacking to assemble such a large group. Bushwhacking in smaller groups (or even solo) should not be avoided but the risks involved will be greater and one should take extra precautions to reduce such risks.

Leaving an itinerary with a responsible person along with the day you plan on exiting the backcountry are standard safety precautions that should be adhered to by the bushwhacker. It is best to give a detailed itinerary with the route planned and camping site locations although conditions on the ground often make it difficult to stick to such a plan. At the very least geographic landmarks should be given to define the area being explored (e.g. west of Moshier Creek, south of Pepperbox Creek and east of the county line). This narrows the search of the 6.1 million acres of the Adirondack down to a more manageable level.

Needless to say, unnecessary risks should be avoided as much as possible. When traveling through difficult areas, such as blowdowns, rocky conditions, stream crossing, etc. it is best to slow down and take your time, especially during wet conditions. At any point where you find yourself hurrying through difficult circumstances, it is best to stop and take a short break before restarting at a slower pace. This will drastically reduce the probability of an injury and reduce the chance of having to use your first aid kit.

I always leave an itinerary with someone I can trust before heading out into the backcountry. The itinerary consists of my planned route plus some side trips just in case I have some extra time. In addition, I always register at the trailhead since I typically start my bushwhack off an existing trail system. And I never pass on the opportunity to register in any lean-tos I encounter on my trip too. In areas where registers are not available I tend to write my initials and the date in small pebbles at key locations along my planned route just in case anything should happen along the way. I take these extra precautions since most of my bushwhacking adventures are lengthy solo trips which involve inherently greater risks.

Carrying a well-stocked first aid kit is essential for any bushwhacker. The ingredients of a suitable first aid kit for a bushwhacker are identical as those of the typical backpacker. There is a plethora of pre-packaged first aid kits available on the market to choose from. A cheaper alternative would be to create your own homemade first aid kit by purchasing those items necessary should an injury occur during an outdoor adventure. Some ideas for items to be included in a homemade first aid kit can be found here, here, here and here. It is not enough to carry a well-stocked first aid if one lacks the knowledge to use it in an emergency. For that reason it is a good idea to take a class in wilderness and remote area first aid. These courses are given by the American Red Cross and the Adirondack Mountain Club. Carrying a first aid kit and having the knowledge how to use it in the case of an emergency should leave you in good stead if an injury occurs while in the backcountry.

My first aid kit includes numerous self-adhesive bandages of all different sizes and shapes, gauze bandages, moleskin, alcohol pads, Spenco 2nd Skin® (for blisters and burns), waterproof surgical tape, a small elastic bandage and single-use Neosporin® packets. Also, I carry multiple doses of 200 mg ibuprofen tablets, Benadryl® antihistamine tablets, loperamide hydrochloride tablets (for diarrhea), pink bismuth tablets (for upset stomach) and 75 mg diclofenac sodium tablets (a prescription anti-inflammatory for my back). A space blanket, strike anywhere matches, birthday candles, a water filter straw, a needle and thread, several safety pins and some string round out my kit. In addition, I carry an emergency whistle, a small jackknife (with a blade, scissors and tweezers), sunscreen, lip balm and bug repellent in a separate stuff sack, which I keep in the outside pocket of my backpack for easy access.

Although a first aid can be effective for many types of injuries it is of limited usefulness if the injury is serious enough to prevent one from evacuating the backcountry. This is especially true for those who engage in solo bushwhacking adventures. In the case of a broken leg, sprained ankle or other incapacitating emergency it is wise to carry a personal locator beacon (PLB) when traveling alone. Personal locator beacons are tracking transmitters which aid in the detection and location via a satellite system. They can be used to determine the location of an individual in an emergency leading to an efficient and timely extraction from the backcountry. A personal locator beacon is one of the most important (and expensive) pieces of equipment a bushwhacker should carry when traveling alone but hopefully never use. It is essential the PLB transmit GPS coordinates so that a search and rescue can be reduced to a simple rescue. A PLB should only be activated during a dire emergency where the situation is grave and the loss of life, limb, or eyesight will occur without assistance. But remember, a PLB cannot assist you unless you are conscious enough to activate it, so carrying one should never be used as an excuse to undertake risky behavior.

Three popular manufactures of personal locator beacon products are ACR Electronics, Inc., SPOT, Inc. and McMurdo, Ltd. They typically range from $150 to $400 and some require the purchasing of a subscription service for specific functionality.

Personally, I carry an ACR MicroFix 406 GPS Personal Locator Beacon, a recently discontinued product. It weighs about 10 ounces and cost considerably more than the current products on the market. I cannot comment on how well it works since thankfully I have never had the occasion to use it. But it gives me the peace of mind knowing I have some way to communicate with the outside world in case of a life-threatening emergency.

Hopefully this discussion of the necessary precautions one should take while bushwhacking has not frightened anyone from heading off the trail. Although it is prudent to be as prepared as possible for any emergency it is still fairly safe being in the backcountry. The most dangerous aspect of any trip is most likely the drive to and from the trailhead. It is important to be prepared but not lose sight of the fact that bushwhacking is supposed to be fun and exciting. So get out there, get off the trail and enjoy yourself but be ready just in case.

Photo: Blowdown by Dan Crane.

Dan Crane blogs about his bushwhacking experiences at http://www.bushwhackingfool.com/.


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Adirondack Cairns: Rocks For The Ages

Why should I be fascinated by cairns? Aren’t they just heaps of stones?

Yet whenever I come across one of these heaps on a wild and windswept ridge—on Jay Mountain, for instance—I feel cheered. Aha! I am not alone. Someone else has been here before me, and no doubt someone will pass here after me.

A cairn exists to point us in the right direction, but it often evokes an appreciation that can’t be explained by its utilitarian purpose. You don’t react in the same way to a paint blaze.

As an analogy, think of the difference between a word’s denotation and connotation. The word rose refers to a flower. That is its denotation. But a rose can symbolize love or passion, among other things. So whatever Gertrude Stein may have said, a rose is not just a rose. And a cairn is not just a heap of stones.

The word cairn derives from Gaelic and dates back at least to the fifteenth century, but the building of cairns is an ancient custom, not exclusive to the Celts. Its primitiveness is part of the cairn’s appeal. The cairn connects us to humanity across the ages and reminds us that we are all wayfarers. It is a symbol of our journey.

Cairns appeal to our creative spirit. On many mountains, they resemble sculptures. A fine example is the cairn in the photo above, from the summit of East Dix.

You can read more about cairns on the Adirondack Explorer website by clicking here.

And if you have a favorite cairn, please tell us about it.

Photo by Phil Brown: Cairn on East Dix.

Phil Brown is the editor of the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine.


Thursday, September 9, 2010

A Primer on Adirondack Bushwhacking

The ways to enjoy the outdoors in the Adirondacks are legion. A pleasant drive through the mountains, a relaxing day by the lakeshore in a state campground, a soothing canoe ride along a slow-moving river or a vigorous hike on one of the many state-maintained trails are just a few ways to take pleasure experiencing the outdoors within the Blue Line. But few outdoor activities allow for the freedom to experience the Adirondacks on its own terms like bushwhacking does. Bushwhacking, or off-trail hiking, permits the exploration of almost all of the environments within the Adirondacks as long as they are accessible via foot travel.

Bushwhacking is defined by Merriam-Webster as “to clear a path through thick woods especially by chopping down bushes and low branches”. The Adirondacks surely has its share of thick woods with bushes and low branches (witchhobble and American beech saplings come to mind) but it is illegal to perform any chopping of live vegetation on public forest preserve property. Fortunately, a machete is completely unnecessary within the Adirondacks where the vegetation is never so dense as to require such extremes. Instead, bushwhacking should be defined within the Blue Line as navigating through natural terrestrial environments (i.e. forests, wetlands, beaver vlys, etc.) without the aid of any human-constructed landmarks such as roads or trails.

In the Adirondacks, bushwhacking only requires the use of a map and compass, a sturdy pair of hiking boots and a desire to explore areas where few have tread. If you are more comfortable with modern technology then a hand-held GPS navigational device can be substituted for the map and compass. Some find navigating with a GPS device to be tedious and prefer to learn orienteering skills to navigate through the landscape. Regardless of preference, map and compass skills should be mastered be everyone adventuring off-trail into the backcountry as GPS devices can cease functioning or run low on battery power. GPS devices equipped with digital topographical maps can be useful especially navigating during wet weather where paper maps quickly become saturated and disintegrate.

If extensive multi-day adventures are desired then traditional backpacking equipment will be required too. When purchasing backpacking equipment for bushwhacking purposes keep in mind the gear should be rugged, well-made, and lightweight. Bushwhacking inflicts greater wear and tear on your gear, so emphasizing rugged and well-made equipment will ensure years of use. Since bushwhacking is typically more arduous than traditional backpacking (e.g. the ground is less level, more obstacles to climb over or around, continuously being poked and prodded by sharp branches, etc.) it is advantageous to lighten the load on your back as much as possible. This can be accomplished by either leaving home unnecessary equipment or replacing heavier articles with lighter weight equivalents.

There are essentially two different navigation methods while bushwhacking. The shortest-distance method entails taking a direct bearing between two geographic features on a map (i.e. a hill, a stream, a lake or pond, etc.) and staying true to the bearing as much as possible as you travel over the landscape. Detours often are necessary to find an adequate stream crossing, avoid a steep section, etc. Dog-legging is the second navigation method, where one travels shorter distances and at different bearings in an attempt to avoid more difficult features on the landscape. Usually a combination of the two methods is necessary to efficiently bushwhack through the diverse topography found in the Adirondacks.

The Adirondacks affords almost infinite bushwhacking opportunities from state-owned forest preserve to private properties with recreational easements. Extensive areas devoid of trails or roads offer the greatest bushwhacking opportunities but trails and dirt roads can be useful to gain access deep into the backcountry. Herd paths (unmarked foot paths created either by human or animal activities) can be found in abundance in areas where gaining access to certain landscape features is popular. Trails, dirt-roads and bushwhacking can be combined to produce lengthy adventures over varied landscape often found in the Adirondacks.

Bushwhacking provides a multitude of opportunities for enjoying the outdoors in the Adirondacks regardless of whether one is interested in forests, wetlands, wilderness lakes or rugged mountain peaks. So pick up a map and compass, learn how to use them and get out and experience the Adirondack as only bushwhacking allows.

Photo: Old logging road by Dan Crane.

Dan Crane blogs about his bushwhacking experiences at www.bushwhackingfool.com.


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Diane Chase Adirondack Family Activities: Inlet’s Rocky Mountain

By Diane Chase, Adirondack Family Activities

Rocky Mountain is about the easiest climb I have had the pleasure to complete in a while. With a vertical rise of 450’ and just a half-mile to the top, not only do we get a chance to stretch our legs but an astounding view as well.

I love those types of climbs. Not every opportunity to get outside can be a full day event. Sometimes our schedule only permits a quick jaunt. Knowing where to find a family-friendly hike that satisfies all levels of hiker is worth putting on the list. Rocky Mountain is just such a hike.

Just south of Inlet we find the parking area with ease. We have an expert guide. We are visiting a friend from the area that knows exactly what my children need, a run up a mountain. The kids rush out of the car hardly waiting for it to be put into park. The register is signed and we are on our way.

It is an easy path. Even the damp ground and slick rocks do not impede our scramble up the wide rocky trail. A jogger and a family pass us on an outing. This trail is well used by visitors as well as locals but not overly crowded.

I hang toward the back nudging my daughter on as she stops every few steps to look for butterflies, bugs or perhaps, once again, mermaids. A few trees have started to turn color so we play a game to find the next tree that is putting on its autumn cloak. I have to remind her the goal is going up the mountain not into it. We need to stay on the trail. My son is just the opposite. He is focused on the summit.

We rarely have all sorts of time at the top to explore and soak in the view. Usually we have a quick look around and retreat due to time constraints. With this hike we can relax. Fourth Lake, McCauley Mountain to the west and Bald Mountain along the north are pointed out to us.

I sit in a quiet corner and just breathe while my kids play hopscotch in the soft earth. Later we rub out any marks to make sure that we leave the area exactly (or better) than we found it.

To access the trailhead drive about one mile south on Route 28 from downtown Inlet to the parking area for Rocky Mountain. The path is an easy one-mile round trip hike.

Photo of Fourth Lake from the summit of Rocky Mt © Diane Chase used with permission from Adirondack Family Time


photo and content © Diane Chase, Adirondack Family Activities ™. Diane is the author of the Adirondack Family Activities Guidebook Series including the recent released Adirondack Family Time: Tri-Lakes and High Peaks Your Guide to Over 300 Activities for Lake Placid, Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake, Keene, Jay and Wilmington areas (with GPS coordinates) This is the first book of a four-book series of Adirondack Family Activities. The next three editions will cover Plattsburgh to Ticonderoga, Long Lake to Old Forge and Newcomb to Lake George. 


Saturday, August 28, 2010

A New Guide Answers: “What Are We Looking At?

How many times have you reached the top of mountain only to wonder what exactly you’re seeing? Thatcher Hogan, designer of Thatcher’s Peak Finders may have the answer in the form of a sturdy plastic deck of line drawings that identify the views from popular peaks in the Northern Adirondacks.

Standing at the top of one of the ten mountains included, it’s clear that Thatcher is on to something. Included in his first Peak Finder are popular day-hikes like Ampersand, Azure, baker, Cascade, Haystack, Mount Arab, Jenkins, Owls Head, St. Regis, and Whiteface. Helpful tips – standing too close to a fire tower can mess with your compass – and interesting historical and geological facts are peppered throughout this tidy, easily pocket-able three ounce deck of views.

Each laminated card contains a detailed line drawing created from original photography shot specifically for each peak, so they represent what hikers actually see without binoculars. Over 210 peaks and landmarks are identified in this first edition, including 40 High Peaks, an area totaling 10,000 square miles, according to Thatcher. High Peaks are highlighted with their rank and elevation, lakes and rivers are identified, as are some 200 other peaks outside the biggies. The cards are riveted together with a study plastic rivet, just turn open the card showing the view you’re looking at and line the features up.

You can learn more about Thatcher’s Peak Finder at www.AdirondackPeakFinders.com, or just pick one up at Eastern Mountain Sports or the Adirondack Museum for $16.95.

Note: Books noticed on this site have been provided by the publishers.


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Lake George’s Best-Kept Hiking Secret is Out

Cat and Thomas mountains have only been open to hiking for the past seven years, but word is getting out.

On the Adirondacks’ most famous and perhaps most scenic lake, hikes abound. Visitors can choose from challenges, like Black or Tongue Mountain, or easy afternoon climbs, such as Sleeping Beauty or Pilot’s Knob.

Still, among those treasures, Cat and Thomas stand out for their ease of access, stellar views and, well, relative solitude. Located near Bolton Landing on the lake’s west side, the hikes just aren’t as well-known as the usual suspects. But that, of course, is changing.

The mountains, formerly private, were purchased by the Lake George Land Conservancy in 2003 for $1 million. Visitors can hike one or both mountains, or — my favorite — connect them both via a 6.5 mile loop. The mountains are reached via former logging roads that don’t ascend more than 750 feet. However, the connecting loop includes a difficult trail that requires scrambling up and down some considerably steep sections.

Thomas is the lesser of the two peaks, at least in terms of views — it faces west, so you can’t see the lake. There is, however, a neat cabin at the top (or at least there was the last time I visited — the property owners have been planning to remove it at some point).

Cat offers a stellar view of Lake George from its bare, rocky summit. Spread out before you is Bolton Landing, Tongue Mountain, and in the distance, the range of peaks stretching up the lake’s east side.

To reach the preserve, take Northway Exit 24 and head east. After two miles, make a right on Valley Woods Road. The main parking lot is on the right shortly after the turn. There’s also a separate parking lot further down for those who just want to climb Cat Mountain. The trails are well-marked and easy to follow.


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Best Day-Hike in the Adirondacks

Well, the title of this post could lead to controversy — I’m sure every hiker has their favorite route, depending on location, level of fitness and how much climbing (or none at all) they wish to do in a day.

Last weekend I did the infamous Bald Peak-Rocky Peak Ridge-Giant Mountain traverse, a hike of nearly 12 miles that takes those with strong knees and thighs on a grand tour of some of the most exposed peaks in the park. And that’s got my vote.

To do this route, you need strength, a relatively early start, and two cars (or one car and a bicycle, if you think you’d feel like pedaling another 8 miles after an all-day hike).

The route begins on Route 9, about four miles north of the “dysfunction junction” intersection with Route 73, at an easy-to-miss DEC parking lot on the left as you head north. From here, you hike four miles to the top of Bald Peak, climb down to a col and steeply ascend to the Rocky Peak ridge. Once you’ve traversed the ridge, you have to descend again for the final climb to Giant, for a total of 5,300 feet of vertical in 8 miles.

I did this hike last Saturday with my friend Jim Close. We parked one car at the base of Giant, then drove to the Bald Peak trailhead eight road-miles away. According to the sign-in sheet, more than 20 people had already signed up to do this traverse. Apparently our 9:30 a.m. departure was tardy by hiking standards.

Bald Peak is just a little over 3,000 feet high, but its exposed ledges and wide-open summit gives it a view that seems like a much larger mountain, especially given that the entire High Peaks range extends west and south from its back door. Be sure to take the side-trail to Blueberry Cobbles on the way up, which affords even more cliffy views.

We reached the summit by noon, and took a short break. So far, we had run into only a few people. The temperature was perfect, mid-70s and little humidity, with the August sun diffused behind a thin cloud layer. This was beginning to look like a stellar day.

It’s a long descent, and even longer climb from Bald to the top of the ridge, which starts out just over 4,000 feet and never gets much lower.

Once on Rocky Peak, we began the ridge proper. From here to the other side, a hiker is afforded almost constant views above treeline. Thanks to a fire on this ridge that got rid of all the trees many years ago, the exposure feels more like a peak in the Rocky Mountains than anything you’d find in New York.

After passing a shallow pond called Lake Mary Louise (you can fill your water bottles here, but bring purification pills or a filter). the ridge continues to the top, where a tall cairn marks the summit. From here, it’s a steady descent to another col and the steepest climb yet to the shoulder of Giant.

At this point, I temporarily left Jim. There was a short slide on Giant, visible from Rocky Peak Ridge, that seemed like it was right off the trail. Still feeling still energetic, I was keen to check it out. A very slight herd path led the way, but I quickly lost it and found myself battling the usual thick summit flora. Eventually, I did reach the slide, but halfway up.

Still, the slide itself was clean and fun to climb, as was battling back to the trail. I met Jim on the summit of Giant, at 4,627 feet. The peak was crowded when we arrived, but soon cleared out, giving us a quiet rest on top of one of the most popular mountains in the park.

Another four miles of steep but fun descent brought us back to our waiting car, a stash of cold beer and a swim in nearby Chapel Pond. The total hike took us a little more than eight hours, including stops of various lengths at all the good view points.

It was nearly 20 years since I had last hiked this route. The next time won’t take so long.


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Alan Wechsler: Comparing Colorado to the Adirondacks

I recently spent a few days touring around Colorado by bicycle. It was my seventh trip to the state, in both summer and winter.

The trip took me on a few parts of the Colorado Trail, a 450-mile hiking route that follows the spine of the Continental Divide from Denver to Durango. It also took me to some of Colorado’s old mining towns, most of which have been recast as a combination tourist attraction and burgeoning home to the young, artsy and outdoorsy.

The trip got me thinking about the differences between the Rocky Mountains and the Adirondacks, where I first learned to climb mountains and have spent the last 25 years exploring. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Lake George Conservancy to Hold Field Day Event

The Lake George Land Conservancy is holding an Annual Meeting and Field Day event, this Saturday July 24, 2010. The public is invited to participate in a themed hike or presentation around the lake in the morning, then join the group for a picnic lunch in Hague, listen to brief remarks on LGLC’s recent conservation efforts, and family games and activities. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A New 46er Challange: Failing to Reach the Top

Many years ago, after two attempts (and subsequent failures) to climb Dix Mountain via the southwest slide, I turned to my friend and said, “I’ve got an idea. Let’s come up with a new type of 46er challenge.”

The 46ers, of course, are those hikers who climb all 46 of the High Peaks in the Adirondacks more than 4,000 feet high. There’s more than 6,000 officially in this club, plus hundreds more who have done them all in winter.

So my new idea? To fail on every peak more than 4,000 feet high. To qualify for this challenge, you have to try to climb every peak and not get to the top for one reason or another. These must be organic reasons — blisters, encroaching night, exhaustion, getting lost, an ailing partner. You can’t just up and turn around — you’ve got to plan to climb the peak, but fail.

Thus far I’ve climbed every 46 peak, but I’ve only failed to climb a handful. That means I’ve got a lot more failing to go, so if there’s any weak-kneed or blister-prone hikers who think they can’t make it to the top of a High Peak, let me know and I’d love to join you for an attempt.

But the real reason I’m writing today is my other idea for a High Peak challenge — The Black Fly 46. To qualify for this covered prize, you’ve got to climb every High Peak during black fly season, mid-May to early July.

Now, my standards are more than what the calendar can provide. After all, if it’s early June — the heart of black fly season — but temperatures are low so they’re not biting, that doesn’t count. To qualify for a Black Fly 46, you’ve got to come back with at least four bug bites for each peak climbed. That means if you’re ascending four peaks in one day and you want credit, you need at least 16 bites. My idea, my rules.

I think this challenge will help bring people to the mountains at a time that many hikers tend to stay away, and perhaps ease the crowds on busy weekends in summer and fall. After all, why bother climbing a peak if you’re not going to get enough bites to qualify?

Anyway, that’s my idea. If anyone wants to vie for the award, show me a picture of your bites on various summits and I’ll send you the prize (a bottle of Calamine Lotion).

Watch for an upcoming post for my next idea for a hiking challenge: the Frostbite 46. Winners of this prize may be bedridden for a while, but think how good the certificate will look on your hospital wall.


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

High Peak Hiking: Four Slides in One Day

Many Adirondack hikers go on to explore the many slides of the High Peaks after hiking trails for many years. Slides create a direct approach to the top, combining bushwhacking, easy rock climbing and a sense of adventure.

Then there’s Kevin “MudRat” MacKenzie of Lake Placid, who has taken slide-climbing to a new extreme.

Call it slide-bagging. And recently he got four of them in one day.

About a week ago MacKenzie, 40, an assistant registrar at St. Lawrence University, climbed Giant Mountain — the popular High Peak off Route 73 in Keene Valley. He climbed it, descended it, climbed it and descended it, by himself, going up and down four adjacent slides on the prominent west face.

“I was going to do everything on the west face,” he reported later. “So I put together four of them.”

Every slide was different, he said. Every slide had its own character.

Starting his hike around 7 a.m., he hiked the Roaring Brook Trail to a bushwhack that follows drainages to the base of the Bottle Slide, one of a number of bare areas created from landslides years ago.

He describes the slide as one of his favorites, with waves of anorthosite, plenty of cracks and ledges to climb and a pitch of around 39 degrees (he figures this out at home using topographic software.

From there, he descended the Diagonal Slide, which is steeper and covered with algae, making for a nerve-racking descent. “You can’t see what you’re stepping onto,” he said.

At the bottom of the mountain’s headwall, he traversed to the Question Mark Slide, an obscure route that’s steep, overgrown and covered with wet moss. That took two hours, including a lot of bushwhacking through the trees to avoid the perilous, 45-degree wet bits.

Finally reaching the summit at 1 p.m., he was exhausted and decided to pass on hiking Giant’s most well-known slide, the majestic Eagle Slide (the wide and obvious bare section visible from Keene Valley). Instead, he walked down the 600-foot-high Tulip Slide and decided to call it a day.

MacKenzie says he’s done about 30 slides so far, and hopes to one day climb all 100 major slides in the peaks. His next area: Dix, with its dozens of slides, which he plans to attack in a weekend camping trip in the near future.

Readers: What are your favorite slide routes and why?

 


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Adirondack Family Activities’ Diane Chase: A Hike To Owl’s Head

By Diane Chase, Adirondack Family Activities ™

Trailhead to Summit: 0.6
Ascent: 460 ft

Owl’s Head, located between Lake Placid and Keene, is a perfect hike for the entire family. It takes approximately 45 minutes round trip for an average hiker though we always plan for a bit more than an hour each way. The ascent is 460 ft., and very easy for even the smallest climber. The summit is semi-wooded, and has spectacular views of Cascade, Pitchoff and Giant Mountains.

For most families it is unfair to put a time limit on a hike due to frequent pit stops, wildlife sightings and herding of imaginary friends. Not that I wish to besmirch the herding of imaginary friends but sometimes it is enough just to get the children focused without having to gathering troops of people only visible to those under the age eight. Though it may sound tedious to some, we want to be able to take our time and instill the joy of the outdoors to our children.

This time of year scrubby blueberry bushes are in flower and line the path to the summit. Mark the calendar for a return trip midsummer when wild blueberry bushes will be in peak and ready for picking. Feel free to factor berry eating into the time factor as well unless a previous hiker has picked the trail clean.

The trail is a series of ledges, rock faces and switchbacks. To the west is Pitchoff Mountain and to the southwest, Porter and Cascade. To the east look for Hurricane Mountain’s fire tower as well as other smaller mountains and Giant Mountain to the southeast.

Local rock climbing companies use Owl’s Head for training so an added treat is to catch climbers repelling down the craggy ledges. Snacks or lunch and plenty of water are imperative. This time of year, don’t forget the bug repellent.

From the intersection of Route 9 and 73 in Keene bear north on Route 73, about 3.5 miles, turning onto Owl’s Head Lane. Continue 0.2 miles until you come to a Y. The trailhead is directly in front. Park to the left, off to the side. There isn’t a parking area. Please be considerate. The Owl’s Head trailhead and surrounding land is mostly private property.


all photos and content © Diane Chase, an excerpt from Diane’s guidebook Adirondack Family Time:Tri-Lakes & High Peaks: Your Four-Season Guide to Over 300 Activiities (with GPS Coordinates), covering the towns of Lake Placid, Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake, Keene/Keene Valley, Jay/Upper Jay and Wilmington. The other three books in the Adirondack Family Time guidebook series are: Adirondack Family Time: Lake Champlain from Plattsburgh to Ticonderoga (2012), Adirondack Family Time: Long Lake to Old Forge (2012), Adirondack Family Time:Schroon Lake to Lake George and just beyond (2013)



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