Throw Back Thursday – Cascade Mountain

As I look back through photos of all the mountains I have hiked I realized I never shared one of my favorite hiking moments, watching the sunrise on Cascade Mountain (I wasn’t blogging at the time and believe it or not I didn’t even share about the experience on Facebook!)

Cascade Mountain was the first high peak I ever hiked. I took part in an orientation program with SUNY Plattsburgh in which a group of us incoming freshmen stayed at a camp owned by the college in the Lewis, NY area a few days prior to the fall semester starting. It was during those few days that we took a hike up Cascade Mountain. The program helped us as newbies to meet a few people before heading into freshmen year and as it turns out it started something much bigger than that for me, it started my quest to become an Adirondack Forty-Sixer. I don’t know the exact date of that hike, other than that it was in August of 2000, but I have hiked Cascade 3 more times since then.

Although that first time hiking it will always be a memory I cherish, the most memorable hike of Cascade was on November 5, 2011 when I hiked it with Harrison to watch the sunrise. We had only been dating for a short time, in fact I think the hike was maybe only our second date, but I convinced him that it would be “fun”. The fact that he agreed to do it with me made it apparent that he was a keeper.

We left the house in the middle of the night to hit the trailhead. It was cold, below freezing, as you’ll see from the photos below there was a light dusting of snow on the trail. The stars were out in force and the air was crisp and calm. We had thermoses of hot liquids for the top and were armed with sleeping bags to ward off the cold as we watched the sun light up the horizon.

Here are some of my favorite moments from the hike.

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To be on the top of the world, so to speak, and watch the sunrise was pretty amazing. Which is one of the reasons I hope to end my quest to become and Adirondack Forty-Sixer by watching the sunrise from the top of Haystack Mountain. I’m hoping Mother Nature will cooperate with me on that!

Allen Mountain – An Adirondack High Peak

Allen Mountain has been taunting me ever since I started my journey towards becoming an Adirondack 46r. It seemed so daunting, lurking so far in the distance.

Path hiked via my Garmin 910xt
Path hiked via my Garmin 910xt

With only 3 of the high peaks remaining to hike I decided it was finally time to head to the far distant Allen Mountain. Plans were made in advance for the in-laws to watch Owen for the day so we could tackle the beast. The hiking crew, made up of myself, Harrison, Brian J., Nathan P., and Jason J. all met up bright and early Sunday morning in Wevertown to carpool up to the trailhead near Tahawus. It took us less than an hour to make it there and soon enough we were on our way down the trail.

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At the trailhead, ready to go!

The trail to Allen Mountain is interesting in that it traverses a lot of different terrain and different types of trail. It starts as a path in the woods but quickly transitions into old logging roads before turning back into your typical mountain trail. The first portion of the trail is marked, but eventually the trail splits and the marked trail heads towards Hanging Spear Falls and the unmarked trail heads off to the right towards Allen Mountain. While it is technically a trailess peak there are a few signs here or there directing hikers where to go and it’s a fairly obvious trail. We only got turned around twice, once on the slide where most of us went right and the other went left (left being the better way), and on the way back along one of the brooks we missed the turn off to cross over and had to do some backtracking. Otherwise it was a pretty easy trail to follow.

Just a few minutes after we started we came to Lake Jimmy and the long gone floating bridge. I stopped down at the edge of the lake to take a look before detouring back to the newly cut trail. I’ve crossed that bridge before and was sad to see it gone. I was amazed at how low the water level was at Lake Jimmy! It has been so dry this year in northern New York and was a little depressing to see (although the lack of rain was a huge benefit to us on this day as it made for much easier river crossings).

Jason standing at the shore of Lake Jimmy

The new trail wrapped around Lake Jimmy and soon we found ourselves on an old logging road heading towards Lake Sally. At Lake Sally we came to another trail junction where we turned off the logging road and skirted the shore of the lake.

“I think we go that way?”
Lake Sally as seen from the trail

It’s not until ~6 miles in that you start doing any amount of climbing, the beginning section of the trail is relatively flat with just a few rises. You then come to a small mound you climb before descending back down. The real climb starts about 7 miles in and doesn’t stop until you reach the summit! You cover about 2000’ vertical in 2 miles, it’s no walk in the park. There are some very steep, very slippery open slides that have to be climbed and are definitely a little sketchy. And as I was warned, and I’ll pass the warning along, watch out for the red & green slime on the rocks, it is slick! Luckily nobody in our party took any major falls, just a few slip ups here and there.

Those last 2 miles took us awhile to climb but soon enough we were on the ridge and almost to the top. We popped out into the summit clearing right at 12PM, 5 hours 38 minutes after departing from the car. We stopped to say a quick hello to the 4 other climbers on the top and then went just past the peak to a clearing on the northern side of the mountain that had an amazing view of Haystack, Marcy and the other surrounding peaks.

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Skylight and Marcy as seen from the top of Allen
Group shot!
Group shot!

We spent 45 minutes on the top eating lunch and admiring the view before packing it all back up and heading on down. We saw a number of people heading up as we went down, they must have gotten a late start. We started early in hopes to get down before dark, which we did. We arrived back at the car at 5:51PM, 11.5 hours after we started. As soon as we got to the car I stripped off my muddy hiking boots and enjoyed a celebratory Hop Nosh in  the parking lot.

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For getting such a bad rap, I really enjoyed the view from Allen Mountain. It’s not one that you ever get to see which makes it unique. And while yes, it makes for a very long day, the hike isn’t bad. I bet it would be really beautiful in the fall when the leaves start to change.

Start Time: 6:22AM
Summit Time: 12PM (or just after)
Finish Time: 5:51PM
Total Hiking Time: 11.5 Hours
Miles Hiked: 18+ (19+ according to my Garmin Watch)

Check out all the photos from the hike on my Flickr page.

1 more down, only 2 more to go. I’m hoping to finish up this fall on Haystack!

(This journey has been a long one, I started in 2000 hiking Cascade Mountain with a group from college, and I have slowly been climbing the 46 High Peaks over the past 15 years. I took a break from 2004 – 2011 and have repeated a few of the peaks over time as well. While I’m excited to be finishing up this goal of mine, I won’t stop hiking these peaks. The mountains are always calling my name).

Adirondack Adventures – Mt. Jo

The first weekend post Ironman was exactly what I needed! It was a weekend spent with my 2 boys doing the things I love in my favorite place, the Adirondacks.

It started out Saturday morning with a trip back to Lake Placid (I know, I just can’t stay away!). We had to exchange some skis that we had purchased during Ironman weekend and also wanted to drop my skis off to get bindings mounted. Since we had to head back up there I told Harrison I wanted to plan a little hike, so we opted to hike Mt. Jo.

Considering the number of times I have hiked from the Adirondack Loj I found it funny that I had never gotten to hike up Mt. Jo. It’s a short hike, just 1.3 miles via the “Long Trail” and has some of the most rewarding views considering it’s ease. Unfortunately we did have to tack on an extra 2 miles due to parking congestion at the Loj but I was prepared for that and it was on the road so it wasn’t so bad.

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The skies were threatening rain as we headed out on the trail around 10AM but we hoped it would stay away and eventually clear up. Owen rode in the backpack all the way up the mountain, he has it easy! The hike wasn’t hard but we took it slow as I am still in recovery mode and Harrison had an extra 40lbs on his back with Owen and his gear.

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Just before we got to the summit it started to sprinkle and then the skies opened up. We took shelter under the trees in hopes to stay a little dry. Owen was shivering so we hemmed and hawed over what to do. We were so close to the summit but we obviously weren’t going to continue on if Owen was too cold. Luckily the rain drops slowed and then stopped and we opted to make the final trek to the summit.

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We found just a few people on top along with the summit steward who was there greeting hikers and answering questions. Everyone was super friendly so we spent awhile just taking in the views and letting Owen run his little legs over the summit rock.

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We eventually parted ways and headed back down the mountain opting to take the Long Trail back down. There is a Short Trail but it only saves 0.2 miles and it’s much steeper than the Long Trail.

After our hike we headed into Lake Placid to take care of the skis and to get a late lunch, we were starving! Owen was asleep within minutes of hitting the road so he and I stayed in the car while Harrison took care of the skis and then we woke him up to get food. We chose to go to the Lake Placid Pub & Brewery because for one the food and beer are great, but also they have a children’s play area on the 3rd floor where Owen could be entertained while we waited for our food. It’s a godsend with an active toddler!

After food and a tiring day it was back to our home base for the weekend (the in-laws house) and off to bed. We had big lakeside plans for Sunday and needed to be well rested!

Sunday was spent at Pyramid Lake with great friends, lots of swimming, some boating and all the fun of a beautiful summer day in the Adirondacks. I’ll let the pictures do the talking.

A good time was had by all!

Seeing Double?
Seeing Double?

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Swinging!
Swinging!

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Popcorn for you...
Popcorn for you…

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Paddle boarding with Mommy
Paddle boarding with Mommy
"CHEESE"
“CHEESE”

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Cheers!
Cheers!

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Giant Mountain & Rocky Peak

Winter in all its beauty
Winter in all its beauty

I am starting to go stir crazy with this winter and am in a major winter funk so I told Harrison I wanted to do a crazy adventure this past weekend to push myself and get outdoors. Being in the mountains is my therapy of choice so we opted for a High Peak Adventure.

Our original plan was to do a combination ski/snowshoe up Seymour Mountain but upon later review of the area we decided we weren’t sure if we’d be able to drive into the summer parking area and didn’t want to add an additional 6 miles to our trip so we chose something more accessible but still a peak Harrison hasn’t done yet. While I’m hoping to conquer my 3 remaining high peaks this year the ones that I have left were more than we wanted to tackle (Allen, Haystack and Couchsachraga).

We decided upon Giant Mountain because of its easy accessibility and the short distance we’d have to cover. I have hiked Giant before so I know it is no walk in the park, there is ~3000 feet of vertical gain in just under 3 miles so it is STEEP but I knew it would be fun. I told Harrison ahead of time that we would also aim to climb Rocky Peak Ridge if time allowed because there was no reason not too while up there. The trail junction is 0.1 miles from the top of Giant and it is a mere 1.2 miles over to the top of Rocky Peak. There is a bit of elevation lost descending from Giant to the col but it’s worth it while up there.

The majority of our stuff was packed Thursday night so we could easily head up north after dinner Friday evening to spend the night in Wevertown at the in-laws house. They were going to be watching Owen for the day on Saturday and knowing we had an early wake-up call we figured it was easier on everyone if we were there to head out.

The alarm rang at 4:15AM. Yes, it was early, but we wanted to make sure that we had plenty of time on the trail to get up and down in relative daylight. We rolled out of bed, dressed, ate some breakfast and gathered the last of our things to throw in our car including our thermos of hot TANG!

The trailhead was a short hour drive from the in-laws, giving us enough time to wake up but not enough time to question why we were heading out in the dark with temperatures well below zero to hike a mountain… Crazy hikers! We made a quick stop at Stewart’s for some breakfast and last minute snacks and were on our way. The thermometer in the car read -15 at the house but it had warmed up to only -4 at the start of our hike, a true heat wave!

Let's get this show on the road!
Let’s get this show on the road!
Trail sign at the start.
Trail sign at the start.

We arrived at the trailhead sometime after 6 and were on the trail at 7AM. The trail had been well traveled so despite the amount of snow we have gotten this winter we could do without snowshoes for the climb up Giant. We donned our microspikes and were on our way.

One of many breaks on our hike up. Rock Peak Ridge line in the background.
One of many breaks on our hike up. Rock Peak Ridge line in the background.

We took many breaks on our way up but managed to summit Giant just after 10AM. Unfortunately the winds were whipping on top so we only managed about a minute, long enough to snap a few shots before running (or being pushed by the wind) off the top and back into the woods.

Holding on for dear life on the top of Giant.
Holding on for dear life on the top of Giant.
Harrison on Giant Mountain.
Harrison on Giant Mountain.

By now we were both getting pretty hungry and were ready for a break but we needed to get out of the wind and the cold on top so we decided to head down Giant and over to Rocky Peak to stop and have lunch in the col. We started down Giant and in fluffs of powdery snow, the trail was much less traveled. Not far into our journey down we stopped and switched to snowshoes. At that time a group of 4 passed us, the first people we had seen all day! The going was much easier in the deeper snow with the snowshoes on, we were able to “ski” our way down and soon enough we were in the col where we were a bit sheltered from the wind and were able to eat some food and water some trees.

The oh so beautiful Giant Mountain as seen from Rocky Peak.
The oh so beautiful Giant Mountain as seen from Rocky Peak.

The ascent up Rocky Peak was uneventful and soon enough we were summiting another high peak, this one happened to be Harrison’s 13th High Peak hiked! We were smarter for this summit though, we made sure to put on our ski goggles before breaking out into the windy summit. They made a huge difference and we were able to stay a few minutes, take some photos and scoot down back into the trees. As we made our descent back to the col we ran into a few more people and it also started to lightly snow. By the time we were back on Giant and heading down to the car the snow was coming down pretty hard. It was beautiful to be in the woods with light snow falling.

View from Rocky Peak.
View from Rocky Peak.
Sporting some sweet Betty Designs gear on the mountain!
Sporting some sweet Betty Designs gear on the mountain!

The descent back to the car was epic. We did so much butt sliding it made the trip that much quicker and it was such a hoot! While the weather may be more extreme in the winter I find the hiking to actually be easier!

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We were back at the car at 3:30PM which made for a total of 8.5 hours on the trail. Considering the number of times we stopped we were pretty happy about that. We definitely took it slow and steady and enjoyed our time outdoors. It was exactly what I needed!

A quick stop was made at the Mountaineer in Keene Valley and then it was time for some pie (and warm food) at the Noonmark Diner.

The night ended with some play time with Owen at the in-laws, a glass of wine and a dip in the hot tub, the perfect ending to a perfect day!

The Ridge Trail to Giant Summit: 3 mi
Ascent: 3050′
High Peak Rank: 12
Elevation: 4,626′

Rocky Peak Ridge from Giant: 1.3 mi, 2.6 mi RT
Ascent: 1400′ ascent
High Peak Rank: 20
Elevation: 4,390′

Total Distance: 8.6 miles RT

Profile of our hike created with my Garmin 910XT.
Profile of our hike created with my Garmin 910XT.

Backpacking in the Western High Peaks

Just last week I posted a photo on Instagram with the caption, “I’m happiest in the woods”.

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I’m happiest in the woods 🍂🌲

View on Instagram

I said it then, and I’ll say it over and over again. I can’t help but smile as I’m slogging over rocks and roots to reach the next great view point or the top of a peak. I know there are plenty of people out there that think I’m crazy, but I have fun.

So let’s talk about some High Peaks, shall we? For those of you unfamiliar with the Adirondacks, there are 46 mountains known as the High Peaks located in the Adirondack region. Originally they were all thought to be over 4000 feet in height. Since first being surveyed it has been found that a few of these peaks actually sit below the 4000 ft mark. While not technically over 4000 ft, they are still grouped into the 46 High Peaks. There is a challenge out there to hikers to climb all 46 “High Peaks” in the Adirondacks to become a 46er. You can check out the history of the club on their website, it’s pretty interesting stuff!

I started climbing these peaks when I was in college in Plattsburgh. I conquered 34 of these peaks in 2 years but then life got in the way and I moved out of the area for 2 years and returned with a busy schedule and not enough time to get back into the woods. Over the past 3 years I have picked back up and am on my way to hopefully get the title of 46er by the end of 2015. I only have 3 peaks left that I hope to finish sooner rather than later. That doesn’t mean I’ll stop hiking them, I love to be out there and Harrison still has many to complete that I’ve already done so I’ll head back out there with him.

Since having Owen it is a little more difficult to get out into the woods spur of the moment so a little planning is necessary. When I was nearing completion of my training for the OBX Half Ironman I started day dreaming about getting back into the woods this fall to complete a few more of the elusive peaks. I found an open weekend, rallied the troops and made a tentative plan to do an overnight hike into the western high peaks to tackle the Seward Range and Seymour. The original plan was to head into the woods on Saturday, drop packs at the Blueberry Lean-To (if available) and head up the Seward Range from the north, heading up and over to Donaldson and Emmons, returning to the lean-to via the same trail. Sunday would be a shorter day with a scramble up Seymour in the morning and then back to the car in the afternoon.

Unfortunately Mother Nature had different plans for us and as the weekend drew near and it appeared as though Saturday was going to be a wash we quickly switched our plans around to head out on Sunday, returning on Monday instead. Harrison wasn’t able to take a day off of work so he had planned to hit the Seward range with us, returning to his car via the Calkin’s Brook trail.

Brian and Nathan met us in Wevertown bright and early Sunday morning at 5:30AM and we were shortly on our way to the trailhead located between Tupper Lake and Saranac Lake. From Wevertown the drive is less than 2 hours so it wasn’t so bad. We made a few pit stops and were at the trail ready to go just before 8AM.

Below is a summary of our trip, it was a fun one! (and by fun, I mean a crazy, challenging adventure!)

7:52AM – Packed up and headed out on the trail

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10:15AM – Reach Blueberry lean-to. There are 2 packs already there and some wet clothes hanging from a line inside. It appears as though the pair stayed the night Saturday. We are hoping they are heading out that evening. We leave our packs and extra weight there hoping we’ll have it to ourselves later that night.

10:33AM – Reach the cairn marking the herd path to Seward

Cairn for herd path up Seward
Cairn for herd path up Seward
Brian and Nathan
Brian and Nathan
Happy Harrison on the trail
Happy Harrison on the trail

1:15PM – Reach the summit of Seward

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The trail that goes down Seward and over to Donaldson is impressive. And I say that meaning it was steep! It drops quickly down some crazy rock scrambles before leveling off again and climbing back up Donaldson.

Treacherous trail down Seward
Treacherous trail down Seward
The Boys
The Boys

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2:40PM – Reach the summit of Donaldson

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3:45PM – Reach the summit of Emmons.

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At this point we had to make a decision about which way to go back. Our original plan had been for Brian, Nathan and I to return the way we came as it was the more direct route back to the lean-to. Harrison was going to head down the Calkin’s Brook herd path by himself because it put him closer to the cars. (The Calkin’s Brook herd path starts between Donaldson and Seward and heads west down off the ridge). We realized that we were going to have do do some hiking in the dark so we chose the safe route of all sticking together and heading down the Calkin’s Brook Trail. Although it added a few miles onto our hike back to the lean-to it was a less treacherous trail than the one we had come up and it was the best option for getting down off the mountain in the daylight.

Rough outline of route taken. Guessed on where the herd paths were located.
Rough outline of route taken. Guessed on where the herd paths were located.

Our theory worked out and we were just nearing the marked trail when we had to get the lights out.

7:05PM – Finally off the herd path and back on a marked trail. Yay!

7:58PM – Part ways with Harrison. He only has 1.2 miles to go to the car, we have ~3 more miles of hiking.

9:30PM – Arrive back at Blueberry lean-to. Start fire, make dinner, drink wine.

11PM – All tucked in for the night. Zzzzzzzzzzzz!

Monday October 6th

Awww, a nice morning fire
Awww, a nice morning fire

9:15AM – Brian and I leave the lean-to and head down the trail towards Ward Brook lean-to and the herd path up Seymour. Nathan has decided to hang back at the lean-to for this part of the hike.

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9:34AM – Reach the Ward Brook lean-to. Evidence of a solo hiker staying there, but nobody there at the time.

Ward Brook Lean-To
Ward Brook Lean-To

9:37AM – Just a few minutes later we reach the cairn marking the herd path up Seymour. Up we go.

Cairn marking the herd path up Seymour
Cairn marking the herd path up Seymour

10:33AM – See a tree that looks like a man (or at least it did to me, do you see it??)

See the man?
See the man?
Brian hiking up Seymour
Brian hiking up Seymour

11:40AM – Reach the summit of Seymour. Take photos but it’s windy on the summit. We backtrack just a little ways to a great view point on the other side that is less windy. Eat lunch, rest. Clouds start to roll in threatening rain so we pack up and head down the trail.

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View from Seymour looking at the Seward Range
View from Seymour looking at the Seward Range

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Top of Seymour
Top of Seymour

1:31PM – Back at the cairn marking the beginning of the herd path.

Not long before we are back at the lean-to and packing up to head out of the woods. Collect ourselves and Nathan and begin the trudge out.

The Motley Crew
The Motley Crew

Everything hurts, my pack feels like it weighs about 100lbs. I’m slow. First stream crossing we come to I slip and my foot goes in up to my knee. Wet foot for the next 3 miles out, great.

4:30PM – Back at the car, yay! Change into some clean, warm clothes and head out. Excited to not be carrying an 40 extra lbs around with me. Stop at Stewarts for some food, it was the easiest (and closest) option.

7:15PM – Home sweet home!

Overall I had a great time out in the woods. Was it a walk in the park? No. But none of the high peaks are. You can’t expect to hike up to 4000’ and have it be easy. That’s what I look forward to. I love a challenge and even though my muscles may scream at me for mercy I enjoy it! The only part that was really difficult for me was the last 4.5 miles back to the car with a really heavy pack. I was so beat and I was dragging. I was so happy to see the parking lot and know I could soon be in warm clothes and comfy shoes!

I’m sore, but feeling accomplished. I’ve already started planning out next year’s adventures to finish up my 46. Mountains, here I come!

(To view all the photos from my hike you can see them on Flickr)

Peaks Hiked:

Sunday October 5, 2014
Seward
Elevation: 4361’
Order of Height: 24th of 46
#40 of 46 for me

Donaldson
Elevation: 4140’
Order of Height: 33rd of 46
#41 of 46 for me

Emmons
Elevation: 4040’
Order of Height: 40th of 46
#42 of 46 for me

Monday October 6, 2014
Seymour
Elevation: 4120’
Order of Height: 34th of 46
#43 of 46 for me

Ampersand Lake and Mountain
Ampersand Lake and Mountain