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Dial, Nippletop, Colvin, and Blake Mtns

The next morning I was out the door at 5:30 on my way to the AMR to meet Glen. Took me 15 minutes to clean off my car and the drive in the driving snow was done at 30 mph so I got there 5 mins past our meet-up time. Originally, there were supposed to be 18 people taking aim at Dial-Nippletop-Colvin-Blake but as we trudged our way up Noonmark's shoulder in roaring wind and horizontal snow I said to Glen, “looks like instead of a team of 18 we're down to just the two of us”. As the sunrise came up very, very slowly the scene we beheld increased in intimidating beauty. When we reached Dial, the snow quit with only 3 inches of fluff over a rock-solid foundation. By the time we reached Nippletop, the sun was coming out and the air became dry and cold. We floated effortlessly and quickly downhill to Elk Pass and then we turned up towards Colvin. A couple of youngsters came down without snowshoes and they had positively trashed a perfect trail. Just below Colvin we found a lone snowshoe precariously balanced and saw a hiking pole below the well-known crack. I put the snowshoe into a more stable place and we chatted briefly with the owner on top. We wondered later if she had had a scary experience at that step. The out and back to Blake was really easy except the final 200 yards to Blake was an absolute post-hole hell, most likely made the day before in the hot weather. Now the post-holes were frozen solid. I guess some people have never heard of snowshoes. The re-climb of Colvin was done slowly in full-on afternoon sun and about half-way down the road we put our headlamps on. It had been an easy hike but nevertheless we were tired after the 6500 feet of elevation gain.



Lyon and Avery Peak

Right off the bat, on the drive to Lyon Mountain from Montreal the freeway entrances were closed past 5am and I got stuck in heavy traffic. Then in the pouring rain, as I was heading out for a winter hike, my driver's side wiper blade flew off into the dark night. I leaned way over to the right and tried to decide whether the problem was with the blade or the arm. Drove a stressful hour to the border in rain with no wiper then decided to risk losing the other one and made the transfer. No further problems. I met Adam Crofoot in the godforsaken town of Lyon Mountain where we parked, got ready and headed up the transmission tower's service road in the rain. He was skinning in on long fat skis while I snowshoed in the deep slush that threatened to go over the top of my rubber over-boots. The bushwhack from the tower was through wet snow that collapsed into 18'' holes with each and every step, but it was mercifully short. Adam insisted on leading most of the way (I led on the way back ). It was an uneventful wet return trip and I twice stepped into slush that went over the tops of my over-boots. Then followed a 60 minute drive over back-back roads through desolate towns and the country. The Ausable River had broken up and was a raging torrent of white water and ice chunks.




Hurricane Mtn

After a quick drying out and feeding session at the Randomscoots loft, I headed back out for Hurricane, after being warned off Noonmark by Tom. It was 52 degrees Fahrenheit and everywhere you turned your ear there was a roar of violent water going downhill to the sea. Hurricane had one crossing that was 6'' deep and the Tingley overshoes, over top of a 2nd pair of trail runners (I had come equipped for spring conditions), did the job. The lower trail was entirely snow-free and there wasn't much higher up. The summit experience was of pelting rain inside a gloomy cloud so I did a quick turnaround and headed back to the loft for a hot shower and a hot meal before gearing up for snow-mageddon and zero degree temps.



Redfield, Cliff, and Colden Mtns

Sunday morning, pre-dawn. Our trail crampons squeaked loudly as they bit into the hard pack on the Van Hoeveneberg trail. I wore a base layer shirt and shell and walked fast to get warm as we headed into the High Peaks cathedral. My arms were cold for 15 minutes and then I was comfortable everywhere. A quick check with Joe and Alistair confirmed that so were they and we kept walking on the hardened trail all the way to Lake Arnold. There we paused in order to put on our snowshoes and begin breaking trail to Feldspar Brook. It was a gorgeous day and the eastern flanks of Mt. Colden were illuminated so brilliantly by the morning sun that the woods on the western slopes of the opposite ridge were lit up from the reflection. From time to time we broke out into direct sunlight, which was an elixir to our souls. We crossed Feldspar and continued on our way to the Redfield-Cliff trail split. The trail-breaking wasn’t bad but enough to warrant regular lead switches. I took a sip of my hot tea (on a whim I had popped a green tea bag into my liter of boiling water that morning and the flavor was perfect) and a mouthful of calories. In much deeper snow we took aim for Cliff. Joe led us up the cliffy section and new exactly where to thread a line over the grippiest ice. The views continued to expand and the sun seemed to help us ascend. We chose Cliff as our first peak so as to catch those very rays. Standing on Cliff we noted the improved views of Colden due to the snow pack and in a twinkling were back at the trail split for more food and beverages. The hike up Redfield was a totally different experience than Cliff. The trail was beautiful but the lower section, being more open along the brooks, had a lot more snow, which was heavier from being wind-compacted. Higher up where the trail leaves the drainage the snow cover was only about 6 inches. The summit views and air were a smorgasbord for the senses. Air so fresh you could taste its goodness as it penetrated deep into your lungs and mountains all around, near and far. It was chilly but we felt fine and lingered before speeding back towards Uphill Brook. We were a long way from home! The descent was a delight in soft snow that permitted telemark skiing in our snowshoes. Crossing Uphill Brook I spied a pool of sunshine on the opposite bank and stopped to change the batteries in my Spot device. We were at a nadir in our trek and I estimated 2000′ of total ascent to the top of Colden. Alistair announced he was not doing Colden and let himself drop behind as Joe and I we tromped our way steadfastly up to Lake Arnold. That section of trail seems to climb forever and I could feel the day’s workload in my legs. However, we covered the 2-mile section in about 1h15 so things were looking good. At Lake Arnold, now 3:30 and the light fading we fueled up and I put a light puffy jacket on unzipped over my shell. Exiting the tight trail onto the exposed false summit of Colden was like entering a wind tunnel and the wind chill felt like -100 for that brief moment. I said to Joe that now we knew what to expect on the summit. Very luckily for us, someone had been up Colden since we had passed by that morning. It was obvious that they had worked very hard at breaking through extensive hard-packed (but not hard enough!) drifts and gone into deep trail-side holes on many occasions. Thanks to that person’s efforts we made the summit in exactly one hour. It was a furious and completely wild scene up there. The Macintyre Range loomed eerily out of the dusk like some mighty ship and to the south the horizon was a long narrow strip of glowing orange. The wind blew the snow all about in chaotic clouds that enveloped Joe as I snapped a series pictures of him as he began his departure from the short summit spur trail. We flew down the soft trail in 30 minutes and according to Joe’s watch made it to Avalanche camps junction in a scant 30 more for a 4 mph pace. We kept that pace up all the way back to the HPIC where Alistair was waiting in his truck listening to football. It was an 11 hour, 30 minute day in unadulterated paradise and as we shook hands Joe quietly stated, “ another amazing day”.



Avalanche Mtn

I really wanted to check out the off-trail conditions and had locked eyes on Avalanche Peak, which I did twice from the Kagel lean-to and Algonquin-Wright drainage during the summer of 2016. It had been a breeze and the round-trip from the drainage took me about 2 hours with no pack. Open woods the whole way and if you hit it right, very little steep terrain. It seemed to be a good choice of bushwhacks right after a long day doing the 4 Seward's with 6500 feet of elevation gain and loss. Off we (Julie Chevalier and I) went after an easy 8 am start over a rock-solid trail to the Kagel LT where we stopped and got ready. I donned 30'' Tubbs of 15 year-old vintage and as soon as we crossed the brook and ascended the steep embankment I had doubts about them. However, the first half of the journey is along an old tote road and then through open woods that ascend gently. Bushwhacker's candy and the Tubbs were great as long as I didn't trip over them or catch a tip too often. Julie and her husband Jean-Sebastien have done hundreds of bushwhacks including a lot more in winter than I and she was extremely helpful with both the macro and micro management of our route and she broke her share of trail. We conferred frequently on our exact whereabouts and watched our progress very closely (we used altimeter, gps, map and compass pretty much equally at first). Just before 1000 meters elevation we made a turn that showed us gaining the summit ridge through the fattest contour intervals. The gps indicated that we were 400 meters from the summit when we made the turn at roughly 975 meters. One hour and forty-five minutes had elapsed since we left the l-t. The next 400 meters took us 2 hours 30 minutes. The snow was beyond what I had imagined being deep and structure-less on the ground and the open spaces between the trees were filled in with walls of snow. Sometimes we found a narrow passageway through it but often it was easier to bash the snow walls down. Over and over again lumpy showers of snow rained down from above banging upon our heads and shoulders. Our backs were soaked and lumps of ice formed on the inside of our pack belts and pack-backs. Progress was slow (duh!) and navigation was simplified to studying the gps screen for the fattest possible intervals, projecting a compass bearing and following that. The higher we got the heavier the snow became. However from time to time we hit little stretches of open woods and were able to walk along in a normal fashion. It was in one such section that we exited the woods to a small clearing and looked way up at a broad 50-foot high white cliff. In retrospect, it was beautiful. Nothing to do but make a 90 degree turn and go around it. What amazed me was that I recalled having passed more or less through the same route up to the ridge effortlessly twice before only 18 months previously. The ridge itself had been a cinch but now, only 200 meters from the summit every meter gained came with huge efforts. We were now using our hands to sweep away the snow in front of us in order to be able to lift our snowshoes up onto the next placement. But, as rough as it sounds we were laughing and joking the whole way. At one point Julie looked at me and said, “I guess the other bushwhacks will have to wait”. Funniest line of the day but you had to be there. And then we both saw the little summit clearing at the same time and it was all over. Peak number 21 would soon be over the shoulder of Project-100. Every step of the way up we knew that the return trip would be a piece of cake and indeed what had taken us 4h30 was easily covered in 1h30 back over our trail. It was cold and windy on top and we didn't hang around for long. Back at the lean-to we made clothing changes, ate and drank then tied our snowshoes onto our packs and sped-hiked out, racing to beat darkness, which we did by 5 minutes. We were out at 4:55PM for a 9-hour hike.  



Seward Range

Joe picked me up at 6am at “randomscoots P-100 Central” and at 7:15 we were on our way up the trail after a quick hello to Nancy. It was going to be a long, cold day and Joe gracefully allowed me to be the pacesetter. I set a 100 peak pace and we tromped along in our snowshoes and warmed up. The ascent of Calkins went by quicker than I expected and we were on Donaldson a mere 3 hours out. The trail was in perfect condition, which aided and abetted us on our mission. The out and back to Emmons was a 75 minute formality under bluebird skies with finely etched, far-away views. The views from Donaldson were to die for but luckily we refrained. Heading over to Seward on the perfect trail was pure joy especially once we arrived at the waterfall and turned around to take it all in. High up on Seward the trees were lambasted with a thick layer of extremely hard rime. The only colors were the whitest possible white and the deepest blue you can imagine. Temps were low so we kept a move on through the majesty of our surroundings. Past the summit of Seward the game changed drastically in 2 feet of unconsolidated snow. The trail was not obvious but Joe’s acumen got us over to the cliff wall just in time and then we dropped in. We sank two feet into structure-less powder snow and were surrounded by trees that were completely obliterated in a thick casing of white. Trail-side, trees that stood two feet apart were conjoined by a thick wall of snow that forbade travel in any other direction but down the steep chutes that in summer are slimy rock. We carefully plunge-stepped endlessly downwards and I was both exhilarated and awed by it all. I knew that this was a pinnacle of experience and was exactly why I was doing Project-100. I was also appreciative of the previous 6 months of hard training that kept my quads from crapping out. The lower Seward-North trail was a never-ending drag and it was nice to take a 20-minute break at the Ward Brook Lean-to. It was cold and I put my down parka on over my shell as I ate and drank for the first time that day. (I never saw Joe eat or drink all day long). We were both chilled when we started out from the L-T and I hustled for a good 15 minutes before feeling the heat return. Seymour as usual was a steep grind but every time I turned around and looked out over the Sawtooth Range I could see that the sunset views were going to be incredible. We made the summit in 90 minutes and I swear I could not have shaved off even one. As expected everywhere the eye fell was stunningly beautiful yet linger in the cold we did not. During our quick descent of Seymour I forced myself to stop and take pictures until all of a sudden the shades of red and yellow became browns and greys. Back at the LT we readied ourselves for the 5-ish mile tramp out and over and over again I thanked my lucky stars that we did not have a 3-mile road walk on top of the 5 miles of trail. When I walked in to the loft at Randomscoots, Doreen, may God bless her heart, heated up her home-made cream of broccoli soup plus a pasta and meatball supper. She then added wood to the fire and made me sit in the most comfie chair in the place. I was in bed nodding off by 9 thinking about the morrow’s off-trail hike of Avalanche Peak.  



Whiteface, Esther, and Morgan Mtns

The weather forecast was of intense interest the night before and the morning of this hike. We had settled on Whiteface-Esther and Morgan as a good foul weather hike. Indeed for Project 46 Glen, Geoff and I did Giant-RPR in the morning of a foul weather day followed by WF-E and it was an excellent combo. At 8am (leisurely start time!) we began working our way up the 800 foot ascent of the old Marble Mountain ski lift “trail” In warm but damp weather. No rain yet and we were down to base layers pretty quickly until close to the Esther junction. We were going at a 100-peak pace and I was mindful to never feel like I was straining. This allowed for a rate of ascent of 30 feet per minute according to my altimeter, plenty fast to get the job done and yet slow enough preserve precious muscle glycogen. At this rate we made Whiteface mountain in two hours and fifty minutes, the final 500 vertical feet after the road were done in a whiteout with rain lashing at our faces. The snow was quite heavy and we switched leads often. No time was wasted on the wind-blasted summit and when we got back at the Wilmington turn wall, we put our packs back on, swapped out wet mitts etc. and strolled over to the Esther junction where we shed our burdens and enjoyed a relaxed out and back. The rain was light but never let up. We were back at the car after five hours and forty five minutes. It took a full hour to do a complete change of clothes, including socks and begin trudging up the trail towards Morgan Mountain. The trail nearly climbs the peak and we were 185 meters from the summit (gps verified) when we donned (still unlit) headlamps and dropped our packs. The rain had switched to (fairly dry) snow and it was a somewhat magical bushwhack to the summit in rapidly fading daylight. The snow was a foot deep and quite wet. The shoes hit bottom and had excellent traction. We were back on the trail before the headlamp hour (days must be getting longer!) and the snow was coming down pretty good. But, it was only after we had switched the lamps on that we realized just how hard we were getting pounded. It was a very slow and slippery drive down the hill to Wilmington where it was raining. Back at “Scooterville” Glen and I both felt that Project-100 was off to an excellent start. I am indeed lucky to have great hiking partners. It's not easy to find people who cheerfully put on a headlamp at sunset after a day of hiking in the rain and begin a bushwhack just as the rain turns to snow.



Moose-McKenzie-Pitchoff mountains for the opening salvo!

Moose-McKenzie had been weighing on me for some time. I knew the trail between was very lightly traveled and so I hiked it in October. I went up from the Jackrabbit Trail over McKenzie to Moose then came back to the Two Brooks junction and down to Lake Placid. For some reason I thought I would do it this way for P-100. I knew that in spite of it being marked, this hike had the potential to be very long and hard, more like a bushwhack. So I was glad to have Joe Bogardus, David Gomlak and Glen Bladholm lined up to go with me and my gps track log. And then who should go out and do it the day before? Pinpin and the Queen! They did a fantastic job staying on the path in what were assuredly difficult conditions. It must have been tricky because there were a good number of exploratory dead-ends to their snowshoe track. The woods were covered in very heavy and thick snow (pictures posted yesterday) and by the time we got close to McKenzie the snowshoe trail was filling in with close to 5'' of fresh powder. It was 4 degrees on McKenzie and we descended to Bartlett Pond, 1200 feet below in like 5 minutes before walking out at a more leisurely but nonetheless brisk pace. Fast forward 60 minutes.... I was sporting a dry shirt and mitts, a fresh hard-shell and shell mitts and had put shell pants on over my wet OR Cirque pants and we started out up the trail to Pitchoff mountain. Long story short, it kicked our butts. We chose the wrong turn at a Y intersection and ascended very steep and icy terrain before we found ourselves below some sketchy cliffs in fading daylight. There was no way we wanted to descend that in the dark. So, we backtracked only to see a trail marker right at the Y in the trail showing the correct path. Before that “interlude” we had incredible, awe-inspiring views through the gloom to the slide on Cascade. Someone had hiked the trail the day before but we were in 7'' of new snow with no tread-way showing but we felt the base underneath. We switched leads regularly and went slowly. Headlamps came on just past the spur junction to balancing rock. I myself didn't eat or drink enough in between hikes and my ass was dragging. Took us 2 hours and 30 minutes to make the top and an hour and ten minutes to return to the car and head back to Tom and Doreen's for a hot shower, food and drink and a good night's sleep. Day one and 3 peaks were retreating in the rearview as we immediately discussed tomorrow's plan.



Seward and Donaldson Mtns

Saranac Lake has the enviable distinction of being the coldest village in the Lower 48. And the coldest temperature I noted while driving to Coreys Rd was -25 Celsius....in Saranac Lake! The road to the Sewards trail-head was easily driven in my Outback. It was now -23C. (-23 C = -13F, cold but not brutally so). There was no wind and the air felt dry. It was easy to get warm and before long I had removed clothing, opened my jacket etc. The Calkins truck road had about 4 inches of fluffy powder snow over unseen rocks. I put my snowshoes on for better footing. There were no issues crossing the brook but shortly thereafter I lost the trail in open woods but found it again easily enough. About half-way up to the Donaldson junction the going got rougher with deeper snow and very heavily laden spruce boughs that dumped snow all over me and down between my back and my pack. It was pointless trying to brush it off. The footing was difficult with a foot of snow hiding the rocks and roots one normally avoids easily. I was thrown of balance over and over again. This was my final “tapering” hike before the real thing so I repeatedly reminded myself not to struggle – to find that pace where effort isn't felt. I started out for Seward, Donaldson and Emmons but decided early on to drop Emmons and enjoy Seward, which I knew was going to be a tough hike. I got to the junction after three hours and fifty minutes and immediately dropped down to the first low point. The trail was easy to follow over the bump and the next low area had weak ice under snow that broke away underfoot but luckily any underlying water had long since drained away. The day was stunningly beautiful and the bumps of Seward were intensely lit up by the late morning sun. The sky was deep blue and contrasted against the tree branches that were heavily caked in a pure white frosting. I had my work cut out for me as I struggled hard to avoid the deeper, structure less snow, which offered little purchase for my snowshoe's crampons. So, I paused often and took 3 deep breaths before continuing. At the base of the waterfall there was three feet of very heavy snow into which I sank deeply but I patiently slugged my way through it knowing a big reward was at hand (i.e. full-on exposure to the sun and amazing views). Once above the waterfall it was a case of one foot in front of the other until the final ledge, which as expected, was slathered in hard ice. The trees at this elevation and exposure were heavily plastered in snow. After a couple of useless attempts to scale the little rock face I kicked off my snowshoes and put my Hillsounds on. It was a good place to do so being exposed to the sun. It was now easy to scamper up the ice and I continued inside a tight little snow tunnel for the remaining 100 yards in knee-deep snow. At the summit I noted the lack of tracks coming from the “other side” and immediately turned around. I switched back to my snowshoes (much better!) and floated downhill (slowly and very, very carefully, given the lack of traction and all the hidden obstacles waiting to twist my ankles). Getting to Seward had taken me an hour and six minutes, the return trip only took 42 minutes. After another switch back to Hillsounds I ascended the slabs to Donaldson and noted there was way less snow on the trail and briefly considered bare booting to Emmons with my trail crampons but decided I had gotten just the right training load already and didn't really want to descend the gnarly herd path alone in the dark in freezing temperatures. The walk out was uneventful but the Calkins Truck Road in the falling dark seemed deceivingly long (ie. never-ending!) as compared to first thing in the morning all fresh, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. The light was fading quickly and I put my headlamp on at the horse trail junction. A minute later at the Blueberry junction I saw a pair of headlamps and met the two guys who I had noted were signed out for Seymour. They had slept at the trailhead in their cars (one Jeep each) and got going about an hour earlier than me. They said Seymour had been broken out the day before. So, for now the trail to Emmons and the North side of Seward remain unbroken.



3 Days of Hiking

Day One Sentinel (and not Kilburn) After leaving my vehicle at Monument Falls Luc La Barre and I parked his on Bartlett Road, where Liscombe brk. crosses. We angled away from the brook and worked our way up through open hardwoods to a ridge that parallels the drainage. This beautiful, rolling ridge is covered in huge, sparsley distributed pines and hemlocks and runs from the Cobbles to the eastern flanks of Sentinel, into which it merges at 2500'. Gradually the landscape turned to white and we donned shells and gloves. I had this route wired (or so I thought) and indeed everything was going according to plan. However, at about 3400' I missed a crucial turn up through a weakness in the long line of east-west running cliffs and we lost 20 minutes, precious energy and got completely soaked by pushing through thick spruce, whose branches were covered in wet snow. It was about 32F. Once back on track we were chilled to the bone and the wind sawed at us. No matter how hard we tried to generate body heat there was no end to the wet snow that kept falling onto our soaked clothing, chilling us even further. Steep inclines were welcome sights and half-way up one (half-way to be warm and then to get warm again after stopping ) we stopped and I put on an extra hat and fresh mitts. The plan was to push on to Kilburn but I wasn't liking the idea and I don't think Luc was all that wild about it either. Once past the summit we would be descending very slowly, exposed to the wind and then crossing an wide-open area with tons of blowdown. Ie. slow going. Putting on a dry base layer now would be useless - it would be soaked in minutes. So, just before reaching the summit of Sentinel we agreed to turn back and follow our tracks out. We then we booted it the final 50 yards, took a summit pic and turned tail gladly. I don't recall ever being that cold, I was utterly drenched from stem to stern. Using our tracks we went back as fast we could and managed to sort of warm up. We corrected my error (got it all in a tracklog now) and half-way back to our (correct) inbound route I had an intuition and made a hard right turn. This led us down through a very steep drop between 50' cliffs on other side of us. That must have been where Tom Penders and I turned up to the summit ridge in August of 2016. We kept hustling and once below the snow line we gathered sticks and lit a fire. Once we had dried out and warmed up we continued east along the beautiful ridge for another mile to where it ends at the Cobbles. From there we enjoyed the views from three different (huge) rocky outcrops. The views swept around the compass dial from Pokomoonshine through Jay and Saddleback past Giant and Dix then across to Sentinel, Stewart, a piece of Esther and the Willmington Range. Wow! Day 2 Dial-Nippletop-Elk Pass-Nippletop-Dial for 6300 feet of elevation gain. My three previous hikes had been fairly rough (slush-fest on Skylight-Colden, heavy ice on Giant-RPR and the brush with hypothermia on Sentinel just the day before). I needed to get my mojo back and decided on a tame hike with decent elevation gain: ie. Dial-Nippletop-Dial for about 5000 feet worth and no difficulties, just a nice hike. The forecast for Keene was for a high in the low 50's so I wore Tingleys over trail runners and carried my Hillsounds, which went on half-way up to the shoulder of Noonmark. It was a beautiful suuny day and I was wondering if I should have done Marcy (and more) instead. But then the weather moved in very quickly. The vis dropped, the wind kicked up and I watched the clouds shred their way through the trees on Dial. Then it started raining, which became a full-on 20-minute snowstorm and I was glad not to be doing Marcy. I was feeling fine and wondered about adding on Colvin and Sawteeth but had started at 9:30 and didn't feel like hiking for hours in the dark. Finally I got the bright idea of doing a round-trip to Elk Pass which gave me another 1200 feet of elly. The people I had seen on Nippletop were very surprised to see me coming back up from Elk Pass! I did the 0.2 mile out and back from the junction to Nippletop, not once but twice. I felt perfect all day, moving easily and feeling very comfortable descending the icy trail to Elk Pass in 24 minutes exactly (took me longer to go back up!). The toughest part of the hike was the 300 foot re-climb of Dial- there's that one steep section. Half-way down Dial I saw a deer run past. It was a like a very swift and silent arrow. How they do that I'll never know. The view from Noomark's shoulder in dying light was to die for (but I didn't). Soon thereafter, I was descending towards the Lake Road in near total darkness and my headlamp was picking up the markers nicely, although the trail was easy to follow. Then the next marker winked out. I've never seen such a thing before and I mused that such a thing was impossible. Then as I I drew nearer I saw not one but two small markers placed side by side. A deer stood stock-still on the trail 10 feet in front of me and we had a staring match before he/she took off. The deer was surely wondering where he could get a headlamp just like mine. I had similar staring matches with 3 more deer on my way out. I was back on the road just before 5 and it was pitch dark. Day 3. Marcy and Tabletop. At 7:30 I was walking towards Marcy Dam through a gloomy winter wonderland as it had snowed a bit overnight. The wind was moaning insistently and the sky was a dark grey. I was in no hurry. A lone hiker caught up and passed me at the Phelps Brook crossing above Marcy Dam. He was also doing Marcy. I was wearing my winter boots and of course carried Hillsounds. Getting to Marcy is a long walk in the woods. The lone hiker opted for the ski trail and I decided to stay on the Van Ho. There was maybe 2'' of snow on the ground, which had completely transformed the landscape. It grew colder and colder as I ascended and the snow deepened. The forecast was for falling temps and 10F with 35 mph sustained wind on Marcy. At the Phelps junction I geared up. I put on two pairs of fresh wool mitts under OR Revel shell mitts, my OR wind-stopper bela-clava, a hand-knit bela clava over that and cinched my shell's hood very tight and zipped it up all the way. The cone was wicked rough and the summit remained inside a cloud while above me the sky was blue. I was getting pushed around and the bit of exposed skin on my face (I had no mask or goggles) grew very chilly in no time. The snow at times was mid-shin with the odd knee-deep drift and the lone hiker's footsteps were mostly blown in. I wondered where he was and why he wasn't coming down yet. I had been thinking of going down to 4 Corners but the visibilty was very sketchy. I kept turning around and memorizing my route down and did my best to leave a furrow in the snow. The snow alternated with wind-swept ice. The closer I got to the top the wilder the wind got. At the plaque I went around to the left and there was no wind under the 6 foot high cliff-wall. I went all the way around it in 2 feet of snow and there it was as if I stuck my face into a snowblower. I looked at the route down to 4 Corners and it was socked in so darkly it was like looking at the edge of the world. There was no way I going down there! There was no indication anyone had gone that way so I looked around the summit area for the lone hiker but never saw him. Going down was uneventful but one heck of an experience all alone up there in shrieking wind and foggy vis but I knew every little turn and most of my tracks were still discernable, although filling in rapidly. After that it was a meditative walk in the park and I went up Tabletop in gorgeous sunshine but Marcy and Haystack remained socked in. On my way out past Marcy Dam two guys I had seen below the Hopkins junction heading up to Marcy with two dogs came running down the minus one dog. They said it had broken its leg and kept on moving fast. When I had seen them going up it never occurred to me that the cone of Marcy might not be a great place to take a border collie-sized dog, not ever having had one. I thought it was of a size that could readily be carried but they were long-gone before I thought of any questions like, where did you leave the dog? At the end of this 3-day shakedown weekend I marveled at how much I had learned on Sentinel and how utterly different each day of hiking had been.



Owls Head Mountain

I arrived at the trail head around 8:50am. There was a local hunter that had just arrived and he was packing up to spend 14 days in camp (lucky guy). We struck up a conversation which led to the three dogs I had in tow. He had asked if they were Australian Cattle Dogs, and I affirmed and advised him they were rescues. He too has some dogs he rescued as well, a couple border collies.

I was soon on my way up the trail climbing right after the small foot bridge. The trail is easy enough to follow, and is a mix of open hardwoods almost the entire way to the summit, minus a few areas of pine/cedar/tamaracks. The trail is an easy grade well past the intersection with the trail that continues to Lake Eaton, which is about a mile in. From here the trail goes left and climbs moderately with a mix of packed trail to rocky and wet (typical adk trail). There were several areas of blowdown from the previous two days of heavy wind, all of which were easily negotiated.

The trail climbed steadily making up in elevation, but wasn’t overly long, maybe about a mile of climbing up to the col between the two smaller peaks of Owl's Head. From here one could be discouraged thinking that you are almost to the tower, when in fact you drop down to a landing, that at one point was where the observer’s cabin was located. The foundation pilings are still there, and a pail (I almost thought it was a thunder jug). From here the final push to the summit is a short steep section which eventually eases and turns into a small ridge walk to the tower.

From the summit, I could see Long Lake below to the left, and Blue Mountain in the background straight ahead. Once up in the tower there is a 360 degree view of the mountains, a bit overcast today so the views weren’t as good as they would be on a clear day. Blue Mountain was shrouded in the clouds.

I didn't realize until I read the pamphlet from the trail head register is that the mountain, along with the two lesser peaks that make up the ears of the "owls head", a great horned owl's head to be exact.

I was back at the trail head at 1pm.

Elevation - 2815'
Distance round trip -6.3 miles
Total time round trip 4.hrs 14min
My average speed was 1.5mph



Big Crow and Little Crow Mtns

I had previously hiked Nun-da-ga-o Ridge and Weston Mountains in a counterclockwise direction, a few years ago. During that trip, I had hoped to hike the Crows as well, but I was running late with time. So a trip back was in order, and I had a beautiful day to hike as well. On my previous trip I had brought my dog Dingo, so he accompanied me today too.

We arrived at the trail-head at the end of the O'Toole Rd at Crow Clearing at 08:50 and were soon on the trail.

Overall this is a short hike out and back. I logged about .8 miles from the parking area to the summit of Big Crow. Some areas of the trail are steep, but short-lived sections. The summit of Big Crow is at 2,815 feet. There were many views along the way to the summit. The summit itself has some wonderful views of the Adirondacks high peaks, Pitchoff mountains, and many others. The trail continues, dropping down to Little Crow and ultimately to Hurricane Road. I opted to return from Little Crow by going back to the Crow Clearing via Big Crow.

On the trip back I enjoyed the summit of Big Crow to myself for almost an hour.

Start time 08:56
Finished time 11:54
Total distance 2.3 miles round trip
2.58.37 elapsed time
0.8 average speed



Snow Mountain

What a beautiful day for a hike, blue sky and perfect temperatures. This whole weekend has been fantastic weather.

I had heard about this hike from Scott (Winterwarlock) on more than one occasion. He mentioned it offered some wonderful views, and was a really nice short hike. So today I set out to hike Snow mountain, and see for myself what he described. He didn't disappoint.

As I said previously, it was a picture perfect day to spend in the woods. The temperatures were cooler, down from the previous 2 weeks where we were in the upper 80's for several days. This morning temps were 38 degrees, and when I finished it was 62. Mother nature has turned the page, and now the temps are more seasonal.

When I arrived at the trail-head on Route 73, just south of the Noonmark Diner, I was met with an almost full parking lot. This surprised me as I half expected to not see it this full, on a Sunday. Although, I also noticed the parking areas for Hurricane Mt and Baxter Mt were also full. I guess everyone was taking advantage of the weather.

This would be my first hike this season with my winter pack, I was curious how I would do. I left the car at 9am and signed in. Based on those who signed in before me, nobody was heading to Snow. Rooster Comb and the Great Range were a many's destination, what a pleasant surprise! The trail follows along what used to be a small body of water near the high school. Presently it is almost dried up. Not sure if it has been drained for a reason, or if it has really been that dry. Just beyond the pond the trail crosses over a footbridge and then begins the uphill climb navigating through switchbacks up to the first junction at around .7 miles, at which then branches on to Snow Mt to the left, or continue straight to Roostercomb and beyond to the Great Range.

The trail was pretty dry and easy to follow, any brooks I did cross over were either dried up, or low. The hike was pretty easy, gradual incline, with a few short sections that were steeper.
The next trail junctions at 1.1 miles with a spur trail back to Rooster Comb, or turns left towards Snow mountain and Saint Huberts. The Flume brook was low, but provided a great spot for the pups to get a drink. From here it was a short .3 to the junction that takes you to Snow mountain to the left, or continue on to Saint Huberts. From this point the remaining .5 miles to the summit of Snow mountain navigating through a short rock scramble just below the summit. Once above the scramble its partial-open and fairly flat with views in almost every direction. I arrived at the summit around 11am, and had the summit to myself for about 30 minutes.

Start time was 9am
Distance: 2.4 mi. to summit
4.8 miles round trip
Average speed was 1.2 miles
Arrived back at the car 1:05pm



Bolar Fire tower

Pipestem Tower located in Pipestem State Park, West Virginia was renamed “Bolar Lookout Tower” a dedication in honor of the sixth superintendent of the park, Steve Bolar

Steve was a leader in the state parks system with a genuine understanding of park operations and public service. He was a mentor to many park employees during his career.

Bolar lost his battle with a terminal illness in July 2009.

The observation tower sits at 3,000 feet in elevation and commands a scenic view of the Pipestem area. Located near the park entrance the tower is accessible via the Knob Trail which is .4 miles round trip, a nice easy to moderate hike.



Mt Arab Mountain

This is a very nice family oriented hike if you're in the Tupper Lake area. This mountain along with Mt. Coney and Goodman Mt. make up the Tupper Lake Triad, it's also one for the New York State Fire Tower challenge.

I hadn't really hiked all summer, except for Little Haystack Mt in Buck Pond campground. I wanted something on the easy side to get me back into the groove, but also to see how Misty would do. She did great as expected.

This a short hike at 1 mile to the summit, over a very gradual incline. When I arrived to the trail head it was about 10am. The parking lot was full. I suspect this is a very popular hike since it is so close to Tupper Lake, and easy climbing to the summit.

As I said, the trail is well marked, and taken care of. There has been a lot of drainage work done and that has especially helped with the trail conditions.
I was surprised at the amount of work done to the trail, and maintenance done, all from the work of the group "Friends of Mt. Arab".

Misty and Dingo agreed, they too enjoyed the hike.

There was a care taker, or summit steward at the cabin. It was obvious he had alot of educational material on the Summit, the restoration project, and the organization that takes care of it. I recommend a visit.



Rattlesnake Mountain

This trail head is elusive as it is not marked with a sign, nor is there a register to sign in at. Living so close to this trail I had taken time earlier in the year to scout out where exactly the trail head was. I prefer to know where I am going on the day of a hike, than have to take the time looking around for it (wasting time) that morning.

I did find some information on the hike online at lakechamplainregion.com. This was helpful and was a good starting point for locating the parking area, as it is directly across the street from 4525 Route 22, which is just north of Willsboro, and south of the Highlands Rd.

This is a pretty neat hike following an old jeep trail, up to a certain point. From the point it veers off the jeep trail, the trail itself from this point is craggy as you climb up along to the mostly open ridge. I found the trail easy enough to follow as it is not a marked trail. The hike is all gradual with a brief section that gets moderately steep for a short period.

Brought all 3 dogs today, and they had no issues.

We started at 7:28am from the parking lot taking our time to let the dogs run and play, we averaged around 1.5 mph. Arrived at the summit at 8:23am for a brief visit as the black flies were out in force. After a quick visit and photo opportunity we returned to the truck at 9:16.

Our total trip was an hour and 48 minutes,  



Flat Rock State Forest, Altona NY

Took a nice little walk about in this area with Snickers and Bushwacker. I had never been to the area, even though it is almost in my back yard. I knew of the area through work, just based on the resources I had sent into it for fires and lost hikers, but never myself hiked in.

I was surpresed at the size of the structures that are built in there. The "Million Dollar Dam", and the Skeleton Dam are huge projects that were built about a 100 years ago. There certainly is a lot of history in the Miner Project, and look forward to going back and doing some more exploring.

It is very easy hiking, all gradual incline. The trails are shared with ATV and snowmobiles, however we did not see another soul the entire day. We had a nice hike in, sat around Chasm Lake and had lunch. Next time we'll scope out the fire tower.  



Jay Mountain

I had wanted to hike this for quite some time. In fact, I had tried a few years ago in the winter, with no success. Today was forecasted to be a nice day early on, then overcast with rain later. I was able to get the hike in before the rain, without any problem.

I was hoping to get some company on this hike, and I had reached out to a couple local friends but they were scheduled to be out of town. I had then resigned myself to a solo hike, not a big deal as I generally solo anyway. Well, I didn't expect one of my buddies from Washington D.C. to be up in the area, so when I found out, I asked if he was interested. We made tentative plans on Thursday night, to hike Saturday morning. We both agreed on a start time of 7 a.m. and I would pick him up.

Friday night he texted me that he would meet me at the trailhead instead as something came up. He would hike up behind me, catch up on the trail and hike back out together.

I had resigned myself that I would be hiking alone and prepared accordingly.

I got to the parking area around 8 am. The parking lot was empty, how lucky could I be to have this trail to myself? I did have two of my dogs with me, Dingo and Misty, so technically I wasn't alone. I no sooner got out of my truck and started getting ready, when a small car with Quebec plates pulled up. It wasn't anyone I knew but was three young ladies who were also going to hike Jay mountain. It didn't take them long to pass me on the trail. Oh to be young again.

I left the truck and signed in the register and on the trail at 8:12 am. For the most part, the trail was in pretty good shape for spring like conditions. There were minimal areas that had water covering the trail, but nothing that couldn't be managed by stepping around. In fact, the trail was mostly dry, with a few areas of mud, and some sections had ice (the ice that was present was on the upper sections on the ridge) but it too was manageable.

It was a bluebird day for most of the day. The clouds really didn't start coming into play until later in the day, say 1-2 o'clock.

I made it as far as the second to last outcropping at which point I decided to turn around. I was running low on water, and today was a day you really needed to have it. It was a breezy day, temps in the upper 60-lower 70's. I was very pleased with what I accomplished.

On my way back I ran into a couple of small groups heading up. There were a couple guys from Toronto that took a fancy to my dogs, asking questions on the breed, etc. They mentioned there was a couple back on Jay mountain that was waiting for me. They described them, and I was happy to hear that Justin did make it, and brought his lovely girlfriend too. I soon was on my way and came upon them laying on the rocks enjoying the day. We had a nice visit while I re-hydrated and they snacked. Soon we continued on our way back to the parking area. Justin was a sport too, as he lightened my load for me.

We laughed and talked about past hikes, and soon found ourselves at the trail register.

We were back at the parking area at 2:04 pm

A beautiful warm day in the Adirondacks.

My GPS logged 7 miles, my average speed was 1 mph, total elapsed time of 7h01min.  



Lyon Mountain

Took a hike up Lyon Mt today with great company, and earn the hike towards the winter Adirondack fire tower challenge. My son had mentioned he'd like to hike this gem at some point, and I needed no further excuse to take the time and oblige him.

The forecast wasn't to be a bluebird day, but it also wasn't going to be brutally cold, or to warm either. The previous warm weather we had created a lot of snow melt. That along with some who hiked during that time without snowshoes did a fair amount of damage to the trail.

We were able to drive all the way up to the trail-head without any problem, it did require 4 wheel drive though. The road was in good shape with about 6 inches of new snow, and there was no blow down so it made for a good passage.

When we arrived at the trail-head there was about 4-6 inches that had fallen over night. That accumulation increased to about 8 inches on the summit. The light fluffy unconsolidated snow covered the snow spine of the trail, and the post holes. Going up was a lot better than going down. We wore snowshoes the entire way. With the continued cold tempts this weekend hopefully others will do the same.

We took the new trail up which made for a nice 6-7 mile round trip hike.

Only Dingo came with us today as Hattie and Misty are both on the side line as they recover from knee surgery in August, and more recently the other has a lacerated paw pad. So today was a boys day out.

We started at 9:05am took our sweet time reaching the summit at 12:45. We were back at the truck at 3:05pm.  



Loon Lake Mountain

Loon Lake mountain is reported not to see a lot of foot traffic, and therefor seldom mentioned. I think this has changed this year, as I have seen a lot of trip reports recently on this hike, and it is a beauty of a hike too.

The information at http://www.cnyhiking.com states the hike is just under 6 miles round trip. The entire hike is an easy grade, except for the last mile which is where you gain alot of the 1651 feet of elevation in the hike. The trail climbs a total of 1200 feet in that last mile. It may be daunting for some, but it makes for some great butt sliding on the way down in the winter.

The trail was easy enough to follow, one needs to just pay attention at the various intersections along the way. As I said earlier its a gradual elevation gain until you cross over the last foot bridge. Along the way we seen either old deer rubs or moose. It was also kind of neat to still see the old telco poles that I assume brought either phone or the ability for telematic communication to the tower.

As of today the trail is packed out nicely with the traffic it has seen, and hikers wearing their snowshoes. We wore snowshoes the entire way.

We started at 9am and took our time arriving at the summit just before noon. The trip out is always faster, especially when you can butt slide down. We were back at the truck just before 2pm.  



Spruce Mountain

Well, I figured since I couldn't make the meet up hike on January 16th with a group from ADK Fire Tower page, and I really didn't want to get out of a nice warm bed on the 15th, today was the day to do something.

I have been working some odd shifts at work this week and it has allowed me time off during the week to hike with my son, who was also off today as well, so it was a win-win situation.

The trail-head to Spruce Mt. was easy enough to get to. Its about a 2.5 hour ride from Plattsburgh. The forecast was for overcast to partly cloudy today, with little to no breeze. The temps were expected to be around 40 degrees, which is crazy for January weather.

The trail was a hard pack all the way to the top. We gave the snowshoes a free ride and wore micro-spikes the entire way with no issues, I suspect that will change as this week is going to be unusually warm for this time of year.

The trail was easy to follow, and was an easy incline the entire way. We left the truck at 10:30 and took our time, arriving at noon.

A quick 30 minutes and we were back at the truck.  



Point Au Roche State Park

I was feeling lazy today. My initial plans were to hike Spruce Mt. with some friends, but just didn't want to get out of bed this morning. So I texted them to see if they too would rather hike Rattlesnake Mt. in Willsboro. They were feeling lazy also, so we hemmed an hawed on a few different hikes. Long story short it was just me and the pups, and we headed out to Point Au Roche State Park.

This is a very popular area all year long. I was surprised to have only run into two other people on the trail. This was nice because it allowed me to run the dogs off leash, and when I seen another person recalled them until the other hiker passed by.

All three pups came with me today, which is good as typically Hattie feels left out when we hike a mountain. Hattie is nursing knee surgery from last summer, and I'm taking it easy with her.

We went out on the point taking the orange trail, following the rim all the around.




Poko Moonshine Mountain

I had actually planned to hike Bald Mountain today, but a lack of sleep and a late rise left me with fewer options. I had given thought of doing absolutely nothing today, as it was about 10:30 before I even got dressed.

Poke-O-Moonshine is a nearby hike for me, about 20 miles south of Plattsburgh. I have hike this mountain many times from the original trail off the former campground. While that is a direct route, it is a somewhat steep climb right off the start. In 2008 DEC created a new trail to the summit, which is not as steep but is a longer hike at 2.4 mile one way. I opted for this route as I had not climbed Poko in that direction. It is a pleasant hike with gradual terrain. Most of this route is an old jeep trail, so that in and of itself should tell you that it is not overly steep.

I had Dingo and Misty with me today on this hike. We arrived at the trail-head without another vehicle in site. I was excited about this because I like to allow the dogs to run free as long as we are alone. We would not see another hiker until just above the former cabin foundation. There was a very pleasant couple that had hiked up the original trail, and were on there way back down.

From the trail-head to the summit it took me about an hour and a half. I, as always take my time going up, enjoying the hike and taking many pictures along the way. This new route offered a variety of views from bogs to open ledges that provided a nice panoramic view. I bet this route would be a blast to snowshoe in the winter.





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