On Thursday, I used a vacation day to climb the Santanoni Range with my dog Rev. These were three more ADK high peaks that I needed in my quest to become a 46er. I choose Thursday due to the splendid weather forecast and my ability to take that day off. The weather did not disappoint.
I did, however, need to be home by late afternoon so I got an early start. I was on the trail at 5:20 AM. I was the first one to sign the trail register that morning, although I noted that a group of three signed in on Wednesday headed for the Bradley Pond leanto.
My plan was to go in to Bradley Pond, take the Panther Brook herd path to Harold Square, to Panther Peak, to Couchsachraga Peak, to Santanoni Peak, down the Santanoni Express back to the Bradley Pond trail and out. This gave me a counterclockwise loop plus the 3 down and back herd paths to the summits.
Below is my GPS track from the day. The loop portion was done counterclockwise.
I was moving pretty fast and passed the cairn marking the bottom of the Santanoni Express herd path in about an hour. This path has just been reopened within the last five years and it made my loop hike possible. Shortly afterward I reached the mud and was in the mud most of the rest of the day. There is a brand new trail re-route just before Bradley Pond (thanks crew! ... nice job). They also placed a sign with a new connector to the Panther Brook herd path, since the re-route takes you past where the cairn was.
|Rerouted portion of the Bradley Pond trail indicating the start of the Panther Brook Herd Path|
I decided to continue on to take a peek at the Bradley Pond leanto before returning to the Panther Brook herd path. I reached the leanto about 6:40 AM and the group was still sleeping there so I didn't disturb them. I returned to the new connector and began the ascent to Harold Square and Times Square.
After skirting around the north side of Bradley Pond, the herd path stays left of a cliff as it ascends. Shortly after the cliff, the herd path passes an unofficial camping spot at about 3250'. The path then bears left to reach Panther Brook and follow Panther Brook until it peters out at about 3900'.
|The Seward Range from Panther Peak|
I reached Harold Square at 8:30 AM and was on the summit of Panther Peak at 8:45 AM. I had the summit to myself at expected. I wasn't sure if I would see anyone the entire day. As it turned out, I saw three people but that was it. Panther Peak has the biggest summit opening of the group and I enjoyed a snack and the views. Rev gobbled up a portion of the chicken and beef that I offered her. I should really get a sign for her that says "Will Hike for Food!".
|Couchsachraga Peak from Panther Peak|
I returned to to Harold Square, then followed the path past the cairn the few paces over to Times Square which is a second small clearing and is the start of the herd paths for Couchsachraga and Santanoni. I turned right to do Couch first. The herd path to Couch is a 1.5 mile down and back with quite a bit of descent. There is also the famous mud wallow at the low point. It did not disappoint. I managed to stay dry from the ankles up, although I could have easily gone in up to my knees. Rev managed to get quite muddy.
The neat summit sign on Couch is no longer there; just a yellow disc. I had reached Couch at 10:10 AM. Couch offers limited views, and is not a favorite peak of many. At least I had it on a nice day.
|The famous mud hole on the way to Couchsachraga|
On my return to Times Square, I passed two guys from Cazenovia, NY on their way in to Couch. They had signed in on the trail register after me. I got back to Times Square and gave Rev more food. Just as I was getting ready to leave Times Square, a young woman from Keene Valley, NY came in from the Santanoni herd path. She was doing the route in the opposite direction from me. She had taken the Santanoni Express herd path up, not realizing that there was more than one herd path. She continued past me to Couchsachraga and I headed for Santanoni. It was 11:15 AM at that point.
|View to the NE from Santanoni Peak|
I made my way over to the summit of Santanoni Peak at 12:05 PM. Just before the summit, I saw a small clearing on the left and noted that the Santanoni Express herd path drops down from there. There is no cairn marking the spot.
|Rev on the summit of Santanoni Peak|
I gave Rev the last of her snacks and she posed for a picture at the summit. Then we walked the short distance back to the top of the Santanoni Express herd path and began our descent. This herd path is really steep at the top. It's also full of mud, rocks and roots. Perhaps a clockwise loop would have been better to ascend this section rather than descend.
At about 4000' on the descent, I came across a split in the herd path with a rock cairn on the right. I was confused by this, but decided take the right, since the cairn was there; even though the left looked more heavily traveled.
|Cairn at split in Santanoni Express Herd path on the way down at 4000'|
Shortly after that, I came to the cliff that I had read about with the rope. I couldn't see the rope from above and decided to go down the right side of the rock. This proved tricky, so I went left instead. Once down below the rock, I saw the rope in the middle. It looks like both branches of the herd path reunite below the cliff.
|Rope at cliff just below 4000' on Santanoni Express herd path|
I continued on until I reached a nice spot to refill my water. This was somewhere around 3400'.
|1st good water refill on the way down the Santanoni Express herd path|
|Near the bottom of the Santanoni Express herd path|
As I reached the bottom of the herd path, the creek had some nice sand/gravel bars and I stopped to change my socks and cool my feet in the water.
|Camping spot at the bottom of the Santanoni Express heard path|
At the very bottom of the herd path was a nice camping spot just before reentering the Bradley Pond trail.
|Bradley Pond trail to the right; Santanoni Express herd path to the left|
Once back on the Bradley Pond trail, it was less than an hour walk back to the car. I reached the car at 3 PM.
|Bridge over Santanoni Brook|
It was a great day outdoors. These peaks were #'s 38-40 for me on the high peaks list. All I have left are the four in the Seward Range, plus Gray and Skylight. Two more trips!
Hike Distance: 15.5 miles
Hike Time: 9 hours 40 minutes (including stops)
Total Vertical Gain: 4950'
Trailhead Elevation: 1883'
Panther Peak Summit Elevation (#18): 4442'
Couchsachraga Peak Summit Elevation (#46): 3820'
Santanoni Peak Summit Elevation (#14): 4607'
|My approximate route shown in blue. Click picture to enlarge.|