Lake George

Lake George
Lake George - from Tongue Mtn Range - 11/11/2011

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Big Slide Mountain - High Peaks Wilderness - 5/27/13

The weather on Memorial Day turned out to be perfect in the Adirondacks.  What a change a day makes.  Saturday and Sunday brought lots of rain down low and lots of snow above 2500’.  Monday was sunny all day and warmed to the mid 60’s in Keene Valley by early afternoon.
It didn’t take me too long to decide where to spend the day.  Big Slide Mountain is the only ADK High Peak I hadn’t been on in the last two years, and it was a perfect peak to head for in snowy conditions.  I wasn’t sure how tough the trail conditions would be, and I knew at least we’d get to the Brothers which offer lots of open rock and great views.  Additionally our dog Rev hadn’t been up Big Slide yet so if we reached the summit it would be high peak # 33 for her.
I wasn’t sure if we’d be able to get a parking spot at “the Garden”, the popular trailhead in the area.  Arriving at about 8:30 AM on a holiday in perfect weather, I thought our chances would not be good.  Much to my surprise, the lot was less than half full.  Perhaps the snow up high was scaring people away.
Leesa, Rev and I signed in and were on the trail about 8:40.  The trail for the first ¾ of a mile was in perfect shape.  We soon came across a happy 4 person trail crew; three men and one woman cleaning drainage bars and clearing blowdown.  They said this would be their biggest trail day of the season and they were in festive spirits.  When I came across the young woman, she was swinging an ax while wearing a blue sparkle dress.  They intended to go all the way up the Big Slide Trail, then down to the Johns Brook Valley and up the Phelps Trail to Marcy.  That would be quite a day for trail work in snow conditions.  They gave us permission to take their pictures and post them.  Our thanks to them for their tireless work!

And the trail crew award goes to...
This crew did great work
... and they had fun doing it
Soon after we passed them, the trail began to get wet.  At the First Brother, we saw our first glimpse of snow.  We stopped on the open rock and had a snack.  We could see the whole Great Range coated in snow.  Although only the slides looked white, we knew the ground was also covered in snow.   It was just hidden by the leaves and greenery!

Our first sign of snow, a little below the 1st Brother
A nice place to stay dry if need be, just before 1st Brother

The ground was covered in snow by the time we reached the 2ndBrother.  Leesa put on her Microspikes.  I stayed in bare boots all day.  At the 3rd Brother, there was about 6” of snow on the ground.  Several groups were hiking in sneakers, and it was at this point where most of the unprepared folks were turning around.
Leaving the 3rd brother, we dropped down into the col and the snow (and water) began to get deeper.  In some spots to was impossible to avoid walking in a foot of water, snow and slush.
At one point we had to crawl under some blowdown (we were ahead of the trail crew at that point).  Fortunately there wasn’t any water there.

In the col between 3rd Brother and Big Slide

The final push on to Big Slid
We did manage to make it to the top of Big Slide.  There was probably a little over a foot of snow.  Not nearly as much as some of the nearby peaks, but that was a good thing.  A foot was enough.
We were treated to bluebird skies and just fantastic views.  The last time I was on Big Slide in February 2010, I arrived on the summit and 2 minutes later fog blew in and I couldn't see a thing, but on this day it was just perfect.

Our reward... perfect visibility.  Giant, RPR, Nippletop, Hough, the great range and the Macs, all within view

Leesa and Rev on the summit

Going back down was almost like being at Water Slide World in the winter.  It was tricky to stay upright.  Not a good day to butt slide.  We just went slow and easy.  We knew that once we were back to 2nd Brother it be like hiking in summertime.  How cool to have a foot of snow up high and warm dry ground halfway down.

Heading back...

Mike and Rev on 1st Brother on the way down

...and the view from 1st Brother
We picked the right mountain on this day.  I heard from other hikers who struggled on summits with much deeper snow and in many cases they couldn't make it.  Big Slide was just right.  We were happy with our day.  Now on with summer!
Our route shown in blue
a closer look (click to enlarge)
Hike Stats:
Hike Distance:  7.8 miles
Hike Time:  7 hours, including stops
Total Vertical Gain:  ~ 3000'

Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Nubble - Giant Mountain Wilderness Area - 5/26/13

Saturday brought a foot of snow to many of the Adirondack High Peaks.  All the hikers were talking about it.  It's funny how hiker's get.  Everyone wanted to head for the snow.  Non-hikers don't get it.  They just shake there heads.  The weekend is ruined!
I of course share the hiker mindset.  It doesn't matter that is May 26th.  Snow is snow, and I'll take it when I can get it.  Leesa is coming around to the same way of thinking.  We woke up this morning and headed for the closest snow.  For us that was Keene Valley in the High Peaks.  Leesa also wanted to get a look at Roaring Brook Falls after all the rain of the last couple days.  It would be easy to kill two birds with one stone.
Lots of water on Roaring Brook Falls

As we arrived in Keene Valley, we noted the lack of cars.  Round Pond had none, Chapel Pond had 6, Rooster Comb and 5 and Roaring Brook Falls had 6.  That's not a lot for Memorial Day weekend.  If it had been warm and sunny, all the parking lots would have been filled by mid morning.

We parked at Roaring Brook Falls on Route 73 in Keene Valley.  It was 45 degrees Fahrenheit with off and on light rain.  We went to the base of the falls first.  Lots of water.  We've been there in the dry season when there is just a trickle.  Not so now.  It was great to look at.
Next we headed for the Nubble.  I've climbed Giant many, many times, but I've never swung over to the Nubble, a side trail to a lower bump on the shoulder of Giant.  I've heard good things about it, but just hadn't done it.  I had also never taken a good look at the small pond called the Giant's Washbowl, so we would see some new things today.
We climbed the Roaring Brook Trail, hiking up past the top of the falls.  Soon we got to the split in the trail where we wanted to fork right for the Nubble instead of continuing up Giant Mountain.  No snow on the ground yet.  Lots of water in the trail.  Our boots were wet pretty quickly.
As we climbed the trail to the Nubble, we hit the snow line at about 2200'.  We found it exciting to be hiking in fresh snow at the end of May.  Call us crazy.  

Nearing the Nubble

The summit of the Nubble is at an elevation of about 2750'.    There was about 3" of snow at that point.  We had some visibility when we first arrived, though it was starting to snow.  We could see the lower part of the Great Range (the Wolfjaws), as well as Round and Noonmark Mountains.  We could see the Ausable Club down below in St. Huberts. 

Looking at the cliffs above Chapel Pond

All that changed in a hurry.  Bands of snow came in that quickly took away our visibility.  We got pelted with snow and sleet.  Our dog Rev looked at us as if she were wondering why we were here.  It was fun. 

Round Mountain foreground, Noonmark in the background... before we lost our visibility

Leesa, all smiles in the snow

Round Mountain foreground, Wolfjaws in the background 

The weather scene changed minute by minute

We stayed on top for awhile just grinning and enjoying the blowing snow.  Occasionally we had a glimpse of the Giant Mountain ridge line, but it was mostly shrouded in the snow squall.

Mike and Rev

No more views of St. Huberts below
Eventually we moved on and headed for the trail to Giant's Washbowl.  This pond is at about 2300' and it was like a different world.  All wet with very little snow.  The pond is quite large but the water level was high a parts of the trail which skirts the edge of the pond were underwater.

A beaver dam just above Giant's Washbowl
On our way back to the car we ran into a Forest Ranger who was checking the water crossings and going past the designated campsites.  He wasn't headed up into the snow.  He came out at the trail head shortly after we did. 
Still 45 degrees back at the car with on and off rain once again.  We were quite soaked but it didn't matter.  We had a fun through it all.
Hike Stats:
Hike Distance:  ~ 5 miles
Hike Time: 4 hours
Total Vertical Gain:  ~ 1700'   

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Jones Hill - Hoffman Notch Wilderness Area - 5/7/13

Time to play a little catch up on my blog posts.  Between Mother's Day weekend, and my daughter's graduation weekend, things slipped a little. 
Back on Tuesday May 7th, I went exploring in the Hoffman Notch Wilderness of the Adirondack Park.  The area is relatively trail free with only a handful of trails in almost 40,000 acres.  My goal was to climb Jones Hill, located just northeast of North Pond. 
The first sign, located near the trail register

I started at the unmarked trailhead on Hoffman Road, approximately 2.5 miles east of Schroon Lake.  There is a gravel pulloff with space for about 4 cars.   The trail is obvious, but there are no markings until you walk in a couple hundred feet to the trail register, where there is also a sign.
 I've been on this trail many times while hiking to Big Pond or North Pond, but I had never gone around North Pond to climb Jones Hill.  This was the day.  It was cool in the morning (about 40 degrees) but it warmed up quickly.
 At the bridge at the first water crossing, .5 miles in, I turned right to begin a bushwhack.  I reached Jones Pond in a few minutes and began a clockwise loop around the pond.  I pretty much kept the pond in sight, and then the little pond north of it, until it was time to begin climbing.
 It was easy to follow the defined spine right up the ridge.  It was a pretty ridge with lots of rock and some pine.  The south side of the ridge was all hardwoods. 

A first opening as I reached the first false summit

There were several viewpoints on my approach to the summit.  The first offered a few tempting views to the south, the second offered the same plus a nice grassy plateau.  Just beyond this was another clearing with nice views of Hoffman Mountain and Hoffman Ridge.
A fine reward

Nice grassy knowl on the false summit

I believe this is Nippletop and Niagara in the Dix Mountain Wilderness Area

Hoffman Ridge and Hoffman Mountain

Looking back and the false summit

As I left the false summit, the woods opened up into all hardwoods on the way to the true summit.  After 5 minutes of walking I was there.  Both the false summit and the true summit offered fine views and didn't disappoint.

Hoffman Ridge again
On my return trip, I went back down the southwest spine of Jones Hill and then continued my clockwise loop around North Pond until I regained the Big Pond Trail.  From there it was an easy 3/4 mile walk back to the car.

As it warmed up I was chased by black flies (mostly as I was coming down the spine).  After that they weren't too bad.

Still some snow in the distance

On my next trip into this area, I'll explore the valley to the north of Jones Hill where a proposed trail is expected to be constucted from the Big Pond Trail northeast to Dirgylot Hill and Route 9.
If you're inclined to bushwhack in the Hoffman Notch Wilderness, be sure to visit Jones Hill.  It's definitely worth while.
Beaver Dam at the unnamed drainage below Big Pond
My route for the day (Click image to enlarge)
Hike Stats:
Hike Distance:  7.7 miles
Hike Time:  4 hours
Total Vertical Gain:  ~ 1600 feet

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Camel's Hump - Dix Mountain Wilderness - 5/5/13

There are many fine smaller rocky summits in Dix Mountain Wilderness of the Adirondack Park.  Many of these can be accessed from Route 9, just north of North Hudson.  One of the better ones in my opinion is Camel's Hump.  These are bushwhack hikes which may appeal to some people and not to others.
In this case, there is a trail which follows the West Mill Creek for about 3.5 miles before petering out.  That leaves a short 1.5 mile bushwhack up the ridge to Camel's Hump.  From the summit, you get great views of Macomb, South Dix, East Dix, Wyman, Giant and Rocky Peak Ridge.  There is also a great view of Buck and Bear mountains (two of the other nice open rock summits).
There is a trail sign out on Route 9 marking the start of the trail.  If you have a vehicle with a high clearance, you can drive the first mile or so.  You have to cross the small creek pictured below almost immediately.  It is often just a couple inches deep.  This is the only water crossing on the route.  We wore water shoes across, then left them on the other side to pick up on the way out. 

An early water crossing

The old jeep road is on private property in the beginning, but the state has a trail easement to access the wilderness area.  The jeep road follows West Mill Creek on the south side.  It is a pretty walk.   There are a couple nice cascades on the creek, and some nice water pools to cool off in the summer months.

looking SW from the shoulder of Camel's Hump

From the West Mill Brook Trail, many nice open peaks can be reached by a bushwhack of an hour or two:  Camel's Hump, Buck, Bear, Wyman, Saunders, Old Far and Little Far Mountains.  All of them are quite nice.
From L to R - Macomb, South Dix (Carson), East Dix (Grace), Wyman, Giant and Rocky Peak Ridge

Camel's Hump is perhaps the most dramatic.  And if you don't want to bushwhack too far, the shoulder of Camel's Hump is just as nice.  In fact, that's as far as we went on the trip.  The shoulder has lots of open rock and all kinds of things to look at.


It was such a nice day that Leesa wanted to stay on the shoulder of Camel's Hump and just enjoy it and not go any further.  We had lunch, explored and just had a good time.

From Camels' Hump shoulder I surveyed the far side of the Niagara Brook Valley.  There is mostly hardwoods leading up the eastern flank of Sunrise and Macomb Mountains.  I noticed that there is a nice open rock shoulder between the two peaks.  It is just south of a marked countour elevation on the map of 1068 Meters.  It is about 1 mile northeast of Sunrise Mountain.  I've added it to my list of future bushwhacks. 

 It was about 1:30 by the time we decided to head back.  We took a straigher course back by bushwhacking at a compass reading of 45 degrees to get back to the West Mill Brook trail.
A zoomed in look at a waterfall across the valley

Once back to the West Mill Book, we returned on the trail the way we came.  We did stop to stick our feet into the water near a nice cascade.  It was cold, you wouldn't want to leave your feet in the water for more than about 15 seconds, but it was refreshing on the feet. 

The true summit of Camel's Hump as seen from the shoulder

Once we had our boots back on, it was about a 30 minute walk back to the car.  We again used our water shoes to cross the creek and then we were back.  This was a nice combinatin of a trail along a stream followed by an short bushwhack to an open ledge. 
Rev is king of the hill

A zoomed in look at Giant and Rocky Peak Ridge


Buck and Bear Mountains in the foreground

Our route for the day (click image to enlarge)

Hike Stats:
Hike Distance:  8.3 miles
Hike Time:  5 hours (including stops)