Who doesn't kike a loop hike better than an out and back hike? I always look for loop possibilities when planning a trip. I also look for routes I haven't done before. In this case, I had hiked all the marked trail routes in the area, but I could make a loop hike out of Phelps mountain by adding a short bushwhack from Klondike Brook.
Leesa and I headed for Adirondac Loj Road and then followed the South Meadow Road to the end. There was about an inch of snow on the ground and the road was still open (it closes once the snow starts to pile up).
We started on the Klondike Trail and quickly crossed the new footbridge over the South Meadow Brook. :) The walk along the Klondike Trail was a an easy walk along the slope above the brook. There was about 2 inches of snow for most of the trail. The temperature was about 40 degrees and the snow was soft.
|The Klondike Brook Trail|
It was 2.75 miles to the Klondike leanto, which we reached in about an hour and 15 minutes. We stopped and had something to drink and a couple snacks. From the leanto, it would be a 1.7 mile bushwhack to the top of Phelps Mountain. We started upward and found that the approach was an easy open forest with a mix of hard/soft woods.
We started to see lots of deer tracks and deer beds as we climbed. All of the sudden I noticed a much bigger track. It wasn't a deer, but a moose track. The hoof print was about the size of my hand, and the tracks were at least 3 feet apart. The moose had come down the sloped and we were following it backwards.
|A large moose track!|
We followed the tracks until they turned along the side slope and we needed to continue upward. What impressive tracks. I would have liked to follow the track to see the moose bed. It would have been enormous.
As we reached the false summit about a half mile to the northeast of the summit of Phelps, we got caught in a thick patch of pine growth. It looked like the ridgeline would be tough to claw through, so we dropped off the ridge on the east side and found the terrai n easier to negotiate.
|Leesa was liking the snow covered woods|
Not long after that we found a herd path heading for Phelps which we followed. By now, there was about 8 inches of snow on the ground and it looked like a winter wonderland. It was really pretty. Leesa and Rev were both enjoying the snow, I was as well.
|... and so was Rev|
It was funny as we popped out on the summit. We were suddenly surrounded by about 10 people and the sun was hitting the south side of the mountain. It had already melted all the snow off the trees. It was like a different world.
|The view east from Phelps (Big Slide Mtn on the left)|
There was another dog on the summit which caused Rev to start barking like crazy, so we didn't stay on the summit long. The trip down was not nearly as pleasant as the bushwhack in the snow had been. The Phelps trail was a combination of ice and slush and Rev was pulling me down faster than I would have liked.
|Colden, Algonquin and Wright|
It didn't take long to get down the Phelps Trail. Once on the Van Hoevenberg Trail, I waited for a couple minutes for Leesa to catch up, then we headed down towards Marcy Dam. When we reached the High Water bridge we ran into 3 guys headed for Mount Marcy. It was about 2: 30. They asked how far it was to the summit from there. I told them it was probably 4 miles or so and that they would probably just be reaching the summit at dark. Leesa told them they could climb Phelps as an alternate and still achieve a high peak and also get partway down before dark. They had headlamps, and we think that is what the way they chose to go.
It was sunny and warm when we reached Marcy Dam and the sunshine felt nice. It felt like late March or early April with the strong sun and melting snow.
|The view from the dam|
From Marcy Dam, we took the South Meadow truck trail back to the car. I like this trail better than the trail to the Loj for some reason, especially if there is enough snow and it is skiable. It took about an hour from the dam back to the car.
This was our first trip of the hike of the fall where we encountered some significant snow and it felt good. I can't wait for winter!
Hike Distance: 9.1 miles
Hike Time: 6 hours, 15 minutes
Total Vertical Gain: ~ 2200'