Sat./Sun./Mon July 9/10/11 – Flew to Rochester to see Anna, my newest granddaughter, for the first time. She was baptized on Sunday, and got my missus off to the airport Monday for her trip back to Huntsville. Hoped upon hope that Dennis wouldn’t delay the flights. Luckily she flew thru Cincinnati and didn’t have any problems.
Tuesday I drove to the Meadowbrook state campgrounds at Ray Brook. I got there around 2 pm, set up my tent, and then went for a hike up nearby Scarface Mountain. There were signs leading from the campground so I merrily followed. I came to a railroad track and the sign pointed right, down the track. I kept looking for a trail leading off from across the track but couldn’t find one. I saw a RR Crossing sign ahead and figured if I didn’t come upon the trail before then I’d go down the road. When I got to the crossing sign there was the trail! The RR Crossing sign was for a trail crossing, cute. The trail was easy, crossing a pond, and then rising gently for about a mile. It finally turned up the mountain and going was harder due to the rocky terrain. I saw 7 people in the first half hour, then another 2 in the next 15 minutes. And this was supposed to be a seldom-used trail. What would the trail to Mt. Marcy be like being called “well used”? The rest of the hike, however, I saw noone else. Maybe it is seldom used after all. There weren’t many views, a few from the side of the mountain, none from the top. I was back in camp by 6 pm, signed in, and went looking for a place to eat in Lake Placid. After supper I packed my daypack for the next morning.
Wednesday morning I didn’t sleep well so I was up early, stopped at McD’s for breakfast, and made it to the Adirondack Loj by 7 am. There was noone there to collect the parking fee, but they had envelopes to stuff your money in. They wanted you to fill out the front of the envelope with your name, address, etc. but didn’t give you anything to write with, and I didn’t have a pen or pencil with me, so I left it blank, paid the fee and went in. I headed up the Van Hoevenberg Trail, blue markers, for Mt. Marcy, my ultimate destination. It’s an easy hike to Marcy Dam, 2miles. From there continue on the blue marked trail along side Phelps Brook, a lovely stream. The trail is rocky, a moderate climb, with numerous damp, not quite marshy spots where they have laid boardwalks to reduce the impacts of heavy travel. The trail crosses Phelps Brook, and then turns up towards Indian Falls. It’s a fairly steady climb, some steeper sections and some almost flat. Finally, after almost 6 miles, Mt. Marcy comes into view. The sign says 1.2 miles to the summit, but it sure looks longer than that, with some serious climbing yet to come. I took a break, had an energy bar and some water before heading on. While on break, another hiker came by and asked if I was a highpointer. When I said yes, we introduced ourselves. He was Larry Becher from California. This was his 30th high point (my 20th). The real climb soon started and shortly after the trail breaks into alpine meadows. It’s now mostly a rock climb, walking up huge slabs or working around large boulders. A group of young backpackers (teenagers?) was coming up from Keene Valley. We all made our own way up the final slope. It’s marked with a paint stripe and hikers are asked to stay on trail. The alpine tundra has been severely damaged from overuse and the park service is trying to re-vegetate. After a final scramble up I’m on top of New York! There’s a ranger on top explaining to everyone about the need to stay on rock and off the soil where the alpine flowers are trying to grow. I talked to her about my desire to return via Colden Lake and Avalanche Pass. She was less than enthusiastic about my try but showed me the way with a warning to have plenty of food and water.
After 30 minutes on top I headed down toward 4 Corners and Feldspar. I passed by Lake Tear of the Clouds on the way. It’s 2.2 miles, all downhill, and I do mean downhill. It was much steeper for much longer than the way up, and seemed to be rockier too. My knees took a pounding they’ll not soon forget. It took 1 ¾ hours to go that far, even though I thought I was going pretty fast. There was thunder in the background and I didn’t know which way it was going. I reached the Opalescent River and re-supplied with water. What a beautiful river! It rained for a few minutes but soon stopped before I pulled out the rain gear. From there it’s 2 miles to Lake Colden, then 6.4 miles back to the Loj. The hike to the lake wasn’t too bad, but I thought the trail around the lake would be an easy stroll to recuperate some. No, more rocks and boardwalks. From Lake Colden it was a mile upstream, yep, more rocks, to Avalanche Lake. That was a gorgeous setting between Mt. Colden and Algonquin. The slopes come straight down to the edge of the water. It’s definitely a beautiful scene. The trail around Avalanche Lake, however, is anything but beautiful. Huge boulders have slid down Algonquin making passage difficult if not almost impossible. Count on an hour to go the one mile. It’s up, over, around or down each and every boulder. They’ve tried to improve it by adding steps, bridges, and boardwalks where possible, but it is still a tough 1 mile. They even have 2 Hitch Up Matilda’s to cross (see photos). Once around the lake it’s about a 500 foot climb to Avalanche Pass, easy by comparison to what I had already endured. In 1999 Avalanche Pass increased in elevation by about 30 feet from a slide off Mt. Colden. The devastation of the birch trees is astonishing. Don’t’ linger in the Pass long, however, because I couldn’t see how the trees are hanging on to the rocky slope above the pass. It looks like they could let go at any time. From there it’s all downhill back to the Loj, though the first half mile or so is moderately steep. Once the trail reaches Marcy Creek it’s an easy hike back. All total I hiked 18.6 miles in 11 ½ hours. My feet were past ready to stop but the trip was worth it with the gorgeous views. Lots of people were hiking in to Lake Colden via Avalanche Pass, and then doing Marcy as a day hike. That’s the sensible way to see it all.
I stopped in Lake Placid for gas and food. I didn’t want to go back to camp, shower, and then return for food, so I cleaned up some with “Wet Ones”, changed shirts and shoes, and stopped to eat. I was seated in a corner table with noone around, but at that point I didn’t care. Afterwards I headed back to camp, showered and hit the sack. Overnight it rained some, then a thunderstorm rolled in.
Thursday when I got up it was still raining, so I threw my tent into the trunk of the car and headed back to Rochester.
Photos are located at http://www.thebackpacker.com/pictures/album/dcasavh3.php