After 6 years, 27 days of hiking, hundreds of rugged ADK miles and tens of thousands of feet of elevation gain, I finally reached my last summit on Haystack to become an ADK 46'R! I had been patiently waiting for a break in the continuous thunderstorm forecasts and made the decision to go on Saturday afternoon. To make this finish even sweeter, my close friend Jenny (#8022) surprised me with a call only hours before leaving Saturday night saying that she and her friend would love to join me. What an incredible surprise! We hiked all night (starting at 11:30 pm) and after breaking treeline I could have sprinted over Little Haystack and up to Haystack's summit! However, I wanted to share that moment and together we enjoyed a spectacular sunrise and jaw-dropping summit views. In fact, I'd rate Haystack's views and grueling 18 miles RT as the best I've experienced of all the 46ers.
Normally I would share a more detailed story about the hike itself, but this day was all about my 46'R journey and the motivations behind it. I wanted to prove to myself that I could do this. I wanted to say "Thank You" to those in our military (since I could not serve) who provide the very blanket of Freedom that allows us to enjoy our Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. I wanted to stare down and conquer fear and self-doubt by hiking nearly all of the 46 peaks solo, including several throughout the night with no sleep. I wanted to enjoy each mountain a certain way and patiently planned each hike to ensure success. And I wanted to share these amazing experiences with those who couldn't be there or those who might also be inspired in the same way that others inspired me.
Ultimately, I completed the 46'R because of a very difficult reminder that Life is too short. Tomorrow isn't promised to me or any of us. What we do today and who we share our time with is what truly matters most! I appreciate all of the time everyone gave me in support of reaching this day. I may have completed my 46'R journey, but this isn't the end, it is only the beginning.
After nearly 30 miles of hard hiking and two nights of relaxing camping, I am now set up for the grand 46er finale on Haystack! What a perfect weekend in the ADK's!
Day 1: I returned to the Upper Works lot to hike Marshall. What a huge difference to be hiking this trail with a light day pack instead of the heavy full pack I had on my last trip! I made great time to the start of the Herbert Brook herd path and started right up. While unmarked, the herd path crosses the brook a dozen or more times and proved easier to follow than I had been warned. I made the summit about 3 1/2 hours from the trailhead and spent a few minutes taking pics of the limited views. Truth be told, my bathroom has more square footage than Marshall's treed-in summit. Good thing there was no one else around.
The best views were below summit - a stunning up-close view of Iroquois and Shepard's Tooth. With plans to car camp on Corey's Rd about an hour away, I soaked in the view then quickly headed back down. As I signed out, DEC Ranger Jameson pulled into the lot and we talked for good 20 minutes. I told him about a family I met that had a bear encounter the night before. Also, I mentioned the unapproved bear can left in the Herbert Brook lean-to. He confirmed that the bear activity is really high right now due to limited natural forage and what I will paraphrase as "camper stupidity". He told me of multiple examples of unprepared hikers venturing into the High Peaks just to check the box towards a 46er patch with ZERO wilderness preparedness, skills or concern for safety. With only two Rangers patrolling the entire Eastern High Peaks region, these guys have their hands full. Apparently, changes are coming to help alleviate the impacts from the increased volume of hikers.
I threw on flip-flops and started the drive up to Corey's though Long Lake and into Tupper Lake. I had packed a celebratory dinner of pork tenderloin and rice then enjoyed a Stewart's hot fudge sundae for dessert. After icing down my cooler, I made the final drive to Corey's Rd and scoped out a camp site.
I pulled into one of the primitive sites and noticed an eroded truck trail running down the back side of this site. This wasn't on the map so I decided to check it out. Much to my surprise, this dropped down to another camp site right on Ampersand Brook.
Yahtzee! This hidden gem would be home for the next two nights. After enjoying a fire and some snacks, I hit the sack and dozed off only to be woken up by a lone wolf howling in the distance. Amazing end to the day.
Day 2: Rest day. Another beautiful weather day on tap started with hot coffee, breakfast burritos and bacon. After cleaning up, I decided to go check out the surrounding area. First up was a trip back into Tupper Lake where I found Big Tupper Brewery.
Their Summer Ale and IPA are both very good and the novelty t-shirts an absolute riot! Next up was a drive to different points along the lake. Gorgeous. Between Tupper and Long Lake, I've got to come back up sometime soon.
Next up was a quick stop along Rt 3 to buy more camp fire wood for the night. $5, what a deal. I continued east back to Saranac Lake and stopped at the DEC public boat launch. The launch provides access to 87 island camp sites on Saranac Lake. How cool is that, you can rent out your own island! Needless to say, demand is high and these sites are reserved months in advance.
Heading back to camp, a grey fox darted in front of my Jeep on Corey's Rd. A cool sighting, but still not the black bear or moose on my wish list. Upon arriving back, I learned that a friend had to scratch his plans to make the trek up from PA to join me in hiking the Sewards. Bummer. The night continued with a good camp dinner, cold brew and, of course, some s'mores. Then a pair of ladies from Ottawa staying up at the site in front of mine stopped down to say hi. They had just hiked Seymour and would also be hiking the remaining Sewards the next morning. Faye had completed the 46 twice already while her friend Kim had just finished her 46 on Haystack the week prior. It was looking like I might have company on the trails after all.
Day 3: The morning started much earlier than expected when a moose started calling in the stream behind me at 3 am! By the time I woke up enough to process what I'd heard and throw on a fleece, flip-flops and grab my Surefire, the moose had moved on. Ugh. It was a chilly morning so I quickly crawled back into the sleeping bag. By the time the alarm started beeping at 5 am, I wasn't in any rush to jump up and break camp in time to meet Faye and Kim at the trailhead.
Once packed up, it was time to head up to the Seward parking lot. Even at 6:45 am, the lot was full with cars now parking along Corey's Rd. I signed in at 7:11 am and started the hike in. By ADK standards, the Blueberry trail and Calkins Brook Truck trail are about as tame as it gets. It only took an hour to make the 3.3 miles to the start of the herd path up to Donaldson.
No sooner did I reach the rock cairn marking the start of the Calkins Brook path then a large black blur was headed right for me. A bear?! Thankfully, no. A huge jet black great dane named Jack had enthusiastically decided to come say hi. Boy did that get my heart rate up! His owners quickly called him back and the whole meet & greet was over in seconds. Good doggie.
The Calkins Brook trail runs almost 3 miles and I made the top 2 hours later at the same time as another hiker named Derek. We were both solo hiking SDE and decided to hit Seward first together. Derek set a quick pace and I pushed it stay with him. After a quite a bit of elevation loss and gain, we finally made the tiny treed summit then dropped down a bit lower for a quick break.
It wasn't long before we started our way back to Donaldson that we ran into Faye and Kim who had started early and were about to finish on Seward. Thankfully, they reported that the ridge trail from Donaldson to Emmons, notoriously muddy, was actually bone dry. Sweet!
Back to the S/D col for a quick stop and then we made the 5 minutes rock scrabble up to Donaldson's summit. There were already a half dozen hikers standing here on a summit resembling a medium-sized area rug. One nod to Derek and we agreed to keep moving to Emmons. While on paper this looks like an easy ridge traverse, in reality the herd path weaves its way below ridge line and through a very narrow lane of pines. You may as well call me Groot after having 8000 branches scraping and jabbing across my face, ears and legs for the full 1 mile traverse. Forty-five minutes later and I was standing on the summit of Emmons, my 45th High Peak! Nearly 100 years ago the first 46ers stood on this very spot. Humbling.
Emmons offered some decent views and the ridge trail especially has some great views of Long Lake. After snapping some pics, the only piece of business left was for Derek and I was to head back to Donaldson. The summit party had cleared by the time we returned. We were able to enjoy great views of the entire High Peaks region and a well-deserved rest.
If not for the hot afternoon sun and need to get back to the parking lot at a reasonable time, this could have been a decent summit to linger on. Derek again set the quick pace back down and even with a break to filter fresh water, we still made it out in just 3 hours after leaving Donaldson. Derek now has 5 more to go before he completes his 46er journey. For me, only Haystack remains.
Anyone here ever tried calling for black bear in the northern zone of NY (mostly referring to Tug Hill and the ADK's)?
I've heard that in certain areas which have similar vegetation and terrain to NY (western Oregon and Washington) calling black bear is a tactic used by some hunters, as traditional spot-and-stalk hunts aren't really feasible and baiting and hounding aren't allowed.
I was thinking of trying some calling this coming fall. I'd be interested in talking to anyone else who has tried this method.
Tuesday night I drove up to Keene Valley for another (planned) sunrise hike to Basin and then Saddleback. Starting out under the full moon from the Garden lot at 10 pm, I made good time to JBL and up to Bushnell Falls. Then I entered a section of the Phelps trail that looked like it had been hit by an artillery barrage. I lost count of all the downed trees that I limboed under, climbed over or hiked around. This part of the Phelps trail and the Shorey Short Cut were a full blown obstacle course of downfall, mud, rocks, roots, slick bedrock and scrambles. With less than a mile to go to make summit, I pushed the pace hard, but missed the actual sunrise by 10 minutes. Still, this was just as rewarding for me as it was physically and mentally demanding. It was the sports equivalent of "leaving it all on the field".
I'll post some pics, but they won't do this trip justice. The infamous Saddleback cliffs are no joke! They aren't quite vertical, but man, one wrong move and you're done. I don't know why any sane person would actually choose to descend the cliffs rather than ascend and not look down. Either way, you better bring your A game.
These peaks make it 35/46 for me. The loop hike was about 16.5 miles, but it took me over 17 hours to get back to the Jeep. The push up to Basin absolutely smoked me only halfway into the hike so I needed to take generous breaks from there on. Once home I slept for 12 hours straight. Everything is sore, but I can't wait to do it all over again on the next hike.
A couple years ago, I backpacked with my gf to a spot behind Marcy with the goal of getting up early and making the summit for sunrise. Even though we were treated to breathtaking views all alone on the summit, we missed the actual sunrise by a bit. I've been wanting to do another sunrise hike ever since then, but let too many excuses get in the way.
Well, Saturday afternoon I saw a gorgeous sunny forecast for Sunday and made the decision to go for it on Algonquin then summit Iroquois and maybe Wright on the way home. Leaving the house at 10:45 pm got me to the Loj by 12:50 am. After getting squared away, I signed in at 1:20 am with the goal of enjoying a hot coffee on Algonquin's summit at sunrise.
The trail up is easy to follow and was a hard packed mix of snow and ice. Boots were fine the first couple miles in then I put the spikes on. There is a junction where the paths to Wright and Algonquin split at 3 miles. It was now 4:15 am and I was feeling pretty good about making the summit in plenty of time.
This is pretty much the point where I had wished that I had had some sleep and done a whole lot more cardio. The final half mile up is steep! As the tree line thinned out, I could actually see this huge massive gray dome against the clear black sky. It wasn't a cloud. Nope, this was the summit and I was nowhere near it. Legs cramping, lungs burning and winds blowing hard, I kept moving at a hobbit's pace to make my goal. No way was I going to miss this.
I finally stepped onto the summit with 15 minutes to spare. I normally like to take a lot of pics, but the frigid winds were so brutal that the camera battery went nearly dead, my cell wouldn't start up and my hand with just a glove liner on was frozen numb in less than 5 minutes. No way to brew coffee either. And then in a moment none of those things mattered as I was treated to the most beautiful sunrise I've ever seen.
Hope you enjoy the few pics that I was able to take. Iroquois was much more forgiving and Algonquin's summit was "warmer" the second time passing over to return home. For me, this was an epic hike all around. Only 13 more 46ers to go. Anyone else here complete the 46 or working on it?
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