Saturday, July 21, 2018

Fireworks Everywhere! Poke-O-Moonshine 7-4-2018

A few days before the Fourth of July, it dawned on me that it could be fun to do a  Poke-O-Moonshine sunset hike and watch all of the firework displays up and down the Champlain Valley.

This idea reminded me of something my friends and I did when we were a little younger. Wedrove up the Helderberg Mountains to Thatcher Park and watched the fireworks all over the Capital District. 

I worked on the holiday this year. After finishing up, I made the quick drive to Poke-O and climbed it at the perfect time!

The Friends of Poke-O-Moonshine have
been working vigorously on the mountain
and trail. As of two months ago,
this was a dilapidated cabin. Now, only
the foundation remains.

I made it to the top approximately 20 minutes before the major shows began in Plattsburgh & Burlington (their shows began at 9:30PM).

I didn't bother taking any pictures of the fireworks because my camera is terrible at that sort of thing.
But, it was certainly pretty cool to watch every firework set off within 100 miles.
The sunset to the West over Whiteface was great as well!

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Bennies Brook Slide - Lower Wolfjaw - Upper Wolfjaw 6/25/2018

Bennies Brook Slide.

Disclaimer: Slide climbing is inherently more dangerous than taking a common trail. Everything that can go wrong on a "normal" trail is quantified by an incredible margin during a slide climb. 
If the weather wants to beat you down... It will. 
If a rock wants to roll... it will roll. 
If the weather wants to beat you down at the same time that a rock decides to roll -Best of luck to you.

Many other things can go wrong during a slide climb. DON'T sit there and think "Well the guy on the internet did it. My kids and I can do it too!"  The author and his daughter hiked hundreds of miles in the Adirondacks before attempting this climb. If you have minimal experience hiking in the ADK , DO NOT let Kailee's age deceive you...  DO NOT attempt this climb until you've gotten some real open rock climbs and serious experience under your belt. Know Your limitations & use your better judgment!!!    

Lower Woljaw & Bennies Brook Slide (Left-Center). Upper Wolfjaw
(Right-Center) from Big Slide Mountain.

Kailee & I have wanted to get a taste of the Great Range for a while. It's something that we've been hoping to sink our teeth in to...  I figured that we could take a bite out of it by climbing Lower Wolfjaw Mountain - the High Peak in the range nearest to civilization.

There's a few trails that one can take up Lower Wolfjaw. I was leaning towards the Roostercomb-Hedgehog route. But, I was also considering the trail out of the AMR.

I decided to message my friend Sam. He's a super experienced Adirondack 46er and all around explorer.

Me: Hey, which is less of a grind to Lower Wolfjaw: Roostercomb or AMR?

Sam: The only enjoyable way up LWJ is Bennies Brook Slide

Me: I freaking knew you were gonna say that

I was aware of Bennies Brook Slide. My friend Jim and I had complimented it's dominating appearance on our recent hike at Big Slide Mountain...

I knew it was the real deal.

Varied terrain on Bennies Brook Slide
on Lower Wolfjaw Mountain.

Sam: How did she do on Catamount?

Me: Fine.

Sam: Then she'll have no problem with Bennies.

Sam provided me with a ton of extremely beneficial resources to help Kailee & I on our first attempt at a full slide climb. His assistance was invaluable to pulling off this climb.

Kailee and I arrived at the Garden pretty early. After signing in at the trail register, we set out to Learn the Slide.

Garden Register.

We followed the Phelps Trail for the first leg of our approach. This was the same trail that we took on our exit from Big Slide two weeks prior.

Near the two mile mark, we took a left off of the trail and bushwhacked down to Johns Brook. I had studied a number of maps and other trip reports & determined this shortcut could save us some mileage.

Johns Brook.

By total chance of luck, we popped out of the woods and on to the shore of the brook at the Tenderfoot Pool "Water Slide!"

We took a nice break at this point. The scenery was wonderful. The sound and feel of Johns Brook was refreshing.

After rock hopping across the brook, we noticed that someone had arranged some small stones that spelled out "Congratulations 46er!"

Congratulations 46er!

Apparently, someone had taken a celebratory ride down the Tenderfoot "Water Slide" after completing their 46er round.

In a matter of a few steps up the bank of the brook, we linked up with the "abandoned" Southside Trail.

"Abandoned" Southside Trail. 

It's pretty clear from the ATV tracks that DEC uses the Southside Trail as a wilderness access point.

That being said, this short stretch of "abandoned trail" was gorgeous. It followed the shoreline of the shimmering brook for the 10 minutes that it took us to reach the base of Bennies Brook Slide. The slide was marked with a mid-sized cairn... Even without the cairn, the slide was pretty hard to miss.

Bennies Brook Cairn.

We were surrounded by the slide's devastation. Trees, rocks & boulders that once sat high upon Lower Wolfjaw now rest at the base in a jumbled up mess... It's almost like an eerie wilderness graveyard.

"Wilderness Graveyard."

Turning left at the cairn, it was time to officially begin our slide climb. We had to navigate around some small waterfalls at the base. Nothing too hard.

The slide climb begins.

Then, we proceeded over some areas of rubble. This was the first of a number of encounters with rubble for the day. We also hit areas with naturally carved rock formations and there was several long pitches of smooth open rock climbing. The slide has a variety of terrain... Bennie is quite the character!

A smooth spot.

It had rained over the weekend, but there was plenty of dry rock to stick to during our climb. There was two occasions where we stuck to the dry rock a little too long and had to take five or six steps back down and work our way towards the left of the slide to make things considerably easier.

Some dry footing.

Every time that we turned around, we were granted an outstanding view of Big Slide, bright blue skies and huge -yet harmless- puffy clouds which cast their shadow on the mountain and valley below.

Some varied terrain on Bennies Broom Slide...
And, a nice view of Big Slide Mountain
behind us.

Bennies wasn't too physically demanding for either of us. A few times, we used all four limbs to climb. At other points, we held hands to make it past certain pitches.
After one somewhat intimidating pitch, I plopped down on a large rock.
Kailee plunked down right next to me. We were both breathing heavy. Neither of us said a word. I'm pretty sure that we could read each other's minds.

"That was kinda intense."

Conversely, there were a number of stretches where it felt like we were walking up a four lane highway. I love when this sort of open rock climbing happens. Walking upwards on smooth rock and finding a flat-enough location to turn around and enjoy the scenery hits the spot every time. Countless times, Bennies provided us with this opportunity.

Bennies Brook Slide's Headwall.

As we neared the headwall of the slide, some scrambling was necessary to our progress. We worked as a team and got through it. I would show Kailee where to step and gave her a hand to grab when she needed it. 

The headwall itself is pretty impressive. We saw it from a distance for a good portion of our climb. As we drew closer, it was clear that there are bigger walls and formations out there. However, the character of Bennies headwall seemed appropriate. It just fits right in with the rest of the slide.

Near this point, I spotted a small cairn. It had some grass and leaves growing over it. But, it was spotted nonetheless. We made our way to it.

Linking up with the Range Trail.

This cairn marked our break from the slide and on to a herd path. The herd path leads one to the Range Trail (which spans the length of the Great Range). After a few hundred feet of walking through ferns, we linked up with the Range Trail and only had to do a short, albeit steep climb to the Summit of Lower Wolfjaw. On this little stretch of trail that we covered, we were offered some really nice views of Giant and Dix (insert your own hiker joke).

Giant from the Range Trail ascending LWJ.

However, we were aware that Lower Wolfjaw's  4175' summit offers limited views. And, it does. We were able to get a few peeps through trees of some cool stuff. And, that was it. I personally don't mind when this happens and I'm fairly sure that Kailee doesn't either. Besides, we were just afforded an amazing view for the vast majority of our climb.

Lower Wolfjaw Summit.

We summited LWJ around 11am. I made sandwiches, distributed snacks and we feasted while sitting atop of our 7th ADK High Peak. We only saw two other hikers during our time on top of Lower Wolfjaw.

As we ate, we discussed the possibility of heading over to Upper Wolfjaw and tagging it as well. UWJ wasn't in our itinerary... However, reaching our goal for the day at such an early hour made this a feasible plan.

We agreed.

A view from LWJ's summit.

After a nice break at the Summit of Lower Wolfjaw, we made our descent into the col between it and Upper Wolf's chin with our teeth set on Upper Wolf.

The descent from LWJ to the col was fairly steep, but never too difficult.

We began our climb of Upper Wolf's chin and it was nothing out of the ordinary for a bit... Then, things got a little more challenging. There were a few scrambles and a crack between two large boulders that we... I... Needed to squeeze through.

Hold your breath!

Then we hit a wall... A wall that was 12-15' high at an 80 degree angle with only a 4 inch crack to "guide" one up . I wish that I had taken a picture of it... But, it was a problem that needed some serious solving and taking a picture was not at the forefront of my problem solving range of thought.

Kailee had little issue solving this problem compared to myself. She's small enough where she was able to find foot and handholds that I wasn't. She's also small enough that a push from my hand was able to get her up.

It took me three attempts to get up the wall over the course of 20 minutes. I got up about 2/3rds of the way before wet hands and sloppy holds got the better of me on the first attempt and I slid down. I scraped up my knees and elbows pretty good.

I took a few minutes to dry my hands of the wet slime that covered them after the first attempt. My second attempt yielded the same result.

I slid down the wall again further scraping my knees and elbows.

Again, it took a few minutes to get my hands dry.

Kailee was just out of my line of view as I stood looking up at the wall

For a moment I thought, "So, Kailee is going to tag Upper Wolfjaw while you're here spending all day trying to figure out if you can get up this thing!"

The reality was, Kailee was taking a timeout and resting on a rock as I prepared for my third attempt at the wall. This time, I made it. Using every bit of muscle and Spiderman grip that I could muster... I   pulled myself up the wall.

-I have since read that there is usually a rope at this point to help one up the wall... There was no rope on this day... A ladder or rope would've been more than welcomed.-

After this problem, the problems became easier to deal with. Were there a few scrambles from here on out? Yes. But, they were nothing compared to the wall on the Wolf's Chin.

After a steep incline, we hit an area with some signed trees. We were within the immediate vicinity of the Summit.

After an extremely short climb, we were standing upon Upper Wolfjaw's 4185' summit ledge enjoying an outstanding view. Giant sat to the North, Dix sat in front of us with the Green Mountains of Vermont serving up a heck of a background. To our right (South-Southwest) sat Armstrong. We were both extremely happy to hit our 8th High Peak as a team!

Upper Wolfjaw. Number 8!

We didn't come across many hikers on Lower Wolfjaw's Summit... Upper Wolfjaw was a different story.

We had a few moments of solitude, but we also met a bunch of people working their way North on Great Range traverses... Most of them were Quebecois.

When Kailee & I are hanging out around 4000', most people are surprised & impressed to see her.

Making silly faces on Upper Wolfjaw.

Many of the hikers that we ran into on UWJ were curious as to how we achieved such an altitude.

"We took the Bennies Brook Slide," I answered.

Immediately, they pulled their maps out of their pockets.

"I don't uhhhh... see that trail on here..." they replied.

"Yeah, it's not a trail. It's a slide climb," I replied.

"What do you mean?  You went off the trails?"

"Yeah. It's a slide climb... We climbed a landslide..."

"Ahhh, OK," they replied without a fiber of a clue...

Check those cloud shadows!

In between the traffic at Upper Wolfjaw's Summit, we ate, rested, and enjoyed the scenery.

"I think we can get Armstrong," Kailee said looking towards the mountain.

Talk about a 7 year-old with some drive! Trust me, I didn't want to descend the Wolf's Chin... But, I knew it was our only way out. If there had been a bail-trail to Johns Brook in between UWJ and Armstrong... I would've said "Let's try it."

I pulled out my map. It confirmed what I already knew. There was no bail-trail to Johns Brook.
I expressed this to Kailee.

"I'm calling it," I said, "We're not going to Armstrong. I'd love to go from here to there. But, there's no bail-outs in between. We've already surpassed our goal for the day."

Armstrong from Upper Wolfjaw.

"I was hoping we could hit our 9th High Peak," Kailee stated.

"Dude, I love that thought. You've kicked a lot of butt today.
We need to head down now," I replied, "If there was a bail-trail between here and Armstrong... I'd be with you on that it."

Kailee's determination to head over to Armstrong was beyond admirable. 

Heading back down via the Wolf's Chin was our only option. In doing so, we ran into little issue with the scrambles en route to the wall.

When we arrived there, two Quebecois ladies were trying to ascend. The first lady made it look so easy! Her friend... Not so much... She looked like me on her first try... Climb & crash... On her second attempt, I held out a trekking pole for her to grab and offered a hand when within arm's reach. With my help, the woman got up under much easier circumstances.

Descending the wall was a little tricky. But, we made it down unscathed. Kailee and I walked to the col and took the Wolfjaw Brook Trail towards Johns Brook Valley.
I saw a marten! He was too fast from my camera. He was only a few feet away from me. But, within a matter of seconds he scaled some ledges and was 20' above me!

Wolf's Brook.

The Wolfjaw Brook Trail seemed to drag for quite a while until hit the point where the brook parallels the trail. A little further on, there was a slide stretching down UWJ. It's devastating path was fascinating... But, compared to Bennies, it didn't look like a fun climb in my opinion (I realize the possibility that I could be totally wrong on that notion)...  

A slide on Upper Wolfjaw.

Upon arriving at flat land, we crossed a cable bridge over the shimmering Johns Brook and walked to the Interior Ranger Station.

I'm beginning to think that Kailee and I will see a moose before we see a Forest Ranger. We walked right up to their den. But, there were no Rangers to be found.

Interior Outpost.

The Ranger Station is a nice rustic cabin that sits in a small field of wildflowers and grass.
As I had hoped, there was a picnic table there. It was on the porch. A whiteboard provided emergency phone numbers, indicated some recent bear activity and provided future weather forecasts.

Wildflowers near the Ranger's Outpost.

We sat at the table and munched on some sandwiches and snacks while cracking random jokes.

After finishing our meal, it was time to head back towards the Garden. We linked back up with the Phelps Trail and hopped on it. Over this portion of the hike, we passed -and- were passed by the most people that we had seen all day. Yeah, we saw about 15 people at the Summit of Upper Wolfjaw... But, we were relaxing when we met them. In terms of moving along on the trails, we ran into the most people (20-25) during our hike out on the Phelps trail... Many of them were en route to Johns Brook Lodge.  

We also "bumped into" our friend! The raging boulder that came crashing down Big Slide and smashed into the trail from two weeks prior!

Hello Rocky, our old "friend."

It's always nice seeing "friends."

We reached the Garden around 7:30PM. This was one of our longer days and one of our more challenging treks in through the woods. We earned some stripes on this one. Tired, yet pleased, Kailee and I agreed that taking a bite out of the Wolfjaws was an incredibly rewarding experience!

Lower Wolfjaw from Upper Wolfjaw.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Hurricane Mountain 6-17-2018

Hurricane jumped on my bucket list while we were on the Summit of Big Crow last Summer. It had such an impressive look that I knew we'd have to hike it some day. I decided a few months back that I would like to climb it on Father's Day. So, that's what we did!

I was aware that the trail from Route 9N was recently re-routed and maintained by DEC & the Friends of Hurricane Mountain. Gentle sloping switchbacks guided Kailee & I up the mountain. I love a good switchback trail!

The trail crosses and runs along a swamp or two on the way up. We spotted some salamanders and frogs and heard the groans of bullfrogs.

Despite passing the swamp, we didn't run into any black flies or mosquitoes... However we did run into our dreaded enemy: biting gnats.

I personally think that biting gnats are worse than black flies & skeeters. The way they slash your skin and and leave itchy anticoagulant compounds in your flesh is extremely annoying and painful. I'm putting this write up together a week and a half later and still have slash shaped scabs from their bites.

Anyhow, shortly after the swamp area you gain some elevation and break into the open. Hurricane has a bald summit. And, no it's not as a result of wind as the mountain's name may imply.

High Peaks from below Hurricane's Summit.

Hurricane's baldness is a result of Verplanck Colvin clear cutting the summit area to perform his historic Adirondack survey in the 1870s.

We both enjoyed the stretch from here to the Summit. Nice views all the way to the top. And, oh yeah! After summiting, if you're not satisfied by spinning around in a circle and getting a view in every direction... There's a firetower that you can climb to get a little more elevation for your view.

I'm not a huge fan of climbing firetowers. But, under the right circumstances, I will go all the way up. Hurricane's tower didn't bother me. I went all the way up to the cab. Part of the cab's roof had been torn off by the most recent Winter's wind. Unfortunate for the tower... But, I actually thought it look kinda cool.

Whiteface & Esther from Hurricane.

Kailee climbed the tower twice as I prepared lunch.

After lunch, we began our trek out.

The switchbacks made it a fairly quick and extremely easy walk back to the car.

Afterwards, we drove to Placid and played a game of mini golf at Pirate's Cove.  In spite of me winning the game 60-110... Kailee did sink the only hole-in-one for the day! This was an excellent way to wrap things up after a good hike on Father's Day..

Big Slide 6-10-2018

Big Slide! 4240'.

It's always nice hiking with friends.

My old college buddy Jim is one of my go to guys for discussing hikes and getting insight. I also pester him with trip highlights and reports. He's an experienced hiker from the Catskills and we've been wanting to meet up for an Adirondack High Peak for a while now.

Our schedules finally lined up and we decided to go for the 27th Highest Peak in the ADK: Big Slide.

We met up at the Garden parking lot in Keene and I introduced him to Kailee. After some catching up, we strapped on our packs, signed the register and hit the trails.

Great Range from First Brother.

We approached Big Slide via the Three Brothers trail. The Brothers are three smaller sub peaks on the mountain. The first two Brothers offer amazing views on their own and require some simple rock climbing to get over them. The trail goes around the shoulder of the Third Brother en route to the Summit of Big Slide.

Big Slide from the Brothers.

There aren't many water sources on this path. So, if you're hiking the Three Brothers trail out-and-back on a hot day - come prepared.

The Brothers trail is quite remarkable. As I mentioned, the views are outstanding and it's not an overly rigorous route... Whoever cut this trail definitely knew what they were doing!

Just below the Summit, there's a trail junction. Following the trail towards the Summit we hit an incredibly steep pitch with a series of ladders. Then, we reached an overlook next to Big Slide's Big Slide.

At the slide, I noticed a parhelion rainbow.
"They call those sun dogs," noted Jim, " Ya know, that might be a good trail name for you. "

The trail name was a reference to an old college nickname... I like it. I might keep "Sun Dog."

Once we passed the slide, it was an easy climb to the Summit.

Part of the "Big Slide."

On the way, a Quebecois woman complimented Kailee. People are usually surprised when they see her up around 4000' in the sky.

"She is very good!" The woman exclaimed in a thick French accent, "She is very strong!"

Moments after this, we were atop Big Slide admiring it's absolutely gorgeous view. Giant Mountain commands everything to the North-east, the Great Range puts on a show smack dab in front of you and the State's highest point Mount Marcy watches over everything from the South.

Great Range & Marcy from Big Slide's Summit.

We all agreed that this was one heck of a climb and Summit. I had heard there wasn't a summit marker on Big Slide. But, I found one hidden behind a pine tree. A classic Verplanck Colvin survey bolt. Still beautiful & shiny after 140 years.

We enjoyed lunch while Jim and I discussed how a very prominent slide on the side of Lower Wolf Jaw looked like a highway... More on this note in a future entry.

Kailee played with a hiker's dog, performed the floss dance & did some back-bends.

While dancing, she noticed a critter.

"Hey, a baby raccoon!" Kailee shouted, "Wait... That isn't a raccoon."

I stepped near her and saw it.

"Hey, Kailee, that's a marten," I said as the cutest creature ever created happily scurried away from the ledge.

The marten's red & brown coat was marvelous. Kailee became extra excited upon my confirmation of the adorable critter. She had wanted to see one since seeing an episode of Wild Kratts and learning that they are common around Noonmark Mountain when we hiked it.

This was an exceptional way to finish up our time on top of Big Slide.

Jim & I had pretty much agreed in advance (with room for changes in plans of descent) to take the Slide Brook Trail down the mountain and hike out of Johns Brook Valley on the Phelps Trail.

The three of us were in agreement afterwards that we took a good path down. We got to see more of the mountain by doing this and obtain a better perspective of Big Slide.

The Slide Brook Trail is pretty much a straight shot down the mountain. The parking attendant at the Garden parking lot had previously informed us that the trail crosses the brook a few times around 2/3rds of the way down.

This ended up being both fun and helpful... Kailee loved seeing that the next trail marker was a rock hop across the brook and I needed water.

I finished up the contents of my water pack about a half mile before we hit the stream. This was actually the first time that's happened to me on a hike. I usually have at least a little bit -if not more- leftover when I'm done...

Based off the map, the parking attendant's words, and the sound of rushing water... I was glad that I was in a position that I could filter water... And, that's what I did at a beautiful pool!

At the final stream crossing we hit a merger of a brook crossing and a very old slide.

"This is SICK!" Kailee shouted beyond enthusiasm "I LOVE Big Slide!"

"I would take a selfie right here," Jim commented as we walked down the old slide, "But, all of my friends would just think that I'm in a parking lot."

A very funny observation.

Soon enough, we reached the end of the Slide Brook Trail. At this junction, it was 3 miles back to the Garden... But we decided to tack on a half mile side trek to Johns Brook Lodge - a historic campsite run by the ADK Club.

This was another decision that we were glad to make. It was everyone's first trip to JBL and it was worth the jaunt.

The property is lovely. The top of Gothics steals your attention at the Lodge. But, there is plenty to explore and appreciate right there!

During our hike, we were told that JBL offers free lemonade... At this point in the day... Lemonade held a lot of appeal to me.

I sent Kailee into the Lodge to fetch three cups of lemonade. This was two-fold. Yes, I wanted the lemonade. I also thought it would be neat if she was the first out of our little crew to scope out the interior of the Lodge.

Kailee came out of JBL empty handed.

"The lemonade isn't free," She said, "It's 50 cents."

I gave her the money for three drinks. A few minutes later, Jim and I joined Kailee inside to get our drinks and check things out. The Lodge is very pretty & has that rustic North Country feel. We chatted with the caretaker for a bit as we finished up our drinks. Then, it was time to make the 3.5 mile walk back to the Garden.

About a 1.5 miles from the car, Kailee spotted something... It was moving really fast through the trees and kicking up leaves!


This was no bear. It was a runaway boulder that came spiraling down the mountain and crashed into a large rock in the middle of the trail 40 feet in front of us!

We were fortunate to not be in it's way! However, we all agreed that it was pretty cool that we witnessed it.

The rock that crashed into the trail in front of us.

"It's too bad you weren't taping with your camera," Jim said, "You could've edited in some bowling alley noises."

Luckily, the rest of our walk out was uneventful. We were all glad to get back to the Garden. This ended up being our 6th High Peak and Jim's 11th! We said "Goodbye" to Jim and headed for home.

Later that night Kailee came up to me and said "My muscles in my arms are really strong from carrying my backpack all day!"

She must've been thinking about the compliment the Canadian had given her.

I squeezed her little pencil arms and laughed... And, continued to laugh about this scene for the next  two days.

 "Sun Dog" with the Sun Dog.