Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Ampersand 9-9-2018

Kailee and I set out to nab her fifth Saranac Lake 6er on a chilly September afternoon.
Ampersand is one of my favorite mountains & I was pretty confident that she would love it too.

There were only a few cars in the parking lot when we arrived - a shock! This is an extremely popular trail and cars are usually parked up and down Route 3.

We only saw a few other hikers (some of them quite unprepared for the chill).

Unlike my first time here, I felt great the entire hike. A full Summer of High Peak hiking had both of us ready for Amp's incline.

As we neared the summit, I noticed some flagging & what looks to be some new trail work (Ampersand is set to have a full trail re-route in the future).

Looking towards the Sewards & Ampersand Lake from the Summit.

We arrived at the summit and had it to ourselves... Not the norm for a busy peak!
However, we were joined by a family & a few stragglers about ten minutes later.
No worries, there is plenty of room on Ampersand to explore & enjoy the views!

Five down for Kailee!

Kailee really enjoyed the 360 degree vista and Ampersand's pretty rock formations. I showed Kailee where the Old Firetower used to stand & the plaque dedicated to it's long tenured observer Walter Channing Rice.

The Plaque dedicated to Walter Channing Rice.

We snacked and pointed out familiar peaks for a good while before packing up and making our descent.

We moved briskly on our way down. Kailee & I made a quick stop at the old observer cabin's stone remains and peeked at some of the artifacts that still lay there.... I hope that the planned re-route passes by this spot. 

Cabin Remains.

We made it back to the car in good time.
We were still feeling fresh and joked that if we had started earlier in the day we could have went to Saint Regis Mountain and gone for her 6er finish.

Alas, St. Regis would have to wait another week for Kailee. We stopped by McDonald's in Saranac Lake & munched on burgers before heading home.

Ampersand is a special place & I'm glad that Kailee really loved her penultimate SL 6er peak!

Kids always have to play with water!

McKenzie 9/3/2018

After a successful Summer of climbing in the High Peaks, it was time for Kailee to resume working on her remaining Saranac Lake 6er requirements.

I'm not a huge fan of the Jack Rabbit Trail approach to McKenzie that I took last year. After a little research, I became aware of another option for climbing the mountain: the Shore Owners Association Trail (SOA). I decided that we would give this route a shot.

We arrived in Lake Placid early in the afternoon on Labor Day. We parked at the same spot as the JRT/McKenzie trailhead and then began walking down Blodget Road towards the SOA trailhead. Before we arrived at the trail the cloud above us opened up and it began to downpour.

We ran back to the car and waited it out for ten minutes. The rain stopped and the sky cleared up. We hopped out of the car and began retracing our steps down the road.

Trailhead Sign.

Near the gate, there was a sign to the left indicating the trail. We ducked into the woods and were on our way.

The first stretch of the SOA keeps you (mostly) out of view of the local property owners. Then it banks left near a stream and the climb begins in earnest.

The stream has some rock casings along it's banks. Perhaps the remains of an old dam or mill?

The trail is pretty easy to follow and it's pretty well maintained.

We arrived at the lovely Bartlett Pond and had lunch. From this spot, we could see the summit. It wasn't too far away.

Bartlett Pond.

Mountain Ponds are the best.

But, it was a straight and steep climb climb to get there. The rain from earlier turned it into a muggy afternoon. I was sweating like crazy. The elements were getting to me.

 "This thing is kicking my butt," I said.

 "WHAT?," replied Kailee "This is EASY!"

We forged ahead despite our differing opinions on the conditions.

McKenzie-Moose Trail Split.

Near the top was a trail split that leads to Moose Mountain. At this spot we got a nice view to the North of Whiteface and Catamount.

Then, it was only a quick walk to McKenzie's summit.

Four 6ers down for Kailee!

I congratulated Kailee and showed her where the overlook ledges are. The view towards Lake Placid and the High Peaks was mostly blue skies & harmless clouds. However, it was gray and cloudy from the opposite ledge looking towards Saranac Lake.

Looking over Lake Placid towards the High Peaks.

Potentially threatening skies towards Saranac Lake.


"Was that thunder!?" yelled Kailee.

"Yup, looks like we're not sticking around here too long!" I answered.

We took a few quick pictures and then hurried our way down the mountain.

Back at Bartlett Pond.

Fortunately, there were no further claps of thunder and the rain held off for the rest of our trek.

We heard the loud call of a loon as we were nearing Blodget Road.

"Woah, I thought that was only a sound effect that they made for the (46er) movie!" Kailee shouted excitedly.

"Nope, that was a loon."


Although we didn't spend a ton of time at the top, this was a fun hike and for me it was nice take a different trail and see another side of McKenzie Mountain. Kailee was very happy to check off her fourth 6er.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Colden 8/27/2018


Exactly one year ago, Kailee and I climbed our first High Peak and she decided that she wants to be a 46er. A few months ago, I figured that Kailee and I could try to hike around ten High Peaks this year. This determined young lady surpassed that mark by far. This Summer of hiking has been an absolute blast. It only made sense to try and get our 20th before she returns to school.

Colden's massive slides dazzled us two weeks ago while hiking the McIntyre's... Why not give it a shot?

We drove to South Meadow on Sunday night and tented it at one of the many free camp sites near the Marcy Truck Trail register.

After Kailee fell asleep, I watched the full moon rise over Phelps. The handful of clouds in the sky were illuminated by it's bright orange glow.

We awoke early Monday morning and began prepping for our trek. As soon as we had everything in order, we hopped on the trail for the 2.8 mile walk to Marcy Dam. It was a perfect bluebird morning.

Unlike our previous excursions on the Truck Trail, Kailee thought we should skip taking a break at Marcy Dam. I had no problem with this.

Colden & Avalanche Mountain
from Marcy Dam.

From the Dam, we followed the yellow trail markers towards Avalanche Pass. We passed a few campsites and noticed some bear tracks in the mud. Bears have been very active in this area this season due to early Summer drought.

Bear Track!

It was nice and refreshingly cool as we walked in the col between Colden and Avalanche mountains.
Through the trees, we caught peeps of Colden's Avalanche Pass Slide. Signs warned that hiking & skiing on this particular slide was prohibited.

We arrived at the Northeastern end of Avalanche Lake in just under three hours. The lake is nestled between the two mountains and is absolutely stunning. Had our hike ended at this point, it could be chalked up as a win. Nevertheless, we continued forward.

Avalanche Lake.

It was slow going around the lake. But, that was alright. We marveled at our fascinating surroundings. The trail took us on the Avalanche Mountain side of the lake which gave us incredible views of Colden's cliffs and slides.

Two friendly guys from Massachusetts and their beagle "Hobbes" caught up with us and walked with us along the lake. One of the guys is four peaks away from finishing up the 48 New Hampshire 4000'  Peaks. On this day, they were in the midst of of a big backpacking excursion to Mount Marcy.

Hitch Up Matilda!

We were afforded a beautiful view of Colden's massive trap dyke as we approached and crossed the first Hitch Up Matilda (a nickname for the footbridges that hover over the lake and are drilled into Avalanche Mountain's lower cliff faces).

The early morning glare of the sun made it tough to get a good picture
of the Trap Dyke.

The trail through Avalanche Pass and around the lake may be the most beautiful approach trail that we've taken. I can't speak highly enough of it! 

Southern end of Avalanche Lake.

It took us 45 minutes to reach the Southern end of the lake. From here, the trail took us through the woods to another trail register. At this point, we took a snack break and enjoyed a pleasant conversation with our new friends.

Upon resuming our walk, we quickly arrived at another gorgeous body of water named Lake Colden. The vista offered a lovely view of the McIntyre Range & a Ranger cabin across the lake.
At this point, our new friends continued forward towards Marcy and we took a left and our climb began.

Lake Colden & the McIntyre's.

The first stretch up Colden took us up short, easy switchbacks. We actually tackled this part fairly quickly. Then the trail hooked left and things got pretty steep for the rest of the climb.

The path led us up skinny slides. There was no "give" at this point. Just a straight shot up.

Normally on climbs I feel the burn in my quads or calf muscles. Going up Colden, I felt the burn exclusively in my Achilles.

The trail has a bunch of brand new long staircases that saved us from having to walk over pitches of wet, slimy open rock. There was a lot of material next to the trail, so it seems more staircases will be built in the near future. The stairs took a bit of the burden off of my ankles.

As we climbed, we were afforded a number of peeps outwards. Near the 4000' mark, we began getting views to the South in earnest. The early morning sky had given way to haze.

We hit a cool passage through carved rocks which we both thought was awesome. After this point, it was time to make our final pushes to the summit.

Rock passage.

Kailee leading us through the passage.

We climbed a ladder and busted into the open. From here to the Summit, we had views in almost every direction. A small tour plane flew over us and then dropped down.

"What is he doing?" Kailee asked.

"He's going to fly through Avalanche Pass," I answered "Watch him!"

The pilot did exactly as I guessed.

"Cool!" shouted Kailee.

Getting ready to climb the ladder.

Kailee watching the incoming plane.

The final part of part of our ascent was an open rock climb which required using all four limbs. I've taught Kailee to utilize cracks in rocks as hand and foot holds. She found a long skinny crack and zipped up the rock quickly. 

It took me a minute to figure out my route up. But, I soon joined her at the top of the face and we bounded to the summit. We hit the top at 1:20PM.

We were the only people there!
What a wonderful surprise!

Colden's marker is missing. All that remains is a hole where one once was with a triangle carved into the rock around it. It was a six hour walk to the top.

We were thoroughly pleased with our accomplishment and the view! We were sitting smack dab between the State's two largest peaks and had views of many peaks that we've climbed in the past year. Countless smaller peaks speckled the landscape near and far.

Looking North.
Whiteface (top) and Marcy Dam (Center).

"I would like to do this hike again!" announced Kailee.

"Me too!"

Marcy, Gray & Skylight.

Great Range.

We discussed the possibility of this being our last High Peak "grab" of the season. I told Kailee that she has really impressed me with her climbing over the past year. We both agreed if this was our last "big one" of 2018... Then we surely finished on a showstopper...
(We are planning on repeating Cascade this Fall).

Summit to ourselves!?!
Might as well goof off!

We began our descent at 2:15 PM. Instead of an out-and-back hike, I opted for us to take the L Morgan Porter-Lake Arnold Trail down. The profile on the trail on the map appeared to be an easier grade (that was true).

Immediately into our descent, we had to climb under some very large boulders. This was really fun and added another layer of excitement to our adventure.

The L Morgan Porter Trail took us over several false Summits which offered nice vistas as well as a look back at where we just had been.

Looking back at Colden from a false summit.

One of Colden's slides from the false summit.

The hardest part of the day was well behind us. The trail down to Lake Arnold was a nice reprieve. My Achille's no longer bothered me.

Great Range from a false summit.

Lake Arnold is a very tiny body of water. But it's very cute sitting on it's mountain perch.
It also drains down the trail in the Marcy-Colden col.

Lake Arnold.

Flowers near Lake Arnold.

The Lake Arnold Trail back to the junction is rather long. But, we were making decent time.
I stopped and filtered some water from a stream coming off Mount Marcy.

 Two and a half hours after leaving the summit, we arrived back at the Avalanche Pass Trail. 

I was a few feet a ahead of Kailee at one point as we walked back to Marcy Dam.

There it was! A marten carrying a big white mushroom up a small pine tree.

I stopped and tried to turn on my camera. I hope he doesn't see me...

Of course.

He saw me and scurried down the stream bed. His mushroom lunch dangled from a pine branch that was thinner than a pencil.

Very funny. Even if I didn't get him on camera.

Colden from Marcy Dam.

Back at Marcy Dam, Kailee dunked her hat in the water. Because Kailee always loves to dunk her hat in the water at Marcy Dam!

From there it was the Truck Trail back to the car.

Every minute of this hike felt like we were walking on the set of an Indiana Jones film.
I love every High Peak adventure that we've been on over the past year.

Colden is a favorite among favorites.

Dunking the hat!

Hike Stats:

Miles: 15.17

Total Elevation Gain: 3403'

Time: 12 hours.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Sawteeth 8/20/2018


Kailee and I awoke after spending a chilly night at Sharp Bridge Campground. We broke camp, got our things together and freshened up before setting sail for St. Huberts.

As we drove down Route 73, we noticed a bunch of Forest Ranger trucks parked in the lots to our left. Then, we saw a helicopter. Not thinking too much of it, Kailee made a joke about the chopper...

We later found out that the Rangers were in the process of attempting (a successful) rescue mission in the Dix Range. We're glad that our amazing Rangers were able to help out the lost hiker.

Sawteeth from the Ausable Club.

We arrived at the Ausable Club/AMR parking lot a little later than planned and set off at 9:40 AM to learn the roads...

That's right. The roads...  The Club/AMR is private property and the general public isn't allowed to drive on their roads. We walked a half mile on the pavement alongside the golf course, took a left at the tennis courts and signed in at the AMR gate.

After the gate, it was a three mile dirt road walk to Lower Ausable Lake before linking up with the trailhead proper for Sawteeth.

AMR Gate.

Kailee fell a bit behind on the road while trying to fish her hat out of her backpack.

"Ah, waiting for your hiking partner?" came a somewhat familiar voice from behind me.

I turned around and recognized the face that went with the voice.

"Hey, you're Tony, right?" I asked.

"Yes," he replied.

It was Tony Goodwin! He's the author of numerous Adirondack guidebooks, a trailblazer and one of the stars of The 46ers Film!

"Hi, I'm Justin," I said as we shook hands.

I told him that we were planning on taking the Weld Trail up Sawteeth. Tony suggested that we consider taking the Scenic Trail. That route was a major reason he declared Sawteeth as his favorite peak when he filled out his 46er application.

"I later found out that Sawteeth was one of the most unpopular with the other applicants!" He laughed.

As we talked, I kinda got the vibe that Tony had some doubts in Kailee being able to pull off the climb. I told him that she's pretty experienced and she has my confidence.

When Kailee caught up to us, I introduced her to Tony and told him that she was a big fan of The 46ers Film. He joked with her about his parts in the film.

I told Tony that we'd contemplate his suggestion of the Scenic Trail.

"I assume that we have a bit of time to think about it," I said pointing at the road.

"Yeah, you have around two miles to think it over," he replied.

We said our goodbyes and continued our road walk.

Kailee thought it was very cool to meet a "movie star" on our hike.

Numerous times throughout the day, Kailee stated that she "liked Tony's character in the film."

I found this to be quite humorous since The 46ers Film is a documentary...

Sawteeth from
Lower Ausable Lake Dam.

We arrived at the dam at Lower Ausable Lake. What a beautiful destination! Lower Ausable Lake sits nestled between Mount Colvin and Sawteeth.

Kailee and I crossed the footbridge in front of the dam.

"Do you wanna take Tony's suggestion and head up the Scenic Route -Or- do you wanna stick with our plan and hit Rainbow Falls?" I asked.

"I wanna go to Rainbow Falls, " Kailee replied.

That was fine with me. Rainbow Falls & the Weld Trail was the path that I had researched & plugged waypoints into my GPS in preparation for this trek.

Rainbow Falls is just a short side jaunt from the beginning of the Weld Trail. It took only a few steps to arrive there. It's one of the tallest waterfalls in the Adirondack Park and is a dramatic sight. A perfect place to take a nice break, have a snack and relax in the cool mist!

"I can see the rainbow!" Kailee shouted as she pointed at the waterfall.

Knowing that we'd be passing multiple bodies of water throughout the day, I packed light with our water to make things a little easier for the road walk. At the falls, I filtered a few more liters and added them to our stash. 

Rainbow Falls.

After a 40 minute break it was time to climb. In my opinion, the first short pitch up to the overlook above the falls was the toughest. No crazy obstacles... Just some really quick elevation gain.

Don't Be a Dropout!
After checking out the overlook, the trail eased up immensely with a bunch of short switchbacks. While there aren't many views, the Weld Trail hasn't eroded down to bedrock which makes it quite easy on the feet!

The trail crossed the Cascade Brook which gave me the opportunity to filter some more fresh cool water.

Trail Split in the Col between Sawteeth and Gothics/Pyramid.
We arrived at the col between Sawteeth and Gothics at 1:50 PM. Taking a left at the trail split, we made our final push towards the summit.

We maneuvered our way up a number of scrambles and started to receive some nice views outwards.

Starting to get some views just below the summit.

Atop the final scramble, I needed a few minutes to rummage through my pack and switch out my camera's SD card.

Kailee walked on and tagged the summit without me and returned just as I was strapping my pack back on.

Kailee tagged the summit & took selfies without me!

"How was it?" I asked.

"You'll just have to wait and see," she replied as we ambled on towards the summit.

We arrived at the crest &  I was quite impressed!

Sawteeth has splendid view of Mount Marcy and the Upper Great Range. The open rock cliffs on Pyramid-Gothics are both breathtaking and imposing. Personally, I was mesmerized by the looming Basin and it's many majestic slides.

Basin and it's mesmerizing slides.

All-in-all, it took us two hours and ten minutes to reach Sawteeth's summit from it's base. Not too shabby!

We chatted with a couple eating lunch on a downed tree that acted as a perfect bench. We ate some snacks and I mixed some Hawaiian Punch powder into my water bottle for Kailee and I to share.

 Pyramid & Gothics.

Just as the couple took off on their descent, a huge noisy family arrived via the Scenic Trail... Kids, a toddler, parents, aunts, and uncles... The whole crew.

Kailee and I quickly commandeered the "log bench" and I began to make sandwiches. The parents were very friendly and the kids were rather loud...

Luckily for us, they didn't spend to much time at the top. I switched out of my sweaty shirt into a dry one and threw the former onto a branch to dry it out.

Photo by Kailee.

After lunch, we took some more pictures and appreciated a faint breeze. We spent an hour an twenty minutes taking it all in!

A shot of Saddleback, Gothics & Pyramid taken by Kailee.

We discussed our options for the descent. We both acknowledged that it would be cool to take the scenic route down. However, I informed Kailee that would add to our total mileage. I expressed that if we took the Weld Trail, we could probably breeze down the mountain once we got past the scrambles.

It was agreed. We'd take the Weld Trail.


My inkling that we could "breeze down" the Weld Trail proved to be true. It was an incredibly easy and quick descent. We were passing other hikers with ease... That never happens when I hike with Kailee.

We stopped for a few minutes and chatted with a guy nicknamed "Rooster" and his buddy. They had just climbed their first High Peak: Gothics.

"How many have you climbed?" asked Rooster.

"19," Kailee replied.

"WOAH!" both guys shouted.

We wished them happy trails and continued our descent and Rooster sent us off with a rooster call.

We passed the extended family just above the Rainbow Falls overlook and were at the bottom of the mountain an hour and fifteen minutes after leaving the summit.

I don't think we've ever descended a 4000' mountain in such a short amount of time.

Colvin from the dam.

Back at the dam, it was time to begin our three mile road walk back to the Ausable Club.
We moved at a nice pace.

About a mile from the dam, the Ausable Club bus pulled up to us.

"Are you guys all set?" asked the driver.

Is he offering us a ride? I thought the bus was for members only? If we take a ride does that negate our hike?

"Yeah, we're set," I replied.

"OK, just checking!" said the driver as he put the bus in gear and drove off towards the lake.

It kinda didn't make sense to get on a bus and ride all the way back to the lake and wait for it to load up with passengers when we could keep walking.

Edit: the bus is in fact for members only. I've since learned the driver mistook us for members. Do not expect to get a ride or attempt to flag down the bus if you are not a member or guest of the Ausable club.

"This is only a road walk," said Kailee "It's not really a hike. It's a road. It should still count if we took the bus."

The bus passed us again when we were less than a half mile to the gate. From inside, Rooster banged the window and let off another rooster call and yelled "YEAH!" and we waved to him.

Those lucky bums were guests & got a ride!

In a matter of minutes, we were back at the gate. Ten minutes later we were at the car exchanging high fives.

Ausable Club.

Even with all of the road walking, Kailee and I agreed that this was a spectacular hike. We were glad that we covered a considerable amount of mileage, took some nice long breaks at Rainbow Falls & the summit, and made it back to the car in a fairly quick amount of time.

We happily disagree with Mr. Goodwin's peers that weren't fond of Sawteeth... It's an excellent peak!

Kailee and I look forward to revisiting Sawteeth in the future and taking the Scenic Trail when that adventure comes!

Hike Stats:

Miles: Map says 12... GPS says 13.5.
Total Elevation Gain: 3147'.
Total Time: 8 hours & 50 minutes.

Giant Mountain from Ausable Club.