Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Adirondacks 2012 - Final Pictures

Here are a last few pictures that I liked that didn't make it in anywhere else.
Rocks and water

Heart Lake in the Sun

Rock Wall - Rock Garden trail


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Adirondacks 2012 - Reflections

Rating the Trip

Mountain stream
The campground that we stayed at had very nice facilities, and the two campsites Leo reserved with advice from the staff were fantastic. They probably were the best two in the whole place. Kudos to Leo. A ready supply of ice and firewood made things convenient. The bathhouse was acceptable, although a shower stall larger than a narrow phone booth would have been helpful. A two minute walk down to the lake was beautiful.

The scenery was nice, and very nice in places, but not generally spectacular. Photography opportunities were just ok. I might have a significantly different opinion if my Marcy experience was different. Perhaps I am being overly harsh and the better way to say it would be that the scenery was not widely varied. That certainly is true compared to the west.

Drained lake behind Marcy Dam
The hikes were fun and challenging, and certainly proved what the guys had been saying from their prior experience. In Pennsylvania, when they make trails that go up very steep slopes, they tend to make switchbacks. In the Adirondacks, they just draw a straight line up the mountain. This park is a climber/hiker's dream with all the mountains that have trails on them. My only complaint about the hikes we did, and I know that this is mainly a function of those specific trails, is that for most of it, everything looked the same. The view from the top of Mt Jo was terrific, and the boulder and gravel strewn mountain streams are always beautiful, but the trails don't have vistas along the way. You see woods, woods, and more woods. Then if you make it to the top, there is a view. I would have preferred more variety in the scenery. (Clearly I am nitpicking here...)

The food was terrific and the companionship was first rate. The amount of time on the road was perfectly acceptable to me, as I have a fairly high tolerance for hours in the car.

Random Thoughts

Adirondack Loj waterfront
Additional experience makes it more and more clear to me what I like in regards to hiking and camping, and where my preferences lie. To lean on a cliche to make the point, for me it is more about the journey than the destination. By that I mean that I want to see nice scenery along the way. Be able to do some sightseeing. Have some variety to what I see. It is nice when a hike can be an event by itself and not just a means to an end (insofar as it is nice to see stuff along the way).

Continuing with the above line of thinking, photography is an important part of one of these trips for me. On the Dakotas trip I took approximately 800 pictures in 8 days. On this trip I took 219 pictures in 5 days (not counting the drive day home). A lot of the 219 are "campsite life" shots, and lots of repetitive shots of Heart Lake at every time of day and in every light. Nobody could argue the beauty of the Adirondacks, but it is a problematic (and unfavorable) comparison to the scenic wonderland that was the Dakotas trip. Part of this, of course, is that to have that trip have been my first has set a ridiculously high standard to follow.

On the trail
I do myself a disservice by committing to these trips, investing time and money in them (especially the rare and valuable time away from my family), and not getting myself into better shape to make the most of them. My failure on Marcy (aside from the navigational glitch) has everything to do with being lazy in the months leading up to the trip and not getting my butt out onto some trails to get my legs and cardio in better shape. Inexcusable. In the Dakotas it didn't impact me, but here it did. Shame on me.

Having one campsite to stay at the whole time and operate out of was very different from the last trip, where we were moving from place to place with regularity. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, and both have their place. Last year I loved the "road trip" aspect of what we did, and all the different things we were able to see. This year, it was nice to settle in and know we were in one spot for the duration, and we wouldn't be packing up and moving.


I'm not a kid anymore. I can't expect to sit behind a desk for weeks on end without exercising and expect that doing this sort of thing will be easy. Or even possible, apparently.

"Yes, I can fit all this in the van!"
I find lists helpful with planning and packing, and have two trips worth of experience with which to tweak my personal gear lists. My Dakotas list was put together primarily with assistance from Dave, but also had valuable input from Leo. That list and my own experience from that trip led to this list. It can be improved from what I have learned on this trip as well. In addition to that, though, I want to tweak some of the group lists that we put together while the memory of what we used and didn't use (and how much) is fresh in my mind. Things like more peanuts and less mixed nuts, way less dry breakfast stuff, less condiments, etc...

This is a great bunch of guys. Not a learning, of course, just a comment. And a fitting way to end my writings on this trip.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Adirondacks Day 6 - Mon 6/25/12

Part 13, The Road Home

7:05am - Comfort Inn, near Albany NY. I have been dozing off and on for the last hour or so, but decide it is time to get up and get a shower. It's been nice to sleep in a real bed and I am very much looking forward to a nice long hot shower. The plan is to be downstairs grabbing a quick bit of breakfast at 7:30, and ready to go around 8:00.

7:35am - Leo, Ted and Phil are having breakfast when Dave and I get downstairs. It is the usual hotel free breakfast, but everything is nice and fresh, and they have the makings for breakfast sandwiches and coffee, so everyone is happy. The Weather Channel is on TV, and it seems like we might be spending a lot of our drive, at least in NY, in the rain. It isn't doing anything outside yet (and as it turns out, we don't hit more than scattered sprinklings of rain).

8:10am - Having only brought daypacks into the hotel, it is easy to get ready to go, so at shortly after 8 we are in the van and heading home. Phil is driving, as usual, and Leo is in "steerage", which is what we have been calling the third row seat which is surrounded on all sides by a wall of luggage and gear. Ted is riding shotgun as a reward for his hours in steerage, and Dave and I are in the middle. A tip of the cap to Leo and Ted for graciously taking most of the hours back there, and not having me bouncing around fighting car sickness. I do appreciate it.

The plan is simple: get home as fast as bio breaks and perhaps a couple of geocaches will allow. I am hoping that the southbound rest stops (as long as we are still in NY) have geocaches in them. On the way up, we got the two northernmost counties of the eight that we drove through in NY, but the southern six, five of which we still have to drive through today, are as yet unclaimed caching territory.

The first half dozen or so miles of southbound I-87 look familiar, as we have been down this road as part of our motel misadventures last night. As we drive south past where we turned off, we find that the next exit has a sign for a couple of motels. Then the exit after that has a few more. And a few more. And so on down the highway. We get a good chuckle when we realize that pretty much the only exit off the highway that doesn't have any motel signs is the one we got off at. In most cases, they are at the exit within plain view from the highway. Within an hour and a half's drive south of Albany (the amount of time we spent wandering around the greater Albany/Troy/Rennselear metro area), we go by at least 40 motels and hotels. Oh well.

Our trip through the remainder of NY is uneventful except for a quick stop down near the 287 junction, and I am disappointed to find that while most of the northbound rest stops we drive past have a geocache in them, none of the southbound ones do. I should have planned better and made sure we got them on the way up. My hope to bag a couple more NY counties fizzles.

9:45am (ish) - We cross into NJ on 287, and are making great time. Phil is content to continue to drive, which is fine by me as he drives faster than me and will get us home sooner. We are very quiet in the van, with little conversation and nobody choosing to put on the radio. We take 287 south to 78 west.

11:11am - We cross over the Delaware river and into Pennsylvania on I-78 West. We avoid Quakertown and the 309 construction again, and have a minor mishap finding the PA Turnpike connection, as it is not a simple ramp from one to the other. We make one last rest stop once on the Northeast extension, and then head south.

12:15pm - Having gotten off at Lansdale and cut across, we arrive at Phil's in fantastic time. It has taken us a few minutes more than four hours to get from Albany to Phil's, which seems terrific to me.

His kids are there when we pull in, and help us unload the van. It doesn't take us long to sort and stow our own gear, divvy up the remnants of food items we didn't use, and head our separate ways. I forgot to take a final "end of trip" picture, which I wish I had, and would be posting right here. Oops.

1:15pm - I drop Dave at his house and have a chance to say "hi" to Hailey, who has been visiting while we were gone, and is getting ready to leave to get home.

1:45pm - I pull into my driveway and the trip is officially over. Or perhaps it is really over in another twenty minutes when Amp and Grace get home and Grace gives me a very huggy "I missed my Daddy" greeting.

It was a great trip but it's also good to be home.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Adirondacks Day 5 (C) - Sun 6/24/12

Part 12, The End of the Line

Arriving back at our camp at around 2:15pm, we find Dave napping in his tent. When he hears us moving about and gets up soon after, we find out that he has indeed gotten to the top of Algonquin, the second highest peak in NY, by himself. Congrats to Dave.

Breaking Camp
On as less positive note, a check of the weather forecast for tonight and tomorrow shows a very high likelihood of rain beginning around 9pm and continuing through into the day tomorrow. This is not good news, as the idea of breaking camp and packing the van in the rain (or its aftermath) tomorrow morning is not appealing to anyone. Following a brief discussion, it is a unanimous choice that there is no point in risking a disastrous morning just to get one more night around the campfire tonight. We will all miss it, but the plan is to pack up and be on the road later this afternoon, getting a couple hours south of here, and finishing the drive home tomorrow.

4:18pm - We have targeted 4:30pm as our departure time, but we are packed and on the road ahead of schedule. The skies are intermittently threatening as we say goodbye to the Wilderness Campground at Adirondack Loj and head for Lake George or points south.

Farewell site #10
Traffic is light, Phil's foot is heavy, and we make very good time once on 87 south. It is about 5:30 when we get to the Lake George area, and we choose to bypass the motel that we stayed at on the way here, and decide that we will find something in the Albany area another hour or so south. It is still early, and every mile we do tonight is a mile we won't have to do tomorrow.

As we near Albany, there are signs for motels and hotels at most exits. Determining that we would rather be on the south side of the city before stopping (so as to avoid any Monday morning commute traffic into the city), the plan is to find something off the last one or two of the Albany exits. Prevailing wisdom is that we should stay near the city, as once we get any distance south there will likely not be much for miles.

6:25pm - According to plan, we get off at the last Albany city exit and begin looking for a place to stay. The first place right off the exit, the Hotel Regency, turns out to be closed due to a fire. Rather than head further out the exit road away from town, we think it best to head into town. Problem is, the town we are heading into doesn't seem all that nice. Thus begins an odyssey of Google searching, random driving, and Phil conversing with his talking iPhone assistant that will last us the next hour and 45 minutes. We find no places. We find places that are too pricey. We find ourselves on a connector highway heading east across the Hudson River to link up with the Mass Turnpike to Springfield MA. It is first comical, then annoying, then downright frustrating. All the while we are running lower and lower on gas, and don't have many options to fill the tank. Finally, somewhere on the east side of  the Hudson, we find a Pilot minimart, and pay to fill the tank only to find that the computer system has frozen up and all the pumps are non-functional. Never in my life have I seen such a thing, but I have seen it now. A local points us to a gas station down the road, so our tank is now full but we still have no place to stay.

An iPhone search and a call to an Econolodge has us headed back towards where we started, and ultimately to a motel that looks good, if Beirut circa 1980's is your thing. This Econolodge is apparently undergoing renovations, and looks like it has been bombed out recently. No wonder they had plenty of empty rooms. I would much rather sleep in the van than set foot in that place.

In the end, after an hour and 45 minutes of wandering around, we end up at a Comfort Inn a quarter mile further out the road from the burned down Hotel Regency where we started this journey. The price was reasonable, and the place was nice, although at this point I couldn't possibly have cared less how much it cost.

8:15pm - We are checking into the Comfort Inn and talking to the desk clerk to find a place to eat.

We head down the street to a Chili's, and have a nice end-of-trip dinner. I have chicken fajitas washed down with a glass of wine, and they hit the spot.

As usual, Dave and I are in bed by around 10pm. Tomorrow we go home.

Next... Homeward Bound

Adirondacks Day 5 (B) - Sun 6/24/12

Part 11, Rocky Falls... Again

Rock Garden trail
The first part of the Long Trail down is steep, but it is much better than coming up, so we make good time. The ground is damp and slick in places, so the desire to move briskly needs to be balanced with the need to be careful of footing. Downhills tend to be tougher on my knees than uphill, and I notice (not for the first time on this trip) that I have not felt a single twinge of any sort in my knees while we have been here. That is unexpectedly good, and a nice counterpoint to the persistently aching heel, which is not so good.

11:33am - Partway down the mountain we get to the junction of the Rock Garden and Long Trails. We head west on the Rock Garden Trail. This trail roughly parallels the route up, but further west, and joins the main trail a ways further out toward Rocky Falls than the Long trail. If nothing else, it will give us a fraction of a mile on a different trail from the one we just came up on.

Chute at Rocky Falls with cairn
After a few minutes on the Rock Garden trail, we come to a junction with a trail heading west. We take the western trail, but we pass a few things that don't look familiar. We have come this way three days before, and something isn't right. I ask for a stop to check the GPS and map, and am convinced that we are on the ski trail to the top of Nye Mountain. Just as I am arriving at this conclusion, an older couple comes down the trail from the west and confirms that to be the case. On the down side, I seem to have a habit of ending up on ski trails on this trip. On the plus side, when I stop to look at a map and GPS, I am pretty good at figuring out where I am. We double back and get on the right trail amidst jokes that Leo and I should have packed skis.

11:46am - We reach the junction of the Rock Garden and main trail and head southwest toward the Falls. Now the trail looks familiar again. We plow ahead at a decent pace, as this trail is easy, being fairly level and cut periodically with feeder runs and runoff culverts, put in place and lined with rocks to keep the trail from washing out.

Me on Rocky Falls
12:40pm - Rocky Falls again. We come out the same place we did last time, and make our way up the stream bed. At one point I slip off the side of a rock while crossing the stream and dunk my left leg in the water up to the knee. Lovely. Step, squish, step, squish, step, squish, step, squish...

We stay at the Falls for a solid half hour, eating sandwiches, taking off shoes and socks, and spending time wading around in the cold (but not frigid) water, and climbing around on the rocks. People have brought extra clothes and swim shoes, but the cold water prevents anyone from going in more than wading. Some of the few out of the 219 pictures that I take that actually have me in them are taken here by Phil. I put my socks and wet shoe on a sunny rock and hope that I can dry some of the squish out of them before it is time to head back. Wet stuff is great for creating blisters.

Mount Jo and Rocky Falls - 6.7 miles total
While we are here, a number of other hikers come by, take pictures, and move on. By the time we are ready to go, my socks and shoe are nowhere near dry, but they no longer squish when I walk, for which I am grateful. The return hike is boring, as the trail is not very interesting, and this is the fourth time along it (twice out and now twice back). It is also anticlimactic, as I know this is the last piece of hiking that will be done on this trip.

2:15pm - Back at camp.

The track at right shows us leaving the campsite, heading counterclockwise around to a quick stop at the store, then more counterclockwise to the main trail to Mount Jo. The Long Trail leaves the lake shore heading north and then curves west and north/northeast onto the summit of the mountain. The Rock Garden trail and our detour onto the Nye Mountain trail is the curve further west, and then the obvious out-and-back to Rocky Falls.

Next... The End of the Line

Adirondacks Day 5 (A) - Sun 6/24/12

Part 10, Mount Jo

7:15am - I finally haul my chilly self out of bed. I have been awake for a while, but I was cold at times during the night, and my sleeping bag is nice and toasty, so I have a bit of trouble mustering an urgent need to get out of it. I am typically warm, and I am surprised that I made it through the entire night wearing everything that I had on when I started. Dave apparently shed a layer or two during the night, but I didn't.

Some big boys from Mount Jo - (L-R)
Wright, Algonquin, Iroquois and Wallface
Others have been up for a while, and breakfast preparations are well underway. Since we are nearing the end of the trip, breakfast is an assortment of hot leftovers; a few bits of bacon, some sausage and a few eggs for those that want, plus all sorts of other cold items that we have lying about. It's getting close to "now or never" on the food. I eat some scrambled eggs and toast, but as good as everything looks, I am not feeling that well. Actually, I am feeling perfectly fine, but I do seem to have to have some gastrointestinal "not quite right" going on (too much information, I know, but I am just telling the truth for posterity...). I am really not happy about this development, as this is not an ideal accompaniment to long hikes out in the woods. I will hope for the best, but prepare accordingly. Ugh.

Our intrepid band (minus one, and me) on
the lower summit of Mount Jo
While eating breakfast, we discuss what we are going to do. Dave has a different plan. The four of us (minus Dave) have decided on a relatively modest hike up to the top of Mount Jo, and then down and back out to Rocky Falls on the Indian Pass Trail. We will pack a lunch for Rocky Falls, and if people feel like it, perhaps get into the water. This will make a hike somewhere in the vicinity of 6 total miles, and will have some climbing to it, but nothing extreme at all. Mount Jo is 2,877 feet, and the lake surface is 2,165, so the gain is modest, but it happens in short bursts, as the Mount Jo portion of the trail is less than a mile each way, so while it is only 700 feet of elevation, it happens quickly. I still do feel the need to get to the top of something, and this should fit the bill. It is a nice hike, modest in scope, and modest in climbing. Perfect for a non-killer day.

Me on top of Mount Jo
Another option discussed, and one I would have pushed strongly for if I were not having issues, was to hike approximately 6 miles out the Indian Pass Trail to Indian Pass itself, in the shadow of 3,700 foot Wallface Mountain. It seems to me like this is something that would have generated some of the kind of scenic photo opportunities that I have been craving, and not generally finding. The other appeal of that hike is that while it would be in the neighborhood of 13 miles roundtrip, there would be very little climbing involved, and what there was would be accomplished over a very long distance, and hence very gradual. My problems come with climbing, not distance. But on this day anyway, it wasn't to be.

8:02am - Dave finishes packing food and liquids and sets off alone to tackle Algonquin. I'm not sure how set he is on doing all of it, but the general campsite chit chat consensus is that another Adirondacks trip is unlikely (for these trips anyway), so I guess he is feeling like it is now or never. Others shudder at the thought of climbing from 2100 feet to 5100 feet in 4 miles (Marcy is to 5300 feet in 7.4 miles). Dave's back must be feeling 100%. I am slightly concerned that he is doing this alone, but he probably has the best judgement of all of us, so I'm not overly worried.

True summit of Mount Jo
9:30am - Four of us set out for Mount Jo. The first section of trail I have done before when we went to Rocky Falls on the first day, but we soon reach the side trails up the mountain. We need to decide whether to do the Short Trail or the Long Trail, and we opt for the Long Trail. This does the same amount of climbing in 0.7 miles vs 0.4, and we are in no hurry so the mileage doesn't matter. It will be quick either way. The ascent is brief but difficult at times, but it is so short that the tough parts don't last long. It is also interesting that on a trail that shows no junctions, there are a couple of places where there seem to be two choices of which way to go. We do not make any wrong turns at this point, but there seem to be some side trails that are not on the maps. After my Table Top Mountain escapade on Friday, I have no qualms about pulling out my GPS and map to figure out which way we should be going.

Heart Lake from Mount Jo. Campground is on left
shore, and my pics are taken from there
10:43am - One last climb up some hand over hand boulders and we reach the lower summit, which is basically a rock shelf 15-20 feet below the real summit. Finally, after four days here, there is a vista and a fantastic photo spot. It is breezy and cool up here, and you can see many miles. It is great to be standing on top of a mountain, no matter what size. The view is everything that it was said to be; many of the big name mountains can be seen, and the view of our little lake below is spectacular. We know that we are not quite at the true summit yet, as there is one last rock shelf behind us, and we can hear a number of voices coming from up top. I am content to stay here and take some pictures here, where we have the place to ourselves, at least for the moment. Symptomatic of the times we live in, there is great cell reception on top of the mountain, and we take turns taking pictures of each other with our phones so we can text or email the pictures to our loved ones, or post them on Facebook.

Mountains, forest, and clouds
10:55am - A few more boulders to hop and we join the small crowd on the true summit. There are approximately 15 people up here besides for us, including families, grandparents, and children. Mostly speaking French. Pictures up here are even better. I make sure to step on every obvious high spot up here; I don't want to miss the true summit, since there is no marker on this small one.

11:20am - After twenty minutes or so on the summit taking pictures, enjoying the view and having a brief snack, we start back down the way we came. There is a fairly steady stream of people of all types heading up, as there was when we were coming up. We even saw a guy with a baby in a carrier on his back. It is a beautiful clear day, and it is great to be out on a trail. And I am happy to have summited something.

Next... Rocky Falls Redux

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Adirondacks Day 4 (B) - Sat 6/23/12

Part 9, Dinner Feast

At around 5pm, the sun comes out, skies turn blue and the remainder of the daylight hours are gorgeous, if a little cool. I am wishing that I had gone for a short hike, but by the time I finally make up my mind that I should, it is too late.

Ribeye dinner
Before it gets to cooking and dinner time, we all wander down to the Loj for some wifi and to stretch the legs. I take yet another batch of lake pictures, as the post-rain light is different and the mists are rising off the water. A few people have rented kayaks and are making their way around the shoreline.

5:00pm (ish) - Leo gets a fire going for dinner, and to take the damp chill out of the air. We had the foresight to stash the firewood in the party tent, so even with the rain our wood is dry and the fire starts easily. Our downhill neighbors apparently didn't do the same, as their fire is a smokey mess, and the breeze is such that we are taking the brunt of it. Of course, I guess it's also possible that this is a planned attack out of revenge for us giggling at his naked wife/girlfriend (but probably not...). There is joking talk of having to declare war on Quebec, but fortunately it doesn't come to that (and perhaps a good thing too, as we would be vastly outnumbered right at the moment). The majority language being spoken around us (and by virtually everyone passing by) is definitely French, not English.

Van Hoevenberg Plaque
6:30pm (ish) - Dinner prep begins in earnest. Phil has a half dozen large ribeye steaks that he has seasoned and frozen for his birthday dinner. They look tremendous. This idea of menu planning, prepping and freezing main courses ahead of time is working out very well.

7:30pm - We sit down to a feast fit for a king. It's been a big calorie/low activity day, between the big breakfast, wing and beer lunch and this, but according to Phil's pedometer, he burned over 7,000 calories yesterday, so we're good, right? Also on the menu is an Uncle Ben's rice pilaf from a box that proves to be surprisingly good, a saute of zucchini, yellow squash and multicolored peppers, and garlic bread. Pam olive oil cooking spray is a wonderful thing. We are eating almost too well. Almost. Phil has a bottle of some rose kool-aid wine that he likes (and was actually drinkable, for a picnic wine), while Leo had a disposable carton of Cardinal Zin, an old vine zinfandel of good quality that was delicious with the steak.

Heart Lake after rain (8:49pm)
By the time dinner was eaten and cleaned up, there wasn't that much daylight left, but I went down to the lake again for the solitude and to take a few pictures. It was a very nice evening with mists continuing to rise off the lake. There were still a few kayakers out along the far bank, and while I was sitting there one of them startled a beaver. From across the lake, I could hear the slapping of its tail against the surface of the water as a warning. I wish I had been able to see it as well.

Time is going fast now, and it is hard to believe we have one more full day and then it is time to drive home. We have some discussions about what to do tomorrow, but no plans are set. Everyone wants to use our last day to do something good, we just aren't sure what. Dave is thinking of taking on Algonquin, the second highest peak. I'm not. Whatever I end up doing, my plan is that Mount Jo will be at least a part of it. Mount Jo isn't a large mountain, but as noted before, the views are gorgeous, and I need to get to the top of something. I need some hiking pictures from this trip that aren't "green tunnel" and rocky streams.

Kayak in the Mist (8:53pm)
The later evening revolves, as always, around the fire, along with Dave and the guitar. It's been nice having music, and I am very impressed at how nice his $200 travel guitar is. He certainly seems to have done his research well and found himself a low cost quality instrument. His impressions of the guitar post-trip are here.

Before heading to bed sometime after 10, we all wander out in to the open area in the middle of the campground and check out the stars. The sky is clearer than it has been any other night here, and there are a multitude of bright stars. It is cold, and expected to drop to around 40 degrees overnight. I go to bed in a t-shirt and fleece pullover as well as long johns and sweat pants. I would rather be warm and remove something during the night than to be cold and have to fish for something in the dark.

Next... Mount Jo

Adirondacks Day 4 (A) - Sat 6/23/12

Part 8, A Lazy Day

Happy Birthday to Phil!

He-Man Breakfast
7:25am - I am last one out of bed, as usual. I slept well and stayed warm except for a few times when an exposed hand or arm got chilly enough to wake me and require burrowing it back into the sleeping bag. The overnight low was in the low 50's and I slept in long johns and a long sleeve t-shirt. It was nice sleeping.

Phil has two frying pans in the fire and is starting bacon when I get up. The only real planned thing for today was to eat a giant breakfast, and Phil doesn't disappoint. We have eggs, bacon, sausage, more onions and peppers, home fries and toast. It's an absolute feast, and quite a production in the making. Any pretenses we have had about keeping away the bears and other critters seem less relevant as we drip bacon grease all over the place. If this doesn't attract every critter within miles I don't know what will. But it is true what they say... bacon makes everything better.

Breakfast Production
9:00am - Breakfast time. Conversation around the table centers around what to do today, with everyone being leg-weary and the forecast calling for a good chance of some rain. Never having been here before, I want to take the van into Lake Placid and look around some, even if nobody else wants to go. I would at least like to see whatever can be seen from a brief drive by, and find a geocache or two if possible. Phil likes the idea, and soon everybody has agreed that we will head into town after breakfast. Phil then declares a birthday lunch plan of wings and beer at a place in town, and nobody objects even a little.

10:00am - Breakfast is done and cleaned up. People spend the next hour and a half showering, and doing all sorts of miscellaneous tasks. I do one of the things I always seem to do when we are in camp and I have a few extra minutes - wander down to the lake and take more pictures. I am getting to the point where I have taken the same shots in all sorts of different light and different times of day, but I fell like shooting something, and don't have the time to wander too far off.

The Lake... again
11:30am - Everybody is in the van and heading for Lake Placid. The sky to the south and west looks very dark and foreboding as we drive out the access road, and we can see a wall of rain off in the distance. As we approach town, a few scattered drops hit the windshield, and it is cool to see the ski jump towers as we drive by. In Park City, Utah, the ski jumps were carved right into the side of a ridge. Here, the landing areas are on slopes but the towers are free standing metal structures. It is hard to imagine that the 1980 Olympics here were already 32 years ago. It's also hard to imagine where all the people stayed and how anybody got anywhere, as this is a little resort town, and the road network is tiny. It is beautiful out here, but there are very limited roads in, and the nearest cities (and airports) of any size are Albany and Montreal, both a couple hours away. Traffic must have been a nightmare.

Lake Placid ski jump towers
We park in a public lot near the post office and find a cache about 20 feet away. We start down the street and almost immediately it begins to rain. It is right around noon, so we duck into the Arena Bar and Grill right across from the Olympic Center (presumably the site of the Miracle on Ice hockey game), and order lunch to wait out the rain. Lunch is good. I stick to iced tea since Phil is living up to his wings and beer lunch plan, and the beer is flowing liberally around the table. We take our time as the rain is coming down hard and steady. This would not be a good day to be attempting Marcy, or any other mountain for that matter, but the parking lot for the trailheads were all full when we left, so there are a lot of hikers getting wet out there today.

Lunch drags out a while as we wait for the rain to let up, but eventually it does and we head back to the van. There isn't much to see, so we restock the beer coolers at a place on the way out of town and head back to the campground.

2:55pm - Back at camp. The rains are mostly over with just a little dripping from the trees overhead, so we pull out the chairs and sit around and talk, read, or whatever. There is a red bellied woodpecker working around the bases of the trees all around us, pecking very lightly. Pretty.

I feel like doing something, so I briefly consider hiking around the lake, or over to Mount Jo, but the skies are still somewhat dark and I'm not sure what the weather is going to do. Staying and being lazy wins out.

Next... Dinner Feast

Friday, June 22, 2012

Adirondacks Day 3 (B) - Fri 6/22/12

Part 7, After Marcy

After getting back to camp a little after noon, Leo and I rest for a while to cool down, and then eat lunch of the sandwiches we packed for the hike. We putter around camp for a while, and I go and get a shower. Getting the grime and sweat off makes me feel better, but despite only having gotten as far as we did, I am still weary.

2:00pm (ish) - No sign of the others yet, and it is a nice quiet afternoon now, so I decide to lie down in the tent and see if I can doze off for a short nap. I slip in and out of a light sleep, but never drop off completely.

2:30pm (ish) - I hear the others come back into camp, but am only half awake, so I decide to lie in the tent for a few more minutes before getting up to see how the rest of their hike went.

4:20pm - I open my eyes to the sound of the guys moving around camp and laughing about something, so I get up and go join them. It turns out that my short nap turned into a two hour plus snooze, but I do feel refreshed (if still leg weary). By now everyone else has showered and cleaned up as well. They are tired but very happy, having summited Marcy in beautiful weather, enjoying the views from the summit  and basking in their accomplishment. (I will link to Dave's blog entry here when he finishes writing it...). I am happy for them, as they have met their long-stated goal of revenge on Marcy.

The remainder of the afternoon and evening are spent in camp, relaxing, talking, drinking and doing nothing in particular. One of the discussion topics that comes up is regarding possible destinations for the 2013 trip, but more on that later.

Late in the afternoon, a French Canadian couple shows up at the downhill campsite next door (#11) and begins unpacking a lot of gear. In addition to bringing out everyone's faux-French accent for the remainder of the trip, some of the gang (me not included) get a cheap thrill when the woman (quite attractive I might add) decides to give a peep show while changing in their tent with the door open. There is much joy in this, and possibly a couple minor cases of whiplash. Boys will be boys.

6:00pm - Leo begins making a fire to cook dinner on, which we eat at around 8pm. Dinner consists of hamburgers and hot dogs, with grilled onions and peppers on the side, plus corn on the cob. It's another simple dinner that tastes great made and eaten in this setting. The mood is good, with the guys happy about the day. Dave plays. We talk. We have a few drinks. Life is good.

Being that it is a Friday evening in the summer, it is very definitely getting more crowded as the day goes on, with more and more campsites and parking spaces filling up. The majority of the people we hear talking are speaking French, and the majority of license plates are from Quebec. Another couple arrives in the fading light and sets up camp at #8, next door uphill.

10:00pm (ish) - Dave and I head to bed. After today, tomorrow is planned to be an easy day with nothing specific on tap.

Next... An Easy Day

Adirondacks Day 3 (A) - Fri 6/22/12

Part 6, Mount Marcy

Marcy Dam remnants
5:15am - Up and out of the tent. I have been dozing restlessly since first light nearly an hour ago, but I can hear the others moving around outside so it is time to get up. As early as the hour is, the excitement of the "big hike" day gets me out of bed easily, and I am not a morning person. I am usually the last up, which is fine with me.

This is the day these guys have been talking about and waiting for since 2008 - the day they attempt to get their revenge on Mount Marcy. They successfully summited the peak in 2008, but weather and visibility were so bad they couldn't see anything, and they were so miserable they couldn't stay on the summit (not that there was any reason to at that point). There is a palpable excitement in the air as everyone gets ready. We have breakfast, get our gear in order, pack sandwiches and snacks, and load up on liquids.

Phelps Brook
As I have noted in prior blog entries, I am approaching this with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. Excitement because getting to the top of the highest mountain in New York would be a great accomplishment, and trepidation because I have doubts about my conditioning and my ability to do so. It really all depends on pace, which worries me. I don't climb well, since I get winded fairly easily. I don't want to slow the group down, but pushing myself to keep up with their pace, which is guaranteed to be faster than I would choose, will wear me out. I am hopeful but realistic. I will go as far as I can as fast as I can, and whatever happens happens.

6:45am - We set out directly from camp. My daypack feels like a bowling ball. I am carrying a rain jacket, fleece vest, camera, assorted little bits of gear, lunch, snacks and drinks in the form of a 2 liter water bladder, a Gatorade, and a 32 ounce Nalgene water bottle. That's probably about 8 pounds of liquid alone, but I am a sweater, so I expect to need all of it. The other items are carried as precautions against unexpected weather setting in while we are on the hike. The forecast is for mid-80's temperatures and sunny, but the weather can change rapidly around here, as the guys well know.

Uphill slog
The first section of trail is similar to yesterday's hike, but with more boggy areas and foot bridges, including one elevated section through a small swamp. We haven't done any climbing yet, and I feel good. Even the soreness in my heel has faded somewhat, which is nice.

8:05am - Marcy Dam, 2.3 miles in. Apparently when the dam was functional, there was a small lake behind it and a foot bridge over it. The dam must have failed recently, because the detour north around to the left and over the stream is brand new trail, as is the new foot bridge. This must have been a nice scenic spot before, but really isn't anymore. What used to be the lake bottom is now mud flats.

Upper Phelps Brook foot bridge
Soon after leaving Marcy Dam, the trail gets rockier and begins to climb. It isn't horrible at this point, but it is certainly noticeable. My comfortable pace slows, as I knew it would. Dave, Ted and Phil continue on ahead at good pace and every now and then disappear from view on the trail ahead.

8:35am (ish) - We are a shade over 3 miles in, and the difference in pace between Leo and I and the rest of the group is noticeable. Leo still isn't feeling that well, and I never climb fast. The leading three slow every now and then to let us catch up, but I don't want them to spend all day lagging back because of us. We tell them to go ahead at their own pace and we will continue on at ours. I feel bad about holding them back and feel better after they are gone. Now I just need to worry about myself without worrying about my pace's impact on others.

Lower Phelps Brook High Water crossing
We continue climbing along the north bank of Phelps Brook, which is pretty, but the climbing is hard work and there is a lot of it left. At this point I am still hopeful that slow and steady will win the race, but we are only halfway there.

9:00am (ish) - We cross upper Phelps Brook on a foot bridge and continue climbing toward Indian Falls. The trail is rockier and steeper. We are struggling but plodding along. After a little while the trail gets wetter, steeper, and mossier. Footing is tough and the climb is by far the steepest yet. I am puffing along, as is Leo.

9:45am (ish) - The last few tenths of a mile have been brutal, and with no let up in sight, Leo and I agree to bail out together. He really isn't feeling well now, and I am tired enough to pull the plug as well. If this last bit is any indication, I don't know how much more I could force myself to do, and Leo is wiped out. I check the altimeter on my GPS and we are at just under 3600 feet, nowhere near the 5344 crest of Marcy. There is a whole lot more "up" out there. We take a brief rest, and dejectedly set off down the mountain.

Leo and my attempt on Marcy
10:05am (ish) - An odd thing happens. As we are working our way down the slope, we pass the turnoff for a very obvious side trail. But to my knowledge there shouldn't be a side trail. Just the trail to Marcy. We stop, look around, and much to our shock and amazement, the turnoff is the Marcy Trail. I pull out my GPS and map, and sure enough, we somehow managed to miss the main trail and ended up on a side trail (a winter ski trail) headed to the top of Table Top Mountain. Ugh. In retrospect it makes sense now why the trail got so much more rugged, as it is not regularly trodden as is the highway to Marcy. I am stunned and shocked and don't know whether to laugh or cry. We went a brutal four tenths of a mile up the wrong trail. If we had stayed on the correct path, the map shows it not getting quite so horrible so fast, and there was a section of upland meadow that would have helped give us a breather. Maybe, just maybe... Oh well, at this point, there is no thought of continuing up the right way, so we continue down.

10:20am - We reach the foot bridge over upper Phelps Brook. Being in no hurry anymore, I am much more inclined to stop and take pictures, which we do at several points. I try to distract myself with the scenery, but am only marginally successful, as there isn't all that much scenery to enjoy. As with the hike yesterday, there are no vistas or overlooks, just rocky streams and more woodland.
(note variance from trail at lower right...)

11:07am - We cross the High Water bridge over lower Phelps Brook. We are tired and pretty quiet as we do the last few miles. My heel is killing me again, and I am not happy with my performance today.

12:11pm - Leo and I trudge back into camp tired and defeated. We have hiked 8.8 miles of rugged terrain, climbing 1400 feet up and then 1400 feet back down, much of it in the middle few miles. We covered only 60% of the mileage and 40% of the elevation gain. As tired as I am, it feels like it should be more.

Next... After Marcy

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Adirondacks Day 2 (C) - Thurs 6/21/12

Part 5, Evening at Camp

Heart Lake south to Wright, Algonquin, and Iroquois (ridge line L-R)
After our hiking today, I get to try out the bathhouse facilities for the first time. They are not bad for a campground - plenty of hot water and clean. There are three shower stalls, and my only issue is that they are about the size of an old style phone booth, and the shower head is pointing at my chin, not the top of my head. It's a small complaint, and the shower feels wonderful. Some careful twisting, turning and ducking results in a perfectly acceptable shower.

Our campsite is terrific. We have two adjoining sites. One is especially large and nice, and we end up using that for basically everything except the tent Dave and I will share. They are very close to level, with good spots for tents. Ted will be in one tent, Phil and Leo will share another. Phil has brought a little pavilion with a roof and sides that will be used as a combination changing room, storage area, laundry rack, and emergency rain hangout. Each site has a picnic table and a fire ring with fold down grill grate. This is all very standard, but is nicely maintained here. Being nestled in a mixed pine forest, the packed sandy soil is covered with a layer of pine needles, which makes for a very comfortable (and not at all messy) carpet.

We spend the rest of the early evening at various tasks and diversions, each doing our own thing. Some read, or just sit and chat. I wander down to the lake to take some pictures, some of us try for wifi access at the Loj (with limited success for me), and I take the time to write notes that will turn into these blog entries. If past experience is any indication, I will take good detailed notes earlier on and get briefer and sloppier later (in the end this will prove to be true). That's where digital pictures and being a persistent photographer come in handy; I can build timelines of our activities very accurately based on picture timestamps.

Sharing camp with us are a swarm of large chipmunks and small squirrels. The chipmunks are very bold in their quest for food, and will do everything short of climb up your leg. If you sat still enough, I am not convinced they wouldn't. Chipmunks are cute, and are very much preferable to the mice we have had other places.

Sundown, Heart Lake (8:18pm)
Dinner is a late meal of grilled chicken and a green salad. Phil has done a great job of planning out the menu and between good planning and a ready supply of ice, we will have fresh produce and veggies with every dinner. The chicken tastes great over an open fire. The only minor glitch with the meal is a little (ok, a lot) too much cooking time which turns a half dozen baked potatoes into large oval hockey pucks. This isn't a total loss, as it provides a good trigger for cooking-related teasing for the rest of the trip.

When dinner is over we clean up, stow all food and smellies in the van (to keep from attracting the resident black bears), and sit around the fire. We begin working our way through the assortment of beer that we have brought, and talk. Dave has recently purchased a "travel guitar", meaning a lower priced acoustic that he feels comfortable bringing on trips. It's actually a really nice guitar... Tonight, and throughout our time at camp, Dave will periodically pull out the guitar and play for a while. He has gotten very good and knows lots of songs. What we realize when attempting to sing along is that nobody seems to know the words to much of anything anymore, except Ted who remembers the words to most everything but doesn't really sing. Perhaps next trip we need a song list with cheat sheets for lyrics.

Fading Light, Heart Lake (8:30pm)
It is the first of many beautiful evenings, cool but not cold, with enough of a breeze to keep the campfire smoke from lingering. It is forecast to drop into the low 50's tonight, but we are all prepared and should be fine.

It's Grace's birthday today, and I have not been able to get a call through. Much Daddy guilt. I did trade texts with her this morning, so at least that is something. It would normally be the first day of summer and the longest day of the year, but since this is a leap year that all happened yesterday.

10:15pm - Tomorrow is expected to be the big hiking day, so Dave and I head to bed early, leaving the others to their drinks and conversation. I don't think anybody stays up too late. Quiet time begins at 10pm and ends at 7am by campground rules. The place isn't very crowded, and it does get quiet quickly. I sleep easily and well.

Next... Marcy Day

Adirondacks Day 2 (B) - Thurs 6/21/12

Part 4, Indian Pass Trail to Rocky Falls

Typical Adirondacks Trail
Once camp has been set, and lunch eaten, everyone is very anxious to get out on a trail and be moving. A quick look at a map shows one easy option which we settle on quickly: an out-and-back from the campground to Rocky Falls, a scenic spot a little under two and a half miles out the Indian Pass Trail. This trail passes the side trails to Mount Jo, a 2,900 foot mountain that overlooks the north end of Heart Lake and has great views of the big mountains to the south. (More on Mount Jo later).

1:30pm - Our hike begins right from our campsite (although I started the track map below at the information center), and after all the time in the van it is great to be moving. My only complaint, and it is a minor one, is that my left heel has been bothering me for the last few days, and I have no idea why. I have not been doing anything physical, and I don't remember feeling anything at any point, but my left heel in the area of my achilles and below my ankle is very sore to walk on. It is annoying, not limiting in any way, but it is persistent and doesn't go away.

Indian Pass Brook below Rocky Falls
The trail is exactly what the entire trip's trails will prove to be like. Well maintained trails through mixed pine and deciduous woods. As on other hikes, we are almost always completely shaded. This is a pretty level one, with only minor ups and downs as we very gradually climb up the valley that would eventually lead to Indian Pass and ultimately Henderson Lake. It is a warm and humid day, but being in the shade makes it not bad at all. The trail is sometimes dry, sometimes a little sloppy, but most low areas have stepping stones, flattened log bridges, or even sections of corduroyed trail (rows of small logs laid perpendicular to the trail). Any small feeder stream or runoff that we cross has a bridge of some sort. Everything is green or brown, with no other colors in evidence. Nothing is flowering at the moment. Photo opportunities are limited, as everything kinda looks the same, and there are no vistas or overlooks down here in the valley.

Rocky Falls
2:45pm - After a little over an hour of walking in the woods, we come to the side trail down to Rocky Falls and head toward the sound of water over rocks. We come out on Indian Pass Brook a few hundred yards below the Falls, and it is beautiful. I have always loved everything about water, and working our way up the rocky stream bed is the kind of scenic lift I have been waiting for.

As we come around a clump of trees, we hear a dog barking, and then voices. On the other side we see two bikini clad women sunning themselves on large boulders in the stream. This of course provokes rampant speculation that only the warning barks of the dog gave them enough time to get their clothes back on before we got there (among other things). I remain skeptical, but it is nice to be among my childhood friends and know that in our mid-to-upper-forties we are still children at heart. Boys will be boys, and apparently men will also be boys.

Intrepid Explorers at Rocky Falls
The Falls themselves are not overly large, but are very picturesque, and it is very nice the way they cut through a narrow chute in the rock on either side. There is a small tower cairn of rocks atop the Falls. The guys lament that on this hot day we do not have swim gear (or the privacy to go without swim gear) to take advantage of the nice swimming hole. The water is cold (but not frigid) and is very clear; exactly what you would hope mountain stream water to be. We stop and rest for a few minutes, enjoying the spot, and snacking on whatever we happen to be carrying. This would be a nice lunch spot. After a relatively brief stop, and some picture taking, we head back the way we came.

3:45pm - We arrive back at the junction with one of the side trails to Mount Jo, and it is decided that Dave, Ted and Leo will do that, while Phil and I head back to camp and start thinking about dinner and chores. The trail to the summit only adds a couple miles, but is a steep climb in places. My heel is still bothering me, and I figure I might as well save myself for tomorrow's big day. Phil and I stop at the store for ice and firewood, and are back at the campsite by 4:05.
Camp to Rocky Falls and Back - 4.6 Miles
4:30pm - Leo shows up back at camp ahead of Dave and Ted. He hasn't been feeling 100% recently, and decided that he would also stop the Mount Jo hike partway in and come back and rest up. Dave and Ted show up within the hour having summited Mount Jo (which they had also done on the last trip), and we all settle in for the evening.

Next... First Night at Camp

Adirondacks Day 2 (A) - Thurs 6/21/12

Part 3, Arrival at Heart Lake

Chapel Pond
The general plan for today is to get to Heart Lake (the Wilderness Campground at Adirondack Loj), set up camp, and get a "stretch the legs" hike in before the end of the day.

6:44am - We agreed to get up at 7 (or no later than...) this morning, but many of the gang are early risers and Phil arrives with a knock as Dave and I are still lying in bed dozing. He tells us that he and Leo have decided to run to Walmart early, and do we want to go along or is it alright for them to go. Without giving it much thought we say "go without us", but over the next hour or so it occurs to me that there were a few things I had planned on looking at, and I probably should have gone. They were little things, not even worth a phone call, and in the end it didn't matter.

"Chapel" geocache
7:19am - With Leo and Phil off shopping, there was no real urgent need to get moving, so I have flopped in bed for another half hour before getting up to shower. I am dressed and ready to go by 7:30, but it is 9:15 by the time the shoppers are back, everything has been gathered and the van completely reloaded. I don't know how we got even more stuffed into it...

We stop for a McDonalds drive through breakfast, and more importantly, coffee. Any time we are on the road in the morning, there seems to be an Egg McMuffin imperative, which I understand, as it is one of the few things at McDonalds that I like. It is a trip ritual if nothing else. We get back on 87 and roll north.

10:20am - We stop at a rest stop 8-10 miles south of our exit, and I am happy to see that there is a cache here. While the others tend to business, I walk the 400 feet to the other side of the parking lot and make an easy find in a pine tree. "High Peaks North" is the cache, and it is my first in Essex county NY. There is also a cache at the exit, which Phil and I find, and which gives me a little poison ivy on one calf. We are off the interstate for good now, and heading deep into the High Peaks region on route 73, heading towards Lake Placid.

10:45am - We stop at a beautiful little mountain lake called Chapel Pond. It's a very nice spot, with a picturesque lake tucked in between the mountains and the road. I can't help wondering how deep it is. I take a few pictures, and Dave, Phil and I wander off into the woods just beside the road to find a geocache. While heading toward the cache, Dave sees a complete shed snakeskin in a rock crevice (it's about two feet long). We find the cache easily, which makes a total of 6, but we are all leery of reaching way under a rock to pull it out after seeing the snakeskin moments before. We are back on the road soon, driving between lovely forested peaks on all sides.

Home Sweet Home Away From Home
11:30am - A brief stop on the access road into the campground nets us cache #7. I am anxious to see what the campgrounds looks like, having heard the others talk about it.

11:45am - The Adirondack Loj serves as the office for the campground, and we stop to check in and pay the balance due on our two sites (campsites are in the neighborhood of $45 each per night). The Loj is right on Heart Lake, which is small but beautiful. There is an area for swimming, canoes and kayaks that can be rented for $5 an hour, and a wifi hotspot for internet connectivity (although this turned out to be pretty sketchy speed-wise). One thing I quickly find out is that the cell reception is not good at all. Calls are impossible, and text messages only go out once in a while, but fail more often than not. We are completely out of touch more often than not.

It doesn't take us long to set up camp, and after a quick lunch of sandwiches and chips, we are ready for that short hike.

Next... Rocky Falls Hike