Liberty & Flume

After a bit of time off from climbing, Chris and I set off for New Hampshire on a Friday morning in October to start a long weekend of climbing. After finishing up the Adirondack High Peaks in the summer, we thought it would be a cool idea to try to dive a little deeper into the New Hampshire High Peaks list by trying to grab 5 or 6 of them in one trip. I drove into Boston the night before like I had a few times before so we could get an early jump to the morning hike. We left a little bit before 7 AM with our eyes set on climbing Liberty and Flume in the Franconia range of the White Mountains. These were climbs Chris had his eye on, and I thought they would be a good place to start the trip, given its relatively short mileage (10-11 miles round trip, depending on the route) and reportedly excellent summit views. I was pretty pumped to get away for a few days and hopefully double my peak count in New Hampshire in one quick trip, so there was a little extra motivation to get back out on the trails and see some new peaks!

We got into Lincoln, New Hampshire bright and early and stopped for a second to grab some food for the trails before heading north to try to find our trailhead. From what I could see from the map, it looked like we were basically going to start our climb from the Flume Gorge Visitor Center, so that’s where we decided to pull in to park. We grabbed our packs and Chris started filming as I decided to take in the surroundings a little bit. I didn’t see anything in the parking lot that indicated a trailhead towards where we would be going, with the exception of a bike path heading in the right direction. After a while of walking, I decided it would be best to try going up the road a little ways as there might be an obvious parking area down the road. My intuition was right, and we noticed the real parking area signed just down the road from where we parked, and we decided to drive down there instead. We got going a little bit after 10 AM, walking the Whitehouse trail from the parking area for about a mile until we reached the Appalachian Trail, where we started our true ascent.


We started the steady ascent up towards Liberty and Flume, witnessing some unique carved graffiti on trees as we started off. In all my time climbing I can’t recall seeing trees defaced the way we did on that particular trail, and it was kind of disappointing to see. Nonetheless, we continued on after making a point of this on the vlog, and quickly reached the fork in the loop trail. Going straight would take us up steadily towards Liberty, while the right fork would level out and head towards the Flume ledges where we would have a quick and dramatic ascent up to the summit of Flume. Even though it was going to add some mileage to the day, I decided it would be best to take the steady approach up to Liberty and then walk over to Flume and back instead of going up the steep slopes because I wasn’t sure if I was in the greatest shape for that after not climbing for a month and a half. After taking a quick break at the junction we worked our way up the Liberty Springs Trail, crossed over a few small streams, and started our ascent in earnest.


The real ascent begins


I quickly figured out that my hypothesis about my hiking form was right on the money. I felt like my legs were pretty dead after about half an hour of steady, unrelenting climbing up towards the Liberty Springs Campsite. I was glad we took the steady approach because I would’ve been struggling badly trying to work my way up the Flume ledges. While I would’ve preferred a bit more of a staggered approach up to the summit, the Liberty Springs Trail was at least consistent and easy on the feet, with very little mud or loose rock in the trail. Overall, from our experiences in Maine and New Hampshire, it is very enjoyable to hike along the Appalachian Trail segments because they are usually well-designed and steady in approach. It may have taken me a bit longer than I would’ve liked, but we did eventually reach the summit ridge, where we took a quick right turn and headed about a quarter mile down the trail until we reached Mount Liberty.


The dramatic approach to Mt Liberty


Liberty was really quite a fantastic summit area, and its dramatic features were evident just before we reached the top. The summit itself is on a very steep ledge that features a large slide that basically starts from the edge of the trail. It’s a harrowing look down from the slide at the base of the summit rock, as it probably drops down a hundred feet or so. Once we topped the summit rock, the views were outstanding all 360 degrees around. We could see the whole Cannon, Kinsman area on one view and then the Lincoln, Twins, and Owls Head view on the other side. Liberty is a very rewarding summit, and combined with the foliage and nice autumn weather, it was one of our best summit experiences of the year 2017 so far for sure.




Mt Flume from Liberty



By the time we had worked our way off Liberty and headed towards flume my legs had started to feel a little more adjusted, so I made some quick work down towards the col between the two peaks. I waited there for Chris to catch up, and we made our way quickly up to Flume. From Liberty, Flume is not really a challenging hike at all, and we ended up on the summit a lot quicker than we had anticipated. From the Flume summit we still managed to get the same spectacular views towards the west, and could even get a nice reference point of Lafayette that we couldn’t get from Liberty. What was even more interesting was the clear view you get of the Flume ledges and just how steep the trail ends up climbing up to the summit from the Flume Trail. Flume really looks like one hell of an adventure to get up, and a bit of a dangerous proposition to try to get down. Once we stopped to get some pictures and a snack, we decided to double back over Liberty on our way out, since that trail looked liked an accident waiting to happen.


We took another second to take in the sights on top of Liberty the second time, and then continued on our way down. The hike down was fairly uneventful, but it was fairly easy thanks to the large sections of smooth stone steps on the Liberty Springs Trail. Seriously, I can’t recommend this trail enough, it’s really easy on the joints, offers a nice hiking challenge that doesn’t take too long, and offers wonderful views up top. Once we got down past the loop junction, it was just a quick walk back, first down to the bike path that doubled as the Whitehouse trail for a section, then on to the rest of the trail that lead us back to the parking area. All-in-all the day hike only took about 7 hours, and it was definitely a fantastic way to start off a full weekend of hiking!

Views: Liberty 10, Flume 7

Difficulty: Liberty 6, Flume 6 (from Liberty; climbing the ledges would make it more difficult)


East Osceola & Osceola

After finishing up our 46er quest earlier in the month, Chris and I wasted very little time setting our sights on our next hiking conquest, the Northeast 115. I headed on out to Boston to meet up with Chris, and we set off for New Hampshire to get a couple more peaks off the White Mountains list. We decided on doing a smaller day hike in the Whites that day, tackling East Osceola, and Mount Osceola which would get us two more peaks with only a 7 mile or so roundtrip. We initially intended to do this climb in April, but opted for a less rocky trail for our first early spring hike, so these peaks had been in my sights for a while, so they seemed like the right ones to check off the list that day!

We left around 6 AM in the morning and headed north towards Lincoln, NH where we would start our climbing. It was a Sunday, so the traffic wasn’t too bad getting around, and we were able to start at a reasonable hour. Finding the trailhead wasn’t terribly hard either, even though we managed to get just the last parking spot at the trailhead. We took a quick look at the map at the trailhead just to get our bearings, even though we knew this would be a super straightforward day.


From the trailhead we were going to make our way towards Greeley Pond, before taking a right at the trail that climbs up to East Osceola. From there it would only be about an extra mile to get to Mount Osceola, which from all accounts had some pretty nice views. The first mile and a quarter toward Greeley Pond was basically flat, and relatively uneventful. There were a number of small stream crossings in that beginning section of the trail, but those were the only points of note along the way to the trail junction.



At the junction we took our first break of the day, and I decided to grab an energy chew from my bag while we stopped. I bought a Gatorade chew instead of the normal Clif ones I usually get just to try it, and that turned out to be a bad decision. I did not like the taste of that at all, so needless to say I’ll be going back to my usuals from now on. Once we got back going we started ascending as we head towards East Osceola. We knew it would only be about 1.5 miles or so uphill in the segment, so we would be going uphill at a good clip. Still, it was a bit of a shock to the system just how steep the climb up to East Osceola got. In certain segments it reminded both of us of our Dix Mountain hike, with the unrelenting steep walls of earth to climb up. We made our way steadily up the climb, segment by segment, taking breaks on the flat spots and keeping a steady pace as the trail made its way up to elevation in very short order.



Small lookout on the way to East Osceola



The trail eventually leveled out and we knew we were getting close to peak. Based upon everything I’d read about the climb, I knew this peak would basically have no views and would instead just be a peak noted by a large cairn. The peak itself didn’t really even seem to be a height of land, more or less just a spot on a large plateau, but nonetheless it was pretty hard to miss the summit of East Osceola. We took a break at the one lookout we could find on the summit, even though there really wasn’t much of a view at that spot either.



What a summit…


After maybe 10 minutes, we continued on our way to Osceola, which we knew would be a greater spot to take an extended break on anyway.  The trail started descending at a good clip down from the plateau of East Osceola, and did so until we reach the col between the summits. It was there where we encountered one of the more interesting spots on the trail, the famous Osceola Chimney. It really didn’t disappoint at all, it was a very steep, sudden wall of rock that we had to get over as the trail started climbing again. There were 2 options on the Chimney; going straight up the steep way, or going up a bit more steadily around the side of the cliff. I chose the steady shortcut, and Chris decided to go straight up.  Realistically both ways take just the same amount of time considering the shortcut is a little longer, but I happened to like the way I went, so the choice is really up to you when you hit that spot of the trail. From the Chimney on, the rest of the climb up to Osceola seemed pretty easy and uneventful comparatively, and in just a few tenths of a mile we ended up on our second summit of the day, Mount Osceola!


Happy to bag peak #2 and get a view





Upon arriving at Osceola, we noticed two things; 1) the summit was very large and had spectacular views on one side looking down towards Waterville Valley and 2) there were a lot of people climbing that day. For the past few years we’d been used to climbing on weekdays, and climbing some of the more remote mountains in the Adirondack High Peaks, so it was a bit different to run into a crowd on a summit, but we were able to enjoy a nice view nonetheless. Just as much as climbing east Osceola reminded me of climbing Dix, the summit of Osceola reminded me a bit of Giant in Keene Valley since both have a similar size and view from the summit, and both seem to gather a crowd on a weekend! Osceola was definitely worth the trouble of getting over East Osceola for, it’s a very nice peak to summit on a late summer morning!

We probably spent about 20 minutes up top admiring the scenery and grabbing a bite to eat, and then headed back the way we came. Going down Osceola seemed like it would be a relatively uneventful thing to do, at least until we got to the Chimney section, but as I pushed on ahead, maybe about 5-10 minutes after leaving the summit, I heard a well-pronounced cry of pain behind me. Turns out Chris managed to roll his ankle over on an unstable rock, and was in some pretty good pain. It was really kind of a bad spot for an injury, right in between two peaks, but, as we’ve experienced before, sometimes the mountains reach out and grab you just to remind you that Mother Nature is still the boss. We kept on going (because what choice did we have anyway), maybe a little bit slower than we were going before, and despite his pain, we managed to keep going without any other incidents. We stopped for one more second to get a picture on the actual summit of East Osceola, since we basically spent no time there on the way in, and cruised on through to our last descent of the day.

The way down East Osceola was just as unrelenting as it was going up, only now we were both watching our steps a little more than we normally would. Since it was a relatively short day of hiking for us there was absolutely no need to rush things on the way back. We just walked down cautiously and carefully until we got to the trail junction around Greeley Pond again.


View of Greeley Pond on the descent


One interesting thing we did note was how seemingly inaccurate the maps were on the trees noting the protected forest area around Greeley Pond. The way the first map we saw was drawn made it seem like we were a full mile away from the trail junction when we were actually only about 5 minutes away from it. So the lesson there is obviously don’t believe randomly drawn maps on trees, keep your own bearing and carry a map instead!

The last mile and a quarter out from the junction seemed like forever as we both really wanted to just get off our feet and grab some lunch. It probably didn’t take us anymore than 25-30 minutes, but it kind of felt like eternity as we made our way over the bog bridges and small stream crossings until we got back to the roadside trailhead. It was another one of those days where it started well, but after someone gets banged up you just kind lose a little bit of your zeal afterwards. Either way, we still managed to get another 2 peaks in the books, and I got myself about halfway to my goal of 115 peaks in the northeast, so it was a pretty productive day when all was said and done!

Recommendations: Osceola and East Osceola make for a relatively short day, but there are a few tough sections going up to either mountain. The views are well worth it on Osceola, but I would mainly recommend the climb to people already familiar with 4000 footers (basically don’t make this someone’s first climb, otherwise, yeah, climb it – it’s a fun one to do for sure).

Views: East Osceola – 1; Osceola – 7

Difficulty: East Osceola – 6; Osceola – 5

Allen Mountain

I’ve consistently seen Allen Mountain ranked as one of the toughest climbs in the Adirondack High Peaks in all of the research I’ve done preparing for climbs over the years and it’s definitely developed a mythical place in 46er lore. I’ve seen numerous reasons why people disliked climbing Allen ranging from length of the climb, to tough trail conditions, confusing directions, or lack of payout at the summit. All of the negative comments regarding the hike kind of lead us put this climb off until the very end, but since Chris and I were sitting on peak #44, it became time for us to finally take a crack at Allen this summer.

We set off around 5 AM on a weekday in July, knowing we’d have a tough 18 mile day to get to the wooded summit of Allen. Nothing about the thought of climbing to Allen that early in the morning was particularly appealing, but we were getting so close to finishing the 46 that it made the task seem just a little bit more exciting than it normally would be. Going into this hike, we weren’t even sure if we would really be able to do this climb successfully because there was a forecast for storms for that day. I told Chris point blank that climbing Allen under a chance of storms would be uncomfortable and borderline dangerous because of the notoriously slippery final ascent of Allen, and the muddy conditions present on the flat sections of the climb, but luckily the storms had passed the night before and the forecast had improved. I knew in the back of my head that even if the skies were nice for the day, the ground was still going to be wet and treacherous, and let’s just say that Allen didn’t disappoint at all!


We managed to get to the trailhead by about a quarter to 8, which would give us plenty of time to get the hike completed in daylight, barring any catastrophic injuries or bear encounters. While driving in, Chris put the over/under of how many people we were going to see on the trail at 4.5, and while I took the under, I was adamant we would see at least one other party doing the hike on a nice summer day. The ADK 46 is getting pretty popular and even on the most remote hikes on the randomest days of the week, there always a good chance of running into other hikers doing the same thing you’re trying to do. It didn’t take us any more than a few seconds to see somebody else pull up to the trailhead trying to hike Allen too, so my theory about hiking in the High Peaks in 2017 was proven right immediately. We quickly signed in, and got going on what would be a long day’s work getting to the summit.


After only walking for a few minutes from the trail register, we already reached the bridge to cross over the Hudson River. Once we reached the other side of the river, the trail quickly deteriorated into a muddy, bog-like condition on and off for a while. We spent the majority of our day trying not to get our boots stuck too badly in the mud, but it was unavoidable and deep in certain spots. The mud deterred our pace a little, but luckily there were some spots on the trail that managed to be a bit better than others. The trail around Lake Jimmy had some nice bog bridging, even though I must admit it would’ve been a little cooler (not to mention quicker) to be able to walk across the lake on bridging, and the trail around the Mount Adams trailhead had some interesting cabins to explore. We stopped to check out the cabins for a brief moment then continued on past Adams.



This was pretty typical of this day


The trail descending towards Lake Sally was extremely muddy and eroded to the point where there were clearly established cut-arounds in the woods next to the trail. I do understand the mystique of climbing Allen from Upper Works given all of the hardships needed to get to it, but I’m 100% in favor of the DEC developing another trail to get to Allen from the south because this trail is hardly sustainable anymore. We begrudgingly made our way through the slop and ended up on another one of the old logging roads in that section of wilderness. The nice gravel road that the trail follows along the Opalescent offers some nice respite from the muddy conditions, and it offers some interesting glimpses into the logging past of the woods. As you walk through there, you can make out faint logging roads and old paths that have long since been abandoned, which are some of the only exciting points of interest on the way to the herd path. After passing a steel gate and continuing on, we crossed the Opalescent River on a nice new hanging bridge instead of fording the river like you would’ve had to before. Even though our boots were already wet enough by this point, it was still nice to be able to cross on a bridge versus going over the river, so we do have to give a special shout-out to the trail crews for working diligently on such a remote trail as the East River Trail is.




Follow this sign to the bridge over the Opalescent


Bridge Crossing the Opalescent



The trail junction leading into the true herd path towards Allen were much easier to find than I had expected. The East River Trail does not seem to be travelled beyond the Allen turn off that frequently, to the extent that the established trail actually seamlessly leads off into the direction of Allen without even looking like much of a trail beyond that point. From this easy turn off it’s only maybe a tenth of a mile (probably less than that actually) until you reach a dirt road where this trail ends. You can basically see the gravel pit where you sign in to hike the herd path from this junction to the left, so all you really have to do is turn quickly towards the left and you’re at the start of the climb. We took a quick break at the herd path right around 10 AM or so and let the groups behind us actually go ahead. In my mind, it would be nice to see some fresh foot prints on the trail anyway in case it got hard to follow, but it really wasn’t a problem following the herd path for the most part, even though it certainly wasn’t the best defined or best maintained path in that part of the woods. The 13 point plan that I jotted on a piece of paper from a list I found on a forum was fairly helpful as we got on to the meandering herd path. I followed along every milestone I should see on the way, and it allowed me to pace the climb nicely and keep at ease as we moved through the thick woods west of the peak of Allen. Despite the rain, none of the brooks we had to cross along the way were in any way hard to rock hop, and even the mud levels on the herd path were no worse than the ones on the “maintained” trail to the base of the climb. In about an hour and a half’s time, maybe a little bit less, we reached the waterfall on Allen Brook where we stopped for a second to gear up for what would be a taxing final ascent to the top.


so helpful…




Turn left at the cairn towards the herd path for Allen



Walking towards the clearing marking the beginning of the herd path



As Chris dunked his hat in the waterfall like he typically does on a hot day like this, I took out the map for a second to get a general idea of where we were. It looked from the point where Allen Brook drains into Skylight Brook that there would be roughly one more mile to go to the summit, and almost all of it would be steep and unrelenting. This is where I knew we would have to start being careful because all trip reports I’ve seen indicated that the rock along Allen Brook is unusually slippery, and if you’re not careful you could find yourself going on an unwanted slip and slide ride on jagged rock. I kept this in mind as I made my way up the trail as it swerved on and off the rock faces and into the woods numerous times. I made sure to stay off of the reddish colored rock because that would be the spots where there would be little to no grip. It was hard to get around the running water and slippery rock, but taking it one step at a time made it doable. At one part the trail ended up on a drier, gravelly spot where you could get a good view on the slope you had just climbed. I took a seat on a smooth boulder and looked behind to see where Chris was at, because I didn’t hear him behind me at all. So I sat and waited looking down the trail for a good minute, but still there was no sign of Chris. Even though I’m admittedly less athletic, I do tend to get a little bit ahead of him as he films portions of the blog, especially if I have some good leg strength like I did on this day, but I kind of thought that he shouldn’t have fallen that far behind me under these conditions, so I decided to walk a little ways back down until I managed to see the reflection of the sun off his sunglasses as he climbed up. I never really get too worried on these climbs, but the conditions on Allen might be some of the most dangerous in the High Peaks, so I did get a bit concerned for a second that he went for one of those unwilling water slide rides I’d referenced before. Sure enough, once Chris caught up to me  he told me just that, that he took a fall and if not for a helpful tree root, he would’ve went flying down the mountain in the wrong direction. His hip was hurting pretty bad from the fall, and his elbow was decently cut up as well, but he said there was no way we’d be turning around this close to the summit. I wouldn’t personally recommend continuing climbing if you’re in pain, but we’d been anticipating this climb for a long time and we were pretty close to the summit, so we just took our time and made it up as fast as he could manage.




I figured we should stop and regroup for a second, but Chris said it was better for him just to keep pushing through it anyway because his hip would just start locking up, so he really just powered through until we reached the summit. It was probably the least triumphant we’d ever felt reaching the summit of a high peak, but we were just happy to finally get to the top of Allen!

The summit of Allen was just as non-descript as it’s billed to be, just a height of land in the woods with a plaque on a tree. There is, however, a very nice lookout to the northeast of the summit with pretty cool views of the surrounding mountains like Haystack and the lower great range, so all-in-all it’s actually not the worst summit of are of the High Peaks (Blake still wins that competition I think, though Couchsachraga is a close second). The lookout was a nice spot to stop and enjoy the summit before heading back down into the sloppy descent and long walk out that was between us and the parking lot. The group ahead of us on the mountain was happy enough to offer us some first aid supplies, as I hadn’t packed too much with me for the hike, so Chris bandaged up his cuts as best as he could and it didn’t end up being too serious of an issue from that point on. One thing is for certain though; I’m definitely bringing a better stocked first aid kit next time just in case of emergency. We may have spent 15 minutes on the summit overall since we were a bit too anxious about the descent to really enjoy the triumph of reaching another peak, and we headed back down eager to get that slippery descent behind us.




1 To Go!



Going down the steep section of Allen was just as treacherous, and on the way down was my opportunity to wipe out as well. I decided I was going to walk across a stream instead of finding a drier route, and I did my best Charlie Brown kicking a football impression, falling flat on my pack faster than I could even realize what was happening. It was a bit of a wake-up call to really slow the pace to a crawl, and we spent the rest of the descent taking it at an extremely casual pace. Once we reached the waterfall again we both breathed a sigh of relief knowing our risk of further injury just decreased significantly. We both really bemoaned the standing water and mud on the trails coming in, but to a small extent we welcomed the return of the mud over the slippery rocks by that point. We kept going after stopping for a second, and went on for a while before we made our way back to the herd path trail register right around 4 PM.

It was a tiring and frustrating walk back to the car after all of the slipping and sliding of the day, but we trudged on nonetheless. This was one of those moments where you wish you could just snap your fingers and be back at the trailhead, but no, we had to drag ourselves back unassisted (sigh). It was an extremely uneventful walk back comparatively, even though it was interesting seeing dozens of frogs and even a couple of snakes in the marshes that were passing as marked trails. I don’t think I’d ever seen a snake on a trail before, so that was kind of a fun surprise on what was overall a generic walk back. The mental exhaustion of the day was far greater than the physical exhaustion, in both of our opinions, so we managed to find our way back slowly and steadily without breaking stride for any photo opportunities or extended breaks like we normally do. Climbing Allen wasn’t the greatest hiking experience we’d ever had, but at least we managed to get our 45th peak in the Adirondacks and got it in with plenty of daylight to spare, arriving at the trailhead a little bit before 6:30 PM. It was a long day, but at least it was another interesting experience to share as we got that much closer to completing our 46!

Recommendations: Allen Mountain isn’t a fun hike. I’d only recommend it to people seriously interested in the 46 because it’s a somewhat unpleasant experience. If you do plan to climb Allen, make sure you read up a little bit on the trail before you go up, and be careful on the final ascent because it is no joke. Allen really isn’t terribly steep (with the exception of the slide section near the summit) or overly challenging from a physical standpoint, but it’s a taxing hike nonetheless, so be mentally prepared for a long day.


Difficulty – 10

Views – 1 (5 from a lookout just off of the summit)

Mount Bigelow (Avery Peak & West Peak) – Maine Trip Day 2

The second day of our hiking trip in Maine started eerily similar to our first day, with us making a u-turn on a remote dirt road and trying to figure out what to do next. One thing is for certain, hiking in Maine is not quite as simple as hiking in the larger mountain ranges, and getting to the trailheads was far more complicated than the climbing itself. It’s all part of the adventure though, at least as far as Chris and I are concerned and we managed to grab another couple of 4000 footers that day, just not the ones we initially set out to grab.

Our day started a bit later than usual, since we were already staying quite close to all the trailheads we were trying to hike. We hit the road around 8 am or so, only heading a few miles down the road to reach Caribou Pond Road, where we would hike South Crocker, Redington, and Crocker Mountains to add another 3 peaks to our list. To get all 3 mountains would only take us about 8.6 miles of travel, so we figured it should be a fairly easy day for us. Once we found our turn-off, we started travelling down the road to the trailhead, and almost immediately we started seeing signs indicating roadwork that was supposed to commence that week. We had seen online that the first two bridges heading down the Caribou Pond road were dilapidated and in rough condition, and the signs indicated that those bridges would be replaced and that people trying to access the trailheads would do so at their own risk of being blocked in by construction vehicles. Since the construction wasn’t scheduled to start until 2 days later we figured we would be fine to go in and out on a day hike, but once we got to the first bridge we decided to have a look and see how bad the road situation actually was going to be. From my perspective, the wood planks in the road that were passing as bridges had slumped a good bit as the natural processes of stream erosion took place seasonally, and going over the bridge looked like an accident waiting to happen. Without any really good spot to park along the road, I offered the second option of crossing the road and hiking the Bigelow peaks instead, and waiting to come back some other time, once the roadwork had been finished. It was a no-brainer as far as I was concerned, and Chris agreed that that would be the new plan for the day.

After re-grouping and checking out the trail map and directions for the hike, we headed for the Stratton Pond Road to find the trailhead for the Bigelows. This road was actually a bit narrower than the first one we went down, only capable of accommodating one-way traffic at any time. You could really get the feeling driving down any of these access roads (we haven’t gotten to the worst of them yet by the way) that not a lot of people are coming up to the Carabassett Valley for peak-bagging trips, because the infrastructure really couldn’t support the kind of traffic you see in the Adirondacks or the Whites for example. The parking area for the trailhead could probably handle a maximum of 6-8 cars, but luckily there was only one other there, so were able to finally start our day after a slight delay and change in plans.

We made our way down about 0.4 miles down the road to Stratton Pond on foot, and crossed over a nicely made bridge over the outlet of the pond where we started the hike in earnest.



It would be about 4 miles uphill on the Fire Warden’s Trail until we would reach the col between the two Bigelow peaks, Avery and West. From the col it would be just a few tenths in either direction to either summit, which both supposedly had great views of the valley towards the west and of Flagstaff Lake towards the east. The trail started out fairly flat around the lake and then turned towards the summit of Avery Peak at a diagonal, ascending very gradually. The first 2 miles or so of uphill was fairly straightforward, with the exception of a few steep kickers, some blow-down, and a little bit of overgrowth (which was all to be expected anyway). Overall, we felt pretty good going uphill for the first half of the hike, so it seemed like we were in for a very easy day.



We kept ascending steadily until we got to a fork in the path. At this point there was a trail register on a tree that invited hikers to sign in. It wasn’t quite like any trail register I’d seen, it was more or less a spot to take a postcard, give them your information, and put it into a collection slot, instead of just signing your name on a piece of paper like I’m used to seeing.


2.3 from the internal register to the col


From there, we signed in and kept going on the path that took the diagonal path up the mountain towards Avery instead of going the long way around to the Bigelow Horn. Starting just after the register section, we could start seeing glimpses of the summit from the trail as we got closer, and Chris kept noting how it looked like the giant slab of Earth in front of us wasn’t really getting any smaller, it was just getting closer. This lead us to believe that maybe, just maybe, our easy hike was about to get hard very quickly. Judging by a map I’d seen of the elevation gains, this didn’t look to be the case, but it turns out I was wrong. The trail soon turned into a series of stone steps, which we seemingly didn’t stop ascending until just below the col. After a difficult climbing day the day before, it was especially tough trying to drag my body up that last steep kicker, but we managed our way up one step at a time.


Before getting to the Appalachian Trail juncture, we started seeing a few campsites popping up just off the trail, at a decently high altitude, which was strange to see, but also indicative that our mad final ascent was about to level off just a bit. Soon enough after passing the campsites, we arrived at the end of the Fire Warden’s Trail as we’d reached the ridge line and the Appalachian Trail.



Caretakers hut through the trees


The Appalachian Trail section was nicely marked with some maps and commemorative plaques, so we took a few minutes at the junction just to look around and take in a few of the sights and catch our breath. We did notice there was a caretaker’s hut located right up on the ridge line, which was not something we were used to seeing near any of the summit’s we usually hike. We thought about checking out the hut, but decided to just keep on walking towards the summit. It was sort of a coin flip as to which peak to climb first, but it kind of felt like our momentum was taking us up to Avery the whole way up, so it felt fitting to get up to that peak first. The climb over from the col is not particularly steep, but it is sort of a treacherous boulder hop along the ridge line. It was a little bit reminiscent of the kind of terrain you see at Avalanche Lake in the Adirondacks, except the lake is down a massive cliff instead of right next to you. On this section of trail, it’s particularly advisable to watch your step, but it’s not terribly challenging overall. After a short while, we ended up on the summit of Avery Peak, which I figured out later was my 50th peak of the Northeast 115!


Avery Peak “selfie”



Flagstaff Lake



Andrew looks off of his 50th summit Avery Peak


A view from our make shift wind shelter



The peak area itself was pretty nice, with spectacular views on either side of the ridge line. There were two separate peak areas, one with a sign and another one a little ways up the trail that had the remains of a foundation. Because the winds from the coastal storm were still reaching us pretty ferociously up on the summit, we enjoyed our time on the Avery summit in the foundation atop the summit, which acted as a great wind shield. I wish we could’ve enjoyed the views from that peak a little more, but at the time we were there the winds seemed to be particularly bad, so we really didn’t feel like sticking around for too long. After a quick drink and a few pictures up top, we decided to head back down and up towards our second summit of the day, West Peak.

The trail up to West Peak from the col was a bit more forgiving than the one towards Avery since it didn’t involve any boulder hopping, and stayed within tree-line right until we got to the summit. It seemed like maybe 10-15 minutes of walking was all it took before we got up to the summit of West Peak, which had just as good of views as it’s brother Avery. The winds, while still strong, seemed to be a little less crazy while we were on West Peak, so were able to drop our packs and enjoy the views up top for a little while. We found a really nice overhang just off of the summit to the west that managed to shield the wind completely, so we rested there and took in a complete view of the Carabassett Valley below. Not only was it a remarkable view from that spot, but it was also a remarkable view straight down as the mountain dropped fairly dramatically just below our feet. It wasn’t a spot for the faint of heart for sure, but I find it kind of fun to be on the edge of a steep drop like that sometimes. It’s life affirming if you ask me!



On Top of West Peak with the valley behind me


Andrew Checks out Flagstaff Lake





55 down 60 to go



Even though West Peak was a nice spot to spend some time taking in the scenery, the wind was still a bit too obnoxious to spend a long time up top, so we headed back down the trail after about 15-20 minutes or so. Going up, the stone step trail leading up to the summit was agonizing to try to get up with tired legs, but it did make for a much nicer descent than we’re used to. A lot of times, we bank on getting down mountains quicker than we get up them, but with uneven terrain, mixed with having tired legs, it usually takes us just as long from summit to trailhead as vice versa. On this day, there was no ankle-rolling, or watching your steps on the way down, as the trail was really nicely laid out for leisurely hiking. Time seemed to fly by quickly as we made it down the trail, past the campsites, and back to the register again, where unlike usual, we did not have to actually sign out.

As we got lower in elevation, which coincided with the afternoon heat kicking in, we started to notice swarms of flies coming after us as we tried to make our way back to the pond below. I’ve hiked on many warm, muggy days before, but I don’t think I can recall being swarmed as badly as I was on the latter half of that descent. There were dozens of ‘em, and they followed both us down like a dark cloud just raining on our parade. Even though it must’ve been in the upper 60’s outside, I felt compelled to throw my windbreaker on, simply just to protect my arms from the bites. Even though I was getting hot walking down with a jacket and long pants, it seemed to do the trick in keeping them off me, as I really wasn’t giving them anything to bite. We kept managing our way back down the trail as it evened out slowly, and worked its way around the pond and back across the foot bridge towards the road. From there we only had a short walk back to the car, and once we got there, we got in and left within a minute of stopping. Usually we’d like to take a second to change shoes, socks, whatever after the hike, but staying around any longer than we had to be was just inviting bugs to eat us alive, so we rushed away from the Bigelows in record time. Still, the hike was very enjoyable, and we were rewarded with two pretty great summit views for a hike that only took about 6.5 hours or so. We were honestly just happy to get a good hike in after a miserable day to start our trip and the Bigelows delivered!

Recommendations: This is a really nice moderate hike in Maine that offers two really rewarding summits in a relatively short day. It is worth noting that the last mile of the hike up to the col between the two peaks is a bit steep, but the trail is in really good condition (especially higher up). If you enjoy a nice challenging hike that won’t take you all day and won’t leave your legs covered in mud, this is a good place to hike.


Views – 9 (for both)

Difficulty – 5 (for both)

Saddleback Mountain & The Horn – Maine Trip Day 1

On a cool, rainy Monday in early June, Chris and I set off for what would be an interesting week of climbing in the Carabassett Valley area. Since we’ve been getting close to our goal of finishing the ADK 46, our minds have been shifting focus beyond 46 and onwards to the Northeast 111. Since the 14 peaks in Maine are kind of out of the way, Chris suggested we take a week and just go up there to climb as much of them as we can, and I was happy enough to come along. Even though 4 straight days of climbing was bound to be a tough test, it was undoubtedly going to be a better time than going to work.

We took off from Boston around 6 AM or so knowing it would be a bit of a trip to get up to where we were going. The forecast called for light rain throughout the day, but considering it was calling for a washout just a few days before, we decided to give a shorter hike a try, so we set off for Saddleback Ski Resort to climb Saddleback and Saddleback Horn. The book distance on the hike was only about 6.8 miles, so we figured it wouldn’t be such a bad climb to do in the rain. As we drove up and the rain continued on steadily, I began to think we were kind of crazy trying to go out in weather like this, but I knew we were going to try it regardless, just because that’s how we do things. Besides, hikes with a little adversity make for great stories (and this one was no different).

The first indication that this was going to be a strange day was when we got close to the mountain and Chris’ GPS decided that the best route to the trailhead would be to take a shortcut down a relatively unmarked, unpaved hunting road. It was a random, sketchy trip for a mile past no trespassing signs before we reached a metal gate and realized the GPS was sorely mistaken. It felt like a bad omen to start the day, and more or less it actually was a sign of things to come for our trip through Maine (but more on that will come in later blogs). We turned around, found our way to the ski resort eventually, and were on our way in no time.

We got started hiking around 10:45 AM after trying to figure out where it was we supposed to park. The whole resort was a ghost town with the exception of a few construction crews off in the woods, so it was a little confusing trying to figure out what we were supposed to do. We learned a valuable lesson on Day 1 of this trip; you really have to earn your peaks in Maine because there’s not a heck of a lot of guidance out there outside of the Appalachian Trail trailheads. We ending up parking downhill a ways, and went off to find the ski lift. From there we were going to read the trail map and look for the Grey Ghost trail, which was supposedly the best trail to take to get uphill.



Not the Grey Ghost trail but whatever


Without knowing it at the time, we ended up taking a different trail up, the Green Weaver, which zigzagged a little bit on a more gravelly trail the whole way up the side of the mountain. To be honest, it really didn’t make much of a difference which trail we took up because they all lead to the same place anyway (a logic we would use again on Day 3 of this trip) so we just pushed on uphill. It was a steep and taxing effort trying to climb up the trail we did, and I found myself needing to stop every 100 feet or so to catch my breath. It was a tough push for the first hour of the day, but we did manage to get up top in no time. Eventually, after taking the second wrong trail of the day, we ended up at the spot where we would leave the ski area and hop over to the ridge line where we would meet the Appalachian Trail en route to the summit.





The connection path is not well marked at all, but if you keep your eyes open heading up to the highest point of the ski trails then you should find it without much hardship. It was probably about a tenth of a mile from there before we got on to the exposed ridgeline of Saddleback, and that was where our day became an even bigger struggle than we imagined.


Getting up to the ridge line seemed like a relief after going straight up ski trails for about an hour, but that relief lasted only a few moments, because we were quickly overtaken by the harsh conditions of the day. While climbing up the mountain, we were mainly blocked from the wind, but there was no escaping it on the ridge line. The wind was gusting to probably 30-40 mph by the time we started taking off to the summit, and the wind was whipping the rain around, making it far more uncomfortable than it was before. The calendar said it was June, but being up there and facing the cold wind and rain, you could’ve easily mistaken it for October or November. We knew the conditions were bad going in, but we were not prepared for how bad it was going to be. My glasses kept fogging up in the rain, making it hard to put one foot in front of the other, and the swirling clouds made following the trail on the exposed parts more difficult than it really should’ve been. Luckily enough, I did manage to pack my hat and gloves at the last second before I came out, just in case, and they really came in handy because it was that cold up there.


This wasn’t a pleasant walk stroll through the woods on this day, this was grin-and-bear-it peak-bagging at its best! Once the shock wore off and we geared up a little, Chris and I continued on the Appalachian Trail and walked over to the summit of Saddleback Mountain for our first peak in Maine. I’m sure the views would’ve been wonderful, but all we got was clouds and wind gusts, so we didn’t stick around the summit for too long. Instead, we basically went straight through, heading towards our final destination of the day, Saddleback Horn.



Thankfully the path between Saddleback and the Horn was extremely simple to follow and even featured a few heavily forested sections that braced the wind impact. I’m sure if our entire trip between the two peaks was exposed we may have seriously considered turning back, but the conditions were a little more comfortable under tree cover. The trail descended a little bit from Saddleback to the col, but never to any real extremes. There were no steep parts along this trail section, and only one small ladder to traverse along the way, which was much appreciated.


By the time we started ascending again towards Saddleback Horn we could start feeling the winds getting even more abrasive in the exposed sections. I knew the forecast had called for some potentially steadier showers in the afternoon, and we ended up feeling a little bit more of a kick as we approached the summit. To our astonishment, we actually passed a couple of hikers as we got up towards the Horn, which we certainly didn’t expect on a day like that. We stopped for a second to talk about how crazy we all were for braving these conditions, and went along our ways again. From there, it was just a few more minutes until we ended up close to the top.


The cold wet walk towards the summit of The Horn


Arriving towards the summit of the Horn was a remarkably unpleasant experience in many ways. Getting above tree-line again exposed us to the deteriorating conditions, as the winds swirled just a little bit harder than they did when we were on Saddleback. Because of that, my glasses started fogging up again, and without a clear sight line I walked right off a boulder with my left leg, which left me in a painfully contorted split with a banged up knee. It’s hard to properly describe the kind of contortion I ended up in, but it seemed a fitting fall for a hike like this. Chris caught up to me right as I was trying to extract myself from in between the boulders, and I’m sure it made for a pretty comical sight looking on. My knee throbbed for the rest of the hike, but thankfully I wasn’t too hurt and we made our way up the last few sections of the trail to the summit.

The summit of Saddleback Horn didn’t have a marker like Saddleback, but it did have a gigantic stump in a rock outcropping that basically acts as the summit marker. It’s a good thing that was a blatant sign for the summit because it was so cloudy up on the summit that it was hard to see too much around. If you watch the vlog we did for this climb, you’ll see that I had zero interest in enjoying a moment on top of the peak like I usually do because the conditions had gotten way too miserable to stand still. We quickly got our pictures at the top, and headed back down for tree cover before we stopped to grab a bite to eat.



“Jesus Christ get me off this thing…”


Even though I didn’t time it, I’m confident in saying we set new personal record for least time spent at a summit, and I’m not ashamed of that in the slightest. I knew it was going to be a bad day, but I wasn’t expecting it to be so cold in June, regardless of elevation. Every hike seems to have some sort of learning experience along the way, and this one was certainly no different!

After a quick break halfway back to the col, we decided to press on and make our way back and out of the bad weather.  I knew the conditions would improve drastically once we got back over the mountain to the ski trails, so it was worth pushing through until we got there. By the point in time we started climbing back up to saddleback my hat and gloves were soaked and useless so I was fairly miserable for that last half hour of the ridge walk. Once we were back on Saddleback the clouds had gotten just bad enough to confuse us a little bit on which was the trail lead, but we quickly found the route and got back to the trail junction a few minutes later. For some reason that trail junction seemed to have the worst wind situation of all the exposed parts on the trail, perhaps because it was a flatter section along the ridge-line, and we were astonished to feel some of the rain turning over to ice in that one section as we got to the junction sign. It was June and we were getting pummeled with ice! Such a weird experience, but it stopped pretty quickly once we got down the trail and back to the ski trails.


The good part about climbing down the ski trails was that we could see the signs for the trail labeled clearly. We managed to find the proper Grey Ghost trail on the way down, and took that to get to the bottom of the mountain.


Oh…there it is


We quickly figured out why this was the preferred hiking method because there was an actual, defined foot path on this trail that we could follow. We made our way down the trail, descending pretty quickly despite the rain, and got down the mountain about as fast as we’d ever descended one before. Only about 4 hours after we started our hike, we had arrived at the base of the ski lifts and made our way around the base lodge and back to the parking lot. At no point in that hike did the rain cease for even a moment, and it seemed to even get worse as we walked back to the car. Still, we were pretty relieved to get out of the rain for a moment and get some heat to dry off with. I’m pretty sure I spent the first 15 minutes of the car ride over to Rangeley shivering, but at least we got to cross a couple peaks off our list! All-in-all, it was a pretty memorable hike, and a decent start to our 4-day hiking trip in Maine!

Recommendations: I definitely would recommend this hike, although it would behoove you to climb it on a nicer day so you can enjoy your ridge walk. It’s a fairly easy day to grab two peaks, and I believe the views towards the east should be pretty nice when you can see more than 20 feet in front of you. It’s also worth noting that this particular trip shouldn’t be attempted during ski season unless you enjoy being run over by skiers. Instead, you can access Saddleback and the Horn via the Appalachian Trail from Route 4, although it will be a slightly longer day to do so.

Views: N/A

Difficulty: 3

Macomb, South Dix, Grace, and Hough – The Dix Range Traverse

After a solid, if not spectacular hike up Seward just half a day earlier, Chris and I started on what was bound to be a long day in the High Peaks. It was going to be Day 2 of our 3 day trip and the plan was to hike all of the lower peaks in the Dix Range; Macomb, South Dix, Grace, and Hough. Since we stayed overnight in Lake Placid, it wasn’t going to be much of a drive, so we decided to get a little more rest than usual, getting on the road around 7:30 AM or so. It was a cool morning, but the conditions were fairly ideal for mid-October, so we thought we had a great chance to pick up 4 additional High Peaks on our way to completing the 46. If all went well, we planned on leaving the Dix Mountain Wilderness with 43 peaks crossed off our list!

Once we found our way to Elk Lake Road in North Hudson, we encountered our first major huddle before we even got out of the car. It turns out an early Wednesday morning in October is a great time to repave an entire road, and thanks to the construction crew’s eagerness to get stuff done, we were forced to wait probably 10-15 minutes while they laid down fresh gravel over the entire road. It was an extremely annoying moment for us, and it got me a little worried to start out the day like this. I wasn’t honestly too sure how this climb was going to feel, considering all of the elevation changes, the herd path conditions with the leaves falling, and given the fact that this was the first time we tried climbing on back to back days, so I began getting nervous. Nonetheless, the friendly construction workers flagged as through after a short wait, and we were at the parking area shortly after that and were off on our way to Macomb quickly thereafter.

Perfect fall day in the Dix Range

The plan was fairly simply for the day, even if we weren’t overly sure how the trail conditions were going to be. We would take the marked trail leading towards Dix Mountain, and head off to the Slide Brook Lean-To where we would find the Macomb herd path. From there we would just make our way up to Macomb, then to South Dix from there. Once on South Dix it would be a fairly gentle ridge line walk over to Grace Peak before turning around and retracing our steps back to South Dix. On South Dix, we would take the path heading north to the col between South Dix and Hough, before ascending our fourth peak of the day. Instead of going the long way around to the Beckhorn, we decided we would descend off Hough via the Lillian Brook herd path, one that neither of us were too familiar with in any of the blogs or hiking posts we read. It was on the map though, so we figured it shouldn’t be too difficult, and would take some mileage off our overall trip. After just now typing all of this up, I’m actually realizing that that’s not quite so simple of a trip, but it all made sense in my head at least! The first 2.3 miles or so of the trip were fairly simple, all on really smooth, flat, marked trails as the path basically moved around the Elk lake area through private lands before we got into the Dix Mountain Wilderness Area. We took a pretty steady approach on the flat trails, stopping only once we got to the Slide Brook, where we knew the turn-off was right around the corner.

Slide Brook….not much water


We stopped and grabbed a drink at the bridge, and I began looking to see where the trail was going off to. There was a cairn directly next to the brook, but it also looked like that was leading off to a campsite, so I wasn’t overly certain what trail we wanted. We took off a ways down towards the lean-to before realizing we probably wanted to go where the cairn was (because of course we would). The trail does kind of lead through a camping area, but that’s just the way it is, and on the other side it was pretty simply to follow as it ascended steadily alongside the brook.


Cairn located just over the Bridge at Slide Brook


2 Cairns side by side marking the Macomb Herd Path




Given the number of momentary delays we faced already, I decided it was best to start hustling up the side of this mountain. I had it in my mind that we really should get up Macomb by 11 AM in order to complete the loop in broad daylight. I think I kind of surprised Chris with the pace, but I was on a mission and he was more than willing to follow along. We made really good time up the side of Macomb and it wasn’t too long before we reached the behemoth that was the Macomb Slide.


This was one hell of a sight to see up close, and we decided to admire the task ahead of us for a second. We precariously started up the slide after a moment, with the two of us taking different approaches. Chris just went right at the slide, going towards the middle of the rock and finding the best spots to ascend up. I tried a different approach by hugging the left side of the slide and trying to climb any segment of earth I could since the rock was so loose and gravelly. In short, my approach didn’t work too well because I lost my footing and my handholds about 3 or 4 times in a 5 minute span before I decided to just follow Chris’ paths up the rock slide. It was really quite a challenging trail to get up because it was 1) steep and 2) very loosely packed and unsteady. This trail up Macomb is not for the faint of heart for sure. We took our time, making sure we didn’t plunge to our deaths down the slide, and finally got off of the slide after a little bit of work.



Unfortunately for us, the trail continued on relatively steeply for a little ways before finally leveling off near the top of Macomb. We got up to the top of our 40th High Peak and I checked my phone to see the time, and it was 11:05. We basically hit our goal perfectly, and we started to get really pumped about our day. The summit of Macomb is fairly wooded, but there is a nice sized rock outcrop that overlooks the way we came up and the entire Elk Lake area. The views from here were pretty good, actually a little better than we had anticipated. We spent a few minutes on top catching our breath before heading towards peak #2.








Heading over to South Dix from Macomb was a much easier journey than travelling up the Macomb slide. It’s a short, gentle descent to the col, on a very well worn herd path before we reached a trail junction. One path lead down towards Lillian Brook, and the other lead to the large rock face we figured we were supposed to climb. South Dix looks pretty spectacular as you’re climbing it, with a good bit of exposed rock to climb and some nice close up views of Macomb as you ascend.


In almost no time we were up the rock face of South Dix and ended up back in the woods before reaching the real summit. The summit was completely wooded, as we’d known it would be, but it did have a nice rock outcropping looking out towards the south, so it wasn’t all a wash. I’ve seen South Dix mentioned as being unspectacular from other reviews, and while I understand why people may say that, I disagree with that assessment. South Dix is a pretty fun climb with some nice views before and after the summit. We took another break here, caught our breath, and headed on to Grace Peak (formerly known as East Dix).

Andrew On South Dix


Felt good to get #41

The trip from South Dix to Grace was a little bit longer than the trip from Macomb to South Dix, but it was basically just meandering on a ridge line the whole way, so we didn’t have to expend too much energy. I was actually fairly surprised with how nice the herd paths were, considering how remote these peaks were (we didn’t see a single person all day!) The mile walk went by fairly quickly and we got to Grace Peak in good time for our 3rd peak of the day, and 42nd overall. Of the 4 peaks we visited that day, I think Grace may very well be my favorite peak. It has some very interesting features, like a very large rock outcropping on the western summit, and a secondary summit area to the east of the summit with sensational views of Hough and the valley to the east of the range. We spent a good amount of time on the summit just checking out all the different outcroppings and ledges, and seeing all the views. Grace is probably a top ten mountain for me in terms of uniqueness, I was really pleasantly surprised by the payout from this, one of the tiniest of the High Peaks.

Admiring the view from Grace Peak



Ready to go kick Hough’s ass

After enjoying our stay on Grace Peak, and grabbing a few pictures, it was time to keep going as we still had some work to do on the day. After initially descending into cripple brush, I quickly course corrected and we were on our way back to South Dix. Retracing our steps was one of the more annoying parts of the trip, but it’s what had to be. We got back to South Dix pretty quickly and descended off the mountain heading towards Hough Peak. We wasted no time descending and ended up in a flat section where the Lillian Brook herd path intersected our trail. I took a second to look around because I knew this was going to be the spot where we’d want to turn off on the way back, but as we travelled through I couldn’t really spot the turnoff from the trail. This was the point in time where I started to get a bad feeling about the final descent we were going to face, but we’ll get to that later. Going up Hough, after 5 hours and 3 peaks in our legs, was a pretty tough challenge. It was a lot of starting and stopping due to fatigue and a few sketchy decisions thanks to fatigue as well. I went off course at one point and ended up trying to squeeze between thick brush for about 20 feet trying to get back on the path, but other than that we managed to find our way fine. We got to Hough Peak around 3 PM, still in good time, and took a second to catch our breath after bagging our fourth peak of the day. It was one hell of a trip up Hough given how tired we were, but getting the last of our peaks for the day was a great feeling. The summit itself was pretty small, but it was also fairly exposed on a steep ridgeline, so we got some cool views and a very tense sensation with the wind swirling and the drop-off being as severe as it was. Hough was a nice place to catch a breath though and take in the beautiful scenery of the Dix range!

our fourth and final peak of the day
Hough peak #43 for us



We made our way back to the car slowly and steadily, heading down Hough before turning down the Lillian Brook herd path that neither of us had heard much about. My thinking here was that if it’s on the map it can’t be too bad of a trail, and I was very much wrong about that. Once we got back to the wooded field, I started looking on the western edge where the trail was supposed to descend and surely enough I found it after a little bit more searching. From there it was straight down a tough, eroded trail as we lost elevation quite rapidly. It definitely wasn’t the nicest trail I’ve ever taken, it was very steep and eroded as it went down the side of Hough, and by the time we leveled off it became extremely hard to follow. I kept looking for the trail fork that would lead up to Macomb, but to this day I still don’t know where the hell that trail fork was. The one thing I do know is Chris and I ended up losing the trail and just meandering aimlessly through a marshy flat land just above Lillian Brook. It was a frustrating moment for us considering we’ve hiked a few mountains in our day and usually are good with directions, but there were a good few minutes there where we didn’t know what the hell we did wrong. Chris finally spotted the trail about 50 feet down from where we initially lost it, and we kept going with very few other delays. Once we actually got parallel to the brook it was (sort of) simple to follow the trail from there, even though the falling leaves made it a little more challenging than it usually would be. Despite all of our challenges on the herd path, we made it back to the marked trail still in good time. From there it was a simple 3.5 mile victory march back to the car, knowing we got 4 peaks in and had quite an adventure to share!

Recommendations for Hikers: The Dix Range hike is a really awesome experience that I would recommend to any serious hiker. Given some of the extreme parts of the herd paths, I wouldn’t recommend it for casual hikers or family trips though. Also, it’s worth noting that while the herd paths between the peaks were in good shape, the Lillian Brook herd path was very confusing and hard to follow in some places, so I wouldn’t recommend using that trail. The best way to go would be to do all 5 of the peaks in the range together, starting with Macomb and ending on Dix. It’s very much doable in a day hike if you’re in good physical shape and you get an early start.

Macomb: Views – 7, Difficulty 8

South Dix: Views – 3 (1 from the summit itself), Difficulty 6 (easy climb from Macomb, but if you factor in the earlier difficulty, it’s a decent challenge)

Grace: Views – 7 (quality and quantity make this a high score), Difficulty 6 (same note as South Dix)

Hough: Views – 6, Difficulty 8

Seward Mountain

It was a cool mid-October Tuesday morning, and I found myself up at 5 am, before the sun had even risen. The only thing that could mean was it was time to hike. Chris picked me up around 5:30 and we went on to embark on a mini vacation up in Lake Placid, NY. Considering we had some bad early summer luck with getting in days to climb, we decided to head up to Placid for a few days and knock off as many climbs as we could, to make up for the fact that we weren’t going to be able to finish the 46 like we wanted to do this year. It had been a long time since I’d taken a vacation from work, and I couldn’t think of a better way to spend my time off than hiking in the Adirondacks! We had our itinerary for the week basically set, even though we’re very used to changing plans on the fly: we were going to hike Seward that first day, hike the lower 4 mountains in the Dix range the second day, and finish off our trip by climbing Redfield before heading back with 44 peaks off our list. We were both pretty pumped regardless of the early start, and ready to put in some miles on the trails!

After grabbing a bite, and making a stop or two, we finally arrived at the trailhead of the Seward range. Even though we’d both been to the range twice before, it seemed as if the road going in had magically grown by a few miles in length. I felt like an impatient kid thinking to myself “Are we there yet” over and over again as I got tossed around over the bumps of the windy, gravelly road. We grabbed our gear, got our boots, and were on our way to climb the last mountain we needed to visit in the range, Seward itself. We anticipated climbing Seward last year along with Donaldson and Emmons, but after missing a turn off, and suffering through a hot, muggy day, we decided to leave Seward for another time. The climb in is always relatively easy, as the first couple of miles are a long, fairly flat hike in to the herd path on marked trails. There were a few noticeable differences hiking in this time, compared to when we made this same endeavor last summer. First, the left fork in the hiking trail heading towards Ward Brook has been brushed in, leaving only one choice heading towards the junction with the Calkins Brook Trail. We soon found that the trail was merely diverted a few hundred yards down the line, which I found out was done to avoid the further erosion of the trail section where there was a lot of bog bridging.


The trail diversion really doesn’t end up making any significant difference for the hike; it’s just something to keep in mind. The second significant difference hiking in on the Calkins Brook Trail towards Donaldson was the weather. The first time we took this path it was a hot, muggy day in the forest, and the trail was slightly overgrown with weeds and greatly overpopulation with flies. It was an easy hike to the herd path, but an uncomfortable one at the same time. However, hiking the same path in October was a far more pleasant experience. The temperatures were cooler with that fresh autumn smell in the air, the path was a little bit clearer and a little less muddy, and the bugs were virtually non-existent. With the weather working in our favor, we made good time heading towards the Calkins Brook herd path, ready to ascend.



We arrived at the turn off for the herd path a little before 11 am, and this time we didn’t keep walking in the wrong direction! We did stop at the creek before ascending, just to get a bite to eat and collect our thoughts. From what we recalled, we thought we might be able to make the trail juncture between Donaldson and Seward by 12, maybe 12:15 and get to Seward by 1 pm. The trail up the side of Donaldson didn’t seem particularly challenging or hard to follow the first time, so we thought we should be able to make great time. We continued on up the mountain at a steady, gradual pace, while ducking through and around the occasional blow-down and mud hole along the way. The herd path doesn’t contain a great amount of steep ascending up towards Donaldson, but I forgot from the first time what a nuisance some of the spots could be. There were a few very challenging, muddy bogs that were hard to avoid and since it’s a herd path and not a maintained trail, the tree and branch blow-down blocks the trail on more than a few occasions, slowing our pace and progress as we ascended. What should have been a quick ascent up Donaldson turned into a somewhat slow trudge up the mountain. Still, we continued on the trail for a while until we finally reached the junction where the trail split off in two, going towards Donaldson to the south and Seward to the north.

Muddy bog on the Calkins Brook Trail
Seward/Donaldson Trail Junction

Being a Tuesday morning/afternoon after a holiday weekend, we did not run into many people on the trail, especially considering the remote access to the Western High Peaks. However, as we happened upon the trail juncture, we ran into the only group of hikers we saw all day. They were 3 young ladies with full packs, trying to decide whether it was worth it to continue on to Seward. We struck up a conversation with them, which ended up being a good excuse to stop and catch our breaths after a sluggish ascent. I checked the clock on my phone and it read 12:30. I kind of grimaced at the time because I really thought we could make better time than that, but that’s life on the trails for ya I guess, sometimes you make good time and sometimes you don’t. Chris and I decided to lend a few ideas to our fellow hikers as they debated whether or not to hike Seward. Chris suggested they could drop their packs at the junction and to make it easier to head over, while I foolishly suggested that time wise it shouldn’t be so bad to head over to Seward if trying to make it out before nightfall (spoiler alert: I underestimated this climb!) After stopping for a minute, we decided to continue on our way to Seward since we felt like we were a little behind our expected pace anyway. The trail over to Seward started with a steep little dip off of Donaldson, and much to our chagrin it seemed like we just kept descending for a while. I’ll fully admit to the fact that I didn’t prep for this hike or study the map much because we’d already done the majority of the hike, so I was a little thrown off given the short distance between the two peaks how much we were descending off of Donaldson. There was a point once we bottomed out where we could clearly see the kind of wall we were climbing up, and Chris and I both stopped and looked for a second, anticipating what we were about to face up against. After taking a second to admire the peak we were about to climb, there was only thing left to do: get the hell up it!

The ascent started pretty swiftly, and I must say it was surprisingly unrelenting. There were a bunch of really steady steep rock pitches on the way up, ones with less than ideal hand holds or footholds that could rival just about any of the pitches we’d faced in the High Peaks. It was a tough ascent up the steep parts on the southern face of Seward, so we took our time and climbed it with care. The good part about the steep ascent of Seward was that it didn’t take terribly long to get up to a high elevation.




Once we got ourselves up the steep pitches it was just a hike on the ridge to get to the summit. Now I knew as we walked and saw some nice look out spots that the summit itself was supposed to be unspectacular, but as I went ahead searching for the summit sign, I was caught off guard when I finally got there. After all of the work it took to get there, the ups and downs, the tough, steep pitch we had to endure, the summit itself was one of the least spectacular in the High peaks region. The good news was that we finally got to the top of Seward Mountain, peak #39 for both us, but the bad news was that the summit was just a tiny rock in the forest with a sign. That was one hell of a deflating moment to see the 6 foot wide summit was the spot we had been working to all day, but once Chris caught up and we got to lament the uninteresting peak of Seward, we had  a good laugh about the whole thing. A peak is a peak, and we were able to cross another one off our list, which was good enough for both of us!

#39 Seward




After spending a total of 2 minutes on the peak itself (seriously, you can barely fit three people in the summit area) we each got a picture at the sign and headed back to the nicest rock ledge we found just before the summit. From there we got some great views of Donaldson, Emmons, and the vast Saranac/Long Lake region. It was actually a very nice from just below the summit, a nice consolation, and a nice spot for us to stop and have our lunch. After spending about twenty minutes enjoying a snack, taking a few pictures, and getting dive-bombed by a few bees, we decided we had enough of Seward and headed back the way we came. We spent some time debating whether or not we wanted to try to loop the hike and come down by ward brook, but in the end I think we decided we had enough adventure for the day, and would take the trail we knew best on the way back. Besides, we knew we had one hell of an adventure planned for the next day either, so it might be best to save our mental energy for then instead of following a difficult herd path we weren’t familiar with all the way down Seward. So back the way we came was the plan, even knowing we’d have to climb up Donaldson a little bit.

The trip back was fairly uneventful, we made our way gingerly down the steep pitches of Seward and back upwards a little bit to the junction between the trails to Seward, Donaldson, and the Calkins Brook herd path. This was a good spot to take one more break before the final descent on our way back to the car, relax a little bit, shoot some video, and gather up some energy for a final push. Heading back down was simple enough, only hiking one peak for the day left me with enough energy to get down at a good pace, unlike our earlier hike in the Santanoni range where it felt like a chore trying to get back down from Panther at the end of a long day. We meandered our way back over the creek, through the nasty bogs, and over, under and around all of the blow-down until we were back at the creek where we started our climbing. From there it was just a long flat(ish) walk back to the car and back out of the wilderness.

Heading back from Calkins Brook was alright, even though it’s always a minor inconvenience going back up that trail because it’s kind of a false flat. That false flat was much more manageable in October than in the summer though, echoing the thoughts I had coming in. Chris always tells me the Fall is his favorite time to hike, and while I may not love the cool mornings in the High peaks, I’m starting to come around to his way of thinking. There’s something about the air in the Fall, the foliage and the great view of the changing colors from a high elevation that really makes you enjoy nature just that little bit more than in the dog days of summer. At least that’s my perspective, but to each their own I suppose.


About half way back to the junction with the Ward Brook Trail we actually caught up to the group we saw on the way to Seward. They had decided not to head towards Seward after all and just headed back down instead. I may have been kind of a jerk by letting it slip that the summit was kind of a letdown, but I tried to backtrack quickly by mentioning the great views. This is why I let Chris doing the talking when we encounter people on the trails, he’s much better with people than me, but that’s whatever. We continued on ahead without seeing anyone else for the rest of the day until we got to the parking lot. That’s the nice part about hiking in the middle of the week, the now famous crowds in the High Peaks are non-existent, the parking lots have plenty of space, and the wilderness is relatively undisturbed. Saturdays have become a big scene in the High Peaks, making fodder for the newspapers and online publications, and we witnessed just a little bit of that when we hiked Marshall earlier in the year, so it was a smart idea to plan our trips for the middle of the week to avoid crowds and just enjoy the hike. In almost no time, we had reached the Ward Brook trail and from there it was a mere mile and a quarter back to the car. We reached the trail head around 5:30 with plenty of sunlight to spare, and made our way back to Placid to enjoy a good dinner, and rest up for the long day we had ahead of us for the next day.

Recommendations For Hikers: Just like any of Chris’ blog posts on the Seward range, I’ll reiterate the main takeaway lesson: this range isn’t for leisure hikers. Unless you’re trying to complete the 46 I see very little reason to come up to this range, they’re very remote and you have to go quite a distance just to get to the foot of the climbs, and the trails can be treacherous in places with lots of mud, blow-down, and steep pitches (specifically on Seward). Seward itself is a fun hike, but the views really aren’t much to write home about. Combining Seward with Emmons and Donaldson makes for a very long day, and if you try to throw Seymour in then you better be an experienced trail runner because that’s just going to be a painful day. I liked doing Seward by itself, it’s a good, tough climb, but not too exhausting when done as a standalone hike.

Seward: Views – 4(1 from the summit itself) Difficulty – 8