Maine Trip Day 4 – Old Speck Mountain

After 3 days of taking on whatever Maine could throw at us we decided to head over to Old Speck Mountain to finish out our trip.  We knew it was going to be a little bit of a drive to get to the trailhead so we decided to get up a little bit earlier to head over there.  We checked out of the Spillover Motel at around 6:30 in the morning before making our way out of Stratton and towards Rangeley.  We were fortunate enough to stumble upon a solid Bagel Shop for a quick breakfast before ultimately heading towards the trailhead.  I had completely given up on my GPS for the week so Andrew was co-piloting with a road map which proved to be a much more effective method of navigation than getting led to your death down an unpaved hunting road…

After driving through a windy road for over an hour we arrived at the Old Speck Trailhead which much to my surprise was a paved parking lot at around 8:45 a.m.  We could see the task at hand right in front of us as the summit of Old Speck is visible from the parking lot.  Looking at a map in front of us we knew it wasn’t going to be a long hike (7.6 miles) but exactly how the terrain would shake out was to be determined.  After looking for a spot to pay the parking fee we figured out that there in fact were no parking passes or anything of the sort so we just sort of started hiking at that point.

Having never hiked more than 2 days consecutively in my entire life prior to this week and this being day 4 in a row my legs felt like sludge.  The entirety of our hike would be on the Old Speck Trail which coincidentally was also part of the Appalachian Trail.  Even though the trail briefly started out flat it did not last for long, and my body was not so appreciative of this fact at first.  We started what would be a 1 mile ascent to a trail junction where the Old Speck Trail and the “Eyebrow Trail” would meet.  The trip up this 1 mile ascent was absolute murder on our legs.  On any other day this would have been cake for us, but considering the fatigue that we were both experiencing it took a while to make it.  Nonetheless we soldiered on only really stopping to admire a few waterfalls along the way.  Another factor although insignificant for this time a year were a few stream crossings which were very easily navigated.

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After what seemed like forever (in reality it was like 35 minutes) we finally reached the trail junction that we were looking for.  We took the opportunity to get a needed rest for our legs as well as hydrate.

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After the junction we did seem to level off for a little bit, but that was ultimately very short lived as expected because we were less than halfway to the summit and had plenty of elevation left to gain.  Andrew and I kept on walking until we reached some boulders that gave us a little bit more of a perspective as to where we were in relation to the summit.  From the looks of things we looked like we were further away than when we started.  The idea when this trail was blazed was clearly to make the ascent/descent a little more forgiving but in doing so made it kind of ass-backwards.  We also noticed a pattern where it looked like we would rapidly ascend plateau and repeat until we would reach the summit.

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One of many Appalachian Trail Markers we found market with an A and T forming an arrow

Andrew and I really did not take many extended stops up to this point but we also weren’t breaking any records either.  We continued to ascend and plateau for another 20 minutes or so before we finally took the packs off to take a real rest.  While I’m not one who likes to stop too often this day was different.  I was perfectly at peace with just taking our time for a change since the day was so short on mileage, it was perfect outside, and we earned the flippin’ right to just chill for once.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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Getting closer

 

We knew from where we sat that there looked like we had one steep spot in front of us followed by a very gradual ascent to the summit.  Not having a lot of mileage to go we started on a slow pace once again.  The trail actually took a brief descent before rapidly gaining elevation once again.  Surprisingly Andrew and I did not have too many issues getting up this steep portion despite the fatigue we were feeling.  With our legs somehow getting a little juice back into them we kept on pushing for the summit.  About a half mile away from the summit we came to a point where there was a nice lookout into the Maine wilderness.  Up to this point there were really no major obstacles that we had to manage other than your basic hike along a trail.

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Eventually I heard Andrew who got ahead of me whilst I was busy vlogging.  I wasn’t sure what he said at first but I thought I heard him say trail junction or something of that sort.  I then saw what he was talking about as he beautifully presented the following sign.

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Seeing .3 miles to go was just what I wanted to see as my body had just about enough up to this point.  We took it easy for the last 10 minutes until we saw the clearing and firetower marking the summit of Old Speck Mountain.  The area on the summit was left kind of a mess from people who apparently elected to camp there.  I saw a great deal of trash which Andrew and I attempted to clean up along with fire pits that people had created on the summit.  Although seeing this stuff does bother me I was not about to let it sour this great mountain for me.  I made my way up to the top of the fire tower where I could get some of the best views Old Speck had to offer.

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Andrew and I spent 45 minutes on the summit.  We deserved the rest and the opportunity to admire the work we had done the last 4 days.  6 peaks over the course of 4 days was a nice achievement for us while I’m not sure we would do that again it was great hiking a new part of New England and getting away from life for a little bit.  All of that aside we began our leisurely descent of Old Speck Mountain.  It took us 2 hours and 10 minutes to reach the summit from when we started and it was not much more to make our way back down.  When we reached the parking lot I looked back up one final time to take in the day before we headed back to Massachusetts.  57 down and 58 to go.

Recommendation to hikers:  If you want to make the trip to Old Speck it will be worth your while regardless of your hiking experience.  If you want to ascend the firetower on the summit you will be rewarded with some fantastic 360 degree views, but even if you don’t youll find Old Speck to be a pretty easy climb with a nice spot to look out from the summit.

Old Speck:  Views – 7  Difficulty – 3

Sugarloaf Mountain – Maine Trip Day 3

After 2 interesting days in the Carrabassett Valley Andrew and I got up and ready to head to Mt Abraham.  After throwing out a lot of ideas for the day we figured this would be the best plan as our other options down the Caribou Pond Road were crushed (literally) in the form of a bridge demolition.  We made the small trek to Kingfield where we looked for our right turn onto West Kingfield Road.  Much to my relief this was the first paved road in Maine I had seen thus far that was not a major route.  This did not last for too long as just over three miles we were back on dirt.  Per some vague directions we found online we went straight at a 4 way intersection shortly after the road turned to gravel and continued down this road known as the Rapid Stream Road.  To say the Rapid Stream Road sucked would be a compliment as I spent most of my time white-knuckling the steering wheel dodging large rocks and muddy dips in the road while trying not to bottom out or skid off this “road” into the raging stream we were paralleling.  After about 2 miles and what seemed like an hour drive we came to a fork in the road.  The diretions online indicated we were supposed to make a left at this fork so we did.  Big mistake…the road here turned into soft dirt and mud and your suspension needed to be 2 feet high to avoid bottoming out.  We continued down here for a few minutes before I just could not do this piece of crap road in my little Ford Fusion anymore.

It was at this moment where we established an ongoing theme for the day, and that was to completely stop caring.  We turned around in what looked like the only place that was possible and headed back down the road where we came from.  We spent some time lamenting the fact that yet again the roadways kicked our ass before coming to the decision to drive to the Sugarloaf Mountain Ski Area.  We were a little bit disappointed with how the day was going so far, but that didn’t last for too long.  We knew that it was not the ideal hike but given how nice the day was and our desire to get a climb in we decided to make the most of it.

We arrived at the Sugarloaf Mountain Ski Area just after 11:00 a.m.  We walked around a little bit near the base lodge, not that we wanted to waste any time we just really didn’t know where we should park or start.  After going into the lodge we ran into someone who directed us where to park and for us to check in at the reception area at the hotel.  Checking in at the desk just seemed pointless to me but nonetheless we went over at the attendants request and informed them we would be hiking.  They wanted to know where we were for “search and rescue” purposes (eyeroll).  The attendant at the desk advised us to take the “Tote Road” ski trail to the top which given our lack of any sort of plan we figured we would give it a try.

We walked past the parking lot and found ourselves a trail map.  We made our best guess at that point as to where “Tote Road” and got going.  The incline started almost instantly as we kind of expected since this was a ski area.  We found out pretty quickly that hiking 3 days in a row was going to be brutal on the legs.  I cant say that we were feeling pain but the lack of bounce in our step was definitely noticeable as our legs were more or less lifeless.  This lack of power in the legs made this first portion more daunting than it needed to be so we ended up taking frequent breaks right off the bat.  Fortunately we figured out we were on the right trail as we came across a sign for Tote Road.

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Tote road was definitely good to us for a little bit.  What started out as a grassy steep hill turned into a gravel road that was relatively flat for a short period of time.  The quick break from the ascent did not last too long as Andrew and I started to make our way back up the mountain again.  We found ourselves paralleling a little bit before we decided it was time to just start winging it.  We took a moment to devise some sort of strategy which ended up being “screw it lets go straight up”.  This in theory seems like a great idea, but we found out quickly why some trails have a lot of switchbacks worked into it.  It was f—ing steep.  I found myself struggling mightily to make my way up the soft grassy trail choosing to ascend it by doing a diagonal route across the trail numerous times.  Andrew did not seem to have any better plan so he followed suit.  We must of stopped on this thing at least six times before the top was within a realistically attainable distance.  Finally we made it to the top before my suspicions that we just ascended a double black diamond trail was confirmed by the following trail sign.

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Good ol’ Skidder was quite the bitch I must say as I think descending this on foot would be equally if not more horrifying than it would be on skis.  Anyway from that point we managed to get back onto another gravel road who really knows what it was called.  Regardless it gave us a chance to catch our breath again and look for our next path up the mountain.  Sadly for my legs we still had some ascending left to do before we reached what looked like the top of the ski lift we seemed to be paralleling.  Thankfully the climb to the next trail map took a lot less out of us…not that there was much left at this point.  Once Andrew got a look at the map he noticed that there were only a few more trails to get to the summit so we opted to just take the first one we came across, again just winging it.

 

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A look up our final push to the summit

At this point of the day our legs were spent but strangely working well enough to carry us through this last little bit.  After 5 minutes going up this last ski trail we finally broke tree line for good and made our way up to the rocky summit of Sugarloaf.  On the way I could help but notice an abundance of trash and other crap, and oh yeah cell towers which for me didn’t ruin the experience but it did make it feel weird.  It didn’t take us all that long from when we started but I was happy to be at the summit and get in a peak despite Maine throwing us infinite curveballs.  We must have spent over a half hour at the summit, and despite the horrible bugs we managed to enjoy ourselves.

 

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Yay At&t

 

 

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Failed assassination attempt of the cell tower

 

After touring the strange yet still impressive summit of Sugarloaf we decided it was time to head back down.  We decided we were just going to wing it for the entire descent so with that in mind we made our way to the comically named Cinder Hoe.  We decided the name made us laugh hard enough (yeah I’m immature I guess…whatever) that we would grace the trail with our presence.  That lasted a short bit because before long the trail became overgrown with vegetation that I could not really identify so we cut through some trees and walked directly under the ski lift until we were back on a gravel road.  We followed this for some time and it was pretty easy going until we decided to get back on the grassy ski trails.  We came to a sign for Tote Road again as well as a few other trails which meant it was time to make another decision.

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Well you can probably guess that we did not take the suggested route down because to us it seemed less direct and less fun.  So we decided to literally run down the Double Bitter trail which was rated a black diamond for skiers.  To be honest the running was sort of fun as we don’t typically have conditions available to condone such methods of descent.  I honestly wouldn’t recommend running down a mountain although I guess all of you psychotic trail runners do so who am I to suggest its not the safest.  Anyway this did help to cut more time off our descent.  We kept jogging off and on down random trails until we finally saw the base lodge again.  After all that transpired earlier in the day we were happy to get one closer to the Northeast 111 and successfully complete our third straight day for hiking.  We decided to make our way back into “town” and relax for the night.

Recommendation for Hikers:  Sugarloaf Mountain can be hiked pretty easily from the ski area but many may try to hike this from the Caribou Pond Road for a more conventional hiking experience (this option was not available to us since they were constructing new bridges on the way to the trailhead).  For peak baggers it may be wise to combine this climb with Spaulding Mountain and Mt Abraham especially if you need to make a long trek to get here.  All in all the hike is not crazy difficult at just over 4 miles but the views are slightly soured by the presence of the summit cell towers.

Sugarloaf:  Difficulty – 3  Views – 7

 

Mt Redfield

About 1 month since Andrew and I tried our hand at snow covered Mt Garfield we decided to spend part of our Memorial Day weekend in the Adirondacks.  With only 3 peaks left to go in the Adirondacks we decided to go for Mt Redfield which has proven to be elusive to us in the past.  To explain what I mean by elusive….We have intended to climb Redfield on 3 different occasions.  The first was the day we got to the Loj only to find out we had no parking options to which we left and hiked Basin and Saddleback instead.  The next was when we attempted to hike Redfield with Cliff Mountain last year only to be short on daylight and we were forced to leave only bagging Cliff.  The last was our October trip from last year where Redfield was going to be the third day of a three day trip, it rained. hard.  So the hope was our 4th try would be the charm.  Fortunately we arrived at the Adirondack Loj around 7:30 a.m. which was early enough to get a spot to park.  We paid for parking and got ourselves situated before throwing on the packs just before 8:00 a.m.

Andrew signed us in to the register which seemed to indicate Redfield was not a popular option for the day.  Except one person apparently thought it was wise to hike Redfield, Cliff and Marshall in one day.  This led me to believe that this was one of those psychotic trail runners, an idiot, or a liar but I digress.  Almost immediately Andrew decided to go track star on Patrick and I by setting a ridiculous pace to get to Marcy Dam.  35 minutes later (has to be a record) we were there at which point Patrick decided he needed liquids.

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Patrick looking directly into the sun

We signed in at the 2nd register again noticing minimal company headed to Redfield before taking off on our torrid pace yet again.  It was another mile or so of flat ground until we crossed a stream right before our trail junction.

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Stream right before our trail junction

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Typically I have heard of people climbing Mt Redfield from either Upper Works or going via the Lake Arnold trail.  Naturally we were doing neither and instead going via Avalanche Pass although this was not without reason.  From DEC reports issued just a few days prior we were under the impression that the Lake Arnold trail was virtually impassible along with some questions about Calamity Brook from Upper Works.  With all of this in mind we thought this would be the only option.  That being said we started to ascend towards Avalanche Pass which was a little bit steeper than I remember.  The crazy pace that we set early on was already taking its toll on us as we started to get pretty winded in short order.  Fortunately just as we were feeling pretty lame we came to the massive Avalanche Pass Slide and its many wooden victims at its base.  Contrary to our last visit to Avalanche Pass (see Iroquois & Algonquin) trail maintenance had done some serious work on the trail throughout the Pass

 

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This is a little nicer than the video

After making though the initial flat portion which had been generously planked out by maintenance crews (many thanks)  we got to the oh so fun boulder hopping which we have come to really know and love with Avalanche Pass.  Despite the slow go of it we always enjoy our trips though Avalanche pass as it provides unique scenery in the Adirondacks.

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Upon reaching the end of Avalanche Lake we saw that there was a nice bridge there for us which was a significant improvement from the last time were we walked right into the lake in order to continue with our day.  From there we kept on going until we reached the interior outpost register near Lake Colden.  We once again signed in and hung a left towards the edge of Lake Colden.

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For the most part we really had not stopped at any point during the day despite the fact that we kind of burned ourselves out early on.  We decided we would take our first real break at the junction where the Mt Colden trail meets Lake Colden before ultimately pushing onward for a long time.  After paralleling Lake Colden for a considerable amount of time we reached a trail junction indicating we had only 1.5 miles to go to reach our herd path at Uphill Lean-to.

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Shortly after continuing from the junction we reached a small suspension bridge over what I believe is the Opalescent.

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We crossed this one at a time as we did not want the bridge to reverberate and knock someone into the raging stream below.  After gingerly crossing the bridge we continued onward on a gradual ascent towards Uphill Lean-to.  We were paralleling the Opalescent for a pretty good distance which provided us with some incredible scenery down into a chasm like area flowing with a high volume of water.

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After being distracted by the power of heavily flowing water I managed to get my attention back to the task at hand and make my way towards our herd path.  In what was roughly 45 minutes we made it from the trail junction to the herd path.  The trail ascended pretty consistently for that entire stretch with a quick drop just before Uphill Brook/Lean-to.

 

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Cairn marking the herd path for Redfield, right across from Uphill Lean-to

 

From the cairn marking the herd path for Redfield and Cliff we continued until we would eventually reach a second cairn marking the point where the path forks in two different directions.  Once we reached the second cairn we decided it would be wise to take in some calories as we were faced with the toughest part of the day, that being the main ascent of Mt Redfield.  To this point we were all feeling pretty good as the day really had not put too much stress on our bodies although we did travel quite the distance to reach this point.

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Fueled up and ready to go

 

We began the ascent towards Redfield going at a pretty good clip, but it did not last for long.  The herd path itself was very nice and scenic as it paralleled a stream for a large portion of it.  However the trail itself got much steeper than it had at any point during the day and we were beginning to feel the effects on our legs.  Patrick in particular was having a major struggle getting to the summit.  I kind of felt bad for him since it had been a solid year since bringing him with me on a hike and Mt Redfield isn’t exactly a casual hike.   I took a minute to admire the surroundings with Patrick before providing some encouragement “were almost there”….”well sort of”.

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Final push time

 

Andrew kind of went off on his own pace while I hung back with Patrick as leaving him behind would probably be a little demoralizing.  A little more motivational talk and a couple tenths of a mile later I could hear Andrew having a conversation on the summit.  I let Patrick know the good news as we approached our summit.  I could see the relief on my brothers face as I knew the day had taken a lot out of him.  It was time to enjoy the summit and a well deserved break.

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Summit number 44 for Andrew

 

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Patrick conquering his 10th Adk High Peak

 

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Only 2 to go in the Adirondacks

 

 

 

 

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Great panorama from the summit of Redfield, our next Adk High Peak Allen Mountain in the center

 

We were happy to have the worst of the day over with.  It took just 9 miles to get to the summit of Redfield and we knew we would have the same distance just to get back.  Mustering the mental energy to get through the rest of the day is always a challenge on hikes like this, but its what it takes to become a 46er, and the reality that Andrew and I are just 2 away from achieving our goal from 3 years ago was more than enough to push us through.  We decided to take it easy going down from Redfield before once again stopping at the junction for Redfield and Cliff before getting a little more nutrition for the 8 miles that remained.

The rest of the day from here on out was simple slow and steady with the only real obstacle being Avalanche Pass and a bunch of black flies that decided to make an appearance in the afternoon by feasting on my face.  It took us about 5 hours to reach the summit and 5 and a half to make it back to the Adirondack Loj.  My whole body was sore but it was another well earned victory for the three of us.

Recommendation to Hikers:  The casual hiker will find Mt Redfield to be a pretty unappealing option although a nice outlook at the summit does provide somewhat of a reward its just too long of a day for someone not looking to become a 46er.  Aspiring 46ers will want to try and get this done with Cliff if possible, but if that cant be accomplished there are multiple approaches you can take to get to Mt. Redfield.  The most popular seem to be via Lake Arnold trail of from Upper Works however if given the choice I would go the same route we went through Avalanche Pass.  It offered us pretty forgiving terrain and a gradual ascent which I found to be pretty easy until reaching the herd path.

Redfield:  Views – 5  Difficulty – 9

 

 

 

Mt Garfield

 

After yet another long winter Andrew and I were tired of waiting and decided to go out for our first ever April climb.  The weeks leading up seemed to just drag along with us messaging different hiking plans back and forth almost every night.  Andrew arrived at my place in Chelsea the night before and we decided to go with none of the other ideas we discussed and hike Mt Garfield instead.  By the looks of things we figured a 10-12 mile day (depending on the parking situation) and a pretty gradual ascent seemed like the way to go.  All things considered we made our way up to the White Mountains pretty early leaving just after 6:00 a.m.  I had a general idea of where I was going although really I probably could’ve used a GPS, but the 5 seconds required to enter the coordinates seemed like far too much effort at the time.

We arrived at the Gale River Loop Road (after passing it) right around 9:00 a.m.  We realized we were going to have to add 2 miles to our day since the gate to the actual trailhead was still closed.  This was not much of a concern as a mile walk down a dirt road reminded us to walking down the AMR road near the Ausable Club in Keene Valley.  We would ultimately reach the trailhead after a quick 20 minute walk where we saw a nice map of the trail we would be taking.

 

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Trail Register for the Garfield Trail

 

 

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5 Miles to the summit

 

After checking out our route (which had already done the night before anyway) we began to make our way up the Garfield Trail.  We knew it was only going to be a quick 5 miles to reach the summit and by the looks of the contours on the map we did not expect the hike to be all that steep.  Surprisingly things were incredibly dry at the start with leftover foliage from last fall littering the trail and nothing else.  We were moving along pretty quickly until we came to our first stream crossing.

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With little to no trouble at all we made our way through that first stream crossing in the process hopping said stream in two places before heading up the trail again.  Still the trail conditions were dry and relatively flat as we made our way to yet another stream crossing which we expected to be the last one we would encounter on our ascent.  After yet again making our way through with little to no trouble we just kept on going.  We continued along for about 2 miles before finding a nice place to sit down and take a break.

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Andrew approaches another crossing

The break was short, just enough to catch our breath and intake a little nourishment.   The day the far had been a piece of cake with not much in the way of an incline, mud, or really any sort of obstacles so we were pretty happy, but also reserved with the though being something is eventually going to get in the way.  It wasn’t too long before that thought came to life in the form of winters unfortunate excrements scattered along the trail and surrounding areas

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sigh…

Facing what we knew had the potential to be a major nuisance the rest of the day we continued down the snowy trail with our snowshoes ready to go just in case.  We found ourselves walking on top of the snow with relative ease.  Assisting this was a nicely packed “monorail” a term I learned the night before reading various trail reports.  We continued our walk along the snow noticing that it was gradually getting deeper as our elevation increased.  The trail itself however was not overly steep as we began to approach the switchbacks we saw when looking at the map.  This portion of the trail reminded me of the Ridge Trail on the way to Giant Mountain in the Adirondacks with the zig-zagging along until reaching higher elevation versus just going straight up.  After navigating this portion we noticed the trees were beginning to thin out so we stopped to peak through the dwindling trees.

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Shortly after stopping we noticed the elevation gain was starting to get a little more rapid, making the traction on the bottom of my boots get a little less reliable.  It wasn’t too long before we noticed a little sign marking our location in relation to the summit and the campsite that is just .2 miles from said summit.

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Andrew and I continued along at no point post-holing but slipping a little more frequently with the steeper gradient.  Eventually we reached the trail junction for the Garfield Ridge Trail to the summit and the Garfield Ridge Tentsite.  We knew from here it was just under a quarter of a mile until we would reach our first summit of 2017.

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The sign was a little confusing as there was nothing that really just said Mt Garfield.   Fortunately common sense and the fact that we had already seen the map earlier we knew that we wanted to go towards Mt Lafayette as the summit of Garfield is along the same trail.  The last stretch was by far the most challenging part of our day.  The trail was steep and the snow was very slick and despite having snowshoes we did not really feel like putting them on for such a short distance.  In our typical fashion we were just winging it.  As we approached the summit I had begun to gain on Andrew and if not for me doing so we may have had a situation.  While trying to navigate the steepest portion of the trail Andrew lost all traction and began to slide down the mountain.  If not for me being there to break the momentum there wasn’t too much stopping him from sliding down another 75-100 feet through a bunch of trees.  Long story short we should have worn traction for this part.  Fortunately we broke through the snow and got to bare rock and from there it was just a quick easy walk to the summit of Mt Garfield.  Mt Garfield marked my 50th peak and for Andrew his 46th.  The views were spectacular offering a full 360 degrees of White Mountain wilderness to admire on top of a foundation of what used to be a fire tower.

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Nice Panorama looking towards Owls Head, Liberty, Flume, Lincoln & Lafayette

 

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Andrew On Garfield

 

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Enjoying my first ever April climb

 

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Nice panorama to the North of Garfield

After thoroughly enjoying the summit we decided to make our way down the mountain.  This time however we were not going to leave the traction devices on the pack.  Andrew affixed his microspikes to his boots and I did so with my snowshoes.  I liked this for a couple reasons, the first being it would certainly be safer than what we attempted going up and the second being we would get a nice comparison between the two.  Andrews spikes seemed to be the winner as he was able to get down much quicker than I wearing snowshoes although the teeth on the bottom of my shoes provided plenty of added friction in the snow.  After about a mile of hiking with the snow shoes I took them off as they were only slowing me down and we were well past the worst of what Garfield was going to throw at us.  We made our way down until we reached the end of the snow line and stopped to get a quick drink before making our way out.

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Andrew fuels up for the final push

 

 

At his point we reached that point we do in almost every hike where we just wanted to go full speed back to the trailhead.  That was just what we did stopping only when we reached the trailhead only slowing down to hop over the streams which were surprisingly not much higher than they were at the beginning of the day.  We walked back to the car feeling pretty good about the day with nothing more than some wet boots to fuss about.

Recommendation To Hikers:

Mt Garfield is about as easy a hike as I can remember as far as the trail conditions go.  If there wasn’t snow there wouldn’t really be anything to stop us.  Given the conditions we found out that traction devices would be highly advisable but even so the hike would have been plenty possible without them.  You really get the bang for your buck with a beautiful summit offering 360 degree views.

Mt Garfield:  Difficulty:  5 (3 without snow)  Views: 9

 

 

 

 

Cliff Mountain

It had been about a week since my hike in New Hampshire which I was hoping would prepare me for the daunting task of ascending Mt Redfield and Cliff Mountain in the same day.  Andrew and I left Clifton Park just before 5:00 a.m.  A long drive and a few pit stops later we arrived at the Adirondack Loj parking lot for 8:00 a.m.  Despite the late start we still had it in out mind to tackle both Redfield and Cliff and with that in mind we bolted for Marcy Dam.  As usual Andrew and I made very quick work of the 2.1 miles to Marcy Dam.  The walk provided us with a really nice warm up paired with the chilly morning we really could not ask for better conditions.  From there we signed in at the register and took off down the trail towards Lake Arnold.  Once again Andrew and I were very familiar with the trail although we did notice that work had been done putting stones and gravel on the ground in some of the wetter areas.  We reached the next trail junction where the trail forks to Avalanche Pass or to Lake Arnold and we decided to take a quick break.  I noticed along the way that there were a lot of new out houses along the trail leading up to this point.  My guess is that this was in effort to cut down on trail poopers but who knows.

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From here Andrew and I knew that we had a little bit of an ascent in front of us so we tried to get a quick pace going as we wanted to set ourselves up to have enough daylight to complete the two mountains.  We went non-stop until we reached another trail junction at which point Andrew and I stopped to hydrate and catch our breath.

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Follow the trail toward Lake Arnold

 

After joking around for a bit we took off for Lake Arnold.  It didn’t take to long before we reached the high point of the trail.  The whole portion of the trail leading up to this point is a very consistent gradient but not overwhelming by any means.  As we started to descend towards Feldspar Brook Andrew noticed his pack open and his jacket missing.  So Andrew decided to go looking for his jacket and I decided I wanted no part of that crap so I sat and ate a granola bar.  About 10 minutes elapsed and Andrew finally popped out of the woods with his jacket in hand.  Andrew quickly got a drink and we continued towards Feldspar.  Along the way we came back to the floating logs in that small pond/bog thing which once again we crossed without any issue other than a few loose logs.  After this portion the longs lining the trail were not all that secure making the footing shaky at best.  Loose logs aside we managed to get through it without issue or injury and finally came to our next trail junction near Feldspar Brook.

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Take trail towards Uphill Lean-to

From here we did not waste any time heading towards the Uphill Lean-to.  Along the way we noticed that the trail had been re-routed away from the brook.  Upon observing the brook we noticed that a large part of the banking had completely washed away likely from a flash flood a couple years ago.  Aside from this the hike to the herd path for Cliff and Redfield was a pretty straight forward walk through the woods.  After about 15 minutes or so we came across a cairn marking the herd path

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Cairn marking herd path towards Redfield and Cliff

We walked along a pretty muddy path looking for another cairn which would mark the trail junction for Redfield and Cliff.  After about 5-10 minutes we found the second cairn.

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The plan was to go ahead and hike Cliff first and then if we had the time go and run up Redfield.  The trail to Cliff was immediately very muddy and we slowly started to ascend.  The trail had several logs laid down along the way telling me that it used to be maintained.  Andrew told me that it was an old trail to Mt Marcy which I did find a little interesting.  After very gradually ascending for a bit we came to another cairn where we would take a right to follow the herd path.  From this point you can add a bunch of blowdown to the mud issues we were experiencing.  The blowdown then turned into a bunch of rock scrambles, the likes of which we hadn’t really seen since we climbed Saddleback last year.  Although the scrambles are trickier than your basic hiking its always been my favorite parts of any hike.

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We made pretty quick work of the rock scrambles and from there I was expecting to arrive at the summit.  Turns out we still had some walking to do…The summit is never as close as you think it is as Andrew and I had to walk on what was reasonably flat terrain (or at least compared to the last half mile) for the next half mile or so until we reached the summit of Cliff Mountain.

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Andrew and I on the summit of Cliff

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The summit itself was very heavily wooded and offered little to nothing as far as a view went although we did get one nice lookout point along one of the rock scrambles we had to traverse.

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We spent close to a half hour on the summit after we pretty much gave up on the idea that we would be able to reach Redfield and get out by dark.  The situation was compounded by the small group we encountered on the summit.  There were three people.  The first was a 46er who resembled Buffalo Bill, a woman who seemed perfectly normal, and a veteran sitting next to an empty 6 pack of Shocktop.  He told us there was 3 keys to life.

#1.  Don’t hike Cliff ever again

#2.  Don’t hike Sawteeth via the Scenic Trail

#3.  Don’t get married

After the weird conversation they took off, we got a few pictures, and took off for the Loj.  We slowly worked our way down Cliff rather slowly, and along the way we passed the 3 amigos, and managed to avoid any more conversation in spite of their efforts to part more sagely wisdom upon us.  By the time we made it back to Marcy Dam essentially coming out the same route we used to get to Cliff we were spent.  From here Andrew and I took a slower pace for the last 2 miles until we reached the Loj with about an hour of daylight left to spare.  For Andrew and this marked the 38th high peak we had climbed to date.

Recommendation for Hikers:  Average hiker will probably hike this and never want to go again.  Its a long day with and a rugged herd path.  For the aspiring 46er you may want to get an earlier start if possible and combine this with Redfield.  Although long and grueling its best to get them both done at once….unlike us.

Cliff:  Views – 3  Difficulty – 9

 

 

Mt Pierce & Mt Eisenhower (NH)

A beautiful Saturday plus a three day weekend almost always means I’m hiking.  This time I was ready to take on the Whites again with Sarah tagging along.  The plan for the day was to take on the Mt Pierce and Mt Eisenhower loop by ascending the Crawford path and coming back down the Edmands path to the trailhead.  Given the relatively short distance of the hike we weren’t too concerned about getting an early start for this one.  We made the 2.5 hour drive up 93 and down rte. 302 just past Bretton Woods to the trailhead.  Given the amount of cars parked on the side on the road on the way up I figured the lot would be packed.  Sure enough we were stuck parking off the road and yet still needed to pay the $3 parking fee.   After figuring out that little debacle we got going down the Crawford Path to Mt Pierce.

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As has been the case with most of the White Mountain climbs Ive done to date there was not much of a warm up period to this climb.  Instead the ascent began almost immediately.  Sarah and I set a pretty fast pace right out of the gates.  We kept at this pace until we reached a sign for Gibbs Falls.  We decided to take the brief detour to check it out and it was not disappointing but at the same time not the most spectacular waterfall I have come across in my hiking escapades.

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Gibbs Falls

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After the waterfall we got back on the Crawford Path and headed off towards Pierce.  The climb was very steady, never too steep yet never flat almost the entire way to Pierce.  There were a few trail junctions on the way however you never really make a turn off of the Crawford Path, rather just stay straight until you break tree line.

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Once we broke tree line it was not long before we reached the summit of Mt Pierce.  The summit is marked with a very large cairn along with a geological summit marker on 2 different rocks.  We took some time on the summit to really enjoy the view as we had done the entire ascent in just under 2 hours.

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Cairn marking summit of Mt Pierce
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Geological Survey marker on Pierce
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Sarah and I on Pierce
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View Towards Eisenhower and the Presidentials

After fueling up on Clif Bars and Gatorade and getting our picture taken a few times we kept on going to make our ascent of Mt Eisenhower.  Just looking at the terrain in front of us it appeared we would be above tree line for the majority of the hike to Eisenhower.  Turns out I was right, we gradually descended from Pierce really only stopping to shed a layer of clothing before once again clearing tree line on the way up to Eisenhower.

The walk to Eisenhower was not that difficult and we seemed to be getting there rather quickly.  Once we reached the col between Pierce and Eisenhower we started to realize the last bit would be pretty intense as the gradient increased rather dramatically.

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“oh….hey Eisenhower”

The trail would go in kind of a zig zag pattern for most of the way up Eisenhower with a few scrambles mixed in.  Cairns clearly mark the trail until you reach the summit of Eisenhower.  Once on the summit which was clearly marked by a giant cairn and well over a dozen people we decided to sit down and catch our breath for a little bit, while enjoying the spectacular views of the Presidential Range.

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Sarah and I on Eisenhower’s summit

After enjoying the summit for a good while Sarah and I finally began to make our way down Eisenhower towards the Edmands Path.  Sarah seemed to think  we were supposed to go back the way we came to access that which to me sounded wrong given my research of the trail.  We went with my gut instinct as opposed to Sarahs which turned out to be the right call.  The way off the rocky summit was steep and windy.  We knew we were close to the Edmands Path when we reached a section of trail where we could see what looked like 5 or 6 trails meeting at the same point from above.

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From the trail junction we knew it would be a 2.9 mile trek back to the road and another 2.3 until we got back to our car.  Before we made our trek down we stopped at a sign warning hikers of the potential weather conditions near the summit.  We paid very little mind to it since we were not going to be spending any more time at the summit, but it raised my eyebrows as to the kind of weather that occurs in this part of the mountains.

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Beware of weather
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There was a moose sticker with the state of Texas cut into it on this sign…

The way down was easy straightforward hiking. For most of it Sarah and I were almost jogging, passing easily over 20 hikers on the way down.  Before long we had reached the road.  We were pretty tired and hungry up to that point considering we had really gone at a fast pace and hadn’t stopped much for anything.  We made the 2.3 mile walk down to the trailhead while Sarah kept track of the Sox Yankees game on her phone. (Sox won!)  Once there we threw the gear off and headed to Lincoln NH for some chow.  All in all a successful day climbing 2 mountains in 5.5 hours!

Recommendation to hikers:  Pierce and Eisenhower is a great loop hike suitable for all shapes and sizes.  The summits reward you with spectacular views all the way around.  Just be mindful of the weather conditions on the day you go as it can get pretty nasty!

Pierce:   Views – 8  Difficulty – 4

Eisenhower:  Views – 9  Difficulty – 4

Mt Marshall

On a hot day in August Andrew and I decided it was about time to get back out on the trails.  In the week leading up to the hike we had initially intended to finish the Dix Range.  However the night before the hike Andrew informed me he had been feeling off for a couple days and wasn’t sure that was in the cards.  Given how Andrew was feeling we opted for what we felt would be a simpler hike.  With that in mind Marshall seemed to be the best fit for us on this day.  We managed to get on the road a little after 5:00 a.m. and get some breakfast along the way.  We arrived at the Upper Works trailhead just before 8:00 a.m., but not before enduring some interesting sections of road work along the way.  We got a nice glimpse of what used to be an active iron mining area of Tahawus and found the New York history pretty interesting.

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After signing in at the register we got going down what was a pretty well maintained trail until we reached our first junction about a quarter of a mile into the hike.

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After the first junction we found another one in very short order, and it had a special reminder for anyone wishing to crap in the woods.

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From this point you want to make sure you follow the red trail markers toward Lake Colden.  The trail from this point on was very simple with mostly flat sections and planks to help you get through some muddy areas.  At one point we got to an area with a large clearing which we stupidly thought was the flowed lands (nope), but it did give us a little scenery to start the day off.

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It wasn’t long until we made it to a bridge at which point we switched over to some blue trail markers that would lead us towards Lake Colden.  I should mention that while you are supposed to go towards Lake Colden you don’t actually reach the lake, if you do you have gone too far and will need to double back to get to Marshall.

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The trail up to this point had been very flat with virtually no obstacles making it a good warm up for what we would have in store for us the rest of the day.  Knowing that we would have to start gaining some elevation at some point we figured we shouldn’t get used to things being so easy.  Gradually we started to hit some inclines but even so it was not overwhelming so we just kept up our leisurely pace we had established to start the day.  One obstacle we started to encounter more of the further we went was the mud, several sections were sopping wet, and when stepped onto would leak over the top of my boots which resulted in wet socks for most of the day.  We kept on going through mud and all until we got to a portion  where the trail forked in two different directions at a steadily moving brook.  We figured this was a decent spot to assess the map and get a drink of water.

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Turns out the reason the trail forks is because of the stream.  The foot bridge you can see in the distance was put in place for the potentially high water.  Given the dry year we have had there was no such issue and no need for us to take the bridge.  With this in mind we kept on going until we reached what looked like a blank trail sign.  The trail went in both directions so we decided to take a left.  While it really wasn’t the right way I am happy we ventured there as it took us to the David Henderson monument.  Long story short this monument is in honor of David Henderson who accidentally shot himself over 150 years ago.

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The Henderson Monument
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Calamity Pond

After admiring another piece of New York history along with scenic Calamity Pond we turned back and headed in the right direction.  The trail after this was once again just a very gradual incline until we reached a second register near the Flowed Lands.

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In reality you don’t really want to follow any of the arrows as you don’t want to enter the Flowed Lands or Lake Colden.  Instead go left towards a small campsite (if you look at the register there is a campsite marker pointing left you’ll want to follow that)  The red trail markers will mark this area until you eventually get to a cairn marking the start of the herd path for Marshall.

Shortly after finding the herd path towards Marshall I was rudely greeted by a hornet.  For anyone allergic to bee stings please carry an epipen on your hikes because you really never know what can happen.  Fortunately for me I am not and just had to deal with some substantial burning in my leg for the next 30 minutes or so.  I kept on going until we started to parallel Herbert Brook.  We meandered along this brook for quite some time crossing it more times than I can count until we made it to another rock cairn.

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The trail forks at that first cairn, look for this second one to the left which will mark the correct direction

Now according to our map which Andrew had recently purchased it looked to be about a quarter of a mile from this point until we would reach the summit.  However after going through and climbing it I am pretty convinced that it is in fact more than that.  Nonetheless after a few muddy spots and a couple of trickier rock scrambles we made it to the summit of Mt Marshall.  Marshall stands as the 25th tallest peak in the Adirondacks, and for Andrew and I our 37th high peak climbed.  The views from the summit sign were non-existent, but after a little bit of exploring we managed to find some rock outcrops that gave us some very nice views towards the South and East.

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#37
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Andrew on Marshall
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Typical 2 course summit meal for me

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Standing on an outcrop near the summit of Marshall
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Andrew looks to the Flowed Lands below

As far as the pace of our hike, we managed to get through about 6.5 miles in just over 4 hours which is relatively slow for us.  However given the heat and the fact we knew it was only a 1 peak day it was mostly our intention to go slow.  We packed up the gear and trudged our way back down muddy Mt Marshall.  Along the way I did stop to get a picture of Iroquois Peak, and also remember the stupidity we were guilty of on that day.

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View of Iroquois Peak my halfway point

After the brief stop we went back down the Herbert Brook trail until we reached the marked trail again.  It had taken us about an hour and a half to get back to the second register which was about the same as it took us to ascend the mountain from that point.  From there we continued down the straightforward marked trail until we reached the bridge we had crossed earlier in the day.  From there it was only going to be 1.2 miles until we would reach the parking lot.

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Almost back…yay

After drinking the last of my water we just booked it until we got back to the trailhead.  It was just after 5:00 p.m. when we reached the lot making this a 9 hour day for us.  Overall I was happy with the day and we decided to make our way to Keene Valley for some food to celebrate number 37.

Recommendation to Hikers:  Mt Marshall did not really present too big of a task for us despite the fact that you will encounter some sloppy trails while hiking this mountain.  Once you reach Herbert Brook try to stay on the herd path as it started to meander a bit and you will cross this brook numerous times so make sure you pay attention.  On another note the water levels are quite low for the time being. Make sure you are careful crossing especially in spring when the water is higher.  The average hiker may find all the mud and lack of summit view as a draw back, but there are some spots near the summit that will offer you some great views towards the Southern Adirondacks and also towards the East.

Marshall:  Difficulty – 5  Views – 5