Killington Peak (VT)

 

After a long winter of wishing it was spring and a long spring of wishing it was spring (are you confused yet) Andrew and I finally got to strap on our boots and conquer another mountain.  Over the winter I ended up making yet another relocation this time I packed up my things and headed back to the empire state to kind of officially start life with Sarah.  Given logistics and the crazy as hell year I have on my platter Andrew and I figured it would be best to focus on the Green Mountains this year as it would be much easier on travel to knock out the Vermont climbs.  With all that being said we decided to start on Killington.

We headed out from my parents place just after 7:00 a.m. on what we had figured to about a 2 hour drive to the Bucklin Trailhead in Mendon, VT. After a couple pit stops in Lake George and Rutland we found Wheelerville Road which is a windy dirt road directly off of Rte. 4. After weaving down the road we spotted the trailhead right next to a sharp turn on the road (if you use gps this will be pretty obvious).

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I put on my brand new boots and Andrew and I took off down the trail towards Killington.  From all things I had seen before the day we were in store for a pretty basic out and back hike.  The way things started I couldn’t have been more pleased.  The trail was about as well maintained and dry as anything I have ever hiked on and it would continue on like this for a long time.  Andrew and I briskly walked until we came to what I would describe as a partially decapitated tree where we stopped to kind of digest what we had seen so far.

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Up to that point I had a long sleeve windbreaker on mainly as a black fly barrier since those little irritants were out in full force this day, but I needed to shed the extra layer because I was beginning to overheat.  We kept on walking from that point noticing some nice bridge work done over some of the smaller streams that crossed the trail which in itself remained in fantastic condition.  We kept up this pace until I happened to notice a nice turn off leading to a waterfall so we stopped to check it out.

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I didn’t really want to stick around too long since the longer I stood still the easier it was for the black flies to consume my flesh.   We quickly packed up and headed back on the trail towards the top.  At some point around 2 miles in Andrew and I knew to expect a sharp increase in elevation.  Up to that point the hike was a very easy gentle almost completely flat walk but sure enough we hit steep section as expected.

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Andrew started feeling it in his legs, and really so did I.  A few weeks back I suffered a hamstring tear which forced me out of my workout regimen for a little while so I wasn’t as strong as I like, and Andrew was coming off of a winter which didn’t consist of too much physically.  So the fatigue was expected coming into the day.  Nonetheless I didn’t find the trail to be too overbearing and with the exception of one notable blowdown it was still in unbelievably good shape.  Before too long we came to a trail junction where we would head to the Cooper Lodge area.

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We walked what seemed like only a few hundred feet until I noticed some strange orange tape over a bunch of trees.  I couldn’t really see everything due to the fact the sun was directly behind it but Andrew noticed that it was the lodge we read about.  We didn’t bother going in at this point, but we figured we would hit it on the way back down.  We then found the Killington Spur trail sign just ahead.

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After passing the sign we noticed the trail got extremely steep.  Andrew and I briefly debated whether or not to call this a “scramble” until I eventually conceded my argument to Andrew after finding myself using some handholds.  This would have been easier had it not been for some inconsiderate hikers leaving trash along the trail which I always feel obligated to pick up.  Basically one hand had garbage in it and the other had my camera.  Probably could’ve been safer than that, but here I am typing this so no harm.  Anyway after breaking tree line I turned around to observe the surroundings and I was met with a great view of the valley below.  This was not to be overshadowed by the remarkable cell service at the top due to the massive tower gracing the summit.  Overall though we couldn’t be happier with the day as we checked off our first Vermont summit.

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In my mind the summit provided 2 different experiences.  One side of it was a beautiful serene landscape which I feel most people would pay to come see.  However the other side consisted of a broken down fire tower, radio towers, graffiti and trash.  I spent a good minute picking up the treasure which equaled approximately $.35 in recyclable returns and other miscellaneous trash before packing up and getting ready to head out.  Even though I was disappointed in some that fouled up the summit before me I was still happy with our day.

We started to head back down the Killington Spur trail which was a little more treacherous on the descent due to the amount of loose rock and gravel that was abundant.  Once we were past that however we figured it would be smooth sailing for us.  Before heading out for good we decided to take a peek inside of Cooper Lodge to see what it was all about.  Essentially what we saw was a dark cabin consisting of 4 bunks, a table with various initials scrawled into it, and the remnants of alcoholic beverages hanging from the roof.  Nothing too impressive, but for the weary Appalachian Trail hiker needed a spot for the night it probably gets the job done.

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After vacating the lodge we took off on the straight forward hike back down the mountain.  We really didn’t stop other than to momentarily relieve ourselves as the nice trail really did not necessitate it.  I started to hear the sound of the stream we had paralleled for the first couple miles getting louder so I knew we were getting back to the flatter section at that point.  Once we were back on the flats we assumed our 2 mile 40 minute victory march back to the trailhead.

Recommendation to hikers:  Killington is a great mountain for anyone whether you are an experience mountain slayer needing a more low key hike or a beginner trying to get yourself started.  Its as straight forward of a climb as any I have done, a 7.4 mile out and back that is almost impossible to make a wrong turn on.  You will be rewarded with nice view of the surrounding Green Mountains and of course great cell service…On a side note please make sure you carry out what you take in…not trying to lecture but it drives me crazy when I have to pick up after others who don’t seem to care.

Killington:  Views – 7  Difficulty – 3

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Mt Hancock & South Hancock

One day after Andrew and I returned to the White Mountains in New Hampshire we decided to take on the Hancock Loop off the hairpin turn on the Kancamagus Highway.  Sarah had made her way up here late the previous night to join us on the rest of our trip.  We woke up at around 6:30 in effort to be on the road by 7.  Andrew was curious about Tripoli Road and insisted that we take it to 93 North.  I knew it would eventually get there, but knowing the road is closed during winter I wasn’t too sure what to expect.  Turns out there a good reason for the road being closed in winter as the majority of it is unpaved and sketchy as all hell.  It seems to be a common theme for us trying to navigate some sort of potential disaster every single time we go hiking, but at this point its just part of the fun for us.  Anyway after a few miles of slower travel we got by the road and made it to I 93 where we would continue into Lincoln for our breakfast.

We stopped at Flapjacks in Lincoln for a big breakfast.  I always remembered this place from when my parents would take me as a child.  It was pretty much the same as I remembered with some kick ass pancakes and toy trains moving in the rafters.  After loading ourselves with starch and carbs we headed off to the hairpin turn on the Kancamagus where we would come to our trailhead.  The trailhead parking just seemed to be filling up as we got there.  Fortunately we were able to find ourselves a spot before the lot got full.  From there we threw on the gear and got ready to start our hike.

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The weather seemed like it may or may not hold off for us that day but I’m not overly accustomed to caring too much about some minor weather.  Nonetheless the three of us took off down the trail towards the Hancock’s.  We would follow the Hancock Notch Trail for a little over a mile before reaching a trail junction that would head toward the loop.  The hike up to that point was about as easy as it could get with the trail being very flat and very well maintained with pretty much no notable obstacles to speak of.

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Before long we came to a sign for the Hancock Loop Trail which we would ultimately follow to both of our peaks for the day.  At this point we knew that the climb would start to gain elevation pretty quickly so we decided we would get a little fuel into our systems before making our way up to the summits.  Eventually we reached the actual loop portion of the trail where we had to make a choice of either hiking the South Peak first or Hancock.

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We figured we would take the trek up to the South Peak first that we would be able to accomplish in .5 miles.  The trek up to South Hancock was about as steep as it gets for hiking standards.  We found ourselves sucking wind and pausing frequently on the way, not to mention I was hacking up a lung from the cold I had the previous week.  Before too long though we made it to the summit of South Hancock.  The summit area had a nice outlook where we did manage to get a nice view, but other than a height of land the was no real feature there marking the summit.

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We spent sometime on the summit getting a bite to eat and socializing with some other hikers.  While on the summit we noticed some Gray Jays were lurking around us.  Rumor had it that these little guys were pretty bold little birds and are known to eat right out of your hand.  Knowing this I had to give it a go and see if one of them would take the bait.  Sure enough after holding out some granola long enough one of those little guys perched itself on my finger and took a beak full before taking off to enjoy their little snack.  As amusing as this all was we knew we needed to get going to our second peak of the day Mt. Hancock.

We got going down the trail which looked to be a 1.4 mile ridge hike we no real exposure but fortunately the drop in elevation was not going to be too over bearing.  It was a pretty straight forward walk with some slightly muddier sections along the way but I wasn’t too long before we started approaching our second summit of the day.  We noticed the trees thinning out a bit but never any bald portions until we ultimately reached a sign which signaled that we were at the summit.  Much like the last summit there wasn’t really any obvious area to observe the surroundings other than a small outlook just off the summit.  Once again we took time to get a bite to eat and feed some Gray Jays.

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After taking about a half hour to rest we figured it was about time to head back down the mountain.  According to the trail junction it was going to be .7 miles down point where the Loop Trail split.  The trail going down to the split was very steep and treacherous.  The trail gave me flashbacks of the Macomb slide with a lot of loose rocks and gravel on a very steep gradient.  We took it slow on the way down to ensure we didn’t injure ourselves at least until we reached the loop.

We gathered ourselves once reaching the loop before making our way out as quickly as we could.  The trail going out was just as easy as it was coming in although when you have no more summit to look forward to it always seems like its longer.  We eventually got back to the road and once there we were all in shock about what we were witnessing.  Let me start by saying that I love hiking at this time of year but there volume of cars out there blew me away.  Why people come in droves to watch leaves die I guess I’ll never understand.  Anyway we knew we had one day of hiking to go so we headed back to get some food and rest.

Recommendation to Hikers:  The Hancock’s are a fun day with nothing too challenging getting in your way.  While the views aren’t outstanding you do get an opportunity to get a few nice pictures out on the trails without hiking too many miles.

Views:  South Hancock – 4   Hancock – 5

Difficulty:  South Hancock – 4  Hancock – 4

Mt Haystack (#46!!!)

This was the day I had been looking forward to for the better part of the last 4 years.  8/13/17 would be the day I completed every mountain on the Adirondack 46ers list.  All I had to do was travel 17.5 miles up and down mighty Mt Haystack in the middle of the Adirondack High Peaks.  Yeah not that easy, never is.  I had spent the weekend up to that point with Sarah up in Brasher Falls, NY but the hike had been on my mind for weeks leading up to that point.  Sunday morning we woke up just before 6 am and wasted no time getting on the road.  The plan was to meet Andrew at Marcy Field around 8 am and hop on the shuttle to The Garden in Keene.  Once we arrived at Marcy Field the shuttle driver informed us that there was still 5 spots left at The Garden.  We decided to take a chance at getting one of those spots since taking the pressure off making the final shuttle was worth the gamble to me.  Sure enough we made it to The Garden with just 2 spots remaining.  I paid the $10 to park at The Garden (not before the douche at the gate told me I was driving too fast, I was going 15 mph in a 15 mph zone so he can piss off) and unloaded the packs.

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We wasted little time at the trailhead and decided to make a break for Johns Brook Lodge where we figured we would take our first real break.  Immediately Andrew and I started reminiscing about some of our previous hikes to pass the time.  The walk to JBL seemed a little longer that I remembered but regardless we seemed like we were keeping a pretty good pace.  The walk ended up being a blur as the thought of finishing the 46 was firmly entrenched inside my mind and not much else was going on inside my head at the time.  After about an hour and fifteen minutes we made it to JBL and took a seat.

We sat and hydrated before someone staying at the Lodge recognized Andrew and myself.  Turns out we had met him on our previous hike of Allen Mountain so it was a brief but funny reunion nonetheless.  After that encounter we got back on our feet and headed off in the direction of Slant Rock which we knew was going to be about 3.8 miles away from where we currently sat.  We didn’t really eat anything at JBL instead opting to get this next section of the hike done as quickly as possible.  The walk to Slant Rock started off relatively easy meandering in and out of a stream bed before ultimately crossing Johns Brook.  From there we went on about another mile and a half of very straightforward easy hiking.

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We sat at a trail junction contemplating between eating a quick snack now or waiting until we reached Slant Rock.  Me being kind of stubborn decided I could make it without food although nobody put up much of a fight about it so we just took off again.  I knew from my recollection of our hike to Saddleback and Basin that the trail was about to get a little bit steeper, and slightly muddier.  As we anticipated it did get steeper, but this really did not slow us down too much.  It really wasn’t too muddy for the most part and just as I noticed this my foot went into what was 2 foot deep muddy hole resulting in my entire leg being coated in a bunch of wet gunk.

 

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Oh joy.

 

After being laughed at for my hilarious misfortune we kept on going until we reached a small stream crossing.  I used this as a chance to clean off my boot and leg which really just resulted in my sock getting soaked so I gained no benefit from it.  Just after the stream we came to big old Slant Rock.  I sat down and got a bite to eat before Sarah kind of walked around the corner where the trails split.  Andrew followed her before I heard him say something along the lines of “oh now shes climbing the rock”….sigh.  Not knowing quite what possessed Sarah to climb the rock Andrew and I just kind of watched her go.  It turned into quite the ordeal as once Sarah got to the top she had one hell of a time trying to find her way down.

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The comedic moment was a nice distraction but Andrew and I had a much larger rock to climb so on we went.  From this point I could really start to feel how close we were getting, but this did not make the rest of the way any easier.  The climb began to get much steeper and even so we knew from all the reports we had read that it would only get more intense the closer we got.  We pushed on until we reached another trail junction from which point we only had a mile to go until we reached the summit.

We stopped and snacked one final time before we gathered ourselves for what would be the last push to the summit.  I started to get very anxious as the thought of the accomplishment began to take over my mind.  I had to get that though out of my mind very quickly as the trail in front of us started to get rocky and steep.  It was clear to me at this point that the final part of Haystack was going to take a lot out of us as each breath was very labored, and I was not in the kind of shape I was in the spring.

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Before too long we approached another sign marking .5 miles until we reached the summit.  This was it “The Devils Half Mile”.  I’ve read about it many times, and while I didn’t expect to scale a shear cliff I also knew it was about to get really tough.  From here all we could see was bare rock in front of us as we were nearing the top of Little Haystack.  This had some tricky sections as the rock was very steep in most parts, but fortunately the rock was very coarse making the footing very good going up.

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Sarah Looks down from Little Haystack

 

Once we reached the top of Little Haystack we had the real deal sitting right there in front of us.  We made our way down the back of Little Haystack which had a shear drop just off the yellow trail markers making the though of tripping and falling slightly horrifying.  Despite this we all made it down to the col between Little Haystack and Haystack just fine.

At this point it was all uphill until we reached the top.  We all kind of went our own way up just generally following the yellow markings.  It was hard to get excited as I was breathing so heavily and my legs were on fire.  Sarah got a little ahead of us, I was in the middle with Andrew tailing behind just a little bit.  About 500 feet from the summit I turned around to look behind me, and there was Andrew with both fists in the air.  I waited for him as we both wanted to make sure we crossed the finish line at the same time.  We couldn’t help but be pumped those last few hundred feet as this day was over 3 years in the making.  This was it. We made it to #46.

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It feels good to be a 46er!

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I knew we had a long walk out but I though it would go smoothly.  One piece of advice I would give anyone making their way out from Haystack is to look at a map marking specific trails.  There are many junctions between Haystack and our intended destination of Slant Rock and we ended up going back a different way…by accident.  I was kind of confused as to where we went wrong but I knew we were going the right way regardless.  We made our way to Slant Rock, adding about a mile of unnecessary travel to our day before making the trip out.  We stopped one more time at JBL to collect our thoughts before getting our tired legs back to The Garden.  Only this time out Andrew and I were Adirondack 46ers!

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Recommendation To Hikers:  This is a hike that is not the most suitable for someone who isn’t in shape or is new to the Adirondacks.  The views from the top offer you some of the best in the Adirondacks.  As I mentioned it would be wise to study the trail map a bit as there are several junctions and many trails in this area so plan your route accordingly.

Haystack:  Views – 10  Difficulty – 9

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