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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
For the final day of our weekend trip to New Hampshire, we decided to take a trek up to Crawford Notch to hike Mount Jackson. I can’t speak for the other two, but I was a bit drained from the first two days of hiking, and made a big pitch for doing a shorter mileage hike for the third day. Also, the weather forecast for the day had improved dramatically from what we were initially anticipating at the beginning of our trip, so we all thought that going to a nicer summit like Jackson would be a cool idea to end out the trip. The nice part about hiking Jackson at about 2.8 miles was that we could get a little bit of a later start, so we stopped for a quick breakfast in Lincoln and got to the trailhead a little before 10 to finish the weekend off strong.
The trailhead for Jackson is probably one of the more interesting trailheads we’d been to in any of the states we’d hiked in so far. There is a decent sized welcome center for Crawford Notch right at the side of the road, and a really picturesque pond on the other side of the road. We could tell this was a pretty significant tourist spot, and it was also featured a confluence of hiking trails as the trailheads towards Pierce/Eisenhower, Tom/Field, and Jackson were all along that small strip of the highway. We got what appeared to be the last two spots on the small parking section at the welcome center, walked around for a second to see the sights, and then headed a couple hundred feet down the road to get to the trailhead that would take us to Jackson.
Our plan for the day was to hike up and down to Jackson only, ignoring its neighbor Webster since it wasn’t on our list of mountains to climb, but we also decided on the way to take advantage of a couple of lookout opportunities on the steeper side of the notch. The first side trail only veered off within the first tenth of a mile on the trail, and it led an additional tenth or two to a spot called the Elephant Head. Even from the road, we could get a pretty clear idea of what the Elephant Head was since it stood out clearly on the side of the mountain and looked exactly like it was called. The elevation of the spot wasn’t terribly high, but it still gave a nice view of the train tracks and the visitor center where we came from, so it was worth a little detour for sure. The second lookout came after we started ascending up the cliff pretty steeply; only this one was not terribly far off the marked trail. This one was called Bugle Cliff, and offered similar views to the Elephant Head, only a bit more expansive and dramatic thanks to the higher altitude. Neither of these lookouts really took too much time out of the day and provided some pretty nice views, so I’d definitely recommend making the detours on the way up.
The trail took a steady turn from this point, since we’d basically gotten over the cliff-side by this point, paralleling up the side of the cliff at a more gradual pace than before. The trail condition was very good in this part, with very little mud or loose rock, so we made it up to our next junction without incident. We stopped at the junction where the trail forked either straight towards Webster or east towards Jackson. We could see clouds starting to roll in from across the road, but they all seemingly evaporated by the time they got to us, so we never got any of the rain that we thought might hit us in the morning. We took a break at the junction like we usually do and took the fork towards Jackson with only a little over a mile to the summit left to go!
As expected, the trail did start to climb a bit quicker once we turned off and we found ourselves quickly ascending for the last push to the summit. Very much like the rest of the sections before, the trail up to the summit was really well maintained and easy to climb right up until the last push, which got a bit more dramatic. I think we’re all still getting over the shock value of some of the trail-less peaks in the Adirondacks and the difficulty of the trail conditions there, because I keep thinking as I climb these peaks in the Whites about how much nicer the trails are then some of the worst I’ve seen. This kind of talk is also great filler for this blog entry because there were no really exceptional moments on the way up ‘til the summit (you can read that as I have nothing good to talk about). Right before you get to the official summit of Jackson there are a couple of steep spots that felt like hell on my legs after 3 days of hiking, but luckily it was probably less than a tenth of a mile of steep pitches before we got to the large summit area of Jackson for our fifth peak of the weekend!
The summit of Jackson is nice and spacious and has views from all sides as it is bisected by a ridge trail going up towards the Presidentials. We settled on a spot that gave us a stunning up close view of Mount Washington and took off our packs to rest for a little bit. While the weather coming up was pretty ideal for October, it was notably blustery about tree-line, so the jackets had to go back on when we got to the top. At one point my hat even lifted off my head in one of the strongest gusts, and I thought to myself how much worse it must’ve been on the gigantic mountain we were checking out from our vantage point. I’ve seen videos and heard stories about the rough weather conditions on Mount Washington, and seeing it from just a few miles away really invigorated my interest in summiting it, which we’re going to try to do next summer on a warm, calm day! Nonetheless, Jackson was definitely a nice summit experience, with a lot to see and ample room to accommodate all of the weekend crowds that flock there.
After the winds started getting intense, we decided to get going off the top of the mountain, and ducked under tree line quickly to start our final descent of the trip. Five peaks and some very dramatic views later, our trip was just about over, but we did still have a good 3 miles of descending to go. We took our time on the way down since it was a fairly quick day hike, and enjoyed what would be our last hike of the year. Coming down was about as uneventful as going up was, and once we got to the road we only had a short walk over to where the cars were. At the parking area we took another second or two to look around, since it was a fairly interesting trailhead area with various touristy buildings and dramatic views of the mountains on any side of the Crawford Notch. Climbing Jackson was a nice way to cap off the trip, since it’s a fairly short day hike with a pretty nice payout up top with some dynamic views in every direction. Overall, it was a pretty successful day to cap off a big hiking season for us!
Recommendations: This is definitely a great day-trip for just about anybody enthusiastic about climbing. It’s a quick day, with some great views, and just a few challenging spots to make you feel like you earned it as you get to the top. The fantastic up-close views of Washington make it worth the trip alone.
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.
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.
The conditions that day seemed to be constantly improving which was a welcome surprise for us thinking that we would ultimately get rained on. The trail was still flat, the sun was burning off the clouds and life was good for the time being. The portion of trail between the Hancock Notch Trail and The Hancock Loop Trail was called the Cedar Brook Trail. This much like the Notch Trail was overall very well maintained and pretty flat. The only real difference between the two sections were a few water crossings that still did not act as much of an obstacle.
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.
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.
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.
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.
After a bit of time off from climbing, Chris and I set off for New Hampshire on a Friday morning in October to start a long weekend of climbing. After finishing up the Adirondack High Peaks in the summer, we thought it would be a cool idea to try to dive a little deeper into the New Hampshire High Peaks list by trying to grab 5 or 6 of them in one trip. I drove into Boston the night before like I had a few times before so we could get an early jump to the morning hike. We left a little bit before 7 AM with our eyes set on climbing Liberty and Flume in the Franconia range of the White Mountains. These were climbs Chris had his eye on, and I thought they would be a good place to start the trip, given its relatively short mileage (10-11 miles round trip, depending on the route) and reportedly excellent summit views. I was pretty pumped to get away for a few days and hopefully double my peak count in New Hampshire in one quick trip, so there was a little extra motivation to get back out on the trails and see some new peaks!
We got into Lincoln, New Hampshire bright and early and stopped for a second to grab some food for the trails before heading north to try to find our trailhead. From what I could see from the map, it looked like we were basically going to start our climb from the Flume Gorge Visitor Center, so that’s where we decided to pull in to park. We grabbed our packs and Chris started filming as I decided to take in the surroundings a little bit. I didn’t see anything in the parking lot that indicated a trailhead towards where we would be going, with the exception of a bike path heading in the right direction. After a while of walking, I decided it would be best to try going up the road a little ways as there might be an obvious parking area down the road. My intuition was right, and we noticed the real parking area signed just down the road from where we parked, and we decided to drive down there instead. We got going a little bit after 10 AM, walking the Whitehouse trail from the parking area for about a mile until we reached the Appalachian Trail, where we started our true ascent.
We started the steady ascent up towards Liberty and Flume, witnessing some unique carved graffiti on trees as we started off. In all my time climbing I can’t recall seeing trees defaced the way we did on that particular trail, and it was kind of disappointing to see. Nonetheless, we continued on after making a point of this on the vlog, and quickly reached the fork in the loop trail. Going straight would take us up steadily towards Liberty, while the right fork would level out and head towards the Flume ledges where we would have a quick and dramatic ascent up to the summit of Flume. Even though it was going to add some mileage to the day, I decided it would be best to take the steady approach up to Liberty and then walk over to Flume and back instead of going up the steep slopes because I wasn’t sure if I was in the greatest shape for that after not climbing for a month and a half. After taking a quick break at the junction we worked our way up the Liberty Springs Trail, crossed over a few small streams, and started our ascent in earnest.
I quickly figured out that my hypothesis about my hiking form was right on the money. I felt like my legs were pretty dead after about half an hour of steady, unrelenting climbing up towards the Liberty Springs Campsite. I was glad we took the steady approach because I would’ve been struggling badly trying to work my way up the Flume ledges. While I would’ve preferred a bit more of a staggered approach up to the summit, the Liberty Springs Trail was at least consistent and easy on the feet, with very little mud or loose rock in the trail. Overall, from our experiences in Maine and New Hampshire, it is very enjoyable to hike along the Appalachian Trail segments because they are usually well-designed and steady in approach. It may have taken me a bit longer than I would’ve liked, but we did eventually reach the summit ridge, where we took a quick right turn and headed about a quarter mile down the trail until we reached Mount Liberty.
Liberty was really quite a fantastic summit area, and its dramatic features were evident just before we reached the top. The summit itself is on a very steep ledge that features a large slide that basically starts from the edge of the trail. It’s a harrowing look down from the slide at the base of the summit rock, as it probably drops down a hundred feet or so. Once we topped the summit rock, the views were outstanding all 360 degrees around. We could see the whole Cannon, Kinsman area on one view and then the Lincoln, Twins, and Owls Head view on the other side. Liberty is a very rewarding summit, and combined with the foliage and nice autumn weather, it was one of our best summit experiences of the year 2017 so far for sure.
By the time we had worked our way off Liberty and headed towards flume my legs had started to feel a little more adjusted, so I made some quick work down towards the col between the two peaks. I waited there for Chris to catch up, and we made our way quickly up to Flume. From Liberty, Flume is not really a challenging hike at all, and we ended up on the summit a lot quicker than we had anticipated. From the Flume summit we still managed to get the same spectacular views towards the west, and could even get a nice reference point of Lafayette that we couldn’t get from Liberty. What was even more interesting was the clear view you get of the Flume ledges and just how steep the trail ends up climbing up to the summit from the Flume Trail. Flume really looks like one hell of an adventure to get up, and a bit of a dangerous proposition to try to get down. Once we stopped to get some pictures and a snack, we decided to double back over Liberty on our way out, since that trail looked liked an accident waiting to happen.
We took another second to take in the sights on top of Liberty the second time, and then continued on our way down. The hike down was fairly uneventful, but it was fairly easy thanks to the large sections of smooth stone steps on the Liberty Springs Trail. Seriously, I can’t recommend this trail enough, it’s really easy on the joints, offers a nice hiking challenge that doesn’t take too long, and offers wonderful views up top. Once we got down past the loop junction, it was just a quick walk back, first down to the bike path that doubled as the Whitehouse trail for a section, then on to the rest of the trail that lead us back to the parking area. All-in-all the day hike only took about 7 hours, and it was definitely a fantastic way to start off a full weekend of hiking!
Views: Liberty 10, Flume 7
Difficulty: Liberty 6, Flume 6 (from Liberty; climbing the ledges would make it more difficult)
After finishing up our 46er quest earlier in the month, Chris and I wasted very little time setting our sights on our next hiking conquest, the Northeast 115. I headed on out to Boston to meet up with Chris, and we set off for New Hampshire to get a couple more peaks off the White Mountains list. We decided on doing a smaller day hike in the Whites that day, tackling East Osceola, and Mount Osceola which would get us two more peaks with only a 7 mile or so roundtrip. We initially intended to do this climb in April, but opted for a less rocky trail for our first early spring hike, so these peaks had been in my sights for a while, so they seemed like the right ones to check off the list that day!
We left around 6 AM in the morning and headed north towards Lincoln, NH where we would start our climbing. It was a Sunday, so the traffic wasn’t too bad getting around, and we were able to start at a reasonable hour. Finding the trailhead wasn’t terribly hard either, even though we managed to get just the last parking spot at the trailhead. We took a quick look at the map at the trailhead just to get our bearings, even though we knew this would be a super straightforward day.
From the trailhead we were going to make our way towards Greeley Pond, before taking a right at the trail that climbs up to East Osceola. From there it would only be about an extra mile to get to Mount Osceola, which from all accounts had some pretty nice views. The first mile and a quarter toward Greeley Pond was basically flat, and relatively uneventful. There were a number of small stream crossings in that beginning section of the trail, but those were the only points of note along the way to the trail junction.
At the junction we took our first break of the day, and I decided to grab an energy chew from my bag while we stopped. I bought a Gatorade chew instead of the normal Clif ones I usually get just to try it, and that turned out to be a bad decision. I did not like the taste of that at all, so needless to say I’ll be going back to my usuals from now on. Once we got back going we started ascending as we head towards East Osceola. We knew it would only be about 1.5 miles or so uphill in the segment, so we would be going uphill at a good clip. Still, it was a bit of a shock to the system just how steep the climb up to East Osceola got. In certain segments it reminded both of us of our Dix Mountain hike, with the unrelenting steep walls of earth to climb up. We made our way steadily up the climb, segment by segment, taking breaks on the flat spots and keeping a steady pace as the trail made its way up to elevation in very short order.
The trail eventually leveled out and we knew we were getting close to peak. Based upon everything I’d read about the climb, I knew this peak would basically have no views and would instead just be a peak noted by a large cairn. The peak itself didn’t really even seem to be a height of land, more or less just a spot on a large plateau, but nonetheless it was pretty hard to miss the summit of East Osceola. We took a break at the one lookout we could find on the summit, even though there really wasn’t much of a view at that spot either.
After maybe 10 minutes, we continued on our way to Osceola, which we knew would be a greater spot to take an extended break on anyway. The trail started descending at a good clip down from the plateau of East Osceola, and did so until we reach the col between the summits. It was there where we encountered one of the more interesting spots on the trail, the famous Osceola Chimney. It really didn’t disappoint at all, it was a very steep, sudden wall of rock that we had to get over as the trail started climbing again. There were 2 options on the Chimney; going straight up the steep way, or going up a bit more steadily around the side of the cliff. I chose the steady shortcut, and Chris decided to go straight up. Realistically both ways take just the same amount of time considering the shortcut is a little longer, but I happened to like the way I went, so the choice is really up to you when you hit that spot of the trail. From the Chimney on, the rest of the climb up to Osceola seemed pretty easy and uneventful comparatively, and in just a few tenths of a mile we ended up on our second summit of the day, Mount Osceola!
Upon arriving at Osceola, we noticed two things; 1) the summit was very large and had spectacular views on one side looking down towards Waterville Valley and 2) there were a lot of people climbing that day. For the past few years we’d been used to climbing on weekdays, and climbing some of the more remote mountains in the Adirondack High Peaks, so it was a bit different to run into a crowd on a summit, but we were able to enjoy a nice view nonetheless. Just as much as climbing east Osceola reminded me of climbing Dix, the summit of Osceola reminded me a bit of Giant in Keene Valley since both have a similar size and view from the summit, and both seem to gather a crowd on a weekend! Osceola was definitely worth the trouble of getting over East Osceola for, it’s a very nice peak to summit on a late summer morning!
We probably spent about 20 minutes up top admiring the scenery and grabbing a bite to eat, and then headed back the way we came. Going down Osceola seemed like it would be a relatively uneventful thing to do, at least until we got to the Chimney section, but as I pushed on ahead, maybe about 5-10 minutes after leaving the summit, I heard a well-pronounced cry of pain behind me. Turns out Chris managed to roll his ankle over on an unstable rock, and was in some pretty good pain. It was really kind of a bad spot for an injury, right in between two peaks, but, as we’ve experienced before, sometimes the mountains reach out and grab you just to remind you that Mother Nature is still the boss. We kept on going (because what choice did we have anyway), maybe a little bit slower than we were going before, and despite his pain, we managed to keep going without any other incidents. We stopped for one more second to get a picture on the actual summit of East Osceola, since we basically spent no time there on the way in, and cruised on through to our last descent of the day.
The way down East Osceola was just as unrelenting as it was going up, only now we were both watching our steps a little more than we normally would. Since it was a relatively short day of hiking for us there was absolutely no need to rush things on the way back. We just walked down cautiously and carefully until we got to the trail junction around Greeley Pond again.
One interesting thing we did note was how seemingly inaccurate the maps were on the trees noting the protected forest area around Greeley Pond. The way the first map we saw was drawn made it seem like we were a full mile away from the trail junction when we were actually only about 5 minutes away from it. So the lesson there is obviously don’t believe randomly drawn maps on trees, keep your own bearing and carry a map instead!
The last mile and a quarter out from the junction seemed like forever as we both really wanted to just get off our feet and grab some lunch. It probably didn’t take us anymore than 25-30 minutes, but it kind of felt like eternity as we made our way over the bog bridges and small stream crossings until we got back to the roadside trailhead. It was another one of those days where it started well, but after someone gets banged up you just kind lose a little bit of your zeal afterwards. Either way, we still managed to get another 2 peaks in the books, and I got myself about halfway to my goal of 115 peaks in the northeast, so it was a pretty productive day when all was said and done!
Recommendations: Osceola and East Osceola make for a relatively short day, but there are a few tough sections going up to either mountain. The views are well worth it on Osceola, but I would mainly recommend the climb to people already familiar with 4000 footers (basically don’t make this someone’s first climb, otherwise, yeah, climb it – it’s a fun one to do for sure).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
I’ve consistently seen Allen Mountain ranked as one of the toughest climbs in the Adirondack High Peaks in all of the research I’ve done preparing for climbs over the years and it’s definitely developed a mythical place in 46er lore. I’ve seen numerous reasons why people disliked climbing Allen ranging from length of the climb, to tough trail conditions, confusing directions, or lack of payout at the summit. All of the negative comments regarding the hike kind of lead us put this climb off until the very end, but since Chris and I were sitting on peak #44, it became time for us to finally take a crack at Allen this summer.
We set off around 5 AM on a weekday in July, knowing we’d have a tough 18 mile day to get to the wooded summit of Allen. Nothing about the thought of climbing to Allen that early in the morning was particularly appealing, but we were getting so close to finishing the 46 that it made the task seem just a little bit more exciting than it normally would be. Going into this hike, we weren’t even sure if we would really be able to do this climb successfully because there was a forecast for storms for that day. I told Chris point blank that climbing Allen under a chance of storms would be uncomfortable and borderline dangerous because of the notoriously slippery final ascent of Allen, and the muddy conditions present on the flat sections of the climb, but luckily the storms had passed the night before and the forecast had improved. I knew in the back of my head that even if the skies were nice for the day, the ground was still going to be wet and treacherous, and let’s just say that Allen didn’t disappoint at all!
We managed to get to the trailhead by about a quarter to 8, which would give us plenty of time to get the hike completed in daylight, barring any catastrophic injuries or bear encounters. While driving in, Chris put the over/under of how many people we were going to see on the trail at 4.5, and while I took the under, I was adamant we would see at least one other party doing the hike on a nice summer day. The ADK 46 is getting pretty popular and even on the most remote hikes on the randomest days of the week, there always a good chance of running into other hikers doing the same thing you’re trying to do. It didn’t take us any more than a few seconds to see somebody else pull up to the trailhead trying to hike Allen too, so my theory about hiking in the High Peaks in 2017 was proven right immediately. We quickly signed in, and got going on what would be a long day’s work getting to the summit.
After only walking for a few minutes from the trail register, we already reached the bridge to cross over the Hudson River. Once we reached the other side of the river, the trail quickly deteriorated into a muddy, bog-like condition on and off for a while. We spent the majority of our day trying not to get our boots stuck too badly in the mud, but it was unavoidable and deep in certain spots. The mud deterred our pace a little, but luckily there were some spots on the trail that managed to be a bit better than others. The trail around Lake Jimmy had some nice bog bridging, even though I must admit it would’ve been a little cooler (not to mention quicker) to be able to walk across the lake on bridging, and the trail around the Mount Adams trailhead had some interesting cabins to explore. We stopped to check out the cabins for a brief moment then continued on past Adams.
The trail descending towards Lake Sally was extremely muddy and eroded to the point where there were clearly established cut-arounds in the woods next to the trail. I do understand the mystique of climbing Allen from Upper Works given all of the hardships needed to get to it, but I’m 100% in favor of the DEC developing another trail to get to Allen from the south because this trail is hardly sustainable anymore. We begrudgingly made our way through the slop and ended up on another one of the old logging roads in that section of wilderness. The nice gravel road that the trail follows along the Opalescent offers some nice respite from the muddy conditions, and it offers some interesting glimpses into the logging past of the woods. As you walk through there, you can make out faint logging roads and old paths that have long since been abandoned, which are some of the only exciting points of interest on the way to the herd path. After passing a steel gate and continuing on, we crossed the Opalescent River on a nice new hanging bridge instead of fording the river like you would’ve had to before. Even though our boots were already wet enough by this point, it was still nice to be able to cross on a bridge versus going over the river, so we do have to give a special shout-out to the trail crews for working diligently on such a remote trail as the East River Trail is.
The trail junction leading into the true herd path towards Allen were much easier to find than I had expected. The East River Trail does not seem to be travelled beyond the Allen turn off that frequently, to the extent that the established trail actually seamlessly leads off into the direction of Allen without even looking like much of a trail beyond that point. From this easy turn off it’s only maybe a tenth of a mile (probably less than that actually) until you reach a dirt road where this trail ends. You can basically see the gravel pit where you sign in to hike the herd path from this junction to the left, so all you really have to do is turn quickly towards the left and you’re at the start of the climb. We took a quick break at the herd path right around 10 AM or so and let the groups behind us actually go ahead. In my mind, it would be nice to see some fresh foot prints on the trail anyway in case it got hard to follow, but it really wasn’t a problem following the herd path for the most part, even though it certainly wasn’t the best defined or best maintained path in that part of the woods. The 13 point plan that I jotted on a piece of paper from a list I found on a forum was fairly helpful as we got on to the meandering herd path. I followed along every milestone I should see on the way, and it allowed me to pace the climb nicely and keep at ease as we moved through the thick woods west of the peak of Allen. Despite the rain, none of the brooks we had to cross along the way were in any way hard to rock hop, and even the mud levels on the herd path were no worse than the ones on the “maintained” trail to the base of the climb. In about an hour and a half’s time, maybe a little bit less, we reached the waterfall on Allen Brook where we stopped for a second to gear up for what would be a taxing final ascent to the top.
As Chris dunked his hat in the waterfall like he typically does on a hot day like this, I took out the map for a second to get a general idea of where we were. It looked from the point where Allen Brook drains into Skylight Brook that there would be roughly one more mile to go to the summit, and almost all of it would be steep and unrelenting. This is where I knew we would have to start being careful because all trip reports I’ve seen indicated that the rock along Allen Brook is unusually slippery, and if you’re not careful you could find yourself going on an unwanted slip and slide ride on jagged rock. I kept this in mind as I made my way up the trail as it swerved on and off the rock faces and into the woods numerous times. I made sure to stay off of the reddish colored rock because that would be the spots where there would be little to no grip. It was hard to get around the running water and slippery rock, but taking it one step at a time made it doable. At one part the trail ended up on a drier, gravelly spot where you could get a good view on the slope you had just climbed. I took a seat on a smooth boulder and looked behind to see where Chris was at, because I didn’t hear him behind me at all. So I sat and waited looking down the trail for a good minute, but still there was no sign of Chris. Even though I’m admittedly less athletic, I do tend to get a little bit ahead of him as he films portions of the blog, especially if I have some good leg strength like I did on this day, but I kind of thought that he shouldn’t have fallen that far behind me under these conditions, so I decided to walk a little ways back down until I managed to see the reflection of the sun off his sunglasses as he climbed up. I never really get too worried on these climbs, but the conditions on Allen might be some of the most dangerous in the High Peaks, so I did get a bit concerned for a second that he went for one of those unwilling water slide rides I’d referenced before. Sure enough, once Chris caught up to me he told me just that, that he took a fall and if not for a helpful tree root, he would’ve went flying down the mountain in the wrong direction. His hip was hurting pretty bad from the fall, and his elbow was decently cut up as well, but he said there was no way we’d be turning around this close to the summit. I wouldn’t personally recommend continuing climbing if you’re in pain, but we’d been anticipating this climb for a long time and we were pretty close to the summit, so we just took our time and made it up as fast as he could manage.
I figured we should stop and regroup for a second, but Chris said it was better for him just to keep pushing through it anyway because his hip would just start locking up, so he really just powered through until we reached the summit. It was probably the least triumphant we’d ever felt reaching the summit of a high peak, but we were just happy to finally get to the top of Allen!
The summit of Allen was just as non-descript as it’s billed to be, just a height of land in the woods with a plaque on a tree. There is, however, a very nice lookout to the northeast of the summit with pretty cool views of the surrounding mountains like Haystack and the lower great range, so all-in-all it’s actually not the worst summit of are of the High Peaks (Blake still wins that competition I think, though Couchsachraga is a close second). The lookout was a nice spot to stop and enjoy the summit before heading back down into the sloppy descent and long walk out that was between us and the parking lot. The group ahead of us on the mountain was happy enough to offer us some first aid supplies, as I hadn’t packed too much with me for the hike, so Chris bandaged up his cuts as best as he could and it didn’t end up being too serious of an issue from that point on. One thing is for certain though; I’m definitely bringing a better stocked first aid kit next time just in case of emergency. We may have spent 15 minutes on the summit overall since we were a bit too anxious about the descent to really enjoy the triumph of reaching another peak, and we headed back down eager to get that slippery descent behind us.
Going down the steep section of Allen was just as treacherous, and on the way down was my opportunity to wipe out as well. I decided I was going to walk across a stream instead of finding a drier route, and I did my best Charlie Brown kicking a football impression, falling flat on my pack faster than I could even realize what was happening. It was a bit of a wake-up call to really slow the pace to a crawl, and we spent the rest of the descent taking it at an extremely casual pace. Once we reached the waterfall again we both breathed a sigh of relief knowing our risk of further injury just decreased significantly. We both really bemoaned the standing water and mud on the trails coming in, but to a small extent we welcomed the return of the mud over the slippery rocks by that point. We kept going after stopping for a second, and went on for a while before we made our way back to the herd path trail register right around 4 PM.
It was a tiring and frustrating walk back to the car after all of the slipping and sliding of the day, but we trudged on nonetheless. This was one of those moments where you wish you could just snap your fingers and be back at the trailhead, but no, we had to drag ourselves back unassisted (sigh). It was an extremely uneventful walk back comparatively, even though it was interesting seeing dozens of frogs and even a couple of snakes in the marshes that were passing as marked trails. I don’t think I’d ever seen a snake on a trail before, so that was kind of a fun surprise on what was overall a generic walk back. The mental exhaustion of the day was far greater than the physical exhaustion, in both of our opinions, so we managed to find our way back slowly and steadily without breaking stride for any photo opportunities or extended breaks like we normally do. Climbing Allen wasn’t the greatest hiking experience we’d ever had, but at least we managed to get our 45th peak in the Adirondacks and got it in with plenty of daylight to spare, arriving at the trailhead a little bit before 6:30 PM. It was a long day, but at least it was another interesting experience to share as we got that much closer to completing our 46!
Recommendations: Allen Mountain isn’t a fun hike. I’d only recommend it to people seriously interested in the 46 because it’s a somewhat unpleasant experience. If you do plan to climb Allen, make sure you read up a little bit on the trail before you go up, and be careful on the final ascent because it is no joke. Allen really isn’t terribly steep (with the exception of the slide section near the summit) or overly challenging from a physical standpoint, but it’s a taxing hike nonetheless, so be mentally prepared for a long day.
Difficulty – 10
Views – 1 (5 from a lookout just off of the summit)