This past weekend was prime for leaf peeping in the Adirondacks! Sunday morning I drove up to Keene Valley to hike one of my favorites, Indian Head! Last summer Christine and I hiked it and I couldn’t wait to come back. Just look at this view.
Monday was my first day off since Labor Day! Brendan and I drove up to the Upper Works trailhead in Newcomb to go back for Cliff, a peak we orphaned back in May when we hiked Redfield. It was going to be a long day.
It was in the mid 30s when we got to the trailhead. Brrr! We got there around 7 and were on the trail by 7:15. The parking lot was crowded, but we were wondering where they all were since we didn’t see many people on the trail. The 4.5 mile hike in to the Flowed Lands was uneventful. We passed the time chatting. When we got there, we signed in and headed to the Uphill Lean-to. We got to the Lake Colden bridge at 9:40am.
Looks like winter here
Then it was up, up, up to the Uphill Lean-to. We got there at around 11:45 and stopped for a brief snack before taking the herdpack on the right to Cliff/Redfield, marked with a cairn. I forgot the herdpath splits and Cliff’s goes to the right, and Redfield’s continues along the Opalescent. At 11:15 we were climbing Cliff.
We got some nice views while climbing. There was ice on the neighboring peaks! Winter is coming!
The bog was a sloppy mess, but the “cliffy” sections of cliff weren’t as bad as I was expecting. There were lots of hand holds and tree roots to hold onto. There was only one small section where I needed a boost.
We arrived at the summit at 12:30, which was 8.8 miles from Upper Works. We made pretty good time!
Descending was a lot easier. It included a lot of butt sliding. I had to take my pack off and throw it down first before going down some sections.
After descending the final cliff, our friend took off to hike Redfield, while Brendan and I made our way back to the Uphill Lean-to for lunch. We got back there at 1:40. We shared some lentil soup and cookies. Perfect for a chilly fall day! We also had a visitor, a little Pine Marten! So cute!
We started heading back at around 2. Again, the hike out was uneventful. We got back to the bridge over Lake Colden at 3:00, stopping for a snack for about 5 minutes. It turned out to be a gorgeous fall day.
Our speedy friend caught back up with us with a few miles left so we all hiked out together.
We arrived back at the car at 5:45. It was a long, but enjoyable day in the mountains. I’ve got three high peaks left. It’s a bittersweet feeling.
17.5 mi RT from Upper Works
10.5 hours, including stops
So, anyway, last weekend I went backpacking in the Adirondacks to snag three more high peaks in the Seward Range, Donaldson, Emmons and Seward Mountains.
Jenna, Brendan, Margaret and I drove up to Saranac Lake (The Sewards are the furthest away out of the high peaks, with a 3hr drive from Albany!) to the trailhead at Corey’s Road. We hiked in with our gear to a tent site along the Caulkins Brook, off the horse trail. Jona had mentioned this site to me and it sounded like a good idea! After a short 1.4 mile hike, we found our site and set up camp. Unfortunately, it started to rain during the night…complete with a thunder storm. Thankfully, it wasn’t severe and we were all dry in our tents! But the wet made for a gloomy hike the next day.
Saturday morning we took a left out of our camp site at about 6:30am, and met the herd path to the Sewards at around 7:10. Instead of taking the Blueberry Trail and the steep route up Ward Brook, we opted for the gentler Caulkins Brook Herd Path.
The herd path follows Caulkins Brook for some time. It’s a gradual incline and is quite pleasant! Before we knew it, we were approaching the summit of Donaldson Mountain! It was 9:50AM, a little over three hours after starting.
Number 38, it’s gettin’ real!
Still socked in, we had no view.
We decided it would be wise to head over to Emmons first. I didn’t do my homework on this hike and assumed the peaks were close together. Ha. So Wrong. It took us about an hour to get to Emmons (11:00am). I was having flashbacks of the dismal Couchsachraga from last summer in the Santanonis. The hike to Emmons wasn’t particularly fun. It was wet, muddy and dark. I hated Couch, but I liked the Santanonis better overall.
Thankfully on the hike back, the skies cleared and allowed us some views.
On the way back we decided to hit up Donaldson again because it was right there and we wanted to see if there was a good view–there was!
But, we couldn’t linger. Time to make the trek over to Seward. I don’t remember much, just that I wanted the day to be over. It was 2:00 by the time we reached the summit.
If I had one word to describe this range, it would be blah. But, I did it! The trek out was long. We stopped at Caulkins Brook to refill our water using Jenna’s gravity filter (Jenna is the Water Queen), and hiked the remaining few miles back to the camp site.
My original plan was to camp a second night and hike Seymour the next day, another peak in the Seward Range that is just a bit further out (see my amazing map skillz below). Jenna and Margaret estimated it would be about a 10 hour day. Since we both had to work Monday, and we were tired, Brendan and I were just not feeling it. We orphaned Seymour and packed up our gear and walked the 1.4 miles back to our car to make the three hour drive home. It was nice to sleep in my own bed after such a draining day! Jenna and Margaret stayed and hiked Seymour the next morning–such troopers!
The decision was tough. I debated it in my head over and over almost the entire day. Hiking Seymour would get me one peak closer to goal, but I’d be miserable. Physically I could have done it, but I was mentally done. I hike because I enjoy it and I love the Adirondack Mountains. Yes, I have a goal, but is it worth it to suffer just to bag a peak when I’m not having fun anymore? No. Seymour isn’t going anywhere!
Overall, we hiked about 14 miles on Saturday, including the hike out to the car.
40 down, 6 to go. I can see the finish.
We got back to the site at about 7 and were at the car by sundown. It was a long day.
The Seward Range
Donaldson, Emmons, and Seward Mountains
~16 mi RT via Caulkins Brook herd path
12.5 hrs to and from tent site
Jenna and I were planning a backpacking trip to hike the Dix Range for months. Thankfully, the stars aligned and the weather was perfect the entire weekend. Friday afternoon I met Jenna and our friend Margaret at the Exit 9 Park and Ride at around 5pm (was supposed to be earlier but there was so much traffic!) and drove up to the Elk Lake Trailhead near Exit 29 off the Northway. Brendan was planning on hiking with us also, but couldn’t leave work early so he was planning on meeting us at the camp site in the morning.
The drive up was fast (1.5 hours!) and before we knew it we were on our way down the trail from Elk Lake to the Slide Brook Lean-to. Since it was so late (around 8pm) we knew the lean-to wouldn’t be empty on this perfect weekend, so we all brought tents. The sites across the trail from it had tents set up so we decided to join the party and set up our two tents on the large site. A group had been camping there since Thursday and they kept to themselves mostly.
We cooked our dinner at a clearing next to the Slide Brook bridge and talked to a few other hikers who were camping there as well. Both groups were planning on hiking the entire range on Saturday also. Bear cans aren’t required in the Dix Wilderness, but we brought one to be on the safe side. We also had a stuff sack full of dishes and extra food that Margaret hung on a tree (she has amazing backcountry skillz!) and then went to bed.
We got up around 6:30 on Saturday, cooked breakfast, and got ready for the hike! We were going to hike a loop beginning with Macomb, via the slide, to South Dix, then to East Dix, Hough, over the Beckhorn to Dix and descend Hunter’s pass (instead of the steep Beckhorn trail), back down to Lillian Brook and back to our camp site at Slide Brook.
At around 8:00 Brendan came strolling down the trail. He had to park at the overflow lot since the lot at Elk Lake was full when he got there around 6:30. Yikes! It was a busy day in the Adirondacks! Once we met with him we assessed our water situation. We each brought about 4 Liters and our filter. There is a brook at the base of the Macomb slide but after that NO water at all until you get down to Lillian Brook (the end of the hike if you do the loop) so we made sure to have enough for the entire trip since it was a warm day.
We got to the base of the Macomb slide at around 9, after just about 55 minutes of hiking. Now, the hardest part of the entire day (for me), hiking up the slide. It is very rocky and loose. Quite terrifying. I took it slow and made it up in about 40 minutes (everyone else was much faster), but once I got up I felt quite accomplished. It was scary.
Shortly after we were at the summit of Macomb! We got there at about 10:10am.
Now that the hard part was over, we continued along the trail to South Dix, which included a nice open rock scramble with amazing views.
Arrived at the true summit at 11:06am. Onward.
Got to the summit of East Dix (or Grace Peak) at around 12:20Pm. We stopped for a lunch break and to soak in the gorgeous views.
Next up: the fourth peak, Hough! It was a little further away from the others and took a bit longer to get there. We got to the summit at 2:30.
Eventually we came to the Beckhorn, a small hump right before Dix’ summit. There is another steep trail going left once you get on the Beckhorn that will take you directly down to the Lillian Brook lean to and camp sites. This was an shorter option to descend after hitting Dix’ summit. But we chose the other option, Hunter’s pass, which didn’t really add on THAT much distance.
There was a big boulder right before the Beckhorn that was a bit sketchy. The dog got up no problem, but I needed Brendan to hold my foot in place so I could pull myself up! The dog hiked great. She only needed help in a few spots. There was one big crack I had to squeeze myself into for her to climb up over me, but other than that, she was fantastic! She’s a great hiker!
Soon we were at the fifth and final summit of the day, Dix! It was the big one. At 4,857 feet of elevation, Dix is the 6th highest peak in NY! We got there at around 4:15pm after eight hours of hiking. Five peaks competed in one day is the most I’ve ever hiked! It also brought me to 37/46!
We stayed on Dix for a little bit to recharge. We had a long descent awaiting us on Hunter’s Pass. And we were almost out of water. I didn’t take any photos on the descent since I was focused on getting down and to water. There were some awesome views though. I was thirsty almost all day and drank the entire 4 liters of water. I carried a 3L platypus bladder and a 1 liter bottle. We didn’t get down to the Lillian Brook to refill until 6:15PM. We stopped for a few minutes to rest (again). Even Zahra was pooped!
The remainder of the hike was easy, but long. It felt like it was taking FOREVER to get back to the campsite, even though it was about 2.7 miles away. Finally we arrived at our camp site at around 8pm. We changed and made dinner. There were still a few other hikers staying at our site and they had made a large campfire. It was temping, but I was too tired to enjoy it! Brendan had planned on hiking the additional four miles back to his car, but decided to stay since he was beat. Thankfully there was room in my tent, even with the dog. And it wasn’t too cold so we used my sleeping bag as a blanket. It was my first overnight AFTER a huge hike. Usually we drive home and I can shower and sleep in my own bed. I have to say it was nice to have my tent and bed set up, ready for me to climb in and pass out!
What a day! The Dix Range was so awesome. It was an amazing day.
Dix Range Macomb, South Dix, East Dix (Grace Peak), Hough and Dix
5250′ total elevation gain
10.5 mi loop from Slide Brook camp
15.1 mi total from Elk Lake trailhead
I have my first official backpacking trip behind me and it was awesome. On Friday, my best hiking friends Brendan, Jenna, her boyfriend and their friend Greg headed to the Upper Works trail head in Tahawus. Our plan: hike in our gear to a lean-to in the Flowed Lands, get up the next morning and hike high peaks Cliff and Redfield.
With heavy packs we started down the Calamity Trail. We hiked for a little over an hour. We passed a good looking tent site on the right of the trail next to the Calamity Brook and decided to set up camp there versus setting up our camp in the dark since it was another 2.5 miles to the lean to. It was a really good decision!
My little Kelty Grand Mesa 2 tent worked perfectly!
We could hear the rushing stream all night–relaxing! However, despite being comfy and cozy in my tent, I had trouble sleeping. I thought I was hearing voices all night (probably from the camp sites a few miles away) and wanted to bad to sleep. Eventually around 3 or 4 I think I finally dozed off.
We got up around 7, made breakfast, packed up and hiked the 2 miles to Calamity lean-to, dropped our overnight gear off, and headed left toward Lake Colden. On our way we stopped briefly at the Henderson Memorial, the spot I missed when I was last here to hike Mount Marshall.
I didn’t do that great of a job keeping track of time/distances on this trip. It was long.
I think it was only about a mile or so from Flowed Lands to Lake Colden. We crossed the suspension bridge to start the trail to Uphill lean-to, where the herdpaths to Cliff and Redfield begin.
The trail to the Uphill lean to was amazing. All along the left were amazing waterfalls, cascades and swimming holes. It was getting hot and the water was tempting.
We reached the Uphill lean-to at around 12:00, ate lunch, and headed up to Redfield. It was rocky and muddy, but didn’t have too many crazy steep sections. It was just long and felt like forever.
We reached the summit at around 2:00pm.
At least there are some great views!
We only stayed up top briefly–it was crowded, a large group of kids and their parents were up there as well. I didn’t feel the usual sense of awe and accomplishment on top of this mountain-I just wanted to get down, which was rare for me. I was dreading the descent. I like to relax and enjoy mountain summits, but for some high peaks it’s just checking them off a list–that’s how I felt for Redfield.
We arrived at the junction for Cliff at 4:00PM, a little too late since we were not camping out a second night. We evaluated and decided to orphan Cliff, unfortunately. It was a tough decision but knew it was the right one. We were tired and didn’t want to risk hiking out for too long in the dark. On the hike down we stopped at the bank of the Uphill Brook to soak our tired feet. We left there at 5:30 and still had about 6 miles left of hiking to the car.
We stopped briefly at Calamity lean-to to grab our gear and chatted with the family that was staying there. Then on we went.
The sun started to go down, but thankfully we got back to the car without having to take out the head lamps. The sky was looking magnificent! Despite feeling like death, after hiking about 18 miles, this trail is still one of my favorites. The tree peepers were out, one of my favorite sounds!
We arrived back at the car at 8:40PM–phew. I couldn’t wait to change out of muddy clothes and take my boots off. Cliff, I’ll be back for you.
Total Distance: ~16-17 mi RT from Upper Works
Total time (Saturday): 12 hours
Yesterday I hiked Phelps, the 32nd highest peak in NY, for the second time. The first time I hiked this mountain was back in January 2014 with Jona. It was cold. Yesterday’s weather was much better! The temps were perfect. There was very little ice on the trail (only at higher elevations). It was a beautiful day.
Brendan is my good friend and one of my hiking buddies. He’s working on the 46 also and we both wanted to hike this weekend. I need to get my legs in shape for summer high peaks hiking. Phelps is a short hike compared to the rest of the 46. It is about 9.5 miles round trip from the Adirondack Loj. I didn’t mind hiking it again because it has some great views. We started hiking at 10:45 am. We arrived at the junction at Marcy Dam at about 11:40. From there it was only 2.1 miles to the summit of Phelps.
The Phelps junction is about a mile from Marcy Dam.
It’s only about a mile, but it’s an “Adirondack mile”, or a mile that takes forever to hike since it is incredibly steep.
It was great to sit on the summit and enjoy the sunshine. The last time I was up here, it was 40 below and my mittens froze. We arrived at the summit around 1:30.
Phelps was Brendan’s 20th peak. Almost halfway!
A man from Vermont was on the summit also. He’d just recently started hiking in the Adirondacks. “Have you been on all of these mountains?” he asked me. I could say yes! All but a few. We could see Saddleback and Basin–I’ve yet to tackle those! But all of the other surrounding peaks I’ve been on. Below is one of my favorite views. Mount Colden is on the left with Algonquin and Wright across from it on the right side. The first time I was on the summit of Phelps, I couldn’t name the peaks. Now I know them pretty well.
We started heading down around 2:00.
Spring has sprung in the High Peaks. I cannot wait for summer hiking!
We got back to Marcy Dam at 4:20.
Back at the parking lot around 5:30.
Phelps Mountain Distance: 9.5 mi RT Elevation: 4,161 ft Ascent: 2,149 ft Total time: 6 hrs, 37 minutes (including stops)