Yard Mountain, Big Slide and the Brothers Loop

Since finishing hiking the 46 high peaks last month, I took a much needed break! However, I can’t stay away from the mountains for too long. My new hiking friend was looking to hike in the high peaks on Saturday and I couldn’t resist joining him. The great part is, now I can hike what I want, whenever I want! There are bunch of peaks I want to hike again, taking new routes. YEsterday, we decided to hike Big Slide, one of the easier high peaks. Instead of doing the popular out and back route over the Brothers, we chose to take the trail into the John’s Brook Lodge, ascending Yard Mountain first, followed by Big Slide, then out over the Brothers for a nice loop hike.

We got to the Garden lot in Keene Valley a little before 7:00am and were on the trail to the Johns Brook Lodge at 7. After hiking for 3.5 miles we came to the JBL (at 8:30), which was closed for the season. We took the Klondike trail (red), which on the left behind the JBL, our destination Yard Mountain.

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This trail clearly doesn’t get much use! There was a lot of blowdown and overgrown grass. We didn’t encounter another soul until just before the summit of Yard.  At 9:15 we came to another junction, taking the blue trail on the right to Yard.

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The trail got pretty steep for some small section, but nothing to horrendous. It was quite enjoyable! Walked up and over Yard without really even noticing, the summit just a small clearing at 4,009′ elevation. It was 10:22am. On top is a sign indicating the direction to Big Slide. It was refreshing to take an alternate approach to such a popular mountain–there was nobody up there!

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About an hour later, we saw the summit of Big Slide! It had been a few years since I was last up here. We had such clear views–not a cloud in the sky. Pretty rare for mid-November in the high peaks!

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We stayed up there to have lunch and enjoy the sunshine for about 30 minutes. It was time to head back down, going over the Brothers. I had forgotten what this trail was like–but it was muddy and steep. There was a pretty degraded ladder also, which I didn’t remember from last time. You can tell this trail gets a lot of use. I was so glad we hiked Yard first becuase the view on each of the Brothers is even better than on Big Slide, in my opinion.

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The hike out took longer than I was expecting, but once we got down off the First Brother, it was an easy walk to the car. We got back before 3pm.

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Yard, Big Slide, and the Brothers Loop
Distance
11.3 mi 
Ascent  
2,961′
Total time
7 hrs, 45 minutes

Gear used EMS hiking pants, Nike baselayer long sleeve, Gregory Amber pack, 3 L Platypus bladder, Vasque Snowblime hiking boots, Kelty trekking poles, Smartwool socks, EMS Gore-tex gaiters

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My 46er Finish on Esther and Whiteface Mountains

Saturday afternoon after hiking Seymour, I was pretty tired. I decided ahead of time to get a space at Tmax & Topo’s in Keene, a hiker hostel. It’s owned by some pretty legendary 46ers (they even made an appearance in the The 46ers Film!) and is frequented by high peaks hikers. So staying here on the eve of my finish, along with so many other accomplished hikers, seemed fitting.

I showered, cooked my dinner (trader joe’s boxed mac and cheese!) and hunkered down in my room, reflecting on the journey while other hikers milled about discussing their day’s hikes. I chatted with my bunkmate who had just hiked Marshall. He was considering hiking Esther and Whiteface the following day, also! I felt at home.

I slept like a rock, woke up around 6:00 am to quietly gather my gear, and snuck upstairs to the kitchen to make my oatmeal. Soon, my friend Jona, also a 46er, arrived and we carpooled over to the Whiteface trailhead at the Reservoir in Wilmington. I was so happy she was here! We were meeting Jenna, Colleen and my boyfriend Jordan at the trailhead at around 7:30. We started down the trail at around 7:55.


I chose the trail from the Reservoir because it’s less steep than the one that begins at the Atmospheric Science Research Center. After hiking 15 miles the previous day, I wanted an easier route.

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We got to the cairn marking the unmarked trail to Esther at 10:18am. You can’t miss it.
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I had heard the herdpath was nice and flat, which was a relief. 


It took longer than I expected though, because we reached the summit at 11:02 am. The weather had taken a turn and it became extremely windy and overcast. Not sure if there are usually any views on this hike, but we didn’t have any.

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So happy to be at high peak #45, Esther (named after the 15 year old Esther Macomb who discovered the summit when she got lost).




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The walk back was quick. Onward to Whiteface. At about 12:26 we came to an old ski trail, which was interesting to see. It looked like a tornado had ripped through there. We also saw Chair 6, which was pretty awesome.

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At around 1:00 we got to the rock wall, meaning we were close! The toll road was just up ahead. The trail runs to the left of the road, my parents were parked up there across from the lookout. I was so glad they came! But, we couldn’t celebrate yet, I had to make it to the summit. The winds were so bad, the path up to the summit from the parking lot was closed, so I was a little nervous. Thankfully, we had the alternate hiking trail to climb to the summit.

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Visibility was pretty bad, so we had to follow the yellow markings on the rock to make our way. Soon enough, we were there and the summit sign was right in front of me. I made it to the summit of Whiteface at 1:11pm, a 46er.

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On August 17, 2013 I hiked my first two high peaks in the Adirondacks, Cascade and Porter mountains. I still remember driving up route 73 to Lake Placid the night before, the sun setting, casting its glow on the peaks. I think that was when I really fell in love with these mountains.

It has been one long, crazy journey filled with sheer joy, determination, paralyzing fear, and at times defeat. These mountains are nothing to mess with, and finishing some of these hikes was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I’m proud to be able to finally call myself a 46er!

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We didn’t stay on the summit for long…it was cold and windy. We hiked back down to where my parents were parked. They had donuts waiting!! It was time to celebrate! We had some champagne, ate our donuts and then started back to the car.


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Thanks Jona for presenting me with the Official 46er Patch!
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We said our goodbyes to my parents (and Jona…she got a ride down because she had to be back in Troy at 5!) At this point my legs were getting pretty tired…but I had to hike the last 5.5 miles down. The descent was slow-going. Around 5pm we arrived back at the reservoir. Still on cloud 9 (and hungry!), we drove to the Noonmark Diner for a celebratory dinner. And then it was time to go home.

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Mount Esther and Whiteface Mountain (45 and 46/46)
12.4 mi RT from the Reservoir
Ascent 4,187′
Esther Elevation 4,239′
Whiteface Elevation 4,865′
Total time (including stops) 9 hours

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“It was tough. I was on all fours sometimes. I didn’t think I was going to get there. But I had to get to the top – there was some reason. God knows what it was but I had to go on. And on the top just for a fraction of a moment, the clouds lifted while I was there and I looked down and there a mile below me was Lake Tear of the Clouds, the Hudson’s highest source. And you know, that did something to me. I had seen something – I felt it.”–Grace Hudowalski, 46er #9, and the first woman to climb all 46 high peaks

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