Sunday, July 25, 2010

Donaldson and Emmons 2010-07-25


  • Lousy weather; low clouds suppressed all views.
  • Calkins Brook herd path is a great approach to the Seward Range.
  • Path from Donaldson to Emmons is rugged and extremely muddy.

High 60's. Low cloud cover. Drizzle and showers.

None from the summits.

I left Montreal at 5:00 AM and arrived at the Coreys trailhead at 7:45 AM. departed for Calkins Brook herd path at 8:15 AM. I was clearly the first hiker of the day because I was sweeping the trails of all spider webs. A very strange sensation to hear one snap across the tip of your nose.

The marked trail to Calkins Brook is in excellent condition especially the old truck road that runs south (to Shattuck Clearing); it took 1 hour to cover the 3.4 miles to junction with the Calkins Brook herd path. The start of the herd path is wide and extremely obvious; it is also marked with a rock cairn and a bucket. The herd path traverses Calkins Brook approximately 100 yards from the junction.

NOTE: There are two campsites near the crossing, one on each side of the brook. The north-side location is obvious and is on the north bank of the brook (too close; illegal). The south-side site is set back from the brook. Cross the brook, follow the path until it veers hard left (in about 100 feet?) then look right to spot the south-side camp site.

The Calkins Brook herd path is remarkably un-eroded and makes for a very comfortable hike. I found it better than the herd path to Street and Nye. It follows the course of Calkins Brook but is set well south of it (i.e. heard but not seen). It crosses three brooks and a few rivulets. The last brook is located shortly before the trail steepens and is the last source of running water before the ridgeline (about 1/2 hour from the ridgeline when ascending). 

It took two hours to ascend to the junction with the ridgeline path. I hiked through a verdant forest of firs, lush mosses, a wide variety range of mushrooms, and several toads (one almost unintentionally speared by my hiking pole). The source of this lushness was about to make itself known.

The skies were overcast when I departed and the forecast called for it to clear. However, around 10:30 AM and shortly before the ridgeline, the low cloud cover and intermittent showers put a wet blanket on the party. The rest of the day would feature 100% humidity, wet clothes, slick rocks, no views, and abundant mud. Did I mention the lushness of the forest?

The Calkins Brook herd path joins the ridgeline path on Donaldson's northern slope. Seward was not visible across the col due to the low clouds. The hike to Donaldson is steep but short. I met two hikers returning from Emmons who were searching for Donaldson's official summit. I couldn't find a summit marker but found a 6' boulder that seemed to be the highest point (so did others because it was covered in boot mud). Absolutely no views because of the mist and cloud cover.

The round-trip hike over Donaldson to Emmons, from the ridgeline junction, took two hours. The path from Donaldson descends into a col (that seems deeper and steeper than what the topo mapo has to say) and is rugged (many abrupt drops of 5' and more) and extremely muddy. There are at least two spots where the trail becomes a soupy mud wallow. The summit of Emmons offered nothing more than a yellow marker because the clouds obscured all views.

Back on Donaldson, the cloud cover thinned occasionally and provided a few brief glimpses of Long Lake and the western Adirondack Park. The scenery was gorgeous and made me wish for more. I returned to the intersection at 2:30 PM and ate a late lunch. 

I wrung out my socks for the third time and tried to dry my feet with whatever wasn't wet (not much). The dampness seeped into everything in my pack and rendered my phone, and its camera, unusable. No great loss because there were no views to photograph (and it recovered after drying out in the car). 

I watched the cloud cover lift over what I thought was Seward. Then a second peak appeared and finally a third one, Seward's true summit. Given the trail conditions, the weather, and the ascent, it was clear that a round-trip to Seward required two to three more hours of hiking. My knees were stiff and achy (old age) and it was clear that they'd slow my pace and increase the likelihood of a misstep. The additional effort would let me claim another 4000 footer but miss out on its views. With some regret, I chose to leave Seward for a day filled with sunshine and unobscured views of the High Peaks (next weekend?).

At 3:00 PM I departed the ridgeline junction and headed down the Calkins Brook herd path. In just over an hour I reached the brook crossing and washed the muck off my boots and donned a dry pair of socks. The hike down was swift and uneventful and a testimony to the trail's quality. 

I arrived at the parking area in just under an hour. I had a great chat with someone who was preparing to hike in to Calkins Brook. We were in the same boat; trying to finish the 46 before our knee and hip joints throw in the towel. 

No views worth sharing.