Sunday, August 29, 2010




My 46th High Peak.
9.75 hour trip. Approximately 8.3 hours of hiking.
"Red slime" is like cooking oil.

Very warm. Slightly humid.

Good but hazy.

Friday, August 27th was not a good day. I attended my uncle's funeral who had passed away a few days earlier at the age of 86. There have been three deaths in my family this year so 2010 has been emotionally difficult. On a more mundane note, I awoke to a scratchy throat and muscle pain. Fate conspired to cancel Saturday's hike.

Saturday was a day of convalescence and introspection. By evening, I felt better and decided that Sunday would be the day I'd hike Allen, my 46th peak. Life's short so do the things that you love, now.

My wife and I left Montreal at 4:00 AM. She would not be accompanying me to Allen but would spend the day relaxing on the public beach in Newcomb. If you saw a woman practicing tai-chi on the beach, that was her. She had never been to Tahawus so she paid close attention to the route to Allen's trailhead. She would return at 6:00 PM to share in my celebration of hiking my 46th High Peak. 

We arrived at the trailhead shortly before 7:00 AM. Armed with her words of encouragement and love, I set off at 7:10 AM with a spring in my step. I had hiked a section of the trail the previous weekend so it was largely familiar to me. The trail to the Opalescent river crossing is fairly level and a significant portion follows a road. I crossed the Opalescent at 8:15 AM. A pair of running shoes, and a T-shirt, still hang from a limb on the west side of the river. Are they forgotten or placed there for the convenience of others wishing to ford the river?

The next section crosses an open area with views of Adams, Calamity, and Allen in the distance. After pushing through brambles heavily laden with dew, and getting thoroughly wet, I reached the Allen trail junction at 8:45 AM. The sign for Allen is a four foot, split log, pointed at one end, and carved with the word "Allen"; it's hard to miss.

The path from the Allen junction to Skylight brook is wooded and has its fair share of muddy sections. It is not difficult but it felt longer than I had anticipated. I was raring to see Skylight Brook and I reached it at 9:50 AM. I stopped to change socks, patch a few hotspots, and have a snack. Within a few minutes I was joined by two hikers, also from Montreal, who left the trailhead shortly after I did. After we'd chatted about Allen they moved on to the summit. We'd meet again during the ascent, on the summit, and finally at the trailhead.

After a ten minute break at Skylight brook, I continued on to the junction with Allen brook. This part of the trail winds through conifers and is in good shape with little erosion or mud. I reached Allen brook at 10:25 AM. Up until this point of the hike, I had passed through terrain that was varied but generally typical of what you'd find throughout the High Peaks. The next section would introduce me to Allen's uniqueness.

If a herd path follows a brook, and the water levels are low, you're liable to hike in the brook to take advantage of exposed slabs and rocks. For example, a section of the trail to Redfield follows a brook and, the previous weekend, I hiked in the brook and found it very enjoyable. The herd path up Allen brook is an exception. The exposed rock is coated in a slick substance, widely referred to as "red slime", that provides all the traction of cooking oil. After a few experiments to gauge the limits of my ability to stay upright, I chose to avoid the slabs and use the muddy trails whenever possible.

I like a mountain trail that does not waste your time with switchbacks, ups, downs, flanking, or other nonsense; Allen's trail simply goes straight up the slippery brook. About three-quarters of the way up you come to an open slide with a good view of Redfield. Due to the red slime, the best route is to stick to the steep, mucky trail along the slide's left side. After the slide, the trail enters the woods and continues on solid ground to the summit.

I arrived at the summit sign at 11:40 AM and took a self-portrait. My big grin was genuine. When I stopped persuing 46er status in 1982, at the tender age of 23, I had completed 37 peaks in four years through many multi-day trips. I had always considered Allen, owing to its distance, to be a two-day venture. Yet, almost thirty years later, I was standing on its summit in less than four and a half hours. Was I feeling 'on top of the world'? You bet I was!

I walked over to the lookout at Allen's north end. It provides unique views of Skylight, Marcy, Panther gorge, Haystack, Gothics, and many peaks to the east including Giant and Dix. The two Montrealers were there and they proceeded to congratulate me. We all had lunch and quietly gazed at the marvelous views. Each peak brought back memories of the people, weather, views, and events that gave life to each hiking trip. It was a trip down memory lane because many of those hikes were over a quarter-century old.

I decided to celebrate my 46th summit by raising a glass of scotch to my departed relatives. I packed a proper whisky glass and two fingers of Lagavulin 16-year old single malt for the occasion. Sipping the scotch and viewing the High Peaks from atop Allen was a poignant moment.

I left the summit at 12:30 PM. After descending for about a half hour, I met a young couple ascending the trail. The boy was clutching an ADK trail guide and the girl was wearing a knee brace. Other than that, I don't recall seeing any packs or trail gear. They asked "how far to the summit" and I replied I had been descending for a half hour. I cautioned them about the "red slime" and the girl acknowledged its slickness. She expressed concern about the descent. I was surprised by their lack of equipment. During my trip to Redfield, I had also noticed hikers who seemed to travel beyond 'ultra-light' and more in the realm of 'unprepared'. When I signed out at the trail register, later that afternoon, I saw only my name and the two Montrealers but no record of the couple. They either started from elsewhere or enjoyed throwing caution to the wind.

I carefully made my way down the slick rocks and experienced only one unexpected slip. It was was short, fast and, fortunately, I had hiking poles and a tree branch to keep me upright. One nasty fall can ruin your hike and I wasn't about to carried out on this one. Once again, my hiking poles proved their worth and let me descend safely and quickly. By 1:30 PM I was back at the falls on Allen brook. I stood next to the falls and filled my water bag directly from the rushing water. I surmised Allen brook's water to be relatively safe and didn't bother to drop in an Aquatab. The water was cool and delicious. I guess I'll know the results of my gamble in about two weeks.

I passed Skylight brook at 1:50 PM and arrived at the East River/Allen junction at 2:50 PM. The Allen junction is in a clearing and the sun was baking everything in sight. I sat on a log and stripped off my wet socks and let my pruney-white feet dry out in the heat. After a snack, foot maintenance, and fresh socks, I pushed on to the Opalescent river. The overhanging bushes were now dry and made passage through them a less soggy affair than in the morning.

I arrived at the Opalescent at 3:40 PM and spent a few minutes enjoying the scenery. The low water level has exposed the river's rocky bed and large shoals of smooth round stones. At other times of the year, I imagine that crossing this bridgeless river can be a formidable challenge if not outright impossible. Fortunately, its current condition allowed me to rock-hop across it. If it wasn't on private land, it'd make a picturesque spot for camping.

The hike back to the trailhead was uneventful except for a brief glimpse of a white-tailed deer. It jumped out of the bushes, crossed the road, and darted off into the woods. It all happened within a few feet of me and in a blink of an eye. The remaining miles slipped by and I arrived at the trailhead at 4:55 PM. With only five hikers on the trail, on a warm summer's day, it seemed like I had the privilege to experience Allen in relative privacy.

I arrived one hour prior to the appointed rendezvous time so I headed back to the Hudson River and sat on its bank cooling my feet. About fifteen minutes later, the two Montrealers crossed the suspension bridge. At 5:30 PM I was milling around the empty parking lot watching cars head to and from Upper Works. My wife was unfamiliar with the area; she had seen the East River parking area for the first time this morning. By 6:00 PM I was concerned that something had gone wrong. My wallet and passport were with her so it'd be tricky to fend for myself.

By 6:10 PM I grew worried about my wife's safety. A moment later, I spotted our car, headlights flashing, and horn blaring. She had followed the road towards Upper Works but, at around 5:45 PM, turned back just short of the parking lot. She felt she had travelled too far, and missed the lot, so she doubled back. She stopped passing cars for directions, some had no idea about the 'parking lot for Allen', one indicated it was only 'four minutes up the road' (it was much more), and finally someone confirmed that he had seen a 'lone hiker in a red T-shirt'. Our reunion was joyous; we were both safe and sound. The trip couldn't have ended on a better note.

For best results, select Slide Show.

A toast to everyone who helped make this possible.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Redfield 2010-08-21

  • My "Apollo 10" trip.
  • Hike involved one 'penalty loop'.
  • East River trail from Flowed Lands is beautiful.

Morning: low 40's. Afternoon: low 60's. Overcast.


In preparation for Allen, my 46th, I wanted to hike a similar distance but with an 'early termination' option in the event of fatigue. Redfield, my 45th, fit the bill perfectly. If approached from Upper Works via the Calamity Brook trail, the return trip can retrace the inbound route or opt for four extra miles via the "East River Trail" (i.e. along the Opalescent river from Flowed Lands). Redfield would be my "Apollo 10"; a shakedown mission to determine if I could handle the 18 mile round-trip to Allen. In fact, after adding up the miles, the hike to Redfield is longer and slightly higher (21 miles + 1 mile 'penalty loop').

I departed Montreal at 3:00 AM and arrived at Upper Works at 6:00 AM. I could've arrived a few minutes earlier but I made my first mistake of the day and, en route to Upper Works, ended up at the locked gate. I missed the first lefthand fork thinking it was the route to the Santanoni trailhead (that's the second lefthand fork). Chalk it up to early-morning brain-fog. After finding a spot in the nearly full parking lot, I geared up quickly and left the trailhead at 6:10 AM.

At some point I was startled by a metallic noise in the woods and shouted "Hey!". A few steps later I saw a hiker preparing breakfast. I apologized for my kneejerk shout and moved on only to discover that the trail veered sharply to the left and over a log bridge. Thinking nothing of it, and still addled by the noise, I bulldozed over it and pressed on. A little while later I realized the trail markers were no longer red but blue. I forgot that, somewhere along the Calamity Brook trail, there's a junction with a trail that leads to Indian Pass. Now I had a nagging feeling that I may have taken a wrong turn. The terrain seemed correct, the trail well-worn, and the sun was on my right so I deduced I was heading in the correct direction.

At 7:40 AM I arrived at the Henderson Memorial and took a few photos. I had a sense of déja vu but could not recall which hiking trip in the past would have brought me here. Ten minutes later I was at the Flowed Lands register and looking out at Colden.

Henderson Memorial.
I caught up and passed a couple near the cairn to Marshall (the gentleman was wearing a 46er patch) and a lone hiker who was heading to Skylight and Gray. We chatted briefly while hiking and parted ways at Colden dam (8:15 AM). Based on my progress, I figured I'd be at the Uphill lean-to, and the cairn to Redfield and Cliff, within an hour.

In my mind's eye, I expected to arrive at Uphill lean-to and locate the cairn behind it. Of course, that's not how it is arranged but I didn't know it at the time. I did my best to zoom past all of the pretty views of the Opalescent. I planned to spend more time taking photos of this scenic brook on the return trip. However, a stop to peer into the gorge, and have a snack, was unavoidable.

At the head of the gorge.

Opalescent Gorge.
Somewhere around 9:00 AM I passed the root ball of a fallen tree and recognized it, from a photo I had seen, as being the old herd path to Cliff. A short distance later, I passed a cairn and thought it was an attempt to remark the old Cliff herd path (wrong). It couldn't be the route to Redfield because I haven't passed the Uphill lean-to yet (wrong). All of the campsite markers in the area were a surprise to me because I don't recall a camping area between Colden dam and Uphill lean-to thirty years ago (there still is none). I shrugged it off and continued my march towards Redfield (wrong).

I passed a troop of young hikers heading in the opposite direction. Hmmm, where were they going? The trail started to climb out of the valley. I looked back, saw Colden's slides and realized I made a mistake. That cairn popped into my mind but it was not accompanied with the requisite lean-to. A few paces later I saw a sign that forbade camping above 3500 feet. It might as well have read "You goofed!". I remember thinking "OK, smart guy, nobody has moved Uphill lean-to above 3500 feet." A quick glance at the map made me realize I was so focused on arriving at a lean-to that I had zoomed passed the junction with the Feldspar Brook trail.

Embarrassed with my severe bout of 'trail myopia', I hustled back, found the junction to Feldspar, recognized that the cairn was my objective, and flew down the trail towards it. I passed the lone hiker, heading for Skylight, and sheepishly admitted I had passed the cairn to Redfield. He reminded me that it also led to Cliff but that much, at least, I did recall. At 9:50 AM I arrived at the cairn, again. Arriving from the east, I saw a small yellow marker indicating the direction to the Uphill lean-to. The mistake amounted to a 1 mile 'penalty loop' for 'gross inattention'.

The herd path up Redfield starts along a smooth path and ends up following a wide brook. Where the two meet, there's a fine view of Algonquin that vaguely reminded me of the vista from Indian Falls. I stopped for a snack and a change of socks. I collected water into a spare water bladder and dropped in an Aquatab ostensibly to purify it but surely to have it taste vile. I stashed the water bladder and hung up my wet socks to dry.

MacIntyre Range viewed from Uphill Brook.
The brook's water level was very low thereby exposing a lot of smooth, dry rock and interesting water features. I found it easier, and more appealing, to hike in the brook as opposed to the trail. All good things come to an end, and the route veers right, out of the wide brook, and follows a smaller tributary brook. Eventually this too ends and the route returns to an earthen trail. I passed a father and son team who were making Redfield the third and final peak of their weekend trip together. The last stretch of the route was uneventful and I arrived at the wooded summit, in just over an hour, at 11:00 AM.

Redfield. Number 45 for me.
At the summit I met, for the second time, the troop of young hikers. Cameras were exchanged and summit photos were captured. The father and son team arrived and Redfield's miniscule summit became crowded. The troop left for Cliff and I moved to a boulder, a few feet past the summit, to get fine views of my next objective, Allen. It was a good place to have lunch and envision the hike to Allen.

I left the summit at 11:30 AM, collected my bag o'bleach and socks, and proceeded to spend time taking photos and videos along the Opalescent brook. The water level was low enough to let me stand at the head of the gorge and look down its length. This is a treat especially if you've seen the gorge during the spring runoff. I returned to the Flowed Lands register at 2:00 PM. I had another snack, and change of socks, at the Calamity Brook lean-to and patched up a few minor blisters. I felt reasonably good so I decided to pursue my original objective and exit via Hanging Spear Falls and the Opalescent river (the East River trail).

At 2:30 PM, I crossed the causeway at the breached Flowed Lands dam and, on the opposite bank, saw the sign indicating "East River Trail - Bridge Out". I was prepared to ford the Opalescent and looked forward to a cooling dip. The trail that follows the Opalescent river is remarkable. It is in such beautiful shape as to make it uncharacteristic for the High Peaks region. Virtually mudless and uneroded, it is a garden footpath through beautiful woods in a steep-walled valley high above a roaring brook.

Breached dam at Flowed Lands.
I arrived at Hanging Spear Falls at 2:50PM and followed the short sidetrail to a beautiful view of the falls. However, if not for time constraints, I would've found a way down to its base and fully appreciated its grandeur.

Hanging Spear Falls.
By 3:40 PM I arrived at the junction with the herd path to Allen. The trail here has exited the steep valley and is now mostly open, flat, and grassy terrain with chest-high bushes screening the trail. Although the trail wasn't difficult, and allowed you to stride at a fast pace, the area felt very remote and the trailhead seemed along ways off. The only way to change that was to press on and chew up those miles.

I arrived at the Opalescent river crossing at 4:15 PM. There were four people taking a break and I hazarded a guess that one of them was AdkWalrus completing his 46th peak. In fact, it was him, with his wife and friends, and I congratulated him on his success. AdkWalrus's group left a few minutes before I did after we exchanged farewells.

Opalsecent river crossing (low water).
I proceeded to cool my feet in the Opalescent and inhale another Cliff bar. The water level is so low that you can cross it by rock-hopping; no fording required. It also meant there'd be no cooling dip. I patched another tiny blister, put on dry socks, and prepared myself to burn up the remaining miles. I caught up to AdkWalrus and his wife and we ended up discussing all sorts of things all the way back to the trailhead (5:45 pm). It was a very pleasant end to a long and rewarding trip. By 6:00 PM I covered the remaining half-mile section of road and was back at the Upper Works trailhead.


See all photos.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Mount Evans 2010-08-13

Although about a half-continent away from the Adirondacks, and I didn't even hike it, here are a few thoughts and photos of my recent trip to Mount Evans in Colorado.

Last week, August 9-13, I was in Denver on a business trip. Although I packed some gear, time constraints prevented me from hiking in the Rockies. However, on the final day, my colleague and I had a few spare hours and we drove to the 14,000 foot summit of Mount Evans

Topo Map

Up to that point, the highest altitude I ever experienced was atop the Aiguille du Midi near Chamonix in 1986 (3842m/12604ft). I didn't climb that either; I ascended via the awesome Téléphérique. Mount Evans offered me the chance to easily experience a higher elevation.

The town of Idaho Springs is a short drive west of Denver and that's where route 103 leads to Arapahoe National Forest and route 5, the road to Mounts Evans. After paying a ten dollar entrance fee (per carload), we noted the sign indicating the summit temperature is 39 F and 20 F with the windchill. It was 90 F in Denver. The paved road winds through beautiful stands of tall conifers. The first views of the forested valleys are spectacular and only get better as you ascend.

As we approached the treeline, we entered into rain clouds and lightning. As we passed Summit Lake, the rain turned to slush on the windshield and it didn't look promising for views from the summit. Fortunately, the clouds moved on, the rainbows appeared, and the sky cleared. After numerous hairpin curves, we arrived at the summit parking lot (14100ft).

Summit parking area (14, 100')
Except for a stiff breeze that nipped exposed fingers and ears, you couldn't ask for better weather at 14000 feet. The views were awe-inspiring. I followed a switchbacked trail to the rocky summit and found myself breathing heavily. As an Easterner, accustomed to hiking mountains whose summits are lower than Denver, I've developed great respect for hikers persuing  Fourteeners status. 

Spectacular view of Summit Lake.
There's a sign on the summit warning of altitude sickness and its symptoms. I had an empty feeling in my stomach and a some tingling in the fingertips but no headaches or nausea. The eye-opener was how hard I had to breathe while walking on the trail.

During the descent, and not far from the summit, a herd of mountain goats crossed the road. The young kids were playing with another, jumping straight in the air, twirling 180 degrees, and landing squarely on their hooves. I could've watched them for hours.
Local residents.
Summit Lake.


See all photos.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Santanoni Range 2010-08-07

Santanoni Range: Couchsachraga, Panther, Santanoni


  • Excellent weather. 
  • Santanoni Express trail is in good shape.
  • Great views from Santanoni. 

High 60's, low 70's; warm, dry and comfortable. 

Very good. 

I left Montreal at 4:30 AM, stopped at the Price Chopper in Plattsburgh to get lunch (sandwich selection was poor at 5:30 AM; no surprise) and reached the trailhead for Bradley Pond at 7:20 AM. A van with five hikers, preparing for a hike, was parked at the junction and I was informed the parking lot was full. I parked behind them.

I geared up and hit the trail at 7:45 AM. By 8:15 I was crossing the aptly described "Tim Burton inspired" bridge and by 9:00 AM I was at the 'lounging rocks' on Santanoni Brook. Beyond that point, the trail gets wetter and there are one or two very muddy sections but nothing outrageous.

'Lounging rocks' on Santanoni Brook.
By 9:30 AM I was at the junction with the Panther Brook herd path. The junction is well marked by a few rocks resting on a boulder. The path crosses the east end of a grassy area that appears to be the remains of a beaver bog. At 10:40 AM I was taking pictures of a log covered with fist-sized stone placed by passing hikers. No clue why people have done this but it's whimsical and made me grin.

The herd path crosses Panther Brook twice and at the last crossing the path veers away from the brook. That's where I decided to fill a spare water bladder with about 2 liters of water. I dumped in two Aquatabs and planned to stash it at Times Square. I reached Herald Square followed by Times Square at approximately 11:00 AM.

Times Square, in all its rustic glory.
Between Herald and Times Square I met a woman who introduced herself as the official Time Square host and indicated she would lead me to the bar. In fact, this witty lady was part of a large, organized group being led across the Santanoni range. They were camping near Bradley Pond and she had just returned from Couchsachraga. The balance of the group was still returning. Over the course of the day, I met many hikers, some of whom I met several times as we crossed and re-crossed one another's routes. It was a very busy day in the Santanoni Range.

I stashed my reserve water supply, had a snack, changed my socks (such a luxury to slip on dry socks), donned my gaiters and prepared myself for the infamous hike down to the mud wallow and then up to Couchsachraga. I left at 11:15 AM.

The trail descends quickly and is very narrow. The bordering firs have lost their needles but not their branches. Some sections poke, scrape and whip you like some sort of hazing ritual. Other than that, most of the trail is in fine shape and the descent is long and uneventful. Along the way the trail passed a steep drop where the views of the Seward Range and Cold River valley were outstanding.

I don't recall the precise time I reached the mud wallow, maybe 11:45 AM, but it signalled the lowest point of the descent. I chose to follow a path slightly right of dead-center. I was able to find enough downed timber and semi-solid patches of earth to allow me cross the mess without mishap. My hiking poles helped me maintain my balance on the tricky stuff and probe the muck to find solid footing. There were a few spots where the poles happily slid into the mire to a depth of a foot and a half. But, overall, it wasn't as bad as I had expected. I suspect it's a very different place after a heavy rain.

The infamous Couchsachraga bog.
After several ups and downs, I reached the summit of Couchsachraga, and my 44th High Peak, at 12:20 PM. After the requisite self-portrait and another snack I was joined by two more hikers. The views from Couchsachraga are fine but a little disheartening because you get to see just how far down you've come from Times Square.

A summit sign with character.
I left the summit at 12:35 PM and returned to Times Square at 1:50 PM. All in all, the round-trip to Couchsachraga took me approximately 2.5 hours. Times Square contained at least a half dozen hikers and we readily struck up a conversation and recounted our best, and worst, times in the 'Dacks.

On my return from Couchsachraga's summit, I finished the contents of my primary water supply. Upon arriving at Times Square I retrieved my cache of water and discovered it tasted like Clorox. It was disgusting. I thought it would either ruin my liver or bleach my teeth or both. I swished around a mouthful, spat it out, then swallowed another mouthful. Execrable stuff. I vowed to buy a filter.

Panther's summit was 20 minutes away. I spent about an hour on Panther having lunch, chatting with an amiable hiker from Pennsylvania, and taking photos of the great views. A large open area, just short of the true summit, provides outstanding views and a good place to rest. I went all out this trip and brought two changes of socks (I expected a mishap at the mud bog). The third and final pair of dry socks went on and my feet approved.

Central High Peaks viewed from Panther.
I got back to Times Square at 3:30 PM and pushed on to Santanoni. I had second thoughts because the side of my right knee was painful and I was concerned that it would be a liability on the descent via Santanoni Express. However, the trip along the ridge helped to loosen it up and by the time I reached Santanoni's first false summit the sharp pain was gone.

I reached the summit of Santanoni at 4:15 PM and the views of the High Peaks were first class. Along the way I ran into the two hikers I had met at Couchsachraga and they were returning via Panther Brook. They reported seeing the junction with Santanoni Express and it was unmarked and west of the last false summit. When standing at the junction and facing north, a large root is at your left, a 5" diameter tree trunk is on your right, and Marcy is visible in the distance, directly in line with the Express path. Walk forward a few feet through the low cripplebrush and the path becomes more apparent.

Last visit here was September 6th, 1982!
I spent only 15 minutes on Santanoni and then descended via Santanoni Express at 4:30 PM. It descends very rapidly and might present a challenge in wet weather. The steepness decreases and several section of the trail are winding earthen footpaths that are a pleasure to follow.

At around 5:30 PM I reached the beaver bog that has obliterated the herd path. However, some kind soul has marked a path around the east side of the bog (orange tape). When descending from Santanoni, skirt the bog along the right and pay attention to the markers at the very edge of the bog. There is a clearing at the eastern tip of the bog that might led people astray. I piled some downed logs to dissuade people from entering the clearing and guiding them around the bog.

By 5:40 PM I reached the marked trail and headed down the path towards the gravel road. I reached the trailhead at 6:50 PM after what seemed like an eternity on the road. I signed out at the register and noted that 26 hikers had registered on that day.

After eleven glorious hours of hiking, and 28 years since I visited the summits of Panther and Santanoni, I survived Couchsachraga's mud bog and touched its crooked sign. It was a very good day.

Three hours later, I was back home and looking forward to a good night's sleep.


See all photos.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Esther and Whiteface 2010-08-01

  • Excellent weather.
  • Trail from Wilmington is exceptionally good.
  • Great views from Whiteface.

  • Low 70's; warm, dry and comfortable.

  • Very good. Clear skies; slight haze.

I recently decided to finish hiking the 46 and contacted the ADK 46ers. My assigned contact mailed me photocopies of my type-written hiking logs from <gulp> 1979-1982. I had forgotten how much time had passed since I lost interest in pursuing 46er status.

I got a bit choked up reading those reports, addressed to Grace Hudowalski, written by a hand younger than the thirty years that have elapsed since 1980. The biggest surprise was that my decades-old logs did not jibe with my current recollection of what I had hiked. For example, I forgot that I hiked Blake. I rummaged through my hand-written hiking logs and discovered that I had indeed hiked it on June 22, 1980. The 46er's logs lacked evidence that I hiked Esther and Whiteface. I do recall starting at the ASRC trailhead for Esther (solo) and Whiteface, in early spring, via the road with a friend. 

For Whiteface, I called my old hiking buddy and he confirmed our ascent of Whiteface. I looked through my old photos and discovered two shots of me at the stone structure near Whiteface's parking lot. I'm sporting a sky-blue jacket and pants I had made from new-fangled Gore-tex (yep, I use to make my own clothing and packs) and there's snow on the ground. It confirms my memory of the trip. However, it'd be difficult to believe that I and that 22 year old, with thick dark-brown hair, were the same person.

For Esther, I had memories but no photos of the ASRC trailhead and the ascent past the concrete foundations that were the only remains of an old ski lift on Marble Mountain. Whereas I had logged the names of hikers who registered on trailess summits, as was the custom of the time, I didn't have anything recorded for Esther and couldn't remember why not.

There was no easy way to prove I had hiked them so the simplest solution was to hike them again.

I left Meacham Lake campground at 7:00 AM and traced out a route to Wilmington via Paul Smiths, Gabriels, Bloomingdale, and past Franklin Falls Pond. Somewhere east of the hamlet of Gabriels there's an awesome view of Whiteface's western face.

I arrived at the Atmospheric Science Research Center (ASRC) at 8:00 AM. At 8:15 AM I was heading down the path towards the radio tower. The area was very familiar to me and affirmed my belief I had hiked it before. The road led down the side of a small valley, past a radio tower, and up the north side of Marble. It ascended past four pairs of concrete blocks that had formed the foundation of a ski lift. The only difference was that I remember the terrain being more open (young trees) and leafless (early spring) and whereas now, in mid summer and thirty years later, it is fully forested.

The trail up Marble is unusual for the Adirondacks because it is dry and filled with loose rubble. The forest was filled with the song of my favourite bird, the Hermit Thrush, and I stopped to film the woods and their wonderful sounds.

I reached the junction with the Wilmington-Whiteface trail at 8:45 AM. The Wilmington trail was a treat. It was dry and mud-free for most of its length. The trail bed varies from bare rock to compacted soil and appears to be well-maintained (evidence of waters bars and the like). It also offers numerous views through the trees.

I pressed on and reached the junction with Esther at 9:45 AM. By 10:30 AM I was at the summit of Esther, sitting by the bronze plaque embedded in the rock commemorating Esther McComb's ascent. There are great views of Whiteface from Esther's summit and from a lookout located shortly before the summit.

At 11:00 AM I was back at the Wilmington trail and having a snack. I hadn't planned the day's provisions very well. I had one Cliff bar for breakfast and my last one for a snack. Lunch, planned for the summit, would consist of an apple and a peach. Fortunately, I had started out with 2 liters of water and I could buy more on the summit if I ran out. Despite having hiked Donaldson and Seward the previous day, I was not unduly sore or fatigued although I was apprehensive my knees would fail me at the summit. I needed to be in good shape for the descent. I was having second thoughts about proceeding to Whiteface.

While snacking, I watched an energetic young family arrive, pause, and then head towards Esther. Close on their heels was a young man in sneakers without a pack, water bottle, or other supplies, who also dashed off to Esther. I decided I was being overly cautious and proceeded up the path to Whiteface. Shortly before the intersection of the hiking and ski trails, the young man in sneakers bounded past me. I remarked that he "travelled light" and, with a laugh, 'super-hiker' zipped up the trail.

By 11:30 AM I crossed the alpine ski trail and at noon I reached the impressive stone bulwark of the road. Lounging by the road was super-hiker. It was comforting to know that he was a mere mortal and also needed to pause occasionally. From its intersection with the road, the trail led through low cripplebrush and finally onto bare rock where it provided unobstructed views of the summit and the surrounding peaks. Once above treeline, all thoughts of tender knee joints disappeared and there was nothing but exhilaration to be above treeline on such a perfect day.

I reached the summit at 12:20 PM and I was far from alone. I had no illusions about Whiteface's summit. My first very ascent was in the early 70's, with my family, in my Dad's '68 Chevy Belair (its brakes overheated on the descent and gave us one more souvenir of Whiteface). The summit was alive with car-trippers, hikers, bikers (the motorcycle kind), young, old, fit and the disabled. I used to dislike the idea of Whiteface's road but I grew to see its value in offering everyone the opportunity to experience a summit and perhaps develop an appreciation for the outdoors.

Whiteface's summit provides a commanding view of Mirror Lake and the High Peaks. I took the requisite self-portrait with Whiteface's mountain-shaped summit sign along with one of my bare feet and the USGS marker.

After finishing my meager lunch, a young man asked if I had time to answer a few questions. He was attending St. Lawrence College and working on a photo essay of Adirondack hikers. We had crossed paths during the ascent and I had watched him interview other hikers on the summit, so I agreed to participate. After answering the basic set of questions, and submitting to a portrait, we exchanged hiking stories and other anecdotes about the High Peaks for a good half-hour. He'll be hiking in the High Peaks for another two weeks, so if you should run into him, take a few minutes to become part of his essay.

I purchased a bottle of water and left the summit at 2:00 PM thinking that, when I'd reach the intersection with the road, I might continue my descent via the road in order to spare my knees. When I did arrive at the junction, I was feeling quite good and opted to return the way I ascended.

At the stone wall, I met the young family, Mom and Dad looking especially worse for wear after hiking Esther, making their way up the trail. I commented that the 2.5 mile side trip to Esther has a way of taking one’s spark away and they agreed. I indicated that they’d feel a good deal better once they get above treeline and it was only a few steps away. I think they’ll remember Whiteface for years to come.

I arrived at the ASRC at 4:30 PM and by 6:30 PM I was back home in Montreal. Donaldson and Seward on Saturday and Esther and Whiteface on Sunday; it was a great weekend.