Thursday, May 12, 2011

Big Slide 2011-05-12

Plantar Faciitis. What a pain! I have more enthusiasm than athletic prowess and the pain in my right foot is proof of that. Nevertheless, I wanted to hike one more peak in the Adirondacks before departing on a tour of China. For 24 days my right foot will get a vacation from running and hiking.

I wanted to hike Rocky Peak Ridge, and Giant, starting from New Russia but, in deference to my achy foot, I opted for Big Slide. I decided to visit it by ascending the Slide Brook trail and returning via the Brothers.

I arrived at the Gardens at 8:45 AM and paid the $7 fee. A group of four other hikers were preparing for a hike. I'd meet them later in the day on Big Slide. I left the trailhead at 9:05 AM on warm, sunny, spring day. A succession of warm, dry days ensured the Phelps trail would be dry and mostly mud-free. It was a pleasant walk in the woods and I arrived at the trail junction 75 minutes later.

The raging waters are gone. Crossing Slide Brook was fairly easy and required stepping on only one wet rock. The initial section of the Slide Brook trail was a little muddy but nothing serious. The trail crosses the brook several times and all crossings were straightforward. Some of the crossings required skirting the 'official path' in order to avoid a dunking.

Not far from the Phelps trail junction, Slide Brook course down a broad slab of rock that appears to have been recently scrubbed clean of its moss. The result is a broad swath of smooth, light gray rock that is a perfect spot for taking a break. Did I mention there were no bugs? Like I said, it was a perfect spot.
Slide Brook flowing over scoured rock.
The trail ascends a smooth slide of bare rock that features something I've only seen once before on Allen: red slime. It was as slippery as when I first encountered it on Allen. However, unlike Allen, it was limited to a hundred feet of the trail.

The remainder of the trail was typically 'High Peaks' in character (i.e. eroded). Snow and ice appeared at around 3300' and didn't become tricky until shortly before the junction with the ridge trail. The last 0.29 miles from the ridge to the summit presented the nastiest bits of ice and snow but I was able to ascend it without micro-spikes. The 'log ladder' is a marvel and makes it child's play to ascend a badly eroded section of trail.

I arrived atop Big Slide at noon. The summit presented a sweeping view of Algonquin, Colden, Marcy, the Great Range, Dix, Nippletop, Noonmark, Giant and more. Three other hikers were soaking up the rays. I spent an hour on the summmit talking to the hikers, taking photos, and enjoying a perfect day in the High Peaks: full sun, temperature around 70, no bugs, and great scenery. A pine marten poked its head up a few times but too briefly for me to get a photo.

The Great Range viewed from Big Slide's summit.
I left the Summit shortly after 1:00 PM. I wore my Trail Crampons and they let me safely, and quickly, descend the steep, icy sections. At the lookout I met the party of four hikers I'd seen at the Gardens. The usual round of 'hero shots' were taken at the lookout with Big Slide's precipitous cliff serving as the spectacular background. They reported they had ascended via the Brothers and the last bit of trail is still covered in snow.

I descended to the junction and, true to their word, the trail was indeed covered in snow (for about 3/4 of a mile). Snowshoes were not required because the snow-spine was firm and sufficiently wide. My Trail Crampons helped to keep me on the spine and not slide down its sides into the mushy snow. If you plan to hike this route, do yourself a favour and bring micro-spikes.

After abut a mile, traction aids were no longer required. By the time I reached the Brothers, it felt like hiking in August. It was hot on the exposed rock and the balance of the trail was bone dry. Naturally, the views from the Brothers were exceptional. The first flush of pale green (birches) was visible in the valleys. Like a large canvas, scrubbed clean by winter, it would be soon be alive with a new composition of lively shades of green. I'll be away when all this takes place and will only return in mid June to see spring's handiwork. I imagine I'll have to share those views with a few bugs! 
Red trillium.
I arrived at the Gardens at 3:15 PM where I met two fellow Canadians who needed a lift to the Saint Huberts trailhead. They had backpacked (fully equipped for all conditions) but one member had found the hike too taxing and so, showing good teamwork, they chose to abort, exit via the Gardens, and opt for day-hikes. We chatted for almost an hour before departing for Saint Huberts. Althogh they offered to pay for my troubles I declined since it was hardly an inconvenience and great fun to help fellow hikers.

After dropping them off I headed to the post office in Keene to mail the sunglasses I had found during my hike to Saddleback and Basin. Although I arrived after their closing time, a woman came out and cheerfully agreed to process the parcel. When I returned to my car I noticed a credit card on the back seat and it wasn't mine. I remembered the vehicle the hikers were driving so I headed south to Saint Huberts. I spotted their car in Keene Valley and they were heading north. Waving and honking at them simply resulted in them returning the gesture. They had no idea they were short one credit card so felt no need to stop. I turned around and, although five cars ahead of me, I saw them turn off at The Mountaineer. I pulled up beside them and held up the card. His expression was a combination of shock, disbelief and relief. Good deed done for the day, this boy scout left for home.


See all photos.