Saturday, August 6, 2011

Esther 2011-08-06

The 46th peak of my second round will be Whiteface, where I'll meet my family, and I want to hike it from Whiteface Landing. Accordingly, a visit to Esther would need to be a separate hike and Saturday seemed like a good time to do it.

After a good night's rest, I left Tmax and Topo's shortly after 6:00 AM. I parked at the ASRC trailhead and departed for the Marble Mountain trail at 7:00 AM.

Largely unmarked, the trail descends a gravel road, past discarded equipment, and into a clearing containing a radio tower. At the far end of the clearing, a cairn (and a foil-wrapped stick) marks the beginning of the trail up Marble Mountain.

The trail follows directly up the fall-line and passes between five pairs of concrete blocks that are the remains of a ski lift. The trail-bed is loose rubble and challenges your footing while ascending and more so during the descent. Its upper reaches are home to at least one hermit thrush who serenaded me with its flute-like calls. 

The morning was warm and exceptionally humid and I was in no hurry to reach the summit. There was a chance of thundershowers developing but not until later in the day. I arrived at the junction at 8:45 AM and marvelled at the tall cairn. It stands below a clearly visible sign that indicates the herd-path to Esther. Nevertheless, increasing its height is an irresistible pleasure for passing hikers.

The route to Esther is a bit scratchy and seemed longer than its true length. I reached Esther's summit at around 9:20 AM. The woods were abuzz with the sound of flies and the air was filled with flitting dragonflies. It was magical.

Natty spats atop Esther.

For dessert, baby spruce cones laced with fresh sap
I paused briefly to admire the view of Whiteface. The silence was sporadically broken by the call of a raptor giving chase high above me (or was it the urgent cries of the prey?). A less natural sound was the snarling of a Harley ascending Whiteface's road. After a few minutes rest, I departed for the junction. I arrived at 10:00 AM and chose to descend as quickly as my old legs allowed.

I passed several ascending hikers and paused only to answer questions about distance, time, and presence of water. I found it difficult to maintain a brisk pace on the loose rocks of the Marble Mountain trail. I stopped to photograph a toad who obliged me by remaining motionless no matter how close I positioned my camera. An hour later, at 11:00 AM, I emerged at the ASRC parking lot. It was the end of a very enjoyable morning in the woods. 

Mr. Toad contemplating life, the universe, and everything.


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