Shortly before the recent spate of rainy weather, Brian (Pathgrinder) and I hiked the East Trail, from New Russia to Roaring Brook, over Rocky Peak Ridge and Giant. Brian had completed his first round of 46 and had three more peaks to re-hike in order to complete a single year round of the 46. Having had an enjoyable hike to MacNaughton, I opted to join him on what would prove to be a superb day to hike the East Trail.
The weather forecast promised sunny skies with temperatures in the mid 50's and wind gusts of 25 to 35 mph atop the summits. The wind chill factor prompted us to bring appropriate extra clothing. Stuffing a fleece hat and sweater into my pack was like an official ceremony declaring summer was truly over.
We met at the Roaring Brook trailhead, prepared our hiking gear, and car-pooled to New Russia. This would be the third time I'd hike the route; my first "hike 'n bike" was from New Russia to Chapel Pond and followed by a recent second hike in the opposite direction.
The New Russia trailhead lies about 600' above sea level, whereas Chapel Pond is 1600' and Roaring Brook is 1250'. As a result, this is one of the few hikes in the High Peaks where the direction of travel is more than merely an aesthetic choice. An east to west traverse, starting from New Russia, adds from 600 to 1000 feet of elevation gain compared to going west to east.
If you want to experience Rock Peak Ridge's true majesty, as opposed to a mere side-trip from Giant, hiking it from New Russia is best. RPR ranks 20th in height, at 4390', but the ups and downs of the East Trail create 4700' of ascent (as per ADK Guide Book). It is the highest ascent for a single High Peak and follows a route offering spectacular views, terrain, and vegetation. In my opinion, the well-worn and heavily used Van Hoevenburg trail to Marcy is a bore compared to the East Trail to RPR.
During my last visit, the lower portion of Stevens Brook was dry but this is no longer the case. However, the balance of the route offers no reliable sources of water until Lake Mary-Louise (and you'll definitely want to filter its water). We did spot one or two springs while ascending the western slope of Dickerson Notch; rainy weather may reveal more springs. We didn't rely on ephemeral springs and brought all the water we needed.
A note at the register indicated the presence of wasps near the Blueberry Cobbles bypass-junction but we did not encounter any. Upon cresting Blueberry Cobbles, we had our first good look at our route including the eastern tip of RPR and Bald Peak.
|Rocky Peak Ridge and Bald Peak from Blueberry Cobbles.|
|Brian makes a journal entry atop Bald Peak.|
|Glacial erratic en route to RPR.|
Rocky Peak Ridge features a 4000' high ridge that extends eastwards for about a mile. Once on this ridge, it is a delightful walk among stunted conifers, cripplebrush, birches, mosses and other alpine vegetation. A slight drop brought us to Lake Mary-Louise nestled among a mixed grove of birches and confers. A camp site, lying at an elevation just shy of 4000', offered several level grassy spots for tenting. We did not find any "Do Not Camp" markers but neither did we see markers indicating it is a designated camp site.
|Lake Mary-Louise awash in golden birches.|
The forecasted winds had been our companions throughout the hike. My thermometer indicated low 50's but the windchill on the exposed ridge made it nippy. We paused briefly at RPR's summit cairn for a few photos then, for our lunch break, descended a few feet and sat on the lee side of the summit. Aside from a miniature plastic dinosaur left between a few rocks, we were the only ones on RPR. Hiking on a weekday certainly has its advantages.
|Cool, breezy day atop RPR.|
|Ascending one of Giant's many slides.|
|Giant's expansive view of the High Peaks.|
A short while later we were back at the New Russia trailhead where Brian's car stood alone. The East Trail is a gem that sees far less traffic than many other trails in the High Peaks. The 4700' ascent to RPR (5300' to Giant) is probably what discourages many people from exploring this route. However, that's a plus for anyone willing to put in the effort and be rewarded with spectacular views along an exceptional trail.