Saturday, September 5, 2015

Tabletop, TR, and Phelps. 2015-09-05

On Saturday, I joined a trip to Tabletop organized by the Montreal Outdoor Adventure Club (MOAC). Dan, the organizer, was kind enough to allow me to "do my own thing" so I added TR and Phelps to the mix. It was a profitable "List Fulfilment" day because it added:
  • One peak to my 7th round of the ADK 46.
  • Two peaks to my September ADK 46 Grid.
  • One peak to my ADK Hundred Highest.
Naturally it was also an opportunity to get some exercise, breathe fresh air, and socialize with MOAC members.

On any other sunny weekend, a 6:00 AM departure from Montreal would mean arriving at ADK Loj around 8:30 AM and possibly finding a parking spot. On a sunny Labor Day weekend, 8:30 AM was most certainly too late to secure a spot and we arrived shortly after 9:00 AM. The numerous cars lining Adirondack Loj road indicated it was fruitless to continue to the Loj. Gary, our driver, immediately parked along South Meadows Road.

While Dan shepherded his flock of twelve, I bid everyone a great hike and headed towards the Loj. Instead of the one-mile road-walk, I opted to duck into the woods and follow the Northwoods and Easyside trails. It's a touch longer but far more pleasant than pounding pavement. Fifteen minutes later, I emerged in the parking lot and observed throngs of hikers milling about. I signed in at 9:45 AM, a fairly late start, and took my place in the conga line to Marcy Dam.

After passing several hikers, I caught up to an elderly gentleman who was shuffling slowly down the trail. I noticed a well-worn ADK 46er patch on his pack and stopped to talk to him and his wife. Without revealing anyone's identity, his 46er number was in the low 2000's and he finished in the mid-80's. They were heading to Marcy Dam for the day. After a brief chat, I wished them well and continued towards Marcy Dam.

Dan and I agreed to meet at the Loj at 4:30 PM. Although I had ample time, I made a point of maintaining a good pace because I didn't know how much time I'd need for TR (Theodore Roosevelt).

The ascent to the Tabletop junction was uneventful except for meeting Christian and his group. Also from MOAC, he led a tiny group (4), in the wee hours of the morning, to watch sunrise from Marcy's summit. He reported they had perfect viewing conditions and everyone thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

I arrived at the Tabletop junction at 11:00 AM and noticed the signage had been improved. The climb to Tabletop took a half-hour and along the way I met several descending hikers that I'd see later in the day. Many people had Tabletop and Phelps in their sights. Seeing one young couple, I quipped they must be seeking 46er status because why else would someone choose Tabletop on such a beautiful day? Indeed, they were aspiring 46ers.

Tabletop's summit sign may soon be in need of replacement because the editing of its name has progressed from "ABLETOP" to "ABLETO". My time on Tabletop was brief; just enough to down a handful of dates and appreciate the partially obscured view of Basin, Haystack and Marcy. An over-zoomed view of Marcy revealed hikers like so many little "hairs" on its bald summit.

Marcy's populated summit.
The descent to the junction was quick. I continued to Indian Falls to take in its iconic view of the McIntyres. Upon my return to the junction, I met the twelve stalwart MOAC hikers preparing for their ascent to Tabletop. Everyone was in good spirits and looking forward to the challenge. I wished them well and turned down the trail to begin my bushwhack to TR.

Iconic view from Indian Falls.
I read there's a herd-path to TR but didn't see evidence of it, or a cairn, during my ascent to the Tabletop junction. I set my compass and plunged into the woods. I started a little too close to the junction so the first step was to descend to the Tabletop-TR col. Hearing voices to my right, I realized I was simply paralleling the Van Hoevenberg trail. I rejoined the trail for speed, descended to a flat section, and then ducked back into the woods .

The bulk of TR's eastern face lay directly ahead of me so it was simply a matter of following the "Law of Up". The woods became messy and made "up" a bit slower than anticipated. Wearing T-shirt and shorts resulted in the expected pokes and scratches. Eventually I found a herd-path and was able to pick up the pace. The path faded in and out, mostly due to blowdown, but I was able to follow it to TR's summit.

Summit of TR.
Except for flagging, and a "TR" carved into a tree, the small clearing was featureless (and viewless). Backtracking along the herd-path proved to be more challenging and I lost and regained it several times before losing it altogether. Navigation was a given; head east and down. I emerged on the trail a mere twenty feet from where I had started. The entire venture took less than a half-hour and cost me one laser-printed map which had worked its way out of my pocket. Two down, one to go.

The climb up Phelps was punctuated by:
  • Meeting others I had seen earlier.
  • Running out of water.
  • Being overheated.
The ascent took forty-five minutes, and a handful of Skittles, but resulted in the best summit views of the day.

Hazy view from Phelps.
Initially I felt a bit run-down but was renewed after pausing on the summit to chat with a father and son. I left Phelps at 2:00 PM and was back at the junction a half-hour later. I had a powerful thirst and made a beeline down the Van Hoevenberg trail to the Phelps Brook crossing. Along the way I recognized the tall fellow ahead of me. I caught up to "BillB" and we shared the details of our day. We parted ways at Phelps Brook where I stopped to filter and guzzle over a liter of water to wash away the Sahara in my mouth.

Now that my blood was liquid again, I rediscovered a spring in my step and began passing the folks I had met descending Phelps. It was like a scene from the Truman Show. There weren't many people in the High Peaks, just a small crowd of familiar faces that moved around a lot!

I rock-hopped Marcy Brook at the base of the dam and eventually caught up to "BillB" again. We couldn't help but notice the stream of backpackers and campers heading to Marcy Dam. Several carried their bear canisters tucked under their arm. I wondered how many times the canisters would change from one tired arm to another before reaching their destination. Perhaps they discovered, upon their arrival at Adirondack Loj, a canister was mandatory and they had no means to attach it to their pack. Others hand-carried plastic supermarket bags filled with who-knows-what, sleeping bags, and gallon jugs of water. Ouch!

We arrived at the trail-head shortly after 3:30 PM. We parted company a second time and I headed to the HPIC's porch to seat my sweaty-self down. I overlooked to check Dan's logbook so I sauntered back to the trail-register. I found his entry and he had not checked out yet. I added a note indicating I was waiting at the HPIC.

I had time to kill so I relaxed and began to people-watch. A father and son team recognized me and we struck up a conversation. I congratulated his son who had just completed his ADK 46 on Marcy (and is also a lurker on the ADKHighPeaks forum). Another forum member also recognized me and we chatted briefly (forgive me but I cannot recall your name). Someone was interviewing hikers on the subject of environmental awareness and I eavesdropped on their responses. "MtnManJohn" appeared and we commiserated on how the heat was a drag on the day's performance.

Shortly after the appointed rendezvous time of 4:30 PM, I returned to the trail-register. I spent time helping others locate their name in the logbook. There were many pages of entries and finding one's own was tedious. I asked when they had set out and marked the time in the top margin. Eventually there were enough times marked to simplify the process of locating one's entry. I wandered back to the HPIC and listened in on a few more survey interviews. Eventually, I chatted with the interviewer about the nature of some of the questions, notably on "foraging".

By 5:30 PM, I became concerned there may have been a grave miscommunication. Perhaps they overlooked to sign out and were waiting at South Meadows for over an hour. I returned to the trail-register and changed my note to "Waited 2 hours. Went back to car." I paused momentarily at the HPIC and heard someone call my name. Gabriel was seated and explained he was the first to arrive and the others were not far behind. Talk about lucky timing! Within a few minutes Dan and the gang streamed across the lot. All's well that end's well.

I convinced Gary, Marisa, and Gabriel to return via the Easyside trail and, before long, we were back at South Meadows. The group reconvened at Cascade Lakes for a refreshing swim. The final stop was Stewart's for tasty calories and great conversation.


Loj to Loj: 12 miles, ~4700 feet, 5h 50m.


See all photos.

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