Giant boulders that have been rend asunder in the Adirondacks totally fascinate me.
Giant boulders that have been rend asunder in the Adirondacks totally fascinate me.
During this trip I camped at two different location because I couldn’t get a single 10 day block at one campsite. I had never done that before. I spent the first 7 days at one location and then I packed up and moved to a different campground in the Adirondacks. Check out time at the first campground was 11:00 AM but check in time at the next campground wasn’t until 3:00 PM. So after relaxing some and then packing up the campsite I decided to amuse myself by hiking up a mountain. Seriously, who does that.
Baxter Mountain was listed in my guide book as an easy hike with a 2 mile round trip and 700 feet of elevation. That was exactly what I was looking for. Something that would not be very strenuous. Just a nice relaxing hike to pass the time and enjoy some nature before moving on to my next camp site. This mountain was reported to have some of the best views of the Adirondack high peaks relative to the amount of effort required to summit the mountain to enjoy them. I’d say that information was accurate. The views were great.
One funny thing happened on this hike. When you are unfamiliar with a trail you often may not know where the trail starts or where the trail ends for that matter and thus you may not know where the summit of the mountain actually is. AS I hiked the trail and began to get to where more of the vertical gain was I expected to reach the summit soon because I knew the hike was not particularly long. So when I reached an area with exposed rock and nice views and a family sitting there enjoying a picnic I assumed that I was at the summit so I found a nice quiet spot and sat down to enjoy the views and eat my lunch.
The views were quite nice there. However, it turns out that assumption I made turned out to make an ass out of me after all. As I headed back to a trail to retrace my steps and head back down the mountain I realized there was more trail going away from the way I had hiked up. Turns out I had not summitted the mountain, yet. I followed this trail farther up the mountain, not too far fortunately, and I reached what is actually the summit where the trail actually ends. And I made sure it ended there and did not continue farther. So I stopped here and enjoyed some more excellent views of the Adirondacks. That is one part that never gets old. The views are always stunning. I didn’t spend as much time as I would have otherwise at the true summit because I had already spent so much time where I first stopped and I had to head on out to my next campground. It was still a great time and an enjoyable hike and I learned something new. Do not assume you are at the summit just because you see someone stopped there.
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Earlier this year a friend of mine and fellow runner posted online that he wanted to go run up Mount Marcy in the Adirondacks. He wanted to know if anyone would want to go with him. At the time I really knew nothing about what the rout up Mount Marcy was like. But it did sound like an interesting idea.
I went to the Adirondacks with the idea in the back of my mind that I would possibly try to run up a mountain and that I would maybe even attempt it at Mount Marcy while I was there. I did get an opportunity to run up a mountain while I was in the Adirondacks, but I did not run up Mount Marcy. After doing a little reading about what the climb up Mount Marcy entailed and some realistic evaluation of my fitness level and running ability I decided it might be rash to just decide I was going to go run up this mountain sight unseen.
I think that was probably a wise decision. I love trail running, but my weakness is definitely in climbing and Mount Marcy would require significant climbing. I did venture out to Mount Marcy and hike up to the summit. A journey that I highly recommend to anyone. While I was out on the trail Multiple groups of people ran past me on the trails. They passed me on their way up while I was working my way up to the top. I was hoping that they would take long enough to reach the top and then hang out at the summit long enough that I would get a chance to talk to them when I arrived at teh summit myself.
However, I would have no such luck. Before I was even clear of the forest and above the tree line the runners came back down. I wish I had been ready and was able to get more photos. Two groups completely passed by me before I could get my camera out and ready to get a few shots as they passed out of view. Luckily I was prepared for at least one of the groups and captured some nice images of a group of women running down Mount Marcy.
When I arrived at the summit I overheard some of the other hikers saying that the runners were part of the Olympic ski team out here training. They were really kicking ass on the trails, both on the way up and on the way down. Granted I did not see them on the steepest rockiest terrain but they were making it look pretty easy running up the trail to the mountain summit.
After hiking it and getting a little experience on that trail and learning the layout of the trail I think running it may not be out of reach. I think I know many runners that could put on a pretty good run up and down that mountain. I don’t know how much actual running I would do after the first several miles on the ascent, but the descent could be pretty fun. I have been known to organize groups of friends to do some fun (crazy) stuff. Maybe I will have to see if I can find some friends who want to go for a day trip to the Adirondacks and give this running up Mount Marcy thing a try. I am always looking for new experiences and that sure would be one.
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During my trip to the Adirondacks one hike I wanted to try to make sure I fit into my schedule was Mount Marcy. Mount Marcy is the tallest mountain in New York. The summit of the mountain is 5344 feet above sea level. The trail is 14.8 miles round trip. There is 3300 feet of elevation gain. I figured this would be a good day trip for me. This was also a hike that was covered in my guide book so I could glean some information about the hike from that and have an idea of what to expect.
The hike from the route I took started in the parking lot at the Adirondack Loj. There was not much elevation gain for the first several miles. During the first several miles you eventually reach the Marcy dam area which seems like a nice place to hang out; several groups of people were there. There is a water crossing with a bridge to take to traverse it.
Most of the trail is quite a comfortable hike for what one might think it would be, knowing you are hiking up the tallest mountain in the state. It helps that it was in my opinion the perfect day for a hike. The temperature in the morning was cool and the projected high for the day was only 70 degrees. This is more my type of weather, especially on days I am going to be physically active.
At one point myself and a pair of women arrived at one section of the trail where the trail went one way over a bridge over a stream and another way straight along the stream. We were all first timers on the trail and were not sure which way to go, so we decided we would all go up along the trail where it followed the stream. Turns out it didn’t matter as the trail eventually lead to a crossing of the same stream. The bridge was available for when the water was high. For the rest of the hike myself and the two women would pass each other back and forth as we took in fuel (runner brain) or slowed down at certain sections or stopped to take photos. It reminded me of a trail race where you pass the same people back and forth because you are each better at some sections than others. We eventually even arrived at the summit at about the same time.
There is a significant portion of the trail where you emerge from the forest and are out on exposed rock. You are now above the tree line on the mountain. This is where you begin to feel the significant change in elevation you have achieved. Where before I was comfortable, but obviously still sweating with exertion, now the wind was picking up and it was significantly colder. Luckily was I was expecting this and I was prepared. I have a lightweight EMS jacket that stuffs into its own pocket and is perfect for storing in my running pack for just such occasions. It did not take long for the exposure and temperature change to prompts me to stop and take the time to take my pack off and put the jacket on. That was a good decision; it made the rest of the hike much more enjoyable.
The summit of this mountain was perfect. There weren’t even as many people there as I thought there would be. It was just about the perfect temperature despite being a little gusty. I found the perfect spot to hunker down behind a rock outcropping that protected me from the wind perfectly as it seemed to only be gusting from one direction. I sat and relaxed there for a while. I simply enjoyed the view. I continued to sit and rest and enjoyed a bag of trail mix I had thrown together (peanuts, raisins, and chocolate chips).
As I tend to be the kind of person that cannot sit still too long, especially when out in nature and especially with such a scenic landscape to explore and photograph. There is quite a bit of room to walk around on the summit of Mount Marcy, however there are areas that are off limits because they are trying to allow for alpine vegetation to grow back. People are encouraged to stay on the solid rock surfaces. So I moved around the summit and photographed everything I could think of to photograph. I used my Nikon D300 with 50mm lens, my GoPro, and my Samsung S8 Plus. All of which capture great photos but have different ways they can be utilized for maximum effect.
One of the things I love about being out in nature, other than just being there to experience it myself, is seeing other people enjoying and appreciating nature. There were whole families up on the summit enjoying the views together. There was a guy stretched out on the rock with his hood pulled over his head whom I am pretty sure was asleep. There was a whole group of young people up there together exploring the summit and I am pretty sure they were shooting some videos of each other. One of them asked me to take his photo with his GoPro because he noticed that I had a GoPro as well. Knowing that there are other people out there that enjoy nature the way that I do brings me a sense of peace and joy that I can’t really explain.
Eventually it was time to hike back down the mountain.
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When I thought about what I wanted to do on this trip I knew I wanted to take on a series of interesting and challenging activities but I did not necessarily want each one of those activities to be something that would take the entire day to complete. I was really attracted to the possibility of hiking up Cascade Mountain for this very reason. It was noted to be a relatively easy hike for an Adirondack High Peak mountain. The distance was about 5 miles.
When I looked at this hike in my guide book and I saw that it was a nearly 5 mile hike with a little under 2000 ft of elevation gain I noted on a post it note that this sounded like a run-able mountain and stuck it to the page describing the hike in case I wanted a challenging run. Now maybe as you read this you are thinking, “Who does this guy think he is. 2000 ft of elevation sounds crazy.” And that is probably a very wise thing to think. For me though over the years I have been going for a lot of runs that routinely have that much or more elevation. The crucial miscalculation that I made however is that when I read in the guide book that the hike was 5 miles with 2000 feet of elevation gain I forgot that the guide book is reporting the mileage in terms of a round trip, so 2 miles out and 2 miles back. That means that in reality the climb would be 2000 ft of elevation in just 2.5 miles, not 5 miles.
Two thousand feet over just two miles is a very different ball game as I soon found out. I am very glad that I did not end up deciding to run this mountain. I planned to hike it. But I still wasn’t expecting it to be too bad. Wrong. This was the most challenging hike I undertook the whole time I was on vacation. The elevation gain started almost immediately. It did not help that just like most days during this trip the temperature was in the upper 80’s. Maybe I only felt like this hike was so difficult is because my style of hiking is to hike along at a relatively quick pace and not stop unless I need to or to take a photo, but I do most of my photography at summits and on descents. So maybe I just push myself harder and exert myself more than the average hiker that the guide book is geared to.
The field guide noted that since this is a relatively easy hike, yeah right, and the fact that the summit offered amazing views it was one of the most popular hikes in the region. When I got there the parking areas were already filling up. I saw many people on the trails. Some people I passed as I climbed. Others passed me. One guy passed by me so fast that he quickly got out of site and then was on his way back down by the time I reached the summit and I was already half way up when he passed me. Even though this hike was short in distance it as going to make you work. So I was quite surprised at the numbers of people that were there. When I arrived at the summit there were already groups of people there and some were leaving and some were arriving the from the moment I arrived at the summit to the moment I left.
The views from the summit were great. The down side was, it was hot and there was no shade and despite being on a mountain there was no breeze to be had. It was so hot that the rock that composed the summit was hot to the touch. It wasn’t even comfortable to sit on really. It was difficult to relax at the summit of the mountain under those conditions. Especially for me, because as those who know me from running can attest to, I sweat A LOT when I exert myself and I especially sweat a lot in the heat. So I was basically drenched on top of a giant rock that was open to the full sun and it was acting like a nice roasting pan. So I did not stay at the summit as long as I would have liked. I wanted to get back down into the woods.
However, before I headed back down too far into the woods I read in the guide book that Porter Mountain was nearby and could be summitted from a short trek across off of the Cascade Mountain Trail. So I hiked back down the trail to where the pass over to Porter was marked and I hiked what seemed to be a lot longer than what it actually was. The distance was probably only one mile but it felt like a lot tougher of a mile than any of the hiking that as done to summit Cascade. I imagine this was mostly due to fatigue from already climbing 2000 feet and then climbing part way back down and then back up to the summit of another mountain that was also over 4000 feet above sea level.
I was really happy be able to summit to different high peaks mountains in one hike, although the view from Porter was not as grand as the view from Cascade. There was a little bit more shade, which I quickly scurried over to and shrunk myself down as small as I could to stay in so I could try to cool off some. There was only one other person at the Porter summit when I arrived. When they left I took that opportunity to stand at the summit alone and take a photograph, and experience I have not often had on other mountains. It was interesting to be able to use my camera and zoom in to see the other people across the pass over on the Cascade summit. I was literally just over there and now I was on an entirely different mountain watching them. That was a pretty cool experience.
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After climbing Haystack Mountain in the morning I went back to camp to relax for a while. In the afternoon I wanted to get out and do some more exploring, but I wanted to do something less intense. I wanted to take a hike that would be more relaxing. My guide book noted that Mt. Jo was a relatively easy hike starting at the Adirondack Loj. The hike is under 1000 feet of elevation.
For a mountain that required so little climbing it still rewarded the effort with a great view. Thankfully no fog, like in the morning, or gray skies.
Compared to my previous hike Mt. Jo was just a nice stroll in the park. The elevation gain was only 700 ft. The best part about it was the rewarding view that one is treated to even after such a modest effort. Being situated where it is, at the Adirondack Loj, where it is easily accessible and can be easily featured as a solo hike one can do helps.
The Adirondack Loj is home to many of the trail heads that lead out into the vast Adirondack wilderness and lead to many of the climbs that many hikers take up to climb the Adirondack High Peak Mountains. This climb of Mt. Jo is a nice alternative for someone who wants to enjoy the scenery but is not going out for an extended hike. Being right at the center of the Adirondack Mountains trail-head freeway means that all those mountains ay out there in the distance for viewing at the summit of Mt. Jo. I might have had better views here than at any of the other spots I visited save one.
Another nice surprise was that the guidebook I had reported Mt. Jo as a simple out and back hike, but when I arrived at the Adirondack Loj and obtained one of their maps I found that there is actually a short trail and a long trail route that one can take to and from the summit. So I took the short route up to the summit, obviously to same time and energy even though it was a short hike. Give me a break, ya know, I did just hike one of the high peaks in the morning. Ha ha ha. Then on my way down I where the two trails diverged I took the long trail back down from the mountain. It was nice to take a different route and see different scenery on the way down. I like to absorb as much nature as possible so seeing more of it is almost always better. Although photographically seeing the scenery from opposite directions can lend a very different perspective and create photographic opportunities not seen if just traveling one direction.
After descending Mt. Jo I went to my car and ate a small lunch. Then I headed out on the trails again to check out the loop trail that circled Heart Lake. This was a very relaxing trail after hiking up two mountains. There was very little elevation gain. I mostly just strolled along enjoying the environment only stopping on a few occasions to take some photographs.
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This was a very unstructured trip. I really had no idea what I was going to do as far as specifics. I knew I wanted to hike up several of the high peaks. No idea which ones really. No plans as to what hikes to do when. I had a few guide books to help me sort things out. But when I drove from my camp to Lake Placid and saw a sign for the trail head to Haystack Mountain, one of the 46 high peaks, just a few miles down the road I decided that was a perfect opportunity to take on that hike.
I looked at one of my guide books that I had and looked up some info on the hike for Haystack Mountain. The book I had talked about it being quite along hike that could take up to all day. So I prepared accordingly. I packed my Nathan pack with plenty of food and two liters of water. When I train for long trail runs I try to have a food option for every hour I would be out there so I made that my standard for hiking. I got up early in the morning and set out prepared to spend potentially the whole day on the trails.
The hike was pretty tough and the heat did not help. It was well into the 80’s that day. When I reached the summit I was greeted with fog. There was not much to be seen. I stayed on the summit for a while hoping that the fog would clear. I had no such luck.
The fog cover, however, did allow me to shift my focus from distant landscape photography to examining the nature literally right at my feet. As I not so patiently waited to see if the fog would clear, I began to examine the plant life and flowers that were making that mountain summit their home.
Despite the lack of scenery at the summit, the trail itself was full of scenery. It is difficult to understate the beauty of the scenery you are surrounded with in the Adirondacks and the trail up Haystack did not disappoint. The Adirondacks are so much more than mountains. I climbed this mountain hoping to see expansive mountain vistas. I wanted to photograph the iconic mountain landscape that everyone recognizes as a feature of the Adirondacks.
Instead I had my focus shifted from what is out there to what is right below my feet. What does this trail right here right now have to offer me. Sometimes just having a mental shift will really help things clarify in one’s mind. Instead of being disappointed by the lack of visibility at the summit I was in awe of the surrounding forest. I took my time and absorbed the wilderness air. I just let myself look out across the forest and see what was there and focus on it and try to capture images that would tell the story of what the trail is like.
There are downed trees. There are woodland streams. There is graceful forest land with a narrow path carved in between for miles and miles. And there are of course on of my favorite features, the enormous boulders just randomly deposited in the forest. These really captivate me because in the woods I typically inhabit in the Finger Lakes Region of New York you do not see these types of features.
I am not sure if I did something wrong or if my starting point was just different from that in the guide-book, but it did not take me nearly as long as I had expected it to take for me to hike tot he summit and back down to the trail head. That was fine with me because it meant I had more time for exploring other areas in the afternoon.
Update: The funniest thing happened. After sharing this article on Twitter multiple times I eventually received a response back from someone who read the article. They informed me that the mountain I reported hiking here is not the Mt. Haystack that is one of the Adirondack 46er’s. They said that he could tell it was not the Mt. Haystack that is a 46er due to my description in this article and the photographs. They informed me that there are actually multiple mountains in the region named Mt. Haystack. I am glad that I wrote descriptive enough article and that my photographs were good enough that this individual could provide me this useful information. So, even though I did not climb the mountain I thought I did I think this makes the story and the process as a whole a lot more interesting. It certainly explains my confusion during my hike.