Before we get in to it, can we talk about that title photo? High Bear Activity?? I have so many questions for the folks in the Adirondacks. Who is providing drugs to the bears? Are they just smoking a little ganja, or are they eating some of those magical ADK mushrooms I keep seeing? Do they have clean injection sites? Should I expect to come across a slack-jawed black bear, sitting up against a rock, looking at me like “Yoooo maaaan”?
What a week it’s been. Every week off from that place that puts money in my bank account every two weeks is great, but I had some major plans for this week in particular. This is the real kick off week to my aggressive summer hiking schedule. I couldn’t have asked for better, weather wise. I had picked Wednesday and Saturday to get two hikes in and those happened to be the only days this past week that it didn’t rain near Lake Placid.
When the photos above show my highway view and the early part of my hike, how can you argue with waking up at 4am and driving two and a half hours?
For my first hike of the week, I was going out solo again and was aiming for two more High Peaks: Tabletop Mountain and Phelps Mountain. From what I’d heard about this hike, I was expecting mud. And more mud. My expectations were spot on. The trails were super busy this particular morning. Likely because of the rain that I mentioned was sammiching the days before and after. Quickly after signing the trail register, I ran in to two Rochester, NY dudes who were hiking Algonquin Mountain. (Read about my own Algonquin trip HERE) I didn’t get their names, but it was the first High Peak for one of the dudes. We got to chatting until we came to the fork in the road and the trail started to get real steep. We pushed through for a bit, then I decided to hang back a bit so I could get a photo of them climbing a real steep section. I figured while I had my phone out, I would check my map real quick. Ooops. That was my fork in the road a kilometer back. We were chatting and I missed my turn. I should’ve known better – I’ve already climbed Algonquin (the second highest Peak in all of NY state) and knew that was not the trail I was supposed to be on. At least it was only 1km. They’d gotten so far ahead, I didn’t bother saying goodbye. Just another single-serving encounter that is so prevalent on the trails. I doubled back at a light jog to save myself some time getting back to where I should be.
Tabletop was up first after a pretty easy walk to the trail junction with Phelps. The steep climbing began pretty immediately, but was actually simple enough, just persistent. The mud was the worst I’d encountered in the High Peaks area to date. I decided to just embrace it and walk right through it all. It was especially great when it was deep enough to go up and over my ankles and right in to my shoes. People pay to have mud all over them don’t they? Who’s the sucker now? Plus my feet were exfoliated. If that’s what that means. Anyhow, the funniest part of my day came on my way up Tabletop. Thinking I was super close to the summit, I thought I would try out the video feature on my camera and take a video of myself reaching the top. Except I was not super close. I was still about 15 minutes of muddy, steep, uphill away. I haven’t even watched this video yet because I know it consists of exactly this: Panting. Panting, huffing, puffing. “Fuck”. More panting as I try to catch my breath. And so on and so forth. I’ve read lots of hikers complain about the lack of views from the Tabletop summit. It’s mostly true, but just past the summit is this little lookout that has a great view of Mt Marcy. We’ll talk about Marcy in my next blog post about future hikes. Marcy is not just the highest of the 46 High Peaks, but it is also the highest mountain in New York State. So, I’ve decided to save it for my very last one.
I really don’t want to short change writing about Phelps Mountain. I would not climb Tabletop again, strictly because the payoff wasn’t the greatest. I would climb Phelps again for sure. I know I will and maybe I’ll write more about it later. But I’m trying to squeeze two hike stories plus a Father’s Day trip in here, so I gotta keep it quick. The climb itself, after backtracking down Tabletop, was less muddy but on more of an incline. It was the biggest workout of the day. I’d caught up to three ladies in their late forties or early fifties and they were kicking ass. They lived in the area and were super familiar with most of the entirety of Adirondack Park. We all hit the summit together and the views on the clear blue day that greeted us were incredible. I took summit photos, but there aren’t many that I thought do justice to the view, so you’ll have to wait for those. The return back to the car was pretty uneventful. I ran in to a few backpackers looking for campsites as they were camping overnight before tackling Marcy the next morning. After hitting High Peaks #11 & 12, I can’t believe how good I felt. My knees weren’t sore, my cardio was on point (despite the natural panting on the way up) and I was feeling like I could keep going, Even after 22km and 3900ft of elevation gain, I felt pretty fine. I think maybe I’m just getting better. Which I find hard to believe. I was of the belief that I was as perfect a human specimen as has ever existed. Who knew?
That first photo reminds me so much of Stand By Me. “You wanna see a dead body?”
The trek back took a bit longer than expected, but no one was complaining. We took our sweet ass time crossing Indian Pass Brook the second time. Washed our hands, faces, legs. Let our feet soak for a bit. Mingled with some more single-serving friends. It was a great day and High Peaks # 13 & 14 for me. These bring Joel to 8, Zack to 5 and this was Al’s first High Peak hike, giving him two in the first go-round. By now, I’ve established a routine after hiking. I hit up The Mountaineer to buy my newest patches and then the Saranac Lake McDonald’s to replenish some of the 4000-ish calories I burned that day. Just as we were pulling in to buy patches, the rain started and kept going all the way home. We got lucky and avoided it the whole time!
I do have to say, this week I’ve seen (and picked up) more litter on the trails than I have this whole past first year in the ADKs. I wish folks would treat the trails with a bit more respect. Look out for the environment, jerks. Like this guy:
Hiking for the week complete, Father’s Day was upon us. I thought initially it was going to rain, but I was wrong. Or the weatherman was. I dunno, you know how those motherfuckers can be. Wrong all the time and still keep their job:
Anyhow, it did not rain. It was gorgeous out. Dad and I decided to hit up the Bird Sanctuary near Upper Canada to hopefully get some nice photos. We did. Just not of birds. We saw Chickadees and Red-winged Blackbirds all day. I have those all over my backyard. Lame. We did encounter a few awesome turtles, some really stunning scenery, old bridges and some great trails. I thought our day was coming to an end pretty early when we came across so much mud we could build a skyscraper. But Pop was a champion and got his feet super dirty in the name of spending time together. I was wearing flip flops and had spent all week getting muddy, so what did I care? We both had a great time and spent a little over an hour trekking around snapping cameras. The time together was pretty priceless and a great way to cap off a great week of Joe Wilderness-ing around. There’s some pretty big news coming shortly about a couple of Joe Wilderness events that are on the horizon. I’m also going to combine that “future hikes” blog entry with a gear-list type entry, to give people an idea of what I carry on trail. So stay tuned! For now, back to that place that pays me. Whoever came up with the whole “working for a living” thing certainly got things wrong. Happy Father’s Day to any Dads out there! Or anyone who identifies as a Dad, even without children. You do you. Love you, Pop.