I just came back from the Dacks after a weekend of hiking and climbing with some friends and family. I went with my fellow “46 aspirant” Brian, my nephew Garrett, my good friend Paul and his son Matthew.
The plan was to get up at the crack of dawn on Friday so that we could arrive near the Loj close to noon after our 6 hour drive. From there we were to hike to Marcy Dam, set camp and hit Mt. Phelps.
Saturday’s goal was to hit the McIntyre Range (Wright, Algonquin, Iroquois…technically Marshall too but we will save that for later) anticipating that the younger climbers would hopefully make Wright and then play it by ear regarding who would go on and who would go back.
Sundays plan was to get up late, hit Tabletop Mountain, get to bed early, then hike out and leave on Monday.
We have arrived!
The trip started as planned. We arrived at South Meadows Rd close to noon and headed down the old Dam Truck Road.
My nephew, for his first camping trip, fared really well considering he’s never humped a rucksack before. After the 2-or-so mile hike to the Dam we set up camp then made ready to attack Mt. Phelps.
Phelps wasn’t very difficult to manage. A mile or so down the Blue Trail from the Dam there’s a sign pointing left up to the summit. It’s the requisite “boulder stairway” type trail with some slabby sections of bare rock near the top. It took Matthew (who’s 11 yo) some time to make it up there; but with some coaching from his dad and some determination he made it to the top. Phelps is a pretty decent “first peak” in this area of the park. Not too difficult a physical challenge and some stellar views for a pay off. Hardly any mud (that day at least) to boot!
By the time we got back to camp it was time to cook dinner and it was getting dark. We were cooking down in the dried out lake/pond bed left when Marcy Dam was taken down. That evening we were treated to a spectacular view of the almost full August Moon leaping over the top of Tabletop Mountain. I wish I had a professional camera (and the knowledge of how to use one) so that I could have captured the moment.
The younger members of the party didn’t feel up to a second High Peak the following morning so Paul agreed to take them on a more “leisurely” hike to Avalanche Lake while Brian and I did the McIntyre Mountains. I agreed to get up at 0600hrs and hit the trail early as we calculated a 10 hour day ahead.
So…sometime early the next morning I am awoken by what I thought was Brian unzipping his hammock. I checked my watch and saw it was 0525hrs and assumed Brian was up early. The sound of our Bear Cans clanking in the distance away from our camp seemed to confirm my assumption, believing Brian was getting out the breakfast food.
After I unzipped my sleeping bag and started getting dressed I hear Brian yell “TOM!” I reply with a “yeah?” and he says “THERE’S A BIG BLACK BEAR RIGHT NEXT TO ME!” Apparently, even though we had all our foodstuff caned and placed away from camp there was enough scent on Brian’s spoon in his mess kit.
Mr. Bear tore open the nylon bag the mess kit was in (the “zipper” sound I thought I heard), ambled over to the food cans and rolled them around a bit then ambled back over to the mess kit that was near Brian’s hammock. Quite the way to start the day…for Brian at least, I never saw a thing.
Brian and I headed down the trail from the Dam towards the Loj till we hit the intersection for the McIntyre Trail where we started heading up. The start was relatively easy going. Then it got “bouldery”. Then it got to some slab walking. Eventually we found where the trail split off for Wright (to the left) and went straight on for Algonquin. From here it was mostly “slabs in the trees” till it opened up to the Alpine grasses, cairns and bare rock up to the summit of Mt Wright.
The Falls on the way up to Wright.
At the summit we met the DEC/ADK Peak Steward and talked to her for a bit. I asked where the Air Force Bomber wreckage was and she directed me to the location. A short downclimb to a ledge revealed the Memorial Plaque and debris of the B-47 that crashed there in 1962 killing the entire crew.
On to Bigger Things
After paying my respects. We moved onto Algonquin, the second highest mountain in New York.
You have to backtrack the way you came to the trail intersection previously mentioned and then start up a hard mile, half a mix of boulder and slab in the woods and the last half on the exposed ridge of the mountain. Follow the yellow marks and cairns to the top where there is one of the most spectacular views I have experienced to date.
If your on Algonquin you cant pass up on Iroquois, which looks like it’s “right there” on the other side of Boundary Peak.
Interesting aside: Boundary Peak is the “Red Headed Step-Child” of the High Peaks. It’s tall enough to qualify but too close to Algonquin to make the cut.
To get to Iroquois you have to manage the treacherous Foot Trail sign. When you descend Algonquin…following the cairns… you reach a “Foot Trail” sign pointing left. If you go left you are going down toward Lake Colden. You have to go right and follow the narrow path over boundary and up to Iroquois.
You can see that someone wrote “Iroquois/Boundary” in marker on the arrow’s tail, but MANY people miss it. We bumped into three or four people who told us that they went down the wrong path for quite a ways before realizing their mistake. We didn’t fall for it and made it up Iroquois in fairly short order. Then we went back to the “Infamous Arrow” and intentionally began our descent. The descent is steep and follows a mountain stream for a good chunk of the way. Which was good because I had drank up my supply of water shortly after summiting Iroquois.
From here there was nothing to it but down…down…down…down…and appreciating that we didn’t choose this way for our ascent. Eventually we bottomed out near the swampy area between Lake Colden and Avalanche Lake and made the turn for Marcy Dam.
Meanwhile…back at the Camp.
While Brian and I were bagging peaks, Paul took the boys on a hike to Avalanche Lake.
The Other Day I Saw….
After Brian and I returned to camp we did a “camp cleanup” (baby wipe shower for me) and went down to the Dam to cook dinner.
Story: There I was…cooking food. I could hear crunching in the woods behind me. I thought it was some more campers coming down to the water. Then I looked up and saw the expression on Mattie’s face, who was looking behind me. Lol!
Had to yell at the Bear to move him along and wave my arms to “look big”. I got a hiss and he moved along and wandered across the lake bed further down from us.
A few minutes later we heard the campers on the other side yelling their heads off.
We decided to leave everything related to food right there at the waterside that night and went back to camp. I crawled into my sleeping bag and listened to the bear visiting all of our neighbors. You could tell by the yelling what route he (or she I suppose) was taking. Brian watched him circle our camp (actually giving us a wide berth) before it got so dark he couldn’t see him anymore. We (Brian and I) had decided to wake up early Sunday, hit Tabletop Mountain then break camp and head home…having accomplished all the planned peaks for this trip.
How to exhaust an 11 year old.
Brian and I were the first people up Sunday morning. After some breakfast and inspecting our supplies which the bear(s) had pushed around (and bit a hole through Paul’s collapsible water jug), we were off, hitting the trail at the crack of dawn toward Tabletop.
The approach started just like Phelps, except we passed the turnoff for that peak and followed the sign towards Mt Marcy and Indian Falls. After a mile or so we found the sign pointing the way.
Tabletop was..IMO..a pretty easy climb. Not as “long term steep” as other peaks and easier on the legs and feet. It was MUDDY however, and was one of those “this has to be the top…ehhh…nope” type peaks. It’s relatively flat at the top (Tabletop..get it?) and the muddy path just keeps on going with a step up here and there. Eventually you come out to somewhat of an opening where there’s a summit marker and a limited view.
Considering we were heading up the trail before 0630hrs, and made it back to camp around 1030hrs it was a pretty quick run. We broke camp and humped it back to South Meadows. After a pit stop in Lake Placid for some Burgers and Beer (for the adults that is), we hit the road for home. Good memories with friends and family and 12 peaks in one year for Brian and I, bringing our total to 13 in our quest to become 46rs.