Sunday, September 9, 2012

Hiking and paddling - A week in the Adirondacks

Last week, Holly and I spent a week at a rental cottage in Newcomb, NY, just south of the Adirondack High Peaks, and on a connecting stream between Rich Lake and Harris Lake.

This cottage was wonderful, with great privacy, a screened porch, front deck, hummingbirds, and the constant sound of the babbling rapids just outside our door.

One of our main purposes in choosing the Newcomb area was to be near the Upper Works trailhead to the High Peaks.  Holly was anxious to check off a couple more summits on her journey toward finishing the Adirondack 46, and there were a few we wanted to climb from this area without the 2-hour drive each way from home.

Sunday, September 2

Today was the day we'd climb Santanoni Peak, at 4,606 feet the 14th highest of the Adirondack summits.  We were up at dawn and got an early start at the trailhead, only 20 minutes away.  We followed the Bradley Pond Trail, now much improved over years past, until we reached a cairn marking the start of the so-called "new old trail" to Santanoni.  This used to be an official DEC red-marked route to the summit back in the 1970s when I last climbed it, but then it fell into private hands for many years, and was off-limits.  After a purchase by the Open Space Institute, it's now coming into common use again, though not marked or maintained.  It's a shorter route to the summit than the traditional route via "Times Square", cutting the total distance to under 12 miles.  But with about 3,000 feet of elevation gained, some of it pretty steep, it's still a challenging day hike.

Reaching the summit, we celebrated Holly's 38th peak, and enjoyed the expansive views of many of the other High Peaks.

8 more to go!

Couchsachraga and Panther (foreground) and Seward Range (background)
After what always seems like a long walk out to the car, we headed back to camp to relax and have some dinner.

Holly enjoying the hammock

Monday, September 3

Monday morning found us sore and tired, but one of us more so than the other.  I took a cup of coffee outside and enjoyed the morning mist rising off the river while Holly slept in a little longer.

After breakfast, I was feeling pretty good, so I headed off to climb nearby Goodnow Mountain, a 1.9-mile climb to a restored fire tower with great views of the High Peaks.  After the slow grind up Santanoni the day before, I turned the legs loose on this one, and reached the top in about 40 minutes.  The views from the tower did not disappoint.

Rich Lake at lower left and High Peaks in the background
In the afternoon, we took a short walk at the Adirondack Interpretive Center just to loosen up the legs, and then returned to the camp and paddled upstream from the camp into Belden Lake, a smaller body of water just east of Rich Lake.  My legs were getting sorer now from doing the morning climb instead of recovering, so this was a good choice.  Then it was dinner, reading, and an early night.

Tuesday, September 4

Tuesday's weather didn't look very promising when we drove to the nearby high school to use the public wi-fi connection there.  (No cell service and no wi-fi took some getting used to, but it also had its obvious advantages.)  We decided to visit the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake in the afternoon as the weather deteriorated, and to get out for some paddling first in the morning.  We put in downstream from the rapids in front of the camp, and paddled through tiny Lake Julia and on to the Santanoni Preserve Gatehouse, where we had a short carry to get us into Harris Lake.  After paddling the narrow part of the lake, we then returned to the camp for lunch.

We hadn't been to the Adirondack Museum in many years, so it was a good thing to do on a supposedly rainy afternoon.  The rains never came, but we spent the rest of the day there until closing, and still hadn't seen it all.  With a successive day entrance fee being free, we thought we'd come back in the morning and finish up.  It was enough walking for one day, so we headed "home" for dinner.  The rains finally came overnight, dropping 2-3" in some heavy downpours.

Wednesday, September 5

The plan for Wednesday was to return to the Adirondack Museum in the morning, and then do some short local walks in the afternoon after the woods had had a chance to dry out a bit from the overnight rains. 

In the afternoon, we walked some more trails at the Adirondack Interpretive Center, where we were pleased to see a juvenile bear run across the trail and through a marshy area ahead of us.  It did leave us wondering where momma was, however...

Behind the Newcomb Central School is a short nature trail that leads to Woodruff Lake.  It was a beautiful spot, and seemed seldom visited.

Woodruff Lake and Goodnow Mountain

Thursday, September 6

This was the big day.  There are no short day hikes left for Holly's remaining peaks, but we decided to give the shortest of those a try, Cliff Mountain at 18 miles r/t.  It would be a long day, but we figured there was time between dawn and dusk to get it done if we had the legs.  We were up before dawn, and started in the Calamity Brook Trail at sunrise.  The trail was wet from the earlier heavy rain, in addition to being full of rocks and roots.  We really didn't want to be coming out this way in the dark.  Continuing over some annoying ups and downs, we arrived at Colden Dam and Lake Colden, mirror-like in the early morning nearly 6 miles from the car.

Lake Colden Dam
Mount Colden towered over the lake and Avalanche Pass below in the morning light.

Crossing the dam, we now followed the Opalescent River up to Uphill Leanto, where we would leave the marked trail and head for Cliff.  The Opalescent was raging and roaring alongside as we climbed steeply away from the dam.

Finding the cairn that marked our jumping-off point, we followed a muddy eroded former trail upward to where a path led to the slopes of Cliff.  "Slopes" seemed like a misnomer in spots as we clambered over steep open rock as the path wound upward.  Finally reaching the ridge, we had to drop down and then reclimb a more distant bump that was actually the summit.  Checking the time, we knew we had to keep this visit short, so I changed Holly's number to #39, ate a quick lunch, and briefly admired the somewhat unexpected views.

McIntyre Range at left, and Mount Colden from Cliff's summit
There was thunder in the distance as we turned around and started down, but the steep rock meant we weren't going anywhere fast.  Fortunately, any storms bypassed us to the north or south, and we returned to Colden Dam without any rain at all.  Now came the hard part:  the long 6 miles back to the car on a very wet and rugged trail.  There was one brief shower as we plodded on, but nothing serious, and we reached the car around sunset after a very long and tiring day.  Holly was now at #39 out of 46, and I was at #41 of my second time around, having finished my first round in 1990.

On the drive back to camp, we stopped at the Newcomb House Bar and Grill and ordered a well-loaded pizza for pickup later after we'd cleaned up.  It may have been the best pizza I'd ever eaten.

Friday, September 7

I really didn't expect to be doing any more walking on Friday after that Cliff trip, and Holly certainly wasn't interested either.  But once again, I was feeling pretty good, and couldn't just sit around camp all morning.  We planned to paddle on Rich Lake in the afternoon, but that left me some time to get out and do something while Holly took it easy for the morning.

Somewhere recently in one of the "Adirondack" publications (Explorer, Life, etc), I'd read about a newly constructed trail up Coney Mountain, between Long Lake and Tupper Lake.  It sounded like a short hike with good views, so I decided to give it a try.  I found the trailhead at the Hamilton/Franklin County line on NY-30, a blue-marked trail sign pointing the way from the east side of the road.  It was only 1.1 miles and under 650 feet to the summit on a gently sloping trail, and the views were tremendous, wide-open in all directions.  Normally, I like to shoot panoramas from summits, but this one was pretty much impossible.  And there was also very little that I recognized in this part of the Park.  I could see the western High Peaks off to the east, and the looming hulk of Blue Mountain to the southeast, but that was about it.  I did find some nice early fall color, so settled for that and just enjoyed the rest of the view for a while.

Fall colors with Big Tupper Lake in the background
After a stop at the store in Long Lake and lunch back at the camp, we headed out for some paddling on Rich Lake, near the Adirondack Interpretive Center.  There's a public access point on SUNY-ESF property that has a nice beach where we put in and paddled around for a while.

On Friday evening, there was a special event at the Adirondack Interpretive Center, a quilt show and a free concert by Peggy Lynn, one of Holly's favorites.  The Newcomb High School Class of 2015 was hosting a barbecue there beforehand, so that made dinner easy.  After enjoying the concert and the many amazing quilts, we headed back to camp for our last night there.

Thanks to our hosts Nancy and Mike Tracy for this lovely camp and their local knowledge during our stay.  We'll definitely be back.

No comments:

Post a Comment