Now... I know that the subject of this particular travelogue—given it’s proximity to where we now call home—may not seem as exotic or conversation-worthy as some of the other trip reports on this site. But it was a hard year and I didn’t get to take many photos, let alone travel very far beyond Potsdam’s borders.
Besides, the Adirondacks are every bit as spectacular as the Sierras or New Zealand, and we’ve been planning a long hike for a while!
As a prelude to his hike with the old man, Andre, along with Sarah and two dogs, undertook a warm-up hike the day before. The destination: Owen and Copperas (“Copper-Ass”) Ponds.
The first trail head wasn’t where it was supposed to be. The distinctive blue trail markers still hung from the trees, but the path was completely (and seemingly intentionally) covered with branches, stumps, and brush. The new, real trail head was to be found just a short drive down the highway.
Après-hike, we still had time before Dad got off of work. (It wasn’t a long hike. Ravenous hordes of insects beat us to the pond.) We’d heard from an informative tour guide several weeks prior that it was possible to drive up to the top of Whiteface Mountain. So we did.
Despite the haze and clouds, magnificent views were to be had. Pictured above, placid Lake Placid, where Dad (the aforementioned informative guide) drives a tour boat for tourists.
Like good Americans, most of the visitors to Whiteface’s peak parked and took the elevator up to the very top. Like smug Americans, we decided to take the so-called nature trail the remaining 267 feet.
Here’s Sarah, precariously balanced atop the rocky ridge.
And... Like a schmuck American, I forgot my binoculars in the car. Fortunately there were plenty of pay-per-view binoculars to remind me of my mistake.
Clouds and mountains, both bluer than the actual sky.
For some reason, they built a tunnel near the top of the mountain. At the inner end of the tunnel is the base of a shaft through which runs a neat old elevator. It was surprisingly cool inside and not-surprisingly dank.
Driving back into Lake Placid, Route 86 crosses over the West Branch of the Ausable River. Noticing a gaggle of tourists near a roadside parking area, Andre and Sarah stopped to see what the fuss was all about. Turned out there was a series of lovely gorges and waterfalls, including this three-streamed beast.
After a backup-plan Father’s Day dinner (some chump at our first choice took a reservation even though they weren’t going to be open), Sarah took the dogs home and the rest of us went to Elizabethtown for a good night’s sleep.
Early the next morning, the men of the group drove to St. Huberts to begin their epic peak-bagging trek. Here, Father tightens up the laces on fancy-pants trailrunners.
Dad loves this logo. I want to know what mountains those are.
(If you turn your head to the right, you can see a silhouette of an old lady with a bumpy forehead.)
To get to the southern trail head for Gothics, one must pass through the exclusive Ausable Club. Word on the street is that membership fees run into the thousands for a season and that there are senators and congressmen on the waiting list. They let hikers use the trails, but not without a plethora of signage to remind you what a divine privilege they’ve granted.
We decided to ignore the sign and walk a little further down the road. (There’s an amazing view of the lake and surrounding mountains down by the boathouse.) We made it about halfway down the hill before chickening out at the sight of a couple members’ cars.
Dad walks through the forest holding a small stick. But he’s no crazy old coot! No, that’s to take care of any stray webs the odd spider may have strung up across the trail. An elegant solution, eh?
(I myself am frequently amazed at the number of Andre’s-face-height webs are to be found on even the most heavily used trails.)
A worthwhile detour to Rainbow Falls.
Usually, my waterfall pictures end up looking like shit. But this one’s not bad!
It sure were lush down in the valley near the waterfall. And yet, not a single bloodthirsty bug was encountered! (I knocked on a tree every time the thought occurred to me.)
Further up the trail: the top of the waterfall.
Dad will—out of pride—disagree, but there’s no denying that he and Lynne are full-fledged birders (so to speak). As we stopped to listen to some new avian warble, I noticed a small snail crawling across a leaf.
Despite his constant smug reminders about how big (and, presumably, heavy) my pack was, Dad certainly brought a lot of toys and gadgets. Here’s the GPS he used in combination with a printed topo map to determine the elevation and location of a creek crossing at which he planned to re-fill his Nalgene using...
...this little contraption.
The SteriPEN Portable Water Purification System is designed to protect you from any malevolent microbes you may encounter in your drinking water.
It does this by exposing them to intense ultraviole(n?)t radiation. After loading four double-As, you just ram the thing down into your bottle, flip it upsidedown, and shake. When the light goes off, supposedly your water is safe to drink.
The light doesn’t kill the organisms, it merely renders them impotent, incapable of doing any real damage to your guts by reproducing.
It seemed to work like a charm. I told Dad I’d put out a couple extra rolls of toilet paper and a bedside bucket when we got home that night.
(BTW, 1,200 feet ascent over one mile is pretty steep. I suggested that maybe the second apostrophe fell off and that it was only 1,200 inches. This was not the case.)
Dad strategizes how best to traverse this section of the trail: a sheet of solid granite, angled at 45°and with very little to catch you at the bottom.
First stop: Pyramid Peak. At 4515 ft., it should be on the list of Adirondack high peaks. But it’s too close to Gothics and the saddle between the two doesn’t dip down far enough. In order for it to be considered, a peak must be above 4000', no closer than 0.75 miles from another higher peak, and with 300' of rise on all sides.
I’m not the only person to have taken this exact picture.
Another large boulder blocks the path. Dad sneaks across on a thin ledge.
The highlight of the trip for Dad! An original peak marker installed by Verplanck Colvin in his 19th-century survey of the Adirondacks. It says:
“N.Y.S. LAND SURVEY. V. COLVIN SUP 1896”
I don’t know what the 287s (?) in the middle are all about.
Heading back toward Ausable Club territory, a obnoxiously large (and orange) sign reminded us of the rules.
An unidentified vandal wrote what we were all thinking.
Why were we climbing up ladders on our way back down the mountain?!
From the top of Gothics, you could see a number of recent slides. Many of them were a result of the previous year’s Hurricane Irene. They don’t seem all that impressive from a distance, but when you get down inside one you can’t help but imagine what impressive forces could gouge the side of a mountain like that.
On the way down: another waterfall! Beaver Meadow Falls seemed like a good place to get my head wet. I hopped a couple boulders to get closer and was immediately drenched from the waist up.
Not lookin’ too good, but feelin’ quite refreshed!
Almost back to the main road, we crossed one more bridge over the East Branch of the Ausable. We paused to admire the view and were about to continue on (getting back to the road still meant three more miles) when Dad spotted something horrible down on the rocks below.
Some poor beast had become wedged between a stick and a rock, it’s head deep red with flies in the eye sockets and it’s body white and hairless from the passing water. I went in for a closer look. (I’ll spare you the really gory pictures.)
Subsequent Internet research
suggested that the animal was a fisher.
Let me follow that last picture up with something a little less stomach-churning.
The last few miles of the hike were along the same road we’d come in on. Only this time, as though to congratulate us on a hike well hiked, it was all downhill and lined with butterflies.
From a distance the butterflies looked pretty normal, all black with a white stripe. Up close, however, you could see that they were actually quite colorful. At one point, I saw a large group of them gathered around a fallen comrade. Were they mourning the loss? Or had they killed it? Who knows!
All in all, a magnificent hike with magnificent company! Maybe I will start keeping track of my 46 peaks...
(For the record: we summitted Gothics at 12:47pm on June 18, 2012.)