I wasn't originally planning on heading to the 'Dacks, but as I was cruising up I-89 looking for a hike idea, I said to myself in the style of Shia LaBeouf, "Just Do It!"
and set the GPS for Keene Valley, NY. Eventually, I got off I-89 at exit 3, and began the drive to the Adirondack High Peaks area, which I hadn't been to since August 2011.
The drive between I-89 and the trailhead was very scenic, don't get me wrong. But that is a LOT of backroad driving! Derek was 100% right in that's not a highway cruise-controlled ride to the 'Dacks from NH
. Ah well, I gotta do this for the remaining 44 peaks, so might as well get used to it. The drive through Middlebury Gap was pretty bleh due to fog and snow/sleet, but the weather got better once in downtown Middlebury. The drive through the flat and grassy Champlain Valley was cool too, and I finally got to drive over the new Champlain Bridge- the last time I was here, the bridge was still under construction.
VT 125 through the Champlain Valley
Once into NY, it was a fairly fast paced drive- besides the centers of towns and villages, every road had a speed limit of 55 MPH
. Kinda weird at times, since there were 55 MPH roads where I barely managed 40-45 due to the sharp turns and curves, but it was unique.
Eventually, I crossed under I-87 and entered the park proper. Only issue- I wasn't 100% sold on where I wanted to hike. Since I left my house at 8:30, and it took me four hours to get here, I would have about 4 hours or less of daylight to do a High Peak. My options were Cascade/Porter and Giant Mountain. Thought for a bit, then decided to stick with the shorter mileage and do Giant. I skipped Rocky Peak Ridge due to the limited daylight, but whenever I get to it, I'm going from New Russia. Parked, geared up, locked up, signed in, and boots were on trail around 12:45 PM.
The Ridge (aka Zander Scott) Trail started out with steep switchbacks almost right from the get go, crossing a dry brook bed beforehand. After the last of the switchbacks, the trail crossed some wooded ledges, as well as an open one with a western view. I dipped down a bit, then reached a small pond at a trail junction. I kept right.
About a third of a mile past the junction, I came to a spur path to "The Nubble", which I skipped, again due the short remaining daylight. After the Nubble spur path junction, the trail climbed steeply, then ascended via switchbacks, and I came to the first of numerous open ledges, all of which provided excellent views.
View from ledges on the middle part of the Ridge Trail
Around the first ledges, I saw signs of snow. For the next mile or so, the sides of the trail had a coating, but there was none on the footbed. After the junction with the Roaring Brook Trail 0.7 mile from the top, the snow was everywhere. There was also ice, so on went the microspikes. Which reminds me- I saw so many people without traction of any kind. Hikers everywhere were slipping and sliding all over the damn trail- some on their butts. I can only imagine what it would be like on a nice holiday weekend
. Less than a half mile from the top, I came to two sets of ledges which were the most difficult parts of the hike due to ice cover. Going down them, even with spikes, was quite interesting. Eventually, I got to the junction with the Ridge Trail to Rocky Peak Ridge (someday), and made the short climb to the summit of #71 on the Northeast 115 and #2 on the ADK High Peaks
Unfortunately, the summit was socked in
. There were a couple short breaks where I could see the Great Range and Whiteface/Esther, but the breaks were lickety split, and it was back to fog. Hung around for a bit, then headed back down...
A short break in the clouds provided some brief views
... and then this happened on the open ledges halfway down
Around 4:30 PM, I made it back to the car off NY 73, a little less than 4 hours after starting. 2 hours up, 1.5 down. Not gonna lie, I picked a crappy weather day to do a spur of the moment ADK hike. At least that heaven effect on the mountains made up for it. Ah well, I have 44 more peaks to get it right
. I made it back down before dark, but it got dark almost immediately after leaving the trailhead. If I had gone to RPR, not only would most of the hike down be in darkness, but descending those wet ledges would have been interesting, to say the least. It's a reason to come back
! Roundtrip distance was 6 miles with 3,050 ft. of elevation gain, and it took 3.5 hours not including breaks.
Dunno how many times I'll be back this winter (long drive, short daylight, really long hikes), but if I do come back, it'll be to do some of the shorter ones.
Here's the video recap:https://youtu.be/Z2qu2X9qzos