Another part of the celebration was exploring a new trail for me, the approach from the Garden trail head. The drive up started with warm rain in Albany which had turned to snow once sufficiently north. The final stretch from the High Peaks rest stop to the Garden it was snowing pretty good and the roads weren't in the greatest shape. The two groups hit the lot and got moving shortly after 7AM. We were only the second group to have signed in that day. The forecast was not the greatest and I think it kept some folks home.
We all started the day in microspikes which were perfect for the low elevation conditions. There was a few inches of fresh powder over ice. It was fun to start on new terrain as the route up Porter broke off from the trail which goes up the Brothers en route to Big Slide. We soon entered a forest of towering pines which lined the Slide Brook drainage. The crossing of Slide Brook was just the first of many unique and beautiful locations along this trail.
After so much sloshing around and breaking through we all finally decided to get our snowshoes on. I found some flat terrain and the group all started moving forward to make the adjustment. Here comes the calamity cascade. Krissy broke through the ice into shin deep water. She got her boots and socks off and put on fresh socks with Stewart's bags over them. One boot was saturated and one was damp. Her feet got pretty cold during the dunk and swamp but she said she'd be fine once we got moving. Then Tara broke a snowshoe strap. Then I broke a snowshoe strap. The she broke 2 more snow shoe straps. We hadn't been out much in the past year, her with a knee injury and I with the little one. Our gear hadn't been tested lately and failed dramatically. I have MSR Evo Ascent which have 3 straps over the top of the foot so I just ran one diagonally. Tara decided to just use her spikes and we'd tamp down the trail before and after her. We were quite a hot mess for a bit but some bright patches of sunshine helped take some of the sting out of it.
|the scene of the incident|
The roaring of wind on top of the ridge intensified as we got higher. We knew from the forecast that we were in for some breezy conditions up top but the mild temperatures should make it a bit more bearable. The group got together at the col/ intersection with the trail from Marcy Field and got out layers and protection for the final push. The ridge was stunning in it's winter splendor. Drifts of snow were more pretty than challenging with the shallow snow depth. The wind was whipping in some fresh snow and clouds which seemed kind of perfect for a final peak of a winter round. We broke out of the tree line one by one onto the summit of Porter. A few folks were already there being buffeted by the winds. We each stood on the highest rock for a moment, bracing against the 50 mph gusts. It was incredible and dramatic and just exactly perfect.
Koda got his pigs ear and we all got out our beers. We had a sixer of Anderson Valley Blood Orange Gose which was a super tasty sweet and sour summit celebratory brew. We also busted out our silly hats. That was the random summit celebration I could come up with hahaha. So we all had quite the photoshoot with Sathi's camera propped on his backpack and firing away. Another group summited while we mugged for the camera and were hopefully amused by our ridiculousness. After a quick snack we scurried off the summit and down the ridge a ways until getting out of the wind so Ben could whip up some noodles. We made really good time to a relatively flat and protected spot where we ate and relaxed. At this point a guy and his dog passed us in our nook about 20 ft off trail. They'd be the only others we'd see on this route all day. Koda didn't even notice the dog he was so tired. Once back on the trail he found the scent you could tell he was freaked he had missed the dog hahaha.
We had more and more snow falling as we got lower until we hit the Little Meadows section and it switched to rain. You could tell by the depleted snow pack it had been rainy and warm at the lower elevations for a while. Once we got to Little Porter there were large sections of mud and vegetation in the woods exposed that had been covered at the start of the day. It was pretty surreal. We switched back to spikes even with the intermittent dirt knowing it would be slick and messy.
We continued on downward. As the hours of daylight were running out my car load broke off from the other group and started chugging ahead a bit. I wanted to see Hunter before he went to bed and was glad for the group support in doing so. We made it out of the woods. We headed on down the road and got some Stewart's. I talked about Stewart's a lot. We listened to a lot of Grateful Dead music. I got to hang with Hunter before he went to bed. We had a small gathering and Jeanette gave me a small cake with a 4 and 6 candle on it. Ben and Tara made me an awesome woodcut and banner to commemorate. It was a perfect day.