Thursday, October 6, 2011

Whiteface/ Wright Peak Birthday weekend 1/15/11-1/17/11

For my birthday weekend this year i was lucky enough to do two of my favorite things: snowboard and climb a high peak. The gnar crew has been renting this amazing ski cabin about 20 minutes north of Whiteface. We wake up bleary-eyed, pile into the cars.....

and end up at Whiteface for first tracks. Drool (as I am) as you gaze upon the untouched corduroy.

Sathi comes through with another mouth (and eye) watering batch of his signature cider. Be careful!!!! This stuff has been known to induce lift-line naps.

Whiteface is larger than life. Conditions vary wildy and terrain shows as much variety. Not to be triffled with, turns are earned. Jeanette, Kieran and I all learned lessons about respect on this mountain. It is a great humbler. We had some great days there this year, including some of the deepest pow of the season.

Whiteface is the fifth largest mountain in New York State. It is also the most isolated of the high peaks, well to the north of the others, it stands alone Jeanette and I plan on finishing the 46 on it's summit the end of summer/ early fall of 2012. Join us in celebrating! See you on the slides this winter ;)

After two epic days at Whiteface we drive to the Adirondack Loj to meet up with Derrick. He was moving to Colorado and came to the realization that he hadn't actually climbed Wright Peak (one of the most accessable high peaks, a mere 3 miles from it's trailhead) and was not actually a 46er. it was a perfect winter day. Bright clear skies, temps hovering around 15 degrees.

Wright Peak is pretty special to me. It's the peak I've climbed the most (5 times to date), one of Jeanette and I's big first trips started here and most recently we took my cousin's Eileen and Christine up it as their first high peak.

This was a special trip. It was my birthday. I turned 29 in the Adirondacks doing what love.
Derrick is one of the big reasons why I live like I do now. I was begining to dable with bigger hiking and camping trips. He took me on my first mega-hike (17 miles in the Lake George wilderness) and my first high peak (Phelps, at night, in the rain...quite an illustrious start). It meant so much to me to be able to be there when he finished the 46.

This has been a phenomenal year of hiking for Jeanette and I and it started right here. We climbed 16 high peaks this year, doubling the amount we had previously done. We climbed Mount Marcy, New York's largest, got to stand on many summits with some of our best friends and climbed our first trailless peaks (the Seward Range). Many 14 mile days, 20 plus mile weekends, astronaut dinners and PB+J lunches.

We feel so lucky to have the opportunity, drive and ability to undetake such a seemlingly unreachable goal. For much of my life the idea of attempting something like this would have been laughable. Even moreso, I feel SO grateful that this magical place is in this state, so close to home. I've truly found my place in this word.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Springtime in Albany

The end of winter has been slow coming this year. Record snowfall made it one of the best years of snowboarding I've ever had but now that the hiking bug has kicked in, it's time for it to go. There is still patches in the woods around Albany and the Peaks are gonna stay blanketed for a while yet but the city is completely snow-free.

My morning walk has gotten decidely more entertaining in the past week or so. The birds are back. Sure, you see a few birds in the winter, some of the hawks stay, Raven's definetly aren't leaving the High Peaks and you hear the occasional call coming from a trailside copse of pines. But the birds are back in the park.

Today I saw: Red-wing black birds, Mourning doves, Robins, Mallards, Canada Geese (coming in for a landing) and Common Grackle

I am overwhelmed and amazed by the sound and action. Flowers are coming up everywhere and green shoots of unknown genus threaten to bloom each day. The tulips have been put in the ground for Tulip Day and my dad has been out fishing.

It's getting harder and harder to take the final steps into the office but I do so knowing that not only will I be in the green and lush woods soon but digging starts soon too so my time in the windowless room is short.

In the coming weeks I'm going to make some posts about this winter's festivities. There was many an epic adventure and countless stories and pictures to sort through. We climbed 3 high peaks this winter and had 20 days on the mountain. We were blessed with so many beautiful days, great views and terrific company. So stay tuned and get amped for some serious in the woods and getting funky time in the near future!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Avalanche lake

We hiked in from the Loj parking lot. The trail was well-packed and the sky was blue, despite an overcast forecast. I really love the combination of snow-covered pine branches, birch trees and blue sky. The combination of colors, lines and shapes is quite pleasing to the eye.

Marcy Dam was still and quiet. Clouds and snow rolled off the summit of Mount Colden, a wintry eruption. Thought about Wesley as we passed the spot where Josh, jeanette and I saw his jacket. Thought about the time we camped on the Island in Marcy Brook as we passed that spot. Flooded with emotions and memmories.

Felt the massive forces of the earth while walking through Avalanche Pass. Gravity, slope, friction, holding on, clinging and letting go. The place vibrates in a deeply elemental way.

A number of factors drive us to go to these places. The desire for novel experiences, to be places most don't go. To push yourself. See how high and how far before you quit, you don't want it. Get away. I want to get away from all that is too complicated and disordered in this strucutre, this civilization! Get closer. Get closer to the creation, the creator, the forces that bind the universe and keep it moving. In this place, these still and silent places, we contemplate these things, often without realizing.

This is a holy place. Throughout your life you will find holy places. They just feel right. Both man-made and natural. It feels right, it looks right, it inspires you. You must return! A pilgrimage...bring offerings!

You leave chanting and hooting nonsense prayers, unable to quantify the feeling, the experience but knowing that it is good and right. We left the wilderness that day full and solid.

Home is where I want to be

Pick me up and turn me round

I feel numb - born with a weak heart(So I) guess I must be having fun

The less we say about it the better

Make it up as we go along

Feet on the ground

Head in the sky

It's ok I know nothing's wrong . . nothing

Hi yo I got plenty of time

Hi yo you got light in your eyes

And you're standing here beside me

I love the passing of time

Never for moneyAlways for love

Cover up say goodnight . . . say goodnight

Home - is where I want to be

But I guess I'm already there

I come home she lifted up her wings

Guess that this must be the place

I can't tell one from another

Did I find you, or you find me?

There was a time Before we were born

If someone asks, this is where I'll be . . . where I'll be

Hi yo We drift in and out

Hi yo sing into my mouth

Out of all those kinds of peopleYou got a face with a view

I'm just an animal looking for a home

Share the same space for a minute or two

And you love me till my heart stops

Love me till I'm dead

Eyes that light up, eyes look through you

Cover up the blank spots

Hit me on the head Ah ooh

-Talking Heads

Naive Melody (This must be the place)

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Northville-Placid Trail

The following dated entries, in reverse order (as blogs go), chronicles the thru-hike of the Northville-Placid trail that my special-lady-friend Jeanette and I did in August of 2010. We kept journals on this trip and wrote in them after each day of hiking. I took mine and elaborated on it, including memories and recollections I didn't record at the time. It was very enjoyable to go back and relive this trip via this blog, cementing parts more deeply in my memory and commiting others they may have simply slipped away.

Go there! Be in the woods!!!! Obssess over the guidebook for months. Go to!!!!
This website is totally on point and awesome. Jeanette and I have remarked many times that it would have cut our planning and worry time in half if this resource had been up and running during the planning phase of our trip.

To my friends: if any of these places intrigue you, just ask and Jeanette and I would love to take you there!

Thursday, January 6, 2011


Woke up and was barely able to choke down a backpacker's meal. I will not miss these!! It stopped raining from 1am until just before we woke up. We got under way with visions of cheeseburgers dancing in our heads. We passed the Colgate group and wished them luck. It must be hard to keep a group of undergrads amped while spending 36 hours in the rain.

Duck Hole is quite pretty and the first section of the trail after was kind of dreamlike. Once we got into the thick of the day's hike, the trail was beyond gnarly. It was super-overgrown with numerous re-routes around the ever-present beaver activity. Lots of ups and downs slogging through the mud. We met 2 dudes and an Irish wolf hound filling a lean-to to the brim (in the good way, filling it with dog-ness) at Moose Pond lean-to. The meeting was right on time as we were once again struggling to stay positive (s*&t, trying not to cry) on our second day of rain.

As you can tell if you know her or from her blog, Jeanette loves dogs (I'm a big fan too) so we both soaked up the good doggy-energy and chatted with some nice guys who were doing the stetch from Placid to Long Lake as a thru-hike north to south. The guys let us know the trail ahead of us wasn't too bad and we let them know (unfortunately) that their trail ahead was pretty tough. Undaunted, they made their way south and we headed north, with slightly lighter loads.

Wanika Falls was raging. This was a place I had dreamed of getting to as soon as we started planning this hike. The additional rain fall had created a truly impressive sound. I took a moment to be there then scurried back to the main trail. This section of the trail was pretty cool with big drops down from the trail to the rocky, fast-moving creek below. One of the bridge crossings was most of the way rotted out. Only one of the three 4x4's was still standing and below it was a 15ft drop, fast-moving water and jagged rocks.

The last section was unremarkable save for one last beaver-acction re-route. Quite pretty hiking throughout this section and I would definetly recommend Wanika Falls as a cool overnight from Averyville Rd trailhead. As journey's are want to do, the last 3-4 miles seem to drag on forever! Though we were significantly happier knowing we were on the final stretch, Northville-Placid was not going to let us breeze on out.

When we dropped off our car, I walked a stretch down the trail to find a tree of solitude. I made a point to memorize what the last little bit of trail looked like before we were out so i'd know when to start running (hahaha, little did I know). Several times on the last section I was sure I would see the Element glinting in the sun just around the next corner. We also smelled campfire a few times and thought we saw a roof through the woods, such a tease!

We did finally get out. Oh the exilaration!!! It had just about completely stopped raining so we peeled off all of our wet stuff and got into the last of our dry's. My heels had sort of 'melted' from walking 30 miles over the past two days in wet socks and now looked...well to tell you the truth I'd rather skip the description. They were gross. I aired them out and we got into my car and started heading to our great reward: The lake Placid Brewery. We called our families and let them know we were alive and out. We actually made it out at least one or two days sooner then we had expected. The estimation was 10-12 miles. Once we got warmed up, the reality was more like 12 to 15.

I may come back at some point and try and sum up the trip but for now the last sentence in my journal works just fine: "What an amazing experience, the ups, the downs, the sexy lean-to's".

Day 10: 15 miles. 120 miles total


Woke up to a frog staring at me from a puddle outside our lean-to. yup, it's raining. The trail followed the Cold River here and we got a bunch of nice views along the way. Stood at Rondeau's hermitage for a moment and thought how much Marty Pickands would enjoy this.

The terrian got more challenging as we got deeper into the western high peaks. Lots of rolling hills, swollen creeks and a few views of the Seward Range.

Got to Duck Hole and both lean-tos were occupied. Made the decision to backtrack to the last cold river lean-to instead of tenting out in order to dry out sufficiently for our hike out the next day. kind of bummer of a day, especially hiking back a mile...

So that is almost verbatim what my journal entry was comprised of from 8/22/10. Lets just say that 'bummer of a day' was a bit of an understatement. My legs were hurting me real bad that day and the further along we got, the further I fell behind, stewing about my hip (I know, what an old man) and stomping in puddles.

I can't remember jeanette's overall state for the day but we were both pretty done by the time we hit Duck Hole. After 14 or so miles, we arrive at the quite beautiful and quite packed pond-side base camp. There were not one but two adventure groups from Colgate (who werent aware of each other's presence in the high peaks that day until they met up. Can you believe it?), with numbers in the high teens. I saw them all milling about the lean-to and decided, f*&k it, I'll ask if they are leaving. No harm right? They most certainly were not leave but were, in fact, taking the lean-to and packing out the campsite as well.

My f*&k it attitude came from my chat with the group (all 2 of them) at the other lean-to. A dude and his son were in there for a few day and had settled in and completely filled this lean-to to the brim. While we were talking, the kid was playing his nintendo DS THE WHOLE TIME. This guys basically made it clear that this was their lean-to and he was not interested in sharing. If my mood had been any better I would have said too bad, showed him the lean-to rules in my guidebook and made him shove over. Jeanette was allready crying a bit so we just walked away sadly. I hate this jerk.

With all of our options looking pretty dismal we started backtracking a mile to the vacant Cold River Lean-to. I got right back to my angry puddle-stomping routine as jeanette ran wailing down the trail. Through the rose-colored filter of time I get to chuckle (as you should too) at this image. At the time, it was all pretty horrible. We got to the lean-to, where we stripped down and put dry stuff on for the night and made the usual backpacker's Pantry dinner. Jeanette was able to scream away her megrims and so began the admirable work of trying to cheer me up.

We enjoyed the usual assortment of lean-to graffiti and counted ourselves lucky for how dry we were. Not only did we keep our spare stuff dry but our bags were dry too. After reading a number of accounts of back country emergenies, we realized what bad news it is if you can't get/ keep your sleeping bag dry. We brought two books with us on our trip Changing Planes By Ursula LeGuin and Nemesis By Isaac Asimov. Just about halfway through, we finished and switched. Super fun to read psy-fi by the light of the campfire and dream of other worlds.

On this our last night in the woods, our books were done. To be fair about the events of the day, this was our one and only time we got shut out for a lean-to on the entire hike. It was the first time we even camped anywhere near another person on the trip so we consider ourselves pretty lucky.

day 9: 15 and change miles. 15 to go.


Woke up in the Corner Motel after some seriously refreshing sleep. Jeanette enjoyed one of her favorite luxuries in our journey: cold pizza in bed for breakfast. I, on the other hand, had something else in mind for my ideal breakfast. Long lake has a Stewarts, a fact I noted well in advance of the hike. I knew that, if I could, on the day I went through Long Lake I'd like to have an eggwich. It is a sacred and powerfull meal that magically cures hangovers and prepares anyone for a full day of snowboarding.

As it was 6Am on the outskirts of Long Lake, we were not passed by a single car on our way to the trailhead. No free rides today. We were both glad to have our feet back on the earth as we made our way through a rolling trail with some big trees. Not much remarkable about the hike along the lake other than the going was pretty easy so we made some good time.

We decided to push on to the Cold River Lean-to's as Long lake seemed loud and full of people (well, compared to some of our recent nights in the some of the most isolated parts of the state). The intersection that would take us away from the lakeshore jarred us into a new reality: Lake Placid was close enough to be worth putting on trail mileage signs (under 30 miles from the northern edge of the lake). We were entering the final stretch!! We were tired and sore but took a minute to relax and eat a cliff bar there and ponder our fate.

The highlight of this section of trail were the two very bad-ass suspension bridges. When we realized that we were camping at the base of the larger one which crosses Cold River, we knew we might have to revise our top 3 favorite lean-tos. The lean-to was also at the base of a very interesting and intricate falls. This whole place had a very other-worldly feel with unusual water-worn stone which created deep rounded 'potholes' with what eroded out.

Lots of available firewood also made this a great place to stay for the night. It seemed like there must have been a recent storm as there blowdown everywhere. I had anticipated having alot more fires (we only had three: Spruce Lake, Tirell Pond, Cold River) but the weather was pretty damn perfect and there seemed to be no good reason to waste wood for people who might really need it (not to mention we were dead tired most night and wanted only to lounge, eat and read in our cozy three-walled home). Other than that campfires are wicked pretty. Thats why we had one that night. The fireplace was also large enough to roast a horse in so it was hard to resist seeing if we could light it up nice. I spent most of the afternoon/ early evening exploring the rocky falls and seeing our camp and the bridge from a bunch of different perspectives.

From my journal: "Yet another phenomenal and unique place to spend the night. "

Day 8: 16 miles (our high for the trip). 24 miles to go

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


Woke up at 5:30 to gray skies which quickly blew over. Tirell Pond was an ideal Adirondack setting and walking around it was a great way to start our day. The other lean-to (north) had a two boats and a bigger beach but ours was way prettier! They had their food in a huge canvas duffel bag in a tree. They had also draped a tarp completely over the roof and front of their lean-to. yipes.... Shortly after we passed their site, we saw a deer about 20 ft off the trail eating breakfast totally unconcerned with our presence. This would be the largest animal we saw on the Northville-Placid trail. let this be a warning to would-be thru-hikers: this is the sort of terrifying animal encounters one can expect in this ever-threatening wilderness!!!! Seriously though, bear and moose trouble is real, always protect your food (hopefully better than the other Tirell pond campers) and stay a respectfull distance from the big guys with hoof's and sharp teeth.

The ascent over Blue Mountain ridge was far less difficult than the guidebook had made it out to be. Midway through the climb there was a beautiful beaver meadow with a not-so-beautiful dilapitated bridge crossing the creek. The meadow had a pretty cool vibe (found out later from this was the site of a former lumber camp) and a bit of foreboding as well. We stopped to take a break and chow on a cliff bar (blueberry crisp wut wut) and noticed a very large and very fresh bear turd. The place had the feeling of being something's home territory (indian spirit, wood nymph, bear?) and now we knew what.

We went up and over making super good time. The last section of the ascent did have some steep pitches but after doing the MacIntyre Range with full packs last summer we were more than ready for this scramble. We rolled down the hill super charged up and exited, hitting the trailhead around 12. Funny thing about the last section of the trail before the road... it seems that someone got a little crazy building two-plank walkways. This went on for what seemed like nearly a mile over both wet and dry terrian. We were nearly doubled over with laughter each time we rounded a bend and saw more plankways stretched off into infinity.

Within 10 minutes of road walking (thumbs out) we managed to get a ride from 2 girls who were going to the post office (also our destination). It appeared that the gods were smiling upon us this day. We got a hotel room just across the street from the office for almost nothing and prepared to settle in for our most luxurious night on NPT. We got a some sandwiches, Jeanette checked in with her dad, gorged on blueberries from the farmers market and mailed out Gush's herk. We had a bed and a shower! We had actually overpacked our food drop (the right kind of problem to have) and ended up mailing some of the food back.

We walked around town that afternoon and did the tourist thing (Hoss's) and had a great dinner (though fly-swarmed) at the Adirondack Hotel. Did I mention that I love beer? MMmmmm beer. At Tirell Pond I accidentially left our Dr Bronner's in the lean-to so we were able to pick some up at the little hike/ kayak store across from the beach. This is your best bet in town for stuff like that and fuel. The other places cater more towards the camp-by-your-car crowd.

We settled in to our cozy little motel bed and were snoring quite quickly. Back into the woods tomorrow!!

Day 7: 12.7 miles. Total: 79.2ish