Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Santanoni Range: Our 46er Finish 6/09/12

    We started our hike late Friday afternoon under fairly sunny skies though there was some rain in the forcast. Once we got under way, some gray skies started rolling in, getting more and more threatening. The first portion of the hike in is along a road and goes fast. There is a hard right onto the trail proper which started out pretty and got awfully rugged (muddy, rocky and heavily eroded) awfully quick. I think we both had a lot of nerves about our last big trip of the 46ing journey and hadn't seen each other for a few days so we bickered a bit on the way in. I made some sort of smart ass comment about how it was going to rain soon and we both started picking up the pace. Thunder rumbled more and more intensely. About a mile before the lean to, a significant reroute was marked around some even worse trail. We pushed through scrubby pine and swung off of trees to keep our balance while trotting with three days worth of backpacking gear. We started to get kind of giddy in our race to the lean to and any animosity or irritation between us dissolved as the rain started to fall. Before we got too wet we reached the lean to. As we did, it immediately started raining harder. We gleefully settled in for the night. We had passed two guys on the way in who got to the lean to at the begining of the storm too. We immediatly invited them to share it with us for the night but they seemed intent on setting up their tent so we had it all to ourselves all weekend.

       The next morning we got it together pretty early and got on the trail. On the way in, at the reroute start, there was a small cairn. I assumed that this was the start of the herd path to Times Square though I was a little unsure as it was pretty small. I was able to rationalize that since there is now a trail reroute, the herd path start probably got a bit rerouted too. Here, me being overconfident got us into some trouble. First off, I hadn't checked any trip reports beforehand which I had been pretty vigilant with over our last handful of trips and the info had been pretty valuable. I might have gotten better info as to herd path start and how it was affected by the reroute. Secondly, I didn't pull out the McMartin map, sticking to the ADK map. The McMartin map has the herd paths and I would have very quickly seen my mistake. I left it in the freaking lean to.

     So we headed into the woods at the cairn and quickly lost any sign of a herd path. I was still sure that it was nearby as I thought I remembered that the herd path went south of Bradley pond. So if I took a bearing, stayed south of the Pond and hit Panther Brook, I'd HAVE to stumble into the herd path. The trees, christmas tree sized pines, were heavy with last nights rainfall and dew and quickly soaked me as I pushed through the brush. Jeanette trusted my judgement (oops) and followed but I can't say that either of us were pleased. We followed the southern shore of the pond and got some pretty sights.  

A boat stashed in the woods in what looks like ship shape.

Impromptu Bradley Pond bushwack
           We reached Panther Brook where it feeds into Santanoni Brook just south of Bradley Pond and began to follow it up still with no herd path in site. All throughout this I was checking my GPS constantly. Here I was, overly depending on it (which I've made fun of other people for....karma'd) and getting in trouble because of the warm and fuzzy feeling of having a dot on a map telling exactly where you are. We slogging along the banks of Panther Brook, crossing from one side to the other, looking for the herd path. The banks of the Brook became increasingly steeper with cliff faces rising to our right and it eventually made more sense to simply climb up the rocks in the stream. We paused for a snack and to get our heads back on straight. Surely the herd path would eventually cross the brook, probably after we rose out of the deep valley we had entered. Our hopes were based on our experiences with the Herbert Brook, Seward and Redfield herd paths which all follow brooks and cross at least once. Even if we didn't find the path I'd taken a way point for times square and between the GPS, compass and map i was confident we could hit the point. The strategizing and snacking were just the refresher we needed and spirits were well on their way to lifted as we stumbled upon backcountry gold: a cairn!!!!! Back on track folks.

Those are some lovely cascades...lets climb em!

Jeanette before and after shots: before finding the herd path

After finding the herd path!!!!
     I'm sure that our happiness and relief for finding the herd path colored the experience but from that crossing to the top went quick and felt decently easy. We got to the big interesction, rested and snacked and made our way down to Couchsacraga. This much maligned peak turned out to be pretty enjoyable for me. I do understand though how looking DOWN the long ridge from Times Square has taken the wind out of many a sail. We made what I felt like was good time, taking in some lovely and remote views of the Cold River Valley and the Seward Range. Up to the summit and yay! It was a pretty good one with a fairly open rock you could get a nice 360 from. I had been dragging energy wise and ripped into our new go to trail protein, foil packet tuna in sunflower oil and a little broth. Doesn't sound appetizing but when your body is craving/ needs a big dose of protein, it's freaking amazing. Met some nice guys and a dog, the guy was a 46er and his nephew just climbed his second and third, Santa and Couch! Whoa, he's gonna be glad he got those out of the way early on.


Almost to Times Square, the view back towards Bradley Pond, the Mac Range and beyond.

an ocean of fog

Cold River and the Seward Range
        With a fully belly and some bubbly conversation (Jeanette filled me in on the two episodes of HBO's Girls I had missed haha) we made our way back to Herald Square and began our trip up Santanoni. It looks huge from the first ledge overlook heading in that direction and I think we were both a bit intimidated. This climb though, like Couchy went relatively guick and uneventfully. Other than how awesome it was!!!! Freaking great views from this mountain. On the ridge trail we saw some painted trilium which was interesting as I'm used to seeing them much lower and near creeks. Jeanette nearly ran up, her excitement for being so close to our 46 un containable. Pretty summit and more chatting with nice folks. It was fun telling everybody how close we were.

    We rested for a while and like Allen, got visited by a summit bird.  Jeanette (and I) were very curious about a certain bird song we often herd in the Adirondacks. As a kid, my dad would whistle back to them and convince my sister and I he was talking to them. Which I now do to Jeanette haha. So this little bird with these brown almost hawk like wings, a striped black and white head and a yellow spot on it's cheek hopped around us for several minutes. It took off, perched on a nearby branch and lo and behold, sang the ellusive song! We now had all the identifiers we need to find out what kind of bird it is. It's called a white-throated sparrow. About a month later we decided to climb Phelps for sunrise and while we were completely socked in, we were visited again by WT sparrow and were treated to an extensive serenade which Jeanette managed to film. Such special moments!

Summit trillium?

The view from Santanoni; Pure wild Adirondacks
      Now all that we had left was to climb back down to Times Square and up A short distance to Panther. This is the sortest of the three ascents and I was stoked to be so close. Down in up with nothing particularly memorable other than our excitement. We celebrated on Panther, posing with our flag and swatting the occasional fly. You'd like to say that you sat back on your final summit and reflected about the long journey but I guess I really didnt though that happened plenty before and after. I took it in like any pretty and hard fought summit and we made our way back to camp. 

Santanoni from Panther
       I was curious to see what the trail was like on the stretch we had missed going up the creek. Well it turned out to be a pretty and moderately easy stretch of trail. It was well to the north of the creek for the most part, avoiding the cliffs that had pinned us in. Using our trail-finding "strategy" while we were "off-trail" would have NEVER led us to this path. Sometimes it seems like you do the opposite of right every possible time when something goes wrong and sometimes you feel like everything went miraculously right when the flows are flowin'. We got down to the pond and crossed the beaver dam. Turns out the herd path started pretty much right in front of the lean to, which i would have know if I had consulted the McMartin map before hand. Guess now I'll know for the next time haha. All things considered it could have gone way worse. We probably added about an hour to the day and one or two gray hairs.

     In the lean to that night we cooked a nice dinner, at some chocolate and drank a bottle of Finger Lakes ice wine I had gotten for Jeanette for Christmas and took in a lovely and restful evening alone in a lean to. I guess I didn't spend much time reflecting on the past because I feel in the middle of a fluid lifestyle more than someone who had just closed a door or finished a chapter. As I sit here writing this, I'm planning several camping and hiking trips for the coming months and beyond. I love these mountains with all my heart and feel so grateful for how they've changed me. I feel like I am finally a man. A man shaped by mountains, mud, weather, exhuastion, exaltation and solitude.


  1. Beautiful, the anticlimax just means there is so much more to accomplish. I can't wait to read more!

  2. Yeah, what Weeky said! Love this :)