Sunday, August 11, 2013

Rocky Peak Ridge from Dipper Brook 8/10/13

After sorting through a bunch of different hike possibilities, the one that rose to the top of the pile was an ascent of RPR from Dipper Brook. After reading some trip reports GregoryKarl had written about the drainage (an exploration of the falls, a revisiting of the falls with an exploration of the rocky south flank of RPR and a decent from the RPR/ Giant col down Dipper Brook, cutting over to the ridge trail at the Dipper). I decided to send him a message asking for any other info about the hike or if it was a good idea.

He gave me the info, some encouragement and expressed some interest in coming along....if I didn't mind adding a third wheel to my usual hiking partnership. He hadn't whacked the entire length of the drainage yet and was curious. Koda and I talked it over and we both agreed sharing the hike sounded like a nice time. We made plans to meet at 7 at the second set of parking spots for the Giant Ridge Trail.

We pulled in a few minutes early to GK waiting for us. Koda is kind of a spazz and has some quirky behaviors (to put it nicely) so I'm always a bit apprehensive about introductions to new people. He gets really worked up when we pull up to the trail head to start the hike. To this lanky 75 lb German Shepherd, 'really  worked up' means shaking the entire car by throwing himself around the car while whining very loudly. Greg took in the entire spectacle with a very amused look on his face. It looked like this was going to go fine.

We shook hands and tried to convince the dog that Greg was going to be part of the pack as we trotted southeast up Rte 73 over where it spans Dipper Brook. When we reached the far bank, we broke into the trees at a vague indication of herd path. Traces quickly faded but the woods weren't overly dense and the creek was loudly surging to our left. After a few minutes we found the path again and Greg thought we had cut into the trees a bit too soon.
a glimpse of the range over Dipper Brook Valley

The bank of the brook quickly fell away and remained very steep as we ascended high on the shoulder of the bank. Travel remained moderately easy going until we reached a band of cliffs accompanied by increased creek roar. We poked around the bank for a few minutes until Greg recognized the way down. As the banks of the Brook are VERY steep in this first section, closest to the road, there are very few ways down. We picked our way down carefully as Koda bounded down, excited by the sounds of rushing water.

The waterfall is spectacular. I was intrigued by the pictures but was blown away. It's hard to get a sense of it's scale from the images. It's a very high drop and a wide column of roaring water. This is all contained in a deep cleft, tucked between high walls. The pool is deep and radiates cold. Koda splashed around, totally in his element and Greg showed me down to the lower falls. There is a choke point full of large boulders which created this strange 'hole' falls. It was half cave and half waterfall.
Dipper Brook Falls

Scampering back up the bank, our next destination was a small rise with some glimpses up the valley for visual re-con of the next leg. There was a nice clear line of site up to the col as Greg sighted in his compass around 20-25 degrees. With the creek always on our left we continued following the path of least resistance high up on the shoulder. Eventually the bank was a more mellow and we got some looks at small series of cascades.
Greg and Koda planning the route

We ended up climbing the right bank higher on to the southern ridge of RPR and aimed to hit the tributary that comes off the ridge on our way into the upper drainage of Dipper Brook. Things were getting steeper and I was working pretty hard. We crossed a number of smaller brooks and I was glad to see Koda drinking each time. The point we reached the tributary had some really cool slabbby falls we paused at for a minute.

The scramble up the far banks was one of the tougher parts of the hike. The brush was really dense at the creek line and the bank was steep. The first few openings were a welcome site. We wandered out on a little rubbly slope failure and caught or breath. I know I'm missing some steps along the way but the next part of this hike was really pleasant. We moved through groves of white birch with grass and ferns as the understory. We followed game trails and the occasional dry creek bed. We moved through intermittent sections of this and some denser conifers as the terrain became steeper and rockier.

At this point Greg had us following more of a due north heading but as the valley constricted, it was less important. Just keep climbing and you'll reach the col. More and more blue sky appeared through the trees and we eventually broke out into a bit of a clearing with open views. Of a huge mountain. Behind us. I think we were both a little disoriented. I guess thats Rocky? Are we up on the side of Giant? We trotted down the meadow a little and poured out onto the Yellow trail. We had merely ascended about 100 ft up towards Giant and were in the col in about 2 minutes.

Success!!! We had reached the trail. Without Greg joining the hike I would have spent a lot more time floundering and might not have made it down to the falls. It was a great opportunity to pick up on some bushwacking techniques from someone with  lots of experience.  I also got to hear about stuff he had learned from other 'famous' forum bushwackers and hikers as we went. Everyone keeps learning all throughout their lives.
Perfect weather for a view

We made our way up from the col and reached the summit with some gusts of wind to greet us. One gentleman from Rochester was taking in the summit when we got there. Koda and I shared our summit tuna packet. I've been working in Utica for over a year across the street from this amazing coffee shop called the Tram. They make a ton of awesome fresh baked goods each day. I brought giant chocolate chip cookies for Greg and I's summit celebration. It was actually cold in the breeze so we made our way behind a large rock and enjoyed the sugar high.
cookie time

There was a large group hike in memory of a young man who had died in a car accident. Many kids were piling up on the summit with still more on their way. They were friendly and curious about our hike and the mountains in general. After chatting with them and a few other summit-arrivers for a while, we started heading back down. A funny moment on the summit: I got the impression that Greg wanted to summit Giant so I decided to go along with it even though I hadn't planned too. He got the same impression from me even though he didn't really want to so we both had to make extra sure no one wanted to climb Giant before we headed out hahaha.

Man that hike up Giant from Rocky is hard! Lots of rest breaks. I was definitely sucking wind.  Some conversation about catholicism. I wonder if the difficulty of the climb and the talk of religion was a coincidence? Lots more people were coming down the trail now and lots of chatting and questions. I learned a cool piece of hiking etiquette: It's customary to let the hiker descending pass. It stands to reason that it's easier and safer to stop when you're going up as opposed to down. Makes sense!  Another funny interaction all day: Apparently 2 guys and their German Shepherd were supposed to meet their friends on the summit at 6AM. The 2 guys and dog weren't there and their buddies must of asked everyone hiking in the range if they'd seen them. So we got a lot of questions and had to work pretty hard to convince people we weren't those guys.
Hunters Pass and the Dixes

Greg looks down the valley

On down the Giant Ridge trail there was a ton of people. It was a beautiful day and many had come out to enjoy it. Koda was being really well behaved and received pets and compliments from folks of all ages. Once we hit the switchbacks, things had quieted down. We reached the cars around 2:30 and said our goodbyes. It was nice meeting Greg and sharing an interesting hike. As I untied my boots and put on flip flops for the drive home, I could hear rock climbers yelling across the street. It was a beautiful day to be in the woods and every trail head was full of people enjoying it.

Round Pond

GregoryKarl! Awesome hike

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Bushnell Falls, the Wolf Jaws and Short Job: A Johns Brook Valley Sampler

Well the original plan was to climb Haystack but the mountains have the ultimate say and the weather often steers the ship. The forecast was less than ideal for Saturday. Based on the 3-4 different sources I use, I expected morning rain and for there to be a good chance we'd have a socked in summit. The Garden parking lot was MUCH more quiet then I had expected it to be. I guess the forecast had scared people off. We got Koda out of the car and I tied him to my back tire while we got our gear sorted and ready. The lady from the booth came over and gave Koda a biscuit. She was really sweet. He was too excited to eat it though so i put it in my pocket for later.

We were on the trail around 8:30 making our way carefully along a very muddy north side trail. This trail is always pretty muddy but the not-stop rain over the past few weeks, while good for the corn, has not been great for the trails. We reached our temporary home, the Goodwin Lean to at JBL, around 10:30 and dropped off our sleeping stuff and bear can.
Recently added Tram sticker. Best coffee shop in Utica (or anywhere possibly)!!!

the fam getting ready
A couple factors were starting to cause some unsettling feelings:
1) Jeanette's knee was giving her some trouble with a strange "snapping rubber band" feeling on the hike in.
2) By the time we hit JBL to fill up from the spigot (such luxury..thanks ADK!!!) it was 11. While I knew we had ample daylight to reach Haystack, I was wearing my packable daypack which has limited capacity and it was too small to bring our dinner/ cooking stuff. It started feeling like we didn't have enough time for the 10 miles to Haystack.
3) We mulled over our options (maybe Saddleback or Big Slide?) but decided to give it a go anyway. It's still hard to work these things out for us. I often have a very gung ho attitude (to a fault) about big hikes while Jeanette is more cautious and prone to anxiety. While this is not nearly as much a problem as when we were working towards the 46, sometimes it still creeps in and makes things tense and less fun....which is stupid!!! We are doing this for fun remember?!?! Oh well, brains and humans are far from perfect and we do the best we can.
4) The trails were pretty rough and the water was moving very fast and high. By the time we reached Busnell Falls, excitement for the mountain was NOT the feeling in the air. Not too far after the falls, the trail crosses Johns Brook. The water was very high and fast. All of the crossing rocks were completely covered in fast water.

That was the nail in the coffin. Jeanette didn't want to cross but encouraged me to go ahead anyway. I thought about climbing Basin instead (I wanted to scout it for winter because I'm nervous about the dog on the final steep section) but decided I'd go for Haystack anyway. Diverging from what you planned always seems to open the door to trouble. Despite some relief something still felt kind of off. I started the cross with Koda and felt pretty queasy about dragging him across the brook. about 2/3 of the way across, the water was well over the top of my boot (I was still dry inside thanks to my gators and a recent re-waterproofing of my boots). The next move looked to put me about knee-deep. That was it for me. I turned back just as Jeanette was walking away.

Finally that bad feeling (maybe it was least I'd like to think so) in my gut was gone. I had made the right choice. Of course it took trying to make the right choice. The words of one of my favorite bands in the world, Cloud Cult,  comes to mind: "Some of us can't change til every bone has been broken". I have a hard time doing what's right first. I often have to mess up before I learn my lesson. At least, these days, I don't have to mess up nearly as bad as when I was younger.

With the pressure off, we both chatted and felt much better and closer. We decided to visit Bushnell Falls since we skipped it on the way up, pressed for time. I'm so glad we did! It was a raging torrent and I was able to enjoy it much more thoroughly then when we climbed Basin and Saddleback since we didn't have anywhere we needed to be. We poked around a little, took a lot of pictures and laughed at Koda. He really wanted to swim but recognized that the water was too serious for his liking so he just poked around gingerly at the shore. Jeanette found a nice open spot on the side of the falls we hadn't noticed before so we hung out there for quite a while and shared some amazing Barkeater chocolate and some coconut water. 

flowing real good

moving boulders

secret nook


We made our way back to camp and enjoyed the trail so much more than on the way up with our tension and anxiety lifted. We stopped at many of the open spots on Johns Brook and enjoyed the flow of water while Koda played in some of the more slack water. We talked about other ideas for our day and in the end decided I'd check out Bennies Brook Slide again and Jeanette would relax and read in the lean to. In the end, she really wanted to just get away for the weekend and relax so she was actually getting more along the lines of what she desired. Koda and I wanted to roam the woods so we'd get ours too. Since this was the first time all three of us camped out together I wanted to get him nice and tired so we'd have a peaceful night.

We got back to camp and I dropped a few more things to lighten my pack and we divied up the food. It was around 1 as I began making my way down the south side trail towards Bennies Brook. In about a mile of rock-hopping solitude we reached first Wolf Jaw and then Bennies Brook. I'm told Wolf Jaw Brook is worth exploring too. Another day....I knew that Koda would be able to climb anything on the BBS so that was the plan. We reached the new massive cairn and I paused to refuel and take in the massive power of the earth.
lots of work went into this one
We made our way up the initial pitches enjoying the wide open air and many tumbling water features. I let Koda off leash so he could pick the best routes for himself which often ended up being the ones I took too. He's a very smart and surprisingly cautious climber though he makes some moves I find very impressive and bold.
I like this

power moves

no big deal

around the corner
I find this to be a very special place and can't help but look around and take lots of pictures and often simply pause to take it all in. I feel very far away from it all and very at peace. It's a really nice beginners bushwack since it directly connects to trails on both ends. As I am still pretty new to hiking at this level, I feel like I'm exploring but with a substantial safety net.
can you see the small wormy thing in the drop?

another babble

Good Boy!
Despite my overall feeling that Koda would be fine with everything on this hike, as the pitch got steeper I started to get a little worried about him. He kept making really good choices though and was receptive to suggestion as far as route choices. I'm continually blown away by how much we communicate and how much he understands. He'd slip on a wet slab every now and then so I'd point to a dry section and say "Dry". I'm hoping he learns this command for future hikes!

climbing into the fog
I was starting to tire after our hike in with a big pack and the many miles we had already put in. I made sure to keep sipping my water and snack a little as we went. The top of the slide was made more dramatic by the thick fog obscuring it's terminus. I wanted to pick a hike that would be interesting on it's own seeing as how we'd likely not have any views so it seemed like I had chosen wisely. After about 3500 ft we were in the clouds. The last few sections I worried about Koda the most and took more roundabout ways than the last time I climbed this to ensure we'd limit exposure and keep off the steepest slabs. I was grateful to see the headwall and a small cairn marking the herd path exit. It was a really fun climb and he did great on it.
love this spot

the headwall

a view only an ADK enthusiast could love
The herd path took is right to the trail in less than 5 minutes and we faced our toughest obstacle of the climb: the last scramble up to the top of Lower Wolf Jaw. Man, I missed the snow here bad! Koda slipped pretty significantly on this part as it was very wet so we both made our way to the trees on the right of the trail. It was really nice to hit the summit ridge and walk on flat land. This was my fifth time on LWJ and my fourth time with no visibility. We have a rich tradition, this peak and I!!! I told Jeanette that I'd be back to the lean to at 7. She said that if I wasn't home by dark that she'd either start looking for me or contact the rangers. Since it was still very early (before 3) I would head over to Upper Wolf Jaw as well.

The decent went quickly (as it always seems to) and I enjoyed the sport of rock-hopping all the way down. The trails were very muddy and wet and I tried to stay off them as much as possible so I wouldn't make it worse. I had concerns about the Upper Wolf jaw ascent for Koda in the winter but all the tricky parts I remembered were not a problem for him and i knew they'd be even easier in the winter.

The summit was socked in as well so we stood long enough to take in the deep solitude of the place and time. I could here birds singing and feel the breeze swirling the water vapor over the mountain range. This was Koda's 13th and 14th high peaks. I was very happy for our day as I made my way back down the trail. On the spot where you can see across the col to LWJ from Upper we were blessed with a fleeting glimpse of lush green and gray rock.
Upper Wolf Jaw

a fleeting glimpse
The trail down Wolf jaw Brook was actually much drier and in better shape than I could have hoped for and we made good time. I took some time and investigated the two slides you cross on the way down. There is so much to see. We were still a little ahead of schedule so I thought...hey, why not? and headed up the trail to short job. I'm sure this little spot doesn't get much attention considering everything else around it so the trail was in great shape. I was pretty tired at this point and a little delirious. I started chanting "short Job, Short Job, Short Job!" on my way up while Koda looked at me quizzically. It was neat to climb a little mountain all nestled in amongst the big guys and we were graced with some of the best views of the trip with tree-framed views of Bennies Brook Slide, the shoulder of Upper Wolf Jaw and the ample open rock on Saddleback and Gothics. We trotted back down and got back to the lean to 15 minutes before our 7 PM projected arrival.
"short job, short job, short job"

views below the fog
Back at camp, Jeanette had been lulled into a trance like state by the babble of the brook and had nodded off several times and dreamed of our return. We cooked quinoa, broccoli and some really nice natural nitrite free andouille sausage. Threw it all in a pot with some spice and olive oil until the quinoa absorbed the water. Variations on this meal is our favorite trail dinner. We fed the dog, read and relaxed. He was a little more stimulated than the last time in the lean to and walked around a little bit this time. He still settled pretty quickly and was asleep by our side. At some point in the night he went out and slept on the ground for a while (his tie-out is 20 ft so he can move around quite a bit) which bodes well for future hikes where we don't have a lean to. I know he's a dog and it's natural for him to sleep on the ground but every time something like this goes well it makes me happy. 

The next day we were woken at day break by super enthusiastic doggy kisses and blue sky. We quickly broke down camp with dreams of a leisurely Sunday in Albany (including brunch with friends) dancing through our heads. We passed several people on the way out heading in to Haystack including Biji from the message boards who was climbing haystack for his 46th!!!! I was glad for everyone that they'd have a nice day and did warn them about the creek crossing. I knew it was cross-able, but for us, it was one too many risk factors. 

We stopped at Stewart's for some much needed/ desired coffee and breakfast and made our way back home. Sometimes things don't go as planned and it's really nice when you're able to make the best of it. I keep trying to be a more patient person and not have to constantly do the biggest and hardest but the struggle against my inner meat-head is still there. Each time though, I feel like I learn a bit more. Here's to the journey....

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Memorial Day 2013: the Loj, trailwork, a banquet and Avalanche Lake

This weekend turned into one of those full Adirondack experiences: crazy weather, amazing people, great wild beauty, struggle and reward.

Friday, May 24
The forecast at first looked like showers on Saturday, some on Sunday and a perfect Monday. Each day as the trip approached, the forecast got worse until it became snow and rain all day Saturday, well into Sunday night....but still a perfect Monday. hahahahaha

Knowing it was going to be cold we did our best to pack for a wide variety of events and conditions. The car was loaded to the brim as we made our way towards our first stop of the weekend: dinner at Trappers Tavern in North Creek. My folks gave us a gift certificate for Christmas which was a great way to start our weekend. It had been raining since that morning and the weather broke enough for us to get into the restaurant. The rain picked up after and stayed with us as our loyal companions until Sunday after the banquet.

We chatted happily at dinner and the drive and did our best to keep a good attitude despite the fact that the next few days would be trying in a whole different way than our usual. The water was running like crazy at all the familiar places on Route 73. Roaring Brook Falls, the Boquet, Johns Brook were all white and frothy.

We checked in at the front desk of the Loj, received our lean to pass and made our way to our home for the weekend. It was raining steadily and we managed to keep our gear dry getting it to the lean to. Our spot was just over the outlet of Heart Lake along the old Marcy Dam trail. I'll have to try it out the next time we head in that way. It was totally strange and alien to be wearing jeans and a Carhartt jacket in a lean to (and sneakers!!!). If cotton kills I'd be triple dead.
a victim of cotton

Saturday, May 25
We both slept fitfully as is common for me the first night in a lean to. We listened to the relentless rain pound the lean to roof and splatter the puddles out front. The alarm woke us to a very cold morning. The lows each night/ morning were around 31. It was hard to get out of the bag and harder to get dressed. It was much colder than we both expected and Jeanette hadn't brought her rain pants. As we came to the realization about what a critical error this was, the steady drizzle turned to wet snow. 

The idea of being out all day doing trail work in only a light rain jacket was really upsetting and I felt dumb not encouraging her to bring the kitchen sink for this trip as I had. I suspected that we wouldn't be out all day since our last time hiking to Indian Pass during rain, we couldn't cross a creek after Rocky Falls and had to turn back. There HAD to be more rain this time! We also figured we could stop at the little shop at the info center and see if they had rain pants. She needed a new pair anyway.

Well we got there and the shop wasn't open yet. The summit steward coordinator Julia Goren (we didn't know who she was at the time) was getting her pack ready with one of the volunteers and we blurted out our entire story. We were doing trail work with the 46ers, stayed at a lean to the night before and were unprepared for our long day out in the snow and rain. In many was this was the crux of the hind site it felt like the point where things could have stayed bad. She coolly looked us over and said: "I tell you what, one time offer.....". She told us who she was and directed us to the trail cabin where we could borrow a pair from a big Tupperware box full of them in the basement.

I can't imagine a happier or more relieved feeling. We made our way over there with instructions to "tell them Julia said it was ok" if anyone bothered us. Obviously this is a woman who commands respect and rightfully so. It was a cool experience just checking out how the trail crew lived. It had a very college dorm feel with lots of acoustic guitars, beards and even a few skateboards down in the basement.  Jeanette found some rain pants and we scurried over to the trail crew.
fellow crazy people

We signed in with the group, got our equipment and had a nice chat with Joe Bogardus, one of the trailmasters for the 46ers. Jeanette and I met him first when we climbed Marshall, he was helping a friend maintain the herd path. We signed up for the emergency post-Irene Dix clean up and when we arrived Pete Hickey (another trailmaster), came over and asked us how fast we hiked....slow, medium or fast. At first I said medium but thought better of it and said fast. This meant that I ended up climbing Dix Mountain with Joe and Taras, two very serious hikers. It was a meaningful and humbling experience to say the least. Joe has offered us a lot of encouragement and advice along the way so it was great to see him again this important weekend.

Pete Hickey confirmed my suspicions that we wouldn't be making it too far in and would clean drainage's as far as we could. At this point I also had a nice chat with pathgrinder, who I'd met for Taras' winter 46 hike of Dix. Sometimes I think that the Dix via Round Pond trail has some sort of twilight zone like effect on me. It's like all roads lead back to it.  So out we went, shrugging off the rain and snow while hoing leaves and muck from the drainage's. I'll now pay closer attention to these! There were so many on the trail and it really made a difference when they were clean. We made it a little of the way past Rocky Falls and worked our way back. In the last mile or so the rain slacked off and I entertained dreams of hiking in to Marcy Dam or something like that. Jeanette made no bones about it:  She would be taking her wet stuff off, getting bundled and staying in the lean to until Sunday morning. She even did the calorie calculations to make sure she could skip dinner at the Loj and make it till the morning.

Typical field conditions

as the snow fly's

frosty tril
Well, the sky opened back up as we hit the parking lot and with little fuss or fanfare we were both bundled up in the lean to. I paused at the car and made a french press of coffee (ahhh the luxuries of car camping) which we enjoyed with chocolate from the safety of our 3-walled home. The work had gone till around 1230 so we had a long day ahead of us. We hadn't brought any games unfortunately but both had a stack of books to occupy our time. I kept trying to convince Jeanette to come to dinner with me but she was set. Her boots were wet and she wasn't going to put them back on until it was sunny. You have to respect someone who sticks to their guns. During one of the slack periods, a red squirrel perched on the corner of the lean to eying us quizzically and wondered when these rude guests would leave him his prized pine cone gnawing spot back. 


and outside
I made my way over to the Loj around 5 with the promise of adult beverages. It was a really fun experience. You go into the kitchen and ask for a beer which the bring out to you in the great room with a loj pint glass. Beers cost $3.75!!!! Not surprisingly I got to chatting with several of the other guests about the high peaks and 46ing. Everyone was very friendly and the feeling of camaraderie ran deep within this place. A very nice gentleman from a hiking club out of Springfield, Ma invited me to have dinner with several other members of his group. We chatted about the mountains, enjoyed our dinner (I had more beer too) and smiled a lot. Everyone kept joking about Jeanette running off to the Crowne Plaza while I was eating. I said my goodbyes and headed back to the lean to. She was still there deep within her mummy bag. We turned in, once again listening to the rain fall in waxing and waning bands throughout the night. We both slept a little better.

Sunday, May 26
The next morning and the weather was...well, pretty much the same. The call of breakfast though.....We made our way over to the Loj early as I anticipated we'd be able to hang out indoors. The door was unlocked and Boy were we all smiles as we settled in on the nice padded furniture. We both enjoyed the luxury of their indoor plumbing and before you know it we were smelling all kinds of breakfasty smells. One by one my new buddies from the night before came down and met Jeanette. They all assumed she HAD gotten that room since her hair looked so nice. Breakfast and coffee were so far beyond amazing. Jeanette was positively beaming. There was lots of scrambled eggs, delicious oatmeal and fresh fruit. A bellyfull of hot breakfast and the knowledge that we wouldn't be hiking in the rain went a long way towards good morale.
once again...typical field conditions

When we initially planned the trip I figured we would climb Mount Jo on this day but instead we went into Lake Placid and did the tourist thing while waiting for my folks to hit town. We got a crepe and more coffee. took a spin out to Wilmington and did a little window shopping. The highlight of the morning: a wine tasting at Goose Watch! This is one of our favorites from the finger lakes and it was a very nice way to spend our afternoon.

My parents got into town around 1. They'd be staying at the Crowne Plaza Sunday and Monday. Memorial Day was also their 41st wedding anniversary so we were celebrating double. Since I started hiking in the high peaks I got my parents to start exploring the area too. My dad is an avid fly fisherman so he soon discovered the famed West Branch of the Ausable River. He's now taken several guided trips and loves buying flies at the Hungry Trout so we all went out to Wilmington. It's always great to see him in his element. We got back to Lake Placid and my folks checked into their hotel room. We oohed and ahhhhed over the lovely hotel facilities and headed over to the bar for some pre-game drinks and snacks. We got shifting and elusive views of Whiteface and Mirror Lake and watched the stream of hikers checking in.
glimpses of snowy Whiteface from the Hungry Trout

Afterwards, my mom and I decided to go to vespers which I wasn't so sure about. I am a very spiritual person but don't really connect with organized religion. I was grateful to find out that this service was much more aligned with my beliefs than a formal church service. In fact, we just sang songs about hiking, heard a nice woman's story of becoming a 46er and acknowledged 46ers who had recently passed. I was very moved and very emotional. There was so much to celebrate and so much beauty all around me, both the place itself and the people. I won't lie, I was also a little tipsy. While we were waiting for vespers to start I got to meet Brian, summithat from the boards, who knew me from my writing there. I was surprised and forget sometimes when you're writing on your computer that someone is on the other end. He was a really nice guy and made me feel really good.

The ceremony was huge!!! It was this massive room PACKED with hikers and their families. I was really impressed by the absolute variety of people that became 46ers in my class. Truly eclectic. It's exciting to be part of a group that can't be quickly summed up or stereotyped. The food wasn't bad and I enjoyed the clip from the Grace Hudowalski documentary. As I am a bit of a patch pursuer (must have been missing out on the boy scouts as a kid) I was tantalized by the elaborate trail work patch accrual system. Two more trail work days and Jeanette and I get our 46 hour patch!!!

We were all pulled out into the hall and made to line up in alphabetical order. Lots of chuckling and memories of school while people shared stories of their climbs with those in their alphabetical vicinity. I spent some time reflecting on the experience that led me to this place. Flashes of hikes and "getting it" moments where I knew this was the kind of life I wanted. I was able to sneak out of line to cheer and snap a picture of Jeanette when she got her certificate. I  got mine and we went back to our tables after snagging some hugs from the ladies we'd been dining with at the Loj. Joe made his way over afterwards and congratulated us and I introduced him to my parents. I want to keep going on about how awesome Joe is here but I know it'd bother him hahaha. Humble is an understatement. Suffice is to say it meant a lot.

We walked my folks out and exchanged many more hugs and thank yous. It meant so much to me to have them there for this event. As we walked out of the hotel we could see the high peaks for the first time since we'd gotten there. The weather had broken. We were elated and danced under the stars for a minute, thinking about how amazing it was to do this together. I feel so far beyond blessed to have a partner that wants to do all of these big beautiful things with me and make them even more fun and funnier. We've laughed a lot, done some crying and rarely fought. Every time it really mattered in the woods, I knew she'd come through and she knew she could depend on me to do what was right. Most importantly, we shared some truly breathtaking moments, deep in the woods, far from civilization, 4,000 feet into the sky.  That's one of the ways that I knew that I would spend the rest of my life with Jeanette. Every time I was mesmerized or moved to my core by the beauty of what we were experiencing, I'd glance over and she was in the same place. Never bored or distracted or apathetic. After all the good food, nice times and cocktails we both slept heavily that night. I woke up to the nightly call and the moon was so bright it shone like sunlight patterns on the ground in front of the lean to.

Monday, May 27
not so typical field conditions

Bright bright bright sunshine! Life is fresh and new!!! We broke camp quickly, knowing we'd be warm and eating breakfast as soon as the lean to was emptied of us and our worldly possessions.  After breaking things down, putting on hiking clothes and and loading the car we made a bee line to Heart lake to get some morning light-infused pictures. Tendrils and drifts of steam rolled lazily on the lake and snow was visible on Street and Mount Jo. My mom was coming at 7:15 to drop my dad off. I made a reservation for all of us to have breakfast together and also got a bagged lunch for my dad so they wouldn't have to shop for him. They were floored by the morning views coming down the loj road and we all enjoyed the warm and cozy buffet breakfast. My mom took off for a day of relaxation at the hotel and in town while Jeanette, my dad and I made our way to the trail head.

I think a lot of people decided not to hike on Monday after the crazy weather so the parking lot was actually pretty quiet. Jeanette took her new camera out and busied herself with photoing all of the beautiful painted trillium. On our last hike in the peaks (Noonmark and Round) we had seen reds but no painted yet. Well they were everywhere so there were lots of opportunities to appreciate. So many so that my dad teased her about it for the rest of the hike. A few members of the trail crew blew by us including one fellow wearing purple tights and adult diapers. I asked the next guy coming through what the deal was but his answer was vague and elusive. Needless to say we were amused. The trail, understandably so, was the muddiest I'd ever seen it after all that rain and we began to see patches of snow as we got closer to the dam.
reduce, reuse, recycle

Put out the fire! Someone had some humor here

lovely little trickle feeding Marcy Brook

My dad was very impressed by the scenery and also the level of damage that Irene did both with the bridge and the trail it destroyed. This was my dads first time hiking in the high peaks. He grew up in Rome, NY and has been close to the woods his whole life. His whole family grew up fishing and hunting and built a hunting camp on the Big Moose Road in Eagle Bay, NY. While at college during the Vietnam War, he reacted strongly against the conflict, becoming a politically active pacifist and symbolically 'put down his guns' and quit hunting but continues to love fishing and the woods in general to this day. We went on many hikes and fishing trips all around the immediate vicinity of the cabin and he was a good instructor. I watched him picking up garbage for years and started doing it unconsciously. Thanks dad!

We followed the brook as the trail started having longer stretches of erosion and rock and some climbing. I knew my dad was in really good shape but of course I was worried about him anyway. I know how many of our friends my age I bring on hikes that have a hard time and today the trails were pretty rough. After Avalanche Camp, there was consistent snow cover as we wound up the trail into the pass. Going was slow and the increasingly deep snow was slippery as it wilted under 60 degree temps. We all kept our eyes on our feet and no one fell! I was completely impressed with my dad as he negotiated over trees and boulders, through the slush and over uneven plank-ways. We all chatted less and focused on the matter at hand. In my head, I kept preparing to turn back (later Jeanette told me she was too) as the snow got deeper and deeper. By the height of land there was nearly a foot on the ground vying for space with some of the deepest water I've seen on this perennially wet trail. Adding insult to injury, there were numerous trees down from the storm, often at critical points, blocking easy movement. The whole time my dad didn't complain or break stride. He in fact drove the pace much faster than I was planning and we arrived at the lake an hour early. When we told him we had wanted to quit he said it never crossed his mind.
more snow as we climbed

complete cover once in the pass

my handsome dad and lovely wife to be

The lake was it's usual stunning self and my dad greatly appreciated being there. The shore I'm used to was completely underwater so we hung at the edge of the trail and hunkered down for lunch. I was so relieved that we had reached our destination and that no one had gotten hurt or dejected. Spirits were high!!! Dads lunch from the Loj looked awesome and we enjoyed what we had packed. We all shared some salami and chocolate. Family! We basked for a while and eventually got our stuff together as a new group showed up so they could enjoy it. As we were poking around for a bit, something new caught my eye...There was flecks and sparks of Labradorite everywhere! Maybe it's because everything was more wet than usual and the water makes it sparkle more but all of a sudden every rock seemed to shine blue and gold. Simply stunning....

Spirits remained high as we made our way back. The snow was melting before our very eyes and the going was easier as several other people had tramped down the trail after us. I dug my camp saw out of my pack for the way back and took care of as much of the fresh blow down I could while staying to stay with my fast moving father and fiancee. Legs were getting more tired though as we came back out the pass and down to Avalanche camps. Our feet weren't picking up as high as they were. We made our way along the trail and as ever, the last bit before the trail head dragged a bit. I chatted my dad up about his fishing season and he teased Jeanette about her trillium obsession I've been dreaming of bringing my dad here for so long and was so glad that the hike went well and the weather was beautiful. If anything, the snow made the setting more dramatic and the hike more memorable. He isn't the kind of guy who balks at a challenge. He raised me after all!

I snuck off to the info center and got my dad an Avalanche Pass patch. Of any day to hike it, this was a truly patch-worthy outing. We drove him back to my grateful mother (See mom, I didn't kill him) who had been drinking wine, reading and gazing out at Whiteface while we hiked. We said our goodbyes, and made our way to a late lunch/ snack at the brewery. The had a very nice dinner at Great Adirondack Steak and Seafood after my dad showered and rested. At the brewery (black IPA was pretty solid) and on our drive home we smiled and laughed and remembered all the highs and lows of this weekend and our time in the high peaks in general. We felt full and rich in all the right ways.