Thursday, March 7, 2013
Porter and Cascade: Koda's first two high peaks!
A lot has changed for me in the past few months. I became a 46er in July, engaged in August and after the sudden death of my fiancé’s father, the owner of a house in Albany and a rambunctious 2 year old German Shepherd named Koda.
Jeanette (mountainwolf) and I have been working non-stop for the past 2 months getting affairs in order and moving out of our much loved apartment in the student ghetto, leaving very little time for hiking and certainly not 4-5 hours to drive up to the high peaks. I've been satisfying my need to roam the woods by visiting all of my favorite local parks and preserves.
Things have finally come together enough so we have some spare days. All Jeanette wants to do right now is rest (who could blame her?!) and I've been dying to touch base with the High Peaks so a plan was hatched to give her some time at home minus the constant engagement of an especially high energy shepherd and us two boys would go burn some calories and play in the snow.
Since completing the 46, I've loved refocusing my energies on different pursuits in the woods: sharing favorite hikes with friends, exploring new trails and approaches, and simply immersing myself in the woods. Yielding the true benefits they have to offer.
This hike fell nicely into my current mode. I would get to share a hike with my awesome new friend Koda, climb a different route up an already climbed peak and likely be alone all day, completely immersed in the place in the world I love the most.
We arrived at Marcy Field at 8:30. There was a very serious looking all terrain van-type thingy with a little mo-ped strapped to the back idling in the lot. Weird. While I was putting my boots on and shuffling my gear at a leisurely pace no one stumbled out so I snapped a quick picture and made my way up the trail. It was cold all day but as long as I kept moving it never really got bad. I was definitely happy to get under way though. The trail starts out very wide (like old tote road wide) and eventually breaks off left where the town trail keeps going straight to what I assume would be a low overlook. The hiking was pleasant and began following a brook, crossing it twice. Koda took a drink and I encouraged more, knowing puddles up higher might be frozen on such a crisp day.
After leaving the creek behind we reached an overlook about an hour or so into the hike. There were good views of Giant and Keene Valley below it. I can see very clearly from this perspective how the Giant of the Valley got its name. As we went higher, Dix, Noonmark, Round and the Upper Range all became visible. Reaching the summit of Blueberry Mountain was pretty tough and I was very grateful to come to a wide, flat and open summit. This is a really cool mountain! Great views all around, now including Whiteface to the north looking all pretty with snow on the trails.
There was a good amount of ice on the steep approach of Blueberry and I was obviously not used to it, taking a couple stupid spills that learned me quick. Winter is here indeed! After the summit the trail was dusted with snow at first and grew in depth throughout the day. I'd guess 3-6 up top? From Blueberry I could tell that the first push to gain the Porter ridge was gonna be tough. It didn't disappoint. I huffed and puffed while Koda ran graceful laps first just out of sight and back to see if I could pick up the pace a little.
After gaining the ridge there were several terrific vantage points. I was really blown away. When we climbed it originally for our 46, the summit was socked in completely and I vaguely remember being told I didn't miss much. Huh...not the case. What an amazing front row seat for the whole of the great range, the Macs, Colden...the list goes on. It didn't hurt that I happen to love snow-capped mountains and was being served them in spades.
Since it's been a few months since a really ambitious hike, I was pretty spent by the top of Porter. I slumped down onto the rock, fixed my gaze at the range and contentedly sipped some green tea from a thermos. Koda and I shared a packet of tuna which we wolfed down with great enthusiasm. I kept resting and taking pictures while Koda looked insistently down trail. The initial plan was to climb Porter and evaluate the dog to see if he could push on. Well, it seemed like the dog was ready to go and trying to evaluate me. Again, the brief hiatus had diminished my endurance so I wasn't sure if I wanted to keep going but in the end I succumbed to peer pressure and off we went.
After two pretty grueling ascents it was nice to settle into a good trot on mostly even ground and before long we were making the final rock walk up Cascade. I figured if I was going to see another person it'd be on Cascade but it turns out the range was ours for the day. A few pictures later we were making our way back. It was really cool to look out and see the entirety of my hike laid before me from Keene Valley to where I stood.
We reached Cascade at 12:30 and made it out by 3:30 so it took us four hours to climb and three to descend. The hike out was pretty but uneventful and there was less conversation on the way down than there was excitedly going up. Koda finally seemed to start getting tired and often wanted to walk behind me for tricky spots.