Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Santanoni Range 2/23/13

      I woke up for this trip at 3AM to depart at 3:30. It was a different kind of morning considering Jeanette was out of town visiting my sister so I wouldn't have to slink quietly out. I'd also be hitting Warrensburg too early for Stewarts to be open so I actually spent some time readying myself and Koda at the house. Nothing too memorable about the drive. Koda was average as far as amount of whining and spazzing out. He's had better and he's had worse. A big improvement was my ability to not get bothered by it.

     We reached a full Santanoni Range parking lot at 5:30 and were hiking at 5:40. It was actually pretty bright already which was really nice. The snow also cranked up the first light of the morning and large segments of the road walk were done without headlamp. At the intersection with the hiking trail to Bradley Pond and Duck Hole beyond it, I met a group of people about my age just reaching their themselves. I got koda on leash successfully. We as a team have greatly improved the whole get on leash thing for people. There were several girls in the group and all in the group owned dogs so everyone had a very nice time.

     They were going to put on their snowshoes and I already had mine so I got right on the hike to the pond. It was immediately apparent that this approach is way better in the winter. All of the deeply eroded rock-hopping was paved over with a well traveled sidewalk of snow. I really wanted to set myself up to have a real chance of finishing all three so I went after it pretty hard. Somehow I had managed to reset my watch so time checks were less frequent after this but we made very good time to the beaver dam crossing reaching it around 7:40.

Walking on water: Bradley Pond beaver dam
     I wasn't hungry all morning after a huge dinner the night before, It's a rarity that I don't want food in the AM. I forced myself to water up, water Koda up and eat one of my hard-boiled eggs and some bacon. We continued making good time on the well-packed herd path. the upper 1/3 of the ascent truly dragged on. I kept remembering how when we climbed this in the summer, we had hiked in the night before and had fresh legs. I was already over 5 miles into the hike and had 3 ascents left!!!! Tough day.

Herd Path to Times Square

Loyal hiking companion

twisted trees and icy cliffs

Nearing the summit ridge
    Herald and Times Square were a welcome sight. We cruised right through making note of all the herd path branches for the return. I wanted to do the winter Santanoni's within a year of hiking them in the summer so I'd have a very fresh memory of them to follow. I was glad that I'd done so. We started hiking towards Couchsacraga. Down and down and down we went. After gaining around 2200 ft from the parking lot, you lose over 800 ft going down to Couchie. The winds were whipping on the ridge so it was nice to get into the protection of the trees.
looking back from the Couchie ridge
    Couchsacraga is a much reviled mountain. Largely due to the aforementioned down climb. There is also a large swamp just before the final ascent which doesn't help to win it any popularity contests. Basically, it's freaking hard to get to after pretty much summiting a high peak just to get to times square. That being said, both my first time and this time I truly enjoyed this mountain. The ridge walk has a lot of character. There are great views of some true and uninterrupted wilderness and lots of twists and turns to keep you engaged. I imagine that this is a much tamer place than it used to be though so I'm sure its earned it's rep.

    Along the final down-climb, I met John. Koda did too. Back on the leash he went but he caused quite a fuss anyway, barking and skittishly trying to lunge/ meet this very mild-mannered backpacker. John tried to charm him with a soft and soothing voice and gentle attitude but Koda was on the defense. We chatted for a bit anyway as Koda can suck it and he can't tell me how to live my life :). He was initially planning on staying at the Bradley Pond lean to but described it as "mot a place you'd want to be". No idea what that meant but pretty incredibly he hiked to the Couchie swamp and camped there for the night!!! I didn't really get the chance to tell him what an impressive hike/ camp that was.

peak #1!!!

magical yellow disc of joy
      We made our way to the summit and he began his climb back. It was great to see the summit rock and accompanying sign! We took a break and refueled, Koda getting a whole 3 serving tuna packet and some water-down Gatorade. There was no views and some decent wind so we didn't stay too long. Back on the herd path and after the initial boost from eating, my energy levels were pretty low. I got pretty grumbley too, muttering in my head about how hard it was and how I should just climb Panther and head out. As we got closer to Times Square I basically just wanted to hike out. I was shot. Couchie kicked my a#$!!!

      I was saved by humanity though. I heard some murmuring and saw a face at a very odd, close to the snow level so back on the leash he went. It was the same group from earlier. They were sprawled out on the snow having a snack, hence the weird perspective. We chatted some more and the woman who was the sweetest on Koda gave him some PB+J after asking me if it was ok. She asked me (again, damned peer pressure!) if I was gonna try for all three and after my spirits had been sufficiently lifted, I replied truthfully that I was.

      Thankfully, we were just below Times Square so up and around the rock and south to Santanoni I went. Despite my spirits lifting, I was increasingly dopey and was stumbling quite a bit. In hindsight, I think I could have prevented this. As I mentioned earlier, I hadn't eaten much that morning. I had a huge dinner the night before and had overeaten a bit due to nerves about a very serious hike. Since my whole metabolism and hunger levels were off, I hadn't put in the appropriate fuel for a day like this. Often at this point in the day I would have eaten 2 eggs, some meat and veggies, possibly an energy bar or some trail mix and some baked goods.

      So at this point in the hike I'm very dopey and nauseous and the herd path isn't as clear cut. I felt like a not so prize fighter. I think it's at this point that a sharp branch ripped my shell. Getting slapped around a little bit in the ADK!!! It was a trudge up Santa. Still no views. It was again, a welcome relief to see the summit sign and there was an audible cheer. Koda wanted to keep going!!! On the way back down I stumbled and fell a lot, cursing as I struggled back to my feet and fell again. What a mess. Reaching Times Square for the third time in the day I was quite pleased to watch Koda immediately trot towards Panther. What a good peak-bagger! Little did I know he was about to make some friends...

a little beat on Santa
       He trotted out of sight and I heard some barking and a woman yelling "get away from here!". I immediately yelled Koda come and he reluctantly did after the woman yelled again "yeah, get out of here" or something like that. I was mortified and apologized profusely. She was around 60 as was her companion and was afraid of Shepherds as she had been bitten by one. Man did I feel bad. It's hard to find the balance with leash time. I really can't take him to the high peaks most popular trails during busy days. It's technically the law too in the Eastern High Peaks so I need to be careful there. I just don't want people to have a bad impression of me or my dog. I just wish he acted around people in the woods like he does people in the house: a little barking or excitement at first and then settles down.

     I was so flustered that I let the high peaks foundation hikers blow right by me soon after even though I wanted to chat them up. Well aside from some spots on Couchie, the exposed rock of Panther was one of the few places with limited views. I snapped a few pictures including one of Koda on the rocks above me which Jeanette fell in love with. We blew it up and framed it. Being on the final summit of the day, having some views and remembering our 46er finish here certainly cheered me up after some frustrating dog times. I was very happy! We took a little more time here, soaking it all in and getting peeks of Santa, Couchie and down towards Long Lake. After flurries all day and more heavy snow in the forecast for after 1, I knew it was time to get down off the ridge.
Fleeting glimpses from Panther towards Couch

regal pup

another magic disc
     I was glad to not have run into the women as I'm sure they were heading up Santa or down to Couch. We made great time down the herd path and slid around in the snow. This was Koda's strongest hike yet. I got the most water into him yet and it really kept him perky. When we got down to the open area that is the beaver pond at the bottom of the herd path I threw a stick out into the deep powder a few times for him to bound around in. Happy hiker and happy dog!

following our track back

a freshly dusted dog

lovely spot
getting deep
     I think I finally managed to get enough food into my body to reduce the nausea so the hike out was much more comfortable than the previous portions of the hike. Again, Koda had tons of energy still and managed to get some fetch out of me. I met a group of three skiers coming in and man did that look like a tough time. They were trying to get over a tree. They had a ton of gear for over-nighting and big packs plus ski's did not look fun to me.
new sign
     The hike lasted around 9 hours and was probably my hardest day to date. The food thing was a factor (I've honestly never gotten nauseous on a hike before) as well as lack of sleep but it's just a demanding day any way you slice it. It's really nice to have it out of the way though. I am greatly enjoying being much more selective with the order I'm doing the winter 46 in. Saving some special stuff for the end. 

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