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|
|Herd Path to Times Square|
|Loyal hiking companion|
|twisted trees and icy cliffs|
|Nearing the summit ridge|
|looking back from the Couchie ridge|
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.
|magical yellow disc of joy|
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|
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|
|another magic disc|
|following our track back|
|a freshly dusted dog|