Thursday, April 3, 2014

5 days on Prospect 3/18-20, 3/24-25

Through the years, I've been blessed with the opportunity to travel throughout New York State for work and have found myself in some really great places to hike. Jeanette and I fell in love hiking the stunning Hudson Highlands while working in Peekskill. I've stayed several times in Lake Placid and relished the opportunity to get into the woods each night. It's a battle of wills to put in a full day of labor and decide to hike after but the hiking gods have made it worth my while again and again. One night in Peekskill, J and I decided to camp on the Appalachian trail. We shared the campsite that night with a group of thru-hikers and got to listen to their stories and share with them the wine we hiked in. It was an unforgettable night that solidified my commitment to a life lived close to nature. During one of my stays in Lake Placid I was able to summit Phelps at night, take a quick hammock nap and see the sun rise on the summer solstice, burning bright red rising next to the steep face of Big Slide.

Getting the call about a project in Lake George, I didn't even think about potential after work hiking. I spent the first night doing the usual, out to dinner with the crew (Coopers Cave Brewing Company for Saint Patrick's day), followed by a lazy night in the hotel. That evening I noticed how late the sun was out. Daylight savings hadn't been that long ago and light skies after 7 was still shocking.

 The next day I decided I'd hike up Prospect after work. I didn't have any hiking gear with me so was a bit concerned about the trail condition. If it wasn't broken out, it would not be a fun day floundering around in heavy steel toed boots and Carhartt heavy cotton work clothes. Luckily there was a hard-packed trail broken out which stayed firm under foot. I hadn't been up Prospect since an early spring after work hike many many years ago. I hardly remembered the trail or the summit, other than the parking lot, remains of the cog railroad and the picnic tables.

I was excited to see old sights new again. Halfway up I was startled by a the high RPM rev of snowmobiles close at hand. I had reached the point of the trail where it crosses the Prospect Mountain highway and came to find out that it was open to snowmobiles! Now that's a different experience than my long winter of solitude in the high peaks. I scurried across the road and back into the woods, climbing the most strenuous part of the trail before emerging back on the road just below the summit.

The trail up Prospect

The views were surprisingly good. I was immediately drawn to the high peaks but before long noticed a nice view of the summit runs on Gore. I found a nice warm rock on the summit and did a little yoga, likely confounding the nearby snowmobilers.

The next day something occurred to me: the snowmobiles were probably accessing the mountain pretty close to my hotel. I vaguely remember researching the Porspect Mountain highway and noticing how close it was. I looked it up and holy crap, the road started about 500 ft from my hotel entrance road! I pulled up Google Earth and saw what looked to be an open path right from my hotel parking lot to the highway.

I got home back from work, dropped off my stuff and immediately plunged up to my knees in snow on the edge of the hotel road, making a bee-line for the trail. Once on the hard-pack, I went left. After about 500 ft I seemed to be heading away from the highway. I pulled out my phone and looked at Google maps. Sure enough I was heading the wrong way but could cut through some sort of public works facility and end up back on track. It turned out to be a waste-water treatment facility and an employee came running out as I walked by. I obviously didn't appear to be a threat as he quickly went back inside. As I exited, I saw a large no trespassing sign. Oh well, no harm, no foul. I'd omit that leg on future hikes haha.

Prospect Mountain Highway
Once on the highway, I had decent traction from all the snowmobile traffic. It was fun to cross over the North-way and check out the toll booths. A sign advertised a much less expensive admission price for cyclists. Out on a wide open road in the ADK, I couldn't help but miss my wife and dog. It was a nice mix of civilization and wilderness. I started seeing deer. They were all along the edge of the highway, making their way down to drink from some open brook on the side of the highway. I saw around 7 on the way up. After trucking for a while, I came to a pull-off at a scenic overlook. Great views down to the lake and to the mountains on the eastern shore.I also noticed a little foot trail coming out of the back of the parking lot. It was not broken out and had deep post holes. Not interested in that battle, I made a mental note to bring my snow shoes (and hiking clothes. Sorry Carhartt....) the next week and check it out.

The first highway overlook

Not long after the overlook, the point where the foot path crosses the road appeared before me. Yay landmark! I got on it and fell into the groove, remembering the steps from the day before and making it up slightly easier. I love re--hiking a peak! Great views once again, though a bit more overcast this time. I found my favorite view point on the peak. Below the true summit, along the road there are large rocks lining it. I found a comfy looking one and had a commanding view of Gore, the high peaks and Lake George. I descended as quickly as I could. I was hungry! Hiking from the hotel added several miles (the hike goes from around 3 miles round trip to about 10). I was hiking up without food or water which was freeing (I sometimes feel like my winter pack is becoming part of me) but each day was ending up with me about to chew my foot off. On the way down I startled several more deer and some snowmobilers. I guess the road doesn't get a ton of foot traffic. I stopped down at the Stewart's and Rite Aid for food and beer, a simple dinner for Wednesday Survivor night, a tradition with friends at home that makes me feel less lonely on the road if I still watch it hahaha.


I figured I had it lock down this time! I knew my route, I knew what not to do and I was ready to rock. I was able to make the correct turns on the snowmobile access trail from the hotel and didn't have to trespass or wallow in snow. It soon became clear though, that I wouldn't be rocking all that hard. The two previous days of hiking ganged up with some warmer (softer snow) conditions and slowed me down pretty good.  The overlook view as lovely once again, as was the summit. My original intentions were to stay on the summit for sunset but atmospheric conditions (it was pretty overcast) and hunger drove me off the peak once again. I did manage to spend a good 40 minutes up top and explore different vantage points. THe hike down was grueling. I don't know how some of these hikers go out day after day. By the end of the day I had hiked around 23-24 miles in three nights. That's after working outdoors doing manual labor all day. I was beat! I was also grateful. Grateful to be able to physically be able to do this and grateful for my job, giving me the chance to explore the state of New York.

Lake George Village

Thursday was my last night in Lake George as I go home Fri-Sun. Jeanette, Koda and I had a great hike up Hurricane in the high peaks that weekend. It was great to once again share the woods with family.

Koda and J on Hurricane

I was very excited to start my new week in Lake George. This time I had all my gear but a little less time to explore as I was leaving Wednesday afternoon. I had spent some time with the map and since I had my snowshoes, figured I'd start the hike with a bushwack. It looked like if I cut into the woods (I remembered an access road going this way) to the right, before the toll booths, I could probably cut out a big section of road walk. Seeing some woods is also an obvious bonus. 

I actually passed a few walkers in microspikes at the bridge over 87 so I guess I'm not the only one who climbs Prospect this way. The access road I remembered from previous hikes actually had a set of snowshoe tracks heading down it so I guess I wasn't the only one with that idea either. Veering downhill I came to two little abandoned structures on the shore of a substantial brook. I'm not exactly sure what their purpose was but if I had to guess, I'd say they were for pumping water? They were covered in an odd mix of white supremacist and pro-marijuana graffiti. I'd like to hope that these were two different groups hahaha. The road veered too far west for where I wanted to go, following the banks of the brook so I decided to start the official bushwack segment of the hike. I headed mainly north though maybe 20 degrees to the west up rolling slopes. The snow was delightfully supportive under my MSR Evo's.

Come out and play!
brand loyalty
in our hearts

The woods were sunny and open. I crossed and re-crossed deer tracks and sometimes followed them. Before long I ended up on a tote road and found another structure in a clearing. This one was significant with a beautiful rounded stone and concrete foundation almost two stories tall. There was a simple corrugated metal roof over an open screened in "story". This one was most definitely water related. I poked my head in to see a deep cistern. In the clearing was what appeard to be the cab of an old old pick-up truck. It was filled to the brim with Labatts Blue and  Coors cans so this appeared to be another party spot.
A see of blue within

I followed an old tote road out of the clearing along a deer highway. They had been using it all winter to get to the open brook to drink. Along the way I found several deer beds. When I saw a steep slope with open rock, I broke off the tote road and started climbing. I figured I'd hit the highway right about where there was a steep, rock-lined drop-off. This part of the hike was awesome, with increasingly good views and lots of fun rocky spots to work around. I paused a lot to take it all in. Things got steeper and I made a bee-line up slope. The next turn of events was pretty interesting.

scene from the bushwack
 Views of Prospect Mountains summit appeared very much in the wrong place from where I had expected them, far over my left shoulder. I figured I had ended up on the lower northeast summit of Prospect I had seen from my favorite overlook. That's actually kind of cool I thought, as I had planned on exploring it eventually anyway. As I popped out on the summit, I immediately encountered a snowshoe and boot track. What a surprise! I had NOT expected to see any evidence of humanity up there. I followed it to an awesome overlook of the lake. I took a phone call from J as I explored some more. It was pretty entertaining novelty to not only have my phone on me in the woods but to have reception the whole time.

Not where I expected

I followed the previous tracks back down off the summit, figuring they'd lead me back to the Prospect Mountain trail, when I stumbled on to a trailblaze. It dawned on me where I was. I was on rattlesnake cobble! This was the little foot path out of the back of the overlook parking area I had noticed last week! Looking at it on the map now, it would have been almost impossible to reach the place I thought I was. What a cool happy accident. I trucked back down to the highway, and started heading towards the hiking trail.

View from Rattlesnake Cobble
 You know what? I hadn't had enough bushwack in my life. I simply crossed the road and headed into the woods on the opposite side. I climbed up increasingly steep and rolling terrain. My energy started to flag as I approached the summit. I ended up close to the antennae array and the little building up top. I followed a cool stone-lined path from there to the summit.   Another stunning day. This time I noticed A really good view of West Mountain too. Considering I think I saw Whiteface from the summit too, that makes three ski resorts from one summit!

On my way down, I decided when I hit the road , that I didn't want to head back down the highway. I took the normal foot trail to the trail head, crossed over the pedestrian bridge and walked in to town. It was a fun experience walking down the abandoned strip of gift shops and other such tourist traps. I followed along the shore of the lake, checking out the steam boats and enjoying the sunset. Before heading home, I picked up some Indian take-out which proved to be an awesome post-hike dinner.


I was chomping at the bit  after work the next day to get back out there. This time I brought my pack with some water and some food. I figured this would increase my comfort so I could stay out longer. I also wanted the pack so I could go into businesses after and not feel like a weirdo carrying my snow shoes. I decided to follow my tracks from the previous day. The snow was a little softer as the temps were warmer. I broke through a bit more. When I got to the steep ascent up Rattlesnake Cobble, I side sloped instead of making a bee line and found a much easier and more open route.

scenes from a bushwack
close to the top

  Down off it's summit, I broke into the trees again, intending on another  summit bushwack. I picked  a trajectory which would have me end up back on the path before the summit. I was pretty well exhausted again, all the hiking had caught up with me. I kept pushing on, up some cool rock bands, through downed trees and always expecting to break out on the path. Turns out I must of been paralleling it in the woods for quite some time, slogging through soft snow. By the time I broke hard right enough to step out on the trail, I was pretty well spent. I began to intertain thoughts of bagging the hike before the summit. I took one look up the trail (a slightly more steep section than the rest of the generally moderate path) and started chugging down. It would be selfish of my to over-consume the view right?

It's always hard but worthwhile for me to decided to do less instead of more. It goes against my nature and is always a battle. Even with a snack and water, hunger again drove my decision-making. I had a super awesome plan this time. I was going to get dinner and beers at Pizza Jerks. What a cool spot! It's hard to find good places in tourist towns in the off-season. This is def the best of what's open and would be an awesome choice even in a town full of open restaurants. I had some Adirondack Brewing company beer, a nice garden salad and buffalo wings. One content hiker. I once again followed the shore of Lake George on the way back to the hotel and enjoyed another beautiful sunset.

Long nights, deer, snowmobiles, ski hills, the high peaks, bushwacking and cold beer. All right out of the parking lot of my hotel. I couldn't ask for more.

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