We spent about a week and a half in the Adirondacks in New York doing some paddling and hiking. I took on three "high peak" hikes on my own, and this was the best and most rewarding of them all.
I was up early this morning. My goal was to get to the Mt. Marcy trailhead by 7:00 a.m. and I allowed for a 12-hour round-trip hike with a 45-minute drive each way to the trailhead and back.
I got a little earlier start than expected and headed to the Adirondack Loj which is owned by the Adirondack Mountain Club. It's also the home of the High Peaks Information Center and the site of many trailheads including the most popular trail to Mt. Marcy.
We had specifically extended our stay in the Adirondacks for this great weather day and my attempt to hike Mt. Marcy, the highest peak (5,344 feet) in the Adirondacks and the state of New York. My research showed that the hike was more about the distance than the difficulty. From the Adirondack Loj, it's 7.5 miles to the summit (although some sources show it being anywhere from 7.2 - 7.6 miles).
I turned onto Adirondack Loj road and stopped to snap a photo of Algonquin Mountain in the early morning light.
Algonquin is the second highest peak in the Adirondacks at 5,114 feet.
The last two miles of the Adirondack Loj Road may be the two worst miles of pavement in all of New York - the signs for "Rough Road" are a little understated.
There are several parking areas at the Loj, and there is a $10 per day fee to park. I was able to park pretty close to the trailhead and after depositing my fee in the self-pay box, I was on the trail at 6:30 a.m.
An older fellow from Florida (I think he was 67) started just ahead of me, and I registered just after a threesome from Reno, Nevada.
This sign at registration says 6.8 miles to Mt. Marcy, but that is about a half mile short of the summit.
We headed out and the group of three let me go past as they were going to go slow and take lots of pictures. It was quite chilly with temps in the 50s, but I figured I'd warm up quickly. I brought a knit cap, gloves, and a fleece shirt for the summit, but I started out in hiking shorts and a short-sleeved hiking shirt. My calculation was correct and I was warm by the end of the first mile.
I had read that the first two miles to Marcy Dam were pretty easy and they were. The terrain was dirt, .....
there are some gentle ups and downs, and clearly it's a maintained trail.
Soon, I exited the Adirondack Mountain Club land and entered the state-owned High Peaks Wilderness.
At just under a mile in was a trail intersection.
The sign here pointed left and indicated it was 6.7 miles to Mt. Marcy .....
which meant the total distance would be 7.6 miles including the nine tenths of a mile to that point. Being a numbers guy, I kept trying to calculate distances from the signs all day, and kept coming up with slightly different totals.
At any rate, it was a lovely walk ....
as the melodic songs of the Wood Thrushes welcomed me into the woods.
At about 2 miles in, I arrived at Marcy Dam. In the past, there was a wooden bridge across the dam and there were photos of a beautiful pond with the mountains in the background. But in 2011, the remnants of Hurricane Irene caused the bridge and much of the dam to be washed out. They aren't going to repair the dam and, instead, are going to slowly dismantle it.
This is today's photo - no more lake.
They have now built a foot bridge a little downstream from the dam and signs point the way.
The re-route across the recently completed bridge may add a couple of tenths of a mile to the hike.
View back toward the dam from the bridge.
On the other side of Marcy Brook, I stepped up on what was left of the dam for what still turned out to be a pretty nice photo.
I took one more pic before I moved on.
In the Marcy Dam area, there are two or three pit toilets, a lean-to, and a tent camping area. Many folks like to camp here and cut out those first couple of miles before they hike on into the high peaks.
More directional signs just after leaving the dam.
Those numbers would now make the hike 7.2 miles.
Just before the next trail junction a tenth of a mile away, there was a sign warning of bear activity. I later heard that a bear had ripped into a few backpacks last night at another camping area around Slant Rock where there is another approach to Mt. Marcy.
Just beyond the bear warning was the next intersection.
The trail continued on and up beside Phelps Brook. There was a high water bridge in case the upcoming stream crossing wasn't passable.
High water wasn't an issue today as it has been very dry this summer in upstate New York. But I stepped up on the bridge for a photo.
The trail then started to get a little rocky.
Soon I came to the rock-hopping crossing over Phelps Brook.
The trail got rockier on the left side of Phelps Brook, but it was a gentle climb and the views and sounds of the stream made it interesting and bearable.
I'm guessing I was about three miles in when I came to a foot bridge back across the creek.
So the first three miles weren't bad at all. Yes, there was some uphill and lots of rocks on the third mile, but I was enjoying the variety of the hike and was surprised that it hadn't been tougher.
Upon crossing the foot bridge, ....
the trail started getting steeper.
Still, it was a mix of rocks with areas of dirt trail and it wasn't a relentless climb. It was quite serene in some sections .....
as I ascended for a mile or so toward Indian Falls.
Indian Falls is a well-known rest stop at about four and a half miles in (4.0 - 4.5 miles depending on which source you use). I crossed Marcy Brook ....
and just on the other side is the sign for the side trail to Indian Falls.
It's not really even a side trail. It's a short walk along the stream, maybe a tenth of a mile.
I popped out onto the rocks where there was a great view of Algonquin.
From the edge as the creek tumbles over the ledge.
After helping a lost couple get back on the trail, I dropped my pack, set up my little chair and took in the view by myself.
I took a short video.
Soon, I was joined by Wade, a Summit Steward with the Adirondack Mountain Club. The Summit Steward Program protects the unique alpine vegetation and educates visitors. Stewards hike up and are present on Mt. Marcy and Algonquin Mountain seven days a week during the summer.
Wade was pretty certain the trail was 7.5 miles to the summit, and I had about three miles, maybe a little less, to go. He offered to take a photo and said he does it all day long for hikers at the top.
A lady had passed me earlier and said she loved Algonquin. Wade said it's a really steep hike and more difficult than this one.
I spent about a half hour at Indian Falls admiring the surroundings, eating some food, and drinking some water. I had enough water left to make the summit, but I filled up a 1-liter Platypus bottle from the stream.
I was carrying a Sawyer filter and would filter that bottle if I needed it.
Back on the trail, just steps beyond Indian Falls was a sign indicating it was 4.4 miles back to Adirondack Loj.
So, I didn't think the first four and a half miles were bad at all. I was pleasantly surprised by the diversity of the trail, and the fact that it was steep only for very short periods. I was really enjoying myself and loved the trail so far.
This is what they call "corduroy" - sawed off logs placed side-by-side through some of the wetter parts of the trail.
At what I'm guessing would be about the 5-mile mark, the trail got steep and extremely rocky.
For about a quarter of a mile, it was similar to what I faced on my hike up to Whiteface Mountain the prior week.
That was certainly the toughest section of the trail to that point. Then it went back to a mix of dirt and rocks and then, eventually, mud.
I came to another intersection.
The signs here showed 1.2 miles to the summit and 4 miles back to Marcy Dam.
According to earlier signs, Marcy Dam was 2.1 miles in, so that would add up to a total trail mileage of 7.3 miles. Before I started this morning, I was going with 7.4 from what I read, and Wade convinced me 7.4 - 7.5 was about right.
I had given myself an hour for the first two miles and an hour for each mile after that, so I figured that I would be happy if I reached the summit in six and a half hours, or by 1:00 p.m. However, at this point, with somewhere around a mile and a half to go, I was ahead of schedule.
At that junction, I passed a threesome that had started at 5:45 this morning. Many more hikers had passed me than I had passed, but at least I knew I wasn't the slowest on the trail and there would be people behind me on the way down.
The trail was quite wet and muddy with more corduroy as I continued. I came to an opening and looked to my right. I was pretty sure I was looking at the Mt. Marcy summit.
Just then, Wade popped out behind me. He had stopped to drop off some gear at a campsite, and was continuing his climb to the top. He confirmed that was Marcy, and he told me it was a little less than a mile from this point. It sure looked longer.
From that spot, the trail climbed steeply over rocks and some scrambling was required.
As I climbed out of the trees, it didn't look quite as daunting, but there was still a lot of climbing to be done.
I took time out to drop my pack and put on my fleece. The wind was cutting and it was cold up there, but not cold enough to go with the knit cap and gloves.
After crossing this marshy area, .....
things got really interesting. Many people on blog posts I read said they put their hiking poles away and scrambled up using their hands the rest of the way.
I hung on to my poles as they helped me with some of the steps and in giving me confidence on the rocks. I had to carry them in some places as I needed at least one hand to pull myself up. That last half mile of the hike was brutal, but fun at the same time.
I told myself I wasn't going to take any panorama shots until I reached the summit, but I couldn't help myself.
In the right center of that last photo, you can see a little white line. That's the boardwalk through the marsh I was on a few minutes earlier.
It was just so beautiful, plus a little rest for photos didn't hurt.
Wade had reminded me to stay on the rocks and follow the cairns and yellow directionals.
But there was still work to do to get to the top.
After some extensive effort, I finally made it to the summit.
It was about 11:40, so I had made it in just over five hours. I was quite pleased with that.
There is a little cap at the very top that is fully exposed.
I scrambled down the other side and found a place to sit where the wind was blocked and I could enjoy the views and my food.
After about a half an hour, I got up and shot a 360-degree video.
And took a few more photos.
Wade and his co-Steward answered questions and clued us in on the surrounding mountains.
In the upper right of the above photo is the Boreas Ponds. In April of this year, the state of New York purchased the 21,000-acre tract of land that includes the ponds. They are still determining how the land will be classified and, therefore, opened for public use. From what I've read, there are fantastic views of the highest peaks from the ponds.
To the east is Lake Champlain with the Green Mountains in Vermont barely visible on the other side (top of photo below).
I read that 44 of the other 45 highest peaks can be seen from Mt. Marcy. From where I stood, I can believe it.
Around 12:30, I started my descent. It wasn't a quick descent as I stopped to take several more photos.
In the distance is Lake Placid with Whiteface Mountain being the pointed peak on the far right.
More hikers climbing up.
There was a line on the rocks (like tiny ants marching) as far down as I could see.
The question I got most often from the other, younger hikers was "Have you done any other peaks today?". Many of them also "bag" Mt. Skylight and Gray Peak on the same hike. I just laughed. "Nope, I'm quite happy just to have made this one".
On the way down, I saw the Florida guy and two of the three from Reno (one called it quits a few miles back) that started at the same time I did.
They were going to make it, but they were struggling. It looked like they were going to reach the top about 1:00, the time I originally estimated I would get there. I encouraged them as much as possible and wished them a safe hike back.
Another pretty shot on the descent.
I slowly went down the steepest part of the mountain choosing my steps carefully, butt-sliding when necessary, and trying not to break or pull anything. Again, that last half-mile is a beast, but the scrambling makes it interesting and somewhat fun.
Back below tree line, there was a little more scrambling and then it was an easy walk until I got to the steep, rocky section. That slowed me down, but I was glad to get through it.
I didn't really need a rest, but I stopped at Indian Falls again. I stayed there for a half an hour and filtered water for the last four-plus miles to the Jeep. While I was there, a mother and son appeared out of the woods - they were lost and I showed them how to get to the trail. Two stops at Indian Falls and two sets of lost folks - glad I could help.
The next mile or so was somewhat slow going, but there were no problems. Once I crossed the foot bridge over Phelps Brook, I picked up the pace although it was a bit rockier than I remembered.
From Marcy Dam, it was just a couple of easy miles, but they seemed to take forever. I was ready to be finished, and I was looking forward to Linda's promise of a spaghetti dinner when I got back.
Spending a little more time at the top taking pictures and with my break at Indian Falls, it took a little more than four and a half hours on the return. I reached the Adirondack Loj parking lot a tad after 5:00. So, it was nine and a half hours on the trail stopping to take several photos, and taking a couple of hours of breaks for food, water, and scenery appreciation.
Considering my original estimates, I was quite pleased with my hiking time. My new boots were great, and I had no trouble with the twenty pounds on my back.
On the way out of Adirondack Loj road, I pulled over to take a picture of the Lake Placid Olympic ski jumps with the mountains in the background.
I texted Linda that I'd be home around 6:00, and made my final Adirondacks scenic drive.
I really enjoyed the Mt. Marcy hike. I would do it again in a heartbeat, unlike the Whiteface Mountain hike (4 miles shorter) where someone would have to pay me good money to do it again.
And thus ends our Adirondack adventure. There is still a lot in the area to explore, but we got a great taste, and I'm sure we'll be back. Today was the proverbial icing on the cake.