Last day of Summer(?) on the Lake

It was actually during Fall Foliage season, but it really felt like summer. We’re experiencing warm autumn days (temperatures in the upper 70s with cool nights dipping to the mid-30s to low 40s) that start the vibrant color change.

Lake Placid offered, during the Flaming Leaves Festival, a weekend of blues, brews and barbecues at the Olympic Jumping Complex but we decided to celebrate on the lake instead. And it was really worth it.

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Completing “the Jaws” during the Colors

IMG_1082Two weeks ago, we hiked Upper Wolf Jaw and Armstrong (see here). It was time now to finish the Lower Great Range. Lower Wolf Jaw is actually the first High Peak along the Great Range Trail and has five distinct approaches to its summit.

The thirtieth highest peak in the Adirondacks, the first 4000er in the great range, or last depending which way you go, and the slightly lower and more dramatic of the Wolf Jaw pair. The peak or better the pair of peaks (Lower & Upper Wolf Jaw) were named in sometime in 1869-72 when Alexander Wyant, a well known artist of the time, painted the peaks and stated the deep col between the two suggested a great pair of Wolf Jaws.

We parked at the designated parking area near the Ausable Club in Saint Huberts and, once again, the parking lot was full. At the gate, we followed the trail on the right, to the Ausable River. Once on the opposite side of the river, we continued straight on the W.A. White Trail. This is a 5.1 mile hike to the summit.

The trail started out slowly over rolling hills before making a sharp turn west and climbing steeply toward the summit. As the trail moved moderately through interesting forest features and fall colors, we gained a few unexpected views before joining up with the Range Trail at 3.0 miles from our start. We went on straight and eventually over the lower “jaw” followed by a very steep scramble to the summit.

The views are pretty good even though the summit is mostly wooded. It is almost fully tree covered but there are a few spots where to find views of the surrounding valleys and mountains. We had lunch there, before going down (careful, it is steep and tends to be quite slippery in spots on the descent) to the Wedge Brook Trail. And then, it was back to the river trail, if only on the left bank, for a change).

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Overall, it was a 10-mile, 6-hour pleasant hike. Temperature in the 60’s all day, but there was some wind at the summit. And, who would not enjoy such colors? We have now hiked 18 of the 46ers!

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Colorful leaves on the ground, here…

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… and there…

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…even in the water!

Upper Wolf and Armstrong: challenging but rewarding!

IMG_1025I really enjoy picking hikes: sometimes, this is about views, sometimes about time… Picking the Lower Great Range gives so many combinations.  Hiking them all at once (Wolf Jaws, Armstrong, Gothics, Pyramid and Sawteeth) is quite a challenge. So, this time, we selected Upper Wolf Jaw and Armstrong. Lower Wolf Jaw can wait (more on that in a later post) and we’ve climbed Gothics and Pyramid already.

This was a long and interesting day. We got started a little later this week. We only left St Hubert’s parking lot at 9:15 am, unusually late for us. Parking was crowded and we had to park on the side of Route 73. Then, it was about a half mile walk to the trailhead.

After checking in at the gate, we turned up the West River Trail and, as per usual, the first few miles were pretty uneventful. After those easy “stroll in the park” miles we started to climb, and climb we did. We selected the Wedge Brook Trail that meanders in the forest before becoming steeper while approaching the Wolf Jaws. Close to the ridge, the trail splits, one going to Lower Wolf, the other leading up to Upper Wolf.

The hike up to Upper Wolfjaw was a lot of fun: there were crevices to climb and some steep rock faces. Don’t be fooled by its dramatic “false summit”. That first, flat plateau with a great view isn’t the actual peak! Go about 500 yards further down the trail and look about 10 yards off it. A nice place to rest and enjoy the views.

IMG_1026After a few minutes there, we continued onto 4,400-foot Armstrong. Nobody warned us about the down-up-down-up nature of the hike across this range. Yeah, that was a good lesson (as I thought it would be closer to hiking the ridges of the White Mountains, NH). But, we made it to the summit for lunch, which we enjoyed on sun-bathed rocks, facing West.

IMG_1028After a moment of calm and rest, we decided to head back down towards Beaver Meadow Falls and to the car. The total loop was about 12 miles. It was a really nice hike. It was a good bit of work, especially getting up to Upper Wolfjaw and down from Armstrong, but after this hike we confirmed that we were ready for just about anything.