Tonight’s sunset from John Brown farm.
Sawteeth, my destination, is located near Keene Valley and is the thirty-fifth highest peak in the Adirondacks at 4100 feet. It is often cited as the best photographer’s peak in the area. Sitting near to but off the Great Range the peak offers a great view of almost every peak in that range.
My route was to come from the West River trail and then up from Ausable Lake. A good moderate hike for the day, I was told, as the climbing is supposedly short and the walk in and out is easy but long (over 6 miles one way). I chose to take the Scenic Trail in and the New Trail out.
It was warm, and even under the shades of the tree, I was sweating long before starting the climbing part. Once at the lake, I crossed the bridge and went South on the Scenic Trail. The ascent of Sawteeth via Scenic Trail is difficult and strenuous. It is steep to very steep for at least 40 long minutes. Trail condition was not great as layers and layers of dead leaves were covering roots and rocks, making the climb slippery and exhausting.
Once on the top of the ridge, at a location called Outpost #4, I overlooked the Ausable Lake, Indian Head and the Colvin Range. Very nice views, especially under a cloudless sky!
From that point, Sawteeth was right “behind” me (going West), but I needed to go down and back up, to realize that this next summit was not Sawteeth, or rather, it was only the East side of the summit. To get onto the “real” summit, I had to go down the col and up again.
Reality is Sawteeth has two different views depending on which side of the summit you happen to be on. On the southeast or lake side of the peak, there are excellent views of the Ausable Lakes and Colvin Range that persist from early in the ascent all the way up. Once over the top, you face views of the Great Range less than a half mile to the north. These are fantastic views that take in much of the Great Range with dramatic close-ups of the slides and the rock faces of Basin, Pyramid, and Gothics. I stayed there for a while, enjoying the views while having lunch.
From there, the descent was moderate via the Alfred E. Weld trail. The trail is excellent and not particularly steep. All in all, it was a long day under the sun, a 14-mile loop that took slightly more than 7 hours to complete. And I enjoyed every minute of those.
A few weeks back, we made our first attempt to Indian Head, under snowy conditions. With snow up our waist, we had much difficulty to reach our destination. So, we decided to try again, and, on Saturday, we visited the incredible sights of Indian Head.
Indian Head is perched between the peaks of the Great Range and the Pinnacle Range and fully within the boundaries of the Adirondack Mountain reserve. The best way to enjoy the hike is to do a loop out of the available trails and open up the opportunity to see the numerous waterfalls of Gill Brook on the way out.
We started our long walk along Lake Road for more than 3 miles, and met a couple of deers, then went right along the Ausable River, before going around the mountain and starting our climb. On our way up there, we took a side trail right to “Gothics Window,” a perfectly framed “window” of Gothics.
Heading back onto the trail, we climbed an icy ladder and moved along multiple switchbacks. We broke through the trees and there before us was an incredible unobstructed view above the Lower Ausable Lake. The high peaks rise sharply around the Lake framing out a view like none other in the Adirondacks. We stayed for some time here taking photos and gazing at the morning lights. We could have stayed for hours in this place without growing bored. On our descent, we followed the Gill Brook Trail which gives a nice helping of waterfalls and cascades to please the eyes and ears.
After so many years hiking in the High Peaks, it seems we’ve exhausted all of our options for new trails towards great destinations. But, looking at our High Peaks map this morning, I spotted a trail we’d never tested before. So, we decided to test the Indian Head trail as our first Spring hike.
Indian Head is a rocky peak, directly above Lower Ausable Lake, that offers excellent views of both Ausable lakes, Nippletop, Mt Colvin, Sawteeth, and much of the Great Range. That was our destination for the day. After all, it’s only Spring and we needed to prepare ourselves for much harder hikes.
Hiking along the Ausable River, on the West trail going in, was easy except for the snow, sometimes waist deep, that required putting on our snowshoes. We hiked to the famous (and frozen) Beaver Meadows Falls. What a scenery! Then we crossed over the river towards our destination.
As soon as on the East trail, we realized nobody (I really mean NOBODY!) had opened the trail towards Indian Head for quite a while. Snow was as immaculate as it would be when it fell. We ended up opening a 2-mile trail with thigh-deep snow under a very shy sun. Many times, we wondered about continuing on this uncertain path… Well, needless to say, it was an unforgettable experience, especially for us getting back to hiking after a lengthy and cold winter.
We finally made it, enjoyed the views and the overall experience. But, Spring hiking in the Adirondacks? Be ready for many surprises…
The good thing about our townhouse is that it’s a short walk away from the John Brown Farm State Historic Site, where you can see the home and grave of abolitionist John Brown.
Walking there from our home is a delight, especially like yesterday evening, with the sunset over a cloud-less sky. You are surrounded by the McKenzie mountains on the West, the High Peaks on the South, the Sentinel Range on the East… and Whiteface on the North. Incredible, isn’t it?
It’s been a while since we last hiked Phelps Mountain. But, as you know, there is a big difference between hiking and snowshoeing. So, yesterday, we embarked on a well-known path. How would it go?
Phelps Mt. is named for Orson Schofield Phelps who cut the first trail up Mt Marcy. It is thus fitting that this peak whose view is so dominated by Mt. Marcy, is named after Phelps. It is probably the easiest high peak to climb from the Marcy dam area, and is good alternative for hikers who find themselves short of time.
At a distance of 4.4 miles from the Adirondack Loj, we spent approximately 5 hours for the round trip, under some flurries and even some sunshine. No wind, temperature around -15F, that translated to an almost perfect winter day, out in the mountains.
What a great day!
After a few days of intense physical activity, we picked an easier hike to finish the Holiday weekend. We had hiked Noonmark last winter, and remembered the hike to be sometimes steep, but short enough not to be too challenging for kids.
Noonmark Mountain is a 3,556-foot mountain near St. Huberts in the High Peaks. This prominent peak provides 360-degree views, including the Great Range, the Dix Range, Giant Mountain, the Ausable River valley, and the village of Keene.
Soon enough we were making our way over the 2.1 miles to the summit. As with most short hikes to the top of any mountain, the hiking was steep and sustained at times. But there were several ledges along the way that provided nice resting, and photo, opportunities. It was a great day, with little to no wind, warm enough, so we spent time relaxing on the summit. It was only the thought of beer and a great dinner that motivated us to start the hike down.
Beautiful evening, yesterday. I couldn’t resist the temptation of one last stop on the greens…
Along Route 86, the Lake Placid Club offers spectacular courses. The Mountain Course, rated 4-Stars by Golf Digest in the summer of 2006, features breathtaking views of the Adirondacks. The setting is unsurpassed for its views of New York’s highest peaks, Mt. Marcy, Mt. Colden and Mt. Algonquin. All were still covered by snow.
I was standing there enjoying the sunset, with singing birds all around in the trees. A perfect setting, reproduced on the attached photo. Enjoy!
Click on the photo to see, from left to right, Mt. Marcy with the ski jumps in the foreground, Mt. Colden with its characteristic shape, and Mt. Algonquin “catching the clouds”