Day 1: Tabletop, Marcy, Cliff.Having heard several good recommendations about the "Keene Valley Hostel" in Keene Valley, NY, I decided to give it a shot instead of backpacking. I arrived at the hostel on a Sunday night without reservations to find several climbers and a family of hiker/canoers staying there. There were several empty beds but no owners to be found. The place was clean, inviting, and had some good hiking/climbing reading material. There was even free wireless internet. All in all,it seemed like a great place. When I eventually met the owners, Jake and Robin, I found them to be extremely nice. They seemed really into the fact that most of their guests were outdoors people doing some outdoor pursuit, which was cool. So, I relaxed and read for a bit, and then set my alarm for 5:15. I was out the door on the way to the ADK Loj at about 5:30. I was treated to some nice views along Loj Road.
I arrived at the trailhead around 6 and saw a group of 3 college aged dudes heading up towards Mt. Marcy. These gentleman were not aware of hiking etiquette and made no effort to move to the right for me despite their slow place. They were actually doing a remarkably good job of taking up the entire trail. Eventually I passed them and continued out towards Mary Dam. I made good time and before I knew it, had reached the herd path to Tabletop. The herd path to Tabletop was easy to follow, although a bit muddy. Another half hour or so and I was at the wooded summit. Through the trees I was treated to an interesting view of Haystack and Little Haystack, from an angle I had not seen.
Back down the herd path to the junction with the Marcy trail, and up Marcy I went. I made the treeline around 9 am and found the conditions to be beautiful. After several other rainy trips in the ADKs earlier in the summer, this weather was quite a treat. The views were quite nice.
I passed the gentlemen I had seen earlier again and had a quick chat with them. They turned out to be quite nice and probably had just not been hiking before, and therefore were unfamiliar with etiquette. Anyway, I proceeded up and made the summit around 10 am, and had a chat with the summit steward and a couple other folks. One gentleman up there was quite the ADK history buff and offered some interesting and informative tales relating to the ADKs.
Well it was now off to Cliff mountain, because earlier in the summer I had to abort an attempt due to weather and lateness. After a quick rest break at Four Corners, I headed down past Lake Tear of the Clouds to the Uphill Lean-to where the herd path to Cliff begins. The herd path to Cliff was rumored to be a little more rugged and challenging than the herd path to Tabletop. With this in mind, I strapped on some gaiters, and was instantly happy I did.
The herd path was not difficult to follow but it did offer some challenging sections that required some maneuvering carefully up rock ledges. My legs were beginning to feel a little fatigued, but I continued the push and ended up on the summit around 1 pm (I think). The summit of Cliff provided some interesting views of Mt. Colden. I really enjoy summits like Cliff because you lose the crowded feeling and sometimes loudness of an ADK high peak summit in summer. I was able to sink into the tranquility. I sat on top, ate food, drank water, and just relaxed for a solid 45 minutes. It was super enjoyable.
And now for the fun part, the hike back to the ADK Loj. I had several options. One option was to Lake Colden and out via Avalanche Pass (but I had just been there). Another option was to hike back the way I came over Marcy (not fun, especially with the crowds). I chose option 3 because I hadn't been there yet, this was to Lake Arnold and back. Certain sections of the trail to Lake Arnold were in bad shape (possibly due to beaver activity?) , but I enjoyed the trail and the relative solitude it offered me. The rest of the trip back to the loj was not eventful, but I enjoyed it thoroughly. I think the total mileage must have been over 20 and the elevation gain/loss must have been impressive, but I haven't taken the time to figure it out yet. If I can find my ADK mapping software maybe I will.
Day 2: Giant and RPRAfter a long first day in the mountains, I was looking for something shorter on my list of peaks to complete. I decided to go for Giant and RPR, because I had not yet hiked RPR. I got a late start, about 8 am, but was still the first car parked at the Ridge Trailhead. I started up, and boy, this trail doesn't waste any time gaining elevation. I was treated to some nice views at a lookout after just a hike of about 0.7 miles. I continued upwards and the trail opened up as it got higher, providing some more great views of the High Peaks.
The trail continued to be quite open and relatively steep. I continued on to the summit and met only one other couple on the way. The summit was nice.
I had a quick snack and headed back to the junction for RPR, where I caught a nice glimpse of my next goal.
The trail descends quite a bit before you start climbing RPR. It was fairly strenuous. As I made my way over the skies began to open it and it started to look like a glorious day. When I emerged on RPR I had the summit all to myself. Being the eastern most High Peak, it offered plenty of interesting views.
After a nice prolonged rest on the summit of RPR, it was back down and up Giant and down the Ridge Trail. I saw many more people on the way down. Including a dad with a baby on has back trying to navigate one of the wetter, more treacherous sections. I saw another family where the dad was carrying ALL the gear for the entire family, haha! Anyway, the hike down was really nice and I was back early, around 2 I think.
Before the drive home, I stopped at the Ausable club to snap a picture of Giant.
[img:574618:aligncenter:medium:Giant from the Ausable Club.]
It definitely turned out to be a fun two days in the mountains.