I am never coming back to the Adirondacks! I’m sick of “trails” of flowing water. I’m sick of walking up, over, and around thousands of rocks. And the **** mud… I’m so sick of the endless mud in this godforsaken hellhole. **** fog… I can’t see a goddamn thing. Hey, how ‘bout a little more humidity? It’s only gotta be 300% tonight. Step, breathe, stop. Let my condensed breath dissipate so I can see again. Step...p...p…p. Surprise, surprise… I tripped over another **** rock ‘cos I can’t see my **** feet thru my **** breath. **** hellhole. I’m never coming back. There are plenty of places that would actually be enjoyable to hike. I’m climbing this mountain and never coming back. I don’t care if it’s #44. The other two can kiss my ***. I’ll be happy, just as long as I don’t have to come back here. Why is there MORE water on the trail? Shouldn’t there be less as I ascend? Oh, that’s right… this is the **** Adirondacks. Physics doesn’t apply here. Water flows downhill… except for the Adirondacks where it just flows to the nearest trail. How ‘bout a few more roots while we’re at it? Guess I haven’t tripped enough, huh! And of course, they’re slippery, ‘cos (surprise, surprise) they’re WET. Waterproof boots, my ***. Guess they weren’t meant for swimming though. Nine days in Colorado and I pass two mudpuddles… nine steps in the Adirondacks and I walk through eight. At least there aren’t any bugs tonight… which, of course, are here in the first place because of all the **** WATER. Great, now I gotta walk on WET wood planks over even MORE water. Even better… they’re not just wet, they’re covered in frost. If I slip and fall in the water, I’m outta here. And I’m never coming back. With my luck, I’ll fall and crack my head open. Then I’ll die in this **** hellhole. Thank god, I’ve finally reached camp. There’s gotta be a site around here somewhere. What the ****?!?! The whole place is underwater. What the ****! There’s no way I’m hiking to the next lean-to. ****! ****! ****! This is just perfect… the perfect ending to the perfect day. **** Adirondacks. I’m never coming back.
- summary of my hissy-fit on the way up to the campsite at Lake Arnold
The plan was hike from South Meadows to Mt. Redfield, with an overnight at Lake Arnold. I had arrived at the South Meadows trailhead at 8:30pm. I had pre-packed, so all I had to do was throw on my backpack, put my boots on, and hit the trail. However, my pack shifted during the trip, and squeezed the bite valve on my hydration bladder, allowing the water to empty all over the back of my truck. Now I was also low on liquids for the trip.
The South Meadows trail is actually a truck trail over gently rolling hills… very easy and wide-open. Within an hour, I was at Marcy Dam. The weather was much better than I expected. It was clear, calm, and relatively mild… probably about 40-degrees. I was dressed in shorts and a T-shirt. I know, I know… sounds crazy, but I produce a lot of heat when I’m hiking, and if I dress too warm I sweat. That sweat then soaks my clothing, and I freeze. So, long story short, I’d rather be a bit cool and not sweat. Although the trail from Marcy Dam to the Avalanche lean-to is rougher than the South Meadows trail… it is relatively flat, the rocks are scattered, and is generally easy walking. While I was on this section of trail, it began to rain, so I put on my raincoat.
I reached the Avalanche lean-to at 9:50. I was averaging 20-minute miles, which is a good pace, especially at night. I knew that my pace would decrease on the next section of trail up to Lake Arnold, since it involved about 1,000-feet of elevation gain. I expected some water, but nothing like what I encountered on the Lake Arnold trail. It had been drizzling all day, but it looked like it had been POURING here. It was really frustrating, especially since nearly all of my hikes this year have been in constant ankle to knee-deep mud. My 46’er correspondent actually told my hiking partner that no one has run into the quantity/quality of mud that we’ve had the good luck to explore. Normally, autumn is the “dry season” in the Adirondacks. “Normally” being the operative word.
Insert hissy-fit HERE. The most annoying thing about hiking up the Lake Arnold trail was my condensing breath. I would breathe out and a thick cloud would form in front of my face. The slight breeze from behind me wasn’t strong enough to dissipate the cloud, but was just strong enough to push the cloud ahead at the exact pace I was walking, keeping this cloud directly in front of my face. Each breath only added to the density of the cloud. After approximately five breaths, I’d have to stop, and let the breeze push the cloud ahead. I tried breathing up, down, and to the sides, but the breeze still pushed the cloud directly in front of face. Fog was present in exceptionally wet areas, which only added to my breath-limited vision. In these areas, I’d have to stop after every breath. Very, very annoying.
I was very relieved to reach the campsite, until I found all the sites underwater. Luckily, I brought my bivy sack instead of my tent, because there was not a single dry area large enough to pitch a tent. After some exploring, I found an elevated plot of land that was relatively “dry”. By “dry” I mean not saturated to the point of producing water when stepping on it. I set up my bivy, covered my backpack, changed my clothes, and hung my food bag. I crawled back into my sleeping bag, zipped the bivy over me, and was quickly asleep. Although it was cold and sleeted all night, I slept well and actually awoke five minutes before my alarm that was set for 6:00.
Changing back into my hiking clothes with snow falling on me was a bit of a rude awakening. I ate a couple of cereal bars while packing my daypack, and had a couple sips of water to soothe my dry throat. I squished my way back to the trail to find that the wood planks were covered with a thin layer of ice and frost. I immediately thought this hike was going to take a lot longer than I anticipated.
The Lake Arnold trail traverses many wet areas as it descends to the Feldspar lean-to. I was able to make good time on the unfrozen rocky sections, but had to slow down on the slippery wood planks. As I approached and then paralleled Feldspar Brook, the trail entered a nice, open pine forest. I soon crossed the brook, and subsequently a marshy area. The foundation of one of the wood planks wasn’t supported, and sunk about a foot as I stepped on it. I obviously was able to move faster than the “speed of water”, because neither my boots nor shins got wet through my gaiters. I passed by the Feldspar lean-to without stopping, knowing I was only about ½ mile from the Uphill lean-to. Although it was snowing harder, the trail was drier and less icy than the Lake Arnold trail. Within 15 minutes I was at Uphill brook. I stopped at the vacant lean-to in order to rest my legs, eat a snack, and drink some water. The snow really began to fall, and I decided I should put my jacket on. However, I didn’t want to overheat, so I just put the hood over my head and draped the jacket over my shoulders without putting my arms in the sleeves. This system worked well… it kept the snow off me while allowing plenty of ventilation.
The first part of the ascent was in relatively open woods, and trail finding was a little tricky due to the newly fallen snow. About 15 minutes later, I finally began gaining significant elevation, first ascending the Uphill Brook drainage, then a tributary. Blowdown was minimal, especially for a herdpath. Although I never wandered off the path, there were a few areas where the survey tape installed by the 46ers reassured me that I was on the correct trail. As I ascended, the snow fell harder, and winds increased. I knew I was approaching the summit when the trail began to get steeper. A couple of minutes later, I saw “sky” through the trees ahead, but figured it was a false peak. To my delight, it was actually the summit. I touched the summit sign, and looked around at the “view”.
I found a sheltered spot near a summit boulder, and ate my lunch. Since the only summit views were of the small spruce trees directly in front of me, I headed down immediately after eating.
Due to the snow and ice on the roots and rocks, descending was trickier than ascending. I had to pay attention to every footstep, or risk taking a nasty fall. Stepping on dirt was slippery, rocks dangerous, and roots suicidal. I soon realized it’d take me as long to descend as ascend, if not longer. At one particularly steep rock slab, my confidence to stay upright diminished to nil. I prepared to fall with each step as I inched down the rock. My utter lack of confidence was rewarded when my feet went out from under me. I slid down the remainder of the rock, and was launched away from the 10-foot cliff. Since I had been preparing to fall, I didn’t panic and “stuck the landing”. After a brief pause to congratulate myself, I continued down the trail. The remainder of the descent to the Uphill lean-to was uneventful.
On the way back to Lake Arnold, I stopped at the Feldspar lean-to, mostly out of curiosity since I hadn’t seen this particular lean-to. The ascent to Lake Arnold took longer than I expected… there was more elevation gain than anticipated, and the slippery conditions slowed me even further. By the time I got back to my Lake Arnold, it was snowing heavily. I quickly packed everything in my backpack, and left my swampy campsite. I set a good pace down the trail to the Avalanche lean-to. The water I had cursed the day before actually assisted my descent. I could now step away from the icy rocks, and walk on the rocks that weren’t covered with snow or ice due to the flowing water. Just before I reached the lean-to, I slipped on a wood plank. Although I didn’t fall, I slightly injured my knee in the process of maintaining my balance. There were people occupying the Avalanche lean-to, so I continued down the trail towards Marcy Dam. About 5 minutes later, I passed by another lean-to that I hadn’t yet visited, and decided to take a break there. Now knowing that I wasn’t going to run out of water, I quenched by day-long thirst. Five minutes later, I was back on the trail. I reached Marcy Dam sooner than anticipated, and checked-out at the register. Just as I had assumed, the hike from Marcy Dam to the South Meadows parking lot took longer than anticipated, confirming the “law of averages”. Back at the truck, I realized that I had a good time, despite the dismal beginning of the hike. I guess I’ll be coming back to the Adirondacks after all…