After attempting a 4 day trek over the MacIntyre Range that didn't go according to plan, Rachael and I decided to try Jess at a simple 2 day trek that would include Phelps, Tabletop, and Marcy. That didn't quite go according to plan either, but that was simply due to the uncertainty of Adirondack weather.
On our way to South Meadows Road, where we would park, I checked the weather for the next few days, and saw pretty severe storms coming in, but we still had a bit of a window to make an attempt. Therefore we spent the day playing in the Ausable River near Jay and admiring the scenery in the valley with the intention of heading out of the trailhead from South Meadows around 5pm so we could set up camp by dark and get an early start to miss the Thunderheads that would be approaching the next afternoon. Rachael and I were fired up and ready to go, and it appeared Jess might still be a little apprehensive, but in higher spirits than the Mac trek.
All was going according to plan as we were pulling down the Loj Road to South Meadow by 5, and we parked near the gate and started getting prepped. Rachael put on her knee brace, we all got changed, Jess put band aids on her toes, Rachael put padding on her blisters and threw on my wool "adventure" hat for giggles. By 6 we were all signed in and on our way to the Dam for the night. At the register we found a funny little note written on Birch bark, by some kid telling his mom how much fun he had, that he met a girl and won't be home in time for school, and to please send money. I have included the picture in this report and if anyone knows the kid, will you please pass the info along to his poor mother in case she doesn't already know. We trucked the couple miles quickly, grabbing raspberries along the trail as we went by; I noticed ALOT of bear scat and trails through the woods that the black beauties must be using as highways to the "grocery store" known as Marcy Dam.
We arrived at the Dam just as dusk was setting in and started searching for a tent site which we found pretty quickly a little ways down the Phelps trail. I have never been someone who likes cooking food in bear country after the sun goes down, however as we finished setting up our site by headlamp, I knew I wasn't going to have a choice. After a delicious Crab Mac and Cheese, we headed down to the dam to see the peaks by moonlight, and rinse our pot. The trout through there were beautiful and the crawfish were by far the biggest I have ever seen in a Northern brook. The night was absolutely beautiful with a light breeze to gently put us to sleep. For me I had a rough nights sleep....the woods were alive!!!! I heard pots and pans rattling to scare off a bear, rustling around our tent site, the sound of a chip bag rustling next to our tent. Just as I started dozing I heard something brushing the tent at the same damn time as Rachael reached for me to cuddle with...it all scared the SH** outta me. But I still jumped out of the tent to look up square in the face of a GIANT, frighteningly powerful....branch that the wind caused to brush against my rain fly.
The next morning I went to start breakfast and found my bear canister to be in a completely different place than where I stashed it. For anyone wondering, MARCY DAM IS FULL OF BEARS, which I find to be wonderful and even more appealing to me; afterall, I like to consider myself an amateur bear expert. After a quick breakfast of burritos, we broke camp and stashed our gear wrapped in rain flys just in case the storm was as nasty as we thought and started up the trail towards Phelps. The wind was intense but kept moving, the skies over cast, but we kept moving. The hike up Phelps was different than what we had grown accustomed to in the mountains we have previously climbed, but it was still your typical ADK trail. Gnarly rooted trails, rocky, with a few slabs, but still a fairly easy hike for us. The higher we went, the harder the winds blew; my adventure hat was removed from Rachaels head several times, and trees were in the process of being up rooted as we walked past. The trees got shorter and the winds howled louder. We made the summit of Phelps in short time, and spent our 20 minutes seated to avoid being blown into the treeline behind us; only standing to lean/pose for photos. I would safely assume, the winds were in upwards of 60 mph.
Looking at the impending clouds, and the bare summit of Marcy, we opted for a cold dip in Phelps Brook by Highwater Bridge instead of a Tabletop, Marcy attempt and being caught in a nasty storm with winds that would blow us around. The hike down was uneventful and by far the easiest descent I have even done, and we were undressing at the bridge quickly. The water was bitter cold, turning my feet to red blocks, Rachael was in and out losing her blister padding in the process, forcing me back in to swim around collecting her debris. Now when you see people skinny dipping, regardless of how close it is along a busy trail, please don't stop to check your map and stare at said people, it makes you look creepy; if you want to stare, by all mean stare, and if you want to check your map do so. Don't fake it and hide behind your map as so many people did that chilly afternoon. We are not shy, nor de we care, but just be honest about your interest in a beautiful naked girl swimming in a cold mountain brook like a perfect forest nymph, and a hairy beast that you might mistake for a slightly overweight bigfoot floating in a brook.
Anyways, we quickly got dressed, made it back to our sight and grabbed our gear to head off down South Meadows Road to end our trip. We were strolling up to our car as the first drops of rain started filling the air. We all enjoyed our trip and I have already started planning the next ones.....