SpecificsDuration: 9 hours; 7:45 a.m. – 4:45 pm
Summits: Nye: 1.5 hours, 9:15 a.m.; Street: 9:45
Route: Loj – Nye – Street – Col at Base of Street to Wanika Falls Headwaters – Wanika Falls – Northville Placid Trail – Averyville Road
Total Mileage/Vertical Ascent: 12.5/3000
Trail Conditions: Soft dirt on trail; mud in lower areas
MudRat Diet: 5 liters water
MudRat Clothing: Light trail boots, techwick shirt
MudRat Pack Weight:30 lbs.
First off, full credit to WWBF for the title…In summary, our descent from the Nye/Street col to the Northville Placid Trail (NPT) marked a turning point in our quest to find an acceptable route to the NPT. The first attempt was done by WWBF in 2007 during the 46 Traverse attempt and consisted of a route from Nye’s summit to the drainage and then the trail. This proved to be far too exhausting and thick at the top. The second attempt was in June 2008 by both of us from Street’s summit down its drainage to Roaring Brook and the NPT. It proved to be a six-hour endeavor and was not ideal for a number of reasons. This third and final attempt was the golden chalice of attempts. It took somewhere between two and one half to three hours and turned out to be not only beautiful, but was acceptable in terms of energy expended.
The beginning of the route followed the herd paths to Street and Nye from ADK Loj. It was my fifth ascent of the two mountains and, though I overheated on the way up and needed a short break, we ascended Nye in an hour and one half…a record time for us. Again, we didn’t try fast-pace the ascent, but with only one short break and a decent stride, the trail seemed to melt away quickly behind us. WWBF was in great form and I took up a winded position behind him. The bugs were delightfully light as opposed to the deerfly/blackfly-inundated trek we endured from Street in June.
We decided to walk the summit of each mountain rather than just heading for the col and the descent. It is hard for us to pass up a summit that’s close, especially with the weather over the area. The col was a choked mess, which was no surprise. After a brief push through level ground, the descent became mild through age-old blowdown that obscured the view of our feet. Thankfully, this didn’t last long and the worst was over. Within a few short minutes, an open spot appeared in the woods and yielded a beautiful bog spanning a couple hundred feet. The water depth was about four feet, which included a floating mat of sphagnum and other mosses. A deer path crossed the northern side. This marked our path back into the dense firs.
The drainage from the bog was rocky and we spotted the deep sod holes before our feet found them. A stream gurgled several feet below the rubble top. WWBF put it well when he summarized this area as “wearing” because, even though it’s easy to find a good route through the trees, there’s a great deal of winding so the distance actually increases. Rich green moss covered most of the rocks in the drainage. Water didn’t move fast enough to tear it free and the shadows created a protected environment. No more than a quarter mile passed before the terrain began to descend a bit more sharply, though moderate overall. The drainage changed to small ledges and slab as the trees opened slightly in density. It was truly a photographer’s dream especially with the bright sun and morning shadows.
The drainage was probably fine to use as a route from the first sign of decline, but we stayed in the woods for nearly ¾ mile before turning to the water as a path. It was ideal slab rock…not slippery or precipitous in slope. Cool water was refreshing and cooled the hot spots on each big toe that had developed from wearing boots that get little use.
Much of the slab and loose rock in the stream contained labradorite. It shone a bright iridescent blue in the sun just beneath the water’s surface. Our trek passed quickly as we awaited the dense brush that the ‘Daks often deals the off-trail hiker. It never appeared. Occasional blow-down offered intermittent obstacles in the stream, but didn’t slow the pace. It was easily by-passed. The flanks of Nye and the southern terrain began to close as the altitude lessened. We were roughly ¼ mile above Wanika Falls when we decided to explore the base of Nye’s western cliffs. They were shear and about 100’ in height. Walking was difficult at their base due to the loose soil and steep incline caused by age-old debris.
After a bit of exploration, the drainage called our name with its easy grade and accessibility. Wanika Falls’ approached underfoot within about fifteen minutes. The terraced upper section is around forty feet in height and appeared delicate in the sunlight and with a moderate flow. Shadows in combination with bright sunlight reflecting from the water made photography tricky as the white values skyrocketed on the camera. After several minutes of taking pictures at different exposures and shutter speeds, I followed the perpendicular chute downward to the upper falls. The final lower falls consisted of a slab that channeled the water at the bottom into the deep clear pool. Our water bladders were empty as were our stomachs. The spot was idea for a break. In total, our trek from the col of Street/Nye took about three hours, which could be decreased without some of the exploration we undertook.
Wanika Falls sits about 1/10 of a mile from the Northville Placid Trail. Two women were camping in the area and several other groups were gathered around swimming holes in the Chubb River on our way to the NVP Trail where a walk of just less than seven miles awaited. We traversed the mild trail involving about 600 vertical feet of gain and 1200 vertical feet of loss in about two and one half hours. The trail skirted several open areas along the way, but not nearly as many as we’d hoped. We arrived at the car satisfied with the “easy” hike and a secure route from Street and Nye.
This was my fifth ascent of Street and Nye. Yep, five ascents of bland, boring, no-view Street and Nye. The first was about seven years ago.
The second was last summer. It was Day 3 of my attempt at climbing all 46 Adirondack High Peaks in nine days. Due to MudRat’s knee injury on Day 1, we were behind schedule. MudRat had to withdraw on Day 2, leaving me to solo the remaining 43 mountains. I summited Street and Nye in the morning of Day 3, and began a bushwhack off the west side of Nye towards the Northville-Placid Trail (NPT). It was on these slopes that I fell, and although I was physically OK, it rattled me and made me realize that I shouldn’t be attempting this hike solo and without a beacon. If I had gotten seriously injured, they never would have found my body.
The third ascent was this past winter. I wanted to get the monkey off my back, but it didn’t work. The following ascent was to scope a possible bushwhack down Street’s southwest drainage in support of our renewed effort to complete the 46 Traverse. Although beautiful, this route was long and difficult, and not a viable option for the Traverse.
Two weeks ago, MudRat and I attempted yet another bushwhack route down the western flanks of Street/Nye. This route would start at the col north of Street and follow the headwaters of the Chubb River down to Wanika Falls and the NPT.
MudRat and I began our trek at the High Peaks Information Center and the trail around Heart Lake. We easily found the turnoff for the Street/Nye herdpath and began a slow descent to Indian Pass Brook. After crossing the brook, we began a gradual ascent through open hardwood forests. As we continued, the grade got steeper as we ascended up one of the ridges on Nye. I was feeling great, and setting a quick pack. Although the humidity was taking it’s toll on MudRat, he kept up. Before I expected it, we had reached the plateau on the southern flank of Nye. We dropped packs and quickly tagged Nye.
We then followed the herdpath towards Street, keeping an eye out for a good place to begin our bushwhack. There wasn’t an obvious area to start (the woods were consistently thick), so we just dropped our packs at the lowest part of the col, tagged the Street summit, and returned to our packs.
Cols are typically characterized by hardened branches and lots of blowdown, since winds funnel through cols. But based on my previous whacks of this mountain, I was hopeful that the initial 3D maze of pain would relent as we started down the flank of the mountain. My thoughts were dashed when we came upon what appeared to a bog. However, upon closer inspection, we found that it was merely a small wet meadow, which I named the Nye Vly. Following a deer path, we were able to walk on top of the mat of vegetation to the other side. We dove into the woods and found the drainage below. At this point, I realized that the vly must be the headwater of the Chubb River, and that the remainder of our hike would parallel the Chubb.
The rocks in the drainage were moss-covered and slippery, and thus didn’t make for a good route; so we stayed in the woods. Although we had to weave around numerous obstacles, but there weren’t many barriers to go over, under, or through. Unlike the previous whacks on these mountains, I was happy with the way this one was going. But, in the back of my mind, I was a bit worried. One thing I’ve learned from bushwhacking is that conditions change. And so they did.
I noticed the woods getting thicker and thicker, with more impediments. At this point, I was being forced into the drainage, and I thought this was the beginning of end. When I popped out into the stream I was expecting the worst, but instead I was greeted by a wonderful series of cascading waterfalls, and my spirits soared. I took numerous photos as I walked through the cool waters of the cascades and pools.
I wasn’t worried about walking in the water, since I was wearing my Merrel water shoes. Sure my feet get instantly soaked, but they also dry out within five minutes of walking on land. They have some traction issues on certain types of rock, but they’ll do until I can find a pair of Dr. Scholl’s mountaineering sandals.
Since the drainage was wide-open, we decided to stay within it until blowdown forced us out. Little did we know that we would only be forced out twice during the entire descent. Our trek down the drainage was actually delightful. The rock was good, and only got slippery in one short section near a tributary coming off Street.
During my whack last year, I saw some impressive cliffs on the north side of the drainage between this tributary and Wanika Falls, so I was keeping an eye out for them. The stream began branching, and at one point MudRat went left when I went right. I soon found myself 50 feet from the base of the cliffs, and called to MudRat. Together we traversed along the base of the cliffs for a couple hundred yards. I don’t have any experience at technical rock climbing, but I believe these cliffs may have a few fun routes. It be worth the short trip from the NPT to check them out.
Shortly after exploring the cliffs and heading back to the drainage, we reached the top of Wanika Falls. While MudRat took photos, I scrambled down the falls to the campground at the base where MudRat and I ate lunch.
Return via NPT
After a bit of difficulty finding the trail near the campground, we set off on the NPT. The trail was nice, but compared to the rest of our hike, it was mundane. I thought the trail would stay close to the Chubb River, but it was rarely in sight. Although it seemed to take a bit longer to reach the trailhead than I expected (which is typical), I was in good spirits and was just enjoying the hike. It had been a long time since I’ve remained so positive throughout a hike, and it was a welcome change.