Before leaving for this trip, which was supposed to include Algonquin, Wright, Iroquois, and Marshall, I knew it would be a bit of a beast. Rachael and I had plans for the Memorial Day weekend and the weather report showed rain and chilly temperatures for our only available two days, plus it would be the first trip after a long hard winter in Rochester. But we had new gear that needed to be broken in, our legs ached as if atrophy were consuming the muscle memory of great hikes, and when our minds are made up, nothing can change them. Our minds were set on tackling Colden to be the first our 46, and nothing short of a hurricane could change that. In excitement, i packed and re-packed our new packs for a week before the trip, and the finally the day before our hike, we could leave after work. We drove up to Placid, drank a quick beer at the brewery and headed off to the Adirondack Loj at 12:30am Friday morning where we would sleep in the Subaru for a 5AM start time. We were over packed and heavy, but we also had no idea what the weather would do, and we heard there was still a need for spikes on the trail. There wasn't any ice, but the weather proved to us why hiking the North American Eastern rainforests and High Peaks can be some of the most difficult around, and we were glad to have the extra weight in clothing.
5am wake up.....We cooked some eggs next to the car testing our new stoves (MSR pocketrocket, and MSR whisperlite international). Rachael wasn't feeling to great so she forced a few bites and ran up to the Loj for a "meeting with some guy named John." I wolfed mine down with excitement, and concerned about Rachaels tum, but she came back rubbing her stomach and said lets go. I threw her a few TUMS and away we went after signing the registers. Now this was our first hike from the Loj, and we were loving it...the trail was a muddy mess and so were we...salamanders and toads all over...triliums lining the well worn paths....and the weather was warm and slightly overcast.
We reached Marcy Dam quickly, almost shockingly quick, stopped quickly for the views of the cloud covered peaks that surrounded us. While on the way to Avalanche Lake it started raining a bit crossing through a section we nicknamed "Narnia" just before reaching the Lake. The skies started pouring a steady fine mist, soaking us through, but the views of the lake from the North shore made it all perfect. We posed for a few pictures, I stole a kiss and we started trucking over the ladders and boulders along the Avalanche Lake shore. We stopped for views of the Dike, but still had no decent shot of the peak through the clouds and mist. A few miles later, a few more registers, we were reaching Lake Colden and started checking the tent sites for one we wanted. On the southeast side of the Lake just to the west of the Feldspar Leanto junction we found our site where we set up camp quickly around 12:30. We were muddy, a bit wet, and hungry; nothing that a SPAM and Gouda sandwich on freshly baked rye bread can't fix.
Around 1:30 we decided to head up a quick run of Coldens southside trail, and set off. It was a great hike back along Lake Colden and I was thinking how wonderful it was to be hiking this picturesque trek through the mountains with Rachael making it more beautiful than I ever thought possible. I also found it intriguing how completely different the same trail can be from a different approach. At the junction we gave each other a kiss and quick embrace before turning East up the Adirondack stairs that started the 1.4(?) mile trail to the summit. The first 1/2 mile our so was extremely deceiving with the steady up hill grade, but after crossing to the North over the small gully, the trail made a drastic change, and so did the weather....it all started picking UP. Following the red markers, we had to make a quick scramble up a few boulders (or 15' rock face) because the winter washed out the ladders, and that was the end of the easy uphill grade for 1900'. The rain was off and on heavy to mist, the trail was all rock and at a grade just steep enough to exhaust your body, and the combination as we crossed the 3500' mark started to wear through my mental determination; but Rachael was set and she gently pushed me along playfully, reminding me how much I love our treks, and her. Around the shelf before crossing into the alpine zone, we took a break to refuel on the water flowing freely off the alpine rock above us and let the heavy rain pass. But after a few sips, we realized we were already soaked through, so why wait, and we headed up the ladder to the alpine zone, and ultimately the summit.
Now bears are my favorite animal, I find them to be absolutely perfect. And one of my favorite memories is watching the black bears in the ADKs, back when the Old Forge dump was still open. Unfortunately, I haven't seen to many since then, and this trip would be no different. However, we did see a metric ton of scat all over the rock and alpine zone of Colden, making me re-think our choice of the water we drank earlier, but I was excited nonetheless. We trucked through the mini ponds collecting in the trail, with rain pelting us from all angles while we hiked within the clouds that were circling the peak. The temperature was getting cold, maybe mid 40's, but we kept on trucking heads down, hoods up, glanced at the boulder marking the summit while looking for something telling us that we completed our goal. We trucked so far that when we looked up because i noticed the elevation change, we were on the yellow trail heading down the north trail. So we looked at each other, laughed with exhaustion, and started heading back up hill so we could head down. We posed for our 1st of 46 peak pictures next to the boulder, and searched for a view of the valley below, to no avail. Rachael and were very cold and soaked, so we started the trek down as quickly as we could.
About 200 feet down, the skies started opening up and the sun kissed our faces in a celebratory congrats from the Mother herself. I took a quick picture with the phone, and off we went. Now Rachael doesn't like climbing wet rock up, especially after slipping in January on Porter, but I hate going down. There is something about that trusting step off things that I am not found of. And going down that 1.6 mile trail took us as long as the 6.4 mile hike to our site did. But with one foot in front of the other, we made it to Colden Lake, and ultimately our site. Very wet but not too cold after working up some heat from the exertion climbing down. We changed into some of our dry clothes, quickly grabbed water from the stream and started a dinner of shrimp and grits with a brook chilled bottle of homebrewed beer. By 8 we were both out for the best nights sleep we had ever had.
The hike out was beautiful, and fairly uneventful. We decided to skip Algonquin because we had so much added weight, making the steep trail up the southside a little unpractical, even though the weather was so perfect, the trail was a washed out mess. Not to mention Rachael's knee was a bit sore after the previous days hike, so we figured a casual pace back to the Loj, enjoying each others company and the unforgettable views, would be perfect. And it was....I set pace, and she kept up with a hop, skip and a jump. The temp was perfect, and the skies were sunny for the most part, but there were some pretty heavy passing rain storms. The trail was ridiculously crowded as people hiked in for the Memorial Day weekend, and we thought ourselves lucky to have finished before the crowds. Reaching the car, we grabbed doughnuts, changed clothes, and headed out for a seafood dinner at Tail o' the Pup, and drinks with some friends in Saranac at Nonna Finas, proud of our accomplishment, 1 out of 46 in the books as we plan the next 45.