Driving up from Rochester on a Friday, Rachael, her cousin Jess, and I headed up for the South Meadows Road trailhead to start a 4 day backpacking trip, in which we were looking to summit 12 of the 46 high peaks. We would start with the MacIntyres and head over Algonquin with our packs to camp either Colden Lake or Uphill. Jess was not all that ecstatic with backpacking and Rachael wasn't feeling so hot the first 4-5 hours into our trip up Wright, so we cut it into just a day trip up and over Wright, Algonquin and then Iroquois.
We started the morning with a fresh cooked breakfast burrito at South Meadows after sleeping the night in our cars, Rachael and I enjoying the comfort of the Subaru complete with bedrolls. Not a bad way to spend the night. Heading down to the Loj by 6 we were registering at the trailhead by 6:15, and heading up to Wright in no time. Rachael was moving a little slowly and just couldn't get her engines to fire on all cylinders for most of the morning, but as the day went on she really found her groove. Jess wasn't feeling the weight of her pack and spent a good chunk of the morning at war with her Black Diamond pack and her own head. I spent most of my morning feeling great, but worried about Rachael's lethargy, shes normally fired up and practically running up these mountains. Therefore we spent most of our hike up the trail playing leapfrog with a boyscout troop and resting, but as soon as we found our groove, we didn't stop for anything.
At the Wright junction, we dropped our packs as planned to make a quick run up to the peak, which we did fairly uneventfully. The views over to Algonquin really psyched us out as the trail really looks gnarly with slides and just the immense size difference; Little did we realize that it would really be one of our easier hikes. The views from Wright were incredible, as most of the ADK high peaks are, and also incredibly different, again, just like the views from all the others. It is truly remarkable how much the landscape appears to change from atop each separate peak....I absolutely love it. We took a quick break for water and a small snack before heading down to the junction to grab our packs....or so I thought.
On the way back down to the junction, Rachael and Jess were discussing the "what ifs" of the upcoming trek over the Gonk. "What if" the trail down to Lake Colden is really back? "What if" we just can't do it? To me there is nothing worse than pessimism and normally I would have pushed them a little farther and harder, however Rachael was definitely moving slower than usual and she is all I am ever concerned about on our adventures. Plus I didn't want to push Jess to hard and completely turn her off from backpacking all together, after all this was her first trip. So we decided to cook lunch at the junction and push up Gonk and possibly Iroquois without our packs and head out tonight. Something I wasn't thrilled with but understood the reasons why. So I cooked up some Spam and Gouda burritos for Jess and I, while Rachael mowed down a ton of almonds. We all indulged in Pocket Proteins, which is a great trail snack providing a great boost of energy; although it doesn't taste too hot. Grabbed a daypack and some water and proceeded to head up the trail for Algonquin.
From the trail up Wright, Algonquin really looks like a tough climb...and maybe it was the fatty and salty lunch givig us a push, maybe the Pocket Proteins, maybe just not having the weight of our packs....or maybe the trail really isn't that bad....whatever it was, the trail wasn't that bad. In fact, this ranks up as one the easier climbs for me. We started to question the weather and head down, but I wasn't happy with my decision to play it safe, so I started asking everyone I saw about the weather, until I heard an answer I liked. So we turned back around to head up with this older couple that needed a hand here and there. The slides went by quickly and before we knew it we were standing on top of the second tallest peak in NYS. The sky was absolutely perfect, with clouds hovering just overhead, close enough to touch. We were tired but after taking our shoes of to rest, we felt like we should push on to Iroquois which we did. I kissed Rachael and off we went down to Boundary to go down and up to Iroquois.
We didn't quite plan well for Iroquois, and started running out of water but if we limit or intake we should be fine. We made a wrong turn heading down the trail towards Lake Colden before realizing A.) the trail down from Iroquois isn't as bad as we had been lead to believe; B.)we should have brought our packs; and C.) we didn't feel like heading back up to Boundary. But we did and I must say, I really love Boundary, I am not sure why I do, but I do. The rest of the way over Iroquois was pretty uneventful, I fell and busted my knee, but nothing too serious. Iroquois is so far my favorite High Peak in the ADK; its views and seclusion were wonderful. I took a load off and lounged on the cairn. We met a couple of older gentlemen from Albany who saved us with a couple bottles of water for the trek back, which we did after resting a few moments.
The way back was very uneventful, everyone just wanted to get back....everyone except me, but then again I am a little crazy about the woods and the mountains and feel no pain when I find myself in either one. It was along hike down, Jess struggled with her knees but eventually just took off leaving Rachael and I to mosey on down at our pace as the sun went down. We chatted and enjoyed ourselves as the sun went down forming an eerie dusk in the surrounding forest appropriately named "Fangorn Forest." We found Jess resting and waiting for us for "quite a while" before reaching the junction to head back to the Loj. Night was closing in fast, something I have always been very keen on is hiking in the dark, and knowing we only had less than a mile to hike out, Rachael and I never broke out our head lights. Jess set pace at a brutal walking gallop, which Rachael and I kept up until the last 100 yds when we needed a rest.
It was a great trip and I look forward to the next one...hopefully I can get a few over nights in the back country next time.