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Saddleback, Basin and Haystack Loop (Apr 29th): feedback and conditions please

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  • Saddleback, Basin and Haystack Loop (Apr 29th): feedback and conditions please

    Hello All!

    This coming weekend myself and a friend are planning on bagging a few more peaks and getting a much needed does of wilderness.

    The plan is to:
    -arrive Friday in the late afternoon perhaps around 5pm and use the last light to get to hustle the 3.1mi to the Interior Outpost area and use either a lean to or a tent site (undecided)

    Day 2
    -we do the main loop approaching Saddleback via Ore Bed Brook
    -summit Saddleback and Basin
    -Decide based on energy, time and daylight to either attempt Haystack. If no then return Shorty Short cut to slant rock and ultimately the Phelps trail.
    -if we decide for Haystack then we summit and return back veering left (West) towards Marcy and joining with the Phelps trail.
    -Return to camp sleep

    Sunday morning break camp and depart the parking lot around twilight.

    We are planning for wet conditions and snow in alpine regions and so plan to bring both microspikes and probably snowshoes unless the collective feels they are not worthwhile for this route given current conditions.

    Big Questions:
    1) Does the loop direction matter? The direction was chosen as we can easily add or drop Haystack but IIRC the appraoch to Saddleback from the direction of Gothics is quite steep, does that impact anything?
    2) Anything else we should expect wrt Trail conditions
    3) Do I need to expect anything with these arrival/departure times at the Garden lot? I assume departing doesn't matter but any risk to it being full this early in the season? I assume if there is no attendant the cash in envelope system is in effect ($7USD/$9CAD)?Shuttle runs till 7pm if it is full?

    thanks as always for the help?

    [17/46] Giant, Rocky Peak Ridge, Gothics, Armstrong, Upper Wolf Jaw, Lower Wolf Jaw, Big Slide, Cascade, Porter, Wright, Algonquin, Iroquois , Marcy, Skylight, Colden, Colvin and Blake.

  • #2
    First, get a better map. That one looks like something I used 20 years ago. Use this one, it has the correct location of designated campsites and lean-tos in the area you intend to explore.

    ​Three miles in from the Garden is the Howard lean-to and two designated campsites. If you continue northeast to the DEC Interior Station, you'll find no designated places to camp. If you continue southwest to Johns Brook Lodge, you'll be on property owned by the ADK Mtn Club, not State land, and the lean-tos in the vicinity of the Lodge aren't free.

    ​Only thing about the loop direction is your choice of whether you want to ascend or descend Saddleback's south-facing "cliff".
    • ​If you go clockwise, you descend the cliff and can optionally add Haystack after Basin.
    • ​If you go counter-clockwise, you can do Haystack and Basin and optionally continue to ascend Saddleback via its cliff.
    ​Read the map carefully. The Shorey Shortcut Trail involves ~250 feet of ascent from the Range Trail to the Phelps Trail.

    The Phelps Trail intersects Johns Brook southwest of Bushnell Falls. There's no bridge. It can normally be rock-hopped but it can be impassable if the water is running high. Nor is there a bridge farther upstream near Slant Rock.

    ​The Garden's parking fee has increased to US$10. See:

    Looking for Views!


    • Hear the Footsteps
      Hear the Footsteps commented
      Editing a comment
      The Garden Announcement had the start date for a parking fee at May 12. The OP is going before that.

  • #3
    Thanks for the reply. The bad map is a photo copy of AMCs map for mark up. Still in quite happy it led to that link as a resource though so thanks fir that.

    The sites at 3mi are those we were thinking. Back up lean to is probably Ore brook. Back up site that just past 5 pt jct. Blue circles potential camps, purple lean to.

    The clockwise loop would be my preference so long as descending the cliff (that I understand forms the col between saddleback and basin) is not a priblem in current conditions. Otherwise I generally prefer steep decent such as Algonquin south slope for example.

    I've heard the shortcut is not aptly named so a worthy warning vs the short distance but that said I don't see an alternative unless your suggesting retracing over saddleback?

    Is the river crossing marked in green. That is important information as I expect high water with the melt. I will look for trio reports but that suggest aborting a loop altogether...

    That link suggests price change takes effect in may. It also suggests no shuttle till may long that a safe indicator for availability?

    [17/46] Giant, Rocky Peak Ridge, Gothics, Armstrong, Upper Wolf Jaw, Lower Wolf Jaw, Big Slide, Cascade, Porter, Wright, Algonquin, Iroquois , Marcy, Skylight, Colden, Colvin and Blake.


    • #4
      Shorey Short-cut doesn't get nearly enough love IMO. It's fun section of trail, even if it is PUD. It is in fact a shortcut from the range trail to the Phelps trail or the reverse. For example, if you approach from JBL along the Phelps trail and want to climb Basin (without Haystack), this is the way to go. However, if you are going all the way to Haystack, it is not a shortcut.
      Nature we have always with us, an inexhaustible storehouse of that which moves the heart, appeals to the mind, and fires the imagination - health to the body, a stimulus to the intellect, and a joy to the soul. - John Burroughs


      • #5
        My 2 cents is all strong opinions and anecdotal evidence, but here it is anyway. I've never found the concepts of "peak bagging" and "enjoying the wilderness" to go together, but anywho...If you’re going to hike all the way to Basin, I’d go counter-clock and include Haystack. The hike up to Haystack from the Phelps trail and over to the range trail is fun, however descending haystack via this route suuuuucks (again, my opinion). Additionally, the one time I’ve ever been on Shorey’s felt like a slightly abbreviated eternity. While it certainly adds some extra mileage, I don’t really see any less effort being spent by entering the range via Phelps>Range Trail>Haystack vs. exiting the range via Shorey’s. Plus, if you do opt to hike clockwise and decide to tag Haystack, the hike from Shorey’s up to the top of little Haystack is a pretty nasty little section of trail. I’d rather do wind sprints up and down Elk Pass than ascend that section of trail in possibly sloppy slushy conditions. The Saddleback “Cliffs” aren’t what I would personally consider overly challenging, but the north side of Basin can be. I’d rather do a little butt sliding to get down those steep sections than mess around with climbing them. Lastly, the descent down Orebed is a pretty smooth trip which I rather enjoy, vs. ascending from that side, which I do not.

        Oh, and don't forget that whatever the price for parking at the Garden is now, it's per day. If you're staying over night you'll need to pay for both days in advance or you'll have a note on your car indicating that your license plate and vehicle info has been recorded and they're waiting on payment.
        My mind was wandering like the wild geese in the west.


        • #6
          By the way,

          Full disclosure. I'm a day tripper not a camper.

          For either loop did you consider camping at site of the former Snowbird Lean-to? The site is in-between Shorey's and Haystack. It might be a reason I'd choose (If I camped) to do Saddleback and Basin first. I've run into people who have camped at Snowbird and then have climbed to Haystack for the sunset. Then you could either go back to Haystack in the morning or leave via Shorey's



          • #7
            In case you were wondering about conditions: As of yesterday hike to Nippletop, there was still several feet of snow on north-facing slopes, starting at about 3,000' elevation. I had to alternate between bare boots to Hillsounds to snowshoes and back. Everything is really, really wet. Water is gushing underneath the snow pack.
            ADK 46/46W + MacNaughton, Grid 238/552
            Photos & Stuff


            • #8
              autochromatica Hey Sean, did you go through Elk Pass?


              • #9
                I thought the Garden parking fee didn't start until May 12th.