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Falls, flumes, foraging fauna, & fabulous fotos. And borderline hypothermia - 4/30/17

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  • Falls, flumes, foraging fauna, & fabulous fotos. And borderline hypothermia - 4/30/17

    Sunday was the first time in a long time where the weather forecast failed me. Or I failed it. Maybe I didn't check it frequently enough or consult enough sources but I didn't think it was supposed to be a wet day. As me and my buddy were driving down Route 73 around 8:15 a.m. it was chilly but didn't look like rain. When we saw only two cars parked at Giant's Ridge Trail and only three more at Roaring Brook we were incredulous. Seconds later as we pulled into the Ausable Club to a 90% empty lot it began to sink in. Did every other hiker in the state know something we didn't? We briefly discussed the forecast and the possibility we were working with bad info but still pressed on because we weren't going higher than Indian Head on the day.

    We got out of the car and my buddy was instantly cold. Luckily I had an extra fleece vest in the car to give him and he looked like he was bundled up for a polar expedition after donning the vest, his rain jacket over the top of that, and his winter hat. I made fun of him for the next twenty minutes. It wouldn't be funny later. I just had on a light base layer and shirt, light pants, a lightweight fleece, and some paper-thin glove liners to start the day. I thought the temp was headed toward 50* and only tossed my Marmot DriClime windshirt into my pack just in case I needed an extra layer to stay warm up on Indian Head. I didn't bother packing my good rain jacket. Hindsight is 20/20 but I was more than warm enough for the first half of the hike and I really didn't think I'd need the rain jacket.

    So up the road to the Ausable Club we went. We signed in at the gatehouse, scanned the register for familiar forum names, and began our march down Lake Road. We stopped at the flume on the left side of the road along the way. That was roaring and quite an awesome sight. We stopped to take pictures here and there along the way and were enjoying the day. As we were nearing the end of the road we saw four whitetail deer cross about 100 yards in front of us. We figured they'd run off by time we approached. We walked softly and as we caught up with them they were only 50-75 feet off the road and walking along in the same direction we were. We crept along making eye contact with them over and over as they continued their path parallel to the road while foraging for food. We slowly walked alongside them at that distance for a good 6-7 minutes and nearly two-tenths of a mile. Beautiful animals. I've seen deer lots of times in the past but never a group that large for that long that didn't get spooked by my presence. It was a very cool extended encounter.

    We quickly reached the end of the road and paused at the dam at Lower Ausable Lake for pictures, snacks, and water before heading up to Rainbow Falls. We met a family of four along the spur trail who were off course. They were looking for Sawteeth. I pointed them back to the Weld Trail. Of course the sign at the junction points right to Rainbow Falls and left to Gothics. I guess not knowing you turn off the Weld Trail for the final climb to Sawteeth can be confusing if you haven't really doped out your route ahead of time.

    Rainbow Falls was raging and offered an amazing view. My buddy had never been there before and was very impressed. As we turned around and started back toward the dam it started to rain. Not hard. Not even steady. Barely a sprinkle but enough to get you wet inside five minutes. It was also here that the temp dropped a bit and we started to see our breath. I stopped and dug into my pack for my "emergency" gear since my good rain jacket was sitting in my trunk. What I had was a flimsy plastic-like shell that stuffs into its own pocket. You know... the almost see-through kind that that doesn't stand up at all to a drenching rain. I stuff an extra pair of socks, some thin polypro gloves, and a lightweight balaclava into it as well just in case. I threw on the shell and the gloves and we continued over the dam, up to Lake Road, and then to the junction with the trail to Indian Head. Luckily the shell was enough to keep my light fleece dry. But the crummy hood kept coming off with every light breeze that blew.

    So up we went. The climb from Lake Road to Indian Head is only 0.8 miles with around 700 feet of elevation gain. Not a tough climb but there are a few small staircases and a ladder and it was spitting rain and everything that wasn't rock was starting to get slick. We stopped at Gothics Window and were totally underwhelmed. No window to speak of. Just branches blocking every view possible. We returned to the main trail, proceeded cautiously, and made it to the top in decent enough time.

    The exposed ledge of Indian Head was cold and windy. My hair was now soaked from the rain and I was getting chilled quickly. I dug deeper into my pack and found another emergency item... a lightweight Under Armour winter skull cap with a wicking liner. I was warm enough as I snapped some pictures and enjoyed the fabulous views down the lake between Colvin and Sawteeth, over to Pyramid, the backside of Gothics, and the Wolfjaws. My buddy was less fortunate. As he was taking pictures he said, "Geez, my hands are really cold... I can't feel two of my fingers." I honestly thought he was kidding until he started shivering. He was wearing more than me and had better protection from the wind and rain and he was the one shivering? Uh oh. We packed up quickly and started moving. We bailed on continuing to Fish Hawk Cliffs and instead started down from Indian Head to the Gill Brook Trail. After 10 minutes he still wasn't warming up. The complaints about his fingers and being cold started to concern me so I stopped him briefly to check his motor skills and mental state. Coming up short on these in addition to the shivers might indicate the onset of hypothermia. He's a sharp guy so it would be pretty evident if he wasn't mentally sound or slurring his speech but I didn't have much of a baseline to judge physical impairment past that he wasn't struggling to walk. Thankfully he passed my rudimentary tests of counting backwards from 100 by 7's and touching each of his fingers to his thumb one at a time up and down his hand a few times. That's the best I could come up with on the spot. His fingers were still cold but we pressed on hoping to warm him by moving faster. After another 15-20 minutes of moving he returned to normal but he scared me a little for that half hour window. Happily this didn't end up being a full blown emergency. It was maybe a 2 or 3 out of 10 if you had to rate it but it was enough for both of us to be a little nervous on a cold and wet afternoon.

    A few minutes later we got to Gill Brook and followed it all the way out to Lake Road. What a great scenic trail. The cascades, falls, and water features of the brook were spectacular on this day. Every time I've ever been up that way I have taken the cutoff trail back to Lake Road so my first trip down this section of trail was very enjoyable. The road walk was easy and before long we were back at the gate. We signed out and walked through the empty property of the Ausable Club. It had a post-apocalyptic feel to it. There were only a few other hikers passing through and the grounds were silent and lifeless. Quietest I've ever seen it there.

    Interesting day out. Some great sites, a neat encounter with some wildlife, and a small scare on what should have been a pretty straight-forward hike. Very small crowd out there with us. Only saw another dozen people all day. Helped three different groups (numbering 8 of the 12 people we saw) with maps & directions. A bit of confusion on which way to go from many people me met. For us, the light rain and cold certainly made the day a bit more challenging. And thankfully I had that "emergency" gear in my pack. I've been carrying it everywhere with me for the past eight years and had never once pulled it out until Sunday. It was enough to keep me dry (well... dry enough) and warm (a relative term... I still was a little cold) so that I could finish the hike without a problem. I probably would have aborted without it. Surely some better planning would have paid bigger dividends but all in all I'm happy I had what I had in my pack.

    Postscript... the patient was doing well enough on our trip home to scarf down half a pizza with every topping imaginable when we stopped in Schroon Lake for dinner. I guess you'd call that a happy ending.

    Pictures from the day...

    Giant staring down on us in the morning as we headed toward the Ausable Club...


    The AMR Gate


    The Flume from a distance. Up close provided no perspective. Way more impressive in person.


    The best pic I could find of the deer we encountered. The rest were blurry or the deer were too camouflaged...


    Indian Head from below at the dam. Dead center of the pic...


    Rainbow Falls


    Flagging along the trail spur trail to Rainbow Falls. Or perhaps rocker Dee Snider snagged a garment on a recent trip to the area...


    Gothics Window. meh...


    The classic view from Indian Head. Colvin to the left, Sawteeth to the right. Lower Ausable Lake running between them...


    Lower Ausable Lake and the dam from Indian Head...





  • #2
    Colvin


    Sawteeth


    Pyramid & Gothics


    Panorama from Indian Head...


    Giant and Bear Den from the "Outlook"...


    The sights of Gill Brook...











    Comment


    • #3
      Thanks for the write up and pix. Looking to potentially do Gill Brook trail up to Colvin and Blake on Sat, returning via the 2 cliffs to Lake Rd. However, due to weather (showers) and mud, thinking twice about it. Sure the brook would be fantastic after the rain predicted this week, but concerned about the trail b/t Colvin and Blake, including impact TO the trail this time of year.

      Comment


      • #4
        ​Beautiful pics despite the dreary weather!

        RE: Your hypothermia test: Successfully count backwards from 100 in increments of 7. Uh-oh, I have hypothermia and I'm in my heated home.

        ​Good job looking out for your friend. The combination of cold weather and rain is very good at breaching clothing and sapping away body heat. I find it's easier to cope with a snowy day in winter than a rainy day in spring.


        FWIW, had his condition deteriorated and the conditions become life-threatening, the AMR's boathouse is nearby and could serve as shelter (but, as you already know, only for a life-threatening emergency; it's private property and posted as out-of-bounds for the general public). It might be too early in the season now but later on you're likely to meet an employee or a club member.


        ​Dang! I've been down that trail several times and never noticed "Gothics Window". Although, from your photo, I think I know why now. Is it marked with a sign?


        Looking for Views!

        Comment


        • #5
          Nice TR, and a good warning. Sounds very familiar to the closest I've been to hypothermia, a day in August when I was dressed for summer and the forecast failed me with 50 degree drizzle.

          Gill Brook is fantastic! We took it on our first visit to Colvin & Blake, and I stopped at lots of the over/unders for photos. You'll need to get yourself a little gorillapod for some longer shutters!
          ADK 46/46W, Grid 218/552
          Photos & Stuff

          Comment


          • Makwa
            Makwa commented
            Editing a comment
            I have one of those but rarely carry it. Sunday would have been a good day to bring it. And maybe even learn to do something more than push the big button on my little point & shoot camera that I carry.

        • #6
          Originally posted by Trail Boss View Post
          ​Beautiful pics despite the dreary weather!

          RE: Your hypothermia test: Successfully count backwards from 100 in increments of 7. Uh-oh, I have hypothermia and I'm in my heated home.

          Good job looking out for your friend. The combination of cold weather and rain is very good at breaching clothing and sapping away body heat. I find it's easier to cope with a snowy day in winter than a rainy day in spring.

          FWIW, had his condition deteriorated and the conditions become life-threatening, the AMR's boathouse is nearby and could serve as shelter (but, as you already know, only for a life-threatening emergency; it's private property and posted as out-of-bounds for the general public). It might be too early in the season now but later on you're likely to meet an employee or a club member.

          Dang! I've been down that trail several times and never noticed "Gothics Window". Although, from your photo, I think I know why now. Is it marked with a sign?

          Thanks.

          Yes... marked with sign. But if you're walking DOWN the trail you'd probably zoom right by it. Clearly visible walking uphill though.


          Map. Arrow points to start of spur trail. My track went about 250 feet in... well past the 117 feet indicated on the sign and we found no open viewing spot along any of that trail. There were two women in front of us who went another 100 feet further down and they didn't find a window either. In summer it would be useless with leaves on the trees.

          Comment


          • #7
            Yep, I've used that trail as a descent route so, as you said, I was facing the wrong way to see it. Having said that, those signs look awfully new! I don't see evidence of weathering. Maybe they were recently installed? (<1 year)

            ​Say, is that a GPS track I see? Can you share it with me? I'd like to confirm the accuracy of the existing OSM trails to Rainbow Falls and up to Indian Head.
            http://caltopo.com/map.html#ll=44.11...2119&z=16&b=om

            ​You can either PM it to me or, even better, upload it directly to OpenStreetMap where it can be accessed by everyone. Create a free OSM account and then follow these uploading instructions.

            ​Uploading one's GPS tracks to OSM helps map editors to improve the map's accuracy. An editor can ask to have all available GPS tracks displayed on the map. The resulting "heat map" can be used as a reference to draw trails, roads, etc.

            ​BTW, in the map above, at the north-eastern end of Indian Head, your track heads northeast then doubles back a short distance before its descends to Gill Brook. What is this "stub"? Is there a lookout there?
            Looking for Views!

            Comment


            • Makwa
              Makwa commented
              Editing a comment
              Could be new signs. First time I've been up that trail so they were new to me no matter when they were installed.

              Would be happy to share but the file is very dirty. Lots of stops, blips, and extra crap on there. Want me to clean it up first?

              Yes... that was the lookout with the view of Giant and Bear Den (pic above). Can also see Dial through the trees. At that point of the trail there is a sign. One arrow points left to Indian Head and another right to the "Outlook" as it is called. We walked to the Outlook and the trail dead-ended. Coming back to the "junction" with the sign the trail to Gill Brook drops down very steeply from there for the next little bit. We initially walked right by the not-so-obvious turn/steep drop in our haste.

            • Trail Boss
              Trail Boss commented
              Editing a comment
              Yes, please; just the delete the obvious "glitches" (spurious GPS hairballs, side-trip into the woods for a bio-break, etc).

              OK, thanks. I'll add a viewpoint ("Indian Head Outlook") at the end of the spur trail ... and a "Gothics Window" viewpoint where you indicated on the map above ... after I refine the trail.

            • Makwa
              Makwa commented
              Editing a comment
              OK... will try to get to that tonight.

          • #8
            Interesting weather note from Sunday... the guy I was hiking with got a report from a friend who was hiking Rooster Comb. She was turned around by hail.

            Comment


            • #9
              Originally posted by Makwa View Post
              Interesting weather note from Sunday... the guy I was hiking with got a report from a friend who was hiking Rooster Comb. She was turned around by hail.
              I don't know about hail, but we had sleet at ~1,600 feet in Keene.
              ADK 46/46W, Grid 218/552
              Photos & Stuff

              Comment


              • Makwa
                Makwa commented
                Editing a comment
                Geez.. a mixed bag within a 5-10 mile radius. From what I heard the hail was very small. Person was hiking solo and bailed rather than running into worse.

            • #10
              Interesting report. Disheartening to again learn of hikers so unprepared that they didn't realize they should be following the sign for Gothics in order to find the turn off to Sawteeth. As for Gothics Window, that has been posted for many years since the spur trail and the view were created in the late 1970s. Now it needs, as one trail crew member stated, some "chain saw Windex" to restore the original full view of Gothics. Glad that you could appreciate Gill Brook and its many waterfalls at this time of the year.

              Comment

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