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9/24 - 9/28, Sweatin' to the Oldies - Allen, the Sewards, Seymour, Street/Nye, Phelps

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  • 9/24 - 9/28, Sweatin' to the Oldies - Allen, the Sewards, Seymour, Street/Nye, Phelps


    Regarding the title - the "sweatin'" refers to me, the "oldies" are obviously the mountains!

    After several months of waiting, saving vacation time, and about two solid weeks of planning, I was finally able to make a pilgrimage to the High Peaks from my home in Southcentral Pennsylvania. Thankfully, I was able to break up the drive by staying at a friend's house outside of Schenectady on Saturday night. Both of us are PSU alums, so we were naturally thrilled to watch our Alma mater beat Iowa on a last second play. What wasn't quite as sweet was my alarm going off at 4 a.m. after only 3.5 hours of sleep!

    After a few slaps at the snooze on my phone, and with sleepy eyes, I left my friends house around 5:30 a.m. on Sunday morning. The target for the day, and to start my trip off with a bang, Allen. The big, bad ugly I seem to read about all too often with hushed reverence on this forum.

    Before I get into the details, I'll say I debated pushing my trip off until the following week, but the promise of dry weather, and the dry weather that preceded my trip for two weeks beforehand, biased my decision based upon the mountains I planned on hitting. Each and every one of them a new peak for me on my recent quest to try to hike the 46.

    Ok, back to Allen. I rolled into the trailhead at 8:00 a.m., and was on the trail by 8:15. It was around 60 degrees at the time I started, but it wouldn't stay that way for long! Nonetheless, I cruised to the gravel pit in less than 2 hours. Interesting and varied trail until that point, but I found the area around Lake Sally to be muddy. (A theme to my week was that the muddy areas were still muddy, regardless of how dry it had been.) Continuing on, I thought the trail between Lower Twin Brook and Skylight Brook to be the nicest part of the trail. Once I started to ascend Allen proper, it was getting to be very hot, so I stopped a few times to cool myself off with splashes of water and dunks of my t-shirt. Moving upward, I knew that at "at a natural ledge" I was supposed to switch over to the left side of the trail/slide/brook. Well...I think I found at least 3 spots before the actual "spot" to do so! Each time, I crossed over and probed a bit on the left side and found nothing of substance, so I crossed back over to the right. Once I got to the actual spot to cross over (around 3900', according to my watch), it was obvious, as there was no place to go on the right.

    I spent around a half hour on the summit enjoying the very nice views with two very noisy couples. According to my tiny key chain thermometer, it was 75-80 degrees on the summit, and completely calm - a theme that would repeat itself the next two days.

    I didn't fall once on the ascent, but fell three times on the descent toward the bottom of Allen Brook...all on very low-angle slabs. Each and every time, the rock looked innocuous. Each and every time I did a two-footed slide and landed squarely upon my daypack. No injury, just bruised ego! Don't worry about the red slime, the old-fashioned green slime is treacherous!!! I made it back to the car at 6:00 p.m. for a total trip time of 9:45, or just under 9 hours hiking time minus summit time, water-filtering, pics, and snacks. Aside from myself, I counted 18 other hikers at various points of the trail over the course of the day. At the trailhead I spoke for several minutes with a gentleman roughly two decades my senior that I had leapfrogged with for part of the day. I didn't get his name, but he said he was 46er number 785, and he looked like, and was hiking fast enough, to suggest that he had been climbing these mountains for a long time. Very friendly fellow, and he said he has lived in Long Lake for the last 30 years or so.

    After Allen, my plan was to hop in the car to drive around the western side of the High Peaks to my next target - the Sewards and Seymour. I got to the Corey's Road trailhead at 8:15 p.m., and donned my (extremely overpacked) backpack to hike the piddly 1.4 miles into the tentsite just off the Calkins truck trail. Well, one of the biggest flaws in all of my planning was that I failed to note the contour lines on that piddly 1.4 miles, and that those lines were in meters. It was still hot, and after Allen, those 1.4 miles just about buried me! I'm not ashamed to admit it was a slog, and it was mentally defeating to keep going uphill, even though it was gradual. Thankfully I was able to find the tentsite with no difficulty (due to OSM), and stumbled into camp around 9:00. Two
    tents were already there, so I set up quietly and cooked some dinner down by the creek to avoid disturbing the sleeping tenants. It was so hot and as tired as I was, I still couldn't sleep, and just laid on top of my 20 degree down bag with my shirt off. I think I finally dozed off around 3 a.m.

    Out of the tent the next morning (9/25) around 6:45, I met my site-mates Dan and Tom. I apologized for getting in late, but they said they barely even heard me, and were thankful I was quiet. After chatting, we both had the same target for the day, the Sewards. They left camp at 8:15, I left at 8:45. Within seconds of hitting the trail, I instantly knew I didn't have the legs or gusto that day. No real pain, just very stiff and sore quads.

    Starting the climb up Calkins Brook, my legs started to feel better, but the heat was unbearable. I was dehydrated to start the day (my mistake), and my clothes were completely drenched with sweat. I was past the last the last water source, and only had 2 quarts left, so I knew I'd have to slow WAY down to be able to finish the three peaks that day. If there is one thing that destroys my aerobic capacity, it's heat, and it destroyed me that day. I lumbered up Donaldson at a geriatric pace, questioning why I do so this sort of thing, and if my vacations would be better spent at a beach with a cooler of beer, and then I up with met Dan and Tom on my way to Emmons. Shortly after, I met a couple, Meg and Mark, then a group of 4 guys and a gal I didn't see the rest of the day.

    The trail to Emmons was a slog. Muddy, and uneventful. Not much of a view. It took 45 minutes out, and the same on the way back to Donaldson. At Donaldson I took a 20 minute break for a snack, enjoyed the hazy views, and mentally geared-up for the climb to Seward. From Donaldson, it looks very high, and very far away. In reality, it was the most pleasant part of the ridge, and only took 45 minutes out and back. What may have helped my time, and stamina, was that at the junction I dropped my soft shell, rain shell, winter hat and gloves, water filter, extra food, guide book (yes, I was carrying it), and trekking poles. I met up with the other two groups at varying times along the way, and we all met up again at the first water source off the ridge. I made the comment that I had been thinking of this creek for the last two hours, and they shared my sentiment! After filtering and guzzling two quarts, I motored back to camp, feeling like a new man! Excluding breaks/filtering/pictures, hike time was 8.5 hours.

    9/26 - After a somewhat better night of sleep, I was out of the tent at daybreak. After cooking breakfast, Dan and Tom broke camp and left. My plan was to hike Seymour. Remembering my struggles with hydration the previous day, I drank 2 quarts of water before leaving camp. I thoroughly enjoyed the trail to Ward Brook, and put it at a 4 TFPM (Toads and Frogs Per Mile). They were everywhere, and every size, from large toads, to tiny little tree frogs the size of my thumbnail. I spotted a kingfisher in the boggy area off to the north of the trail, and it was just a very pleasant walk to the junction for Seymour. I hadn't seen another person to that point. I drank and filtered another quart at Ward Brook and started up the herd path to Seymour.

    After smashing into a dozen spiderwebs with my face within the first 5 minutes, I assumed that unless The Lollipop Guild was leading a group trip that day, I'd have the summit to myself. Once again, it was extremely hot, and calm, but at least this day I was hydrated. I steadily gained elevation until hitting the section from approx 3400' to 3900' which I immediately christened, "the steep little bugger of a trail". Clinging to the vegetation along the right side (there was no way of walking up the slab, for me at least), I came to an another area that looked unclimbable and found a faint herd path off to the right. I wasn't sure if it was the right way or not, then shimmied up a short rock chute, and saw that it was well-trodden, and it turned out to the right way.

    Indeed, I did have the summit to myself. 75 degrees, hot, humid, and calm. Ugh!!! I stayed on summit for a little over a half hour, and witnessed a black helicopter fly 500' below the summit from the north through the Seward/Seymour col. This might be related to the thread I was reading about the NOE (nap-of-the-Earth) Duck Hole flight a while back.

    Coming down the peak I met 3 ladies from my home state of PA, and when they asked me how far to the top, I felt like the grim reaper informing them that they were still 1000' in elevation away. I hustled back to my tentsite (only a 2 TFPM count in the heat of the afternoon), packed up camp, hefted my overpacked pack back out to the car, and started phase three of my trip - car-camping, more or less, at South Meadows.

    I was really hoping I'd be able to find a spot, because this part of my trip plan depended upon it. It turned out that I didn't need to worry, there was only one other car in the lot. I grabbed one of the tentsites on the side path I saw on OSM (big thanks, Trailboss!), and was only 100 paces from my car. I had 6 gallons of water and a 12 pack of adult beverages in my trunk, so that made life easy! I cooked dinner, had a bag of chips, a couple of beers, and a very relaxing evening. Shortly after nightfall, around 8:30, I heard a loud and strange howling. I remember reading on either this forum or the sister site about coyotes in South Meadows. Nope, what I heard was very distinctly a barred owl. It carried on for 10 minutes, then I didn't hear it again until 2:30 a.m. (I think it woke me up).

    9/27 - After a decent night of sleep, I woke up at daybreak to the incessant chattering of a red squirrel that apparently wanted to let the entire South Meadows area know, "Hey, there's a tent here!" My plans for the day, Street and Nye. My initial plans were to hike Street and Nye, and maybe Phelps. It was still hot, and I got out of camp late, but I still thought I'd hike all three. So, worried about losing my parking spot at South Meadows, I road walked the 2 miles to the Loj. It was at my sidewalk pace, so it only added a half hour...but I did fail to remember that the mile along the Loj road was mostly uphill.

    After stopping for several pics at Heart Lake, I started on the trail. When I first got to Indian Pass Brook I crossed immediately because I saw a cairn on the other side, then endured a short, but crappy, sidehill section. Once around the bend, I noticed a much nicer spot to cross. (I took this on the way back - note, if you are coming from Heart Lake, take a hard right when you first get to the brook to get to this crossing).

    The trail up to the col was very pleasant. On the way up Nye I met up with ADK legend Pete Hickey, whose name I saw on the register. I chatted for a minute or two, thanked him for all of his trail work over the years, and continued on. At the top, I met up with Steve, who has been in the Air Force for 17 years, is currently stationed in Florida, and is currently on leave. I hiked and chatted with him down Nye, and most of the way up Street.

    On top of Street I was amazed by the views to the west. Hazy, but excellent views of the Santanonis, Sewards, and Seymour, among others. It was 80 degrees, but thankfully, and for the first time in 3.5 days, there was a nice breeze!!! I stayed on the summit for an hour taking pics and having a snack. At this point, I abandoned my plan of also hitting Phelps, as I was tired of rushing things and dealing with the heat. I took a leisurely pace down from the col, and was awed by the stunning view of the western flank of the MacIntyres from a random boulder on the side of the trail (3700' or so).

    On the way back to the Heart Lake register I caught up with Pete Hickey again, and no longer being in any kind of hurry, this time I chatted with him and his hiking partner, Charlene, I believe, for about 10-15 minutes or so. I mentioned the forums, and Charlene stated poster Gregory Karl was her "sweetheart". Very delightful people, and it was a pleasure meeting both of them. Pete didn't come across in any way as the "crazy man with an axe" as suggested in his forum picture!

    I signed out in the register, and motored the 2 miles back to South Meadows in exactly a half hour.....only to find that my car was the only one in the lot! Oh well, win some, lose some. After another relaxing evening with dinner, a bag of chips, fresh clothes, and a couple of beers, I thought, "I sort of enjoy this car camping thing!"

    9/28 - Only having Phelps on the menu for the day, I had a slow-paced morning. I couldn't sleep in because the same (probably) red squirrel was chattering away at daybreak. The rooster may be the alarm clock of the farm, but the red squirrel is the alarm clock of South Meadows! It was overcast in the morning, so I thought the skies might clear as the day moved on. I took my time breaking down my camp and packing my car, and finally headed off down the truck road to Marcy Dam at 10 a.m.

    For the first time during my entire trip, the weather was perfect for hiking! About 60 degrees, not humid, with a breeze. Signing in at the Marcy Dam register there were only a few people signed in for Phelps, with most also adding Tabletop. I saw one hiker before the Phelps junction, and at the Phelps junction I shared some time with the world's tamest chipmunk. I surprised it, then it proceeded to go about it's business to the point that it was a foot away from where I was standing. It was so comical I had to capture a short video.

    On my way up Phelps I met one hiker coming down about 500 feet below the summit and chatted with him for about 10 minutes. He said he was a two-time 46er, and we chatted about the ADKs, White Mtns., the AT, and others. Before parting, he said there was nobody else up there.

    Thrilled to have a little summit alone time, and buoyed by the nice weather, I motored to the top. Indeed, I had the summit to myself! I searched around a bit for a sign, but couldn't find anything other than a pile of rocks on the flat open ledge. The view was, simply....STUNNING!

    I took a gazillion pics from the summit ledge, then moved over to the ledge facing Colden and the MacIntyres, where I took a gazillion more
    pics. Bluebird skies with scattered puffy cumulus clouds just at the level of Marcy and Algonquin's domes.

    I stayed at the summit for almost 2 hours, and had it completely to myself on a picture-perfect day. Not wanting to ruin that experience and push my luck, I decided that it was time to head down...even though I was in no hurry. Wouldn't you know that within 3 minutes of dropping off the summit I ran into a couple, then a solo hiker, then another couple, then two kids, then their dad (I think) asking how far ahead they were. I arrived, and left, at the absolute perfect time on an absolute perfect day. To me, that sort of thing is very rare, and it's something I
    treasure immensely.

    The trip back to South Meadows was mostly uneventful. I saw a garter snake on the truck trail, but I was in what I like to call "cheeseburger pace" at that point, so I wasn't noticing too much. If you've ever watched the original "Top Gear", picture Jeremy Clarkson saying, "SPEED and POWER!" At the very end of most hikes, I think of cheeseburgers, and I was legging it out something fierce.

    Back to the car in one piece, no blisters or injuries, a garbage bag full of dirty clothes harboring a stench that might possibly only be removed with gasoline and a match, and the memories of an amazing few days in the high peaks.

    Now, I'll have to look at pictures and read the forum to live vicariously through others until I, hopefully, can make another trip up sometime next spring! Thanks for reading...if you managed to stick around until the end!!!

    This trip has brought me to 28 of 46, but I'm in no real hurry to finish. Since I only get to the area once or twice a year, it will take a few more trips. Regardless, I love my time in the High Peaks, and think about them often when I'm sitting at my desk at work!


    I forgot to mention the foliage situation! Every area I hiked was roughly the same, it looked like most of the maples had turned and fallen, along with some beech. Most of the beech and birch was green, with some areas of low to medium color. Probably the nicest foliage of the week was along the Marcy Dam Truck Trail.

    Total miles driven, to and from, and circumnavigating the High Peaks: 1015.2
    Total miles hiked: 67.6 (I'll have to double check this)
    Total elevation gain: 14,400' (best estimate)

    Driving music for the ride back home from Schenectady:

    Allman Brothers Band "2nd Set" - excellent latter-era recording with Warren Haynes and Dickey Betts on guitar. The acoustic version of "...Elizabeth Reed" is fantastic, even if you listen to nothing else on the album. Being a drummer, I listen to rhythm, and the bass player is on fire during the jam in that song!

    Next and last was the Grateful Dead 9/20/70 show from Fillmore East. This show started with an excellent acoustic set with David Grisman sitting in on mandolin, followed by an equally excellent electric set. If you are a fan of early era Dead, this is a 5 star show!!! You can find it on the internet archive, the archive version # 27583 is the recording I have, and the sound quality is top notch! Highly recommended!
    Last edited by Groundpounder; 09-29-2017, 03:50 PM. Reason: content and addendum

  • #2
    I read from start to finish. Well written, entertaining report - I like your TFPM count!
    46/46, 45/46


    • Groundpounder
      Groundpounder commented
      Editing a comment
      Thanks, Faline! I just got home, so I think I'll have to re-read what I typed. I wrote the report while I was still at my friend's house while my mind was still fresh, but it was early morning by the time I finished!

  • #3
    Good read. I met the same gentleman in the Sewards who is #700- something. Lives in Long Lake. Was hiking with his daughter. Friendly. We joked around with him and kept the mood light. He was my favorite person we met that day.

    Hiking in the heat sucks. Period
    Catskills: 39/39, 26W/35W
    ADK: 46/46


    • Groundpounder
      Groundpounder commented
      Editing a comment
      Thanks, Nivek! Yes, that was the same guy. I told him I was hiking the Sewards the next day and his daughter said they were there last week. Very nice fellow, and he was moving pretty quickly on the trail too!

  • #4
    Thanks gp for the great trip report and congratulations on your perseverance through the hot weather on some long trails and great peaks
    When I asked Charlene how the S&N trailwork went, she described what a very nice time she and Pete had sharing the trail with you.
    Your (first) 46 sounds like a great journey.


    • Groundpounder
      Groundpounder commented
      Editing a comment
      Thank you, SummitHat! I run year-round and am in pretty decent shape, but the heat was the great equalizer. Speaking frankly, it kicked my butt! The last day was beautiful though, so that made up for the hot, humid, calm days. It was great meeting Mr. Hickey and Charlene. I remember reading Pete's posts 10 years ago when I first started learning more about the High Peaks. I'm not normally a chatty person in regular life, but I usually always take the time to say at least a few words to people I meet along the trail. Sometimes it lasts a minute, sometimes 15, it's part of what makes the experience more fulfilling for me. In general, I've found that the hiking community is a great group of people.

  • #5
    Great trip report! Thanks for sharing with us! ​Congrats on pushing past the halfway point!

    ​I laughed out loud when you described the solution for the bag of dirty clothes being "gasoline and a match". I call that my "Biohazard Bag".

    ​Oh and you're welcome (for the nod to OSM). Glad to hear you found it useful.

    ​FWIW, a month ago I did the same thing for the campsites along Coreys Road. Those sites are numbered yet, oddly, I could not find sites #1 and #4. Oh well, something to double-check next time I'm in the area.
    Looking for Views!


    • Groundpounder
      Groundpounder commented
      Editing a comment
      Thanks, TB! I just finished reading your 9/24 trip report, glad your knee didn't give you any trouble!

      A few of the sites along Corey's Road had campers in them. It was dark when I was driving in. A little while back I found a map on google that had all the road sites listed. I think I image-searched something like "corey's road+campsites+map", if I remember correctly. Your OSM updates have been a tremendous help for my trip planning, many thanks!

    • Trail Boss
      Trail Boss commented
      Editing a comment

      Got it! Thanks!

      There's a good chance I'll be heading there tomorrow so I'll survey the other sites.

  • #6
    Excellent TR. As a fellow fan of the original Top Gear I audibly responded to your "Speed and Power" reference with a Yesssss.

    Nice work digging in and beating the heat! You've got a remarkable memory when it comes to names.
    My mind was wandering like the wild geese in the west.


    • Groundpounder
      Groundpounder commented
      Editing a comment
      Yes sir. I was a former 11B, but that was over 20 years ago. Things like "beat the heat" get drilled into your head enough times that you can never forget them! I think I remember reading on one of your older posts that you are a vet. Thanks for serving!

    • FlyFishingandBeer
      FlyFishingandBeer commented
      Editing a comment
      Groundpounder Yessir, I started out on Sand Hill too. Thanks for your service as well!

    • Groundpounder
      Groundpounder commented
      Editing a comment
      Small world! We've pounded some of the same ground then! I remember reading after the fact that scenes from the John Wayne "The Green Berets" movie were filmed at Sand Hill/Ft. Benning.

  • #7
    Great report. Great trip. Love the cheeseburger mode pace reference. It's usually an ice cold beer for me, but that's only because they serve that before the cheeseburger.


    • Groundpounder
      Groundpounder commented
      Editing a comment
      Thanks, and you make a good point about the cold beer!!!