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Sept 29 - Donaldson, Emmons, Seward

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  • Sept 29 - Donaldson, Emmons, Seward

    Long hike, long-winded story

    Glad for the chance to make a third trip to the Adirondack region this year - a couple free days, an excellent weather window, and I’d never been there in the fall. (I hear it’'s nice ) After going in March (-20C but brilliant) and July (humid 25C with a side of bugs), it’s all good, but I was looking forward to this.
    Signed the register at 6 am; headlamp on, coffee in hand, nervous about how the day would go. The cairn to go up Calkins Brook was mid-trail and obvious, and I pulled out my phone to check my time. I was unhappy to see that my phone had plunged from fully charged all the way down to 1% - not sure why. I don’t rely on it for navigation, but I like to take a few scenery pictures and summit selfies, so that was a bummer. My hiking-plan-keeper (ex-husband/co-parent) is not prone to panic and wouldn’t necessarily need to hear from me before our arranged cut-off time of 11 pm, so I was ok to keep going.

    I had heard from many reports that there are water sources on the way up Calkins Brook trail; but I filtered up at the crossing anyway - thinking that it’s late in the year and been kind of dry lately, who knows what’'s ahead. You know, I would like just ONE hike where I don’t end up hauling a couple full Nalgenes up the hill but it's hard to work that out. I also heard not to expect a cairn at the ridge t-junction, so I sat down where I thought it was and had a snack. Went to Donaldson and Emmons first, to make sure. I hadn’t seen another person all day. Personally, I prefer trails when they’re busier with people, but the quiet morning was nice too. Donaldson arrived as quickly as everyone says it does. My phone worked with a couple pictures at that time, so maybe the battery gauge was off.

    I enjoyed both viewing ledges, then started for Emmons, wondering how the mud situation was. I recall two major bogs, and although I agree to walk straight across, I do not agree that I have to sink up to my knees to do it right; so I prodded with my poles and found a way across on sticks and rocks and submerged things. Saw Emmons far up ahead and thought: yikes. But I have a rule of thumb for cols: twice as hard as it looks on the map, twice as easy as it looks from peak #1 once you see it for real. It's not scientific but it keeps me from thinking “I'll never make it”. A few tough rocks to get up, kept me busy so that the summit marker surprised me (seems to lurch out of nowhere); it was a really good surprise and reaching it was a major mood booster. Emmons was my summit #13 - I’'m a high peaks teenager!

    Heading back afforded me today’s first sign of life on earth- I was so happy to see a friendly couple from Montreal - and by now there were a few more people up top, including a jolly guy charging packless towards Emmons and an energetic group of young women having lunch at what was definitely the junction. Again, I tried to ignore the upcoming col - looking towards Seward, it was, to me, visibly horrific from that angle. But I couldn’t help myself and feebly asked them how bad was it anyway? They all agreed: “not too bad” and the girl next to me thought hard, then pointed and described the trail thus: “well, it goes down… and then it goes up”. I need to get that on a hiking t-shirt.

    I also met a hiker who said there were some fun but very steep and tricky scrambles ahead. So at the first obstacle, I ditched my pack and poles by the side of the trail. I did it even though I hate doing that. It doesn’t look great and it scares me to be without my stuff, even for the time it takes to summit and back. I could get into all kinds of trouble without a first aid kit or a sweater, or water… and yet, climbing freely up the scrambles was wonderful and I also had a scary/exciting feeling of pure focus, as I had absolutely nothing to help me, except me. The summit sign for Seward surprised me just as much as Emmons had.
    On my way back to my pack and the junction, I only met two groups - the couple from earlier, and another mixed-ages group carrying full packs towards Donaldson. The group with the big packs asked if I had seen the start of the herd path going down Emmons to the Northville Placid Trail, as that was their plan. I don't know the area well, (edited: and maybe there is a path??) but to me, that sounded insane. (Then again, to me “full packs + over any Sewards” sounds insane, yet here they were doing it.) So I truthfully replied I had not seen such a path but then again I hadn’t been looking for one. They were happy with that, and I didn’t see them again.

    All done up top, it was 2 pm back at the junction; and I headed down Calkins Brook herd path. I wasn't pleased that one of my knees was now (unusually) much more painful than the other. I babied it for the many miles down the brook, and more miles back to the trailhead. I did not remember the Calkins Brook Truck Trail to have so much downhill in the morning, but it sure is uphill on the way back. I like the solitude but at some point (like I guess when I’m limping, late day on a remote trail) the atmosphere seems to turn darkly from solitude to isolation. Played a lot of mental games with myself for the last couple hours; and stretched out my stride, which did not make my knee feel any better, but didn’t make it feel worse either. Signed out exactly 12 hours and 3 minutes after signing in. Had planned to do Seymour the next day, but my knee (and feet and brain etc etc) need rest, and I will happily revisit the area in the future. I was back at my campsite shortly, and murdered a can of chili, garnished with everything edible I could find in my cooler, and a couple ibuprofen for dessert.

  • #2
    Very enjoyable report; thanks for sharing! I like your rule of thumb for cols, I might have to adopt that one. Sorry to hear about your knee, that malady seems to be going around lately. :( But I hope you were able to keep some good memories from your hike. It sounds like it was a good experience overall.
    We don't stop playing because we get old; we get old because we stop playing ~ Satchel Paige


    • stone611
      stone611 commented
      Editing a comment
      It was a really great day, thank you! And knee is better - when I finally got home, did liberal applications of hot and cold (hot bath, cold beer), seems to have done the trick

  • #3
    Nice hike. Seward does indeed look a long ways away from the junction. You might think of getting a string backpack if you want to drop your main pack to summit. You can throw your headlamp, water filter, car keys and other must haves for the summit trip, and if a varmit runs off with your pack you still have what you need to get home.


    • #4
      I enjoyed reading your report. I did the same hike a few weeks ago and agree about not noticing that Truck Trail go down, but sure noticing it go up! Also agree about the map distance vs visual distance difference, easier and harder than reality respectively. Funny about the supposed trail going down from Emmons - I never noticed it either.

      46/46, 45/46