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Buzzkill on Breezy Buck and Brief Bonehead Bushwhack -- 10/28/17

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  • Buzzkill on Breezy Buck and Brief Bonehead Bushwhack -- 10/28/17

    Saturday was my fifth visit to Buck Mountain but only my second time approaching from the south on the Pilot Knob side. I hadn't been up that way in over eight years so I thought it was time to check out that trail once again. The trail (just over three miles with 2000 feet of ele gain) is longer and it's a bigger climb than the northern approach from Shelving Rock Road but offers no real advantages other than a slightly better workout. There is one nice view looking south down Lake George that you don't get from the other trail but that's about it. I much prefer the northern approach which is more scenic and much less crowded.

    Here's the highlights of the hike...

    * It was a very windy day. Well over half the leaves were already off the trees around Lake George and it was raining leaves and acorns the entire hike. Saturday may have been the last chance to really enjoy any of the fall colors given the winds and today's heavy rain forecast in the region. The wind was particularly strong and howling on the upper third of the trail. I got knocked off my feet at one point as I balanced myself to take a picture.

    * I made the summit 10% quicker than eight years ago. Age almost a decade and get faster. I like the math of that.

    * The summit was not crowded. Less than a dozen people. I got a late start (10:45 a.m.) and most people were already descending as I was headed up. I spent a good 40 minutes on the summit enjoying the day.

    * The view from Buck is one of my favorites in the Adirondacks, especially looking north up the lake and at the Tongue Mountain Range. Minus the wind it was a gorgeous day with great views.

    * On my descent I was stopped at least a half dozen times by people asking how much further to the top. I happily provided the info but here's where the buzzkill in this trip report's title comes into play. It was a little past 2:00 pm when I ran into two slow-moving groups about one-third of the way up the mountain. I asked how long it took for them to reach that point then did some quickie calculations to determine they had little chance to reach the summit and still make it out by dark given their current pace (which was bound to slow as the trail steepened). I asked if they had headlamps or flashlights. Neither did. I cautioned both against attempting to reach the summit. I'm the buzzkill on the beautiful day but I think it was the proper move. One group was new to hiking and very receptive to my advice about figuring out a turnaround time that would get them out while there still was light. The other not so much. Hope they both made it out OK. And these were just the groups I talked to. The number of people ascending (on the bottom third of the trail mind you) well after 2:00 p.m. (sunset was 5:52 p.m.) only in shorts and t-shirts and carrying no gear whatsoever was alarming. At a solid pace of 2 MPH this trail is a 3-hour round-trip with no stops. A lot of folks cutting it awfully close.

    * Not sure if I was insulted or not at one point. One out of breath woman asked how far it was to the top. After I answered she said, "Well... if you can make it... I certainly can!" I spent the next ten minutes internally debating what exactly about my appearance would lead her to say that.

    * Saw one guy carving initials into a tree. He was wielding a sharp knife and I was armed with nothing but my rapier-like wit so I didn't say anything that would lead to a confrontation. I will never understand the need for people to do that.

    * At the end of my descent I stopped at Stewart's Ledge. It's easy to find and worth the stop. Around 750 feet out of the parking area on the main trail is an unmarked trail junction. A wide and unmistakably easy to find herdpath runs south from there for about 0.4 miles. You follow a band of cliffs on your left (with Lake George on your right) to their end where the trail then doubles back on itself and runs along the top of the cliffs. There are numerous great views of the lake through here. For a little known/ unmarked destination the herdpath was remarkably easy to follow. Rather than retreating the way I came I decided to follow the cliffs back toward the main trail in hopes I could just easily bushwhack my way out. Perhaps there was a trail I missed but the bushwhack was easy enough until I decided to climb down a crack/chute in the cliff about 75 feet to the herdpath below. Looked easy enough. Done similar down-climbs dozens of times before. It was the leaves that I didn't account for. Once one foot slipped putting me on my rear I was taken on a slow motion buttslide down the chute in 4-6 inches of leaves until I reached the bottom. I braced myself where I could but it was a bit perilous given how little control I had over my descent. Then there was a small pile of talus at the bottom of the cliff where the leaves had filled in/ hidden the cracks between rocks. I carefully picked my way through the twenty or so feet of that by pre-testing every foot placement with a trekking pole so I didn't break an ankle by slipping between rocks. A totally unnecessary bushwhack on what was otherwise an incredibly easy trail to end the day.

    Overall, a great day out and a nice sendoff to the pretty part of the fall hiking season.


    The coolest tree in the forest. And no... I did not stage this... I found it this way...


    Trail approaching the open rock just below the summit. Wind was howling through here...


    Panorama looking south from below summit...


    Buck...


    Panorama looking north toward the Tongue Mountain Range...


    Closer view of the Tongue...


    Panorama looking west...


    View from Stewart's Ledge...


  • #2
    Nice.

    Old home week for me - when we lived in Glens Falls for 30 years, Buck was our "go to" hike. Probably been up more than 100 times, mostly from the PK side (less total time, because the drive time is so much shorter). Great views, terrific summit, nicer than about 20 of the High Peaks. We used it as our training mountain. Great pics, thanks! Always have a place in my heart for that tree prominently featured in the second pic. When you are sucking wind like a vacuum cleaner running up there, seeing that tree tells you that you are almost up the steep part!

    Stewart's Ledge is a popular rock climbing destination. As a result, the base trail is well used, and the trail on top after the U-turn is well used as far as the top of the cliffs (from climber's going up to set top ropes). After that, it becomes harder to follow, but there is a continuous trail from the top back to the marked hiking trail.

    Comment


    • Makwa
      Makwa commented
      Editing a comment
      Now it makes sense why the herdpath going in is so defined. I've only seen a few references to this spot as a hiking destination so I was rather stunned on how well traveled it was.

      After the last open view along the cliffs at the big rock I hugged the cliffs immediately. It was such a huge handrail I really didn't bother to go looking for a herdpath. Open forest and easy going and only a quarter mile or so to walk out.

  • #3
    That's a shady looking birch in the photo. Must be in the witness protection program.

    I've gotten mixed up a few times going down the south trail near the summit. Especially in winter it can be tricky discerning the trail on the open rock.

    Comment


    • #4
      Originally posted by Makwa View Post

      * Not sure if I was insulted or not at one point. One out of breath woman asked how far it was to the top. After I answered she said, "Well... if you can make it... I certainly can!" I spent the next ten minutes internally debating what exactly about my appearance would lead her to say that.
      I had a similar experience on the Sewards earlier this year. A couple of women that passed me on the trail asked a couple of guys whose path they crossed to watch over me. I may be slow and deliberate in my hiking style but at 6'2" and 235 lbs I'm not all that frail.

      Comment


      • #5
        Originally posted by Makwa View Post
        ... After I answered she said, "Well... if you can make it... I certainly can!" I spent the next ten minutes internally debating what exactly about my appearance would lead her to say that....
        It's got to be that 50-pound pack you're rockin'.


        Reply: "Been to any parties, weddings, or funerals recently? Mm-hmm, didn't think so."
        Looking for Views!

        Comment


        • Makwa
          Makwa commented
          Editing a comment
          Well... on that day my 15-pound pack probably looked like 50 compared to everybody else carrying 0-pound packs!

          I have finally concluded I was the first person she saw on the trail with some graying around the temples. Either that or my jaunty knickers and liberal use of the phrase "23 Skidoo".

      • #6
        Buster, you got moxie!
        Looking for Views!

        Comment


        • #7
          Buck is great but there is just too much traffic on those trails and the bushwhacking on the east face of Buck is fantastic. I only take the trail if I want a trail run in the early morning or for sunset. Little Buck is great also.
          offonadventure.com

          Comment


          • #8
            Originally posted by Telemarkmike View Post
            Buck is great but there is just too much traffic on those trails and the bushwhacking on the east face of Buck is fantastic. I only take the trail if I want a trail run in the early morning or for sunset. Little Buck is great also.
            East face,I thought it was West?

            Comment


            • #9
              Yes I thought that too - Mike?

              Comment


              • #10
                Yes, west face... just making sure you guys are paying attention. My bad.
                offonadventure.com

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