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Seward, Donaldson, Emmons - to loop or not

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  • Seward, Donaldson, Emmons - to loop or not

    Planning to hit these 3 next Monday (already did Seymour on the 8th) as a day hike. I know this will be a reasonable enough challenge for me and I'm not looking for extra hardships. I was thinking of doing an out and back through Calkins Brook but most people seem to make a loop with the North side of Seward.

    I'm usually a fan of loops, but I did not fall in love with the mosquitoe-infested mud pit that is currently Blueberry Trail.

    Any recommendation?

  • #2
    I did them last year as an out and back via Calkins Brook, which I found to be a very nice trail. Crossing the brook could be a little tricky. I had no problem rock hopping, but everyone else in my group did, and crossed on a downed log (which I found to be much more dangerous than possibly getting your feet a little wet).

    I think my my wife and I may have run into you on the trail to Seymour on the 8th.


    • #3
      There's really no *need* to do a loop if you're not also picking up Seymour, or you just really like doing loops. Going up and down Calkins Brook will save you some time.

      You'll miss out on the challenge that is Seward from Ward Brook, but not everybody is into that sort of "fun". lol


      • #4
        Iíve never been on the trail on the north side of Seward, but have read here that it is more rugged than Calkins Brook, so if youíre not looking to add difficulty to the hike, maybe an out and back is the way to go for this hike this time.

        I eventually want to try the north side trail. The more I hike these trails, and the more I read about other peoples descriptions and perceptions, the more Iím finding that I tend to see things differently. Every trail and mountain is challenging and beautiful in its own way.


        • #5
          Agree with ndru. Climbing up Seward from Ward Brook is actually fun for me; I enjoy the multiple rock scrambling challenges. But it's not worth it to get there, because the poorly laid out and maintained state trail is such a mess. Calkins trail, illegally created by knowledgeable hikers 15-20 years ago is much better designed and much nicer to travel.

          And if you do decide on a loop, go UP Seward. Those rock scrambles are much better to go up than to go down.


          • #6
            The N side of Seward is very steep for a long ways down. Lots of wet rock and probably mud. Lower down where it's not as steep you can expect lots of mud. I would expect there to be a lot of mud and water in the low point between Donaldson and Seward. Last Friday the upper third of the CB herd path was full of mud and water.


            • #7
              The north side of Seward is a special kind of Hell, similar to Cliff but slightly less cliffy, slightly less muddy, but twice as long. You really aren't missing anything special by doing an out and back rather than a loop. That being said, as somebody who also prefers to hike loops, I'd recommend taking this trail and finding out for your self what its all about.

              The silver lining to Seward's northern approach (or escape, if you will) is that you won't have to worry about water. Once you drop down to about 3k feet the trail crosses Seward's Ward Brook drainage multiple times. As an added bonus, I've encountered ice and snow on this trail as late as June 15th in past years.That was kind of cool.
              My mind was wandering like the wild geese in the west.


              • Bunchberry
                Bunchberry commented
                Editing a comment
                I loved the north side of Seward. That's what we are there for! Climbing mountains and getting muddy!

            • #8
              Because I did it so recently and itís fresh in my mind, how does the north side of Seward compare to the Santanoni express?


              • FlyFishingandBeer
                FlyFishingandBeer commented
                Editing a comment
                Longer, much wetter, not as relentlessly steep due to the way it meanders more, but very steep in places. The scrambles are different too. On the Express trail some of the scrambling is the way it is due to recent hiker-induced erosion. On Seward the scrambles are more natural formations and seem to be perpetually wet.

            • #9
              I am throwing this crazy idea out there but we should not just be climbing 46 peaks.

              If you can barely get a peak done then I understand that you need to do things the easiest way possible, but if you are in good enough shape then go up Seward and after getting all the peaks done go back via Calkins Brook. You get to see more of the Adirondacks.

              I have done Gothics via Pyramid but for me I have not done Gothics yet. I have to do it again from the cable route because to be a person that knows the Adirondacks I have to do that.
              Leave No Trace!


              • Eddie Fournier
                Eddie Fournier commented
                Editing a comment
                Agree. I love to be in the woods, following a creek, thinking about how to negotiate a boulder. There are so many ok destinations that are accessed by great trails (thinking about Gil Brook Tr & Orebed Tr just now). But I know I have to work harder than most other forum members for those higher ones. BTW I came twice within reach of Gothics - the 2nd time I chickened out at the start of the cable section (also it was winter & it was getting late).

            • #10
              Seeing a trail going up, and seeing that same trail going down may not let you see Ďmoreí of the Adirondacks, but it lets you see them differently. Same with time of day, weather, season etc.


              • #11
                Before corporeal decrepitude scrapped my ADK Grid aspirations, I was touring the 46 peaks on a regular basis. You might find these old posts useful. Both involved clockwise loops of SDE.

                Seward Range. 2017-10-01
                Gooward, Mudaldson, and Wetmons. 2016-08-27

                There was one more trip where I ascended Seward's northern trail (after Seymour) but I never posted the details. On at least three other occasions, I've descended it (other visits were T-shaped out-and-backs via Calkins). I learned that ascending the north side was faster than (or as fast as) descending it . . . which says something about its nature.

                As for pure metrics, if you descend the north side, the distance will be slightly longer to the trailhead than if you return via Calkins Brook Trail. However, there will be less ascent because it's downhill all the way to Ward Brook Truck Trail and then it's basically flat compared to returning via Calkins Brook Trail. That route first involves ascending an intermediate bump that lies between Seward and its col with Donaldson. Then when you reach Calkins Brook Truck Trail, there's about 200+ feet to ascend before you intersect the Blueberry Trail.

                HOWEVER, setting aside the numbers, the descent of Seward's northern side is much gnarlier than Calkins Brook Trail. If you were to divide it in thirds (more or less), you could characterize them like this, top to bottom:
                1. Steep, wet, heavily-eroded (poster child for trail erosion)
                2. Wet, muddy (the really deep kind)
                3. Comparatively pleasant (a welcome relief)
                In contrast, Calkins Brook Trail has the usual High Peaks 'mud and rocks' challenges, here and there, but overall it feels nice underfoot. You can call the top third of Sewards northside a lot of things but not 'nice underfoot'.

                Whichever way you choose to tour SDE, good luck and have fun!

                Looking for Views!


                • SeaLevel
                  SeaLevel commented
                  Editing a comment
                  I was taken back when reading your disclosure “before corporeal decrepitude scrapped my ADK Grid aspirations”. With over 75% of you goal achieved, I cannot think of anyone more deserving to be on the list of those completing the ADK Grid. You have been a model for responsible hiking ethics/practices, have been a “good steward” of the mountains (often compensating for those who have not) and have been encouraging to so many other hikers in their endeavors.
                  Not knowing what has caused you to abandon your GRID aspirations, I wish you the best and hope that whatever it is, you too will be able to overcome it and resume your challenge.

                • Trail Boss
                  Trail Boss commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Thank you for your kind words.

              • #12
                When I did Seward a few years ago, I went up via Calkins Brook. On the way from the D/S col, I ran into someone who recommended NOT going down the North side unless I had come up that way. So I returned the way I came.

                ADK 46r #8003; 6W
                2nd round: 16
                SL6r #596
                Catskill 3500 21/39; 11W


                • #13
                  This is the joy of the north side. We are all talking about it! I might even still have particles of Seward dirt ground into my hiking pants and they have been washed 5 times since then!
                  Leave No Trace!


                  • #14
                    I always try to make a loop of things if possible to see more than an out and back will show me (and sometimes those outs are not favorable so it works out not to have them as your backs anyway), and call me sick but I really loved those 3 as a loop up seward north and out calkins brook. All the refreshing cool water breaks going up seward were an awesome relief (it was 90/90 that Saturday in july), and that headwall is so neat (you wont see that on a T-shaped out and back). In hindsight I am really glad I did it clockwise, as that sunday I did Seymour out and back, and that loooooong way back to the trailhead was probably the only time I have called something a slog (again, I believe it was 90/90). By doing the 3 clockwise the way back through calkins you dont have that longer stretch out (similar to Seymour). Seward north down low was muddy and the mini-slides were very wet last july as was donaldson junction all the way out to Emmons, and im guessing this year has been more rain than it was this time last year?
                    35er #3133
                    46er #11799

                    "Good Thoughts, Good Words, Good Deeds"


                    • #15
                      Thank you all. I am truly impressed by the depth of knowledge, response speed and openness to share found here.