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Mckenzie: Last of the Saranac 6 8/10/19

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  • Mckenzie: Last of the Saranac 6 8/10/19

    The day started out cold and cloudy with spotty rain. I awoke around 5am. I was planning for a long day, so there was no sense of urgency to this trip. As I dressed, I thought about today’s hike. McKenzie. This was it. My last Saranac 6. I was not feeling very well. My stomach was in knots. I had a small bowl of cereal, orange juice and an English muffin. I broke out in a cold sweat and was feeling feverish. I almost cancelled the hike, but decided to give it a try, anyway. I have to admit, I was not looking forward to doing McKenzie. After all the research and flossing over the maps, I did not have any joy in my heart about going out there. What I really wanted was to flop down on the comfy Tmax and Topo’s couch with a nice cup of tea and watch TCM, while I planned to do something else. I packed my gear and lunch away, took a hit on my inhaler before bidding a couple of guests, who were heading out for their own hikes, so long. I slow walked to the car. It was about 6:10am. My stomach was bouncing and my mind was racing. I chose the SOA trail. Makwa’s suggestion. I’m contemplated the Jackrabbit “Front Door”, but decided I was not in the mood for a tough climb. What I needed was a good stroll, and that’s just what I got.

    I arrived quickly at the Jackrabbit trail parking. Took a deep breath and loaded up. After a quick check to make sure I was not leaving anything behind, I started to the sign in register. Recorded that I was doing the SOA trail and headed out. The going was easy down the road. I found Blodgett Rd easy enough and took the left turn as Instructed. That was when it fell apart. Misreading the Topo map, I mistook my intended right turn for the fork in the trail I encountered early. After one mile, I realized something was wrong. Checking my gps, I discovered is was way off my mark and bushwhacking. I turned around and went back the way I came. Strange, the trail was marked with yellow markers.....see how easy it is to get Lost? I followed a path further down and got lost, again. Only for a few minutes before I finally found the SOA trail.

    The trail itself was wet and slippery. Very little rocks. A brook ran to my right. A series of small waterfalls cascading down towards Lake Placid. The sound of the rushing water gave me some comfort. It always does. I stopped and took some pictures. I felt the cold air around me and was glad I brought my fleece jacket. The SOA trail is well marked. Despite being told it has not been maintained, it was very easy to make out. Fallen leaves were strewn all over the ground, giving the trail a carpeted look. All in all, the SOA trail made me feel welcome. About .5 miles in, I ran into another hiker. An older gentleman, I didn’t get his name, was coming from Bartlett Pond. He was a local, who was out for a small walk, as he put it. He told me not many people hike this trail. He was surprised to see me here. Mostly, everyone hikes the Jackrabbit trail up McKenzie. I told him I was one of those out of the box hikers. In reality, I’m one of those, if I can find a less stressful trail type of hiker. I’m not looking for an Everest type challenge. I just want a nice hike that won’t kill me. There was a sign where we met. I still had about 1.75 miles to hike. I had to get moving.

    The rushing brook kept kept me calm as I wound my way up the trail. Elevation was slight. I hardly noticed any ups. I was great full and thanked the trail for being so nice. I made it to Bartlett Pond around 10am. The weather had gotten colder and the wind was picking up. Waves moved across the pond in a hurried motion, but not very angry. Some rain began to fall, but it was light and uneventful. I looked up through an opening and got my first glimpse at McKenzie. There was the summit. Close enough to reach out Andy touch it. I walked around the pond until the trail came to another sign. McKenzie summit .80 miles. I unloaded my gear and sat down for a rest. I gulped some water a DNS’s ate a few handfuls of trail mix. I measured my condition. I was about half and half, but still didn’t not feel like I wanted to climb to the summit. I gazed up the trail and saw it started its climb at once. The entire area was shrouded in an eerie darkness. I got bit of the freaks. Nothing like I felt that time when I was out to hike LWJ during the nor’easter of 2012, but it was close. I remember a line Charlton Heston has said in, ‘Planet of the Apes’, when he was in the spaceship. “Gazing out into the vastness of space squashes a man’s ego. I feel lonely.” Other, than the man I met earlier, there was no one else around. Only the wind blowing through the trees kept me company. I felt alone, staring up that trail. Only .08 miles to go. I was almost there, but I knew what I was in for. I’ve had enough experience by now to know what lay ahead. The decision came quickly. Leave the pack here at the pond. I took what I needed. Water, trail mix, flashlight, my small first aid pack. I put in all in my satchel bag. I took a deep breath as I considered backing out, again. This was nuts. On the backdoor trail all alone with threatening rain clouds all around. What the hell was I doing? All this for a patch and a pat on the back? Normally, I would have turned around. There was still time to catch a movie in Lake Placid and have a cozy dinner, later on. Something poked me and said, give it a go. Try a few yards and see what happens. So, off I went. The climb to summit had begun.....

    Terrain was a monster from the start. Roots and small slippery slabs. Muddy ground. I grabbed a tree limb here and a tree limb there. One hand over the other. One foot in front of the other. I tried not to look up, but when I did, my heart leapt into the my throat. This trail looked just like Tabletop. Tight and steep. Heavier clouds rolled in and it got dark. I almost broke out the headlamp, but I still had enough light to keep moving. I stopped for small breaks, but not long. I kept pushing. All the while, my negative side was screaming to turn back. A nice cozy movie theater is waiting. Popcorn. Seltzer water. Yummy. My positive side, just kept saying, a few more yards. Let’s see where it gets us. I was soon at the junction. Only .02 miles to go! Now, I have to say, this was the toughest part. So close, yet, so far.

    At 12:35pm, an hour and a half later, I was at the summit of McKenzie. I took a moment to look over my conquered territory. Shrouded in trees. Small. Cold. A hard wind blowing, but protected by the trees. I was all alone on the summit. I had hoped there would be people to help me celebrate. Did I jump around and pump my fist and burst out with a bellowing victory whoop? No. I took off my satchel and slumped to the ground, tired, sweaty and cold. My hands were freezing. I called mom and a hiking friend to say I’m at the summit and I made it! After some trail mix and water, I got business taking pictures. It was still a clear enough to get some great pics. The wind blew like crazy, knocking me back a few times. I would have liked to stay longer, but I was cold and heavier rain was forecast for later in the day. I gathered my stuff and began my trek down. I felt good that I decided to continue. It was good to know I made it. I can’t say I was jumping for joy being a Saranac 6’r, but I felt good I earned a patch for this challenge. Another small victory in the books on my journey to the 46. I reached the car at 4:45pm. I had slid all the way down the mountain, hitting my butt on numerous occasions as a series of small rains came in. I was bruised and covered in mud. My legs were killing me as I looked towards the silver car I nicknamed the Torpedo. What a lovely sight she was. I know folks had hoped more I would drive to Saranac Lake and ring the bell, but all I could think about was a Big Mac and a shower. Then, dinner and finally bed. I was shot.

    thanks to everyone who rooted for me. I hope I did not disappoint. I’m not in athletic shape. I’m just a plump out of shape Brooklyn man hiking for pleasure and good memories. Thanks!
    Nothing like being in the woods.

  • #2
    Way to go Gerard! Earned another patch. Good for you. McKenzie is a worthy finishing peak for any challenge.

    The start of the SOA trails are a bit confusing. There are some places to get hung up in there. I made a few wrong turns myself back in 2015 but quickly righted myself.

    Don't forget for the future... by dropping your pack you basically abandoned the chance to descend via the other trail. If you decided you'd be more comfortable on your descent on a trail where perhaps there were other hikers your gear was sitting on the wrong side of the mountain. Something to think about.

    Lastly... please don't tell me you ate the Big Mac IN the shower.

    Go ring the bell the next time you're in town.


    • Gerard01
      Gerard01 commented
      Editing a comment
      Lol. No, I did not eat the Big Mac in the shower. I left the bag on purpose to ease the hike and make sure I came back that way. I don’t think I would have chance coming down the Jackrabbit way, since I never liked coming down those pitches and sharp slabs to begin with. The SOS was just right for me. Thanks for recommending it. I just felt quite alone during the hike, I don’t mind the seclusion, but sometimes it is nice to have some company along the way. With the way the SOA trail was wet, I’m sure the Jackrabbit way was a slippery slide, as well. I have a couple of Catskills fire towers to do and then I’ll work on losing more weight for next years hikes. I hope to do some more 46 High Peaks.

  • #3
    Congratulations Gerard!
    ADK 46/46W + MacNaughton, Grid 271/552
    Photos & Stuff