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What's in a name? -- Dual Challenge Finish -- Bear Den & Flume Knob -- 8/11/19

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  • What's in a name? -- Dual Challenge Finish -- Bear Den & Flume Knob -- 8/11/19

    When possible I try to attach some significance to the peak I finish a hiking challenge on. Perhaps it's the tallest mountain on a particular list, or the same peak for the winter round as the all-season round, or the most difficult hike on a list just to name a few. But the most fun for me is when the name of the mountain itself holds some meaning.

    One example of having this fun with names is after finishing my 46 on Haystack I deliberately saved a like-named peak for last on the Saranac 6 and finished that challenge on the "other" Haystack. There was a certain symmetry there. More meaningful for me was when I doped out the Fulton Chain Trifecta and planned my finish on Black Bear Mountain. Why, you ask? Well, "makwa" is Algonquian for "bear" (more specifically, black bear given the range of that animal and where the Algonquian languages were primarily spoken). Bear trail/screen name... bear peak to finish a challenge. You get the idea. I enjoy the wordplay.

    So yesterday I played with words yet again by hiking Bear Den Mountain which finished off two challenges for me: the Lake Placid 9er and the ADK6PACK. While I had been planning since last year to finish the LP9er on a "bear" peak, it wasn't until last month when the 6PACK was announced that I hatched the plan to finish both lists simultaneously and bag two bears for the price of one.

    I have mentioned the Lake Placid 9er on a number of occasions over the past year. Trip reports covering my hikes of Hurricane, Big Crow/ Baxter/ Cobble Hill, Mt Van Hoevenberg and Mt Jo, Pitchoff, Catamount, and now Bear Den today for the finish were posted here. And while some might squabble with the naming of the challenge given the geography of these peaks it was a fun list nevertheless. Since launching in July of 2018 the LP9 member roster is comprised of just over 260 finishers.

    The ADK6Pack is the newest of the Adirondack hiking challenges and I purposely didn't mention/hype the name of the challenge in my recent trip reports for a very selfish reason - I wanted a low number on the member roster. So sue me. Now you know all about it. It was written about in the Adirondack Daily Enterprise the day after it started anyway so shame on you for not hearing about it. As I write this the member roster has just ONE name on it. We'll see where I end up (hopefully single digits) once I get the patch in the mail. Please don't get your panties in a bunch over me wanting a single digit. I thought it'd be neat but I won't be upset if I don't get it.

    So the 6PACK not only asks you to hike six mountains (Cat, Pharaoh, Poke-O-Moonshine, Bald, Scarface, and Bear Den) but requires that you visit six local breweries as well. Get the name of the challenge now? The breweries were (in order of the mountains just listed): Bolton Landing Brewing, Paradox Brewery, Ausable Brewing Company, Fulton Chain Brewery, Ray Brook Brewhouse, and Big Slide and/or Lake Placid Brewing. You are not required to imbibe on your visit but what's the point of going to a brewery without at least tipping one back? On each brewery visit I opted for very light beers that I hoped would be refreshing after a hot, sweaty day on the trails. The Flooded Tent (a cucumber lime saison) at Fulton Chain Brewery was the most refreshing of my selections. That joint also had the best vibe of the six and had the most interesting and comfortable bar stools I have ever sat upon. Picture a hybrid of pool hall spectator chair and an Adirondack chair. They're the perfect combo of height, comfort, and Adirondack ambiance. Anyway, great challenge though the peaks are spread out all over the park. It's not like you can knock off multiples in a day without some major driving so it was six hikes on six different days to polish this one off.

    So Bear Den... it's right next to Whiteface Mountain and the trailhead is at the ski center. It's not near any the lots on the main entrance road. To get to the closest lot to the trail system you must take a right off the main road and head uphill a little ways which brings to you to a huge parking area (labeled Bears Den) where the trail register sits to your left at the treeline.

    The trail to Bear Den is relatively easy going. You get around 1300 feet of elevation gain in 1.7 miles to the top though all but 100 feet of that comes in the last 1.3 miles. There's nothing tricky or particularly taxing about the climb. The trail out of the parking area is marked red. You stay right at the first junction then bear left at the next one where a sign reading "Flume Trails" points right. From there to the summit there are yellow markers and there's only one tricky turn in the trail at around 1850'. You need to go left and uphill toward Ben Dear here as continuing straight ahead at this tiny junction (marked by flagging) puts you on a short herdpath that crosses a stream and heads in the direction of Flume Knob. I will discuss that more below. I reached the summit ridge in 75 minutes at a sluggish pace as I wasn't in a rush. This mountain could be crunched out in 45 minutes or less if you had a mind to.

    Anyway, the first ledge on the summit ridge at around 2350' with the cairn stacked upon a giant boulder has a very nice view. The featured attraction is Whiteface looming above you. The mountain is quite impressive from this close. But this spot is NOT the summit. If you want to be a stickler for tagging the high point you need to venture past the cairn to gain a little more elevation. There's a narrow/scratchy trail that leads you there and the view is basically the same as from the cairn. It was a two-jacket summit visit for me (a lightweight fleece vest and my trusty Marmot Trail Wind Hoody over the top) given the temperature and stiff breeze. It was pretty chilly up there. I snapped some photos then started back downhill sans jackets.

    The next stop on the itinerary was Flume Knob - a rocky outcropping about 0.75 miles northeast of Bear Den as the crows flies. But I wasn't about to go all the way to the bottom of the Bear Den trail to pick up the Flume Knob trail and reclimb basically the same hill. I refused to be constrained by the insane design of the trail system. Instead I would bushwhack from the Bear Den trail over to the Flume Knob trail in an attempt to save about 400 feet of elevation gain. There really should be a connector trail up higher on the mountain as the two trails are only a few hundred yards apart. On my ascent I kept my eyes peeled for a good place to cross the stream separating the two trails. Nothing seemed suitable until I noticed that flagging at 1850' mentioned above. I figured I'd follow that and see what happened. From where I stood the terrain looked doable so I started down the herdpath. Rather quickly it reached the stream (with no elevation loss) and the water crossing there was very easy. There were some slick rocks to contend with but no steep banks and the water was at a trickle. However, once reaching the other side of the stream the herdpath disappeared. No matter, I'd just continue east and I would eventually hit the trail. Almost immediately I came upon two very wet/muddy spots. Oh... and deep! Like mud touching the bottom of my kneecaps deep. As I sunk the quicker the cadence of my "no, no, no, no, no" pleadings became. I was a bit concerned where the bottom was. I did not want to get stuck. How embarrassing would that rescue be? Luckily I was able to extricate myself each time. Isn't is great when you're thankful for the mud only being a foot deep?

    So the bushwhack continued. After a few hundred yards I became concerned that my information on the location of the Flume Knob trail was bad. I continued on, zig-zagged back and forth a bit, looked all over but could not locate the trail. It was definitely not where I thought it would be. Having doped out the hike months ago my trip prep was not fresh in my mind. Simply put, I must have made a mistake. I referred to my GPS and saw I had crossed where I had drawn the trail four times already and obviously was nowhere near it. Screw it. I'll just bushwhack the rest of the way. It was only another 400' of vertical to climb and I could see the sky up ahead. Open forest. Easy going. No giant obstacles in view. Off I went. From that point it ended up being about a third of a mile of bushwhacking (~0.50 miles in total from the stream) to where I intersected the trail about a tenth of a mile from the summit. Relieved, I scampered up the trail and was soon on the summit. Very nice view. I took some pictures and hoofed it back downhill rather quickly. For some odd reason I felt very lonely standing up there. I hike solo all the time and never get that feeling. Why then? Perhaps the bushwhack put me that mood? Perhaps it was the tiny summit area where I felt like I was standing on a postage stamp? I don't know but I was itching to get moving. I descended via the marked trail to see what I missed by bushwhacking.

    Looking at my track when I got home I learned that I was still another 400-450 feet shy of the actual trail at my furthest point east during my bushwhack. I wouldn't have ever found it. I thought I was close to the trail so going another 150 yards past where I thought it was never entered my mind even though logic would dictate doing just that. But at that point I knew I had screwed up and wasn't confident in anything I thought I knew about the supposed trail. Lesson learned. The bushwhack was easier and faster than continuing the search for the trail anyway. Only a few scratches at punishment for poor prep but it was a fun bushwhack through open forest so happy ending. Makes for a better story anyway.

    Another nice day out hiking. Temps were chilly to start (low 50's) and it was windy. Loved every minute of it. Cool is better than hot any day. A very enjoyable day on (and off) the trails and in the mountains. After closing out these two lists I am again running low on challenges to work though I do have about 30-40 hikes on my to-do list which should keep me busy for the foreseeable future.

    Some pics from the day...

    Cairn atop boulder on Bear Den summit ridge...

    Looking up about 2500 feet at Whiteface from Bear Den...

    View from Bear Den looking south at Stewart and Kilburn...

    Looking southwest between Kilburn and Little Whiteface at the MacIntyres and Street & Nye off in the distance...

    Panorama of Little Whiteface and Whiteface...

    View from Flume Knob. Panorama looking northeast to east...

    View from Flume Knob. Panorama looking southeast to south. Stewart is high point to the right...

    An interesting look at Lookout Mountain from Flume Knob. I don't recall too many pictures of Lookout being posted on the forum...

    View east from Flume Knob. The Jay Range and the other Saddleback are the high points on the horizon just right of center...

    Descending the Flume Knob trail. Is this rope necessary? Trekking pole placed for scale...

    Update (8/21/19):

    I ended up with #2 on the ADK6PACK roster. I cannot imagine I'll ever get a lower number on any member roster in the future. For the record I'm am #1 on the HOJO Challenge roster but that was a gimmick hike I cooked up, that to the best of my knowledge only me and my buddy completed back in 2016, though I did invite others to attempt it.

    Also, my hike of Bear Den was NOT a dual challenge finish. It was a TRIPLE challenge finish. I just learned today of another challenge that I didn't even know I completed when I hiked Bear Den. Evidently, I finished the Tri-Lakes Trifecta. That new challenge requires you complete the Tupper Triad, Saranac Lake 6er, and Lake Placid 9er. Check, check, and check. I guess I'm a 3-6-9er as well. Can't foresee a way I'll ever equal or better a triple challenge finish in the future either. So I guess the Bear Den hike was way more unusual than I thought it would be.
    Last edited by Makwa; 08-21-2019, 09:24 PM.

  • #2
    Great post and pix! Slowly working through some of the other ADK challenges after 46 and S6 and firetowers. Definately looking forward to some of these treks, with boot or snowshoe. Think these around WF would be good winter climbs too? Meaning snowshoes, not crampons and ice picks?


    • Makwa
      Makwa commented
      Editing a comment
      Can't imagine any problems on either of these two trails in micros or snowshoes. Would be extra careful on the summits though. Not a lot of room atop Flume Knob and I wouldn't get too near the edge on the summit ridge of Bear Den. Otherwise there's nothing tricky whatsoever about either trail that I could see being problematic in winter.

  • #3
    very helpful! half day skiing WF, half day snowshoeing, no bugs, no humidity......bring it on!


    • #4
      I never paid attention to these peaks....until now. Thanks for posting Makwa. I like those new mountains for me to explore. Awesome pics!