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Cold-n-wet 8.9-11.19

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  • Cold-n-wet 8.9-11.19

    I'll try to be brief with the back story. Last year I decided to introduce my brother to the High Peaks. It was a rude introduction for him but we made a memory of a lifetime. Calamity brook in the dark to Flowed Lands for two nights and Skylight was quite the first high peak experience for a newbie hiker. As we were driving on the way to the Upper Works he had been recalling that his (at the time 12 year old) son said "Hey dad, maybe next time I can go with you." The words stung a bit for me when I realized I'd maybe missed an opportunity for them and with my daughters. That was the moment that led to this hike, this year. I resolved to bring my brother, nephew and my daughters for a backpacking trip in the high peaks.

    All summer long I've circled weekends and they've been then crossed off by other plans... until this weekend. The forecast looked do-able if a little cooler and with a 30% chance of rain here and there so we green lighted the trip and started making final arrangements. Friday morning my girls and I finished packing and headed out for supplies and to my brother's office to pick them up. My brother and I had a fun time teasing the kids about anticipating the true experience of an Adirondack Thunder Box between all of their excited chatter.

    We arrived to one of the last parking spots at the loj at around 2:30 and arranged the loads on packs. Our gear is a bit of a hodgepodge, many bungee cords were put into use to keep things from falling off during transport. The ranger at the sign in was quite specific about the bear canister and proper food care etc. which was a nice reminder of how careful we should be.

    We made great, steady progress along the Van Ho noting how much busier and less muddy it was than what my brother and I had experienced last year. I was semi-nervously noting the grey skies that looked maybe not completely ominous. We had been hoping to get up to Avalanche camps so the Marcy Dam lean-tos we were passing by were kind of a noted backup plan being discussed. We chatted up the ranger at Marcy Dam who again brought up the bear-food issue. No one liked the idea of having to back track but we all liked the idea of shortening up tomorrow to 6 plus miles so we carried on southward.

    The sprinkles started as we came to the first sign of the upper 3 lean tos so we peeled off and ran up the spur but found another group set up there with their smartly tarp-roofed kitchen/dining room. We backtracked to the trail and I ran up to find the next one. I found Marcy brook lean to empty, dropped my pack and headed back down to let them know. They all hustled up and we set about nesting and preparing dinner. In the meantime, we discovered that the toilet had walls and a roof which was a bit of a disappointment. I'd been building up the lore of the thunderbox for months.

    The sprinkles had stopped by the time food was ready so we all ate and then dried off and tucked in for the night. It was chilly for sure and we felt very happy to be under the roof of the lean-to as a storm rolled in. Through the night thunder clapped and waves of heavy rain pounded the roof.

    Saturday morning we set out with the goal of having enough dry stuff back at the lean to in case we got wet. Overcast skies greeted us as we navigated the awesome boulders and ladders of the "trail" along the western edge of Avalanche Lake. The effect was exactly as I had been hoping on the kids who were all in awe of the incredible surrounding scenery and fun, challenging terrain. Before long we were at the junction with the trail up Colden. They all knew that this would be the tough part of the day and so we paced ourselves as best we could. Up up and away!

    We filled waters at the spring before the beginning of the truly steep ascent and away we went. Ladders and scrambling!! Ladders, ladders and more ladders!! Holy cow we were all in a bit of awe of the number and length of ladders. Turning around to rest, the views back to flowed lands started to open up. Then Marshall and Cliff. The overcast skies and socked in peaks had given way to big patches of blue skies and sunshine.

    "What's that one?"
    "That's Calamity over there and the one with the tower is Adams. The shore of that swamp looking lake is where your dad and I stayed last year." I was in my absolute glory. And so on the familiar peaks begun to arrive on our horizons. We used Marshall as our altimeter, measuring our progress.

    Unfortunately as the McIntyre range started to come into full view, so too did the rain falling to the West of us. "OK, we gotta boogie, that rain is heading right for us!" The rain started pelting us before the sun was behind the clouds. Waves of rain started to hit us as we crossed the actual summit. My daughter snapped the shot of me at the little hump of rock in the trees (the true summit) and we moved on and started to get down and into the trees. We ran into a large group of young fellas and their chaperones that were cleverly hiding under a huge rock just below the summit.

    Mercifully the wind was much less windy on the north side of the mountain and rain petered out fairly quickly and had stopped by the time we were on the open summit of the North Peak. We snacked briefly and decided to make haste down and to the beautifully dry lean to.

    "Dad, Eric and Maya both have to go"
    "What number"
    (hand signal #2)
    "Can it wait for 20 minutes? I think there's a bathroom at the next trail junction"

    Up ahead, finally, some true Adirondack mud (12" deep and black") and a sign for a toilet. We explored further to find..."YES, that's it. Go make your mountain thunder!" No walls or roof on this one, truly a memory of a lifetime to be brought up again at holidays in perpetuity.

    We mucked our way to the junction with the Lake Arnold trail. This was truly the only section with mud similar to what we had experienced last year. We plucked our way down the rocky trail and got one more passing light shower. The kids started to get impatient so I told them they could go ahead up to the next trail junction (which showed on both of my maps as being 0.4 miles from the LM Porter Trail). I started to get nervous as too much time passed with no notice of a trail junction. The kids had not been given a time limit on how long they could run ahead. Now this seemed like a huge mistake. I started to question myself and thought "Are we where I think we are?"

    Is there just no sign there? Did I just miss the sign?

    Thankfully the kids had stopped a bit ahead. We kept on down the trail together again and eventually the rain started back up, only this time it quickly went from showers to a heavy downpour and then small hail. Holy moly we were getting pounded. We all knew we were close so I made the call to run with the kids to the lean to. We arrived to find our friendly ranger sheltering at the lean-to with a group of 4 hikers.

    I dropped my pack and went back to make sure my brother was OK and walked with him back to the shelter. Soon enough the rain died down and our "guests" went on their way. My other 4 companions changed into dry clothes and got clean feet. I made water and food around the corner in the kitchen only to come back and find a nice young couple having a snack sitting on the edge of the lean to.
    I sat there and thought for a moment but decided to say something.

    "I'm sorry, I don't mean to be rude but we've all gone to great effort to keep food out of the lean to because we've been asked to for the bears. I just made food for my family in the rain and I'm about to ask them to eat in the rain. You're welcome to stay, just…"

    They just smiled looked at each other said that they had stopped because they were hungry, packed up and left. I still don't know if it was the right thing to do or what. Trying to follow the rules-- am I being rude? Anyway...

    Back to sleep and woke up at 4. Note to self, need better pillow setup for camping. Day 3 was pretty uneventful. We felt like grizzled back woods veterans as we passed by the fresh, clean faces of folks heading in.
    I could tell that my brother and all three kids had the glow of having done something a bit extraordinary. My 10 year old teased me a bit “Hey dad, I’m not sure I should tell you this but I actually had fun.” The ride home was spent savoring the moment and dreaming of where we might go next summer.
    28/46, 70/115

  • #2
    Haven't been on the boards in forever and just happened to pop in. Enjoyed the write-up.