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The Manscape on the Landscape -- St. Regis Mountain -- 11/30/19

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  • The Manscape on the Landscape -- St. Regis Mountain -- 11/30/19

    The Rumble in the Jungle. Catholics vs Convicts. Miracle on Ice. Every classic sporting event worth its salt has a memorable nickname. My hike of St. Regis Mountain this past weekend was no exception. Though this mountain probably isn't considered a classic Adirondack hike on this day it was. So the nickname was stumbled upon the day before Thanksgiving. My buddy FWCIII (aka The Walking Fred) was excited to be coming off an 18-month hiking layoff and to get out on the trails with me later that week. I asked if he was all set. He responded by noting he was almost ready for the hike and for Thanksgiving but that he just needed to run out for some grooming items. I said, "Grooming items?! Do you plan on doing some manscaping atop St. Regis Mountain on Saturday?" His witty rejoinder was, "Yes... manscaping... The Manscape on the Landscape." And so the moniker was born. Only later did I learn that in his world "grooming items" means last minute items to pick up for the holiday. As the day turned out there was no manscaping on the St. Regis summit but the landscape we passed through was perhaps the prettiest we've seen on a day out hiking and thus "The Manscape on the Landscape" will forever be cemented in our memories. BTW... this is not without precedent for us. Search the forum for "Richard Kind's Homunculus" and see for yourself.

    So it was a cold and clear Saturday. On the drive in we were treated to some incredible views along Route 73 (sidenote: very small crowds at all of the trailheads and the 20 or so cars at the Ausable Club lots at 8:15 a.m. were more than the rest of the parking areas along Route 73 combined) and noticed that there were areas where the air was twinkling. Beautiful shades and light off in the distance as we drove. Felt rather unusual compared to other trips down the Route 73 corridor and you couldn't take your eyes off of it. The High Peaks had some clouds around 4000' or so. The summits of Algonquin and Whiteface were partially obscured as views of them along the highway opened up.

    We arrived at Paul Smith's around 9:20 a.m. It was a chilly 12* and the skies were a piercing blue. About as blue as blue can get. And no clouds. Those stayed over by the High Peaks and we got a sea of blue where we were. It was just a sharp, clear day. Once on the trail the physical part of the climb was rather routine. Microspikes served us well for the conditions. There was just enough soft-ish ice under a dusting of snow that we didn't punch through to the ground below. It was a crunchy day while we were moving and dead silent the rest of the time. Only heard one bird and saw one chipmunk the whole time out. Very serene and peaceful. Surfaces were rather uneven as there just wasn't enough snow yet to fill in all the nooks and crannies. And there were a handful of spots where the trail had two or three inches of water pooled under leaves hidden by a very thin layer of ice atop it all. Luckily we recognized the traps before springing them and we worked around them. Just one boot entered water all day (without socks getting wet) and we had no slips or falls.

    The highlight of the day for us was the rime ice everywhere. Just beautiful. The shimmering bright white standing out against the piercing blue sky was almost surreal. Looked as if the backdrop to our surroundings was painted. On the last 500' vertical of the climb we stopped often to marvel at the effect. Unfortunately, our pictures (see below) do not do it justice but please take my word that it was amazing. It was just the right light at just the right time of day in just the right conditions. Absolutely stunning. And just like that it was gone. Fleeting. Ephemeral. It was not present on our descent just about an hour or so later though the rime ice did hang around all day in the chilly temps that never got above 16*.

    Once on the summit we were treated to rime ice decorating everything in sight as well. Just spectacular views. Like everything had been sprayed with flocking. We met a couple who were very excited to be experiencing the view as they had never before been on a summit where a fire tower was covered in rime ice. It was nice to see that childlike wonder still left in people. I had seen plenty of towers adorned this way in the past but had never been in the cab of one until yesterday. Taking pictures through the windows without ruining the delicate wonder of nature for the next person to enjoy was a bit of a challenge but worth it so that others might experience the unique view as well.

    The Walking Fred stayed at ground level enjoying the scenery. He met some folks from his hometown and greeted everybody else coming to summit like an aging prize fighter working the floor at a supper club. He was the Jack Dempsey of the St. Regis summit. The Walking Fred also has an active imagination. His stories of the Adirondack Wood Devil made for some laughs on the ascent. Maybe he will share some of his humorous musings on this cryptid creature.

    After about forty minutes we bade farewell to the summit though we could have sat there all day admiring the view. The descent was uneventful. We passed just a few groups ascending including one who must have been on a sunset hike given their timing. I was "that guy" and asked if they had headlamps just to make sure. They did and seemed in good spirits. At one point The Walking Fred was maybe 150 feet ahead of me and I could hear him chatting up a group of five coming from the opposite direction. By time I reached them he was gone. In a very serious tone I asked the group, "Was that guy bothering you? He's been creeping out all of the other hikers." They quickly caught onto the joke and politely chuckled as we passed each other.

    And that's it. St Regis is a very nice hike that comes in at just over 7.0 miles with around 1800-1900 feet of cumulative elevation gain. Nothing too tricky along along the way. Just a pleasant, moderate hike to a summit with a great view. Saturday was my fourth time up there. Once in each season now though this "fall" hike was in winter conditions. For The Walking Fred it was his first peak of the Saranac 6 and his 8th fire tower.

    After cleaning up we rolled into Lake Placid for an early dinner at Player's Sports Bar & Grill on Main Street. The food was excellent and we watched some college football while chowing down. I recommend it if you are in town.

    Looks like winter has taken a foothold now. Probably has for a few weeks. As I'm writing this the calendar has turned to December and the official winter hiking season is just three weeks away. Can't wait to get back out there soon.

    Pictures from the day... (or view them here if you can't see them below... )

    The winter wonderland encountered along the way...

    St. Regis fire tower from a few angles...

    View toward the High Peaks through the ever-shrinking windows in the cab of the tower...

    Panorama of view toward the High Peaks...
    Last edited by Makwa; 12-01-2019, 04:41 PM.

  • #2
    Cool story, beautiful photos. Congratulations


    • #3
      I really enjoy good hiking stories, and being to St. Regis, it was easy to follow the tale. I wait for the day I can do a Winter hike. With the Winter gathering coming up, I’m excited with the thought of walking the snow cathedrals of a forest path. Seeing for myself the True Winter wonderland.
      Nothing like being in the woods.


      • #4
        Great little mountain for sure. I love that final stretch that goes around to the western side.


        • #5
          I was at my brother-in-law's house on Lake Clear for the week and part of the master plan for recreation and entertainment was to hit St Regis around 8:00 am on Saturday. However, I caught a cold from my niece's son a few days prior and when it came time to leave I went back to bed instead. Otherwise our paths would have crossed.
          Me - 41/46
          Mrs - 17/46

          A trail without mud is like a day without sunshine.


          • Makwa
            Makwa commented
            Editing a comment
            Darn. Would have been nice to meet you. Hope you're feeling better.

        • #6
          Nice TR again.
          Love me some St. Reeg. I lined it up for my daughter's 6er finish because I predicted she'd love it's big summit, view and tower.

          I've been so busy lately, I'm chomping at the bit to get out and play in the snow.


          • Makwa
            Makwa commented
            Editing a comment

            St. Regis has really grown on me and become one of my favorite hikes of a mountain that size. First time I was up there 5 or 6 years ago the tower was in disrepair and closed. Thought the view was OK from ground level but wasn't super impressed. The next time I went it was winter and I broke trail the entire way in snow over my knees. I learned every inch of the trail that day given how slow I was moving. The tower had been restored/reopened but there wasn't any point in climbing it as the summit was socked in. A few months later I visited again and finally got the opportunity to see the 360* view and was blown away. And then this past Saturday was one of the prettiest days I've ever been out hiking. St. Regis keeps getting better every time I go though I'm not sure how it can top itself in the future.

          • Learning The Trails
            Learning The Trails commented
            Editing a comment
            Maybe you'll see an eagle or something next time.

            St. Reeg was my 2nd 6er (Amp was 1).
            I did it next because it was an opportunity similar to yours. A chance to catch up with a buddy.

            The reviews that I had read made it sound meh. We were blown away.

            In regards to small-midsize peaks, Amp is Amp. Tough to beat.
            But, St. Regis is definitely in the conversation IMO.

          • Makwa
            Makwa commented
            Editing a comment
            Ampersand is certainly on the short list. I'd throw Hopkins, Mt VanHo, Vanderwhacker, and Poke-O-Moon on there as well. Maybe even Mt Jo. And a few around Lake Gorge with expansive views like Cat or the Lower Tongue might fit in as well. There's a pretty good list out there that not too many people know about that is comprised of mountains like this... the ADK29er...

            To be clear we're excluding ones like Hurricane, Blue, Adams, and others in the 3500'+ range, right?

        • #7

          Wonderful narrative and fantastic photos! "It was a crunchy day while we were moving and dead silent the rest of the time." (So descriptive and instantly recognizable!)
          A very special that won't soon be forgotten. As the saying goes, "timing is everything in life". Thanks for sharing your good fortune and excellent writing!


          • Makwa
            Makwa commented
            Editing a comment
            Thanks Pete!