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Poker, The Lake Colden Bear and Mount Marcy: An ADK Adventure

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  • Poker, The Lake Colden Bear and Mount Marcy: An ADK Adventure

    With 35 High Peaks under our belts, it seemed like the time was right to go for the big one.
    And, why not mix it up a bit and add two nights of camping on to our big climb of Mount Marcy?

    We arrived at the HPIC on Sunday afternoon (7-5-20) and rented a bear can. The girl that checked us out told me "You should expect to have a bear encounter while camping at Marcy Dam."
    I thanked her for the info and stuffed the can full with our food and supplies.

    Then our shoes hit the trail. This was actually our first time approaching Marcy Dam from the Loj. We've used the Truck Trail for our approaches on all of our prior visits.
    It was a hot, muggy and sweaty walk. This was Pokey Moonshine's first experience carrying a pack with her sleeping bag, clothes, sleeping pad and other items in it.
    We arrived at the remains of the old dam and took a break before heading off to find a campsite.

    "I'm sorry if I was going too slow on the way here. It's really hot and my pack is heavy," Pokey said.

    "Dude, you did a great job! We made it here pretty quickly," I replied.

    We found a site on the East side of the Marcy Brook right next to the stream. As I was struggling to set up the rain-fly a thunderstorm rolled in. It began pouring as I snapped the hooks of the fly onto the tent. Once attached, we ran to the nearby lean-to for some cover. Once the storm passed, we went back to our tent to set up the sleeping pads and bags and get ready for dinner.

    Our main course was Omeals Pizza. Open the bag, add some water, throw in the activator and within seconds steam is pouring out of the bag and the pizza is cooking. Five minutes later, dinner is ready! This was our first time trying this type of backcountry cuisine. Pokey liked it... I thought it needed some salt and a lot of hot sauce.
    As we ate on the bank of the stream, I noticed a big cylindrical tube... It was maybe 50 yards away from our campsite.

    "That's a bear trap," I explained to Pokey, "They use them to catch bears and relocate them."

    After dinner a storm rolled in... Shortly after it passed, a bigger storm rolled in and dumped a lot of rain. We sat in the tent and I taught Pokey Moonshine how to play poker with a deck of cards that I threw in her pack last second. I'm glad I did that. It gave us something fun to do before bedtime.

    After Pokey went to bed, I hung outside the tent for a bit.

    I was standing just outside the door when I heard a noise. I turned right and the eyes of a bear reflected green in the light of my headlamp. He was 10' from our tent.
    I shouted "Get out of here!" and he ran of into the brush.
    Within five minutes, I heard the door of the bear trap slam shut. My adrenaline was running high and I shouted "No way!"

    The sound of the trap door slamming shut woke Pokey up briefly. She thought someone had "shot a gun." I assured her that it wasn't a gun and explained what happened.

    I immediately turned on my phone and somehow had two bars of service. I called DEC Ray Brook and reported to dispatch that their trap worked and there was a very angry, noisy bear inside of it. He thanked me and told me the Rangers stationed at Lake Colden would be by in the morning.

    I went to bed and got a pretty lousy night of sleep. I awoke several times to the sound of the bear pounding on the walls of the trap. We later learned that he was in fact the Lake Colden bear famous for his reputation of harassing careless hikers. I was the last person to see him alive in the wild.

    We arose Monday morning (7-6-20) to blue skies, birds chirping and a bear pounding on the wall of a trap. We quickly got our things together and began our hike towards New York State's highest point.

    It was a beautiful morning and it warmed up quickly. The trail was very wet and the ground humidity was palpable. Steam rose from sections of wet and muddy trail.

    We made pretty good time arriving at Indian Falls and took a nice break enjoying the beautiful vista of the MacIntyre's. We both splashed our faces with water and relaxed on the smooth rock. A helicopter flew by us... We knew where it was heading.

    A large family arrived and we ended up hiking with them for a bit before they kicked it into the next gear and flew ahead of us.

    The Van Hoevenberg trail to Marcy is interesting. It has a lot of steep sections but also offers long legs of flats.
    Flats are always appreciated.

    Soon, we were picking up some peeps outwards and a gentle refreshing breeze. We arrived at a small clearing that offered us a view of the prize: the summit cone of Mount Marcy dead ahead.
    We took a break at the clearing and had some snacks. I was ready to sit there for another five minutes. But, Pokey was determined and set off without saying a word to me. I gathered my things and followed after her.

    The final climb to Marcy's summit is a thrill. We broke out into the open and would stop every so often to enjoy the gorgeous views.
    Pokey continued to lead the climb to the summit. She was resolved to get there as fast as possible. Pokey thought that she had beaten me to it.
    I caught up to her and pointed out the big rock a little ways behind her.

    "This isn't the summit," I said, "It's right over there!"

    We then raced to the top and I congratulated her on #36 when we arrived.

    We marvelled at the incredible views. Marcy is certainly a special place.

    "I think this is the best one we've done so far," Pokey remarked.

    "I don't think that I can argue that," I replied.

    We roamed the open rock enjoying the fresh air and the vistas. I personally found great pleasure relaxing at the Western end of the summit enjoying the views of the Macs, Colden, Sewards, Santas and Skylight.

    We spoke with the Summit Steward Chuck for quite a while.

    "It's such a perfect day up here," Chuck said, "And, it's freaking dead!"

    "We're so used to hiking on off days and hitting less popular peaks that this seems busy to us," I replied with a laugh.

    Chuck informed us that the captured bear was being put down. This news bummed us out a bit. We had been hoping it would be relocated.

    We had time and weather in our favor. Pokey and I spent 2.5 hours at the top of New York State. By far, the most time that we've ever spent on a summit.
    I don't think that either of us wanted to leave. But, we knew we had too.

    As we departed, the bug came out in full force. We were swarmed by black flies, horse flies and a variety of biting insects (which oddly didn't include mosquitoes). Pokey donned her bug net as we made our descent.

    We took our time on the steep downhill sections. There's nothing technical about them but they do require careful steps. We picked up our pace on the flats and were excited about arriving at Indian Falls again. We plunked our muddy feet into it's cold water and relaxed before making the two mile trek back to our camp.

    We ate dinner (more Pizza!) as soon as we arrived back at Marcy Dam. Afterwards, we changed and settled down for another evening of Texas Hold Em and Five Card Draw.
    This was a fitting end to our long and adventurous day.

    We broke camp on Tuesday morning and walked back to the HPIC. We were letdown when we realized that the Hungry Hiker wasn't open. I had told Pokey that we would "buy one of everything!" So, we settled for lunch at Stewart's in Keene instead.

    A half hour later, we were home. I hopped online and my feed was full of news stories about the bear that was captured at Marcy Dam. This is when I learned that it was in fact the Lake Colden
    bear that I encountered moments before it's capture.

    It's unfortunate that careless hikers led to the bear's demise. It's not hard to properly prepare and store food in the backcountry.

    That said, we had a wonderful time camping and hiking Mount Marcy. It's certainly a treasure and was worth the wait.

    Poker, a bear and a mountain... It might sound like the Wild West. But, it was an Adirondack adventure.


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    No clue why the forum shrunk our pics...


    • #3
      Cool Report! I got my kids (ages, 8, 6 and almost 4) up Cascade/Porter last week. But 35 peaks? That's impressive! How old is Pokey now?
      “Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.” John Muir


      • Learning The Trails
        Learning The Trails commented
        Editing a comment
        *36 peaks now.

        Thank you. She's 9 (turns 10 in August). She climbed her first High Peak just after she turned 7. She really loves this climbing stuff.

        Congrats to your little ones on their first two!

    • #4
      Be very careful about /cooking/eating near your tent or a leanto.
      That said-Congratulations.
      Cool story


      • #5
        I have encountered a lot of bears in my travels but never spent the night sleeping with one... quite the story! Keep the reports coming on your last 10 peaks. I am looking forward to them.



      • #6
        Great story! 2.5 hours summit time (at literally the top of NYS) is amazing. Enjoy this journey with her, you will remember it forever.


        • Learning The Trails
          Learning The Trails commented
          Editing a comment
          Thanks! We were totally pleased to have gotten so much time up there!

      • #7
        Great report. So glad that you had a clear day on Marcy - what a treat!
        We don't stop playing because we get old; we get old because we stop playing ~ Satchel Paige


        • #8
          Great report, great pics. I love the look of the curvature of the earth in the one with you guys.

          So sad with the bear, Emm and Katie saw their first bear in the wild on our way up Haystack/McKenzie 2 weekends ago, a cub at a distance still thankfully scared of humans, and all i could think afterwards was about this adult bear being put down due to careless irresponsible campers in its own home. I just hope the cubs future is brighter.

          2.5 hrs at top is awesome, you guys were surely the highest people in the state for some time (not counting planes overhead or forest rangers being choppered in). Thats great by camping you guys were able to take your time and really enjoy it.

          Thanks for the omeals note, i havent heard of that and after checking them out will defnitely be incorporating them into our camping arsenal.

          you guys next camping at flowed lands/uphill/feldspar for the other far reaches after this camp and climb going so good?
          FLT steward


          • Learning The Trails
            Learning The Trails commented
            Editing a comment
            Thanks Biker Hiker.
            GoPro's give those landscape portraits the curvy look!
            We just spent the last 2 nights at Flowed Lands... TR will be up in the next few days.

        • #9
          Great story, Mr. Bear Whisperer! Can't wait to hear about your next bear encounter after Indian Pass and this one!


          • Learning The Trails
            Learning The Trails commented
            Editing a comment
            Thanks Eddie!
            I'd prefer to pass on any more close bear encounters for the time being lol.