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A Return to Cascade and Porter

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  • A Return to Cascade and Porter

    Cascade and Porter always get such short shrift on these pages and in most high peaks guides. Are they too "easy"? We felt we wanted to go back, having completed our 46 last August. Our first time up these peaks 8 years ago was in late September during a sleet storm, so we’d never seen the summit sights without inhaling snow. We had friends who wanted to go, so this was our chance.

    It was an escape from the confines of covid-19, and two of our four companions were new to the high peaks. We also knew that parking might be tough, so we had to leave Utica at 2:45 to get there by 6, and our friends were antsy at the trailhead so we started right away. Diaka was carrying some kind of purse over her arm rather than a backpack, and Paul carried--never used--his poles. We looked a little doubtful for people who had climbed high peaks before. As I recall, Cascade is the only climb that begins with a descent, and that hadn’t changed. But very soon we started that familiar uphill climb. It was very warm even that early, and I was sorry to leave behind that little trickle of a brook that we soon crossed, knowing we wouldn’t see any water ahead.

    Great to be out in the woods again! The path was so well-worn that in spots it was like cement. Lots of little white bunchberries became more and more frequent. No sleet this time--but we did have masks. That was a bizarre addition to the open air but we put them on when we met people. It was a tricky maneuver to put them on, with poles in my hands: that was new. A lone-hiking man in his sixties who said he was a first-timer followed us for a long while but eventually fell behind. The climb was pretty much as I remembered it, steady with several flat patches, never too difficult. The woods were lush and soothing. Within a couple relatively easy hours we were at the familiar sign pointing the way off right to Porter. All along we’d planned to hit Porter first, but suddenly Paul said no, we’d better get to Cascade’s summit before the crowd appeared. Within minutes the bare granite face appeared ahead in the bright light, and the same old excitement was there as we shinnied up easy scrambles. The approach to the summit is just about everything you want it to be: you rise up and up into the sky and then you’re above it all. We had indeed missed a tremendous view that first time around. There was Lake Placid and its ski runs, there were Marcy and Algonquin and Whiteface and the unmistakable contour of Big Slide. The sun was bright and hot and everything looked so clear, and we had reached the peak only a little after 9 a.m. Never had peaked so early before. Paul immediately spread out (no other word for it) and took his shoes off, settling in like he was going to stay all day at the beach. Amber, 14, a little apart from the rest of us, stared at the vastness of a 360 degree fantastic view. Diaka set down her “purse” and was equally agog. This made 27 for Henri and she was so very happy to be there; it was all over her face. We saw all the people who had passed us: two fathers with infants on their backs (one of the dads was doing the climb barefoot, and I wondered how the hot granite felt to him), two young guys we’d chatted with, one recovering from a torn knee tendon, and yes, the first-timer in his sixties. In fact, we met lots of people for whom this was the first time, which made the trek interesting to me; but hardly surprising, when Cascade is advertised as the “starter peak.” Paul and I were proud to be wearing our 46er patches but to the newbies who met us, they meant nothing. Once or twice were they remarked upon. Everything’s relative; our sweat was just like theirs. We ate lunch and my seltzer and crackers and cheese tasted like a gourmet’s choice as it always does on a summit.

    Paul wanted to stay forever, and I couldn’t blame him, since everything looked breathtaking and the weather so warm. But the heat grew steady on that granite, and after a bit I had to head back to the trees. Waited at the turnoff for the others but they were taking so long that I thought I’d move on into the col, since I could trot along at my own pace. Eventually the others caught up and the 0.7 mile went by pretty fast until we found ourselves at the huge twin boulders where we’d gotten “lost” the last time. Even so, it would’ve taken us a while to figure out the trail except for some hikers who pointed out that the way was in-between.

    My memory of Porter was that there was no summit sign but I did recall a sign pointing the way off to the other approaching trail; but the sign wasn’t there eight years later. We actually bypassed the summit, not quite recognizing it, till we started descending and caught our mistake. The wide-open granite clearing opened onto a great view back to Cascade’s top. More and more people joined us at the peak. One woman was justly proud that this was her first high peak, and I tried to tell her that, from here, nabbing Cascade was cake; but I don’t know if I convinced her. Jonathan wound up meeting someone he knew on both peaks, which was an event in itself. Again, Paul spread out as though he were at the beach, and was quite happy with a melted Snickers bar. It was then, I think, that Henri (now a 28er) and Diaka (now a 2er) began a conversation which wouldn’t let up till we were back at the parking lot. In fact, on the return they were so busy talking that they took wrong turns twice. Some of us were ahead, some behind. At one stop, Henri realized she’d left her hiking poles at the previous stop, and sent daughter Amber to get them (Amber missed them and retreated all the way to Cascade summit but eventually recovered them—poor girl—but she is young and fit and made it back really fast). Our group of six kind of split the way it often happens on the way back down. And as always, the trip down seemed to go on and on, the descent always murder on my knees. And as before, you could hear the traffic on the road long before you came to the end of the trail.

    But since we had newbies with us, we had to go the whole nine yards, so we stopped at The Mountaineer where they got their patches (and where Amber and Diaka—our first-timers--fell fast asleep in the bookshop chairs), then to The 46 café in Keene which served a great, safe meal outside. Did beer ever taste so great, or go down so easily? And finally dessert at the Noonmark for ice cream. Hard not to be able to go inside to sit at that familiar counter, but I got over that by buying a pie to take home.

    Cascade and Porter were worth the re-visit. Final count: Henri at 28, Amber and Diaka at 2, Jonathan at 5, and Paul and I at 48 (hmm maybe 49 if you count our reclimbing Giant to reach Rocky Peak Ridge). And Tom, who had NOT hiked with us, but stayed in the car reading and sleeping, was at 0. Everyone was numerically content.

    "A full appreciation of mountains is not to be experienced by merely looking; that is why men climb." -Francis S. Smythe, British mountaineer

  • #2
    Very nice report. I haven't been there in a while. I remember the boulders! My first visit was immediately after 9/11, and the sky was REALLY clear. There were little flags all over the summit area.

    I hesitate to say this, but group separation accounts for something like 80% of SAR events...
    Tom Rankin - 5444W "In the depths of Summer, I finally learned that there lay within me an invincible Winter"

    Proud Member #0003 of ADKHP Foundation
    Volunteer Balsam Lake Mountain
    Past President Catskill 3500 Club
    CEO Views And Brews!


    • #3
      Nice report. No lack of love for C&P, just for the morons who take them too lightly or treat their ascents like a carnival. Hopefully the new trails will change both.


      • #4
        Nice report, Very pleasant to read. Sounds like you guys had a great time. Were the trail conditions wet or dry today?
        You can't buy this stuff, you have to live it.


        • #5
          Dry, very dry. But that was July 10th.

          "A full appreciation of mountains is not to be experienced by merely looking; that is why men climb." -Francis S. Smythe, British mountaineer


          • #6
            I just felt like I redid Cascade and Porter. Very well written TR. Cascade and Porter were numbers 1 and 2 for me. Cascade was June 11, 2010, if memory serves me correctly. It would turn into a cold, rainy summit that day, but I couldn’t forget the excitement I felt as I stared at the amazing views on the summit. The clouds were dark and low, but not low enough to block out the Great Range and the other High Peaks. I wore my rain gear as heavens opened up a little while later, but I didn’t mind. I was hooked. Now, ten years later, I’m still going out there, but I only managed 15 High Peaks. Other projects caught my attention. The Fire Towers. Tupper lake
            Triad. Saranac 6. I usually stay focused, but in the Adirondacks you look around and see far out and wonder, what’s that place. I’ve hunted waterfalls and forest ponds. It’s been a great adventure. Wouldn’t trade that time for anything. If I never bag the 46, I’ll still be trolling the Adirondacks. There’s so much to do and so much to see. A lifetimes worth. Carry on, brothers and sisters.
            Nothing like being in the woods.



            • Old Hunter
              Old Hunter commented
              Editing a comment
              Boy I like reading that. No one needs to bag peaks to enjoy the ADKs.