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Skylight and Two Nights Under the Stars (7/19-7/21)

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  • Skylight and Two Nights Under the Stars (7/19-7/21)

    Coming off our successful camp and hike of Mount Marcy we geared up for another backcountry escapade and planned to camp at the Flowed Lands for two nights with a climb of Skylight and Gray sandwiched in between.

    We each learned a bit about backpacking from our Marcy trip and I made some improvements to our setup. Such as, a tent that was 2.5 lbs lighter and a much lighter day pack that rolls up into the size of a ball for Pokey Moonshine.

    We arrived at Upper Works on Sunday afternoon 7/19 (which happened to be the day after my birthday). This was our first time starting at the trailhead. We briefly checked out some of the ruins and historical placards before strapping on our packs and lacing up our shoes.

    The first mile and a half of the Calamity Brook Trail is nice and maintained. There's a few views through the trees and the pulchritudinous stream adds to the scenery. It was hot and we were gulping down a lot of water. We stopped at one of the campsites by the brook and filtered water.

    A Father and Son passed us on their way out and informed us they had just spent the past four nights at Flowed Lands and the best water source was the Herbert Brook. We thanked them for the information and carried on our way.

    A few miles later, we arrived at the Henderson Memorial. It was very cool to finally see this thing in person. We took a break and some pictures and then hiked the final half mile to the Flowed Lands.

    Once we arrived, we checked out the Calamity Lean-to. It was kinda gross and there was cooking grease on the floor.

    "We're definitely sleeping in the tent."

    We set up camp at a site right next to the water with a lovely view of Mount Colden in the near distance. Once everything was good to go, Pokey and I walked to the Herbert Brook to filter water for the following day.

    DEC announced last year that they discovered trout had returned to the once barren Lake Colden area. We saw confirmation of this as we filtered water. There were a few small trout swimming in the pool right below the bridge.

    Arriving back at our site, we had dinner as a group of loud and excitable Boy Scouts set up a massive base camp at a nearby site. A thunder shower rolled in as we finished up dinner. We ran and hopped in our tent.

    I dealt a few rounds of poker before teaching Pokey how to play Blackjack. She has taken a liking to playing cards as a form of campsite entertainment.

    A few storms passed throughout the night. I was roused by sound of wind swirling through the mountains. I awoke at 6 AM on Monday (7/20) and was dismayed to find that it was still raining.

    I have no interest in starting a long hike covered in plastic and getting wet in hot weather. So, I laid back down until the storm passed. This delayed our start by almost three hours.

    It was going for 9:30 AM when we began our walk. In no time, we were at the Lake Colden Dam. We stopped very briefly to check it and the surrounding views out.

    The trek up along the Opalescent was fairly easy and ever so scenic with it's waterfalls and deep gorges.

    We cruised along the Opalescent stretch, passing the the Uphill Lean-to en route to the trail junction near the Feldspar Brook. We took a decent break at the junction. At this point, I was fairly confident that we would be able to climb both Skylight and Gray. Though I was aware from my maps that the climb was about to pick up...

    So... Yeah, it got steep really quick. There was no flats or points of relief. Long stretches of trail were covered in deep mud and even deeper pools of standing water. I thought the conditions "made the Sewards seem like a desert."

    Needless to say, the following mile / mile & half to Lake Tear crippled our pace. I realized that we may be looking at a one peak day instead of two. I explained this to Pokey and she was very understanding.

    After an eternity, we finally arrived at Lake Tear of the Clouds. We rested and checked out the fascinating spiral lichen formations.

    The walk around the lake was a relief compared to the trail behind us. Arriving at Four Corners, we took another brief break before heading to Skylight.

    The half mile up Skylight isn't bad at all. Just need to keep an eye out for some loose rocks on the trail. About halfway up, the wind began picking up - no complaints here.

    We broke out into the open and entered a marvelous alpine meadow of small flowers, grasses & vegetation.

    We followed the cairns to the summit and were greeted with views in all directions and howling wind.

    "Congratulations on number 37," I shouted, "Is it number 37? You've climbed so many that I'm beginning to lose count!"

    "Yes," replied Pokey, "Thank you!"

    We were extremely happy to be standing on top of New York's fourth highest peak and equally dazzled by the splendiferous

    We agreed that it would be better to hang here for a bit and "save Gray for another day."

    We hung out until Pokey remarked that she was cold from the wind and then began our descent.

    We ran into a young man at Four Corners who said he and his friends were looking to climb Marcy. It was 4 PM. I told him that "it gets late early in the mountains and you guys may be pushing it."

    He said they had no flashlights and "Screw it, I'm turning around."

    He walked with us and said they had taken the "scenic route and stopped to check out everything"
    along the way.

    After 2/10 of a mile, we ran into his two friends. One confirmed that they had flashlights and wanted to know their options. From talking to them, I deduced that they had started at South Meadows, hiked through Avalanche Pass, around Lake Colden and then up the route we had taken. I stressed to them, if they were to turn around to not go back the way that they had came.

    I told them to take the trail towards Lake Arnold/Marcy Dam. If they proceeded to Marcy, they had a very steep mile ahead of them and that they would want to "take the Van Hoevenberg trail down towards Marcy Dam and the ADK Loj. Once you get to the dam, you can hike out to South Meadow."

    "Wait there's another trail to Marcy!?!" shouted one of the young men.

    "Yeah, there's a few..." I knew that I didn't have to ask if they had a map...

    They decided to go for Marcy and thanked me for the info.

    We continued on and took one last quick look to admire Lake Tear and Mount Marcy before beginning the big descent.

    We arrived at a stream crossing where three men and a 12 year old boy were filtering water. I needed to do the same as I had already gulped down four liters and was still quite thirsty.

    One of the men was suffering from cramps, aches and pains and was in a stage of dehydration. Turns out, they were a part of the Boy Scout group camped next to us. They set out for Marcy at 10:30 AM and only got as far as Lake Tear before deciding to turn around. It seemed that they, like everyone else we had talked to throughout the day had their pace halted on the Feldspar Trail.

    We moved very well on our way down. In spite of less than ideal trail conditions we made it back to the Opalescent quickly and were
    able to knock the rest of the trail to Lake Colden Dam without issue.

    A number of people were eating dinner at the dam and we decided to do the same.

    We spoke with a guy from Vermont who was almost finished with a massive thru-hike that he concocted. I was very impressed with the story of his weekend adventure.

    After dinner, we headed back to camp.

    Shortly after we arrived, Pokey asked "Did you hear that?"

    "No, what?"

    "I heard a really big splash. You didn't hear that?"

    "No, I didn't."

    We changed our clothes and congratulated eachother on another very successful High Peak hike. Then we hopped in the tent for some more Poker and Blackjack before bed.

    I had been asleep for an hour. I woke up and was chilly. So I crawled inside my sleeping bag. A few moments later I heard an incredibly loud "SPA - LOOOOOOSH" in the water.

    "It must be a moose," I thought, "I bet that's what Pokey heard earlier."

    Then, I drifted off.

    We slept in on Tuesday (much needed) and began breaking camp soon after arising. We enjoyed one last look at Colden and the Flowed Lands before putting on our heavy packs and making the trek towards Upper Works.

    We were tired, but able to move at a brisk pace. We made a few quick stops along the way...
    But, we were determined to get back to the car so we could "go get some real food!"

    Arriving at the register, I checked ourselves out and we exchanged high fives. We gulped down orange sodas that I stashed in the car. Fired up the engine, blasted the air conditioner and set off for the Mountaineer to drop off the bear can.

    Our next target was the most popular spot in Keene - Stewart's - where we feasted on hamburgers and loaded hot dogs.
    Pokey even got herself a big cup of ice cream.

    Considering this was only our second High Peak backpack, we're both extremely pleased with how everything turned out.
    There were so many things to check out and views to appreciate. We had a great time in the woods.
    Skylight is a Star!


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  • #2
    Congrats to you both on #37! You're down to single digits left. Sounds like a great trip even though you didn't get Gray too.

    Happy Belated Birthday!

    And about once a month I have to look up a word I'm unfamiliar with. I just used my July feel-stupid-moment on pulchritudinous.


    • Learning The Trails
      Learning The Trails commented
      Editing a comment
      Thanks very much Makwa. It really was a great trip and not getting over to Gray didn't hinder that. I'm 100% sure that if we had started when planned that we would've gotten it done. Save Gray for another day and that's okay.
      Single digits left... But, it's definitely become tougher to plan them as we get closer and closer.

      And, I totally stole pulchritudinous from one of those weird words of the day videos lol.

  • #3
    Congratulations-that was fun to read. I recall jogging up Skylight now I'll never summit it again so you really brought back some nice memories of the interior. Thanks.
    What mtns do you have remaining?


    • Learning The Trails
      Learning The Trails commented
      Editing a comment
      We have the Santas, Allen, Gray, C/R and HaBa left.

    • Old Hunter
      Old Hunter commented
      Editing a comment
      I look forward to reading your trip reports.

  • #4
    Great TR and congratulations. Always great to see families hiking together. BTW there are no known moose around lake Colden. My guess is either beaver, they whack their tales making them sound a lot bigger than they are to fend off predators or a good chance it was a bear.
    "Climbing is about freedom. There's no prize money; there are no gold medals. The mountains are all about going there to do what you want to do. That's why I'll never tell anyone else how to climb. All I can say is, This is how I prefer to do it."
    Ed Viesturs


    • Yury
      Yury commented
      Editing a comment
      ADKJack, do you imply that it was a bear swimming in the lake?
      BTW, what has happened to a beaver near the Loj?
      Has it migrated to the Lake Colden?

    • Learning The Trails
      Learning The Trails commented
      Editing a comment
      Thank you.

      I'm quite familiar with the sounds that beavers make. This wasn't a beaver. It was too big.

      I'm sticking with the assumption that it was a moose but am aware that it could've been a deer or bear.

  • #5
    When I was first hiking with my son and he was young I made sure to keep it fun and protect him from death marches. Skipping Gray was a good idea. Sometimes there are disappointments out on the trail and after I would explain a situation to him - he would always try to comfort me - that was the odd thing. Like he wanted me to know that I was a good dad even though a situation did not work out. That was really cool.
    Leave No Trace!


    • Learning The Trails
      Learning The Trails commented
      Editing a comment
      Thanks Bunchberry.
      Had we started earlier with cooperative weather around 630-7 AM... No problem going to Gray. The conditions were rough. There was no need to turn this into a death march. I know that I'd much rather prefer eating dinner at the dam rather than somewhere higher in elevation sitting next to a foot of standing water and mud and walking to our site with lamps on.

      This is supposed to be fun. If it means retracing our steps and waiting a little longer... So be it.

  • #6
    Nice write up on a good trip
    Catskills: 39/39, 35W/35W
    ADK: 46/46


    • #7
      Yeah, I had to look up "pulchritudinous" as well. IMO, there is no need for such a word to even exist when splendid, beautiful, and gorgeous are already a part of the lexicon, lol. If emphasis is needed, putting "absolutely" before any of those words gets the job done!

      Last fall I was very tempted to stay at that site right next to the water at Flowed Lands; a very nice site, but I didn't want to filter stagnant water, so I ambled up the trail a bit and camped at the site just past Herbert Brook. There was a great view of Colden (below) from the bank of the Opalescent while filtering.

      Congrats on your hike! Since it hasn't been mentioned recently by you, I am assuming your health issues are behind you. Always a good thing!

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      • Learning The Trails
        Learning The Trails commented
        Editing a comment
        I use "splendid, gorgeous and beautiful way too much in my TR's. It was time to work in some word of the week inspiration from Broken Matt Hardy lol.
        Thank you. I'm good.

      • MTVhike
        MTVhike commented
        Editing a comment
        One of the nice (and confusing) things about the English language is that there are many almost-synonyms. "pulchritudinous" is one.

      • Biji
        Biji commented
        Editing a comment
        I have long thought “pulchritudinous” had connotations leaning less toward sublime beauty than R. Crumb’s vision of voluptuousness.

    • #8
      How long was round trip?