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Sun Dog & Pokey Moonshine Face the Dismal Wilderness

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  • Sun Dog & Pokey Moonshine Face the Dismal Wilderness

    Sun Dog & Pokey Moonshine Face the Dismal Wilderness - Panther & Couchsachraga

    We're getting down to the nitty gritty in our pursuit of the 46.
    With only a few peaks left on the list... It was time to Face the Music and take a shot at the Santanoni's. I wanted to make this hike another backpacking excursion but didn't want to hike all the way into Bradley Pond. The opportunity to hike the entire range (Panther, Couchsachraga and Santanoni) as a loop seemed most appealing.
    FlyFishingandBeer gave me some solid info on areas where we could set up a camp (following NYS regulations, of course). So, I'd like to thank him for the help. Most excellent dude!


    We arrived at the Bradley Pond/Santanoni Trailhead a little later than planned on Sunday afternoon. We hitched up our packs and walked the old road into the forest. The road is an easy approach and has a few small scenic spots. In short time, we were at the turnoff for the Santanoni's and Bradley Pond. A sign noted that trail work is being conducted and I must admit that the work from the turn to just past the bridge is remarkable. Also to note, the bridge itself is also quite impressive.

    We found a perfect clearing in the woods and set up camp. We went back to the stream to filter water for the following day's endeavor before retreating to the tent for a few games of cards before bed.


    We awoke after a chilly night's sleep and got our things together. We warmed up quickly after beginning our trek and ditched our sweatshirts within a matter of minutes. The crew that has been working on the Bradley Pond Trail clearly haven't worked their way too far into the woods as the trail quickly turned into a stream. And, when I say stream... I mean it. The brook flows right onto the path.

    It was a very wet but quick walk to the Panther Herd Path. We took a short break in the vicinity of Bradley Pond before beginning our climb.
    The Panther Path is very rugged and also follows a stream. Let's just say there was no way of keeping our feet dry on this hike. The trail is steep and it slowed me down quite a bit. Pokey often led us on the ascent. Every now and then, we'd get a view of the summit of Panther.

    "Even though we keep walking towards it... It keeps looking like it's further away than the last time we saw it!" I said.

    Despite this illusion, we tried to keep positive. We just watched the newest Bill and Ted movie (Face the Music) a few days prior and the films were fresh on our minds. Harkening back to the series second installment (Bogus Journey), we'd often break out singing it's theme God Gave Rock and Roll To You II. I used my trekking pole to mimic a microphone.

    We stopped every now and then to turn around and enjoy the views from various points on the trail. One spot gave us a good view of the Mitchell Stone quarry and the sliced up mountainside.

    "I think I see Giant," Pokey said.

    "That's Algonquin," I replied.

    "Oh, it looks super cool from here!"

    We carried onward up the rough trail. The occasional sighting of Panther's summit continued to play mind games with me.

    Finally, we arrived at Harold Square. Pokey wanted to take a quick break before heading off to Panther. The climb from Harold Square to Panther involves quite a bit of deep mud and some fun little scrambles. Just before the summit, we hit open rock which offered some great views. Just past the open rock we hit the summit in a small patch of trees. We congratulated each other and took a few quick pictures before heading back to the open rock to have lunch and relax for a little bit.

    I really love the Seward Range and Panther provides a great view of it's four peaks. Needless to say, I was more than happy with the vista. Excellent!

    We also could see our next destination. Pokey's 46er correspondent muddybottom told her that Couchsachraga is a funny peak because it has "ears."

    Couchie has ears alright... They look like goblin ears. Bogus!

    After our break, we made our way back down the scrambles and through the deep mud. We passed through Harold Square and were at Times Square within an instant.

    We descended from there on the Couch herd path. We were feeling good and moving well despite the thick mud. The final drop into the col is Steep! Gotta be careful with wet & muddy shoes.
    Soon, we were at the infamous bog.

    "Who was the idiot that decided the trail should go through a bog!?!" shouted Pokey.

    I could only laugh. Excellent!

    Pokey did a nice job of traversing the bog. This thing has a nasty reputation and I can attest there were spots that I'd check with my trekking poles and they sank 2-3' deep... I'm not sure which bog is worse: Couchie's or Cliffs... They're both nasty.

    After the bog, the trail snaked, slithered, zigged and zagged en route to the summit of the Goblin. The final push involved some scrambles. Pokey climbed the final rock to the summit without hesitation or issue. I lost my grip and slid down the rock. I fared much better on my second attempt and was greeted with a "Welcome to Couchsachraga!" from Pokey.

    "Congratulations on High Peak number 42," I replied, "Or, is this Low Peak number one?"

    She laughed. Excellent!

    There isn't much to see at the summit of Couchsachraga. So, we laid down on the smooth rock and watched the clouds. After a few minutes of lounging, I heard some noises. It was another hiker. He had bushwhacked his way up the peak from the Cold River area!

    He was a friendly fellow. This was his 44th High Peak and what a way to get there! We told him it was our 42nd. He was very impressed that Pokey had climbed so many. Being a father of a six year old girl, he asked me quite a few questions about climbing the High Peaks with a kid. I happily gave him a condensed version of things and encouraged him to get her up to the 'Dacks.

    "Her middle name is Marcy. She really wants to climb Marcy," he said.

    "No reason you couldn't set up a camp at Marcy Dam & hike it with her," I replied.

    He agreed.

    I took a few pictures for him and we all parted ways. He dipped back into the krummholz and we followed the trail.

    We were doing well as we made our way back down to the bog. A second crossing of the muddy mess posed no issues and we began our climb back toward Times Square.
    This is when things caught up to us. Our progression slowed and our legs grew tired with each step. Exhaustion was rearing it's head. I'd pull a trekking pole up near my mouth and sing "God gave rock and roll to you, gave rock and roll to you, gave rock and roll to everyone" to try and muster up some motivation for the both of us... It wasn't working... Bogus!

    Reality kicked in about 3/10th a mile from Times Square... It was time to Face the Music.

    "Our legs are toast. It's gonna get late fast. I think our best move is to skip Santanoni and go back down the way we came. It's more miles but I think we need to get down to flat ground. It's up to you," I said.

    "I think we should hike down too," Pokey replied.

    "That's fine by me."

    We stopped at Times Square and called my Dad to let him know that we changed our plans.

    "We're gonna skip Santanoni and begin heading down," I told him.

    "That sucks," He replied.

    "Yeah, it's been an excellent day but we've bonked out. It's the right call," I replied.

    He agreed.

    After the call, we began our long descent down the Panther Herd Path. Pokey handled the climb down in a most bodacious manner. I on the other hand, got dinged up quite a bit. I obtained some big scratches, opened up and expanded some cuts from our recent hikes and twisted my ankles a few times... Bogus.

    As we neared Bradley Pond, we turned on our headlamps. The Full Moon reflected off of the pond. It was a beautiful sight that provided a feeling of peacefulness and truly being disconnected from the outside world.

    We took a break at the Herd Path sign. Pokey and I had talked about a lot of personal things throughout the day. We ended up having another personal conversation - not only as we rested but as we we hiked onward towards our camp.

    I said, "I know that I'm not the best Dad in the world but..."

    Pokey cut me off with tears in her eyes, "You are the best Dad in the world!"

    I got choked up.

    "You said you want to be a 46er. You're almost there," I said, "You've taken on a challenge that most people will never face. The one thing I want you to learn from all of this is that you can achieve any goals that you set. You can do anything. I want you to do anything that you want. You came in here today, took on the hardest hike in the Adirondacks and kicked butt. I'm so proud of you."

    Soon, our conversations drifted back to quoting the Bill and Ted films as we slogged our way back to camp.

    "I'm Dennis Caleb McCoy."

    "Yeah, that's strange... That's a robot in Heck."

    (You have to see Bill & Ted Face the Music for that to make sense).

    Finally, we arrived at our campsite.

    "Hey, I led for the whole hike back!" exclaimed Pokey.

    "Dude, you led for most of the day! You did an amazing job," I replied, "I'm proud of you! You came here and took on the toughest hike in the Adirondacks. We walked away with two of the three toughest peaks. You totally kicked butt today."

    This was our longest day on any High Peaks hike. It clocked in around 14 hours. We tackled some incredibly rough terrain, gain and reached the most difficult peak on the list. Adding mileage to the hike was not on the agenda. But, we did that too because it was the right call.

    We felt accomplished as we settled down to play some rousing games of Blackjack before bed. We cracked jokes and laughed until it was time to put the deck away and drift off.



    I awoke to a rush of noise. I sat up from my sleeping bag.

    "Are you kidding me!?!" I shouted.

    Pokey sat up.

    "Is that?"

    "Yeah... Rain."

    It was downpouring. Bogus.

    "Screw this. We're waiting this out," I said as I laid back down.

    We both went back to sleep and awoke a few hours later... It was still downpouring.

    We sat in the tent and waited and waited for a break in the rain...

    "I can think of only a few things that are more bogus than breaking down camp in the rain," I said.

    Finally, there was a slight break in the storm and we were able to break camp in a light sprinkle. I decided that I didn't want to stick the wet tent into my backpack and chose to carry it in my hand on the way back to the trailhead.

    The walk back involved a few more spurts of rain. Neither of us cared. There were dry clothes and orange sodas waiting for us at the car. We exchanged high fives and Pokey signed us out when we got back.

    We were in good spirits. We faced the music and the Dismal Wilderness and walked away two peaks closer to our goal. The bogus little things that happened along the way didn't impede our most excellent adventure. Tackling an extremely tough hike felt good. The significant conversations that we had outweighed the hike itself.

    That's what it's all about...

    ​​​​​​High Peaks 41 & 42 are in our history books Dudes!

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  • #2
    Also... I fully blame the rain on our hike out day on bikerhiker ... The last two Summers, we were very fortunate to have no weather issues. This year, we dealt with all sorts of crazy weather that messed with our hikes in some fashion.

    Bikerhiker mentioned how he despises breaking camp in the rain in the comments of our last TR. So, the bad weather that we experienced on Tuesday falls solely on him. He jinxed us!!!!



    • #3
      I'm glad that spot worked out for you two, even if the full hike itself didn't. FWIW, you orphaned the right peak.
      My mind was wandering like the wild geese in the west.


      • Learning The Trails
        Learning The Trails commented
        Editing a comment
        Thanks and thanks again. I felt attempting the loop this way was the way to go.
        Orphaning Santa means a lot less mileage next time.

    • #4
      A most excellent report!
      If by chance some day you're not feeling well and you should remember some silly thing I've said or done and it brings back a smile to your face or a chuckle to your heart, then my purpose as your clown has been fulfilled ~ Red Skelton


    • #5
      DUDE AND DUDETTE!! I feel horrible.
      i totally deserve the anti-shout out, lol. I loved the whole trip report, you guys rocking out panther and especially couch...and then i get to the part where you hear that sound of mother nature crying on your tent when you awake in the morning. I jinxed you guys big time.
      Something i see you did that i learned after a soggy soaked through pack-out, always leave an extra clean dry change of clothes in your vehicle whether its a dayhike or backpacking trip.
      You guys are getting down to it, but you thinking yet about which one you cant wait to revisit first the soonest chance after?
      "...don't assume you can't do it...we all make mistakes and sometimes fail. Keep working and learning, and be committed to improving fitness, and there is no limit to what you can do." Joe Bogardus
      "I believe it is in our nature to explore, to reach out into the unknown. The only true failure would be not to explore at all." Ernest Shackleton


      • Learning The Trails
        Learning The Trails commented
        Editing a comment
        Haha. No worries! I seriously woke up, heard the rain and grunted "Biker Hikerrrrrrr!!!"

        I always leave an extra set or 2 of clothes in the car. I feel a little more human after a quick change.

        We always talk about which ones we'd like to revisit. We may do Cascade again this Fall (I have done it a few times).
        I know Big Slide, Marcy, and Gothics are on her list.

        I personally look forward to most of them again - though Cliff and Couchie are at the bottom of that list.

      • bikerhiker
        bikerhiker commented
        Editing a comment
        I think my favorite part of the 46 is doing them again, whether its a different route, different combo, whathaveyou, or even the same trail and same way, it always seems so much better the next time so far. Less researching and anxiety, more enjoying and seeing and doing. but yeah, probably except for c and c.

    • #6
      You guys are really rocking it! And the time with your daughter is priceless.

      Most excellent.


    • #7
      Great trip report. You & Pokey obviously learned the lesson Bill & Ted preached... "Be excellent to each other." Very heart-warming personal stuff you shared here.

      Can't wait to hear about the last four! Gonna knock 'em out this year?


      • Learning The Trails
        Learning The Trails commented
        Editing a comment
        Thanks Makwa!
        We'd love to... But, probably not as 3 of them are long days and the days are getting shorter and the nights are getting colder. Also, school starts soon. However, I said something similar last year around now... and we ended up getting 2 more peaks. So, we'll see!

    • #8
      Great job!!! Yes, rain on any backpacking trip sucks, but it's much more bearable when it happens on the way out. Happy to hear that you and Pokey are still trucking along! The back-climb from Couch is where I discovered "tractor gear" a while back. Also, going up and down the Panther Brook trail is no walk in the park. Boulders and more boulders. It was agony on trashed knees.

      I'm curious to know where you camped. I searched left and right several times while climbing the Bradley Pond trail, but didn't find anything legal via my probes into the woods. It seems like you found a spot not long after the bridge, and I do remember not looking all that closely within that particular area, I think I was farther up the trail. I ended up just trudging to Bradley Pond.


      • Learning The Trails
        Learning The Trails commented
        Editing a comment
        Thanks Dude! I'll msg you about the area.

    • #9
      Great report and sounds like a fun hike for you and Pokey. I too abandoned Santa on my first go at that range after camping out for two nights also. Santanoni via the express and loop back via Panther makes a nice day hike when you get the chance to go back. The couch is done, and that is what is really important!


      • Makwa
        Makwa commented
        Editing a comment
        Bailed on Santa too after bonking on Couchie. Had to for back for #45.

      • Learning The Trails
        Learning The Trails commented
        Editing a comment
        Thank mbowler! I agree getting Couch done was the biggest goal for the day... or was it the smallest? LOL.

        I am thinking doing Santa as just an out and back to save some miles and daylight.

        Makwa - definitely isn't uncommon for people to bonk after Couch. No shame in it either.