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Morgan v. Morgan

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  • Morgan v. Morgan

    It's been over 3 years since I took my daughter Morgan up Whiteface and Esther, her first high peaks. A lot of things have happened in the intervening time, but hiking together wasn't one of them. Her mom and I got divorced, I've moved about 4 times, started and quit smoking multiple times, and I've converted hundreds of McDonald's cheeseburgers into several inches of waistline. The definition of "normal" has changed considerably in the last 3 years. I've been getting back into shape, but I don't think anything too strenuous or far afield should be on the menu quite yet. With that in mind, Morgan and I committed to hiking somewhere this past weekend, and we dug out some maps and figured out where we would go. Once she learned of the existence of Morgan Mountain, as well as it's placement on the highest hundred list, Morgan became our primary objective. Our time window was from about 2PM Saturday until Sunday evening, and this needed to include driving from and back to Rochester. We left a few fire tower options on the table for Sunday as well, but we thought we'd play that by ear.

    We left the house at 2 PM, dropped another kid at a grad party and headed for the Cooper Kill (Kiln?) trailhead near the Whiteface toll road. We arrived under drizzly skies, changed our shoes, shouldered our packs and headed up the trail towards the lean to. By the time we stopped to get our headlamps out and illuminated the drizzle had increased in intensity to full on rain. We were encouraged by the thought of relaxing in our sleeping bags while listening to the rain on the roof the lean to, and the chocolate pudding we procured from Stewarts on the way. After about an hour and a half of wet hiking, we saw the pond appear on our left. About 6 steps later the trail disappeared underwater. We detoured through the woods, stepping over and around various obstacles in the dark. I had lost sight of the pond, and I turned to Morgan and said I think we're going the wrong way. She didn't explicitly say it, but the look on her face confirmed that she was afraid. I set down my pack, got out my map and compass and we realized that we were in fact, headed 180 degrees away from our intended destination. We corrected, and after just a few minutes picked the trail back up. After about 60 seconds of trail hiking, a tent came into view, then another, then another. My fantasy of an easy evening in an empty lean to quickly fizzled to thoughts of setting up a tent in the dark and pouring rain. Seeing the lights and thinking we were from their party (after all, who is getting to Copper Kill Pond at 10 PM in the rain) the occupants of one of the tents spoke up. We chatted for a moment, but the most important thing I learned was that the lean to was empty, save for a little of their gear. Morgan and I quickly got inside, spread out our beds and got down to the business of reading the lean to registry and eating pudding.

    I woke up several times in the night, and at one point the view of the pond was moonlit and just lovely. The rain had stopped and any sound from the LT roof was "just off the trees," which is perhaps my favorite camping phrase. Morgan evidently woke up several times too. In the morning I was informed that I "snore like a grizzly bear." I assure you, Morgan has never been anywhere near a grizzly bear, snoring or otherwise. When I woke again early in the morning at first light, I heard the disheartening sound of rain that was most certainly not "just off the trees." By the time we really got up and summoned the ambition to leave our sleeping bags it was about 8:30, raining very hard and about 60 degrees. We learned the folks camped with us were a group of 11 from the National Outdoor Leadership School. They were nearing the end of a 2 week outing and they intended to lay over that day, teach some classes and wait for the weather to clear. Morgan and I discussed out plans and I left the decisions up to her. She was still hopeful to summit the mountain that shared her name, so we headed out.

    The trail near the lean to has been flooded by beavers. We took a more direct detour around the flooding this time, and discovered in short order that the trail had become a stream. Water cascaded out of the woods and down the trail for the entirety of the hike. We quickly resigned ourselves to accept that no matter what, the next few hours of life were going to be very wet. After not quite 30 minutes of hiking/wading we arrived at the spot I thought we should leave the trail and head South. Morgan said she wanted to do it, so we dropped our packs and stepped into the carwash of ferns. The woods were open and the climbing was easy. Before long we found ourselves upon the gently trampled summit, took some pictures and headed back down. We stepped back onto the trail within sight of our packs (I used only a map and compass, no GPS and I was quite proud of myself for this,) shouldered them once again and got on with the business of wading out of the woods. At one point we happened upon a bird about the size of cantaloupe. It did not fly I assume it was a juvenile of some species (I'm not a birder,) perhaps a grouse? It only wanted to hop along the trail ahead of us, stop until we approached then continue down the trail. We stopped for a few minutes to let it head back into the woods. We also saw 100 toads, one red eft and one small rabbit before we emerged back onto the road. The rain had slowed to just a light drizzle and the sun even looked like it might peek out as we changed into dry clothes.

    The sun was out in Tupper Lake, we were feeling good and we had time, so we decided to tackle Mt Arab. The trail is really well built. Despite the rain there was very little standing water and almost all of the mud could be avoided with an extra long stride. The fire tower is one of the shorter ones at 35 feet, but it doesn't need to be any higher. The views were maybe 85% of what would have been on a perfectly clear day, as there was still a fair bit of cloudiness especially to the north. We lingered for a bit, picked some blueberries, watched a pair of hummingbirds enjoy the feeders, and headed back down the trail. In total we saw about 15 people and 3 dogs. The whole up and down took just over an hour and we were both happy that we tacked it on. Morgan seemed to enjoy herself despite the rain, and I'm hopeful that it won't be another 3 years before we get to hit the trail together again.

  • #2
    "the business of wading out of the woods"

    Nothing says hard core trudging through the wet quite like that phrase. Congratulations on a hike that I never would have left my house to do under those conditions.
    Me - Done
    Mrs - 17/46

    A trail without mud is like a day without sunshine.


    • #3
      Second father/daughter hiking/ bonding rain story over the last week or so on the forum. Sounds like you had a nice time despite the weather.

      Various maps say Kill but I'm pretty sure it's Kiln.

      The height of land along the trail is the easiest/ most recognizable spot to head toward the Morgan summit. It's hard to miss. Is that where you started your bushwhack?


      • Makwa
        Makwa commented
        Editing a comment
        OK... so right in that area.

        If you are referring to "Among the Cloud Splitters" by E. Schlimmer then Cooper Kiln Pond is not in there. Just checked.

      • MediumChris
        MediumChris commented
        Editing a comment
        Yeah that's the one. I got it for him for Father's day. It was hard not to read it before I gave it to him but I thought that might be impolite. I guess it's a bit north of the subject matter for that particular book.

      • Makwa
        Makwa commented
        Editing a comment
        Story from this past winter on the topic...

    • #4
      I found hiking and training for hiking is a nice,healthy focal point to have while working through the turmoil you described in your opening paragraph. Been there 2x.
      Just keep on hiking and inviting your daughter, those are special, unforgettable times. Lousy weather days just makes us appreciate the good days that much more.
      115/115 Yippeeee!