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Double Celebration on Haystack -- 8/14/22

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  • Double Celebration on Haystack -- 8/14/22

    Below is the long-form trip report with pictures that I always post after one of my hikes. But if you want to watch a video of what happened on the hike check that out here on YouTube...


    It has been a while since I last hiked a High Peak. The pandemic and life got in the way over the past few years but I couldn't pass up the chance to get out last Sunday and hike Haystack. It was ten years ago this month that I finished my 46 on Haystack and I have planned for several years now to hike the mountain on August 29th to celebrate that anniversary. However, once I heard that Sun Dogg (aka Learning The Trails) and Pokey Moonshine would be finishing their 46 on Haystack on the 14th, I pushed up my anniversary hike to Sunday so I could tag along with them and make the day a double celebration - their BIG one and my tiny gimmicky one. And after this oppressively hot summer we've been having, the weather forecast sealed the deal - summit temps in the 50's on a clear and nearly windless day. Perfect weather for Haystack.

    LTT and Pokey were setting up camp Saturday night at Bushnell Falls and anticipated setting out around 7:00 a.m. the following morning for their summit push and big finish. I had no desire to camp so my plan was to get on the trails under headlamp at 4:00 a.m. They had a five mile head start on me and I needed to catch up. Scratch that... a seven mile head start. I assumed that the Garden would be full from Saturday night so I intended to park at the Rooster Comb trailhead and hoof it the two extra miles to the Garden. An alpine start was in order.

    I actually left Albany mid-afternoon on Saturday, drove up to Brant Lake and hiked Swede Mountain and Bartonville Mountain (see trip report here... After hiking those two tiny peaks, I grabbed some dinner, and took my time making my way further north. I fitfully slept in my car at the High Peaks Welcome Center from around 9:00 p.m. until 2:30 a.m., geared up under a street lamp in the parking lot there, then drove the final fifteen miles to Rooster Comb.

    It was chilly out when I arrived and I couldn't believe I was putting on long pants and a jacket to make the 7-mile walk. The extra two miles weren't overly burdensome though I could have done without the extra 550 feet of ele gain you get by walking into the Garden from Route 73. But alas, it was too early for the shuttle and hitch-hiking would have been pointless at that hour on the deserted roads. I got to the Garden in relatively short order, signed-in, and ventured into the darkness under headlamp.

    Highlights from the walk under headlamp into the Garden from the Rooster Comb trailhead...

    Oh... and the punchline was that there were still plenty of parking spots available at the Garden, but I never really gave any thought to wasting the time to drive up there since I was operating under the erroneous assumption that the lot would be full. As soon as I saw a spot at Rooster Comb I grabbed it. To make myself feel better I rationalized the situation by telling myself the money saved on the parking fee would help defray post-hike pizza and dessert costs. More on that at the end of the report. Anyway, the extra few miles make for a marginally better story and pushed my total mileage for the day over twenty, making it my longest day hike ever.

    So back to the darkened forest... this was the earliest I had ever set foot on a hiking trail. Sunrise wouldn't be for another ninety minutes. The three-plus miles into John's Brook Lodge went by quickly enough and the forest was getting lighter all the way as sunrise was at 5:58 a.m. Nearing the Lodge I ran into a younger guy who I struck up a conversation with. Turns out he recently graduated from my alma mater of Clarkson University so he filled me in on all the goings on around campus in recent years. After we parted ways (he was headed to Gothics and beyond) I stopped briefly at JBL to wolf down a snack and rehydrate a bit. I cameled up at the spigot on the side of the Lodge that has potable water and was back on my way. I also discovered here that I had forgotten my prescription sunglasses in the car and thus would be enjoying the best views in the Adirondacks through squinty eyes later that day.

    I walked the last half mile or so along John's Brook with a couple from the Clifton Park area who were finishing their 46 on Basin that day - a journey that was 16 years in the making. I hope they reached their goal. They were very nice folks.

    John's Brook...

    After crossing John's Brook near the end of Chicken Coop Brook, I was preparing to start my search for the lean-to that is located two or three hundred yards up the trail when I saw Learning The Trails waving his arms from a campsite nearby. The lean-to had been full the previous night so they pitched tents instead. Come Sunday morning they got a bit of a late start and decided to wait an extra few minutes for me figuring I'd be along at any moment. Now instead of having to chase them down to meet up later in the day, or rush in order to make up time, we could hike together. That was a relief. And as they buttoned up their camp and secured their belongings before setting out, I enjoyed a well-earned rest after having already knocked out over seven miles that early in the day.

    It was also here that I assessed how I was feeling after those seven miles plus the three and a half more from the previous evening on Swede and Bartonville. This 20-mile hike of Haystack was part anniversary celebration and part testing myself if I could actually still do it at 57 years old without being a physical wreck for days afterward. Without get too long-winded about it I'm in the best shape I've been in in about 20 years right now and able to crunch out miles quicker than I ever have. Plus, I'm about a dozen pounds lighter than I was when I finished on Haystack in 2012. Anyway, I still had another four miles to the summit from Bushnell Falls then the long walk out but I was feeling good about my chances to pull this hike off without it being a death march.

    After meeting Pokey Moonshine for the first time, and two of LTT's friends (Jim and Gabe) who were also along for the big day, we began our ascent. Pokey took point as she did for the entire day and led the march toward Slant Rock. Calling her Pokey is like calling a bald guy Curly. Slow she is not. I took up position in the rear and acted as sweep because the sound of footsteps behind me makes me nervous. Is it a wonder I hike solo 95% of the time?

    The terrain moving uphill and away from Bushnell Falls gets more and more rugged, rocky, and difficult as you go. Still not a huge climb but undoubtedly uphill. And it seems like three out of every four steps for the rest of day were on a rock of some sort where you must constantly perform the calculus of where your next step should go so you don't slip. There's very little time to rest your mind and hike in cruise control. It is mentally fatiguing, especially on the descent.

    The next big milestone was Slant Rock where we took a short break. In my mind's eye Slant Rock and the small clearing there appear larger than they actually are in person but it's still a cool feature and an unmistakable landmark.

    Slant Rock...

    The march upward continued. Next up was the end of the Phelps Trail at around 4100' in the Little Marcy/ Horse Hill col. This is the biggest junction along the way for me. It's the one where that famous low-to-the-ground trail sign points toward Haystack and in yellow fine print reads ASCENT 878'. Coming in from the Garden, it represents the final push as you're now just a mile from your goal. That is also true if you've come via the Loj/ Van Hoevenberg Trail. From that direction, you've just dropped some 750' down off Marcy's shoulder to get to the col and are now eager to make that final ascent. Whichever way you've come from it is the first spot where you know you're almost there. However, the 878' ascent that is advertised on the trail sign is actually closer to 1000' given that you lose a bit of elevation going up and over Horse Hill then again up and over Little Haystack that must be regained. Nevertheless, this is the spot where you first sense the summit is within reach.

    The sign that lets you know you're almost there...

    That feeling is amplified once you crest Horse Hill. Now you can see your goal in front of you for the first time. You can almost reach out and touch the summit of Haystack. So close but yet so far. For my money, looking at Little Haystack and Haystack from Horse Hill is the most awesome sight in all of the Adirondacks - by far my favorite inside the Blue Line. It's a visceral experience that few other views of that sort can give you. The sheer ruggedness of what you are looking at is mind-blowing in my opinion. I could stand there all day gazing at it. We took a short break here to snap pictures and recharge a bit.

    My favorite view in all of the Adirondacks - Little Haystack and Haystack from Horse Hill...

    Marcy from Horse Hill...

    Basin from Horse Hill...

    Skylight from Horse Hill...

    In case you're curious, the name Horse Hill does not appear on any maps but it is the bump just to the northwest of Little Haystack. There is a story that goes with the name that you can read about in the 8th post here...

    Once you drop down off Horse Hill you're at a junction with the State Range Trail in the Little Haystack/ Horse Hill col. From there over Little Haystack and up to the summit of Haystack you had better plan on using your hands a lot. The climb is no joke and I had forgotten how sketchy many of the spots were. Finishing my 46 was the big focus that day back in 2012 and I had little memory of how tricky the trail was. I guess those details were secondary to enjoying the experience and the celebration back ten years ago. Just be careful through here and watch your footing.

    The start of the climb up Little Haystack starts here. Starting nearest to the camera: Gabe, Jim, Pokey Moonshine. The people above them are among the few we ran into all day before the summit. Inset: the Artic-Alpine Plant Zone sign at the junction...

    LTT powers his way up Little Haystack...
    Last edited by Makwa; 08-22-2022, 09:25 PM.

  • #2
    So Pokey Moonshine is a mountain goat and scrambled up these sections with aplomb. The younger guys (which compared to me was everybody else in the group) had no problems either. And me, carrying a much-too-heavy pack, acquitted myself well and managed to not slow the group down in getting up these areas.

    Pokey Moonshine making quick work of a steep little scramble with Jim and Gabe looking on...

    View of Haystack from Little Haystack...

    Marcy from Little Haystack...

    On Little Haystack looking towards Gothics and Sawteeth...

    Looking back at Little Haystack from Haystack. Don't let the picture fool you. That seemingly tiny rock has some tricky spots to climb down (and then back up on your way out)...

    No slips, falls, cuts, scrapes, or bruises for the group through these difficult sections and all that was left was the short ascent to reach the summit and watch LTT and Pokey become 46ers.

    Looking up on Haystack from around 4750' elevation. About 200 vertical feet to go to become 46ers...

    The finish was exciting. I had been on numerous summits with folks celebrating their 46er finish in the past but they were strangers and I had never been in a hiking group with friends finishing before. It was nice to see Pokey reach the high point with LTT just a stride behind her and then their exchange of a high-five in celebration of completing their mighty multi-year father/daughter odyssey.

    Pokey Moonshine and Sun Dogg taking their final steps onto the Haystack summit to finish their 46. If you watch the YouTube video linked to above you can witness all of their final steps to reach the summit and their high-five...

    After reading about their journey for all these years, and hiking a few other times with LTT, it was nice to be there for their finish. You could tell how much it meant to them both. And that is the special part of hiking these mountains - the human connection and meaning it brings to your life. Lists, challenges, peak-bagging, parking restrictions, discussions of overuse, and all the associated other b.s. is just noise. The memories that are created along the way with the people that matter most to you are what counts. And those two will have splendid memories of their journey together forever. Both are worthy 46ers and class acts all the way. I thank them again for sharing their day with me.

    We spent about ninety minutes lounging about the summit. There was no wind whatsoever and the day had warmed up more than the earlier forecast had predicted. In short, the weather was sublime. We couldn't have asked for a better day atop Haystack. Perhaps I am biased, but in my opinion, Haystack has the best summit view in the Adirondacks. Hands down. You couldn't change my mind if you tried. I know many people prefer Gothics, Sawteeth, or others, but Haystack seems to reveal the ruggedness of the surrounding area better than other peaks do. Marcy has a wonderful view but from that lofty perch, it almost feels like a softer and more antiseptic view of the other High Peaks. Haystack, however, seems to catch many of the mountains from their most wild and untamed angles. For one, the up-close view of Marcy and Panther Gorge is beyond compare. Just incredible. And the angles you get on Basin and Gothics and down the rest of the Great Range make you wonder how anybody ever climbs those peaks. The view from Haystack makes you appreciate all those peaks more. Just one man's opinion. More shameless self-promotion... watch the YouTube video for a 360* panorama video from the summit. It's pretty awe-inspiring.

    Summit view looking toward Marcy and down into Panther Gorge...

    Summit view of Gothics with Sawteeth to its right. In between in the background are Giant and RPR. Armstrong and the Wolfjaws stack up behind Gothics from this angle...

    Summit view of Colvin and Blake in the middle ground. Nippletop and Dix stacked up behind Colvin. Hough, Pough, and Macomb to the right of Dix in the background...

    As the celebration started winding down it began to sink in we'd be walking out from JBL under headlamp. We had nine miles to cover to the Garden and a camp to break down along the way. The long trudge out began. Going back up and over Little Haystack and Horse Hill put our bodies to the test after stiffening up for the past hour and a half. The same sketchy areas from our ascent had to be done in reverse and although we had already met our ultimate goal for the day, the short-term imperative was to get down safely and preserve the day as a happy memory. And although butt-sliding goes against everything I stand for while hiking, I took a few of them down some of the more difficult spots to accomplish that safety goal. I guess I can make an exception while eight-plus miles from a trailhead.

    Once clear of Horse Hill the descent became an ordinary Adirondack exercise in foot placement and maintaining concentration. The group did well and approaching Slant Rock I was feeling a tiny bit fatigued and out of sorts. A rest stop at Slant Rock for snacks and to filter water provided a boost that would last me the rest of the day.

    A while later, on our march toward Bushnell Falls, I was stung by a bee right on my elbow. Through my shirt! Holy cow that hurt. I hadn't suffered a bee sting in over 50 years but I think I jinxed myself by adding Benadryl to my first aid kit two days prior to the hike just in case I ever was stung. It swelled up pretty good and hurt like hell the rest of the walk out but I never had an adverse reaction or needed the Benadryl.

    We then cruised into the campsite and while the rest of the gang broke down their tents and collected/ packed up all their gear I ate and drank more to fuel the remaining five-mile walk to the Garden. We were still a ways out from JBL and it was now 100% certain we would be operating under headlamp upon leaving the Lodge.

    Our final rest stop for the day was at JBL to poke around. A few in the group enjoyed some of JBL's lemonade while I did the sad math that I'd be getting home at 2:00 a.m. at the earliest given the remaining miles/ clean-up/ drive. As we signed out of the register near the Interior Outpost I noticed that Gary Koch had signed in earlier that day. I wish I had paid more attention to where he was headed. I now wonder if we had crossed paths. I recognized his name at the time as being a prominent 46er but could not for the life of me remember his list of accomplishments. How could I forget he has 50+ rounds of the 46 to his credit?! Does anybody know the exact figure these days?

    The walk out from there was tiresome but also at the same time encouraging. Typically, at the end of a long hike, my legs are dead and any sort of little uphill becomes an arduous task. I just don't want to climb anymore. On this day I had plenty of gas left in the tank; and though moving more slowly than earlier in the day, my legs were still fresh enough not to revolt at the first hint of any incline. That made me happy. Small victories sometimes are the best victories. On the flip side, it was also through here that I became irredeemably pedantic. This happens when I tire mentally, which after having been up for nearly twenty hours at that point qualifies for mental exhaustion. For example, somebody says, "Just a mile to go to landmark x!" My response is, "Nope... it's 1.13 miles to landmark x!!" Over and over and over like this for the last three miles. I hope I didn't drive everybody crazy.

    After what seemed like an eternity later in the dark, I watched Pokey Moonshine sign out of the register at the Garden. Now having completed the hike under their own power, she and her Dad could officially count the hike toward their 46. Writing "46/46" in the comment section of the register next to their sign-in was their final act as aspiring 46ers. Congratulations!!! A job well done! Both were now full-fledged 46ers. Welcome to the club! It was an honor and a privilege to accompany them both on this banner day.

    LTT and Pokey shuttled me down the hill to the Rooster Comb lot where I cleaned up and hit the road. By the time I reached the Northway my eyes were closing. I made it as far as Pottersville before pulling off the highway in hopes of finding some food. As I was driving into town, an enormous black bear ran out in the road in front of me. I had to lock up the brakes at about 45 MPH and swerve to miss it. About ten feet separated us as I screeched by. If you've never seen me mention it before on the forum, Makwa is the Algonquian word for bear. Given my trail name, it would have been embarrassing and horribly sad to have run one over. With that crisis averted, I rolled the last half mile into Pottersville to find every business closed for the evening. Dagnabbit! No pizza or dessert to be bought with that pile of cash I saved by not parking at the Garden! I ended up pulling into the gas station and falling asleep in the car for two and half hours before heading home. Finally pulled in here around 4:20 a.m. - twenty-four hours and fourteen minutes after I departed the Rooster Comb trailhead on foot the day before. My meal ended up being cold pasta that was sitting in the fridge. Oh well.

    So it seems appropriate that my longest day hike ever is captured for posterity in the longest trip report I've ever written. Thanks for reading if you got this far. I have just a few final thoughts to tie this up. Hiking in the High Peaks is like nowhere else. The energy in the air is palpable and helps propel you forward all day long. People are excited to be there and they are a highly motivated and energetic bunch of hikers. You just don't get that elsewhere inside the Blue Line. I have hiked in every corner of the Adirondacks and the feeling is just different in the High Peaks. I had a thoroughly enjoyable time being part of it again.

    The final debriefing and feedback on the hike was given to me when I woke up Monday morning... I felt fantastic! Not sore. No muscle aches. No creaking or pain in the knees or other joints. No swelling or other bad signs except for that damn bee sting. Tired? Sure, that was to be expected, but I actually could have hiked again that day if push came to shove. I ended up exercising later in the day just to get some blood moving through my muscles. So to recap, I got to see LTT and Pokey finish their 46, my 10-year 46er anniversary was celebrated in grand style, and my personal old guy fitness test of a twenty-mile hike (20.2 miles to be exact) with 4900' of cumulative elevation gain was passed with flying colors. What more could I ask for? I'm ecstatic that the day came off as planned. It was one of my favorite days out hiking ever. Gonna be hard to top.

    Link to photo album of 20 pics used in the trip report...

    Link to photo album of 50 other pics (unannotated) not used in the trip report...

    Link to the YouTube video...
    Last edited by Makwa; 08-22-2022, 07:58 AM.


    • #3
      Really liked the video and report! Though I'm left wondering who the old guy in the video is that goes about with your screen name?
      Me - Done
      Mrs - 17/46

      A trail without mud is like a day without sunshine.


      • Makwa
        Makwa commented
        Editing a comment
        That same old guy shows up in every mirror I look into and has insidiously wormed his way into every aspect of my life.

      • Fat Man Hiking
        Fat Man Hiking commented
        Editing a comment
        Hmmmm......sounds very familiar.

    • #4
      You need a higher quality camera for your video. I can't tell if your lenses is dirty or things are out of focus or just beyond the capabilities of the camera.
      Leave No Trace!


      • ILikeRocks
        ILikeRocks commented
        Editing a comment
        It was in focus for when I watched, nice video also!

      • Bunchberry
        Bunchberry commented
        Editing a comment
        I am so glad I complained!!! I never thought of just changing those settings! Now I have to watch it again!

      • Makwa
        Makwa commented
        Editing a comment
        Let me know if that works/ how it looks. I'm now studying this video like the Zapruder film to see what looks right and what doesn't.

    • #5
      Know I know what Makwa looks like lol


      • mbowler
        mbowler commented
        Editing a comment
        Yeah. Everytime I run into a bear on the trail, I always think I am meeting Makwa in person (or I suppose more properly ursine).

    • #6
      Great trip report!

      Wow it sounds like you hiked with some incredible folks!

      We're really glad that you were able to join us for the special day!

      And congrats again on your anniversary.

      The video looks great!


      • Makwa
        Makwa commented
        Editing a comment
        I'm only half kidding. I'd agree on Haystack via Upper Works/ Panther Gorge in a heartbeat. Maybe even toss in Skylight and/or Gray.

      • Learning The Trails
        Learning The Trails commented
        Editing a comment
        I was thinking we could catch the shuttle at the A Frame and do Haystack, Marcy, Skylight, Grey, Redfield, Cliff and Marshall to Upper Works. Should I pencil you in?

      • Makwa
        Makwa commented
        Editing a comment
        You'd be using that pencil to write my obituary.

    • #7
      Great write up and pics. Sounded like an incredibly long day- but how rare to get to hike when the weather is perfect like that. You all really nailed it.
      Absolutely criminal about the pizza though.


      • Makwa
        Makwa commented
        Editing a comment
        Yes... very long day. Coulda shaved a good 2-3 hours off it if we were in a rush but there was no reason to given the perfect weather and the nature of the celebratory day. I have no regrets... except for not getting any pizza!

    • #8
      Congratulations on a nice day, longest hike ever, and getting younger in fitness.
      I might be kidding...


      • Makwa
        Makwa commented
        Editing a comment
        Thanks Kev. Now I'm left wondering what my upper limit is though I doubt I'll try to find out anytime soon. I suppose my ultimate goal is to see if I can do this hike again in August of 2032. I'll have to stay in shape at least until then.

    • #9
      I just want to add this little conversation for humor posterity.

      I was telling Makwa that I was trying out a new pair of sketchers hiking shoes and that the past few years I had been using Saucony Trail Runners.

      "They even had a picture of Howie Long on the box with the quote 'These are my favorite shoes," I laughed.

      "Oh yeah, Howie Long," said Makwa, "The guy known for running in 3 second blasts..."[Opposed to 20 mile hikes.]



      • Makwa
        Makwa commented
        Editing a comment
        Howie Long isn't exactly the ideal brand spokesman for hiking boots. Though I suppose you could use his brush cut to clean your boots after a long muddy day on the trails.

        I had forgotten that @LTT used brand new boots on this hike. Personally, I would have been scared off doing such a thing but I don't think he suffered any blisters or discomfort. Lucky man. Maybe Skechers has found the formula for boots that break in instantly.

    • #10
      Very nice and detailed report! Always enjoy your writing, always inspiring and I liked the video as well!


      • Makwa
        Makwa commented
        Editing a comment
        Thanks Matty. I appreciate the kind words.