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Unsupported 46 Traverse

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  • Unsupported 46 Traverse

    On September 7th at 4:35am I started out from the Sewards parking lot at the end of Corey’s road with my good friend Jan Wellford. Our goal was to arrive at Whiteface and Esther roughly 7 days later. Our path at some point would take us over all the summits on the 46er list via one continuous footpath: a distance of about 196 miles with 65,000 ft of elevation gain.

    As far as we knew a through hike of the 46 had only been done once before, by Jim Kobak and Ed Bunk in 2002. They used some resupplies to attempt what had never been done before: They succeeded and arrived at Esther nearly 10 and half days later.

    Like everyone fortunate enough to have spent time with him, I considered it an honor to know Ed Bunk. He was an eccentric presence that you couldn’t help but be drawn to with his stories and the compliments he paid others, saying little of his own accomplishments. It hit many of us very hard when we heard of his passing on Feb 23rd of this year. For me, although I had experienced the loss of people close to me, this was the first time I lost someone that I had become friends with that I truly looked up to. During the time after his passing I reflected deeply on many of the conversations and inspirational things Ed had said to me over the years. Especially the last part of the last email he ever sent me. It read:

    “Something such as this trip begins with a plan, that is the start of the adventure. The plan is lived as the walk would be, full blown intensity. Not full blown bullkippy. Youth is once there are no excuses for wasting any of it……Ed."

    The email was on doing a through hike but its response was on a life philosophy. Ed always seemed to add these little caveats to our talks, without ever sounding condescending and with a genuine feel for the words. I had made the decision that I wasn’t going to just keep dreaming but lay down the work to achieve the goal. I wasn’t alone in gaining inspiration from him and at a barbecue at a friend's house last fall Ed talked to me and Jan about it. Jan had become as dedicated as I had to the idea of a through hike. What we didn’t really discuss at the time was doing it together. That was early this summer and I let Jan know because his wife Meg asked me what I was doing this summer and I responded, “I’m going to through hike the Adirondacks with Jan”. We then discussed it on a long hike and came to the conclusion that it was a near perfect match. We shared the desire, speed, trail philosophy and knowledge of routes. Without ever doing a scouting hike there was only one 3.8 mile section of trail that one of us hadn’t been on.

    Ed had said that this trip should be started between August 15 and September 15. There always seems be this magic window every year that will appear if you just wait for it. This year was no different, except maybe better. We didn't have the luxury of picking our start date--Jan's vacation time was scheduled months in advance--but we got lucky. When we got close to our go time I remember checking the forecast and seeing 9 of the next 10 days as having 0% chance of rain. I had never seen that before in years of looking. Apparently Ed was looking out for us.

    We also wanted to attempt the hike unsupported instead of self-supported. Unsupported is generally defined as meaning you have no external support of any kind. Typically, this means that you must carry all your supplies right from the start, except any water that can be obtained along the way from natural sources, and of course you must cover all the miles on foot.
    Be quick - but don't hurry. -John Wooden

    Middle age is having a choice between two temptations and choosing the one that'll get you home earlier. ~Dan Bennett

  • #2
    Day 1 (Sewards and Santanonis)

    After a very short night's sleep of about 3 1/2 hours due to packing and weighing out food we were up at 3am to eat and start the drive from Keene out to the Sewards trail head at the end of Corey's road. We laughed at ourselves because we both would each bring one long sleeve shirt to sleep in and a short sleeve with Moeben sleeves to use during the days. Normal so far except when we realized we both had the same style "Giraffe" Moeben sleeves. When you combine that with the fact that we each had honey graham cracker animals in our trail mix I jokingly said we were team Garanimal. Funny how these little things take off and over the next few days it went from a simple joke to a battle cry, just like Shake and Bake!

    We started officially moving at 4:35 and everything went smoothly to the first lean-to where the guys from Lean-to Rescue were up at 6:02 already working on replacing the necessary parts to the Blueberry lean-to. We were impressed by them working with headlamps to make sure they got the job done this weekend.

    Soon after we were on our way up Seward. The trails aren't exactly bunny trails through the town park. Our entire day between the Santas and the Sewards would be spent with carefully placed steps trying to avoid an injury. The three pack went by as planned and we made the short walk over to Seymour.

    It was getting a little warm and Jan and I switched lead when I stopped to get water. I mention it because we went into this with a few general plans: When together I would try to lead and set pace. It seems I'm a good pacer because I'm able to find a heart rate or cadence and keep it for long periods of time. Jan on the other hand is a hammer. Almost anything gets him going faster and faster. Comments, conversation, hell even an injury will get him psyched and push harder and harder. We knew this wouldn't be ideal because we weren't going to be on our normal high carb diets that we use for day hikes, but rather it was going to be more of a fat burn zone over the duration.

    Second was that we would allow separation and individual hiking if for some reason someone had to stop other than a shared refueling. This allows the group to keep a more constant motion and move over distance much faster. Nothing is slower than outright stopping, simple.

    We kept a decent pace and soon were looking at great views into the Cold River valley from the summit. On the way down I caught a root and had to balance myself by making a quick 3 ft jump down off a ledge. I felt the inside of my knee tweak but thought nothing of it. We made it back to the start of the herd path and were soon on our way over the long trek to the Santas. Oddly this section might be the easiest hiking in between the two toughest mountain ranges. Mostly easy walking, except the one swampy area.

    We made great time and soon came to the Duck Hole. Pretty darn gorgeous.

    The next section was the one 3.8 mile section of this hike that I mentioned neither of us had ever been on. Soon Jan mentioned how he was feeling good and we both thought it would be a good idea if he went ahead at his own pace and started to set up camp before we started on the Santanonis. The trail was soft trodden but I made a mistake and let myself run out of water. Humping the pack up that climb along with a hurried pace up Seymour really dehydrated me. I was concerned I was going real slow but when I arrived at the campsite Jan said he had only been there 13 minutes. Not too bad and we soon had camp set and knew we were in for a night hike of the Santas. We pushed up the Panther brook trail stopping only to get water to take maximum advantage of the waning daylight.

    We decided on Panther first hoping to catch something of a sunset. We got the tail end but it was worth it.

    We worked our way out to Couchie as night went into full swing and I felt like my speed was limited although I could still move. After the climb back up to Times Square I noticed I was squinting just to see. I blamed it on probably being tired and dehydrated since I hadn't peed in over 7 hours. As we hit the top of the ridge of Santanoni I felt like I could hardly see the trail in front of me. Since there was a fog on the ridge I thought maybe it was the source of the problem. On the way back Jan slid on a root and said he too tweaked his knee. As we started back across I noticed that when Jan was directly behind me it was like the sun came up. As we turned our heads we both realized something was wrong with my headlamp. We took a guess that the lithium batteries overheated it and reduced it to not much more than someone holding out a lighter in front of your face. If you have ever been on the Santanoni trails you know they are like traveling through your neighbors hedges nowadays. So I'd often see a branch in front of me but not the ground. The going was slow...

    Getting to the Panther brook trail we got even slower with all the roots, rocks and debris in your way since I couldn't really see were to place my feet. It felt like forever for the descent. We drank at the brook and did a quick wash up before heading down to camp. We took way longer than predicted due to my headlamp and being low on energy to boot. By the time we got into the tent it was 1:30 AM, and we decided to aim for 4 hours sleep and head out easy the next morning.

    We had covered roughly 35 miles and almost 11k feet of gain of some of the worst trails to 4k's anywhere in the Northeast. We finished the day we set out to but we definitely didn't come away feeling like champs.
    Be quick - but don't hurry. -John Wooden

    Middle age is having a choice between two temptations and choosing the one that'll get you home earlier. ~Dan Bennett


    • #3
      Day 2 (Allen)

      We got up after our 4 hour power naps and I think we both were surprised at how good we felt for the beating we took on day 1. We had assured each other that yesterday was going to be the toughest and we were now past it to keep our outlook positive. We packed up quickly and were on our way. Luckily besides the short section between the campsites and the start of the regular herd path which is basically a swamp the trail was in relatively good condition, that is if you know this trail. Mostly down hill and then a road walk to the trailhead and we were happy with our progress.

      We were not looking forward to any hard pack road especially the section between the Santa trail head and the Allen start but it flew by in less than 15 minutes. Usually the roads are the toughest on the feet. Add in clear skies and the day was looking good.

      Shortly we came to the bridge crossing over Lake Jimmy.

      I had read a recent trip report about how the boards were all sloppily laid and how it was near impossible to get through without getting your feet wet. I was really not looking forward to that for the number of problems it can cause. But when we got there the boards were all perfectly relaid and it was clear someone had done a bunch of work over the holiday weekend.

      I was ecstatic about that and was gleefully prancing across while singing tunes in my head. Right after Jan took the picture I noted to him out loud about how deep the water was out in the middle. Not 10 seconds later I was approaching the end of the planks. All the sudden I stepped on a board that had just been laid down and not nailed and my weight and the pack weight sent it flying up in the air! My leg dipped and I was clearly going in; my left shoulder was at almost knee height. I think somewhere in my mind I had a "oh please don't get drenched" thought and in an effort to stay as dry as possible I actually lunged not only towards shore but outwards into the lake so I would at least land on my feet. I splish splashed and immediately jumped back onto the boards. I was not happy.

      Did I mention I was not happy? I chucked my trekking pole like a javelin and may have let out a few cuss words. Jan helped me by laughing hysterically. He then congratulated me on my save. Neither of those helped. OK the laughing probably did. For about 5 minutes I had to just shake my head, realizing how bad it could have been; not soaking all the limited supplies in my pack made me feel better. After a sock wring-out and realizing my feet would soon dry the day was looking good again!

      We got to the area where we would be doing an out and back to Allen and I started fumbling around with my pack. Jan mentioned he felt good and wanted to take off and we would just meet up sometime later, cool.

      I had made a mistake on day 1. OK, I made a few mistakes on day 1, one of which was not hydrating enough. I was not going to make that mistake again and had convinced myself that I would always be carrying more than enough water at all times. I actually stopped 3 times to get water on the way to the summit--I was trying to rehydrate from the day before.

      As I approached the col which is darn near the top on Allen I heard Jan and let out a yell. The first thing he said as usual was good job, then he complained about how much his knee hurt. Not normal: Jan usually saves his complaints. I was only about 5 to 10 behind so we knew we'd catch up soon. I remember it taking 55 minutes from the waterfall to the top with getting water.

      I made the best time I could on a "trail" about which I once heard someone remark "wow, I've never actually had to get into a waterfall to get to a summit of a 4k before," and started actually jogging once at the base. My knee was hurting the whole time, up and down. Every lift was painful and every time I pressed down it was painful. Well, that's all you do on Allen, so it was painful.

      I got about halfway to the sand pit and came around a corner to find Jan lying on the trail with his feet up. WTF? I can't be that slow, I was literally jogging. I thought he had just decided to take a break and wait for me. So I asked right away, "how long you been here?". He replied "about 6 minutes" and that his knee was killing him. He got up and started saying things like "I don't know if I can do this." Huh? Nothing was making sense to me and my mind was on blank mode.

      As we made the walk back to the packs he said how he didn't know if he could push this like he did the regular 46 record and he was scared of the damage to his knee. A side bit is that Jan counts the seconds between his first skiing of the season and his last every year. I could see his ski season flashing before his eyes having to rehab his knee.

      My major problem was that we had been planning this for months. I had thought about everything and every difficulty I might encounter. Among those I never thought about was what if Jan decides to quit? Having seen first hand the things he pushed through before I didn't really consider it a possibility. So when we were talking I couldn't even get my mind to process anything. Did everything he was saying make sense? Yeah absolutely, like why would you risk serious injury? But almost all my thoughts led back to us continuing somehow. I had figured that if Jan couldn't go on I would be fashioning some type of wooden sled to drag him out of the woods.

      We decide we would just go to the campsite on the Hanging Spears falls trail and take a break. We sat down and start talking and he told me I have to decide on what I'm going to do. Besides the normal problems that might cause we were sharing gear. Example: instead of getting two 2-pound single man tents we have a 4-pound tent for the both of us. After sitting there for about 10 minutes discussing I got up to get something and my knee had become really painful and tightened up. I limped to my stuff, sat back down and the reality of my own knee pain and Jan quitting kinda hit me. The answer that I should be stopping too was obvious.

      Once we both decided on it the camping was fun. It was still early so we hung out, enjoyed some views down by the river and figured hey, why not just eat a whole bunch of our food since it wasn't going to be used anyway! What a great idea! Winnie the Pooh would be proud. We ate two of our six Hawk Vittles dinners, hit the hay and got a good 9 hours of sleep.

      Day 2 Allen 19.5 miles 3,450 feet
      Last edited by Cory D; 10-09-2010, 03:14 PM.
      Be quick - but don't hurry. -John Wooden

      Middle age is having a choice between two temptations and choosing the one that'll get you home earlier. ~Dan Bennett


      • #4
        Day 3 (Quitting)

        We woke up pretty refreshed and both in good moods considering we had decided to quit the night before. Took our time packing up and had a nice slow pace up to Hanging Spears falls. Jan mentioned he had never been there before and that he wanted to stop, hell yes, that was my plan all along. How do you pass up missing this:

        We continue on and make it to the Flowed Lands crossing. The day was damn near perfect.

        On the way between the two points I realize I feel good enough that if I stop I'm just regular old quitting. The pain was in a window I've learned I could handle and I told Jan I was thinking about going on and doing more peaks and just stopping sometime later. He gets excited by it and pushes for it. I mention, "well what the heck do I climb today then"? It was to late for the big loop we had originally planned. Obvious answer was Cliff and Redfield but that felt like it wouldn't do much towards the overall goal.

        Jan says I think you should do Marshall that way instead of coming off Iroquois in the dark solo and having to bushwhack to Marshall in the dark you can just come down the trail to lake Colden. Brilliant!

        So we go around Flowed lands and we keep talking about how beautiful it is out and Jan says I think I'm going to try Marshall with you. Mental cartwheel! So we get to the new leanto and start airing some gear out. Now ever since he has said lets do Marshall I have been trying to say anything I can to get him to keep going. I'm talking about day whatever down the road and trying to be as dissociative as possible about his knee and pain.

        Problem. Jan is very associative and likes to dig deep focus on things at hand and push through them. What happens when two people are very emotional and going through a lot of pain and mental struggle and one is pushing the other? Yes, Jan was pissed. And finally told me to STFU. In my desperation to somehow talk my friend into staying with me I almost pissed him off enough that he definitely didn't want to go on. So I shut my mouth realizing saying almost anything would make it worse and tried to act like nothing happened.

        We start heading up and it is just amazing out with great conditions. The woods look fresh and alive the air was the perfect temp, couldn't have been better. We had been mostly quiet for the first 3rd of the climb and all the sudden Jan starts talking baseball. This was a total left field conversation (like the pun?) and I knew in guy talk this was an olive branch of I'm sorry man lets get back to normal. I was all for it and take any chance I can to talk baseball. We get to the top and are relaxing and Jan goes, "I feel good, I'm going to do the rest of the day with you and decide how it goes". Hell yes! Back in the game:

        So we continue on at a casual pace since we know it is an easier day and just take in what is a magnificent day. The climbs of Cliff and Redfield went off without a hitch.
        Uphill Brook:

        We camp near the Feldspar area and are excited to be able to just relax in daylight, get washed up and sit in camp a little while:

        Not long after being in camp Jan says, "Yeah, I'm back in"

        It's time to focus now, the next few days are going to be brutal with 10k to 12k of climbing.

        Adjustment, quitting turned into:

        Day 3 (Marshall, Cliff, Redfield) 13.8 miles 5,320 feet
        Last edited by Cory D; 10-09-2010, 03:15 PM.
        Be quick - but don't hurry. -John Wooden

        Middle age is having a choice between two temptations and choosing the one that'll get you home earlier. ~Dan Bennett


        • #5
          Day 4 (The Loj Loop)

          We were up early; we knew from the beginning that today would be a dark start and finish. It was the coldest start of any morning of the trip so getting out of camp became a hustle to stay moving and warm. I had made the mistake of leaving my shirt out in the cold and it was still wet: brrrr. For the rest of the trip I would take it into the sleeping bag with me. The only problem then was that it smelled like Satan peed on it towards the end of the trip.

          A great thing about today though was that we were going to be carrying smaller day packs and returning to the same campsite, which would give our backs a rest. The night before when Jan went to get things out of his bear canister he bent down like a 8 month pregnant woman. As in he spread his legs, kept his back straight and slowly lowered himself down. I wish I had video of this. I go, "back hurting, huh?". "Yeah, my lower" was the reply. Mine was the upper between the shoulder blades.

          Finally moving and we get through the sometimes flooded area with no problems--relief. Soon, we get to the area at the base of the SE slide. It is only a short whack to the open rock but I manage to impale myself going over a log by thrusting myself upward and into it. Lose my breath for a minute but it's only a boo-boo.

          We got out onto the rock and were immediately wowed. The moon was 3/4 full I believe and you could see most of the route of open rock.

          By the time we pass the middle narrower section of the slide the sun is starting to come up over our right shoulders. So, we turn off our headlamps and guide our way up over the upper slabs with the help of the moon and rising sun. This while being in our tee shirts with a crisp cool breeze and watching this:

          It was even better than I can make it sound.

          We had no problems and worked our way down and over to TT. We made short work of it, I recall 47 minutes up and down including taking time to take in the morning views. The same went for Phelps and its views.

          Not long after we were at Marcy damn. There was only one guy and his dog that was fetching sticks out of the water. A few miles after we were at the Loj. We couldn't even get water here if we wanted to keep the unsupported theme going and looking at the vending machine was tough. It seemed to glow like the morning sun as my belly whimpered.

          We made our way over to Pete Hickey's Steeple and Chase, otherwise known as Street and Nye. Pete likes the idea of minimum maintenance on the herd paths and you'll know it with the hurdles you'll be doing towards the top. A few hours later and we were on our way up the Algonquin trail to the Macs.

          About half way up Jan is a little ahead and in eye sight. Two guys are coming down and I see one of the guys stop and say something to Jan. Jan turns and looks like he wants to smile but has a kinda stunned mouth half open look on his face. I see them talk and then the guy has a stunned mouth half open look on his face. I catch up to Jan and go what was that about? He goes "oh, the usual 'do you know what time it is (4:30pm) and where you are going' thing, I didn't really mind except the guy was totally incredulous that we could be going up these mountains at this hour." Then I ask what did you say to him? "I told him, 'yeah we have already done Colden, TT, Phelps, Street & Nye today and were now doing the 3 Macs'". I guess that explains the look where his mouth was open and acted like bees had stung his throat, lol. Asking questions is all fine and good, it's good to look out for people. It's when you force your "expertise" on them in a condescending manner that ticks people off. But it was good for a laugh on a long day.

          We hit the turn-off for Wright and realized that being above treeline tonight before sunset was going to be fabulous. Jan got ahead and while he waited he built a cairn for me to follow so I wouldn't get lost:

          I wouldn't have felt bad but he carried the rocks up there too.

          Back down to the junction and then up and over Algonquin:

          We then made our way down towards Iroquois:

          We made it over and had great views the whole time. I got a little ahead of Jan on the way back and he snapped a pic:

          The next part was kinda brutal. We soon lost the light and made our way down one of the steepest and roughest trails in the ADK. I was still wearing the faded headlamp and this section was making us both nervous with having to get down over boulders where a slip could leave you laying there for a while. We knew we had to take our time so we didn't push it.

          We make it down and all the way over to the Lake Colden dam and I feel mentally worn out. Trying to focus my eyes for so long with every little step on the steep stuff had given me that night halo dizziness.

          Jan offers to switch lamps before we head for the climb back up to the Feldspar area. It makes a lot of sense in the teamwork sense so I go for it. We take off and our pace increases greatly, then some more. As we climb we catch this amazing rhythm. I keep my head at an exact angle and Jan goes manimal on the trail. I shadow every move he makes while trying to focus the light just right for him to make the next move--we are almost on top of each other. At one point I bend a trekking pole and we stop to fix it. We start again and get right back to it. Near the end I check my watch, verify the mileage with Jan, do the math three times in disbelief and tell him we just did the whole 2.3 miles at over 4 mph. It was one of the best in synch moments I have ever had and it was after 8 mountains and over 30 miles, uphill and in the dark with a faded out headlamp on the leader.

          We both have a lot of friends that are great at the things we love to do but at this point we both really acknowledged that this team-up was as lock and key as we had experienced. Any small nonsense seemed to be forgotten and faded when our headlamps turned off and our trip took on a refreshed spirit.

          We needed it, tomorrow we would be full-packing it over the Great Range and more.

          Day 4 (32.5 miles 11,160 feet)
          Last edited by Cory D; 10-09-2010, 03:17 PM.
          Be quick - but don't hurry. -John Wooden

          Middle age is having a choice between two temptations and choosing the one that'll get you home earlier. ~Dan Bennett


          • #6
            Day 5 (Great Range and its friends)

            We are up early again and are able to pack up camp and make it all the way to Lake Tear before the sun brakes. We don't stop at all from Feldspar until we drop our big packs after crossing over and onto the Gray herd path. We are both bent over messing with our stuff and happen to look at each other and we are each putting on chapstick and it looks like a mirror reflection. We both laugh, talk about being dialed in and get that jazzed up feeling.

            We make short work of Gray with fresh warmed up legs and spend some time looking at the SE slide on Colden that we climbed the previous morning.

            Over to Skylight and we are greeted by the best conditions I've ever had there. The air was slightly chilled with hardly any wind. The lowlands to the south were clouded and gave the look of great lakes and chains of islands:

            We both lingered trying to take it in even though are next target, Marcy, was a beacon to the North:

            Over and up we go, the climb is steady and we keep the pace while drinking in the cool morning air with views of the central high peaks in all directions the higher we go.

            With my eyes on Haystack I suggest we don't stop and just take the views in as we go although it was tough having the place to ourselves and leaving:

            The trail is a little rough and then we have that climb over Horse hill. It is a steep ridge bump in what would normally be a col. It wasn't too bad this day but I have many not so fond memories of it in the past. Breaking the top we see the oh so sweet Haystack. We keep moving and soon we have dropped our large packs and are catching 360's of viewing delight off Little Haystack. I've been darn lucky this year: This was my 6th time doing the HaBaSa (Haystack, Basin, Saddleback) as part of a hike and each time I've had clear days. Looking back down I'm thinking Haystack is one of the best places in the Northeast to spend your day with its smooth rock and endless things to pick out in every direction:

            It steals your heart away every time you have to leave a mountain top in the Upper Range on days like this.

            We are soon in the col on the way to Basin and our plan from the start of the day was to take a nice quality break here refilling water, washing up a little and stretching out. It was worth it and we're fired back up by the time we head up Basin. It's a good thing because the nice steep climb can feel like a punch in the mouth at times:

            Since we had just taken a long break in the col we only stop briefly on top and making it over we drop down the chute and turn the corner to another one of my favorite spots; this nice tight ledge trail. We are greeted by views of the mountains on today's menu:

            Next up is Saddleback with its notorious cliffs:

            It was my first time doing them with a large pack and it added a little to the pucker factor at times. Looking back it was easy to see why some get a little skittish with ledges:

            It's quick down and then up again; so goes the Range. The cable route up Gothics felt the steepest it ever has to me and we climb in bursts with short breaks up the steep smooth rock. Before getting to the top we make a right turn toward Pyramid. We have to mix in Sawteeth somewhere and now is the best time.

            I notice two things on the long descent over and then up Sawteeth. One, my knees: it feels like someone gently, OK not so gently removed my knee caps and then threw them in the bushes. Two, I started having my first real food fantasies. I started to crave some pizza. Not just any pizza mind you but this Buffalo chicken pizza made by a shop near me and eating it with blue cheese. Over the coming days I'd have these visions where I felt like I could smell it and see it out in front of me. It's a good thing the pizza didn't know what I was thinking.

            Getting to the top of Sawteeth we run into a strange sight at this point. A person on a summit. Yeah, we are over half way through our trip and this is the first time we shared a summit with someone. Nice thing is we got someone to take our first picture of both of us since the Sewards parking lot:

            The climb back up towards Gothics has a lot of vert but climbing is pretty easy, just let's not talk about how the descents feel right now.

            The rest of the Lower Range rolls by quickly like it always seems to do getting off the rock and back onto softer trails.
            Tick tick go Armstrong and Upper Wolf Jaw. There was ticking on the way down UWJ too but that was my knees. The climb up Lower Wolf isn't bad and we are psyched to get all of today's mountains done in the daylight. The light fades and we turn on the headlamps back at the col.

            I tell Jan how nice the trail is on the way down since he hasn't done it in a few years. We start down and I feel like I'd lied. The loose rock was super rough on the legs and it seem to last for a while before getting to the solid portions of softer dirt. We get to the streams and Jan says he is going to get some water. I in the meantime take care of guarding the trail. I lay there flat on my back sprawled out like the little kid in the movie The Christmas Story who has fallen down and can't get up because his snowsuit is to big. Helpless like a slug I think to myself. Laughing at yourself always seems to help and gives me some energy down to the river.

            Crossing over and tiredness really has hit my eyes. Once night hit I became the follower after leading most of the day. I really did follow to--I was in zombie mode, where you want to hold open your eye lids or just lie down where ever you are. I recognize and point out the correct bend in the road though that leads to the cut-off trail, go figure, I didn't even know my eyes were open.

            We get to the camp sites and there are tents everywhere; great. It was Friday night and I had been worried about this. We squish into a small spot and go about our business. For the good of the coming days I suck it up and go down to the stream and soak my feet in the icy water to help relieve any swelling just in case. I remember I wanted to just chew some gum after dinner and brush my teeth in the morning and Jan yelled at me softly that I had to brush my teeth and not be lazy, lol!

            I remember it being pretty late and we would be getting up early and in the dark again. We'd be getting a heavy dose in the form of Colvin-Blake-Nip-Dial and whacking over and doing the 5 Dixes--it's not a comforting thought while climbing into your sleeping bag.

            Day 5 (20.5 miles 9,920 feet)
            Last edited by Cory D; 10-09-2010, 03:18 PM.
            Be quick - but don't hurry. -John Wooden

            Middle age is having a choice between two temptations and choosing the one that'll get you home earlier. ~Dan Bennett


            • #7
              Day 6 Part 1(CBND and the Dixes)

              Going to bed the previous night we were worried about getting up since Jan had lost his watch somewhere between LWJ and the campsite. When we had tested the one I was wearing it didn't go off. Over sleeping when your both beat is easy and getting up too late could mean a bunch more hiking the following night in the dark. We knew going in today was going to be another dark start/finish.

              I wake up to Jan getting up, still totally dark out so without looking I know it's early. Jan says don't worry I'm getting up and starting breakfast you can sleep more. Yes! Even if that means 10 minutes you love that feeling. I also started to think that Jan was hiding a bag of Skittles somewhere with his morning enthusiasm.

              I, on the other hand I felt like I just closed my eyes. My brain didn't have that turned off refreshed feeling and it seemed as if the thoughts I had last night had simply been interrupted by a pause button.

              A few minutes of mentally waking up go by and I decided it's time to move. I immediately feel the burning and stiffness in my kneecaps. Oh, no. I start to feel that shuddered feeling of wanting to crawl up in a ball. I touch my knees and I can feel the heat radiating off compared to the rest of my leg. I all the sudden have that feeling of please no, not all day the rest of the way worry. As I'm starting to think this stuff I realized I've hunched up sitting on my knees still in my bag with my head down and I'm rocking.

              I start to do everything I can to focus and tell myself I knew it was probably going to happen eventually and that it was no big deal. I've pushed limits before and been around even more people doing it to themselves. I've learned that when you fall into that physical and mental hole at the same time gripping for the walls to get out can leave you feeling like your in a sand pit with the sides just collapsing on you.

              The key is to build a mental ladder to get yourself out. It has to either be very simple things; the sun should be coming up soon or about emotional stuff that has meaning to you and you use them like rungs to climb mentally back to where you need to be.

              My thoughts were of my parents and things Ed had said to me and the feeling in my knees reminded me of something I hadn't thought of in years. It was something my grandfather had done. I hardly ever saw my real father so when my mother swallowed her pride and moved back in with her parents when I was 5 my grandfather took on the role of my father. My mother didn't meet the man that would become my step father until I was about 14. When she did he was a guy that grew up country like I had done, jumping off waterfalls in my underwear that were just down the road from our houses and such. I had just gotten into bows and arrows and I remember him giving me what he called one of his best arrows to use for practice. I was having a blast just shooting at targets as a kid. That is until I lost it in the high grass somewhere down the hill where I had been shooting. I searched for probably an hour or two and couldn't find it. I finally went inside and told my grandfather. I was pretty frantic and emotional if I recall; I worried he (my mom's BF) would be mad at me or my mother. My grandfather asked a bunch of questions and I ended up going to bed.

              When I got home from school the next day the arrow was laying on my bed. I was elated and went to find my grandfather but he wasn't around. I remember thinking how the hell did he find it? I went out back and when I got down by the target I was in stunned disbelief. All the grass, the size of a putting green, had been ripped up. Not by a weed whacker (it would of damaged the feathers) but by hand. My grandfather had gotten down on his hands and knees for I could only imagine how long to find it for me. He was about 65 years old and suffering from bad knees himself. I sat there for a long time that day and that feeling staring at the grass has never left me.

              The same as when years before my grandmother had gone into the hospital to have her breast removed from cancer and I sat with him in his big chair watching a baseball game and I happen to take a random look at him and I saw a single tear run down his face. He never said a word and had acted for days like nothing was wrong and everything was going to be fine to show strength to the rest of the family.

              Or when on Wednesdays when we used to go over and mow an elderly woman's grass and he use to swear while working on her broke down mower. Me trying to make it better asking, "well, how much does she pay you?" His reply being, "she don't". Well, why do we do it? "Because" he said, "she has no one else to do it for her".

              Or that feeling when finally after years of people trying to get me to play organized sports because I was such a fast kid I finally joined Varsity soccer my senior year. When that day finally came of the first day of practice and I was woken up by my mother, not to say get up it's time to go but that my grandfather had passed away last night. I went to practice anyway and that early season I suffered through shin splints so bad I could hardly walk on pavement without wanted to tear up.

              As you can imagine... everything became relative. So as I sit up the tent unzips and Jan hands me a bowl of cold oatmeal because he had figured out that we needed exactly a certain amount of fuel for the coming days and I made sure to say that I thought it tasted awesome and jumped out of the tent like the day had purpose.

              I tore down the tent and had everything packed before Jan had even finished getting ready, so I told him I was going to just start heading slowly up the trail. In my enthusiasm I forgot that Jan now had the faded headlamp so I then had to wait for him, lol! Climbing felt good and we get to the junction and drop or big packs.

              Colvin goes by without a hitch and the morning has a cloud ceiling so the surrounding mountain ranges were clouded in but since Colvin is lower we had nice views down to the Lakes:

              The trail over the ridge is great and the decent which has a few real tricky spots causes no problems. At the col I tell Jan that I need a bathroom break and to go ahead.
              We meet back up on top of the always exciting Blake! No views in summer because it is wooded:

              We high-tail it and take our time on the root covered descent and make the climb back up Colvin. On top we meet our first people of the day. They of course are all the people who camped out along side us last night. One lady talks to Jan and then says, "oh, you were the one banging dishes at 5am" while wagging her finger, smiling of course. Poor Jan, always getting scolded.

              Back down to the junction and the big boys go back on. I start off ahead again and not 40 feet away I slip going forward and crash into a big rock taking my breath away for a moment. Jan asked if I'm ok and I really trying to gather myself and don't answer. So twenty seconds later I go Gaarrranamils! Jan's like hell yeah and we scuttle over to the ponds.

              We know we have a tough climb of something like 1300ft ahead of us so we go up to what would be a small stream crossing hoping for some water but it's to dry. We restart and I'm determined to not let this climb get in our way. We pull out and go non stop. Part way up and Jan's like this is awesome! Nippletop is your b*tch! I only say we have a lot more to go and keep the pedal down. I really didn't feel anything physically it was all things like in the tent. I'm happy I'm in the lead because a few times I almost tear up and I just go faster. I actually hear Jan breathing hard a few times which I've never heard before and I just keep going.

              We make the top junction and I toss off my pack saying we just killed that climb. Looking at Jan he does one of those slow head shakes and can't believe it. He says some things and now looking back I realize this was my lead of the way Jan led up from Lake Colden.

              Over to Nippletop and with no views we are back at the packs in no time. The trip over to Dial is pure delight with all soft ridge trail and no rock. With climbing and stretching our legs here I feel real good physically at this point.

              We run into a small group on Dial and begin chatting. They ask us the normal where you coming from and where you going and we say we are now going to bushwhack over to the Dixes. This gets the, wait.. what the hell did you just say conversation going and we end up telling them what it is we are attempting to do. I believe it was the first time we told anyone while on the trip. They mention did you hear about the guy who did them in like 3 days? I say yes I did and I point my finger at Jan. Some fun conversation and we are back down to the col to start our whack.

              Jan says you should probably lead so I dive in. A little thick at first, ok for like 500ft of descent:

              We actually end up noticing that there is a ton of fresh evergreen blow down from earlier this year since it still has the needles on it. I only manage to fall in one duff hole, all the way up to the jewels though so lucky no marks. It then opens up nicely:

              After about 40 minutes we end up at the first stream crossing and it is a sweet wide open spot with a bunch of smooth rock:

              Did water ever taste so good?
              Last edited by Cory D; 09-30-2009, 08:21 PM.
              Be quick - but don't hurry. -John Wooden

              Middle age is having a choice between two temptations and choosing the one that'll get you home earlier. ~Dan Bennett


              • #8
                Day 6 Part 2 (Dixes)

                We had been low on water since our last fill up was back down near the Gill brook campsites so as you can imagine a fresh icy mountain spring was like a fountain of youth.

                We head off back into the bush and cross two more streams before coming out on the Dix trail. We hit it right below where it has the big stream crossing just below the start of the Mother slide. At the crossing we wash up attempting to save weight by making sure to get rid of the three pine trees worth of needles stuck to us.
                Very soon after we hit the slide base and are on our way up:

                Once we are up on the slide Jan says he rather avoid anymore bushwhacking and is going to take the designated trail. I go for slide-to-bushwhack route and first guy to the normal turn in spot will yell to the other and wait. Jan snaps this shot and heads into the woods trail:

                Only moments after I start to hear some howling. Then a bunch more. Within 30 seconds the entire valley is filled with howls, yips and barks. The valley walls and the cirque of slides behind us are acting like a great amphitheater bouncing and magnifying the sound. You can hear new howls joining in from different parts of the valley.

                I hear Jan yell, "you hear that?" and ask what the hell it was. I yell back it is coyotes and they must of made a kill. The sound in the woods was probably a little muffled but I had a front row seat out in the middle of the slide. I then remembered all the paw prints I had been seeing on the trail and that they were mostly universal in size. We knew they wanted nothing to do with us but it helped remind you your out in the wild; especially when you haven't seen a road in days.

                On my way up to my usual cut in spot to make the short bushwhack back to the regular trail I see where some people had whacked in lower down. I get hit by the "hey, lets explore!" bug and decide to try it out. Not one of my best moves. This spot wasn't that far from the trail but the woods were hellacious. I almost struggled more in 5 minutes here than I did in over an hour down from the previous mountain range. I may have used a cuss word or six but the woods knew who was boss when I was done. Once on the trail I look up to Jan and say, "ok, do you want me to say I wish I took the trail?".

                I say look up because we are now on what according to a previous discussion this year is the steepest 1 mile of trail in the ADK. Jan is only a little ways ahead as the crow flies but here is him looking back at me:

                If you look you can see it is not only steep between us but how fast it fades down the ridge. Soon we have some people come down the trail towards us. One is a guy who is essentially doing European style "fell" running down hill. He is hammering, you can tell he is in control but on this trail it could change in a minute. Once he is by Jan goes, "whoa, he should slow down". Wait..what did Jan say? I better write that one down, I don't expect to ever hear it again.

                We keep a real steady pace and it feels like in no time we are catching views off the start of the summit ridge. We both feel psyched to have that climb out of the way.

                We talk about us getting back to Dix again because it is where Jan finished the regular 46 record. As we approach the summit ahead I notice someone and tell Jan we are going to have company; bummer. Up until this point, 34 mountains in, we have only had to share two summits. As we get a little closer I say, "isn't that the guy we met on Sawteeth, yesterday?". Sure enough it is! So having only had to share a summit 3 times, 2 of those times were with the same person on different days.

                We give the, "hey, what's up!" and he ask how we got here. I say, "we walked". He of course is like, "no, I mean from yesterday". I say, "yeah, so do I! How the hell did you get here?!" Of course it leads to him asking what we are doing and then two more guys show up. The guy points out to them what we are doing and after a short talk they ask if we heard about the guy who did it in like 3 days, although he had like air support and stuff. I point to Jan again and say to Jan, "you hear that, air support" since I was Jan's primary back country support person I remind him how good I was. I apparently even flew a helicopter!

                On top of Dix (Jan is the funny looking one in the white shirt and hat carrying a backpack):

                After a good talk we make our way over to Hough and notice that the fog is rolling in and the views were soon going bye-bye.

                We head out and make the shoulder of South Dix and switch to day packs. The way down is all rock and my knees send me some reminders. Up until this point all the descents after Nippletop have been soft. I really start to focus on what the problem could be since I haven't had any sustained knee pain in years. I'm lost in thought and we hit the summit of Macomb. No views so we take off quickly. I'm not going that fast and Jan says he is just going to go a little faster and meet me in the col. Not longer after I finally decide that the knee pain is a result of the trekking poles. I have only used them twice before this trip. I revert back to my normal way of going down and not even a 100 ft of elevation loss go by and I can quickly notice how much better I feel.

                When I was using them I had a tendency to lean forward on the descents. That obviously was putting a lot of pressure on my knee caps over these long days. Getting back to my regular style of being upright and focused on balance my knees felt stronger. It helped so much that I then passed Jan and took the pacing over again. I had already developed some very serious tendonitis but I now had a factor to limit it going forward. It was a huge mental boost to feel somewhat back in control.

                Going back over South Dix (Carson) darkness falls. We make our way up East (Grace) and sit in the dark on the summit. The air is still warm, we sit there in our sweaty shirts and don't even feel chilled. We turn off our headlamps and the stars are in full bloom. Some towns off in the distance have their light smeared by the fog and the lights seem to flicker. Grace stopped us over a year ago near sunset and now she got us in full out night. We know we have to get going; long descent and walk ahead.

                Back at the col Jan snaps a shot before we descend the soft herd path down; note how the flash make the birch trees in the back look like ghost:

                The drop down to the valley is steep but soft and takes awhile but I think faster than we both had feared. Getting to the flats Jan is in the lead and kicks the overdrive in. The trail is rolling and crosses the brook a few times before we finally hit the first campsites. We set up near a fantastic pool with a short but long waterfall leading into it. I made the effort to ice down the feet and we both separately take the time to wash up well. It was the first time in over two days so the feeling was like taking a long sleeve shirt off on a hot day before jumping in a pool.

                Jan had cooked while I washed and told me we had a visitor. A kangaroo mouse kept showing his face and made sure to investigate our bowls after dinner. He would come in, jump up in the air about three times and then take off. I would of thought I was just imagining things if Jan didn't point it out.

                It was also our last of the regular dinners. We wouldn't have even had that but Jan had saved a third of each regular meal the last two nights and tonight became a pot luck of the two. Doing these days on full stomachs is tough. Doing them on shortened calories is brutal. Doing them on two thirds that made my stomach feel like I swallowed a balloon of hot air at times.

                We aren't sure yet if we can make the trip unsupported still and decide to not think about it until we have to.

                We climb in bed and it is early in comparison to the last few nights. We know that three brutal days of intense climbing are behind us and can feel the home stretch. I know we both fear the road walks but each try not to mention them.

                Did I mention thinking about the Buffalo Chicken pizza?

                Day 6 (18.9 miles 8,640 feet)
                Last edited by Cory D; 10-09-2010, 03:19 PM.
                Be quick - but don't hurry. -John Wooden

                Middle age is having a choice between two temptations and choosing the one that'll get you home earlier. ~Dan Bennett


                • #9
                  Day 7 (Giant/RPR to Bigslide)

                  Waking up and starting to move I feel much calmer and my mind feels rested. It's close to sunrise and breaking down camp goes quickly as we both have the duties and "What did I forget" checklist now well memorized.

                  We start out and are just both ecstatic about the trail. It is mostly flat through open hardwoods and is soft underfoot. We have over 3 miles until the road and the trail seems more like a morning massage that a workout. Near the end we see where a giant beaver damn has back flowed the lowland area and the trees are still mostly alive and starting their season change:

                  We also think about how when we originally started the woods had a end of summer feel with some heat and slight humidity and now the woods had clearly started its fall transition.

                  Then we are at the road, *sigh*. I have looked at this part of the trip with fear for months. Plenty of foot problems in the past have me a little queasy. We giddy up though I tell Jan how Pin Pin Jr said it takes him about 45 minutes to get back to the Round Pond Parking along rte 73. We are experimenting with the on the shoulder off the shoulder technique and time goes by quickly with taking in all the views along the road that don't seem quite so pretty going the speed limit.

                  At the Round pond parking I'm looking at people getting ready for the day and I recognized a forum member (Beth). We've never met but it's the usual "I recognize you from pictures" talk and I can see that who the hell are you and why do you know me look at first. Up to this point the only person I've met on the route was ADKJack back on day 3. It is a nice boost of familiarity to see something you know besides roots, rocks and trail signs.

                  We get to the Giant trail head and take our time on the way up. Getting to the Washbowl we head over the cross over trail a bit and drop our big packs for days. The going is steady but much slower than we are used to at this point on a trail we both know very well. We admit that we are clearly much less than normal and we should pay a lot of attention to not over exerting ourselves from here out.

                  We hit the open ledges and a cool breeze comes across. I turn around and we get a view of the Dixes. Funny how they seem so small and don't require thousands of feet of climbing:

                  I also feel nostalgic because I remember standing their years ago on my first ADK high peak thinking I've just found something I'll be doing for the rest of my life.

                  Turning back around again and I see that the cool breeze is a small weather system moving through with rain clouds on Rocky Peak Ridge. My nostalgic thoughts turn to "I'm going to have a wet a(ss) on Giant".

                  We make it up in less than desirable time and get rewarded with no views and a bunch of people. But we get our picture taken again:

                  We take our time down the ever more degraded trail over to RPR and when we break treeline near the top the wind picks up like usual. Getting to the top I measure out the "you have to be this tall to ride this ride cairn". I pass but I know others won't. (Sorry Rik):

                  Down at the col I need to go potty and I tell Jan to go ahead and maybe catch a rest back at the packs. It works out well, the climb is as steep as ever though going back over Giant and the descent nearly as barbaric. Getting back to the packs I'm very excited to get up and do more descending followed by more road walking! I think my burning desire is summed up well in this pic:

                  We get back to the parking area and notice Jan's wife Meg had signed in checking for us. Not to far down the road and she passes us beeping. Back on day 4 Jan called and left a message from the lodge to let her know we were a day behind, not to worry and we weren't sure about being able to do the unsupported part of the trip now. Also that if we weren't going to do the "Un" part we were looking forward to getting a pie at the Noonmark diner.

                  So as we get closer to where she had stopped at the entrance to the St Huberts parking Meg starts running down the road towards us holding out a pie in front of her. She is clearly worried that we are hurting but me and Jan can't help but laugh at the sight. Jan yells it's ok and to go back we are going to do it unsupported. I at the time am thinking where do I sign for one of those, the girl and the pie. Jan thought it was funny how she so clearly was going to miss him for a whole week at time that she said before the trip, "are you sure you don't want to just do it really fast again?, I'll come help you at night time?". That stuff and loves the outdoors to the point she earlier this summer did a week long camp for kids and then came out of the woods the following day and hiked Giant with a friend for fun.

                  We had actually decided sometime between there and the Wash Bowl that we were going to try to get to Whiteface and Esther with what we had in our packs and make what we had already gone through as far as pain and empty stomachs count just a little more.

                  She pulls down to the Keene Valley hostel and we chat more with her, the owners and Ron Konowitz (the only guy to ever ski the 46 top to bottom). Ron had heard about what we were doing at the Mountaineer.

                  We then take off down the road behind the Hostel and cut across the school. I notice while on the soccer field there is a left over ball and decide to give it a go and make Jan chase it knowing he needs to get some cross training in this week:

                  A while and steep paved road climb later we are at the Garden parking and are happy to find out Meg, Ron Kon and Rory the son of the Hostel owners will be joining us for the climb up Big Slide.

                  Climbing and hearing someone talk besides our selves is a delight. It is made even better by the views off the Brothers into a fast changing season:
                  (Me (L), Meg, Rory and Ron Kon)

                  Ron tells some stories about Ed, Rory is scrambling around with youthful enthusiasm and Jan gets some time to talk to Meg so it made a great climb.

                  Our whole group got scolded again by a guy hiking with his girlfriend who basically was demanding to know if we had headlamps and knew the mountain and what time it was. We were nice and reassuring but I remember looking down hill at him and the group and as he is talking I look at everyone and think, hmm we should make it. Even the kid has probably climbed this mountain more than the guy.

                  On the Second brother we decide to take a quick break and I take off my shoe to check out some hot spots I developed from the road walking. I had a huge blister on my heel just above the pad of my foot and a few small ones on my toes. My feet were perfect for 6 days up until a few miles of pavement walking. I have a picture that you can skip if you want of what it looked like 10 days after the trip was over. It never popped and used to be purple underneath. Pic. It would add to the tickle factor for me from here out.

                  We make the top near sunset and the view is scattered with a low very defined cloud ceiling but the setting sun made it look pretty neat:

                  The group wants to hang out for awhile but after eating me and Jan want to take off and take advantage of as much daylight as possible since the trail is steep and wet before getting back to the Third Brother peak. We basically goes as fast as our legs will take us until dark and then slow it down.

                  We decide we will go about .4 miles over and past the stream crossing on the trail up Porter and then head into the woods and set up a camp. We are both pretty excited to know it is our last night out and tomorrow is the push. We are in bed by 11.

                  Day 8 Part 1 (Porter/Cascade to Whiteface/Esther)

                  Before bed the night before Jan had figured on about a 15 hour day for tomorrow and a 3am wake up time would be good since we both really wanted to finish in the light of day.

                  So I wake up at 2:40am to Jan waking up and saying extremely excited and fast, "We should get up, you want to get up, lets get up!!"

                  Now I know his has the Skittles. He gets out of the tent and gathers the water bottles to go down to the stream. As it sounds like he is jogging he goes, "I'm not even going to be upset if camp isn't all packed up by the time I'm back; gleefully!". I yell, "HA! I can still hear the stream off in the distance Jan your not fooling me!"

                  I get up and rush as fast as possible, acting like I'm just taking my time of course as Jan pulls back into camp. It's the last day and any pain seems gone with the adrenaline of the barn door.

                  We take our time picking our way up Porter on a soft beautiful trail and it goes by even faster than expected.

                  We make the top and Jan snaps a pic of me and ask what I'm looking at before walking around and seeing for himself. I tell him I think if we hurry we can race the sunrise to Cascade:

                  Day 7 (24.7 miles 7,940 feet)
                  Last edited by Cory D; 10-09-2010, 03:20 PM.
                  Be quick - but don't hurry. -John Wooden

                  Middle age is having a choice between two temptations and choosing the one that'll get you home earlier. ~Dan Bennett


                  • #10
                    Day 8 Part 2 (Cascade to Whiteface and Esther)

                    So trying to get there as fast as possible we took off and on the way over I'm trying to bring out some sound motivational techniques to get Jan revved up. So I start yelling things at him like, "Hey! Wait for me!"

                    At the junction we quickly toss down our packs and grab out some insulating layers because we know even if it is calm there that on top it gets pretty darn windy. As we break out of the short wooded section I kind of sink to the fact that it seems really bright out as if it's already pass dawn.

                    So we keep on going and getting out onto the rock we can see that the sun has yet to break the horizon and the sky is dancing colors more like a sunset instead of a sunrise of your normal blues, whites and yellow. We find a good place out of the wind and just relax taking it in for a while in near disbelief that this is the last day of our journey and someone seemed to cue up the epic sunrise:

                    After sitting there for quite a while some cold stiffness sets in and we are just waiting for the moment for the sun to peak over the distant mountains. And then it happened:

                    I spend a lot of time night hiking but apparently I have solar panels the way that little globe charged me up. We get back to the packs and start picking our way down taking off layers as we go.

                    Near the bottom we take a break and get some water. Although the mountain is pretty easy it is still around two thousand feet of descent and the mixed rock and up coming roads have me taking a breath. We go over our food for the day and I have each section and what I will take at certain places all mentally mapped out. We have been trying to conserve some of our day food each day to add up to a new day. Jan has a little more than me and says he has a sleeve of Shot Bloks and a GU if I need it. OH MAN! I'm shocked at how much this excites me and then realize this is how a kid at Fat Camp must feel when they promise him a Snickers bar on Monday if he does all his duties over the weekend.

                    Then we get to the road. I hate walking or running on pavement and usually try to avoid it in training like the plague. We take off and I try thinking more about things like the sunrise this morning and we start to play the game of on shoulder/off/on grass/in ditch to avoid the beating. Jan says he wants to sit at the first guard rail and after doing so we discuss what a good idea it is to just take quick breaks and stretch out. We would carry that theme the rest of the way to Whiteface.

                    After what feels like a long time we see the turn off for the Jack Rabbit trail and do a happy dance. At first we end up walking through some high wet grass and then a crushed stone road and I wonder if this is an improvement. Soon enough though it improves and then we make it to the golf course. We get there and are kind of confused on where to go with a lack of summer time markers for a ski trail. We decide to just ask one of the grounds crew and the guy almost seems excited to tell us and is offering more than we are even asking; cool. He says feel free to walk on the grass, I'm guessing by the look of our packs he is taking pity.

                    We are heading on over past the club house and we see a guy hauling butt in a golf cart towards us. I think we both had that, "oh great here comes our scolding" thought. Instead this guy is even nicer and more helpful than the last guy and drove all the way over just to make sure we knew where to go. We now know we are pretty welcome here and head out in the grass even more:

                    I remember thinking, maybe golf courses aren't so bad and how cool it would be to have a trail like a putting green all the way to Marcy. Cresting a hill we spy our target off in the distance.

                    We have already gone roughly 4 mil(lion)es since the roads started and it still looks like it is in another zip code.

                    Entering back into the woods we head down to a valley stream crossing with a bridge over it. I notice there is a bench with a carving in it saying, "in memory of...." and when I look over to the little bridge I see a vase with a bunch of fresh looking roses. I know without looking but upon reading a small plaque I realize that the anniversary was just two days ago. The roses looked like they were still on the bush. It helps gather perspective and we continue on making the short climb out of the valley and back onto River road.

                    As soon as we turn out onto the road there is a section that looks like a painting. Whiteface stills looks forever away. This road ends up looking beautiful but being brutal. There was no shoulder at all the second half and the knees and feet were aching. I developed my first real muscle cramp of the trip in my right calf and some worry sets in about the steep climb up Whiteface from Connery pond still to come.

                    Finally crossing the bridge and getting on to the approach trail and off the pavement was like one of those cartoons were a bluebird comes and lands on your shoulder. We push making pretty good time and we sit after the register to recharge the batteries and eat a little. I am feeling that almost vibrating pain in my lower legs from the road walk and try to massage out the cramp in my calf. I can feel the lump and I work on it for awhile. Recalling the trail from this past winter I knew it was about 3 miles to the turn off then 3 miles up that got steeper as they go.

                    We pick up and head out and I try to start to push. The trails grade is easy and we get faster as we go. Jan tells me he needs to go the bathroom and to go ahead. I keep going and with the slight down hill now I'm going even faster. I look up ahead and see a split turn off and that I don't recall from this winter. Upon getting to it I'm blown away that is in fact the trail up. My pace had quickened so much that I thought it was still at least a half mile ahead. I realize I need to take advantage of feeling good and push. Our plan is to fill our water as high as possible so we don't have to carry as much but at the first stream crossing I feel so jazzed that I just don't give a damn and stop and fill my water bladder to the brim while chugging some.

                    I slip my pack on and try to keep this great feeling. I know from experience when your just this beat it becomes a roller coaster ride of highs and lows. I make the leanto which I believe is about 1.1 up and just keep going. I all the sudden think where the hell is Jan. I know well he is fine and will catch up but I also know I'm not cresting Whiteface without him. About halfway up I hear the sound of a trekking pole hit a rock and yell back to Jan. He asked if I stopped to get water yet and that he will need to since he passed at the lower spot. As we climb we realize that the only water will be to climb down a now very steep bank to the stream and then climb back up.

                    Jan ask how much I filled up and upon me telling him I've got a full two liters offers up a deal; if you just share I'll give you a tube of peanut butter and some chocolate on top. Whoa!! Best deal ever! At least since that Native American in the movie Dances with Wolves got Kevin Costners knife for a bead necklace!

                    As we head up we try to stay strong and the trail turns into a boulder field. Jan notes how every one seems to be turned in the wrong direction. Then the sides of the trail become so grown in I'm reminded of the Santanonis on day 1. With the combo of balancing rocks, steep trail and now branches seemingly pulling down on you as you climb I become less than enthused. Jan reminds me where we are and my mood changes back pretty quickly. We break out onto the open rock and now views are telling us that in fact yes we really are on Whiteface. We snap a bunch of pictures swapping the camera and the lead. Soon we are just below the summit:

                    The cold wind reminds us we are on a mountain and just which one. We break the top and look over at the tower and I feel a little more like I entered heaven than a tourist haven. We touch the sign and Jan says he wants to get a picture to put back up at the Mountaineer where he works. They try to put pictures of great moments and it sure feels like this fits:

                    The people who took our picture asked if we hiked up. Look back at the picture.

                    We go inside out of the wind to eat and the PB and choc that I was promised taste like a victory dinner. We also noted how darn good those cushioned chairs felt since it was the first time sitting in a chair in over a week.
                    Last edited by Cory D; 10-05-2009, 12:11 AM.
                    Be quick - but don't hurry. -John Wooden

                    Middle age is having a choice between two temptations and choosing the one that'll get you home earlier. ~Dan Bennett


                    • #11
                      Day 8 Part 3 (Esther)

                      We know we aren't done and make our way down to the Esther junction. The descent was tough. At the junction we each eat and drink a little. The trail over is probably the best herd path of all the herd path peaks and emotion with soft trail leads to a quick ride. Upon getting there we both go to shake hands but instead have one of those somewhat awkward man hugs. We both then collapse next to the Esther plaque:

                      I then pulled out the prayer card from Ed's wake. I had carried it with me to each peak since the start just like the thoughts of his words helped carry me at times:

                      Jan took the card and read it aloud. It was a peaceful time with only some wind in the trees. We knew our journey wasn't over just yet and that a tough descent still await.

                      Back at the junction we each ate our last GU. It was the last of our food. We had used everything to it's end from the food to our stove fuel and even some baby wipes. It all ended up being the exact amount we needed. All our garbage from the trip along with our toothpaste was the only thing in our bear canisters.

                      Even with such emotion all the loose rock which cause every foot step to roll took a pounding on us. We had talked of personal things but by the end the trail had again silenced us. We made the last little climb and gave out some yells. The only thing there was my car that I parked over 8 days ago. We take off our packs and have one of the best friend hugs of true joy I've ever had.

                      I look at my watch and tell Jan it was 7 days 14 hours and 15 minutes since we started back at the Sewards.

                      We make sure to stretch before getting in the car for a long ride since we know our bodies are beaten and then hop in the car. I put it in reverse and go to back out when Meg, Jans wife, pulls in behind us! Upon getting out we realize Meg will have food too so as we greet I see the pie and pizza boxes in the passenger seat. As they talk I go straight for the food and when I open the pizza box I see it's Buffalo Chicken! Oh my lord, the Blueberry pie and pizza! I think I tell Meg I love her before Jan has a chance.

                      When we get near done eating Jan says to Meg he thinks he is going to ride back to the house with me. I think me and Meg are both shocked by this and quickly I say that's alright ride with Meg. I don't know women well but I know them enough that I'd have paid for that one! Knowing how close there relationship is and they had been apart for so long the thought meant more than I can say.

                      It reminded me how when Meg and Ron climbed Big Slide with us Meg said she was so impressed with our speed and Ron commented he was more impressed with the fact we had been alone together for 7 days and didn't want to kill each other. How Jan had thought at the end of day 1 when I was slow that this would never work. Our low moment at the Flowed lands leanto. Then with each passing day we started to rely and take pride and motivation in each other and how it became more of a single way of thinking than separate to the point at the end getting into separate cars felt like leaving a little part of you behind.

                      I told Jan when we were climbing Marshall how Ed talked about teamwork and that you don't let the other crash and burn. He said, "yeah but what is teamwork really?". I replied at the time that I thought it was more of a philosophy than anything else and that if we both make it through after being a day behind we'd each have a different outlook. Sometimes pats on the back need to come with kicks in the azz and we all need them both from time to time.

                      Ed was also right about something else. That damn pie which was the first thing I ate really was the best pie I ever tasted. At least since my grandfather's homemade apple.

                      Gear List

                      Day 8 (29.6 miles 7,280 feet)

                      Last edited by Cory D; 10-09-2010, 03:21 PM.
                      Be quick - but don't hurry. -John Wooden

                      Middle age is having a choice between two temptations and choosing the one that'll get you home earlier. ~Dan Bennett


                      • #12
                        WOW Cory---I can't wait to read this...Thankfully I have some down time at work work tonight


                        • #13
                          I'm going to try something different. I reserved a post for each day of the trip and a comment post. I'm only going to post a report of 1 day of the trip each day. So you will have to wait and see how each day unfolds just like me and Jan did when we were out there. We never knew what the story would bring and you will only have an idea through pictures. I'd also like people to get the feel of just how long we were out there and this seems like a fun way and try and simulate it for you guys.

                          Feel free to leave any comments and questions on days already posted. I'll post the next day tomorrow morning but you might have to wait until Sunday night for the one after since I have a tendency to go hiking on weekends. ;-)
                          Last edited by Cory D; 09-25-2009, 03:47 PM.
                          Be quick - but don't hurry. -John Wooden

                          Middle age is having a choice between two temptations and choosing the one that'll get you home earlier. ~Dan Bennett


                          • #14
                            Cory man I GOT to know what happens. At least post day 2 for us?


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Mountain Matt View Post
                              Cory man I GOT to know what happens. At least post day 2 for us?
                              I edited my last post Matt, if you look your going to have to wait until the morning. The report is written, I'm just hoping people feel that little bit of unknown like we did every day.
                              Be quick - but don't hurry. -John Wooden

                              Middle age is having a choice between two temptations and choosing the one that'll get you home earlier. ~Dan Bennett