Sunday, June 23, 2013

Backpacking Pilot-Pliny Range Traverse, New Hampshire (Mt Cabot and Mt Waumbek)

Just another epic traverse in the White Mountains!
Sunset on the Presidential Range from Mt Waumbek
We Northeastern hikers are really gluttons for punishment, aren't we? I mean, what kind of masochist invented The Presidential Traverse or the Pemi Loop? Or there's the 50-Miler Hut to Hut Traverse, the Great Range Traverse or Kinsman-Cannon Traverse? Good grief, if you ever wanted to know how much pain and suffering can be fit into a one or two day hike, ask a White Mountain hiker. But all joking aside, there's something about doing those big traverses and summit challenges that makes it fun. So I'm going to slide another one by you- the Pilot-Pliny Range Traverse which climbs 2 4,000-footers, 4 of New England's 100 Highest and about a half dozen other "Puds" (pointless-up-and-downs). This trek brought me deep into the Northern Whites which was a spectacular wilderness.

View Pilot-Pliny Range Traverse in a larger map

This particular trek has been done many times before but it doesn't enjoy the fame that the Presidential Traverse and Pemi Loop have. There's also probably a dozen different ways to do it. At some point in the trek, the following summits are climbed- Mt Waumbek, Mt Weeks-South, Mt Weeks, Mt Terrace, Mt Cabot, The Bulge and The Horn. All except for Mt Terrace are on the 100 highest list and Waumbek and Cabot are 4,000-footers. Its a nice way to bag a bunch of summits on the lists while enjoying the wilderness. While Cabot and Waumbek are frequently hiked, the trail is more or less of a route between the two. 

I started from the South and, because I had no car shuttle option, it was to be an out-and-back hike. My plan was to leave from the Mt Starr King trailhead and make it all the way to the Mt Cabot Cabin on the first day. The second day I would hike Cabot, The Bulge, The Horn and hike all the way back to the trailhead. By my estimates, its about a 32 mile out-and-back trip but don't quote me on that! 
The Northern White Mountain National Forest
It was going to be a very tough hike, no matter which way I did it. The White Mountains may be shorter compared to other ranges in the West, but they are so rugged and steep that they compete for some of the most difficult hikes in the US. This one was no exception.

Leaving from the Starr King Parking Lot just outside of Jefferson, New Hampshire, I made the 3.4 mile trudge up Mt Waumbek. Its a pretty good trail- well marked and easily followed. After a couple of hours I was on the "summit" of Mt Starr King which is not a true mountain. However there is a very nice view just past the summit which overlooks the Presidential Range. Very photogenic. After about another mile I was on the summit of Mt Waumbek which was also nothing much. There was another view just past the summit with views though.

After leaving the summit of Waumbek, the trail became progressively more overgrown. South Weeks and Mt Weeks are both climbed somewhat irregularly by folks looking to bag New England's 100 Highest but do not expect the trail to be as nice and wide as it was on the latter summits. It was a bit of a trudge to get up both these summits and there's a nice PUD between the two that may leave you cursing this trip!
This was "the trail"
After passing over the forgettable summits of all the Weeks, the trail gets... interesting. This part doesn't appear to be maintained although there are yellow blazes which mark the way. At this point, it really does become more of a route than a trail and I would advise you to use caution. The route is easily missed and there were sections where I had to stop and use my map and compass. Some sections are fine, others are just hell. The picture above was taken on the Northern slopes of Mt Weeks where fallen trees completely obscured the trail for about half a mile and I was completely reliant on searching for those well-worn yellow blazes. Some profanities were uttered. You have been warned.

After coming down the summit of Mt Weeks, the trail meets the York Pond Trail at Willard Notch which separates Terrace Mountain from the Weeks-Waumbek ridgeline. The elevation is about 2,700ft, give or take which means that its a steep trail ahead of you or behind you. The trail becomes more of a trail again and climbs up to the summit of Terrace mountain, almost 1,000 vertical feet above the notch. There are some pretty views here too. The trail follows the Terrace  Mountain ridgeline with a few minor summits along the way
Terrace Mountain Summit and the White Mountains Wilderness
Coming down from Terrace Mountain is tough too- you drop about another 1,000ft to the Bunnell Notch separating Terrace from Mt Cabot. The Burnell Notch Trail is well traveled and you hang a left here to head up to Mt Cabot. At this point I was wicked tired but its still another 1,000 vertical feet to the summit of Mt Cabot. Hiking by headlamp at this point, I slowly made my way up the Mt Cabot Trail and finally arrived at the Mt Cabot Cabin. I promptly unpacked and was asleep before I hit the pillow. Its actually a nice cabin considering how far into the wilderness you are. You might want to still put your food in a bear canister as I understand there are some rodents up here that could chew through your backpack...
View from Mt Cabot Cabin!
The next morning was gorgeous! I had a glorious view from the Mt Cabot Cabin and made breakfast and coffee at 4,000ft. The sun was out and the temperature was perfect. I headed off from the cabin and was on the summit of Mt Cabot in moments. From here I wanted to bag both the Bulge and the Horn. It was a couple miles further but I was not traveling with a backpack so it didn't take too long. The Bulge was completely viewless and forgettable but the Horn was phenomenal  In fact, it was the best view on the whole hike. It was the classic 360-degree panorama with a hundred summits in view. I was glad I made the extra effort to get to the Horn from Mt Cabot. I would recommend it to anyone, whether your doing the 100 highest or just out for a hike of Cabot. It was the best view in the whole range!

Well from here, what can I say? I turned around and went back the way I came! I mean... it was a little more difficult than that sounds, but I didn't really have an option. I didn't run into any other hikers on the entire trip except for the Over The Hill Hiking Club out of Sandwich, New Hampshire. That was humbling- it was a seniors hiking club but most of the folks in it had hiked the 48 4,000-footers 6-8 times each! WOW! And I thought I was cool...

Its just a different breed of hikers out here in the Northeast!

Read. Plan. Get Out There!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Maine Hike: Boundary Bald, New England 50 Finest Mountains

Boundary Bald, north of Jackman, Maine and just south of the Quebec border was one of the finest summits I've climbed in all of New England. It was tough to get to but its panoramic views of the Maine North Woods were unparalleled by any other summit I've climbed, short of Katahdin.
The incredible views on Boundary Bald, Maine
Well I am hacking away at another peakbaggers list, again! Today its New England's 50 Finest Summits which is a collection of the most prominent summits in the region. I love climbing mountains on this list because I always end up climbing remote, rarely hikes summits which always turn out to be an adventure. As it turns out, Boundary Bald was on this list and its hike and view were like nothing I've ever encountered in Maine!

Boundary Bald is located off of Route 201, North of Jackman, Maine. Jackman kind of the last stop on the way to Canada and its definitely a border town. Its also a big logging town, hunting town and adventure town. I always love coming through Jackman because I know there's a bunch of kindred souls in that town who all love the rugged beauty of the Maine North Woods. Here is my hiking map so you can get an idea of how far out there it is-



View Hiking Boundary Bald, Maine in a larger map

So, yes, it is out there. Most people traveling through this area are loggers or hunters. Nevertheless, its a beautiful part of Maine that everyone should see. I was in this area for some river rafting and I had some extra time to do some hiking. Why not make some progress on New England's 50 Finest?

Like most mountains in Maine, getting to the trailhead is half the battle. So from wherever you are, you will need to get to Jackman Maine. Just as you cross the river, North of town, set the car odometer to zero. The turnoff for the trailhead is on an old logging road, 7.8 miles out of town towards the border on route 201. It is just past "The Falls Rest Area" and there is a small white sign which points the way. This is a logging road and while it could probably be cleared by a sedan, I don't like taking any chances with my car and I parked off to the side of the road on Old Canada Rd, just before the turn off. I mountain biked in- I just don't want to break down or get a flat on a logging road, if you have a 4x4 you will be fine. From Route 201, drive 4.4 miles down this road and don't get side tracked on the many unnamed roads in the area. Look for a little white sign that marks the Boundary Bald Hike.

ATV track just after the logging road
After 4.2 miles, you will come to the turnoff for Boundary Bald. Hang a left on this road and drive about .2 miles further to a small "parking area" before the ATV Track. Unless you are *very* comfortable with your 4x4 skills, I'd recommend pulling off here. I dropped my mountain bike here and walked up the ATV Trail. The walk up the ATV Trail is not too bad but I would be a little hesitant to drive up it. I would estimate that it was about 1.5 miles up this trail until the clearly marked trailhead. 

Like I said, getting to the trailhead is half the battle. 

Its a beautiful trail in some sections and its a murderous trail in others
With these torrential rains that have left our 2013 summer with something to be desired, it was not surprising to have completely soaked trail. In fact, there was about a foot of standing water on the trail at the very start... welcome to hiking in Maine. From here the trail was basically cannibalized from a few mountain streams. There were blue blazes to mark the way but it got a little ambiguous in some sections. Just keep your head up as you walk and don't go too fast. There were some really pretty sections and several obligatory false summits to keep you on edge.

Eventually I popped out in the krummholz section of the hike and I knew I was getting close! The trail steepened, the vegetation more stout and thick and the views were phenomenal. I was at the "bald" part of "Boundary Bald" and I couldn't get enough of the views. The trail does get very  difficult to follow as you top out though. 

Somewhat of a peculiar sight on the summit of Boundary Bald
I couldn't get enough of these views. This summit is magnificent.
Crossing the trail through the thick summit vegetation offered views in every direction. I wondered to myself how this mountain wasn't climbed more often or why there wasn't a more established trail but I appreciated the solitude. There's just something different about climbing mountains in Maine as opposed to New Hampshire or Vermont. When I'm hiking in the Whites or Greens, its usually more of a social affair- I meet and talk with many other hikers who are just like me and out for a good time. Maine is different- even on the Appalachian Trail I hardly see other hikers and when I do, the conversations are terse. Silence and solitude are always in abundance. 

This day was no different and I encountered no other hikers. I had that beautiful summit all to myself!
Coming down the mountain and trying to follow the blue blazes
Coming down the mountain is always difficult- I wish I could waste the whole day just relaxing at the summit but alas, I have responsibilities back at home. It was a classic slip and slide on the way down but I was elated with climbing such a gorgeous mountain. 

Climbing New England's 50 Finest is such a crazy adventure. Boundary Bald was probably one of the best I've done so far but I'm looking forward to further adventures and misadventures in wild places such as these. Whether or not you're a peakbagger, you should make it up to Boundary Bald sometime. Its too good to pass up.

Read. Plan. Get Out There!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Urban Kayaking in Chicago, Illinois

A unique way to see the Chicago skyline!
Trump Tower at sunset from the Chicago River
As you might infer from the rest of this blog's content, I generally prefer wilderness to city travel. However, I do find urban trips to be very appealing as well; culture, architecture, food, ect. On this trip to Chicago, I was able to have the best of both worlds- kayaking and urban culture! I have done a lot of kayaking in my days, but I don't think I have ever had an experience like this one- kayaking through a major metropolitan area. As it turns out, it was a great day adventure! 

Although I live in Maine, I frequently visit Chicago to see my significant other who works in the city. Funny to think that when I started this blog in 2010, we both lived in Southern California! So this is why I find myself in Chicago more often than most Mainers. She was the one who came up with the great idea to rent a kayak downtown.

Sunset paddling on the Chicago River
Our outfitter for this trip was Urban Kayak which is located right on the riverwalk across from the Sheraton. We rented a tandem kayak and elected to have a sunset tour of the Chicago Skyline. We left right there from the dock and headed towards the locks between the Chicago River and Lake Michigan before turning around and heading back to Wolf Point in the center of the city. We were in a group of 6 and we did the Sunset Paddle.

The trip itself was leisurely enough to enjoy the downtown skyline while getting in a pleasant work out. We were in a tandem kayak and we actually fared quite well. I've been in tandem kayaks before with others and when things really aren't clicking... that can be stressful. However, we did really well. Our relationship survived the true test of harmony- kayaking a tandem kayak! (Single kayaks were available.)

Here is our route!

View Urban Kayaking Chicago in a larger map

At time the boat traffic was busy and our guide made sure we didn't pull anything crazy. There were also some "rapids"- areas where the skyscrapers air conditioning units causes smaller currents. (nothing too difficult!) We paddled under a dozen bridges and watched tourists take pictures of us. Even though the Chicago River is busy with commercial and recreational traffic, it felt like we were on our own out there. We were able to take pictures and enjoy the skyline without worrying about bumping into others and it was much better than doing an architecture tour or just walking around.
Amazing views of the city from the water around Wolf Point
Classic shot of the Near North Side Chicago
Eventually we rounded Wolf Point which was the highlight of the trip. It was a spectacular view from the water- we saw the CTA trains rolling out below the shadows of all Chicago's famous buildings. I've been out this way before on foot and seen the view but there was just something more special about seeing it from the water. I couldn't get enough of it; I'm sure I annoyed my oh-so-patient girlfriend as I continually snapped pictures. What can I say... I was enthralled with the view.

As the sun set, we turned back towards our point of origin. Our guide kept us entertained with quirky stories about Chicago which was a nice addition. The lights of the city started coming on and we were kayaking by city light! It was dusk when we arrived back at the dock and I didn't want to get out. I wanted to head back up the river and keep kayaking by city light. 
Kayaking by city light...
I couldn't believe how much I had enjoyed the trip. I mean, I am used to kayaking places like the Maine Island Trail, the Boundary Waters and the California Channel Islands. I love the challenging wilderness experiences and tough navigation. This trip was entirely different and yet just as enjoyable. For once I was able to sit back and relax and enjoy the scenery without worrying about setting a course or combating currents.

It was a unique trip. I don't think I could have that kind of experience in any other city either. It was a relaxing trip and you didn't have to be an experienced kayaker to enjoy the trip. In my opinion  its the best way to experience the Chicago Skyline.

Read. Plan. Get Out There!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Best 10 Mountain Hikes in Vermont

Vermont is a small, sparsely populated state with some of the best adventures in the eastern United States. I am continually drawn to the many mountains and hikes in the Green Mountains as well as other parts of the state. These 10 mountains are my favorite of the endless hiking opportunities that are available in the state.
Hiking the Mountains of Vermont
Who would have thought that "The Green Mountain State" would have a bunch of green mountains to climb? Well its not surprising, but there really are some of the country's best hikes in this state. Most of them are crossed by Vermont's infamous "Long Trail" which climbs many of the major summits from Massachusetts to the Canadian border. However there are some notable summits off the Long Trail. So after having traveled all across Vermont, I'd like to present you with what I consider to be some of the best hikes. Any serious Vermonter will probably have hiked all of these, but I tried to throw in a couple that weren't as well known or didn't have a ski resort.

View Vermont's Best Mountains in a larger map
Hiking Mt Killington
1. Camels Hump, 4,083ft 

Ah, shoot... how many times can somebody talk about how great the Camels Hump hike is? If you're a Vermonter, you probably hiked this mountain before you could even walk. Although it is not the tallest mountain in the state, Camels Hump is Vermont's Mountain in the same way that Half Dome is the emblem mountain of California or how Katahdin is Maine's mountain. Camels Hump is on the Vermont Flag and State Quarter. So although its always talked about as a great hike, there are good reasons behind it. You can hike it from the East, West, North or South depending on how long you want the trip to be and most hikers do it in a day. Hiking from the Monroe Trail in the East makes it a 6.6 mile long hike, round trip. Hiking the Burrows Trail, from the West, makes it a 5.8 mile round trip hike. Both are spectacular!
Mt Stratton, the birthplace of the Long Trail and Appalachian Trail

2. Mt Stratton, 3,940ft 

Mt Stratton comes in a close #2 on my list of most historical hikes in Vermont. Camels Hump is great, but Mt Stratton was the spiritual birthplace of both the Appalachian and Long Trails which are two of the country's most famous long-distance hiking trails. Funny to think that two different people stood upon this summit and both thought "Hey, lets make a giant trail in the mountains". As such, when I first hiked Mt Stratton, it was almost a religious pilgrimage to a holy site. Mt Stratton is crossed by both the Appalachian Trial and the Long Trail and it is an important summit in its own right. The best way to climb it is through the Long Trail in the South. Its a hard place to get to, but worth the drive. The Long Trail from the parking lot to the summit and back is roughly 6.8 miles long and can be done in a day. The fire tower at the top has views of all of Southern Vermont. You might even think of your own long distance hiking trail at the top!
Long Trail up Jay Peak in the Fall
3. Jay Peak, 3,862ft 

Jay Peak is perhaps more famous for being a ski resort than a trail, however it is a great mountain to hike. Its only 5 miles south of the Canadian Border too! I hiked Jay Peak from the Long Trail in October when the leaves were in full color and I couldn't get enough of it. It was my first New England Fall and I hit it at just the right time. The views from the summit are expansive and you can easily see all of Northern Vermont and the mountains of Southern Quebec. The parking lot is on Route 242 as it crosses the Long Trail. Its about 7 miles round trip and it is a steep hike. There are a few views along the way too. Directions
The Long Trail in the Fall
4. Mt Mansfield, 4,393ft

Mt Mansfield is the high point, of course! At just over 4,000ft, its modest in elevation in the way of state high points, but don't let that fool you! At these latitudes, its high enough and cold enough to have a significant alpine zone which is bare and features views of the entire state. I hiked this mountain a long time ago when I first came to New England and that would have been before I started blogging! It was an interesting hike- I did the Long Trail just past Stowe Mountain Resort. I ended up running into a bunch of fog but I was happy to hike the high point. As you can see from the map, there are perhaps a dozen different ways you can reach the summit and each has their merits. If you do the Long Trail route, it is about 4.6 miles, round trip.
Mt Abraham in the Spring
5. Mt Ellen, 4,083ft and Mt Abraham 4,005ft 

Mt Ellen and Mt Abraham would make this list include 11 mountains but I figured I would combine these two because they are on the same ridgeline and usually hiked together. Mt Ellen is the taller of the two but Mt Abraham is more famous and has better views. I was delighted when I drove out to the trailhead because I saw multiple artists painting pictures of Mt Abraham! What a great way to start the hike. I hiked the Battell Trail from the West but there are many hiking options. If you hike from the Battell Trailhead and do Mt Ellen as well, it is 11.8 miles, round trip. The hike follows the ridgeline between the two summits and there are numerous mini summits with great views. 
Summit of Mt Ellen
Summit of Mt Equinox at Sunset
6. Mt Equinox, 3,840ft 

Mt Equinox is unique on this because a) Its not on the Long Trail, b) Its not in the Green Mountains and c) There's no ski resort! So if you thought I was just doing the summits of the LT, you're wrong! Mt Equinox is in Southwestern Vermont and is the tallest summit in the Taconic Mountains which run along New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont's borders. This is the same mountain range which Mt Greylock and Mt Frissell are a part of. The hike of Mt Equinox is 6.2 miles and a small side trail leads to Lookout Rock which has the best views. Here is a map from the Equinox Preservation Trust. Like most of these hikes, it is steep but easily accomplished in a day. 
Summit of Mt Ascutney
7. Mt Ascutney, 3,130ft 

Mt Ascutney has  2 out of the 3 qualities of the former- its not on the Long Trail and its not in the Green Mountains (technically speaking). Mt Ascutney is a monadnock, you know... kind of like Mt Monadnock? This is to say, its a smaller mountain that rises abruptly from its surrounding terrain and is not connected to any other mountains. Mt Ascutney has a volcano-like appearance to it for this reason. What makes this hike special is its unique views of the Connecticut River Valley and the Vermont-New Hampshire border. I hiked the Windsor Trail which was a short but steep 5.4 mile trail, round trip. There are also many other hiking trails
Mt Killington Summit
8. Killington Peak, 4,235ft 

Okay, we are back to familiar Long Trail favorites and I couldn't write this without including Mt Killington. This one is about as famous as Camels Hump and Mansfield; if you're a Vermonter, you've hiked it, skied it, snowboarded it, brought your kids and dog up it. I hiked the Bucklin Trail which is the most popular way of hiking the mountain. I did it the summer after Irene rolled through and it was quite ridden with debris. Nevertheless, the trail was excellent as were the views. 
More classic Vermont hiking...
9. Mt Pisgah, 2,785ft 

Mt Pisgah is a summit on the famous Lake Willoughby in the Northeast Kingdom. The lake is reminiscent of the glacial fjords of Norway and its easy to see why its become such an ideal location for hiking and ice climbing. The easiest trail is about 5.0 miles and here is the map. I've come to view the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont to be one of the most ideal places in New England for hiking and relaxing. Its such a quite and unassuming place that doesn't quite have the hustle and bustle that the White Mountains or Green Mountains tend to have. The "NEK" as they call it is as Vermont as it gets.
View from the summit of Mt Philo
10. Mt Philo, 968ft 

This is a whimsical little hike just south of Burlington, Vermont. I threw this one in here because a) It has amazing views, b) It's easily done as a family hike and c) It's very historical! First of all, the views- from its comparatively modest elevation of just under 1,000 feet, Mt Philo has views of Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks. Its about a mile long hike and here is the map. I doubt there's a better view for such a short hike. This is also Vermont's first state park! As such, I just had to include this one in the mix.  

There's 10 mountains with perhaps two dozen hikes! Hopefully there are some great hikes in here that you haven't done. Regardless, Vermont's mountains will continually offer great respite from my busy life... whether its the 900ft summit of Mt Philo or hiking the Long Trail entirely!
Freedom and Unity!
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Saturday, June 1, 2013

Adirondack Great Range Hike: Lower Wolfjaw, Upper Wolfjaw, Armstrong and the Gothics

As it turns out, it can snow up to 3 feet in the Adirondacks, even on Memorial Day! An unfortunate weekend for a backpacking trip...
The Adirondack Great Range... Memorial Day 2013??
Well not all the adventures I write about on this blog are successful and this was one of my less enjoyable trips. The Great Range in the Central Adirondack Range of upstate New York is one wild range. With peaks between 4,000-5,000ft, its not exactly uncommon for snow to linger on into the summer. However, it IS unexpected to have 3 feet of snow on Memorial Day weekend! Unfortunately for me, that was the time I was traveling to the Adirondacks! Needless to say, I was unable to do the full Great Range.

The Great Range Traverse is an infamous Northeastern death-hike or sufferfest that is done by insane hikers such as myself. For more examples, see Presidential Traverse, Pemi Loop, or Bigelow Traverse . While there are several variations of the Great Range Traverse, it is most commonly associated with climbing Lower Wolfjaw, Upper Wolfjaw, Armstrong, the Gothics, Saddleback, Basin, Haystack and Marcy. These are all some of the tallest mountains in New York and are all part of the "Adirondack 46ers".
Rooster Comb Trailhead, High Peaks, Adirondack Range
Well, I knew this was going to be a sufferfest because I had climbed Vermont's Camels Hump the day before and run into significant snow at the higher elevations. It was really difficult to tell how bad it would be up high though! I mean, there's just no knowledge base of how quickly 3 feet of snow melts in late May because, this hasn't happened in any recent history! I'm sure its not the first time, but of all the people I talked to who were intimately familiar with the Adirondacks, none of them had seen "this much snow this late in the season". Really, this was ridiculous even considering the range.

So I began as most hikers do at the Roostercomb Trailhead just outside of town in Keene Valley, New York. It begins a relatively steep ascent from about 1,000ft to the summit of Lower Wolfjaw at 4,173ft. There are, of course, a half dozen false summits and countless PUDs (pointless up-and-downs). Again, this was expected...

At about 3,500ft, I started running in to snow. It got to the point where it was significant- perhaps 6 inches to 1 foot in the shady spots and cols. Crossing the summit of Lower Wolfjaw, the snow and mud were enough to slow me down to 1-1.5 miles per hour. At this point, I started thinking that I probably wouldn't be able to do the whole traverse.
Lots of false summits and PUDS!
Part of the sufferfest that is the Great Range Traverse is the descents- Between Lower Wolfjaw and Upper Wolfjaw is a nice 900 foot decent and re-ascent. The trail continued to be drenched in wet snow and ankle-deep ice/mud. I wasn't feeling to happy. Eventually I topped out on Upper Wolfjaw, 4,203ft and it must have been 2 in the afternoon.

So it was looking like I wouldn't be able to do the whole thing. I decided to do Armstrong and the Gothics and descend from there. I knew that a thunderstorm would be rolling in the early hours of the next day so I didn't want to get caught up on Marcy in the middle of the night, exposed to lightening. I descended to the next col between Upper Wolfjaw and Armstrong which was tough, but not as bad as the last one.

Armstrong, 4,429ft was the first summit with a really great view which assuaged the misery which this hike was becoming. This isn't my first time on a really difficult hike, but I just couldn't deal with soaked and cold feet coupled with wading through icy mud. I mean, I was well prepared for weather and rain but even the most waterproof of boots will eventually be soaked through. After hours and hours of this, it was safe to say that I was just going to have to deal with cold feet for the duration of this trip
Views from the summit of Armstrong, I think?
Armstrong wasn't much of a mountain, more of a hiccup between the Wolfjaws and the Gothics. Climbing the gothics was about as bad as it would be on this hike. The Gothics sit at about 4,600ft so I was basically post-holing in about 2-feet of snow while the ambient temperature was 55-degrees. At least the view was nice!

Coming up the Gothics was tough, but coming down from them was crazy! It is a really steep and exposed decent- enough to where I wish I could have roped up for it! On a sunny, dry day, it would have been tricky. On a wet, icy day, it was madness. There are some ropes which some kind soul has installed which help. For the most part I was just walking down these 45-degree rocks in wet boots and praying that my hiking poles didn't slip out from under me. I may have uttered a few choice words down this slippery descent. 
Part of the trail had ropes, most of it did not. 
Is it really the day after Memorial Day??
Eventually I came to the col between the Gothics and Basin mountain where I bailed. I should mention that the entire trail is a classic "Northeastern Trail" which means that it was basically cannibalized out of a small stream which runs down the mountain. Basically I was wading down a stream, all the way to the bottom. I can't complain- its the same stuff I've dealt with hiking in the Whites, Greens and Maine's Mountains. 

At some late hour in the evening I finally arrived at the lean-to below the Gothics and spent the night here. Usually this Gothics-Armstrong-Wolfjaws hike is done in a day but I had planned on spending 2 in the Great Range. The lean-to felt like a hotel compared to everything else that had done!
He'll be coming down the mountain when he comes...
Wouldn't want to cross this without a bridge!!
It was a nice night- I was dry and comfortable. The next day it was raining but I was still okay. I descended down to the Ranger Station and lodge which serves as the entry point for these peaks. Johns Brook runs through the valley just North of the Great Range and it can be a formidable crossing. There is one bridge and I would recommend using it any time of year. It is nearby the Ranger Station.

The hike out wasn't so bad. I was not dry, but I was dry-er. It is still a long walk out and it is wet and muddy. Eventually I made it to the Garden Trailhead which is a different trailhead than the one I came in on. You can either take a taxi back to town for 5 dollars or you can walk back to your car which is about 2 miles away. I might be wet, tired and sweaty, but I will never pay for a taxi for a 2 mile ride!

I suppose I will have to come back to do the Great Range again someday soon. I can't say I enjoyed this hike as much as I have others in the area, but I will come back! I guess it all goes to show that you never know what's going to happen in the Adirondacks. 

Read. Plan. Get Out There!