Saturday, June 29, 2013


During a hot, hazy and humid stretch of weather, there's no better place in the backcountry to beat the heat than Sawyer Pond. Accessed  by a mellow 1.5 mi. hike off the end of the gravel Sawyer River Rd. (FR 34) off Rt. 302, the waters of this gem are broad, clear and deep. There are plenty of shoreline spots from which too admire the views across to Owl's Cliff and Mt. Tremont, and to take a cooling dip.

Carol and I started off in hot sun at the end of the road...

...but soon entered a cool mixed forest.

The grades on the Sawyer Pond Trail are easy to briefly moderate, with a few muddy/rocky stretches. There are also some nice soft footing sections like this.

We passed an open swamp on the right shortly before reaching the pond.

The classic view of Mt. Tremont and Owl's Cliff from Sawyer Pond.

A shoreline side path leads 0.2 mi. to the shelter. It was fully occupied (see photo below), but the campers soon took off for a day hike somewhere and we had the area to ourselves for an hour or more.

Before settling in at Sawyer Pond for a swim, lunch and a siesta, we climbed the herd path to Little Sawyer Pond, which rests on a shelf 125 ft. higher than the big pond, and briefly enjoyed its quiet isolation. This is the view from the pond's outlet, looking across to a spur ridge of Mt. Tremont.

A view of Little Sawyer from a spot along the shore.

Back down at Sawyer Pond, we continued on the shoreline path beyond the shelter to a rock with a view back to Green's Cliff.

We backtracked a bit to a nice shady opening with a good entry point for the water. A dip in the pond was most refreshing. Then we just hung out in the shade, listening to the birds (including the far-carrying call of an Olive-sided Flycatcher). At one point a loon briefly surfaced just off shore, undoubtedly pursuing some of the trout we saw leaping from the water.

Lots of White Admirals around. These three held a conference by our siesta spot.

We could have easily stayed an hour or two longer, but possible severe thunderstorms were in the forecast for later in the afternoon, and another camping group had arrived. After a last look at the view, we headed out.

A zoom on Owl's Cliff and its great craggy eye.

We passed by this colorful scene at the shelter on our way out. Summertime, and the livin' is easy...

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


For the last day of our quick getaway to the Adirondacks, we opted for a short, mellow hike to two beautiful ponds in the Sentinel Range Wilderness, followed by a drive up the Whiteface Mountain Memorial Highway before heading home to New Hampshire.

We used the longer but easier approach to Copperas Pond from NY 86 NE of Lake Placid.

A scenic section of the trail followed along the outlet brook of Owen Pond.

Nice mellow walking after the previous day's rocky climb of Wright Peak.

Owen Pond, seen here from its outlet, is a typically beautiful Adirondack backcountry pond. A spur of Kilburn Mountain rises beyond the pond. It's said that there are 2,600 ponds and lakes in the Adirondacks. Wonder if anyone has been to them all?

The trail continues past a beaver pond.

After a short climb, we descended to the south shore of Copperas Pond, where we found a beautiful view of Whiteface Mountain. The cliffs of Wilmington Notch are seen in the foreground.

A closer look at Whiteface.

A view from the east side of the pond.

A towering red pine at the site of a former lean-to.

We continued along a spur trail to the rocky north shore.

Here we found a perfect sun-warmed sitting rock for lunch and a midday siesta, with a beautiful vista of trailless Kilburn Mountain across the water..

After a while I continued along the spur trail to the remaining Copperas Pond lean-to.

A strenuous shoreline bushwhack over boulders and ledges expanded the Sentinel Range view to include Stewart Mountain.

Back at the sitting rock, a double boot shot.

On the way back, a peek at Wilmington Notch.

Back at Owen Pond, we chatted briefly with a couple who was spending the afternoon relaxing here - he fishing, she reading. Easy summertime living in the 'daks.

After returning to the trailhead, we continued along NY 86 through scenic Wilmington Notch.

Next was a drive up Whiteface Mountain Memorial Highway, a paved, well-graded road that climbs to 4600 ft., about 270 ft. in elevation below the summit. Esther Mountain is seen in the center of the photo.

There are two ways to get to the summit from the top of the road: an elevator (!) whose shaft was blasted through the bedrock, or a walkway that leads up the spectacular NW arete of the mountain. We chose the path, which offers some terrific views. (We did take the elevator down.)

This could be quite an interesting walk, minus the railings!

Looking south to the Great Range and the MacIntyre Range.

At one point you look straight down an old slide with Lake Placid in the distance.

An obliging fellow tourist took our photo at the top.

Whiteface has a weather observatory on its summit. The NW arete can be seen to the lower L.

Looking west to the McKenzie Mountain Wilderness.

Whiteface is one of the great viewspots in the Adirondacks.

A summit shot of Carol before heading home for New Hampshire. It was a short trip to the Adirondacks, but a sweet one.

Monday, June 24, 2013


The second day of our mini-vacation dawned bright and clear. This would be our only full day in the Adirondacks, so we headed for Wright Peak (4580 ft.), one of the more moderate climbs among the 46 High Peaks. On the way in from Rt. 73 to the Adirondak Loj trailhead, we stopped to admire the classic view of Mt. Colden and the MacIntyre Range. Wright Peak can be seen at right-center, under towering Algonquin Peak and above little Mt. Jo.

After paying our $10 parking fee and visiting the High Peaks Information Center (operated by the Adirondack Mountain Club), we set off on the Van Hoevenberg Trail, which is the main route to Mt. Marcy and provides access to the trails on the MacIntyre Range. We each took a small rock to place on the summit of Wright, for use by alpine stewards to delineate the trail.

The first 1.2 mi. of the trail was at easy grades with good footing, descending a bit at first and then rising gradually, traversing Adirondack Mountain Club property for 0.8 mi., then entering the High Peaks Wilderness.

After turning off from the Van Hoevenberg Trail onto the trail to Algonquin, we soon encountered rougher and rockier footing, and this prevailed the rest of the way. Higher up were a few ledge scrambles such as this one.

At 2.5 mi. we passed a cascade known as MacIntyre Falls. This spot reminded me of the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail.

Above here we picked our way up a very rough and rocky stretch, like the Tripoli Rd. end of the Mt. Osceola Trail on steroids.

It seemed like a long 3.4 mi. to the junction with the side trail to Wright Peak. These are "Adirondack miles."

After scrambling up ledge slabs for a quarter-mile through scrubby conifer woods, we emerged above treeline at 4300 ft.

Carol led the way on the steep climb up open ledge slabs.

Still going up - what a great summit, with perfect weather! The first time I climbed Wright, in April 1984 with my buddy Harry Cunningham, we almost got blown off the peak by fierce winds with temps in the 20s. Today we had warm sun, low humidity, a light breeze, and very few bugs.

Great view looking back to the west at the Seward Range, with MacNaughton Mountain in the foreground on the L.

At the summit, the full 360-degree panorama opened up, with 33 of the other 45 High Peaks visible. This view looks east beyond Table Top Mountain to Giant Mountain, Rocky Peak Ridge and the Great Range.

In the Great Range (L to R): Upper Wolf Jaw, Armstrong, Gothics, Saddleback and Basin.

In the Giant Mountain Wilderness (L to R): Green, slide-scarred Giant, and Rocky Peak Ridge.

An impressive close-up of Algonquin Peak (5114 ft.), second-highest in the 'daks after Marcy.

View north beyond Heart Lake and Mt. Jo to the village of Lake Placid (L), Whiteface Mountain (center) and the Sentinel Range (R)

To the NE (L to R): Cascade Mountain, Porter Mountain, and the sharply truncated Big Slide Mountain.

Most impressive of all, the view across Avalanche Pass to the awesome slides on Mt. Colden, which the Indians of the Adirondack region called "Ounowarlah," or "Scalp Mountain." The large, bright slide in the center, as well as the thin one second from left, fell during Tropical Storm Irene in 2011. The slide on the far left came down during Hurricane Floyd in 1999.

One of the relatively few hikers we saw today was kind enough to take a summit picture of us.

Carol and I took turns checking out the site of a tragic USAF bomber crash just below the summit in 1962.

Debris from the crash is scattered amidst the ledges.

Carol pauses by a large cairn as we descend off the peak.

Lots of crampon marks on a ledge down below treeline.

A prominent cliffy knob on the west side of the Algonquin trail.

At MacIntyre Falls we chatted with Patrick, an ADK Summit Steward from Utica, NY, who had been on duty atop Algonquin that day. He said there were, surprisingly, only 17 hikers on Algonquin during this gorgeous midweek day. We, too, were surprised at the lack of hiker traffic; we figured there would have been 100+ people climbing Lafayette this day. No complaints, though - for our two-hour summit stay, we had the views to ourselves for all but about 20 minutes. It was a fine day to be in the High Peaks!