Colden and Phelps

A bolder perched precariously atop Colden

November 2, 2019, Adirondak Loj


I arrived at Heart Lake before dawn on a brisk day in early November. The target, a pair of classic high peak day hikes: Colden and Phelps! My original plan consisted of hiking the Santanoni’s. But torrential rain and high winds had plagued the Adirondacks in recent days, and I decided to target a couple of peaks easily accessible from the relatively dry and well-trafficked Van Hoevenberg trail.

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Giant & Rocky Peak Ridge

October 13, 2019, Chapel Pond

Starry Skies at Chapel Pond

I arrived at the parking for Giant via the Ridge trail around 6 am.  The Autumn days were rapidly growing shorter. And on arrival, I was treated to a clear sky full of stars.  How beautiful! This was my second day-hike of Columbus Day Weekend, and my second high peaks adventure post-knee surgery.  Lower Wolfjaw had gone well the day before. And so I decided to graduate to Giant and Rocky Peak Ridge.

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The Sewards

Approach from the West

Spend time exploring the Adirondacks and you realize the land within the “blue line” encompasses far more than mountains.  This is particularly true of the western Adirondacks. Here waterways like the Raquette River (French for snowshoe) meander through countless lakes and marshlands. The whole swampy, flowing mess meanders towards the St Lawrence to the north.  That’s the sort of landscape I found myself in as I drove north and westward via NY 30. I was headed towards the westernmost of the high peaks: the Sewards.

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The MacIntyre Range: Iroquois, Algonquin, and Wright

August 29, 2018 — Upper Works

The Iron Works

The day began around dawn with some rough dirt roadways. Blue Ridge Road cuts nine miles from NY 28 to the “Upper Works trailhead” along Tahawus Road.  Driving deeper into the forest, I considered just how isolated this corner of the Empire State truly is.

Isolated, and vast. Since the recent purchase of the Boreas Ponds Tract, the High Peaks Wilderness now boasts a contiguous land area larger than the City of Los Angeles. And surrounding the “wilderness” itself are miles of private and mixed-use forested lands devoid of connected, improved roads.

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The Dix Range

October 7, 2017, Round Pond

Elk Lake and the Dix Range

In the Fall of 2017, I undertook my second backpacking adventure in the Adirondack high peaks. The plan was to case the Dix Range, five peaks within the former Dix Mountain Wilderness area. (The area has since been absorbed into the High Peaks Wilderness).

The Elk Lake trailhead provides the most convenient approach to the Dix Range.  A private resort owns Elk Lake itself, providing trails exclusive to their overnight guests.  That said, they operate under a conservation easement that allows the public to hike across the land on select major trails. Even these trails close during big game hunting season from roughly mid-October to the end of November.  From Elk Lake, ambitious hikers can bag all five peaks in a single day.

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Cascade and Porter

October 6, 2017, Mt Van Hoevenberg Trailhead


They say life is more about the journey than the destination, and that’s obviously true of the quest for 46 high peaks.  But as I push on to climbing more of the Adirondacks’ tallest mountains, I really am struck at all the weird places it’s brought me and all the interesting things I’ve seen.  My trip up Cascade and Porter certainly provides an example of that.

The “normal” trailhead for Cascade is right off route 73 just after the stunning drive towards Lake Placid along Upper and Lower Cascade Lakes.  And from that trailhead, it’s roughly 1.6 miles directly up the slopes of Cascade to its bare rock summit. This unusually easy access to a high peak with a gorgeous view makes Cascade one of the most popular hikes in the region.

To summarize: short trail from the roadside.  Gorgeous views. Crowded summit.

But my experience with Cascade and Porter would involve none of those things.

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