Lake Aloha, and the Desolation Wilderness

May 23, 2020, Echo Lake Trailhead

Arrival at Echo Lake

In late May, having settled into my new apartment in the Bay Area, I decided to set off on a backpacking adventure. This trip would represent my first wilderness adventure in California.

I decided on a stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail near Lake Tahoe through the Desolation Wilderness. From the name alone I knew this would be some sort of adventure.

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Mount Marshall (nearly twice)

Mount Marshall from a false summit just north of the peak.

March 7, 2020, Adirondak Loj

Arrival

The journey to Mount Marshall began on a largely ordinary weekend in early March of 2020. It was likely the last ordinary weekend of 2020. The novel coronavirus had already begun to increasingly dominate the news cycle. But that was hardly evident on this sunny, beautiful Saturday. Alpine and nordic skiers, snowshoers, and post-holers had already filled the parking lots of Heart Lake. Between the rows of cars, excited conversations took place in both French and English in equal measure. There’s usually one (maybe two) weekends in March where the bright sunshine of nearly-spring and the thick snowpack of a full winter collide. This was that weekend.

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Colden and Phelps

A bolder perched precariously atop Colden

November 2, 2019, Adirondak Loj

Arrival

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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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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Marcy, Skylight, Haystack, and Gray

July 21, 2017, Adirondak Loj

Out of my comfort zone

My very first Adirondack 46er adventure began around 7:00 am, in the parking lot at Heart Lake.  It would be a weekend of many firsts. Most obviously, it was my first pair of high peaks: Skylight and Marcy.  But beyond that, it would be my first time backpacking and backcountry camping. In fact, it would be my first time pitching a tent in the woods.  I’d been “car camping” exactly once before.

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