Saturday, July 23, 2011

Hitting the High Spots in the MacIntyre's

So where in the woods is Laurie today?

Some call me crazy, but I decided to brave the crowds over 4th of July weekend and head for the mountains. After all, Saturday's weather called for a nearly perfect day. After last week's rains, I was ready for some sunshine. And what better way to celebrate the return of the warm yellow ball than with an above tree line hike?

Off I went to hike Wright, Algonquin, and Iroquois. My usual hiking partner was in Switzerland completing a difficult, yet spectacular traverse of the Haute Route (shameless plug: with ADK's Adventure Travel), so I was hiking solo again.

Arrived at the Adirondak Loj early for a less crowded start. The trails had dried out slightly from last week, but were still a bit muddy. As I made my way along, I spotted my first wildflower and stopped to snap a photo. (One nice thing about hiking alone, I can stop whenever I want.) Went to turn on my camera, and the dreaded "change battery" message appeared. I had just charged up the darn thing. Apparently electronics and rain don't mix. Camera was DOA for the day.  Grrrrr.......(I'll have to use some previous photos.) Oh well, at least I brought along my trusty Adirondack Alpine Summits guide by Nancy Stack & Allison Bell. Great field guide. I like to record the dates I see flowers and compare when they bloom from year to year. I'm embarrassed to say I actually check off the flowers I see in the book. Hey, we all have our guilty pleasures!

Onwards and upwards I bounced along the trail towards my first peak of the day - Wright. Turning left at the trail junction brings you to tree line quickly. Spotted some Labrador tea about the same time the black flies spotted me. The swarm circled slowly, then with lightening speed raced in for the kill. It's July, you are all supposed to be gone!!!!!! Ripped off the backpack, threw on the bug shirt, a hat, and a head net. I call it my impenetrable fortress of defense. So much for catching some rays! But I was here for the flowers and the views.
Labrador tea on Gothics

Alpine azaleas in June
On the top of Wright, I chatted with Devon, one of ADK's summit stewards. The summit steward program  is a partnership of the Adirondack Mountain Club, the Adirondack Nature Conservancy, and NYS DEC. The summit stewards protect and educate people about New York’s fragile alpine plant communities. Many hikers (as well as other folks) don't realize alpine plants grow on the highest summits in NY. The alpine wildflowers are so delicate yet so breathtaking. My favorite alpine flower has to be the alpine azaleas. Here's a picture I took of some this past June on Skylight. Today on Wright I also saw mountain sandwort and three-toothed cinquefoil.

Atop Wright Peak in the fall
(banner photo above is also taken from Wright)
It was time to say good-bye to my black fly friends and head over to Algonquin. Back at tree line I  let the bug fortress down. Hopefully it won't be needed again! After a quick descent, it was back up again, really steep this time. Just when you think you are making good progress climbing, there goes some shirtless guy sprinting up the slabs. I sometimes wish I had started hiking back in my 20's and not waited until I almost turned 40. Maybe that would have been me at his age (just not shirtless). Anyway, I did make it to the summit, just not as quick as shirtless guy. Enjoyed some lively conversation at the top before making a wildflower sweep. 

How's this for justice - as I was paging through my book to check the flowers I saw on Algonquin, there, gently crushed in the fold, was a dead black fly. Let that be a warning to the rest of your kind! Oh, I saw the same flowers on Algonquin and Iroquois that I saw on Wright.

View of Wallface from Iroquois summit
I didn't linger too long on Algonquin. I figured I could do that later after I came back from Iroquois. I was slightly dreading the low spots between Algonquin and Iroquois. They are notorious for being bottomless mucky pits . And today was no exception. I carefully picked my way through and then my foot slipped off a rock. Splatt! Not content with just the bottoms of my pants dirty, I now went for the total body immersion. I managed to keep myself from a full face plant, but was still treated to a lovely facial of mud spray. Invigorating! Fortunately the rest of the climb was uneventful. The top of Iroquois was quiet and I enjoyed a nice lunch, soaking in the scenery. 

After an appropriately lazy spell, I descended, gingerly working through the mud patches again. The climb back up Algonquin is always a thigh and calf burner (probably not for shirtless guy though). I soon topped out and joined the growing crowd at the summit. Found myself a quiet rock, finished my lunch, and then had my favorite hiking treat: a Toll House cookie bar. Only to be consumed on the final summit of the day. And if you ever hike with me, I've been known to bring extras. (My culinary efforts pale next to my hiking friend Kathy's baking skills. Her legendary cookies and brownies are well known in these parts - and she's always carting large containers of the delectable delights in her pack!)
From Algonquin's scenic summit
After about an hour of playing summit lounge lizard (and being nibbled on by my fly friends again), I decided it was time to head down. I stopped a few times at some of the refreshing brooks along the way to wash off a layer or two of mud. After a pleasant stroll through the woods I found myself back at the Loj. A quick change of clothes and a frozen fruit bar, and I was on my way home. 

Next time: Toothy Gothic spires

Friday, July 15, 2011

Where in the Woods is Laurie?

Welcome, welcome to my first attempt at blogging. My boss thought it would be fun to follow my escapades hiking in the mountains - mostly Adirondacks right now, but you never know where I'll turn up! I'll also share some of my past (and future) stories of adventures around the globe.

But first, some background on me: A couple of years ago I left my marketing job in the corporate world to become membership director for the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK). I had been a member of ADK for 10-some odd years and started volunteering at one of the chapters. From there I was offered a position at ADK. I love working for an organization whose mission I believe in and where I get to talk to people about protecting wild lands and waters in New York State. It's great to wake up in the morning and feel like you are making a difference.

What are these flowers?
Lake Elk Lake Trail?
So off to my adventures....A few weeks ago on a Sunday, I decided to brave the iffy forecast and hike Hough in the Adirondack Mountains. 20% chance of showers was apparently code for wind driven rain at summit. I'm a bit of a weather geek and nowhere in the weather discussions was there mention of wind driven rain. But such is the Adirondacks! I parked at the Elk Lake trailhead and proceeded to wade my way through the trail. Not as bad as I have seen the trail, but still there was running water everywhere. I'm also a wildflower dork, so I enjoy taking pictures of wildflowers. Here's a picture of one I haven't been able to identify yet.

A very wet bunch berry
I'm loving the day!
Since I was just hiking Hough, I took the Lillian Brook herd path. The last time up the herd path was a pleasant stroll in the woods (and some great raspberry picking). This time it is was wet with boot-sucking bog/mud at the start. The woods were wet too and I was pretty soaked before I had gone a 1/4 mile. But then it started to improve. Lillian Brook is a very pretty stream to follow. On a warmer day there are many places to take off your shoes and dip your feet in the cool water. But not today. Today it's a day for my little toad friend I came across on the trail.

I made it to the campsite area (too high to actually legally camp here) and started off towards Hough. Now I've been on Hough 7 times before. I know it's steep up, on a short ridge, and then steep down. I bushwacked around one rock bump (Ok, bad idea. Would have gotten less wet had I stayed in the rain instead of pushing through dripping wet branches.) and then made for the high spot to see if I could get some kind of visual. (Does anyone see where I'm going with this?). (Also decided maybe I should put on my rain jacket too...) Went over the high spot and starting descending fast. Nope, too far. Thought maybe the summit was the first bump I went around. Back over the high spot to the first bump. No, that was definitely lower. Decided to walk for another 10 minutes back towards Dix and then turn around. Went to the high spot again to look for anything higher. Finally looked up at the lone tree on the rock - oh, look! The summit disk for Hough. Duh! Note to self, high spot = summit. The view of the clouds was lovely today.

On my way down Hough, I ran into the first people of the day. They were excited to realize they weren't the only crazy ones out there! It was a relatively uneventful descent until I hit the muck again. Yuck! But I knew the trail was close by. As I made my way back to the trailhead the sun  poked out of the clouds. I finally started to dry off. Back at the parking lot I ran into a group of young folks backpacking for the week. They had made their way over from the Ausable Club. It's always great to see young, fresh faces enjoying the outdoors! And with a few giggles, they were off on their own adventures.

Next up...Hitting some high spots in the MacIntyre's.