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

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