July 22, 2008

backpacking to uphill brook: gray, skylight and marcy

The much anticipated and painstakingly planned for backpacking trip is complete. My son went and though acting very thirteenish will never admit, actually had a good time. Maybe a better description would be he made the best of it..but I am satisfied with that because there were several moments, seemingly small, but actually huge, where he contributed to the team work that hiking and backpacking requires. When he is not so tired and sore and a few weeks pass, hopefully he will forget the extremely hard work of the past four days and have lasting memories of the time spent in the mountains. As for right now, he plans to forever remain a 3er and anyway, he did climb the highest one.

Before I move along to the actual trip, I have to say that in addition to my father climbing with me, I would not be able to hike and backpack without the aid of my mother helping to care for my daughter while I am exploring the park. My husband, who does not want to be a hiker, is a hunter (which involves hiking through the forest, I hate to tell him) and understands that my new passion seriously imitates his love of going to hunting camp with the guys. Thanks to him too for realizing the importance of my goal.

Ok, so we leave the Upper Works trailhead in Newcomb, NY at 8:30am on Friday. My pack weighs 29 pounds, my father's weighs about 35 and Greg's unfortunately has accumulated about 22 pounds. We rested several times along the calamity brook trail before taking the first serious break at the Flowed Lands Lean to. Only about 3 miles left from here to Uphill Brook, where we are aiming to camp. There is a method to my madness of packing in 7.5 miles. First to be far away from the more populated camping areas (to avoid bears) and second, to get Greg closer to the trails of the mountains we plan to drag him up. Soon we made it to Colden Dam. I could not wait to see this place for myself. My ONE bottle of well water brought from home was gone by this point and I am happy to say that my very first sip of filtered water is from Lake Colden.
Of course it tasted great. We moved on to complete the 2.5 miles we had left to make it to a campsite. By 5:00pm we arrived at the lean to and were pointed in the direction the campsite by the occupants of the lean to who are ironically another Father and adult Daughter hiking team. The tent set up very easily and in no time we were boiling water for our dinner. We ate, hid the bear canisters and by 7:30pm were in the tent ready to drift off to sleep. As I closed my eyes I pictured where I was on the map and felt a huge surge of confidence in myself. I wasn't overly paranoid about the bears, and I surprised myself at my ability to just relax and enjoy the experience. I owe much gratitude to my hiking friends (adam, kathy, martha) who prepared me so thoroughly, that I feel like I have done this before. I fell asleep with the birds chirping and the sound of the brook in my head.

Saturday morning: we were awake by 7:00am, ate our oatmeal, drank some awesome percolated coffee and were on the trail by 8:00am. We hiked .5 mile to the trail junction to Lake Tear of the Clouds and the Four Corners. The Four Corners is where the trail to marcy and skylight actually begins. A mere 1.2 miles to Lake Tear, the highest pond source of the Hudson River. I was in awe of actually seeing this Lake because I had heard its name repeated to tourists hundreds of times throughout my summer employment as the beginning of the Hudson.

The cairn which denotes the beginning of the trail for Gray is at the outlet of Lake Tear. We chose to hike Gray first because the view is less important and we wanted to give the weather time to clear before we summitted Marcy. The trail up Gray was tricky at times, but my son shared that having to climb the mountain was better than just walking on the trails. My father explained to him that the trails are like taking batting practice and making it to the summit is like the actual game. Greg stated that batting practice is more fun. If he would only realize how much this is conditioning him for running those bases. Anyway...the summit of Gray is reached in no time. We were alone for about 2 minutes and then Gray became like an overloaded clown car. We had fun with the 20 or so people, announced that this was Greg's first high peak to which one man proclaimed was child abuse. The same man told Greg he thought the Rangers had an X-Box at the station. The next time we saw a Ranger, I had her explain that there was no TV at the station. Back we went down Gray and traveled on to the four corners. The weather appeared to be clearing, but with a cloud still surrounding Marcy's summit, we decided to climb Skylight next. Only .5 miles from the four corners. It was an easy hike. We were alone at the summit and spent a good amount of time up there while the cloud still lingered over Marcy. Greg did bring a rock from treeline, as legend says if you do this it will not rain. We did not want to take any chances of it raining while trying to catch a view from Marcy. From the four corners the trail to Marcy is .9 miles. We made great time to the treeline even though we were all beginning to tire. No way were we going to be this close and not do Marcy, even though we knew it meant getting back to camp after 7:00pm. Traveling up the bare rock to the summit of Marcy is very difficult. Luckily there are many cairns to stop and rest at. It was incredibly windy and my leg muscles were burning. Standing on Marcy was an incredible feeling and I was so excited to have my son with me for this one. Maybe I was delirious at that point but I had to wipe away a few tears. I felt sure that even if he really never climbs another high peak with me this will be one of the fondest memories. So there we were, three generations standing at the summit marker. We had made it into double digits as this makes 10 peaks for us.

We descended quickly and pumped water out of Lake Tear even quicker as we were attacked by literally the first black flies of the whole trip. (I thought of you renee) We made it back to camp, ate another delicious prepackaged backpacker meal and went to sleep by 9:00pm feeling extremely happy at not having to drive the hour and a half back home after the climb. The plan is to climb cliff and redfield on Sunday...
Sunday Morning: We barely had the oatmeal cooked and it started to rain. We rethink our plan of starting up Redfield right away. Then the rain became heavier and with a newly vacated lean to next door, we jumped at the chance to get all of our gear over to that lean to before it got soaked. We easily transferred everything except for the tent and agreed we had made a good choice to put off climbing Cliff and Redfield until another time. We spent the day lounging, napping, reading the lean to notebook and writing in it, playing a dice game and being the welcoming committee of the lean to for people who were still hell bent on getting up Redfield. Three guys did it and another couple had to turn around, for uphill brook had turned into uphill raging river. Two more guys from Toronto showed up at our lean to. They were soaked from doing the Indian Pass trail and asked if we would be opposed to sharing the lean to. Of course we would not. Anyway it is protocol in the mountains. With our other visitors we had spoken only of hiking, but with these guys, conversation of the upcoming election took place as well as inquiries about the Canadian health care system. A very interesting evening of conversation. Very strange though, where else would you spend the night sleeping with complete strangers?

Monday: We woke up at 6:15am to find that the rain had subsided. We anxiously packed up after breakfast, hoping to get on the trail and have some time to hike in the sunshine. The trails were small brooks and required slow going to avoid being soaked through. I managed to fall down like a ton of bricks slipping on tree roots. I am pretty sure the black and blue mark on my hip is a personal record and it appears to be swollen too. Definitely could have been worse and I had a good laugh at my own expense. Even though the 1.6 inch of rain from Sunday wreaked havoc on an already wet and muddy trail, the high water levels made the brooks and the opalescent river absolutely beautiful to view on the way out. We remarked on how quickly conditions change in the adirondacks and that nature really is in charge out there. It took us the exact 8.5 hours to pack out as it took us to pack in and were at the car by 5:00pm with muddy feet but definitely not wet feet. Greg got a second wind and photographed the abandoned mining village next to the parking area while we changed into sandals and loaded up the car. I could not drive fast enough across the Blue Ridge Road to the northway in search of the convenience store in Pottersville. We joked that we wanted milk, green tea, pepsi and coffee all at once and the three of us could not eat the pizza and salt and vinegar chips fast enough. Onward home to showers...even with no sense of smell, I knew that it could not be good.

Our first backpacking trip was a success. Time to plan the next one around mid August.


renee said...

congratulations on your first (and sure to not be your last) backpack!!!!
so glad that the black flies were better and that you scored a lean-to. spending a whole day in a tent is not quite as fun....

corin said...

Yes, the lean to was a no brainer based on your last trip report...I knew quick action was necessary to save the day!

Allison (sister) said...

Wanted to let you know that I do indeed read your blog. In fact I enjoy it very much. I am so proud of you guys and even though at this point in my life, I am unable to join you - I feel I can live vicariously through you as I read your blog. Perhaps you are right about Kyle wanting to become a hiker in a few years - I would like that. Are you willing to do them all over again with us? lol.
Love you!


sheri said...

Okay...I'm now recruiting hikers for backpacking!!LOL I shared your hiking story with folks at the office and someone actually wants to come up and hike! So what do you say...want to plan a Labor Day weekend hike? Oh...did I mention he's cute? :-)