March 16, 2009

Avalanche Pass

I wish I could bottle the feeling I get when I turn down the road to the Adirondack Loj and share it with people who think there needs to be a religious connection to spirituality. When I first see this view, and continue driving toward it's enormity, I take in it's awesome beauty, and actually experience an awakening of my spirit. If I could describe it I would say it is a rush of excitement and love and thankfulness all wrapped into one moment that is truly spritual. This feeling can last a second, a few minutes or longer if you allow yourself to be in it and focus on the powerful feeling that is greater than everything else...for that moment. Stress and strain of daily life is checked at the invisible door that opens into the peaceful easy feeling of the mountains as I leave route 73 in Lake Placid.

I hiked through Avalanche Pass and to the frozen shores of Avalanche Lake with my father on Sunday. We have talked about doing it for months and it appeared that we might not be able to get to it this winter. I recall standing on the top of Algonquin last September, looking down on the sparkling deep blue water of Avalanche Lake and feeling that it was a must do trip for the "list". My list. There is a mystical pull to this destination. It is one of the most unusual places in the Adirondacks. It is also one that is discernible from many of the summits.

The trail was packed down and icy from the parking area to Marcy Dam. We had yaktrax attached to our boots and did just fine with only their slight grip. There was no post holing and no slip sliding. We made it to the Dam in about an hour. It was so warm and sunny that we lingered here for about 15 minutes. It was Noon, so I ate one of my sandwiches. Totally against my better judgement~ I could not resist taking a picture and texting it to my friend Sheri who was busily working away this beautiful day in NYC. She quickly texted back that she wished she was with me. Me too, I told her. Off we went to make our way up the Marcy Brook Trail. The water was running, thanks to the thawing, and provided the nice babble of water that adds so much to the relaxation of hiking. We brought our weekend packs because they are big enough to hold our snowshoes. You are supposed to have them with you (read: on) during the winter months. However, the trail being so packed down enabled us to make an easy decision that we preferred not to use them. We made good time on this fairly level, smooth trail with it's rocks all snowed in. Apparently, there are ladders to0. We only saw the very top rungs of one ladder, a hint at how much snow there really still is on the trail. We made it the 2 miles past Marcy Dam to the Pass in less than 2 hours. The sky was indigo blue and cloudless. I hiked in fleece pants and a long sleeve underarmour t-shirt. No hat and no gloves the entire day. It was like early summer, but with snow still covering the ground, and no bugs. The first clue that you are at the Pass is that you break over the top of a long ascent and suddenly you are looking at one of the slides of Colden. Very Close up.

All of a sudden, I realized why it is named "avalanche" pass. I got a little panicky thinking about the possibility of melting ice or snow giving way in this very narrow area of trail. I could hear dripping and popping and an occasional tumble of falling ice and snowballs. Needless to say, I moved quickly and snapped photos even quicker. About 5 minutes later, after a short descent, the narrow pass opens into Avalanche Lake. The temperature on the backpack thermometer registered 70 degrees in the sun as we ate lunch on some rocks facing the lake. We spent about 25 minutes soaking up the view and the warmth and appreciating the moment. There was no wind, no clouds and the 10 or so other people that we saw were very far across the lake from us. They were seen but not heard. Phew! I am not big on sharing conversation with the other hikers at this particular moment. Actually, it annoys me when I have to overhear conversations about current events or medical issues or anything else for that matter. I think it negates the calming feeling. Avalanche Lake doesn't care about the latest hype and that moment, neither do I. Don't get me wrong, I am all for being pleasant and even helpful....on the trail. Just don't walk 10 paces behind me and loudly examine the meaning of your life thus far. That HAS happened to me, no exaggeration.

We packed back up and reluctantly, as always started back for the parking area. Another quick trip through the narrow cliffs of the pass. We had seen a ranger who politely asked us to wear the snowshoes on our way out. He said they were trying to protect the trail in order to keep it ski-able. Since we chose to ignore him, I have to say, I spent a small amount of the return trip worrying about him jumping out of the woods and reprimanding me for not having them on. I think because if I were a ranger, I would totally do that to people. Good thing I am not a ranger.
On the way back we checked out 2 of the 3 lean to's. One had a journal and we spent some time reading the entries. We got our answer about the prevalance of bears in this area that is too- close-to-marcy-dam-to-not- have-problems. Sure enough several entries mentioned a bear with a tracking collar passing through, ripping apart their "bag", ignoring their "canisters", sniffing around, etc. NOPE, Corin and Mark will NOT be camping here.
The hot sun had further melted the ice on the trail between the dam and the lot. The last mile of the trek put us on slushy snow that made it seem like we were hiking in beach sand. I am sure that is what has lent itself to the strange soreness I have now felt for 2 days. Not to mention that this was our first, nearly 10 mile hike, in 4 months.

I very much liked seeing the flowed lands in summertime after our winter visit there. I feel the same about this area. Hopefully, I will be able to revisit Avalanche Lake to get the full effect of the cliffs meeting the water. Most likely it will occur on the day we plan to head up Mt. Colden. Which will be soon.


Russ said...

You know there are few things in life that stay in your head and for me when I see the picture of the trail along Avalanche Lake on the right side that will eventually lead to Speculator I remember being there may be 40+ years ago and looking up to the left and seeing this mountian that was just shedding it's winter coat and wondering what the view from up there must be. And I can still remember the smell of that leento at Marcy Dam.

catharus said...

What a lovely hike -- and of course it's particularly special to do with your Dad!
Thanks for sharing!

FoulHooked said...

"I wish I could bottle the feeling I get when I turn down the road to the Adirondack Loj and share it with people who think there needs to be a religious connection to spirituality."

Well said. If you figure out how, send me a bottle...haven't been up there in far too long.

Great spot, great report, thanks.

Cedar ... said...

At my age and physical condition (read: out of shape!) I know that hike won't happen for me. Thanks for taking me along with your great text and pictures!

TourPro said...

Awesome trip report!

There was a YouTube video yesterday the other day which was the exact sentiment of your first paragraph. Some folks making the turn at the Loj Rd, oohhingg ahhinggg, etc.

We've had some epic Spring weather.

Allison said...

Your poetic descriptions of this hike have me feeling like I was there.... more like wishing. Great pictures. I can't wait to see if you take pictures of the same spots in the summer.

Kenmore said...

Great trip report and beautiful photos. Av. pass is a great spot to recharge the soul. You'll enjoy it just as much in the summer. It'll look a little different with the ladders/ bridges/ rocks and roots exposed... but no less heart warming. Sadly it can also be pretty crowded - go (alpine) early to have it to yourself ;-)

mom said...

You struck a perfect chord..

Jennifer W said...

As usual, your descriptions help me to savor a little bit of your experience with you. Thank you!

And I learn something, too...I had no idea that they require snow shoes on some trails, interesting.

Michael said...

Great photos, it looks like you picked a beautiful day for the hike. So does this mean you will be taking the Trap Dyke route to Colden this summer?

corin said...

@michael: no trap dyke!