Travels with the Bear: Peak Bagging in Upstate New York.
Whenever I hike up a mountain, I have to take a photo of the Bear on the summit.
Number one, I often hike alone, so the Bear’s picture is proof (to me, at least), that I’ve reached the top.
And number two…well, IT’S THE RULES.
(You just CAN’T go to the top, and NOT take a picture of Junior Bear. It’s just NOT DONE!)
So here he is, on the top of Cascade Mountain, near Lake Placid New York.
Cascade is considered a “High Peak“. That is, it’s one of the forty-six mountains in the Adirondacks that were originally surveyed to be over 4000 feet in elevation)
The Adirondacks are not the biggest mountains East of the Mississippi. But they’re among the most harsh.
The treeline ends at about 4500 feet. The snow doesn’t completely disappear from the higher elevations until June, and it starts to re-appear in September/October.
And whoever cut the original trails were malicious sadists. The paths don’t’ switch-back nicely up the slopes like they do in the Rockies. No, these trails go STRAIGHT UP. Typical inclines are 1000 vertical feet per mile, and it’s not uncommon to hike 2000-4000 vertical feet to the top.
Lots of people want to climb all the High Peaks. If you do, then you can become a member of the respected “Forty Sixer” club. There’s no reward or any incentive to become a Forty Sixer. Except that you get a badge, a newsletter, and the satisfaction that you’ve climbed all the High Peaks.
Some people climb all of them in one summer. Some of the hardier souls make a point to climb only in the winter. Others will take their whole lifetime.
It’s all good. There’s no rush. There’s no set agenda.
But it’s not as easy as it looks. Some peaks like Cascade are considered “easy”. (If you consider it “easy” to grunt non-stop for two hours to reach the top, and then do the same thing in reverse on the way down).
But other mountains are more difficult. Marcy (the highest mountain in New York) is about a nine-hour round trip.
The Gothics is not only just a long as Marcy, but it’s so damned steep, there are wooden ladders on the trail and a chain is bolted into the rock so you can pull yourself up.
Other peaks are just downright OBNOXIOUS, because they don’t even have official TRAILS to get to them. (This is deliberate: in Adirondack Park, they want to deliberately keep some areas “wild”).
The only way to get to these last ones is to bush-whack through dense forest, and hopefully find a herd-path that some previous hikers have made. These might take a 2-3 days to complete, preferably traveling in a group for safety.
So far, I’ve climbed thirteen out of the forty-six. Most of these were pretty easy…low hanging fruit, so to speak.
Not that they weren’t’ strenuous hikes, but I’ve almost exhausted all the ones I can do in one day, from a parked car by the side of the road. Anything more will require some overnight back-packing and bush-whacking.
Though I admit, I’m a Forty-Sixer Wannabee.
But I’m not sure when (or if) I’ll get all forty-six. Lake Placid is a considerable drive from where I live, so there are only so many visits I can do in the short hiking season.
And also, some of the less-popular High Peaks sound quite lame. They take a huge amount of work to get to, but the summit is covered in trees and there’s no scenic view. All you see are stunted scrubby evergreens all around you.
So, with my limited free time, do I really WANT hike all of them? Why make myself miserable and fight bugs and scratchy twigs for 15 hours, just so SAY I got to the top of some stupid hill?
Why don’t I just hike the many lesser-peaks, the ones below 4000 feet, that will reward me with a stunning 360-degree panoramic view?
Hmmm…I’ll have to think about that one.
But the Bear wants more High Peaks.
So we’re going to keep trying to bag them.
Just me and the Bear.
One peak here, one peak there. Every year or so.
Until it stops being fun.
Heck, there’s no rush.
After all, we have the rest of our lives! 🙂