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!   🙂

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34 Comments on “Travels with the Bear: Peak Bagging in Upstate New York.”

  1. Steph Says:

    AWESOME!! Hiking is my very favourite outdoor thing. I want to do more challenging and more open areas than Algonquin trails, though. I just haven’t been anywhere. When I was in university, we used to go off the beaten path to climb and descend Webster’s Falls, but I’ve never done mountains before.

    Wow. I really admire you! 13!! I know what you mean about the view, though; personal satisfaction could be pretty short-lived when you see nothing but more trees and it doesn’t really feel like a summit because of the lack of view. And then you have to go down again…

    Those ones with the super-steep ascents and the wooden ladders and chains sound scary! Are they relatively safe??

    PS. Bear was easy to spot this time! 🙂

  2. Friar Says:


    Yeah, the trails are relatively safe. Not any real rock climbing..just super difficult-cardio-fitness hiking. You puff and pant a lot, but you’re not in an real danger. (Except maybe from a heart attack).

    It wouldn’t be that far from you. Cross the border at Odgensburg and Lake Placid is about 3 hours away.

    It doesn’t have to be that expensive. If you don’t want to motel, there are lots of campgrounds (I can recommend some). And lots of people hike with their dogs. Lucy would love it!

    Something for you and Colin to think about for next summer, anyway.

  3. The Old Ape Says:

    I just want to thank you for taking steller shots on your hikes they are really a pleasure to view. I stumbled across your blog, and some of your photos yesterday. Awesome job, and keep up the awesome photography. You should be framing these photos and selling them on your site!

    The Old Ape
    Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada
    The home of the lame tepee! Lol

  4. Friar Says:

    @Old Ape

    Hahahah! I drove right by that Tee Pee…!!!

    (It’s yet another “Big Thing” that they display in towns. (Like the Big Apple, The Big Hockey Stick, the Big Chair, etc).

    I think there are entire websites devoted to these “Big Things”. Medicien Hat is no exception.

    PS. I’ll be posting some more autumn photos later this week…I found a few places that still had color.

  5. Kelly Says:


    I took about two hundred pix when I was up last weekend. Mom was right, it was kinda past, but oh, so much more lovely than we get down here. Glad I went.

    In the first picture with bear, the color in the background is beautiful. That’s a really nice spot.

    You *almost* make hiking sound appealing. Not that I wouldn’t like to sit there with Bear and open a bottle of wine (does he drink wine?), but just that I want to be dropped there… teleported… anything that doesn’t involve the bugs and the bush and the (gasp) cardio.

    I’m exaggerating, but only slightly. My parents live on the side of a teensy-weensy hill/mountain, which I hike once a year. I do like the view. But when you add in words like “malicious sadists,” I’m out.

    I bet you’ll get to them all. It obviously agrees with you, and Bear looks thrilled.



    P.S. How’s the knee hold up to such an ordeal?

  6. Friar Says:


    Hiking the Adirondacks is a love-hate relationship.

    For the first hour, I think Oh-My-God, I hate it, I hate it, I HATE IT. Why am I doing this, my heart is ready to EXPLODE, my muscles hurt I just want to DIE. Why don’t’ I just quit?.

    Then part way up, I start thinking hey, I might just make the top.

    Then, on the top, above the trees, in the ethereal magical Alpine Region, with the delicate lichens and moss, I feel like I’m floating above the world. It’s so beautiful, it was DEFINITELY worth the effort. I linger up there, above the clouds and the valley, as long as possible. I’m touching a bit of heaven.

    Then I hike down, and I have a satisfied fantastic feeling that lasts the rest of the day. I feel like that I’ve accomplished something big. Like the cat that ate the mouse.

    Then the next day, I’m so god-damned stiff, I can hardly move.

    But I start another hike, and the cycle repeats itself. 😉

  7. veredd Says:

    Oh, Friar, I laughed so hard. There;s something about that bear, sitting at the top of the mountain… I am still laughing!

  8. davinahaisell Says:

    Friar, what happened to the Bear in the last photo? I was disappointed to not see him. Is he hiding?

  9. Friar Says:


    Sounds like you need to get a bear of your own! ;-D


    No…the last photo is just scenery. No bear in that one.

  10. Wow, I guess Bear isn’t afraid of heights, I wouldn’t be in those pictures up there, I’d be scared….

    I’m with Kelly, I can’t believe you can do that with your knee, I’m glad you can though. I love hiking. When I was a kid, my dad used to take us climbing on the apalacian mountians ( I’m sure I just mangled that spelling but I’m to lazy to go look it up right now) and it was an experience I will never forget. Backpacks and fake food and all…really cool.

  11. Friar Says:


    The Appalachians are pretty respectable moutains. (Especially the White Moutains in NH…they dwarf the Adirondacks!)

    My knee was pretty bad in June-July. Turns out I have torn cartilage. But fortuantely, the past 2 months whatever loose floaty bits in the joint seem to be settling, and it’s resolving itself.

    The doctor said if it doesn’t bug me, mabye I don’t need to go under the knife.

    And if this past weekend of hiking was any indication, I think might be okay. (Knock wood!)

  12. My brother was showing me pictures of his vacation here in Canada with his partner, and there’s a bear in the photos. “What is that bear doing there?”, I asked. “The bear goes everywhere with us and we take pictures of him”, was the response. “But you stole that from Friar!” I replied in horror. “Who?” (sorry Friar). So far, their bear has been pictured being discovered in a suitcase (he smuggled himself onboard), at Niagara Falls, and driving the Urbane Lion’s boat. I don’t believe the Urbane Lion has seen that one yet.

    I don’t think my poor old childhood bear could take the excitement. When I move him from the guest bed to the dresser it takes him days to recover.

  13. Friar Says:


    Oh, I don’t think I’m the first to have a Travel Bear. Over the years, I occasionally meet people who do the same thing (We’ve even introduced our bears to each other).

    It seems over the years, when I take my bear out to get photos, I get more smiles and fewer strange looks. It seems that Travel Bears are becoming more accepted.

    PS. Take your Bear, and start small. Maybe take him up to the Champlain Lookout in the Gats.

  14. Beth Says:

    Friar, as some who hails from Colorado, I could make snotty comments about the height of your mountains. But I won’t. I’ve done one 14er (Mount Princeton, the easiest one), and I didn’t enjoy it because I don’t like stumbling over rocks for hours!

    I think I would enjoy hiking in New York mountains much more, but my favorite things is just to walk in the woods. I don’t really care if I get to the top or not.

  15. Friar Says:


    Oh, I realize these are tiny moutains compared to out West. If I had my Druthers, I’d be hiking in the Canadian Rockies.

    (Which, in my opinion, are ever MORE beautiful than Colorado’s!) 🙂

    But since I live in Ontario, I don’t get to go too often. The Adirondacks are my “quick dose” of mountains, to sustain me until my next trip out West.

    But the Eastern trails are nothing to sneeze at. Some are over 4000 vertical feet.

    In my books, that’s a respectable hike, regardless of where you come from.

  16. Steph Says:

    Hey Friar,

    If we could only find a place we could hike where we could let L off the leash. Because being dragged down a trail or up a mountain SUCKS. So are there lots of people around? Or, rather, ANY people? I like to be completely alone, even without Lucy; for some reason, I don’t love to meet people on hikes.

  17. Friar Says:


    Oh, lots of people hike with dogs off-leash. The puppies get full of mud and they’re tired from running up and down. But they look so HAPPY.

    Actually, depending on the time of year, it can be VERY crowded, especially on weekends during the summer. For example, Cascade this past weekend was a zoo. But only because it was peak fall colors, on a long weekend,and it was a High Peak.

    Or everyone will want to do Algonquin (because it’s the 2nd highest). But if you just do the next moutain over (Wright), it’s smaller, but hardly anyone goes.

    But there are tons of other great hikes…smaller moutains, or just long trails in the woods that are just as good, but aren’t as “Popular” with the cool crowd. You might see a few dozen people the whole day.

    And if you go on a weekday (especially in June before school lets out), or late September/October, some trails are almost totally empty…to the point that you almost WANT to see the odd person, just for your own personal safety!

  18. Beth Says:

    4000 vertical feet gain? Yeah, that’s respectable, all right!

    I’ve never been to the Canadian Rockies, but I hear good things about them. They’re on my list…

  19. Beth Says:

    Hey, Friar, are there black bears in these mountains? Wolves? I can’t really remember all the places wolves roam these days.

  20. Friar Says:

    The Canadian Rockies are not as high (mostly 8000-11000 feet), with a few approaching 14,000 ft.

    But they’re defintely WORTH seeing !!! I think it’s the most beautiful area in North America (mabye tied for Alaska).

    The moutains are much more scenic. Because the treeline ends about 8500 the peaks are much more jagged and rocky. Plus you have huge icefields and glaciers hanging of cliffs….something you don’t see further south. (I was surprised how little snow there was on the peaks in Colorado during the summer).

    Dont’ get me wrong, I think Colorado is great. But the Alberta Rockies are even better! (And I’ve had Americans admit this to me).

    As for the Adirondacks. Yes, they do have black bears. And the occasional moose.

    I think the wolves have long since been chased out of that region, but I hear rumors they’re making a comeback.

  21. @Beth and @Friar – I visited Colorado and New Mexico last year. They were definitely beautiful! However, I’m with Friar. Give me the Canadian Rockies. They aren’t beautiful, they are stunning!

  22. […] The Deep Friar Getting in trouble. Always getting in trouble… « Travels with the Bear: Peak Bagging in Upstate New York. […]

  23. Oooh Bear is out again… beautiful fall foliage. I just did a quick spin around several of your posts. Makes me want some warm stew and a sweater maybe some apple cider. Hope all is well with you.

  24. Friar Says:


    Hi! Welcome back! Wonder where you’ve been!

    We’re actually had a bit of an Indian Summer…it’s been shorts-T-shirt weather. No stew or cider yet. More like cold beer and BBQ.

    But as we speak, the temperature is dropping. I think that was the last warm weekend we’ll see for a while.

  25. Friar Says:

    I’ve driven around most of North America, and the most beautiful area is that stretch of the Highway 93, between Banff and Jasper!

    I recommend everyone should drive it, at least once in their life!

  26. Friar- That sounds fabulous. I have been up to my “ass in alligators” as they say. Mostly working on a too big to do list. Phew.

    It’s actually in the 60’s tonight…brrr…kind of shirt sleeve weather for you. Beer and barbeque? Sign me up.

    I just did a quick catch up skim so I ‘ll be back. 😉

    ( I loved your punkins. Those are sa-weet drawings.)

  27. Friar Says:


    Up to your ass in alligators!

    Heh heh. I might have to borrow that one. 🙂

    Never heard it before! (Not to many gators or Eastern Ontario! ) But we DO have snapping turtles.

  28. They are snappy little guys. LOL Have at it. 🙂

  29. Friar Says:


    The turtles get pretty decent-sized here too. Nasty critters!!

    But it’s mostly the bears that are a nuisance!

  30. […] October 19, 2008 by newyorkoutdoors Travels with the Bear: Peak Bagging in Upstate New York. […]

  31. […] if you want to know much, much more about hiking the High Peaks in the Adirondacks, the Friar is doing a much better job than I. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Hiking Cowles […]

  32. CJoannette Says:


    I’m wondering if we can use the photo of the bear on Cascade for our website – in return, we’d offer a photo credit line and a link to this page…. Please let me know. Best, Carol

    Love the bear, by the way.

  33. Friar Says:


    By all means, go ahead. The Bear would be delighted to be on your website.

    – Friar

  34. Eyeteaguy Says:

    There be no living with you now.

    Stoopid @#$%ing bear. Grow up, get a dog like everybody else….


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