Yesterday, we stayed around the campsite as there was a 70 - 80% chance of a thunderstorm. As the worst of the storm passed north of us, Linda made a trip to Lake Placid to the grocery. While she was gone, another storm popped up, and we had a heavy downpour for about a half an hour. But after that, it cleared up. We could have gotten in some more exploring or hiking, but we relied too much on the forecast. Oh well.
Today, I had an early morning hike planned so I could get back and take the Sea Eagle out with Linda in the afternoon.
I was up early and headed out around 5:15 to hike Cascade Mountain, a "high peak" over 4,000 feet and listed as the 36th highest peak in the Adirondacks.
The 46 highest peaks in the Adirondacks were all thought to be over 4,000 feet, and the Adirondacks 46ers club is made up of all those that have climbed all 46 peaks. Later it was determined that four of the mountains were under 4,000 feet, but they are still included in the list to become a 46er. Another mountain, MacNaughton Mountain, which is not on the 46er club required list, was actually determined to be number 43 on the list by later surveys.
Anyway, Cascade is one of the most popular hikes in the Adirondacks because 1) it's a fairly short hike of 4.8 miles roundtrip to summit a 4,000-footer (4,098), and 2) there are supposed to be fabulous views from the summit. You'll see why I say "supposed to be" later.
It looked like a cool, beautiful morning and the fluffy clouds had some pink color as I drove the half hour to the trailhead. I made one quick stop to take a photo of Lower Cascade Lake.
Today was supposed to be quite pretty, cool, but with no rain. I wanted to hike Cascade for the views, and to try out my new hiking boots. My early start was both to avoid the crowds on the popular trail and to get back early enough for some afternoon paddling with Linda.
I arrived at the trailhead and there were already two cars in the parking area. There are actually three parking areas - one by the trailhead and two more a short walk along the road in both directions.
I was on the trail by 6:00 a.m. It started out relatively benign, and it was clear this trail is maintained more than the Whiteface Mountain Trail I hiked last week.
But it didn't take long to come to the roots and rocks typical of an Adirondack mountain hike.
Now, let's not confuse "short" with "easy". Many will tell you this is one of the "easier" high peak hikes. Again, it's short, but it's not easy. The first half of the hike has a lot of this steep, rocky terrain that is every bit as tough as some of the Whiteface Mountain sections. The path is a little wider, and it gets lots of use, so there were more and better foot placement options, but I still wouldn't use the term "easy".
But the good news is the hike is "easiER" after the first half. As I climbed, I noticed that the sky was not turning the blue I expected.
In fact, it seemed as if a cloud surrounded the mountain and wouldn't leave. I hoped that it would clear up by the time I got to the top.
At 1.8 miles up (out of the 2.4 to the summit), there is an open area that is "supposed to" offer great views. Not today. I couldn't see anything, and the breeze was cold. I was just carrying a day pack today to help complete the hike quickly. I had plenty of food and water but failed to bring a fleece shirt or a rain jacket. I had a long-sleeve hiking shirt, but it was soaked with sweat, and I was freezing.
I continued on into the woods where the breeze was somewhat blocked and I sat down on a rock on the trail to rest and have a snack.
At 2.1 miles, a signpost appeared. To the right was Porter Mountain, another high peak at 4,059 feet. Many people add that 1.4 miles roundtrip and knock out two high peaks on this hike. I just had my eye on the .3 miles to the top of Cascade.
My new Vasque Breeze boots were doing great and, though only slightly lighter than my other boots, they are much more comfortable and they feel much lighter.
I came to this little area and watched the mist roll in and out - it wasn't looking good for my hopes for a clear summit view.
I emerged from the trees, and the "trail" was now just yellow paint going up the rocks. Oh yeah, there is a pit toilet at this point, too.
The cloud lingered, and there was no view, so I could only photograph what was directly in front of me.
This little green rock was perched on the large cairn marking the way.
A small ladder by another cairn.
Here was one of those great views near the summit. :)
I reached the top by 7:40, so it took me an hour and forty minutes. That's pretty good as one of the websites said it takes an "out of shape" hiker 2 to 3 hours and an "experienced hiker" 1.5 to 2 hours.
I considered waiting for the fog to burn off, but it didn't look like it was going anywhere. Plus it was windy on the open summit, and I was freezing. I didn't stick around long, and headed back down, back down the ladder .....
and then doing a little butt-scooting down the rocks.
On the way up, I passed a guy that said he had started at 4:45 so he could be back in time for breakfast. As I was going down, I passed a young lady coming up. She too had hoped the fog would burn off, but it still didn't look like it was going to happen. I snapped a shot as she continued on up the slope.
I noticed my toes were sliding into the front of my boots, so I stopped to re-tie and tighten them. That did the trick. The descent didn't mangle my feet.
As I made it down to the open area, the cloud was just starting to break up, and I got a glimpse of a view.
I thought about hiking back up to the top. Nah. It still might be awhile before it cleared completely, and I wanted to get back to the campground.
On the way down, I must have passed 40 people going up. I did the hiker protocol of stepping off to the side and letting the uphill hikers pass so they wouldn't lose momentum. With those little delays, it took me about an hour and a half to get back to the Jeep.
As I neared North Pole Campground, the skies were clearing up, and I got a quick look at Whiteface Mountain.
Now, tomorrow was supposed to be a spectacular day, so I went to the campground office and extended one more day. It was the last day we could stay as they were completely booked for this weekend's Ironman Triathlon in Lake Placid.
Back at the rig, it was about 10:00. Linda had gotten up around 9:00 and was still enjoying her coffee and morning routine.
It was a little windy for a paddle, but we thought we'd head out and see what happened. I gave her four options.
- Connery Pond to Long Pond - the closest option, but it required two short portages
- Paddle around the islands in Lower Saranac Lake - a little farther away, but it looked cool on Google Maps
- Paddle the Raquette River from Axton Landing to Crusher Landing - about a nine-mile one-way paddle and we'd have to take both vehicles
- Paddle the Raquette River upstream from Axton Landing, maybe Stony Creek and then float back - upriver paddling, but more sheltered on a windy day
We nixed the pond paddling with the portages and taking two vehicles (a 75-mile roundtrip drive). We decided we'd see what the weather was doing at Lower Saranac Lake, and then continue on to Axton Landing as our final option.
There were kayakers on Lower Saranac Lake, but it was windy and clouding up. We didn't want to be on the open water, so we continued on to Axton Landing which is on a side road between the towns of Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake.
At Axton, there were several kayakers just coming off the river. The weather wasn't looking good - it was chilly, breezy, and overcast. But we decided to give it a shot.
We inflated the FastTrack and carried it to the put-in. This next shot indicates the best weather we had all afternoon.
We launched and headed out the opening in the above photo. Straight would take us downriver, so we made a hard left turn and paddled upriver.
After about a half mile, we noticed Stony Creek on our left (sign on the right of the photo below). We could paddle up Stony Creek to the Stony Creek Ponds or we could continued up the Raquette until we tired. We chose Stony Creek.
It was more sheltered, we prefer smaller rivers and streams, and the upstream current wasn't too bad. However, constant paddling was necessary. We crossed under a bridge .....
and the creek continued to snake its way back and forth. We were covering a lot of water, but not much ground as the crow flies.
Eventually, we came to another sign. It pointed left to the Stony Creek Ponds, so we followed directions.
The water was clear, and it was a very pretty little stream.
After about an hour, we finally reached the Stony Creek Ponds.
We paddled through the first pond, and followed some kayak fishermen through a second pond.
They said they were doing well catching bass and pike. At that point, we decided to turn around. The skies were threatening, and it was getting colder.
Linda bundled up for the return trip.
We begged for the sun to come out and rejoiced for the few minutes it did. But mostly it was just cold, and we had to concentrate on the scenery to take our minds off of it.
We turned right, back onto the Raquette River, .....
and soon we were back at Axton Landing.
Fortunately, it didn't rain on us and we had a nice little paddle. We wish the weather had been better, but at least we got to enjoy some more Adirondack wilderness.
We hauled the boat up to the Jeep where we deflated it, cleaned it up, and rolled it up in its bag. Of course, the clouds started to break up as soon as we got off the water, and the farther east we drove the clearer the skies got.
All in all, it was a great day. The weather didn't give us its best on the mountain or on the water, but we've been pretty lucky this summer.
Back home, I started to prepare for another big adventure. Tomorrow, I'm going to hike Mt. Marcy, the tallest peak in the Adirondacks and New York. And I'm going to take my big backpack - again, I'm not ready for it to be fully loaded, but I'll have it at about 20 pounds for the fifteen-mile roundtrip with a 3,200-foot ascent. It's not supposed to be a particularly difficult hike, but it does require some stamina and it's not recommended for families with young kids or "out of shape" hikers. It'll certainly be an all-day challenge for me.
Stay tuned to see how it goes - I'm sure there will be lots of photos if I make it to the top. :)