My Adventure Story
Michael, Carl, and Michael enjoyed a 4 day weekend in the Adirondacks. Walking in from the DEC parking lot on 9N, we backpacked to the Giant Mountain Shelter, taking a short side trip up Owl Head Lookout. The day was mild with a wintery mix and only a few inches of snow (many 5"?) on the ground. Views from the lookout were very limited due to overcast skies and falling snow. High temps in nearby Elizabethtown, NY were 35 F on the first day, and stayed mild the second day with Elizabethtown temps topping out at 39F. Then the weather turned colder!
Thursday's walk in was primarily up hill with a moderate climb up to the lean to. While breaking the trail for our trio, Carl spooked two grouse who shot off with their signature sound. Getting water and setting up "base camp" was pretty easy - for winter camping. Friday dawned cold and we hit the trail after a quick breakfast. Because of the continued overcast skies and falling snow, we decided to hike out to some lower peaks. We had snow and rain on the walk up Hopkins Mt. Beginning at noon, the temperature began to drop and settled below 32 F byefore 2 PM. Views on top of Hopkins and Spread Eagle Mts were very limited. With the wind and low visibility, we didn't stay long on the exposed faces. After crossing Spread Eagle Mt, we attempted to hike the ADK trail towards Keene. After walking to what seemed like the turn for the other side of the loop, we were unable to find the second half of the loop, so we came back the way we went. The last portion of our hike was in the dark with our headlamps on - making full use of the available time and easy to follow trail in the snow.
Saturday's early morning temperatures dropped to about 10 F by 8 AM and continued to fall for the next 12 hours bottoming out at or below 0 F. The night and day stayed clear, and we eagerly climbed southward up the unbroken trail to the summit of Giant Mt. I estimate that the snow was 1 1/2 to 2 feet deep. Sections of the trail were steep and icy. It took us a lot longer to reach this peak than we expected because of the condition of the trail. All the hard work was worth it. Although very cold and windy, the sky was blue and sunny and the snow and ice made for a spectacular crown on the trees at the top. We weren't the first ones at the summit today. Many others came from the parking lot South of Giant Mt to enjoy the view over the Giant Mt Wilderness.
With the trail down and back up to Rocky Peak Ridge already well broken, we accepted the challenge to descend the steep 800 foot drop down to the saddle between the two peaks. The climb up to the 300 foot shorter Rocky Peak Ridge was spread out over about a mile and well broken. We met several hikers coming down from the peak. Everyone was smiling and encouraging that the climax was worth the work. The views from Rocky Peak Ridge were nearly as special as the ones from Giant Mt. and I took a few good shots of the slides on Giant Mt.
The route back to the shelter required us to go down and back up the steep 800 foot climb to Giant Mt. This time on the top, the orange sun was at the horizon casting a glow over the snow and the clouds below. We stopped for a few more picutes but hurried down the opposite side back to our shelter. Once again, we donned our headlamps for the last mile as the trees and setting sun left little light to see the rocks and drops of the trail.
Back at the shelter, there was virtually no wind. But the temperature had dropped so low that any standing water froze nearly immediately. Boiling water for dinner and for drinking consumed much of our time and helped to keep us warm. The overnight temperatures continued to fall under the stary sky. Low temperatures fell below -1 F by 9 AM while we started our walk out.
With the fresh snow, we saw tracks from many of the local inhabitants: squirrels, mice, deer, and a lot of rabbits. Sunday was sunny, so our second stop at the Owl Head Lookout provided excellent views and the opportunity for more pictures.
Just because we were out of the woods, our adventure didn't end right away. Although we made it back to the parking lot with no issues to find only a few inches of snow covering the parking lot and the exit without a pile of snow from the plow trucks, we did find that our car's parking break wouldn't release. Michael and Carl pulled a rear tire, worked to diagnose the problem and found a solution.
We ended the trip with our traditional stop at the Cracker Barrel restaurant a ways down Rte 87. Many thanks to Kaitlin who supplied us each with survival bracelets.