I’ve been hiking in the Adirondacks for well over forty years – or so I like to think. Actually, I can count on one hand the number of Adirondack peaks I have summited in the past quarter century – all but one of which are small viewpoints outside the classic canon of the ADK 46, the elite group of peaks over four-thousand feet in elevation. (A historical curiosity, three of the peaks on the list of 46 have since been re-surveyed and found to be shy of 4000′ elevation, but remain on the list for ol’ times sake.) I spent the summers of the 1970s hiking these peaks with my family, and the winters of the 1980s exploring the snowy backcountry with my high-school and college buddies. My last backpacking trip here was in 1990. Recently, I found myself drawn back to these ancient peaks – for they are far older than the Appalachians, and reside deeper in my own past – with an eye toward notching off the final dozen peaks on my own list of 46. I set aside three days on my calendar and struck out at dawn on Friday, with three specific summits in mind, and was rewarded with breathtaking scenery, fond memories of trips long past, a rekindled appreciation for this beautiful wilderness, and lovely photos. More after the break.
This month is shaping up to be a beautiful example of Fall in New England. This weekend I managed to spend time out in the woods on both Saturday and Sunday.
On Saturday I bushwhacked around the property boundary of a conservation easement in Lyme Center, on behalf of the Upper Valley Land Trust. This beautiful patch of forest and meadows, a mix of hardwoods with some pine and fir stands, weaves up and down over the rolling terrain between the Connecticut River valley and the steep hills of east Lyme and the Skiway. The colors of Fall were just beginning to peak in a few species, and the woods were peaceful with the sleepy conditions common to late summer and early fall. The deep farming history of this region was clear as I scrambled over old stone walls, past barbed wire long absorbed into the border trees, and old blinds used by generations of Lyme hunters. The bluebirds flitted between sugar maples and apple trees on the edges of the meadows overlooking the Grant Brook valley. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday morning.
On Sunday I led a small group up the western slopes of Mount Cardigan, a bit further south in Canaan. The colors here were further along, as we climbed toward the bare summit of this popular peak. Although the sky was cloudy and the wind brisk, the group’s spirits were high as we enjoyed the 360-degree view of multicolored hills rolling off into Vermont, New Hampshire, and beyond.
More photos on SmugMug – watch this gallery for more as the Fall progresses!
I had the honor of accompanying my dear friend Lelia on a two-day backpacking trip across the Wildcat and Carter range, in the eastern part of the White Mountain National Forest, to complete her list of 48 four-thousand-foot peaks. We managed a late start on Friday afternoon, heading steeply out of Pinkham Notch from Glen Ellis Falls to scramble up the Wildcat Ridge. This route fortunately provides some nice views of the Notch, and eventually of the Presidential Range, though it spends most of its length deep in the scrubby trees of a New Hampshire ridgeline. The ridge is rough, with many ups and downs and scrambles around boulders. We enjoyed the late-afternoon sunshine, and reached the rocky outcrop known as Wildcat D as the light began to fade. I paused here for a moment to reflect on my own journey to the 48 peaks, which I had completed here – on this very spot – 20 years earlier.
We could just barely see our destination down into Carter Notch, in the dim light, and began to scramble down the steep and jumbled blocks of the trail into the notch. I finally gave in to the need for headlamps, and we pushed past the creaky door of Carter Notch hut, well after dark, to the warm and relieved smiles of Lelia’s husband and son.
The next morning broke a bit cloudy. Concerned about spending a day hiking through drizzle, we clambered up the steep slope of Carter Dome. Right on schedule, we met another friend – a veteran 4000-footer himself – and continued along the ridge. On Middle Carter we cheered Lelia’s 48th peak with cheese and crackers and celebratory beverages. Her thirty years of determination and perseverance paid off! The weather had held out nicely, and we had fine views of the Presidentials to the west and the Maine peaks to the east. We scampered down the Imp trail into the Notch, enjoying the bright colors of fall, and capped off a fine weekend with a hearty dinner at Pinkham Notch camp.