Mount Allen

Mount Allen is another one of those remote, viewless summits that people really only climb because it’s on the 46er list of Adirondack peaks over 4,000′.  It’s an 18-mile round-trip day-hike climb from the trailhead, so I decided to break up the hiking (and the driving) over two days.  I drove over on Friday afternoon and headed into the woods around 4:30pm, planning to follow the marked trail to the point where the herd path begins, then a bit further to where the map shows it crosses a brook and where I hoped I might find a spot to camp.  I queried the outbound hikers for clues about where they may have seen campsites along the way, and got a few tips.  I reached my intended location only to find that a pair of other hikers had had the same idea and were camped in exactly that spot.

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Return to Couchsachraga

My goal for 2017 is to complete my Adirondack 46 – that is, to climb the 46 peaks of the Adirondack Mountains that are (or were once thought to be) above 4000′.  I began this quest some forty-plus years ago, and decided to polish off the list.  In March I set off to conquer the remote and entirely uninteresting peak of Couchsachraga, in beautifully perfect winter conditions.  Much to my disappointment, I was forced to turn around just a bit short of my goal.  Breaking trail through several feet of fresh powder, and following the unmarked informal herd path, turned out to be too much for me that day. This weekend I returned to make another attempt, catching a window of beautiful summer weather. Check the photos, and read on.

David on the Couchsachraga summit.
Couchsachraga summit! finally.

Continue reading Return to Couchsachraga

Niagara Falls

The ACM Conference on Mobile Systems, Applications, and Services gave me an opportunity to spend a lovely week in Niagara Falls.  I had only visited there briefly, 32 years before, so it was wonderful to have time to explore the Falls from various angles and various times of day.  It’s a bit touristy, to be sure, but it’s tastefully done – and the falls are so stunningly spectacular that it is worth visiting again and again.

My photo gallery includes shots of each of the three waterfalls, from both the American and Canadian side, and in both early morning, late afternoon, and at night during the fireworks display.   And, even from the Maid of the Mist tourboat that snuggles right up into the misty spray of Horseshoe Falls.

David at Niagara's Horseshoe Falls, as viewed from the Canadian side.
David at Niagara’s Horseshoe Falls, as viewed from the Canadian side.

The conference also hosted a banquet dinner at Old Fort Niagara, about 30 minutes north of the falls on the shore of Lake Ontario. The weather was perfect, the sunset beautiful, and the historical re-enactments fascinating.  Snapped some fun photos and videos.  Worth a visit if you have a chance!

Demonstration of firing at Fort Niagara.
Demonstration of firing at Fort Niagara.

Couchsachraga

I’ve been waiting all winter for an opportunity to climb a particularly remote mountain in the Adirondacks.  Couchsachraga –  “an ancient Algonquin name that means Dismal Wilderness,” seems like such an appropriate name for this uninteresting peak on the list of 46 four-thousand-foot mountains in New York’s Adirondack region.  Indeed, this peak is not even 4,000 feet high: it was included on the original list of 46, but later re-surveyed and discovered to be a tad shy of that mark. It is the shortest of the 46.  I climbed my first 46er peak at age 9 and have been longing to complete the list ever since.  The photo below shows a view of Couch from above – not much to look at, but read on to hear about my adventure trying to reach it.  (And check out the full photo album.)

Couchsachraga, viewed from the ridge descending from Panther.  Long way to go!
Couchsachraga, viewed from the ridge descending from Panther. Long way to go!

Continue reading Couchsachraga

South Carolina

We’re just back from ten lovely days in South Carolina on the shores of Kiawah Island near Charleston.  With lots of family nearby and abundant greenspace around the island, I had plenty of interesting opportunities for photography.

  • A general photo collection, including wildlife, family, and the launch of Chinese lanterns on New Year’s Eve: [smugmug].
  • A surprise encounter with bottlenose dolphins in the straights next to Kiawah Island, while they were strand feeding:  [smugmug].
  • An attempt at dark-sky photography of the new crescent moon, Orion, and the Milky Way:  [smugmug].

    Christmas sunrise on Kiawah Island.
    Christmas sunrise on Kiawah Island.

Mount Si

The 'haystack' summit of Mount Si.
The ‘haystack’ summit of Mount Si.

I was in Seattle for a visit to the University of Washington, and decided to extend the trip for a day so I could take advantage of the wonderful hiking opportunities nearby.   Overwhelmed by the number and variety of hikes in range of Seattle, I settled on a classic choice: Mount Si.  According to the statistics on that site, I was probably the 99,999th person to hike the trail this year.  Still, on a drizzly Friday in the off season, I figured it couldn’t be too crowded.

I left Seattle before sunrise, drove through a light drizzle (which, I gather, is the norm for Seattle) and reached the trailhead around 8am.   With 3,100′ of gain in four miles, this is no little walk in the woods – but it’s actually comparable to my benchmark, the Glencliff trail on Mount Moosilauke.  In fact, Mount Si barely tops 4,000′, shorter than Moosilauke.

An eery rainforest of moss and epiphytes covers the lower elevations.
An eery rainforest of moss and epiphytes covers the lower elevations.

In the mist and drizzle, the low-elevation forest was was verdant.  Moss and epiphytes covered every branch, and trapped the mist so it could drip on me as I made my way up the trail. The trail is well-built and well-maintained, generally steady going.  Numerous switchbacks meant the trail was never very steep.

The air cooled as I climbed and I finally started seeing patches of fresh (though wet) snow at around 3,800′.  I popped out into a clearing, where a large black Raven awaited me.  Clearly he had been there earlier, when today’s three early hikers paused to snack and turn around, and he was hopeful that I brought more goodies.

Gray Jays are an ever-present companion at snack stops at higher elevation.
Gray Jays are an ever-present companion at snack stops at higher elevation.

Four or five Gray Jays quickly detected my presence and snuggled together on snow-covered branches, ready at a moment’s notice for a dropped raisin or bagel crumb.

Here there was consistent snow cover, just an inch or two, and rather slushy.  In the clouds now, the viewpoint offered me nothing – but at least the precipitation stopped.  I pressed on, up and over a rocky outcrop, toward the true summit – a sheer cap called the “haystack” (shown above).  Remarkably, though I climbed only another hundred feet, the snow became deeper and more firm, as much as 6-18″ deep in the sheltered spots. The snow line from recent weather must have been close to this elevation.

I turn back from the near-vertical gully filled with snow and ice, and lots of exposure.
I turn back from the near-vertical gully filled with snow and ice, and lots of exposure.

I followed old tracks, covered in this morning’s snow, around the base of the Haystack.  The footsteps disappeared at the base of a steep gully, where tiny avalanches caused golf-balls of snow to roll down toward me.  Gosh, this gully is steep, and extremely exposed. I picked a line and tentatively began to climb, but thought better of it after a dozen yards.  I retreated and picked another line.  Going upward was easy, kicking steps in the wet snowpack.  About halfway up, though, I reconsidered the exposure.  A slip here would mean a long slide down the gully, ricocheting off the boulders.  Hiking solo, and with few other hikers visiting the Haystack today, I decided it’d be best left for another day.

 

The trip down was a cruise, back and forth on the switchbacks.  I quickly left winter behind, and emerged again into a verdant rain forest, pausing often to attempt to capture this magical place in photographs. I can see why this mountain is so popular, and really need to return when the sky is clear.

Check out the full photo album.

Fall colors, fall hikes

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.

Fall colors around a meadow in Lyme.
Fall colors around a meadow in Lyme.

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.

Fall colors from summit of Cardigan.
Fall colors from summit of Cardigan.

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!