Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Auroras Explore the High Peaks

Last week the Auroras and I set out on an ambitious trip to the High Peaks region of the Adirondacks. We left on Tuesday with the intention of climbing four Peaks before our pick up time on Friday. Our trip began at the drop-off point in St. Huberts. Our first half-mile of hiking was through the private Ausable Club. We hiked a bit over four miles on the first day to our camp site just outside of the private land owned by the Adirondack Mountain Reserve.

On the second day we had planned to climb Nippletop and Dial Mountains. Unfortunately it rained heavily through the night and in the morning we found ourselves on the wrong side of a rain-swollen brook. The rain continued till about 10:30 that morning. We weighed our options through the morning and as the rain stopped I spent an hour wading in the stream positioning rocks for a safe crossing. The bad weather had set us back a bit but we took out the map and decided there was time enough in the afternoon to climb near-by Mount Colvin (Elev. 4057, Rank: 39). The trail to Colvin was a gradual ascent from our campsite over about two miles. It was the first High Peak for some of the Auroras so the scene on the summit was somewhat celebratory. A rocky point on the summit offered spectacular views primarily to the north and east.

On day three we awoke early with good weather and after a few bagels we took off for Indian Head -- possibly the single most breath-taking view in the Adirondacks -- and eventually Gothics (Elev. 4736, Rank: 10). Indian Head is not a High Peak but rather an amazing happenstance of geology that provides a picturesque view of Lower Ausable Lake framed by Colvin on the south shore and Sawteeth to the north. We spent nearly an hour on the Indian Head enjoying the view and eyeing Gothics with anticipation. Gothics looks particularly impressive from the Indian Head when the clouds scrape across its rocky summit.

On the way to Gothics we stopped to fill our water bottles in a brook that ran into the Ausable River. I happened to take out my guidebook to check the mileage to the summit when I saw a blurb about a 150-foot waterfall just a few hundred yards from where we sat. This was a stroke of luck for us because otherwise we would have missed the falls. The same rain that had kept us on the wrong side of the brook the previous day was now adding to the torrent that spilled over the rocks. After a brief photo session at the bottom of the falls we stopped for lunch at the top and then moved up the trail to Gothics. The trail on the south side of Gothics is formidable and easily the least travelled of the three approaches. From the col between Gothics and Sawteeth the trail rises 1200 feet in just a mile. The Auroras climbed impressively and were rewarded with amazing panoramic views of the entire region.

After such a long day we bounded down the mountain in what was surely record time. We knew that back at the camp site our dinner was the Aurora favorite and my trail culinary specialty: 'diLLas (quesadillas, with anglicized L's). We ate till there was nothing left to eat and settled in for our last night on the trail. On the hike out we passed by the markedly less rugged members of the Ausable Club and disrupted a tennis lesson or two. This trip was exactly what I envisioned for the Auroras when I looked north at the High Peaks from Treadway Mountain back in July and I couldn't have gone with a better group.
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