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View Full Version : Looking for Wolf Jaws / Gothics advice



Butch79
06-23-2005, 01:03 AM
Hi, haven't posted here in quite a while, but I wonder if the fine folks here might help out a backwoods vet with some rookie-level questions. Normally I wouldn't bother with any meticulous planning in advance if this were just a dayhike or if it was just me or just my dog & I, but there's a possible three/four-day hike-camp-and-climb with the grandkids in the offing and I'd prefer not to encounter too many surprises. I'm looking at the Wolfjaws / Armstrong / Gothics via Keene Valley. Been up that way before but not in quite a few years and not on this particular set of trails, so here are some specific questions:

1) How far west -- that is, how close to the trailhead -- is parking available on the Keene Valley access road off Rte 73?

2) How accessible is the John's Brook trail from the trailhead at the west end of that road? It looks like there's about a 1/5 mile bushwhack from the road to the John's Brook trail, but I'm guessing (hoping, anyway, but definitely not assuming) there's something of a herdpath there.

3) Is the trail parallelling John's Brook on the south strongly preferable to the yellow trail parallelling the brook on the north, or vice versa? I've been told the southside trail tends to be a muddy mess, but it looks like it has much easier access to water sources (i.e., John's Brook) all along the hike in to JBL.

4) Is Wolf Jaws Brook a reliable water source -- that is, can we depend on finding water in it on the way up during a relatively dry spell of weather? -- or is John's Brook / Ore Bed Brook the last reliable water source before heading up toward the Wolfjaws? I hate toting water...

5) Are there any established campsites above the lean-to that stands between the Interior Outpost and Lower Wolfjaw? I want to be low-impact, as always, but neither do I relish setting up tents on a 45-degree slope.

6) How much of a bear problem, if any, is there in the campsite area I've suggested? I've encountered consistent trouble with bears attempting to prey on bear-bags in the Lake Colden and Marcy Dam areas -- who hasn't! -- but never anywhere else in the High Peaks. Is a canister all but mandatory in this section, or can we expect to get by with my ingenious bear-bag engineering?

7) Lastly, any particularly tough stretches along this Keene Valley-to-Gothics route that would thwart, say, a determined 9-year-old, or a dog, or a feeble old geezer like myself? I know the cable approach up Gothics from the west, ferinstance, is problematic, but that's not a factor here -- again, we're looking at an approach from the east and going back down and out the same way.

Thanks very much for any insights.
Happy trails --
Uncle Butch

Oldsmores
06-23-2005, 06:44 AM
Well, I'll give it a try:
1) Not sure exactly what the question is, but the road from Keene Valley west takes you to the parking lot called "The Garden", which is right at the trailhead. Parking there can be problematic on weekends, as it fills up early, but there is a shuttle from Marcy Field in Keene Valley that will take you to The Garden if the lot there is full.
2) See 1. The road goes all the way to the trailhead
3) The trail on the north of John's Brook is in better shape, and crosses several brooks, so drinking water is no problem. If you're looking for swimming/fishing opportunities, the Southside Trail is a better bet. It does have muddy sections in wet weather (most of the time), and there's a section where it goes down into the stream bed for some rock-hopping, but there are some nice swimming holes as you get upstream...
4) My recollection is that Wolf Jaws Brook is pretty reliable at least up to the lean-to, unless there's a really dry spell. You'll have to tote some water if you are doing UWJ, Armstrong, Gothics - no reliable water until you get to the col between Gothics and Saddleback.
5) I'll defer on this one. I don't think so, but don't really recall
6) Canister mandatory by regulation, AND a good idea (a rare combination). Lots of bear activity in the JB valley, and they range to the uphill leantos/campsites without breaking a sweat. I believe that canisters can be rented at The Mountaineer in Keene Valley
7) I'm assuming you're not carrying packs over the Range... I've taken an 8 year old over this route, and didn't have any major problem. Had a couple of 12 year old girls shed some tears on the Gothics cables, but they made it and couldn't wait to go back. Shouldn't be a problem, you might have to give some assistance on some of the rougher sections on the east sides of UWJ and Armstrong.

Have fun!

Rik
06-23-2005, 06:49 AM
Ok, let me give this a try. I'm not quite sure what you are planning but here goes.
1. Parking is at the Garden parking lot. It is a good size lot but fills early on weekends during summer. Also cost $5. to park there.
2. The trail starts at the edge of the lot.
3. The southside trail makes your trip shorter to the Wolfjaws but crossing can be problematic in times of high water. (our group took the northside trail last Sunday). Also, the bridge near the Interior Outpost is closed which makes the trip around even longer as you need to cross closer to JBL and then backtrack down the southside trail.
4. Wolfjaw brook is reliable.
5. Not sure about sites near the lean-to.
6. Bears may pose a problem. Depending on when you go cannisters may be required. I can't remember the dates when it is suppose to become mandatory but a search of this site might give you that info. If not, well, do everything you can to protect your food.
7. You plan to go back over Armstrong and UWJ after climbing Gothics? That is a lot of extra work! There are some steep spots going up UWJ and Armstrong from that direction. I think at least one ladder going up Armstrong. A good hiking dog can get through this area but it is rough. I would hate to have to carry an injured dog out from here. The nine year old will probably love it. You will probably use your hands for short sections.

Hope this helps. Have fun.

Doc McPeak
06-23-2005, 08:06 AM
as of monday, june 20th, there was plenty of water flowing right through the junction of the range trail and the notch and wedge trails. not much good water the rest of the way, though there was water flowing almost to the summit of pyramid.

as for water heading in, if you start with a nice cold bottle you should not have to worry about water until the lodge. they also have a tap on the far side of the porch that you can use to re-fill.

hardrain
06-23-2005, 08:16 AM
Had a couple of 12 year old girls shed some tears on the Gothics cables, but they made it and couldn't wait to go back.

Me too and I get a great feeling when I think back to it. :)

Hikerdad
06-23-2005, 08:46 AM
You might want to consider hiking in to the Orebed LT and then going up the Orebed rail and doing Gothics via the cables (which is really cool) and then Armstrong and UWJ and back down to the Johns Brook valley and back to the Orebed LT. This makes a nice loop.

The Southside trail along Johns Brook is more interesting than the trail on the north but it is (I think) MUCH more rugged and slower so depending on your energy level you can take either one. The trail from the trailhead at the Garden actually is the trail on the northside of the brook (you have to make a turn off that trail to get to the southside trail).

Enjoy.

Pat

mavs00
06-23-2005, 08:47 AM
Great advice so far on questions - 1-5 (so I'll not add anything)

6 - Bears ARE A PROBLEM - The DEC Bear Cannister regulation will go into effect July 5, 2005 ( -DETAILS- (http://www.netheaven.com/~albadk/bulletin.html) ). 2 years ago (which was a very BAD bear year) there was a maurauder that seemed to make the Wolf Jaw lean-to a regular nightly visit. It was a 350-400 lb'er much like the one that caused the same issues at Slant Rock that same year. We passed by it a few times in the early AM and the lean was full beyond capacity as the tenters had all basically retreated to the lean-to during the night. I bumbed into a ranger later on and asked him about it and they were aware of it.

Haven't heard anything since then (mid-2003) so I assume the situation resolved itself or was resolved by the DEC. In any event, the bears certanly know about the entire JB overnighting situation and aren't afriad to look around and visit campers. Bring the canister and you'll be fine.

7 - Ditto on the cable route, my kids both were in the 10-12 range and had NO issue with it. I've seen dogs negociate it with ease as well. It's pretty good footing when dry. There is a HUGE ladder on the eastern side of Armstrong that will likely require you to carry the dog (unless it's real backcountry proficient), humans don't have problem but its a good 18-20 rungs. A few other scrambles, but nothing overwhelming.

Have a great time.

TCD
06-23-2005, 02:59 PM
Here's a little more:

That's a fun loop in either direction! I usually do it in the UWJ/Armstrong/Gothics direction, because it's part of my annual Great Range trip, and because I find it kind of anticlimactic to climb the highest peak first; I like to save it for last.

Water should be no problem. The brook that runs by the Wolfjaws Notch Leanto has water running in it until just a few minutes below the notch. Likewise, Orebed brook has running water just a minute or two below that col. While the ridge itself is dry, once you're on the ridge the climbs are short, so you won't go through that much water.

Personally, I find the Southside trail a pain in the butt; slow, slippery, and sometimes it's quite hard to cross John's Brook at the E end without having to wade, especially for short legged folks. The Phelps trail (trail from Garden to JBL is a highway.

I don't think there are any established campsites above the Wolfjaws Notch Leanto. It's not 45 degrees, but it's all pretty sloping, and you'd have to enjoy squeezing yourself into a tight spot. Actually, there are more possibilities beyond the Orebed Leanto on the Orebed trail, because the terrain runs fairly flat for a ways there before it ramps up towards Gothics.

I find the Gothics cable trail far easier going up than going down, like most steep country. But it's really no problem in either direction for people. As always, I recommend the soft shoe (trail runner, approach shoe, etc.). As far as the dog is concerned, it depends on how well the dog likes friction. The roughest parts of the loop are actually on the E sides of Armstrong and UWJ. In addition to the ladder several have mentioned, there are quite a number of little rock scrambles on both peaks.

Have fun!

Oldsmores
06-23-2005, 03:06 PM
...The roughest parts of the loop are actually on the E sides of Armstrong and UWJ...
Absolutely correct - I corrected my original post, which referred to the W sides... :o

Butch79
06-23-2005, 04:15 PM
Great insights and advice. I knew I could count on you guys.

My topo map (shoot, I thought it was current) shows an untrailed gap between the Garden road and the bend at the east end of the northside trail where it switches back to head west over the Brothers, thus my confusion. Glad to know it's directly accessible.

The Mountaineer in Keene Valley, you say? I've made a note of it now. What's the rental cost there on canisters, and would I be wise to phone ahead to reserve one (or two)? Any alternative rental sources up that way?

Yeah, this is a full pack in to a campsite, dayhike up and around for a day or two, full pack of course back down and out again at the end. I've tried to avoid going up anything major while carrying a full pack since I spent an afternoon feeling I was going to flip over backward going up Saddleback that way about 25 years ago...

Huge thanks to everyone who's chimed in!

Happy trails --
Uncle Butch

HAYDK
06-23-2005, 06:14 PM
Here's the Mountaineer's Web site .http://www.mountaineer.com/

jbrown
06-24-2005, 10:27 AM
Here's my 2 pennies worth of advice. If you choose to do the range from the JBL side, go up the Orebed Brook Trail and do Gothics -> LWJ. Going down the Orebed trail after 4 peaks is hellish, and killer on the knees in my experience.

(Oh, and you need to reserve and/or pay for the lean-tos in the JBL vicinity. I didn't know that my first time in there, and it made for a little scrambling around to figure out where to sleep a couple of nights. :D)

Butch79
06-24-2005, 11:19 PM
More good advice, all welcome and much appreciated.

Already exchanged e-mails with The Mountaineer re: bear canisters ($7. per 3-day rental, if anyone else is interested; no reservations, but supposedly plenty in stock).

Reservations on area lean-tos removes those as any back-up plan, but that's all they were anyway; thanks for the heads-up.

That leaves the ladder on Armstrong as the major obstacle, and evidently a problem no matter in which direction we try this. I'm assuming it's a lot closer to vertical than 45 degrees. Dog = about 90 pounds. Somewhere in the back of my mind I'm jerry-rigging a breeches buoy... 8-| Any decent way around this without spending an hour swimming through cripplebrush and sprucetraps? Thanks again...

Happy trails --
Uncle Butch

Butch79
06-29-2005, 06:32 PM
Sorry to sound like a hand-wringing nuisance about this, but just wondering if anyone had any thoughts on that very last item in the preceding post -- the 20-foot ladder on Armstrong. Again, is there a decent way around this without spending an hour swimming through cripplebrush and sprucetraps? Don't want to waste half the kids' day figuring this out on our one annual opportunity to hit the High Peaks, nor, needless to say, risk injuring Dog.

Happy trails --
Uncle Butch

mavs00
06-29-2005, 07:21 PM
Maybe for the dog, but not likely for you. If the dog is good off leash and comfortable "in the woods", then if you let him off the leash he may, left to his own devices, find a dog safe way down (or up). As for people, use the ladder, thats what its there for (to avoid causing excess damage to the surrounding area).

If the dog is not good off leash or a competent 'bushwhacko", you'll still be fine so long as you are very careful. Many dogs have made it up/down that with a little owner help. Like it has been said, it can and regularly is negotiated safely. Bottom line, if it's important to "have the dog along" than just be cautious and thinkgs will likely be fine. If you don't want the hassle or stress of worrying about it, leave him/her behind :)

Butch79
06-29-2005, 10:01 PM
Mavs, thanks, that's much more reassuring than your previous post (#7), which was the thing that got me thinking the Armstrong ladder might be an impassable obstacle in the first place. You had me picturing 40 feet of plumb vertical, which is a tough geometry problem when you plug 135 pounds of hiker and 90 pounds of dog into the equation. If you're saying a plucky dog can make it up and down, though, with just a fair amount of assistance, we're okay (woods-savvy dog, presence is mandatory :) ). Again, much appreciated. I always enjoy your posts (and website).

Happy trails --
Uncle Butch

Raymond
06-30-2005, 02:29 AM
That Armstrong ladder was missing for a year or two. You can see some pictures here:

http://www.thecavedog.com/Adirondacks-Web_Pages/Adirondacks_46/Adirondacks-index-frame.html

You'll have to click on the link on the left column that says " Cave Dog Climbing and Jumping."

I don't recommend jumping down la Cave Dog.

As I remember it, the cliff was pretty much vertical, with a rather narrow ledge at the top, then a scramble up among rocks and a haul to get over a boulder near the top. That last was the toughest for my son when he was eight.

Above that, there was a squeeze between two large rocks, then the summit, I think.

As others have said, don't underestimate Upper Wolf Jaw. Or Lower Wolf Jaw, for that matter. I don't think that trail (or almost any other Adirondack trail, come to think of it) was constructed with erosion in mind.

Grumpy
06-30-2005, 06:16 AM
. . . (Oh, and you need to reserve and/or pay for the lean-tos in the JBL vicinity. I didn't know that my first time in there, and it made for a little scrambling around to figure out where to sleep a couple of nights. :D)

Just as a point of clarification, the leantos referenced above are in the immediate vicinity of Johns Brook Lodge, and are owned by the Adirondack Mountain Club. There is a public (no fee) leanto (Howard Memorial) along the main (northside) trail about 0.3 mi before reaching JBL and just beyond the turnoff to the rangers' interior outpost. The Wolfjaw and Orebed Brook shelters also are public.

Have a wonderful trip!

G.

mavs00
06-30-2005, 06:43 AM
That Armstrong ladder was missing for a year or two. You can see some pictures here:

http://www.thecavedog.com/Adirondacks-Web_Pages/Adirondacks_46/Adirondacks-index-frame.html

You'll have to click on the link on the left column that says " Cave Dog Climbing and Jumping."

I don't recommend jumping down la Cave Dog.

Fear not........ There is a one in place now, and the replacement ladder it a good one :D

Here's a photo of it I took last september.

Just pretend your a fireman rescuing a doggie from a building. I'd say at least half the times I've been on the range, I've seen dogs making there way :D

http://www.adkhighpeaks.com/albums/uwj-arm/DCP_3890.sized.jpg

Oldsmores
06-30-2005, 06:53 AM
I go about 150, and a few years ago I got my 90 lb. lab down the ladder without hurting either of us... :eek:

rhihn
06-30-2005, 06:54 AM
Fear not........ There is a one in place now, and the replacement ladder it a good one :D

Here's a photo of it I took last september.

Just pretend your a fireman rescuing a doggie from a building. I'd say at least half the times I've been on the range, I've seen dogs making there way :D

http://www.adkhighpeaks.com/albums/uwj-arm/DCP_3890.sized.jpg

Tim, it's been a while since we did this mountain, and I've heard there have been reroutes. Do you know if this is the same place where there used to be a cable?

Dick

Rik
06-30-2005, 08:50 AM
Dick, I believe this is just below where the cable use to be. Someone correct me if I'm wrong.
My dog (112lbs Rottweiler) made it around this when he was young and healthy and hiking every week. He could never do it now (131lbs :eek: ). Be careful both here and on the Wolfjaws. It would be a chore getting an injured dog or person out from there.

Rivet
06-30-2005, 09:27 AM
It's easier for a dog to go up ladders than down them.
Though my beagle was able to run down the one on Armstrong. It's not quite verticle as seen in the photo above.

1ADAM12
06-30-2005, 09:42 AM
You could always bring a rope and a doggy harness and lower your dog down. I have seen this done before and it works quite well :)

Butch79
06-30-2005, 04:15 PM
Adam, that's kind of what I was imagining in post #13. We'll have that as a back-up plan.

Thanks once again to everyone who's contributed. The visuals, advisories, cautions, and good wishes are all hugely appreciated.

Happy trails --
Uncle Butch