A small group of us started at The Garden around 4:30 PM Friday. We made the ADK hut near John's Brook Lodge by around 7:00 PM and appreciated the ADK volunteer's hospitality for a bit. Left at 8:00 PM and made Bushnell Falls lean-to #1 around 8:45 PM. Made some dinner and slept around 10:00 PM. It was quite cold, easily low double digits. Nonetheless everyone managed to stay warm. It also snowed lightly all night with cloud cover, and this allowed the temperature to stay up a little.

Sunday morning after breakfast we set out for Haystack around 9:00 AM. It was freezing but walking gets the blood pumping and heats one up nicely. After a challenging stream crossing at the beginning we started gradually ascending the red trail, up past Slant Rock and Point Balk to the intersection with the blue trail below Haystack. Snow coverage increased gradually to 8" to 10" higher up with varying thickness of ice below it, and running water below that (in spots). I barebooted this.

After turning left on the blue trail traction became necessary; I used crampons but my companions used micro-spikes and they sufficed. Made Little Haystack around 1:15 PM. The day was quite nice - very little wind up top and lots of blue sky. The view is impressive to say the least.

However, I noted dark clouds over in the direction of Avalanche Pass and beyond, with snow potentially falling from them. Not knowing what they would do, and also wanting plenty of time to descend down the snow-ice-running water on rock I decided against Haystack itself. This is fine as I will do it during the summer up from Panther Gorge, which will unquestionably be an awesome hike.

Arrived back at the lean-to around 4:00 PM and hung out in the bag a little to warm up. Made some dinner at 5:00 PM, then ate and socialized for a few hours while in and out of the bag. The sky cleared perfectly and the stars were vibrant. Slept around 8:30 PM. On account of the clear sky, the temperature dipped lower than Friday night...easily sub-zero. I was not quite as comfortable as Friday night, but still stayed reasonably warm.

Saturday morning I did not bother with breakfast and instead set a world record for breaking camp. I left first and started out with pretty numb feet and hands about 8:30 AM. After about twenty minutes everything was thawed out and the hiking got pleasant. I arrived at John's Brook Lodge about 9:15 AM and walked around there for bit before heading to the ADK hut. There I waited for the rest of the group while drinking hot chocolate. This was when the volunteers informed me that yes indeed, the temperature went down to about -5 F. It was likely colder at the lean-to.

Once the rest of the group arrived we headed out, making The Garden around 12:45 PM. The trail had turned into frozen mud with about an inch of snow on top, and icy patches here and there. I barebooted it fine but micro-spikes wouldn't have hurt. The day was perfectly clear and whole way out was totally sublime.

All in all, not a bad way to close out a great year of hiking. Here's to happy trails in 2012!