Sept 1-3, Seven High Peaks: Friends in the Mountains: Part II

Help Support

This site may earn a commission from merchant affiliate links, including eBay, Amazon, and others.


Well-known member
Jul 29, 2005
Reaction score
The Hinterlands of North Central MA
Part II:

We returned to the Santanoni lot on Day 2 approximately 10.5 hours since our start. Leaf, HighonLife and I were pumped. On the way up to Times Square earlier in the day, I announced that I had "a thought". This moment was well received by HOL, who made sure that I had the full attention of Leaf, Terra, and herself. Apparently, its a big deal when I have a cohesive thought, and she didn't want me to get distracted and lose my tenuous grasp on it.
Based on that thought, we were now on our way to complete two more tasks :
1. Drive to Keene Valley
2. Take showers at the Hostel, eat at the Noonmark.

The drive back to I87 was beautiful. It was 5:00pm and the sun was beginning to settle into the mountains, but it was still sunny. This was my first opportunity to see the forest I had driven through friday night. Two coyotes crossed the road in front of my car. The smaller peaks framed the drive, and I began to give serious consideration to the ADK 100.

I watered and fed Terra while HOL and Leaf each used the two showers at the Hostel. While I waited, I chatted with an older rock climber who informed me he had climbed the Santas one winter long ago. A group of young Canadians were excited about their climb of Marcy today. The energy was high and everyone was very enthusiastic. I took a very hot shower and they all laughed at me when I came out looking like a Lobster.

The Noonmark was packed and it looked like there were only two waitresses, and they weren't getting along. We sat at the counter. I like to sit at the counter. I ordered a cheesy ham omelet, but they forgot the cheese. Leaf ordered steak and eggs and a vanilla milkshake, but they forgot the home fries. Nancy ordered steak and eggs, a double order of english muffins, and a side of oatmeal, but they forgot the home fries and said they were out of oatmeal. The waitress doubted she could eat all that, but we knew better. Besides, what kind of diner runs out of oatmeal? Terra had a cheeseburger and small fries (thanks again, Auntie Nancy). The car was, well, quite odiferous that night...note to not feed dog diner food if sleeping in the car with dog. After dinner we drove down over to the Loj, and at the end of the road, we took advantage of cell service to let our loved ones know we were OK and having fun.

Astonishingly, we found a spot at South Meadows for our three cars, and said goodnight. The alarm was set for 4:30am.

Leaf had decided that she needed to get back, so it was just HOL, Terra and I today. We left the HPIC by headlamp, but the dawn had broken by the time we reached Marcy Dam. We had decided to head out over the Pass beyond Lake Arnold and hit Gray first. It took us three hours from the Loj to get to the intersection of the Opalescent Brook Trail. Once again, we are convinced its three hours to any major junction in the Adirondacks. On the way, we saw a big pile of bear booty laying near a tent site, bags and plastic everywhere, and the BearVault laying in the middle of it all. The campers will still asleep. Terra wanted to inspect the crime scene, but I called her out of it in case the bear was still afoot. Later we learned that there is a large male in the Marcy Dam area who has been sucessfully crushing BearVaults.

Over the pass and up the trail to Lake Tear we progressed. We crossed the outlet of Lake Tear about 9:30 am and began our climb of Gray after a short food break. The climb got right off steeply, and we scrambled up several slabs and ledges, some very challenging. I had to lift Terra up onto one ledge. The trail to the summit is maybe 1/2 mile long, and in pretty good shape. Near the top, the spruce is thick and I winced as arms and legs stung, being so raw from Couchie the day before. Just before the summit of Gray a large rock provides excellent 360 degree views! We were so happy to be here, what an amazing weekend of weather, veiws, laughs, hard work, and teamwork. I was joyous.

The stretch between Gray and Marcy is so thick with spruce, it looks impenetrable. That's OK, because we didn't plan on taking this route, we were bound for Skylight. Coming down Gray can be tricky in spots, especially on tired legs. We made it safely down, and I filtered a couple of liters from Lake Tear. Who says its not safe to drink from the Hudson River??

As we passed along the banks of Lake Tear of the Clouds, we noticed two men in an illegal campsite. If they had made camp, they had broken it down, but the smell of a campfire lingered. We were angered. A small prop plane had made several passes over us that morning, and we wondered if they were looking for fires. There had also been a large bonfire burning at South Meadows the night before, and a fresh firepit at Times Square. More anger surfaced as we discussed these findings. We planned to report it all when we returned to HPIC.

The climb to Skylight, although easy especially compared to the terrain we'd been moving through all weekend, was tough on tired legs. Breaking out of treeline, we forgot all about our fatigue. The summit was amazing, and only one other hiker was on it. He enjoyed the solitude, and we let him be. We took many pictures here. It was about 11:15 am and the sun cast a warm glow in all directions. The view into Panther Gorge was amazing. It was difficult to leave this beautiful place, but we wanted to keep moving and keep our motors running.

Down at Four Corners we chomped on Gatorade Jelly Beans and Pria Bars for quick energy. OK we had planned to climb Marcy, 1000 feet of vertical in 9/10's of a mile, our big finish for the weekend. HOL started up, and kept up a strong pace, reaching the top about five minutes before me. I kept a strong pace, giving myself a few more jelly beans every three hundred feet. I pushed myself hard, and we made it up in 25 minutes! (Well, HOL in 20! You go, Girl!!!) We were soooo pumped, this whole weekend was a challenge I suggested just before Grace Day; and we knew that alot of factors needed to fall together for it to work. Three beautiful days of mild, sunny weather were key to our total enjoyment of this weekend. Sure, we'd have enjoyed it no matter what, but we had optimal weather, optimal fitness, shared great teamwork -- it just doesn't get any better than this.

There was only one hiker on Marcy, along with the Summit Caretaker. We talked to him about the fires, but he seemed a bit inexperienced in the regs. Told us a fire anywhere in the Western High Peaks was legal. We questioned that given the elevation at Times Square. Even if it IS legal, I highly doubt anyone would lug thier own firewood up to TS, so that means any fire there is probably fueled by the surrounding timber. I can't see how that would be legal, or ethical. More on this later.

We paused and absorbed our surroundings, how amazing to be in a place where we could see ALL of the peaks we had climbed this weekend. Fantastic. What a high. I'm still reeling from it. We arrived back at the HPIC 10.5 hours later. That made about 31 hours of total hiking this weekend, nearly 60 miles, and I estimate about 12k-14k gain. Three days, seven peaks, four great friends, one one super dog. Thank you, Nancy, for guiding us on the herdpaths. Your generosity knows no bounds. I don't think I would have found Couchie if not for your leadership.

The 7 miles back to the HPIC we spent in quiet comtemplation. I was on rewind, recalling all the events. I know that was smiling the whole way. Back at the cars, I watered Terra and moved my car to the shade, then went to talk to a ranger about the fires and the suspicious campsite at Lake Tear. Everyone seemed to be worn so thin by all the Labor Day traffic at the Loj, but he thanked me for the information and for being watchful. He also at first thought a fire at Times Square was legal, but then reconsidered given the elevation, and said he'd be interested in looking that one up. He confirmed the plane was doing flyovers to look for fires. He also confirmed that the blue BearVaults are being opened by at least one bear.

I said goodbye to HOL, and began my drive home. The sun was on its way down, and the light made the mountains glow. Lake Champlain glimmered. The green pastures of Vermont melted past me as I made my final drive from the Daks to my little converted barn in Vermont. From today forward, all my trips will be from Massachusetts.

This weekend marked ADK numbers 27, 28, 29, 30, 31 and 32 for me (Allen, Couchie, Panther, Santanoni, Gray, Skylight) . Marcy was a big bonus at the end . Just last saturday, I was at 22 with Marshall (23-24 for Dial and Nippletop, 25-26 Street and Nye) . Its been one hell of a nine days. Stellar. I will never forget it, this has been the best summer of my life.

Pics of Part II are here, randomly ordered