VFTB under the fast lane


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Dec 25, 2003
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Northampton, MA
My hiking friends and I have had the peak bagging fever for our entire 45 yrs of adventuring together. Winter camping adventures in the Whites always had the goal of summiting Mount Washington at some point during our week long forays, with the lesser peak of Isolation or Boot Spur when the weather did not permit the true summit attempt. Only once, out of perhaps 7 attempts, did we find the current conditions and forecast suitable for success.
Same peak desire was true for our Adirondack excursions.
Now, as I get along in years, the urge to peak bag is being replaced by the urge to go to areas where few care to venture, the lower hills that provide unobstructed views of the surrounding peaks that I use to feel compelled to bag.
With the aforementioned in mind we booked a couple of rooms at the Maple Leaf Motel (in Schroon Lake) in order to hike under the fast lane.
With clear weather at hand and breakfast sandwiches from the Severance general store in our bellies, we set off on our adventure that involved roadside parking on Rt. 9 in North Hudson, a short bushwhack to fording the Schroon river and then passing beneath the Northway through the Marsh pond culvert to a trail less area around the North Hudson Dome. In short order we were beyond the noise of the Northway travelling further into an area that can only be described as pristine. Mature open forest prevailed with a carpet of soft pine needles, lush green moss or colorful fallen leaves to walk upon. My medium weight hiking boots felt out of place and perhaps should have been replaced with moccasins to lessen the assault on the land beneath my feet. Game trails, leading up to the many ledges and rock outcroppings, provided narrow path traverses that when used with care easily guided us to the summit of the North Hudson Dome. We were not greeted by a summit steward; however, if this was a well travelled area I do not think 100 stewards could protect the fragile beauty of the truly undisturbed summit vegetation. Its only true protection comes in the form of a super highway and the trail less nature of the area. Even the passing of just 4 individuals carefully traversing the area left a visible impact. The views through crisp, clear, fall air over the southern Dix and Hoffman Notch wilderness were splendid. After a good bit of exploring and napping about the summit area we headed back down the southern steep ledged shoulder of the Dome to a meandering bushwhack back through the underpass, across the Schroon back to our car. Dinner at Sticks and Stones in Schroon and a goodnights sleep readied us for our next day under the fast lane.
Day two brought us to the West Mill Brook valley of the Dix Wilderness area. Access to the gate just beyond the interstates drivable culvert was easy and uneventful. As we started up the trail it felt like coming home to an old friend. We have spent many days whacking around this area and felt no need to consult map or compass. Although I was inclined to explore the lesser hills of Jug and Old Far mountains, being out voted, I found myself traveling up West Mill Brook on my way to the call between Bear and Wyman mountains. VFTT still has a strong pull for the others in my group. We climbed up the east ridge of Wyman skirting the Igloo to the North. I made a rooky mistake going up the final part of the ridge to Wyman’s summit from the Igloo.
I was keeping to the south of the ridge having fun with the easy scrambles when I made a move that I instantly regretted, hauling myself up and around rock to a place where I did not want to go further and really did not want to go back down either. One of my more competent scrambling partners followed me up before I could tell him to perhaps find another way.
Too late, we committed ourselves to moving up, so up we went. A few minutes later, after climbing within my abilities but beyond my comfort zone, we found ourselves near the summit and into the woods. The others we not far behind, having taken a saner route through the trees. We lounged at the summit, taking in the views, being warmed by the sun while pointing out all the places we’ve visited in the West Mill Brook and Niagara Valley area. As our three o’clock turnaround time approached we packed up and reluctantly headed back down the shoulder to the call and back to the trail along the brook by dark. Another twenty minutes by
braille brought us back to the gate and our ride back to the motel.
Exhausted we consumed a pasta and meatball meal my scrambling friend brought, drank Paradox Pilsner and Paradox Beaver Bite beer purchased at the Severance store and watched an old vampire movie while falling asleep.
Day three, after much debate, brought us to the path to the “hunters camp” along the Boquet river at the northern end of the Grace (East Dix) spotted mountain ridge. It is one of our favorite places to winter camp and an approach route to the west of the river made it seem more remote than it did after using the trail. We met a very nice fellow from the US forest service who was checking some long term research sites in the area. We hung at the hunter’s camp with him for awhile and learned a bit about what he was doing. We had planned to climb up to the magnificent view to be had from the rise above the Hunters Camp, continue east and then north around to the Underwood Canyon area then back west to the path and out. Much to my chagrin, the mountain fever worked its magic on two in our party and with one being non committal I was out voted again. As I climbed my way up to Elizabethtown 4 my grumblings about midday light washing out the colors and contrast thereby greatly diminishing the view we have seen many times before fell on deaf ears. The views were as expected and even my view seeking friends had to admit that I was correct about the quality of the light but still preferred the views over the whack. After an hour of hanging around we went west down to the river and followed it out, swimming once along the way. Three days of hiking done it was time to head back to Western Mass and our families. In a short time we will get together to look at pictures of our trip and plan our winter camping trip for this coming February. What views I will have and if they will be from the top or the bottom is yet to be known, that being said, peak baggers are a pushy bunch who know what they want. I will tag along as long as my knees allow.
Great Report! Thanks! Gorgeous area. Glad you got to enjoy the intimidatingly steep parts of Wyman - always a favorite.

And thanks for using my guidebook title "Life Under the Fast lane" in the report. My wife is the cover model and came up with that title... Fun stuff! :)
TCD, I have thoroughly enjoyed visiting most of the areas that can be accessed using your book as a guide. It has opened my eyes to other areas that may seem inaccessible due to highway construction but perhaps can be accessed using approaches that are similar to the ones described in your book. The highways, at times, unintentionally create pockets of mini wilderness areas where few people go. They may not be as dramatic as the areas described in your book but may still be worth exploring. Thanks for your effort in creating your unique guide.