July 1, 2010 – First 2 High Peaks

Peak Data

Elevation (ft)

Hike Stats

Temp at Start
 Approx 60 F
Start Time
7:30 AM
Finish Time
12:30 PM
Hiking Time
6.5 hrs
Total Time
7 hrs

5:30 AM: My brother Rich and I set out from our lake house in Indian Lake with his dog Bella. Our destination is the Cascade Mt. trail head near Lake Placid NY.
Our drive takes us through Blue Mt. Lake, Long Lake, Tupper Lake, Saranac, and finally Lake Placid.

7:30 AM: Reach the trail head a few miles past the Olympic ski jump. We are the 3rd car in the small parking area at the side of the road. We don packs, rain coats (a light mist is falling) and hiking sticks. We have packed lunches, snacks, about a gallon of water each, and plenty of 1st aid and emergency supplies. My pack feels quite heavy at first, but I quickly get used to it.
We get Bella on a retractable leash, sign in (indeed we are third on the trail) and head out.

8:00 AM: After a pit stop for Bella and stowing the bat used to clean up after her (Rich designates this “Geo-Crapping”), we closed a small stream and start our climb in earnest. The trail is full of large rocks and roots making most to the assent akin to stair climbing.
Bella too the lead, followed by Rich, then me. We found this arrangement avoids tangling us up in Bella’s leash.

8:30 AM: A mile in but our GPS watch was not accounting for vertical so we think we’ve got less then 1/2 a mile. Rich and I are concerned our pace, and apparent lack of physical condition may greatly extend the duration of this hike. We’ve paused about every 10 minutes to catch our breath, shed layers, and hydrate.
The ground is also becoming muddier in spots as the misting continues. Many areas require bolder hopping or balancing across small logs and sticks to cross the mud. The hiking polls help immensely  definitely worth the 30 bucks.

9:45 AM: Reach the split in the trail for Cascade or Porter. We are elated to realize we’ve covered 1.8 miles at our expected pace of 1 mile per hour, not the mear 0.87 miles the GPS reads. Rich and I decide we can ignore the GPS for the remainder of the trip. We set off on the left fork, 0.3 miles to Cascade.

9:50 AM: Leave the tree line and meet 2 guys coming down from the top who tell us we are only about 200 meters away, and that it’s very windy. Time to put up the hoods.

10:00 AM: We reach the summit of Cascade Mt after some serious boulder climbing. Bella demonstrates she must be part mountain goat during this leg.
There is zero visibility at the summit and a driving icy rain. There is also a geological survey medallion set in the rock at the peak. We snap some photos and head right back down out of a strong desire to get out of the wind. Poor Bella is drenched.

10:35 AM: Back at the intersection we set off down the right fork, 0.7 mi to Porter. To get there though, we fist have to go down. We hope with every step down we’ll soon level out; you hate to loose elevation only to have to regain it.
On our way up to the intersection a man coming back from Porter told us the trail was “wet”. We wonder what he meant. Wasn’t the trail we were on already wet?
We soon found out. Most of the way was mud puddles. We hopped across rocks, and went around where we could, but some slogging was un-avoidable. Other key item of gear: water-proof boots.

Summited Porter Mt. No visability here either, though even if it were clear the peak is a rock surrounded by scrub brush and dwarf trees. So its not clear if much could be seen anyway. There is no marker at the peak, so we stand on the apparent highest point for photos.

Just down from the summit, in a more sheltered grove of trees, was a party of three hikers celebrating their completion of all the 46 peaks. The party consisted of a women who appeared to be in her 60’s, her son was around 20, and a girl who we were not certain was a sister or a girl-friend. They were toasting their accomplishment, a few completed in what sounded to us to have been a short 6 years, with a bottle of Dom.

11:00 AM: We make it back to the fork in the trail between Cascade and Porter and start our decent back to the trail head. On the way down we pass far more hikers, including large groups of kids that appear to be summer camps. We had quite a time controlling Bella, who acted quite aggressive toward any male hikers we passed, and especially toward other dogs. We also noted the trail conditions had become much muddier during the day.
While the decent was quicker then the climb, the impact on knees, ankles, and hips was also more pronounced. About an hour into it, my right knee was throbbing horribly  Having the hiking pole again proved invaluable to steady footing and maintain control over the pace of the decent.
Although we knew we were moving more rapidly, fatigue and frequent stops to let other hikers heading up pass us made the trip down seem as if it were taking forever. The trail looked very different in reverse. Thankfully we knew there was only a single trail or we might have seriously thought we were going the wrong way.

12:30 PM: Made it back to the trail head, signed out, and got back to the car. We changed out of our hiking boots and wet cloths, dried off Bella and got her onto a blanket on the back seat. She was asleep in no time. Rich and I had some snacks and headed for Indian Lake. Two down, 44 to go.

TIPS and LESSONS from Year 1.

1. Don’t bring a dog up a mountain in the rain.  Ok, that maybe a bit too specific to apply to your every day, so let me generalize.  Choose the right companion for your journeys. Will they help you along, or slow you down?  Do they have the right temperament for what you are likely to encounter along the way? Pay as much attention or more to their needs than your own. And also, NEVER HIKE ALONE. I can’t emphasize that enough, so I’ll do it again NEVER HIKE ALONE.

2. Know your fitness level & pick an appropriate challenge. We all want to do grand things, but the greater the challenge, the greater the preparation needed. Make sure you did the pre-work and that you are ready. Then go for it.

3. Plan and study your route.  Knowing the way and the distance between landmarks, and having a good map gave us the confidence we were making progress when technology failed us. Knowing how to use a map and compass also meant we had a fallback.

4. Bring the essential gear. A long hike in a remote region is no joke. I see too many people every year that are woefully unprepared. And every year I read about a group that must be rescued from somewhere in the High Peaks. Occasionally someone doesn’t make it.  Always be prepared to stay longer then you plan, survive the night if required, and deal with emergency situations you may encounter.  See what I pack on my high peak adventures for suggestions of what you should have with you on every outing.

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