August 2, 2012 – Marcy

Peak Data

Elevation (ft)

Hike Stats

Start Time
6:45 AM
Finish Time
2:33 PM
Hiking Time
14.6 Mi

4:15 AM: The day starts early after a very poor nights sleep with last minute food preparations of coffee, endurance drinks, and egg bagels for breakfast. Rich and I pack the car and make an on-time departure.

5:00 AM: The road is empty but with patches of heavy fog. Rich drives and I play music on his iPhone to get us pumped up for the trek ahead. We see a few deer on the road which winds us up through Blue Mountain, Long Lake, Tupper Lake, Saranac, and Lake Placid to the trail head at the Adirondack Loj.

6:45 AM: We sign in and hit the trail. A few other groups are ahead of us, but Rich and I set a swift pace and soon pass most of them. We cross the bridge at mile 0.5, take the left at the Marcy/Algonquin trail split at mile 0.9, and head towards Marcy dam.

7:30 AM: Mile 2.1. Arrive at what remains of Marcy Dam. Hurricane Irene took out the dam last December, including the bridge which crossed the lake behind it. The lake is now mud flats with a stream and some shallow pools. The stream flows freely over the dams remains to the brook below. Rich and I pause here to take off our pants legs and outer shirts. We take some photos of the devastation and speak to two guys who say they are part of a church group that’s been camping for the past 12 days, and have climbed 22 peaks. They smell like they are telling the truth.

Me and the mud flats – what remained of Marcy Lake behind the former Marcy Dam.

7:35 AM: We set off again across the new bridge below the old dam, come back upstream past the tenting sites, and find the trail sign at the split between Phelps trail and Avalanche Pass. Phelps heads to Marcy, which is 5.0 miles distant, and the path we take.

8:30 AM: Two miles further on, after fording Phelps brook once by rock and a second time by bridge, and after passing a trail to the supposedly trail-less Tabletop Mountain, we reach a turn off to Indian Falls. We decide to take a look and are richly rewarded. About 25 yards down, the trail opens to a flat rocky area that is the top of the falls. The water is very low so most of the steam bed is dry, allowing us to walk up to the edge of the falls. From there we have a fantastic view of Wright, Algonquin, and Iroquois Mountains, perfectly framed in the distance. It’s amazing to see the exact 3 peaks we climbed last year set before us. We get some photos, take a packs-off break, and have a few bites of trail mix before setting back off.

Rich checking the view from Indian Falls – Iroquois, Algonquin, and Wright peaks.

As we get underway, right ahead of us is an older, but very fit hiker. His left calf appears to have either lost a part of it, or had a bone break that didn’t set correctly. His is also wearing 2 knee braces. He offers to let us pass, which we do, but about a mile on when we stop for a break he passes us by and out distances us the rest of the way.

9:30 AM: 6.1 miles. Junction of Hopkins Trail. Here we see a sign that we have come 1.8 miles from Indian Falls. The trail has grown steadily steeper along this way and more rocky. More boulders to go up and over, and fewer flat stretches. The sign post also indicates 1.2 miles more to Marcy.
We set off again, crossing many marshy areas that are wide, but passable only on planks, rocks, and sticks. The trail then becomes narrow through scrub brush as we have now left the tall tree line. Half a mile along we come to the Slant Rock Trail junction, and the sign let’s us know only 0.7 mi to go. The yellow blazes on rocks begin about now as there are no more trees. Soon the short brush gives out as well, and its all steep rock climbing. About 1/2 a mile from the top we see the hiker with the knee braces summiting Marcy ahead of us. Impressive. we press on, more slowly now, pausing about every 100 yards or so as the climbing is becoming strenuous.

10:30 AM: 7.3 miles. Summit of Marcy. We reach the summit plaque, take our photos, and then climb up to the highest point. Success! We have reached high peak #6 for us, and the highest point in NY state. One other young guy is here and he is soon joined by a companion. They are camping down in the Ausable Lake area, but are from Washington DC.
Rich and I stop here to eat our lunch. Surprisingly, I’m not very hungry so only eat half. The air is colder and windy so we put back on our long-sleeve shirts, get some additional photos, but only spend 20 minutes on top taking in the view. The view is spectacular. The sky is clear except for clouds rising from behind some of the mountains below us. We can see far to the East past Haystack and Little Marcy to Nippletop and maybe to the Giant Mountain Wilderness. To the west are Mount Colden and again Wright, Algonquin, and Iroquois. To the north is Lake Placid.

This time from Mount Marcy – Colden in the foreground, Iroquois, Algonquin and Wright behind.

10:50 AM: We set off back down, making a slow decent to keep our footing on the steep rock. We pass a few groups coming up and encourage them with reports of the remaining distance. Rich spots some blue-purple flowers we haven’t seen anywhere else and takes a photo. He also takes one of the largest of the cairn.
We take few stops on the way down, passing again the Slant Rock and Hopkins junctions. At Hopkins we note that one of the marked destinations is 16 miles distant. Can’t imagine walking that far at this point. Luckily our next planned stop is only 1.8 miles more.

12:15 PM: 10.3 miles. Back at Indian Falls. Rich suggests a break to cool our feet. I readily agree. We head back out on the flat rock surface, find a shallow pool and pull off our boots and socks. The ice-cold water feels like heaven! We end up not just soaking our feet, but also washing the mud from our legs and arms, splashing our faces and the backs of our necks. We get some good calf stretching in, and mix up some Gator Aid. It’s a very refreshing stop and we spend about as long here as on the Summit. After a time we set out again for Marcy Dam.
We continue our climb down rocky steps and boulder covered trails, across Phelps Brook a couple more times, and remark that this part of the trail seems steeper coming down then we remembered it coming up. That is what fatigue will do to you.
We take in some wild life on this stretch, including two toads, one common and the other with an orange tinge. We also see two chipmunks, the second of which was quite curious and came to within 3 inches of my toes when I flinched and the movement scared him off.

1:45 PM: 12.5 Miles. Back at the dam we take a quick peak at the camp sites, hoping to see what the lean-toos are like. We see only tents however, so cross back over the bridge and press on.

2:33:16 PM: 14.6 miles. I sign us out at the parking lot and we are in amazement at how soon we are back. 7 hrs, 48 min, 16 sec. Nearly 45 minutes faster then we covered 11.6 miles last year. And while our legs and feet are very sore, we don’t yet feel the exhaustion. Back at the car we ditch our packs, boots, and socks, grab our “after” foot wear (sneakers for Rich, flip-flops for me), grab our change of clothes, and head into the visitor center. After changing, we browsed the shop a bit but decide not to get anything.

3:00 PM: We set off with me at the wheel. We still can’t get a cell-phone signal from the parking lot, so can’t check in. We haven’t had a signal all day. We figured the Marcy trail is just too far from Lake Placid.

3:10 PM: Heading past town we are finally able to make a call and find out from Dad that Erin and Kristen have taken the boys tubing down the Hudson, and plan on eating out. We try reaching them a few times, but only get some out-of-sync texts through due to spotty coverage along our way home.

5:00 PM: We pull into the driveway in Indian Lake. Dad is out fishing but mom and the dogs are there to great us. She is amazed at our early arrival, exactly 12 hours after we left. After unpacking the car, and our packs, we get cleaned up to go out to dinner.

6:00 PM: The women and boys get back just as we are about to depart. We trade very quick recaps of our days, then Mom, Dad, Rich ,and I head out to Switfty’s, a new Irish bar in town, for dinner. Rich and I both get the post hike stakes, and share stories and pictures from the trail. We repeat the stories when we get back home, and take some well deserved feet-up time the rest of the evening. It was a full and rewarding day.


Lessons From Year 3

1. Never let age or disability serve as an excuse for living a full life and chasing your dreams. The hiker we encountered, despite a deformed leg and probably 2 bad knees still out-paced two able bodied and pretty fit guys in their 40’s. His memory will always be an inspiration to keep hiking and enjoying the outdoors no mater what life throws at me.

2. Plan time for breaks and refreshment. Our two stops at Indian Falls really energized the rest of our hike. They probably had a lot to do with how quickly we finished. A dip in cold water would become part of our hiking tradition when ever possible from then on. Much of what we want to do and accomplish requires endurance, time to recharge is essential to keep going for the long haul.


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