Monday, September 21, 2009

Gray & Skylight

Fall is here. I'm listening to hockey on the radio and wearing a jacket to work and this past weekend I went on what I think it's safe to say was my last hiking trip of the year. Also, one of my favorite hikes I've done in the Adirondacks.

I took the train up to Saratoga and met my father there. We then drove to the Upper Works, an abandoned mining town, in the High Peaks region of the Adirondacks.
An abandoned house by the trailhead.

When we went a bit later in the season last year the leaves were mid-change but there was also snow and ice. So we went a few weeks earlier this year in order to avoid the wintery weather, but it also meant going before the leaves really changed. Given that we were backpacking this time around that's a trade-off I'm happy to have made.

Friday afternoon we took the Calamity Brook trail--the calamity was a hunting accident in the mid-1800s--from the Upper Works to the Flowed Lands. I'd never been to the Flowed Lands before but have been a little in love with them despite that because I think the name sounds like something out of the Anne of Green Gables books. Of course the actual origin of the name isn't at all romantic--the lake was formed when a river was dammed up to divert water to a mining company's blast furnaces, I think--but that seems irrelevant.

The Flowed Lands on Saturday morning.

We spent a chilly, windy night in a lean-to at the Flowed Lands and then packed up in the morning and hiked a mile to Lake Colden where we set up camp. I'd been to Lake Colden before--it was the first backpacking trip my sister and I went on, a decade or so ago. It had been a dry summer and the bears were out in full force. At the time they didn't require backpackers to use bear canisters the way they do now and they were getting food off of people left and right (not ours). Also, we didn't particularly know what we were doing and made everything harder for ourselves than it needed to be. So anyway, it had been awhile. It's a beautiful area though and there are a lot of hikes that are convenient from there, so it's easy to see why it's such a popular place to stay.

Lake Colden

Our plan was to hike to the top of Skylight and Gray. As it turns out, that's a pretty easy hike and thoroughly enjoyable. The trail goes up past Lake Tear of the Clouds, which is the highest source of the Hudson River. Also, apparently, where Theodore Roosevelt was when he learned that President McKinley was dying and started his trip to Buffalo.
Lake Tear of the Clouds

The path up to Gray--not a terribly exciting peak--begins just before the lake and is fairly steep. The path to Skylight, which begins shortly after the lake, is probably one of the most moderate trails to a High Peak of the ones I've climbed (not many) and isn't the least bit treacherous. Really, it's just completely enjoyable.
The top of Skylight. You have to stay on the path to avoid harming the alpine vegetation.

And the view is fantastic. Generally speaking, every time I've climbed a mountain in the Adirondacks that's known for it's great view it's been a) surrounded by clouds or b) so fucking miserable weather-wise that I didn't enjoy it all that much. But Saturday was an absolutely glorious day. The view is so much more awe inspiring than it looks in these pictures.
A fraction of the view from Skylight. I think you can see Sawteeth, Basin, and Gothics here. Not sure what else.

We had a lot of time and very little to do on Sunday so we took our time breaking camp and getting set to hike out.
Getting lunch together Sunday morning.

Although warmer than it had been Saturday morning, it was still cold enough that there was frost on the bridge across the end of Lake Colden and ice rimming the edge of the lake. So what better to do than sit around drinking hot chocolate while waiting for it to warm up a little?

All in all a very successful trip.

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