Saturday my BFF Alison and I made a trek up our third High Peak. We initially were going to do it on Sunday, but the DEC issued a warning on Friday urging people to stay out of the backcountry on Sunday and Monday because of Hurricane Irene so we made the wise decision to alter our plans.
We started our day off super early and were on the road by 6:30. Last year when we did our fall hiking we made going to breakfast a part of the experience, however since it's best to get started as early as possible when hiking for more than say four hours, we've nixed that and made eating AFTER part of our routine. We did however stop at Dunkin Donuts for some less than stellar hot chocolate.
Giant Mountain is #12 on the list of 46 Adirondack High Peaks and has an elevation of 4627'. There were several trails of various timings and ascents to choose from, we decided on the trail that led along Roaring Brook to get a chance to see the "waterfalls".
The main road that we drive on once we get off "The Northway" (I-87) to get to our hiking destinations is considered the "High Peaks Scenic Byway" and several trailheads are scattered along it, including the one we hiked last weekend. It passes through the towns of Keene and Keene Valley and will eventually take you into Lake Placid. This trailhead was significantly closer to the highway than we were expecting, so close we actually missed it! Not a big deal though because we wanted to stop in the Keene Stewarts to use their bathrooms before starting our journey...Priority #1 = empty bladder.
I'd say by the time we got situated and back to the trailhead parking lot, it was about 8. The lot had a few cars parked in it. This particular wilderness area has camping spots scattered throughout, people can hike in and set up their tents and camp for free on a first come, first serve basis. Hiking and camping do not go hand in hand for me, I don't have the gear, nor the desire to hike up a mountain with 25 pounds of camping equipment on my back. As much as I love both activities, I don't want to combine them!
Anyway, we walked our way into the trail register. We tend to rush to the register because whoever gets there first gets to sign in. We decided to just start taking turns, this time it was Alison's turn.
Shout out to my Texas bloggy friends!!!
We took the trail to the bottom of the falls first, we thought that the trail was going to take us THROUGH the falls, but it didn't they were actually a little out of the way. Either way, we walked to the bottom to find a bunch of rocks and a small bit of water flowing down...a little less than impressive, but a fun detour either way.
We walked back to the junction to actually go up Giant Mountain. Boy this is steep and quick! We both had long sleeved shirts on that we quickly peeled off. This was just about how the trail remained. At one point we had to cross the brook, which was scary for me...I literally crawled across the rocks. This trail was enjoyable. The first half of it is mostly stepping over and around tree roots and not many rocks. I really struggle with climbing over rocks and rock slabs. I'm a hiker, NOT a rock climber. Unfortunately it's pretty common place in the High Peaks so of course once we got past the brook and about an hour in, the trail started getting rocky. At this point Alison stays a good 30 seconds ahead of me. She's a "go straight through" kind of person where I'm a "stop and assess to find the safest/easiest route up".
That's right, I'm slow ya'll!
The hike up provided several viewing spots that gave us awesome views of the High Peaks Region and a couple of opportunities for good "stop and eat something" breaks. The trail was also scattered with wild blueberries, I don't believe in picking and eating off the trails in the park (or off trails in general) so I let them be and just take pictures. It think it's nice to see a little bit of blue in a sea of green and brown. :)
Once "close to the summit" and I say close in quotes because well, it's not really close, but it's closer to the top than to the bottom, the trail became very rocky with several large slabs that we had to climb up and over. We also saw stairs! You don't see many man made trail assisting items on trails, so this was fun to see.
Right around noon we made it to the summit and boy were we glad! At one point on the trail towards the top it flattens out for a bit, but you can see the top of Giant and it looks so high and so far from where you are. It's very daunting...
The summit provided awesome valley views and views of the Great Range. It was EXTREMELY humid that day and you can tell by my sweaty back (attractive, right?) and there was a general haze over the mountains. I'm still terrible at identifying the mountains and bodies of water, but I can always find good old Whiteface (we'll be tackling you in the next month or so!).
The hike down had challenging points (again, rock slabs...I slide down them thank you very much) but it was pretty easy going for the most part. We decided against going and checking out the top of the falls as there were people camping in that area although I would like to go back sometime to see them, as well as the washbowl.
I didn't walk away unscaved, I took a beating from a tree limb which has left this lovely bruise on my arm that people keep commenting on. Hazard of hiking I guess...
Start Time on Trail: ~8 AM
Arrival at summit: ~Noon
Time back to car: ~3:30
Lunch at summit: PB&J (always tastes better when eating it at the top of a mountain), cheeze it crackers, apple
After hike meal: Grilled cheese and homemade french fries from Noonmark Diner
I know you are all probably tired of hearing about Hurricane Irene and although I faired well, my mountains did not. Flooding has caused a lot of damage to the High Peaks Region of the Adirondacks. The main road I mentioned has since been severely damaged and is currently closed, several mountains have new slides that were carved in from the excessive rain and many buildings and homes were destroyed. Currently the Eastern High Peaks Region (where we’ve spent the past two weekends) is CLOSED. Not only is the damage extreme to these areas, but the economic blow they’re about to suffer from not having campers, hikers and other outdoors enthusiasts in the area on Labor Day weekend is devastating. The Adirondacks is full of a special type of people that can haul ass through any tough situation and this is no different, but it won’t hurt to send more positive vibes their way. I’m hoping things get cleaned up and we can get back to hiking in this region soon, until then there is well over 5 million other acres to this playground to explore!