Adirondacks Climb to Formidable Peaks

The Ausable River, which drains more than 500 square miles of New York’s Adirondack Mountains, squeezes through a flume below hiking paths that form a mountainside web. We went for the view and climbed to Flume Knob, about 1,300 feet above the river. After some serious rock scrambling, Sue celebrated as black flies joined us at the top. The Ausable River area, just a few miles from Lake Placid, is known as one of the country’s finest trout-fishing places. It empties into Lake Champlain at the Vermont border.

The mountains of the eastern USA may not compare with the elevations of the Sierra Nevada and Rockies, but they offer steep and rocky challenges that make the Appalachian Trail so tough. We have gotten a taste of the Appalachians during the last several weeks, and this week we got to know a part of the Adirondacks, including New York’s fifth-highest peak, Whiteface Mountain. Forty bucks got us and our truck entry to the road to the ”castle,” several hundred feet below the peak. The last bit is advertised as a ”nature trail” to the top, but without hand rails, it would be too slippery and difficult for many. The views of Lake Placid and much more would have been fantastic if Mother Nature had cooperated. Whiteface was the site of Alpine skiing events in the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics. In 1980, human-made snow was used for the first time in the Olympics.

A Peek at Life on the Appalachian Trail

Our six miles on the Appalachian Trail during our tour of Virginia stirred affection and respect for one of the world’s great long-distance paths. In Shenandoah National Park, we entered the AT at the Thornton Gap trailhead parking lot.

The trail led us over a mostly rocky surface with more than 1,700 feet of climbing. We took a quick detour to Mary’s Rock, where Sue took in the view, then we continued southbound to the Bird’s Nest #3 Shelter, one of more than 250 shelters spread over the AT’s 2,190 miles. In order to sleep in the huts, campers must be traveling at least three consecutive days on the AT. The Bird’s Nest featured a rock fireplace, wooden sleeping platform, a nearby privy as well as a bear box and hanger poles to keep food safe. Thru hikers must use the shelter unless it is full, when they may use designated campsites nearby. I ate my lunch while sitting on the platform and imagined the hut filled with sleeping bags and trekkers. I could almost hear the snoring and smell the trail grime.

The higher we went, the less spring we witnessed as the season had delayed its arrival. We passed six or seven northbound thru hikers, who all traveled solo and appeared to be in their 20s. I resisted asking where they started and where their destination was. They all were in a hurry since a storm was moving in, but they took the time for a brief friendly greeting. I wished I had brought along some trail magic (beers?) to hand off as they passed.