Last Saturday afternoon (now two Saturdays ago) Paula and I headed north to hike the Seward Range in the Adirondacks. As I was packing, I realized that I really needed a new bladder for my pack, so we made a little pit stop in Lake Placid. The Ragnar race was wrapping up and the streets were packed! Luckily, we found a parking spot right across the street from EMS and were in and out within twenty minutes. I really hit the jackpot with the special that they were running last week! If you spent $100, you got $25 off. So I picked out a new bladder for $35, a new pair of gaitors for $65 and an ADK Nalgene water bottle for Paula at $10. Once they subtracted the promotional $25, the $7 of EMS reward dollars I had saved, AND my 15% off, I paid $60 total = SCORE! I filled up the bladder in the bathroom sink and back on the road we went.
We got to the trailhead at 6:30pm, signed in and headed down the horse trail. Our packs were heavy but our pace was consistent; the sun now sets around 7ish and it was darker in the woods. We didn’t know where we were going to be setting up camp but had a general idea of where we wanted to be; centrally located. Just after 7, we took a right onto the intersecting marked trails and within a couple hundred feet, I spotted a tiny cairn on my left. There were no markers, but I decided to walk down the path because even with the disappearing light, I could tell that there was a little clearing. It was a campsite! Posts for horses, a fire circle, and a stream about 100 feet away! We set up in the dark, made a little fire, enjoyed dinner and after admiring the sky full of
glitter stars, were both snuggled into our tents before 8:30pm.
After breakfast and re-organizing our packs, we were on the trail around 7:45am. We came to the intersection with the cairn marking our turnoff and started our climb for the day. The trails were very easy to follow, muddy, but easy. It was a constant up and soon after we ran into a gentleman who not only is a 46er, but also a correspondent to aspiring 46er hikers. He sped past us but we eventually caught back up to him at the cairn just below Donaldson. He told us about their clean up efforts over the past 15 years on unmarked trails and their attempts to blaze new paths. Paula and I both commented later how great it was to meet him, but felt horrible for not catching his name; hopefully he’ll be at the dinner this upcoming spring.
Up Donaldson Mountain we went, and within ten minutes were at the summit disc. Number 37 for me!
We continued on to Mount Emmons and after an hour from leaving the peak of Donaldson, we reached the summit. Number 38 for me!
Time from leaving camp: 4.5 hours. We sat down in the sun to enjoy our lunches of sandwiches and fresh fruit and headed back over Donaldson to the cairn intersection where we had stopped to chat earlier in the morning. The man had suggested that after reaching Seward Mountain, that we return down this same path because it was less steep and far less muddy. Once we started down and then back up toward Seward, we ran into a couple of people who had confirmed this information. It was a steep up with plenty of rocks to climb over, but the views were amazing. We reached the summit of Seward Mountain at 2:45, seven hours after leaving camp. Number 39 for me!
After high-fiving and taking our few photographs, back down the mountain AND back up the adjacent mountain we went. Our pace was steady and being familiar with the trail was useful; within a mile of our camp I began picking up firewood to haul back. At 6:30 we were back at our site with firewood and plenty of daylight to clean up. We both washed up in the stream, stocked up on water to purify, and I built a nice little fire. The coals were hot and kept me warm throughout dinner until about 8:30 when I decided to snuggle in.
Once again we were on the trail around 7:30 Monday morning and decided to not take the horse trail toward Ward Brook. The marked trailed was only about four miles long and fairly easy; only a few sections of wet mud that took us a minute to avoid. We stopped at the Ward Brook Lean-to around 9:30 for a quick bathroom break; the outhouse was the cleanest we’ve seen! After a few moments back on the trail, the cairn marking our turn was on right.
Now the trail up Seymour Mountain is unmarked and just over a mile long; the longest mile of my life. I don’t want to exaggerate, but this was probably the most difficult hike for me to date. Being afraid of heights, the slides were daunting and I clung for my life onto surrounding roots, trees and fallen debris from the hurricane. The slides were wet, muddy and not my cup of tea (steep!). It took us just over two hours to reach the summit, where we were greeted by a group of three guys from North Carolina and Virginia. They were finishing up their 46 peaks this week (it had only taken them 4 trips into the mountains) and the youngest had completed the AT a few years back. Super jealous of his vacation time! Number 40 for me!
We both sat up on the ledge, soaking in the views while enjoying a snack before our draining hike back down the mountain. We took our time and made it back to the Ward Brook two hours later to take a bathroom break and eat our late lunch. The sky was blue and the leaves were all shades of autumn. It really was the perfect day for hiking in the Adirondacks! We didn’t stay too long because we still had four miles to walk back to camp. Once back, we quickly packed up and rearranged our bags for the last mile walk out. Just as we were approaching the trailhead, we met up with a guided group that attempted the three mountains that we had hiked the previous day; they didn’t make it to Seward.
I’m pretty sure Paula and I were both proud of ourselves for the weekend we had just shared, and were both grateful of the weather. Here’s hoping that we have the same luck over the next three weeks; 6 more peaks to go!