Category Archives: Daypack

Hiking, mountain walking… mostly day trips.

Hey, Guess what…

We did something, and it was literally a couple of days ago! Unlike the blog, we are pretty active. So, let’s get to it!

So sometime in the past couple of months Darcy and I were asked to help complete a team for the Saranac 6 Relay Race. A race that incorporates the 6 mountains that make up, well, the Saranac 6. Due to some DEC stuff, Ampersand wasn’t allowed to participate (sad mountain), so they substituted Jenkins Mountain. You can find out more about the mountains here:

Darcy and I have already done them, and done them in winter as well, so this seemed like another fun outing. Also, two of our team members were going for their “Ultra”, to finish within 24 hours. Of course, we were aiming for 12 hours. The plan was laid.

We got an expensive cabin for approximately 8 hours total, arriving after 9pm and checking out at 5:15am. But man, this KOA cabin was nice! Google Whiteface/Wilmington KOA. I would have loved to sit around the fire here that night.

We awoke at 4am, got ready, and headed out to the center of Saranac for the briefing. There were quite a few teams there, and after the talk and some side events, we disbursed. Some teams ran… literally ran to their cars and scooted out pretty fast. Others (us) took our time. I’m pretty sure we were the last ones to leave. Our first peaks were Haystack and McKenzie, the two biggest for today. Dan and Alanna, working on the Ultra, went to the jackrabbit trailhead (opting for the easier route up, though it wouldn’t count for the relay). AJ and Deb took on these two for the “official” trail. The four of us arrived at the trail head about 6:15 and, in the dark of the morning, headed out to get these two. Darcy and I jumped back in the car and ran to get coffee, then maybe a quick nap. We came back to the lot and sipped our coffee and kinda sorta but not really dozed off and on.

Yup, it’s early!

Expecting Deb to be back around 9:30am-ish, Darcy ran to get her a coffee while I walked into the trail for some stretching. I didn’t really have cell service, but after Darcy came back we got the message that her and AJ both did Haystack and were now heading up McKenzie. So, Darcy drank her coffee and we watched a little bit of Walter Mitty on my phone. We were getting restless, and then we saw Dan and Alanna pull up. They had finished those two and were headed to Ampersand (the official mountain for the Ultra). So, we sat a bit more… and more.

At about 1:30pm Deb and AJ came out of the trail head. It was a slog! Snow and ice on the top and some sketchy parts coming down.

From there we high tailed it to St. Regis and Jenkins. I was assigned Jenkins cuz sure, and knowing we needed to make up time, Darcy and I started out as quickly as we could. Seeing my long legs flappin about like a gazelle, Darcy told me to go ahead and get the peak, so off I went. I got to the top in 35 minutes (it’s seriously not a difficult hike), and headed down. I stopped to grab a drink when I met back up with Darcy, who was pretty close to the summit herself. She told me get going, so flap flap flap my legs went again. I got to the bottom and scooted to the parking lot to hand off the punch-card to Alanna and Dan so they could get St. Regis. Unfortunately it wasn’t much of a rest for them. Darcy joined us minutes later and we sat and ate and talked for awhile. After a couple hours Darcy and I left to grab a coffee and head to Scarface. The parking lot was full and we hung out for a little while with another group. Shortly after, Deb, AJ, Dan, and Alanna arrived and at about 5:10 Dan and Alanna hit the trail. Dan was hurtin for sure. Darcy, Deb, AJ, and I headed up to the gas station/convenience store and just hung out for awhile. It was getting late and, sensing a finish in about 1 3/4 hours to 2 hours, we headed back to the trailhead. Unfortunately Scarface wasn’t accommodating, and Dan and Alanna didn’t make an appearance until after 8pm. It was dark and we were the last ones in the lot. Except a hunter and a dead deer.

Off we raced to Baker, the last of the mountains. It was pretty dark but Alanna and Deb ran ahead, AJ and Dan close behind, and Darcy and I bringing up the rear. Alanna had the card although it was “Darcy’s peak”, but shortly after starting I sent a message ahead to please wait. Although Darcy didn’t seem to mind not summitting or punching the card herself, we deserved to get the summit and for her to get her mountain. We did, and descended by 9:30ish. We all drove to the starting point in Saranac Lake, rang the bell, and congratulated ourselves on finishing together as a team. Dan and Alanna finished their ultra as well. It was late late, so Darcy and I said our goodbyes and scooted, getting home close to midnight. Long day, and I had to put in 6 hours at work the next day. Yuck.

Our experience of the Relay? It was an adventure to say the least, just not nearly what we expected. *If* there’s a next time, it’ll be different. Make sure you’re all on the same sheet of music, everyone has equal input, and the goals are all aligned. Fortunately we’re all friends so that helped.

Winter Peaks Basin and Saddleback

Five of us started out on a hike to nab a winter finish for our friend Adam. Four would finish. Much hard work, cussing, a little crying, second guessing, and a some creeping fear as the snow, temps, and sun fell. Just wanted to GTFO of there on this one. Glad we hung together and lifted each other when we needed it. And a huge congratulations to Adam H. for finishing his W46. 

Gallery follows!

We were heading out to summit Basin and Saddleback, with Basin being the final Adirondack 46 winter peak for one of our group.  At about 7:30 we started out (a little late) from The Garden, signing in at the same time another group heading to Lower Wolf Jaws did. The snow was steadily falling and we took a short break before John’s Brook Lodge, arriving there about 9:30am. There really wasn’t much sun, but occasionally it peeked through the clouds.

At some point before 10:30am Skylar turned back due to hip pain while  Alicia pushed on to get a little jump on the next section. The trails were well established and we were doing pretty well still… they were a bit broken out even as the snow continued to gently fall so our pace was still good.

Somewhere we missed the intersection for Shorey’s Shortcut. We had climbed a little bit beyond our correct trail and had to turn around, 20 minutes beyond where we should be.  About 30 minutes later, finally on the Shortcut, we found deep snow and nothing of a trail. From here we took turns breaking trail but it was now noon.

The snow and trail-breaking wasn’t getting any easier. For every step up, we’d slide back four it seemed. Alicia was at times in tears with frustration, and we were still not on the summit of Basin at 1pm. By now were were literally fighting for every foot.

At some point we lost the trail and had to do a few circles to get back on. Francis’ GPS kept us close until we found it, but it took a little time off the clock. The stress of losing the trail was also mentally draining.

We finally reached the intersection to head to Basin (or Haystack). It’s .7 to Basin so we paused for a quick break. At just about 2pm we began our final push to the summit of Basin. The climb was hell for a lot of it, with loose snow and some wind, and the constant falling snow as well. Still a bit from the summit, we hit some pretty difficult areas where we were having traction issues. The snow was deep. I think at this point my toes were getting cold, even with toe warmers in. My hands definitely were, and the steady snow kept everything wet. It was only 2:45pm. 

Our legs were burning from breaking trail that was at times hip deep. Visibility became pretty poor just before leaving the treeline, but we knew we were at least close. We made our way to the summit, at this point exposed to the wind and snow. It was head down and get up time.

We finally summitted at 4pm, almost no visibility with wind and snow and a quickly disappearing sun. We too a quick group photo, then headed back into the trees toward Saddleback. From there we were hoping to find a trail blazed to Saddleback already. We crisscrossed a few places, but as we were descending, the option to go back up disappeared. We continued down into the col between Basin and Saddleback, thinking we could use the evac route from the previous Saturday rescue. Unfortunately, the new snow covered every bit of it. With the sun going down, we had the option to push up over Saddleback or bushwhack/blaze a trail down through unknown territory. It was a crapshoot, and we didn’t want to decide wrong. Nobody wanted to be out there overnight.

At just before 6pm with dark skies overhead, I can’t say my spirits were high at this point. I was glad for the people that were out here. We all wanted to get moving. Francis had loaned me extra mittens so my hands were doing much better, but my feet were getting starting to tingle by now. I could feel my body temp dropping as well. It was still snowing, and now the sun was gone. We still had one peak to summit to get out of here.

The push up to the base of Saddleback had to be some of the worst I’ve done. I questioned myself, thought about sitting down, tried to motivate and stay motivated, and keep moving forward. We were all still going, but there was an air of worry on everyone’s face. But nobody was quitting, that was for sure.

At the base of the Saddleback cliffs, we found the winter route (to the right of the main route). Adam and Francis switched to crampons here, but Alicia and I pushed into the trail further. I had to keep moving as I was getting cold, and Alicia’s frustration was… noticeable. 

We moved up the treeline, hugging the cliffs until we got to the “chimney”. It was a straight shot up so we put our crampons on while Francis moved up to check the top. There was a rock face about 15′ high to scramble up, so he came back down to discuss turning back. Adam went up and looked but said the summit was right at the top of it. We were sooo close. The four of us made our way up the chimney, and hunkered down while Adam chipped a step into the ice on the left. I found a foothold on the right and, using the strap of my pole to hook a branch higher up, was able to scramble up to the top of it (long legs helped too). Adam came right up after. The wind was brutal. Francis threw a rope up and I climbed back down a bit to get it. We secured it to a small tree and got Alicia into a harness, then pulled her up while Francis pushed. Once up, her and I continued up to the summit while Adam got Francis up. At the top we used Adam’s Sat-Phone to call our families so as not to not panic. I changed my socks and placed plastic bags into my boots, then we all switched to snowshoes and got moving. The time at the summit was a little after 7:30pm, it was still snowing, and now very dark.

Coming down Saddleback, the trail was well broken out and wonderful. Our spirits were lifted, and the butt slides down Ore Bed were fast. At one time I became airborne, but I really wanted to get back. Our pace was really good getting to JBL. At JBL the lights were on and we asked if we could take a break there. The group there were incredibly nice, letting us warm up a little and even fixing hot tea for us. We spent about 45 minutes resting, eating, and talking. It was around 9:45 at JBL I think, and we still had a few miles ahead of us. Thankfully we were a bit warmer and happier now.

We finally reached the parking lot at just after 11:30pm. The euphoria of making it back was palpable. Skylar was waiting in the car and told us he had gone up the Ore Bed, summitted Saddleback that way, and then came back and waited. We were all happy to be back in the cars and head home that day (well, the following day. It was after midnight when we rolled out of there!)

Truly an adventure. Stay alert, go prepared, stay together, and have a plan!


“Cheap” airfare to Denver. Let’s go!

Flying into Denver Airport

A couple of months ago we were looking at trying to get to the Pacific Northwest. I lived near Portland, Oregon for a number of years and loved it there, and getting back out there is something we wanted to do. I checked airfare, but for over $800 roundtrip for two… uh, no. Wait, what’s that? Airfare to Denver for $500!? Round-trip? For two?! Click, BUY! Continue reading “Cheap” airfare to Denver. Let’s go!

Adirondack 46er

I did something Sunday. I became an Adirondack 46er.


The shadow of the Adirondacks had always been cast toward the “flatlands”, and I grew up imagining what it would be like to roam the wilderness like Roger’s Rangers, the Iroquois or Algonquin, or trappers and hunters. After graduating high school I joined the Army, lived overseas and then on the west coast, and then finally moved back to New York in 1998. It didn’t take long and I set about plans to hike Mt. Marcy, just because it was the tallest of course. My plans weren’t plans at all really. I had a backpack if you can call it that, and some boots. That’s all I needed, right? I did climb Mt. Marcy in the summer of 2000, from Elk Lake and back. I ran out of water, it was colder on the summit than I thought it would be, and my clothes were laughable looking back on it. Soon after I took a crack at hiking Dial and Nippletop, but ended up stopping very short of Bear Den and doing Round Mountain instead. That was the extent of my hiking for a very, very long time. Continue reading Adirondack 46er