Monday, September 7, 2009


Trail and profile of the loop we did

This past weekend (Labor Day weekend), Deb and I decided to do one last tough long run/hike for the Bear 100, which is three weeks from this past Friday. The plan was to do the Great Traverse, which is a 26 mile loop in the Adirondack Mountains in upper New York...but we had Tucker with us so....

Let's start with the campsite, which was fantastic. We camped at Sharp's Bridge, which was about 15 minutes from the trailhead. We chose our campsite online so had no idea what we were getting, so picked one that looked as remote as possible and it turned out to be a good choice. We were down on the far side of a hill, near a small river and away from all the other campers. The other campsites were pretty close to one another with hardly any trees between, we had a great site. We went into town and had a great burger and a beer at the Ausible Inn, sitting outside on the deck taking in the small town of Keene Valley.

The next morning we were up around 5:30 and after getting our things together, went into town to grab a cup of coffee and an egg sandwich. Yumm! We then drove down to the trailhead to begin, which was the Roostercomb trailhead. The day felt broken up to us, so I will break up the report into sections.

Deb ready and rarin' to go

Section one - Parking area to the south side of Armstrong

The day was going to be a good one, sunny clear skies and 70's...we started the day by slowly hiking up the trail towards Roostercomb, which at the base was 2.5 miles. We then had a 1 mile out and back to the summit and also a small one tenth of a mile out and back to see Keene Valley from that outlook. So back at the trail after climbing Roostercomb we were 4.7 miles into the day. After some steep climbs we reached Hedgehog, then Lower Wolfjaw, which was another 2.5 miles in from the base of Roostercomb. Lower Wolfjaw was at 4165' (7.2 miles) and up next was Upper Wolfjaw, 1.5 miles ahead. But first we had to descend down into a valley between the Wolfjaws, then climb back up to the summit of Upper Wolfjaw at 4175' (8.7 miles). Our next hill is Armstrong, but we never get to see it! As we climbed and as we were nearing the summit, we came upon a ladder that was a good 30 feet up. We couldn't see a way to get Tucker up...he's too big to carry and he's not a circus dog able to walk ladders. There was one possibility in a small ledge that was perpendicular to the ladder and an animal trail that led to the small ledge. I climbed the ladder to entice Tucker to come with me, then Deb led him to the small ledge, but he looked at that skinny ledge and the 20 foot drop alongside and he just didn't feel good about it, so turned around. One of our rules is to trust the dog's instincts, so we turned around and headed for a small side trail we saw between the Wolfjaws. We stopped on top of Upper Wolfjaw for lunch, which was a nice sandwich and a Coke that we carried. We both got a fuel kick from that!

We guessed we maybe went a half mile to the ladder and back, so we're now at about 10 miles at the trail head. The trail went 2.5 miles to John's Brook Lodge, where we would hike up to Mount Marcy, the high summit of the Adirondacks. So at John's Brook Lodge we were approx 12.5 miles.

Section 2 - John's Brook Lodge to Mt Marcy at 5300' (5.5 miles)

The climb up to Mount Marcy was was a nicer trail than the other side in that there was plenty of water for Tucker, it was single track and the climb was manageable until we neared the top. Along the way we met several hikers coming down (it was getting later in the day) and one in particular was a couple hiking with their daughter. The man was leading and nodded as he went by, then the woman and daughter (maybe in her 20's) stopped to chat a bit. When all of a sudden the daughter said "Daddy, he has a 100 mile shirt on!" I had my Hardrock shirt on and the guy perked up and asked how many finishes we had and what other 100's we had done. We asked why he asked and he said he had done Western States and was planning on running another soon. He was easily in his 70's...he then asked us if we knew Jeff Washburn (who is a good friend of ours) and we realized what a small word it is. Here we are hundreds of miles away from home on a strange trail and we bump into a fellow ultrarunner. So if you ever run into Bob Faulk, tell him we said hi!

We continued on up and soon reached the trail intersection with the trail that comes up from Marcy Dam and there were now many hikers. Before this, we rarely saw anyone. Soon we were on the summit of Mount Marcy, 5300', 18 miles , getting yelled at by a ranger for not having Tucker on a leash in the Alpine Zone ;-) It was chilly up here, time to move on....

Deb and Tucker on Mt Marcy Summit

Section 3 - Onto to Haystack

The hike to Haystack was not very long, maybe a couple of miles, but you had to go down, down, down to the trailhead up to Haystack. Then it was a mile up to the summit. When we reached the intersection it was 5PM, now 10 hours into our day. Deb wasn't sure we should attempt it that late in the day (we were getting tired, it was going to be getting dark earlier). But I said it was only one mile and we only had to climb 900 feet, how long could it take? It was a steep and rocky climb up the trails, legs were beginning to burn and quiver from all the climbing we had done already so far. I was watching my altimeter and as it was nearing the summit height of around
4900', I yelled back to Deb that we must not be very far. We then came to a clearing with a great view of Haystack and little Haystack in the distance. We also saw the trail go down into the depths of the forest and hikers climbing up out of the forest on the other side of the valley and my interest in continuing onto the summit waned. I told Deb that it is now 5:30, we have about 9+ miles back to the car and it would be getting dark around 7. We asked a hiker about the trail ahead to Haystack and he said yeah, that it went way down, then back up. So we turned around back to the trail intersection at the bottom of Haystack, maybe around 21 miles.

Section 4 - Haystack trail intersection to the car

The trail down was nice, somewhat rocky at the top, but leveled into a dirt/slight rock trail along John's Brook. Along the way, we spotted something large and brown move into the woods and Tucker did, too and chased after it. Up there it could be anything, even a Bear...and when he came out he had lost his pack and the new filter bottle we just bought. So between the two of those things, easily 100 bucks. I went in looking for it, while Deb stayed on the trail yelling out so I wouldn't get turned around. I looked all over and never saw it....but I did see a fresh pile of Moose poop, so now knew what it was he chased.

On we go, nothing we could do about the pack and bottle....we now lost a half hour looking for it and the sun was going down behind the ridge. We ran as much as we could, soon reaching John Brook Lodge again ( 24 miles). We didn't stop, even though the food coming out of the windows smelled great! We had another 5.5 miles to the car!

We got out our headlamps and started to run, but it was just too dark and we were tripping on the rocks, so changed to a fast hike. It was not worth getting hurt now with less than three weeks to go to the Bear. It was typical night moving when you think you are going faster than you are. We passed several lean-to's with the inhabitants yelling out a greeting while cooking their dinner in the dark. Next up we saw what looked like many lights and could not figure out what they were! It was a parking lot at the trailhead and the lights were the car and truck reflector lights. But we may be at the trailhead, but the main road where our car is, is still a couple of miles down a road. So we jog down, now not worried about tripping on anything and soon reach the road, then walk the half mile or so to the Roostercomb parking area and our car. 9PM...about 30 miles give or take and close to 10,000' of climb give or take several feet.

We were hungry, tired, dirty, it was late but we didn't care. We drove to the campsite and washed up in front of a roaring fire and Deb cooked a nice meal of beans and rice which we washed down with a few beers while watching the fire lick at the air under what appeared to be a full moon with owls hooting in the distance.
It was a magical evening that topped off a magical day.

Up next, the Bear 100 on September 25th!
Steve and Deb


Derrick said...

Sounds like a great day in the ADK's! Nice photos. They look very familiar as we spend a lot of time running there too, coming down from Ontario.

My blog photo looks very similar to your shot of Haystack from the top of Marcy.

Good luck at Bear 100!

ultrastevep said...

Hi Derrick...

Twas a mighty fine day in the 'Dacks! I'm sure your run was a lot faster than ours ;-)


Run Home Pam said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Run Home Pam said...

Wow! What a great day. You guys are ready! It's wonderful to see two people having such a great time training for a 100-miler. Brian and I used to backpack quite a bit through the high peaks. I always thought someone should organize an ultra called the ADK 80K (same same!).


RunSueRun said...

Whoa, that's some ladder. Now I can see why Tucker didn't like it! Great TR.

Art H said...

Oh man, I'm jealous! The ADK High Peaks are an awesome 'playground' that very few Boston/NH-area runners know about. In 2002 I did a solo run/hike from ADK Loj up Marcy, tagged Haystack, then down by Colden Dam, up over Algonquin and back, ~22 miles. The year after that a friend and I did a 26-mile run/hike loop through Indian Pass that involved about eight miles of bushwhacking. Great stuff. Welcome back to the E. Coast. Have fun at Bear!

ultrastevep said...

Hi Pam....

We feel ready, as ready as one can be for a 100 miler. I refuse to say run ;-)

Yes, Sue....and the bummer of that ladder is I was really looking forward to going over Gothics, although Deb wasn't ;-)

Hi Art...

Long time, Man!
We only knew about the Adirondacks thanks to a friend of ours from Montreal, who goes there quite a bit. We looked at the map and saw it wasn't any further than the Maine run we did a few weeks ago, so made the plan for it to be our last hard one before the Bear!
Welcome back???? We have our house on the market and as soon as it sells, we're going back to New Mexico! I never wanted to come back, but Deb did for the Grand Daughters, who at this point have outgrown us ;-)