Stomping around the Ponds of the Adirondacks

After setting up our campsite, we made our way off to get in a quick hike before dinner time!  It seemed like the Copperas, Winch, and Owen Ponds Trail was an ideal place to start the Victoria Day long weekend (for us Canadians).  Tucked on the side of a single-lane winding highway through the mountains was a small parking lot right across the trailhead.  We actually visited this trail over the course of two days because we weren’t able to check out all the ponds in time.

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It was a beautiful day as we arrived in the High Peaks area of the Adirondacks.  After setting up our campsite, we made our way off to get in a quick hike before dinner time!  It seemed like the Copperas, Winch, and Owen Ponds Trail was an ideal place to start the Victoria Day long weekend (for us Canadians).  Tucked on the side of a single-lane winding highway through the mountains was a small parking lot right across the trailhead.  We actually visited this trail over the course of two days because we weren’t able to check out all the ponds in time.

We figured this would be a straight forward trail.  Wrong.  Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll encounter along the way through our eyes.

Parking close to the trail head which is across the street. Parking close to the trail head which is across the street. It is surprising to find a trail that is so rugged just for ponds. It is surprising to find a trail that is so rugged just for ponds.

On the contrary to what we anticipated, the trail was actually quite rugged with some surprisingly challenging ascents.  We had thought that this would be a nice warm up hike to our weekend in the Adirondacks.  It was definitely a good preparation hike but my friends were probably not so happy with it because they were still wearing jeans!  Jeans are often a big no-no in hiking — they tend to restrict your movement and are horrible at heat retention (not to mention drying off) if they happen to get wet.

Speaking of getting wet, not that any of us did — the snow melting from higher elevations was creating a nice runoff stream along the rugged trail.  Made for some nice photos but potentially slippery conditions.

The trail unfortunately was also a small stream at times.  I guess this is typical of spring time. The trail unfortunately was also a small stream at times.  I guess this is typical of spring time. Checking out where we should go first. Checking out where we should go first.

If there is one thing I love about hiking in the spring time in the Adirondacks it is the lack of flying pests.  The second thing would be the light tinge of green on everything — with a more easygoing sort of feel — not that I am implying the spring time season equates to “easygoingness”.

Crossing paths with a pretty little stream. Crossing paths with a pretty little stream. Passing by a nice looking bog -- particularly against the sunlit woods. Passing by a nice looking bog — particularly against the sunlit woods.

When we passed by some very calm looking bog areas, I was grateful that the mosquitoes weren’t out yet.  I can see them being quite hungry once they were out in force.  On the other hand, when I encountered the pond — I really wished we had a small dingy boat to hop into and paddle to the center.  The place was just so tranquil and peaceful.

Unfortunately, I don’t have trail map data available to me at this time and my GPS data doesn’t seem to help me identify the ponds I have photographed but I will provide an update with names once I figure them out.

A clear view of one of the three ponds. A clear view of one of the three ponds. Part of this trail seemed magical with the light shining into the rather dark forest. Part of this trail seemed magical with the light shining into the rather dark forest. Just chatting and enjoying the view of the second large pond. Just chatting and enjoying the view of the second large pond. Another view of the second large pond. Another view of the second large pond.

We found the trail to be quite nice and with the exception of the ruggedness of the ascent, it is a relatively accessible hiking trail.  Not too much dark forest to hike through and lots of nice-looking scenic points to stop and enjoy along the way.  Can’t complain that there were three large ponds to view either!  They were all really pretty during this time in the spring.

Another look at the second large pond, which really looks like a lake at this point.  Doesn't it? Another look at the second large pond, which really looks like a lake at this point.  Doesn’t it? Some really gnarly-looking tree roots on the trail. Some really gnarly-looking tree roots on the trail. Contemplating where to go next! Contemplating where to go next!

The trails in the Adirondacks are usually pretty well marked and have signs that communicate well — particularly the ones in the High Peaks where there is a lot of traffic from visitors in the Lake Placid area.  The challenge is often deciding where to go or what everyone wants to do or see next!

Checking out what's further downstream. Checking out what’s further downstream. On another day, we decided to explore the other part of the trail.  Starting off passing by a river On another day, we decided to explore the other part of the trail.  Starting off passing by a river The trail is pretty straight forward on this part.  Just a little rugged. The trail is pretty straight forward on this part.  Just a little rugged.

Following our hike up Cascade Mountain and Porter Mountain, we found that the weather forecast wasn’t in our favour for the remainder of our stay in the region so we decided to quickly check out the rest of this trail before packing up and heading home early.  Then we could make use of the time to hike the Bruce Trail instead!

This time we entered the Copperas, Winch, and Owen Ponds Trail from a different trailhead to get to the area that we hadn’t explored yet.  We were pleasantly surprised to come across a strong river as we hiked our way to the remaining pond that we had yet to see and enjoy.

Quite the strong current on this river. Quite the strong current on this river. One of our favourite spots on the trail -- this tree has literally grown over a boulder.  Simply brilliant. One of our favourite spots on the trail — this tree has literally grown over a boulder.  Simply brilliant.

Next to the river we stumbled upon a huge boulder and astoundingly a rather large tree that had grown over it.  One has to wonder how long that boulder had been sitting there or if the soil level had been higher and sediment had gradually been washed away over a long period of time.  I am purely speculating here but I enjoy thinking about the natural history of this boulder.

Further along this trail towards another pond. Further along this trail towards another pond. I wish we could have stayed for lunch here but we had time constraints. I wish we could have stayed for lunch here but we had time constraints. Finally finding a good place to sit down and take in the pond. Finally finding a good place to sit down and take in the pond.

This part of the trail wasn’t as challenging as the other parts that we had hiked earlier and while the weather didn’t cooperate with us, it was nice to get to tackle the remainder of the trail before we began the long drive home back to Toronto.

A pretty tranquil scene at the third pond. A pretty tranquil scene at the third pond. Time to go!  We got to see most of this trail. Time to go!  We got to see most of this trail.

Enjoying a Springtime hike up Cascade Mountain

The first time we visited this region, we didn’t really explore much of the High Peaks region and stuck mainly to the waterfall hunting and Cranberry Mountain.  I have to admit that I was poorly prepared for that hike despite my experience on my trek in New Hampshire, but that was 2007.  This time around, I had figured out my own way of hiking and tackling the challenge in front of me.  I was ready for a spring hike up Cascade Mountain.

This was the second time my friends and I made our way to the Adirondack mountains for some spring time hiking.  This would typically coincide with Canada’s Victoria Day long weekend.  With some endurance road trip driving and decent traffic, the mountains are only about 4 or 5 hours away.

Beginning the trek, just steps away from the trailhead. Beginning the trek, just steps away from the trailhead.

The first time we visited this region, we didn’t really explore much of the High Peaks region and stuck mainly to the waterfall hunting and Cranberry Mountain.  I have to admit that I was poorly prepared for that hike despite my experience on my trek in New Hampshire, but that was 2007.  This time around, I had figured out my own way of hiking and tackling the challenge in front of me.  I was ready for a spring hike up Cascade Mountain.

A very pretty stream runs past us as we begin the hike up Cascade mountain. A very pretty stream runs past us as we begin the hike up Cascade mountain. Seeing some mud, and hoping that it would be drier as we ascended. Seeing some mud, and hoping that it would be drier as we ascended.

We knew there was potential for the trail to be pretty wet.  In fact, when we hiked Cranberry Mountain — we were practically hiking up a waterfall.  Trust me, not much fun but it’s even worse if you’re carrying too much (which I have gradually unlearned!).

The trail began relatively easy and slowly introduced more rocks and large stones on the way up.  For me, it was nice that the temperature was still pretty cold at this time of year so we didn’t have to struggle with factors like humidity or a blazing sun.  The lack of flying pests was a bonus!

Flowers beginning to show themselves. Flowers beginning to show themselves. The trail started off pretty muddy as soon as we made our way up. The trail started off pretty muddy as soon as we made our way up. The lit-up springtime leaves almost look somewhat magical here. The lit-up springtime leaves almost look somewhat magical here.

There are occasions where you just have to stop and just marvel at what mother nature is creating as an artist.  With the leaves just beginning to sprout, trees would often look like they were covered in bright speckles.

As we continued further up the trail, things began to get muddier and the terrain got more difficult.  This is often when I try to advise those who aren’t accustomed to hiking to be very careful because it is very easy to trip or sprain an ankle.  Every so often I still see people hiking up with just a pair of sneakers which just blows my mind.

Mud and lots of large stones often makes for a challenging ascent but the spring-lit trees made for a very nice photo. Mud and lots of large stones often makes for a challenging ascent but the spring-lit trees made for a very nice photo. Lots of tree trunks, roots, and boulders to contend with on the ascent. Lots of tree trunks, roots, and boulders to contend with on the ascent. I can see there being a waterfall down this part of the trail at certain times of year. I can see there being a waterfall down this part of the trail at certain times of year.

The ascent on the trail truly begins when you start noticing yourself climbing over tree roots and boulders.  Throw in some steepness and water streaming down and it’s a pretty solid workout.  I wish I lived close by to something like this — forget the gym and climb this each day!

Despite the number of times when I want to shake my fist in the air and shout why! — I really admire those who helped build and design the trail.  Particularly as Cascade Mountain tends to receive a lot of traffic.  There are some areas where everyone really gets into a traffic jam because of the people ascending and descending.

The one thing that is vital to recognize is that everyone has their own way of climbing up or down a “tricky” section and it becomes very challenging when people begin crowding due to lack of space.  This ends up reducing the number of options that someone is able to find when ascending or descending.  In other words, if you want more options — find low traffic times like early in the morning or really off season (i.e. winter).

This almost looks like a custom built staircase. This almost looks like a custom built staircase. A very steep rock scramble up this part of the trail. A very steep rock scramble up this part of the trail.

Often it’s not the hike up that is the major challenge for me, but the way down.  That said, ever since I’ve trained with hiking poles — the experience is a lot easier — but there are sections of the trail that hiking poles don’t necessarily play well with so one might find themselves using all for limbs on the ground or looking for alternative routes.

We were treated with a great lookout point with an opening in the trees just when we needed to take a break.  Very few people were around so this was perfect to sit back and take in the sun while the day was still early.

Taking a breather at this lookout point. Taking a breather at this lookout point. Parts of the trail almost seems like it was built to collect water and mud.  Fortunately, it was a gorgeous sunny day. Parts of the trail almost seems like it was built to collect water and mud.  Fortunately, it was a gorgeous sunny day.

Once we continued on our way, we found that the trail almost looked like it was a trench.  This made for a really wet and muddy hike up but fortunately it wasn’t too big of a deal — last time I had to hike up the so called “waterfall” on Cranberry mountain with boots that weren’t waterproof.

The neat aspect to tackling Cascade Mountain is that there’s also the option of going after Porter Mountain within the same day.  The only thing to keep in mind is where you want to actually enjoy your lunch and I’ll get to that later.

Discussing visiting both Cascade and Porter mountain. Discussing visiting both Cascade and Porter mountain. The summit is in sight, or so we think. The summit is in sight, or so we think.

The funny thing about spotting the summit is that it never really is the summit that you see.  It is often just the beginning.  Nonetheless, arriving past the alpine tree line is my favourite moment when hiking up mountains.  The moment when I’m finally able to see past and above all the trees and can start walking around on the bald-faced top of a mountain — that is really the instant when I feel how big the world really is.  As you’ll see in the next few photos, this hike up just keeps going.

It's steep rocky climb up, but doable on a nice day. It’s steep rocky climb up, but doable on a nice day. This is what replaces the painted trail marker once we get past the tree line. This is what replaces the painted trail marker once we get past the tree line. The trail continues to take us up the bald area of the mountain. The trail continues to take us up the bald area of the mountain. We just keep going up...this is just looking back the way we came. We just keep going up…this is just looking back the way we came.

As we were reaching closer to the actual summit of Cascade Mountain, we saw a couple of people reach the base of the bald-faced summit and simply turn around.  I realize the trek must have been tiring for them but it is simply such a shame to come all the way up (probably 98% or closer to completion) and not push to the end.  The view is definitely worth it.

A signing asking people not to walk on the delicate flora. A signing asking people not to walk on the delicate flora. Taking a look back down the trail. Taking a look back down the trail. On the beautiful summit of Cascade Mountain. On the beautiful summit of Cascade Mountain.

Once we finally arrive at the summit, my friends and I sit down to enjoy a snack or two.  I actually wanted to eat lunch here (com’on, what a view!) but they wanted to move on to Porter Mountain after spending less than 15 minutes on the summit.  This is where you begin to realize how everyone’s priorities differ.  Nevertheless, I wanted to tackle Porter Mountain as well so I begrudgingly obliged and we trekked back down the summit and began following the trail signage that would lead us to Porter.

Unfortunately, it was even muddier than the way up Cascade and we were merely crossing from one mountain to another without a major descent.  As the day got warmer, it also got even muddier on the way down back to the parking lot as we eventually found out later.

We decide to take the path towards Porter Mountain. Might as well try and summit another mountain! We decide to take the path towards Porter Mountain. Might as well try and summit another mountain! The up and down muddy path on route to Porter Mountain. The up and down muddy path on route to Porter Mountain.

After a relatively uneventful and not-too-exciting-but-quite-muddy trek to Porter Mountain, we discovered that the summit wasn’t really open like it was on Cascade.  The small bald spot on Porter Mountain was actually quite busy with fellow hikers but we sat down and enjoyed our lunch with a slightly obstructed view.

In hindsight, as much as I liked the fact that we tackled Porter Mountain as well, I would have preferred simply enjoying more time on Cascade Mountain.  Yes, it got busier as the day went on but sometimes it’s just about quality time on a quality summit.

Lunch with a grand view. Lunch with a grand view.

After lunch, we made our way back down the trail but encountered a significant amount of traffic.  I pretty much stowed my camera back into my pack the remainder of the way back down the mountain.  It made for a much more enjoyable and easier descent.  Cascade Mountain is one of my favourites in the Adirondacks and I’d love to return in the autumn one day.

Giant Mountain Ridge Trail – Autumn in the Adirondacks

When I set out to make an autumn visit to the Adirondacks this year, my goal was to hike to the summit of Giant Mountain.  Our Canadian Thanksgiving weekend was perfectly timed.   Apparently I wasn’t the only one with that intention.  Having started the hike up the Giant Mountain Ridge Trail at about 7:30am, I was very surprised that the trailhead was already busy when I arrived. The trail was pretty steep and there were a lot of folks who were powering past me.  It was definitely a busy trail.

When I set out to make an autumn visit to the Adirondacks this year, my goal was to hike to the summit of Giant Mountain.  Our Canadian Thanksgiving weekend was perfectly timed.   Apparently I wasn’t the only one with that intention.  Having started the hike up the Giant Mountain Ridge Trail at about 7:30am, I was very surprised that the trailhead was already busy when I arrived.
The trail was pretty steep and there were a lot of folks who were powering past me.  It was definitely a busy trail.

Amazing views in the morning along the early section of the ridge trail.

Eventually after hiking through a mixed forest, there were some beautiful views to be enjoyed.  There were even some early-bird hikers who had set up camp along the trail in order to photograph the early morning light.  They looked pretty cold though!

Just after hiking along part of the ridge trail, I came across a small lake.  It’s pretty stunning to see the colourful reflections and was surprising to encounter this small lake so close to the ridge of the mountain.  I wonder if there were any fish in the lake at this elevation.

Enjoying the colourful reflections.The trail looks a lot like this (and in some cases even more challenging) during the steep ascent.

The trail gradually takes us up a pretty rough and rocky terrain.  Slippery at times and bouldering-like at others.  Definitely helpful if one has trekking poles but I did see many people hiking without.  Some parts are really tough — requiring some level of tactical approach to climbing up and over boulders — and I was surprised at how many inexperienced hikers were tackling the mountain without proper footwear and water.

Whenever I hike a mountain, it always feels as if we just keep going up and up and up until we get past the alpine tree line.  Then the views are just spectacular.  I encountered a fork in the trail where one could either opt to go around “The Bump” or go over it.  I chose to go over it, although if you are feeling tired, definitely choose to go around it because you wouldn’t be close to the summit just yet!  I did have the opportunity to take a good photosphere though.

The summit of Giant Mountain.  A beautiful vista including snow!

When I finally arrived on to the summit — it was busy and cold.  There was even snow and ice!  There were a handful of people chatting and quietly enjoying the view but the summit wasn’t big enough to accommodate the amount of traffic that Giant Mountain experiences.  I found a spot to sit myself down and took in the views until I eventually found that the summit was getting a bit too busy for my liking.  Unfortunately, no photosphere because there were just too many people.

A closer look at the ice and snow on the summit.The descent from Giant Mountain's summit.

Along the way down, it was fascinating to watch how others tackled the descent.  Many people tried to slide down certain surfaces on their bum while others attempted to find ways around the actual trail — in some cases stepping off the trail and then resuming once they had found secure footing.  In most cases I found that my trekking poles were always helpful but there were one or two situations where there was no other way to step down from one boulder to another — or at least none that I felt safe doing so — so I just shuffled my way down on my behind.

One guy I encountered along the way down was jumping from rock to rock and boulder to boulder but I can’t imagine that being sustainable and good for his knees.  His balance and endurance was definitely impressive!  The thing that often makes me a little anxious is often the amount of traffic on the trail, particularly on more precarious sections of the trail.

The sun-lit forest along the way down from the mountain.

I was definitely tired after the long descent but it was a beautiful hike down Giant Mountain and was happily satisfied with the achievement.  Unfortunately during the descent, I happened to hit my knee against a boulder.  Nothing major but it definitely didn’t permit me to continue hiking for an extended period of the long weekend.  I only wish I had more time to spend in the Adirondacks during the autumn time.  Perhaps next year!

A long weekend in the Adirondacks – Abridged Edition

As I mentioned in an earlier post, it recently was Victoria Day weekend and I really wanted to get away from the city.  Got a good deal on a car rental so I recruited some friends to head to the Adirondacks over the long weekend. Didn’t get to spend as much time as I would’ve liked to in the mountains but it was beautiful and it was also busy.  Lots of folks from Ottawa and Quebec — I suspect.  Funny that it didn’t even feel like we had left Canada with all the folks conversing in French along the trail!

Anyhow, I’ll post some more on the trip later but for the time being, I thought I would share what I had already posted on my Google+ account.  A nice photosphere of the summit of Cascade Mountain.  Excellent view that day.  I wish we had sat their longer rather than rushing off but my friends probably didn’t want to wait around till the summit area got overwhelmed by day hikers.

Hiking around Lake Placid

Growing up in Toronto, I had rarely ventured into nature.  Didn’t pay much attention to the mountains until a family road trip into the White Mountains of New Hampshire.  Oddly enough, despite becoming spellbound to mountains, I had never really explored the Adirondacks. When my friend invited me along to go snowshoeing around Lake Placid over a long weekend in February, I leapt at the chance. 

Growing up in Toronto, I had rarely ventured into nature.  Didn’t pay much attention to the mountains until a family road trip into the White Mountains of New Hampshire.  Oddly enough, despite becoming spellbound to mountains, I had never really explored the Adirondacks.
When my friend invited me along to go snowshoeing around Lake Placid over a long weekend in February, I leapt at the chance.  Whilst staying at a cottage (or chalet) with a whole bunch of friendly folks, my friends and I ventured off to snowshoe up a variety of mountains in the Lake Placid area.

Hiking around Lake Placid

There’s something to be said about a very snowy horizon.  It was pretty darn cold up on the mountains but it was so peaceful.  Very few people around.  By chance, I prevented a guy from crashing into a tree by grabbing his jacket.  The conditions were quite icy and this guy just happened to be hiking down the mountain with his wife, when his boots (with the temporary crampons) slipped and he came running (or slipping) down the mountain path.

Aside from that bit of adrenaline, it was a pretty fun trek up and down the mountain.  We ended up bum sliding all the way back down the mountain.  Fun but painful on my tailbone.