ADK 46ers

Number of Peaks Climbed 2
Peaks Climbed Giant and Seward
Peak Height Ranks 12 and 24
Trailed / Trailess Peaks 1 / 1
Peak Numbers 28 and 29
Total Elevation Gain 7167 feet

The hike

10 October 2008
Dulles to Burlington: We decided to try something new on this trip. In order to avoid two long days of driving, we booked a flight from Dulles International to Burlington, NH. We had a relatively early flight. At least, it was early in D.C. For the first time, Kristy's Grandmother and her Aunt Cheryl watched our daughter, Rachel (aged 5 months at this point), while we headed off on the adventure. Aunt Cheryl dropped us off in the morning and we bid farewell to her and Rachel. Our flight out lifted off at 0745 and we landed at LaGuardia at 0900. The second leg of our trip lifted off at 1045 and landed at Burlington at 1200. There was a small amount of confusion (read: delay) at Burlington International while we figured out that we had to call the car rental company to get a ride to our car. Finally, off and running at about 1245 we arrived at Lake Champlain at about 1315 and didn't have terribly long to wait before the ferry arrived and we headed off across the lake to New York State.

A brief digression. Lake Champlain is a perfectly lovely lake. We even have some very nice pictures of Lake Champlain and Canada beyond from some of the summits in the Adirondacks. However, Sen. Patrick Leahy, of Vermont, once tried to have Lake Champlain declared a Great Lake in the 1990's in order to cash in on some government grants for Great Lakes research. Again, don't get me wrong, Lake Champlain is a perfectly lovely lake. But I grew up in Michigan, and one thing that Lake Champlain is not is a Great Lake. Here's a clue for you Sen. Leahy: if you can stand on one shore and can see the opposite shore - it's not a Great Lake!

Charlotte-Essex Ferry: Given that Lake Champlain is not a Great Lake, the ferry ride was over quite quickly (in my swimming days I probably could have crossed it (about 2 miles) swimming (no flip-turns!) in less than two hours) and we were back on the road at about 1345.
Our original plans were to hike in to the Ward Brook Lean-To area that afternoon, summit Seward, Donaldson, and Emmons on 11 October, and summit Seymour and hike back out on 12 October. But we were making such good time and had had such fruitful trips in the past that I started getting a little greedy. Seward, Donaldson, and Emmons were so close together (speaking from our previous experience with mostly target rich, trailed peaks) that I didn't think there was any way we couldn't get them all in one day. Also, there was Seymour out there that we knew was going to have to be done separately. So here was my new plan: we'd avoided Giant to this point, but again, had gotten cocky with our previous trips that resulted in high peak counts. We were getting a bit of a late start to the day, but Giant and Rocky Peak (the trail to which branches off of the trail up Giant about 1/4 mile from Giant's summit) were such relatively short hikes that I was convinced we'd knock them both off with no problem. Then we'd hike in to Ward Brook and start working the Seward range. So off we headed for St. Hubert's and the trail head for Giant and started up the trail at about 1345.

Giant and Rocky Peak: Did I say up the trail? Boy is that right! It wasn't insanely steep, but it started immediately and with remarkably little variation the whole way up. The average grade was 15% and it probably stayed within about 2% of that for almost the entire hike up with very brief reprieves. At 2.8 miles we reached the branch point for the trail off to Rocky Peak. We were still moving pretty good and didn't even bother to check the time. Up we went and after a total hike of just under 3 miles we were at the summit. The view was beautiful. But why was the Sun so low in the sky? Oh yeah! It's October! Doh! We'd reached the peak at about 1500, which was really quite good time, but we were looking at about two more hours of good hiking time, max, left in the day. We'd hiked at night before (Trip #06) so weren't as averse to the idea as we were during earlier trips. but as a rule I still only want to do terminal night hikes. Night hikes that put us at the car with no mountains between us and home are one thing. A night hike when we plan to hit the trail again at or before the crack of dawn is not on my list of reasonable, responsible, of fun activities. Perhaps that'll change with time.
We really debated making the attempt, anyways. We'd just been burned by missing Blake on Trip #05, so I really didn't want to leave Rocky Peak hanging out there - especially since we'd have to reclimb 95% of Giant in order to get back to Rocky Peak! But the guy who was sitting up on Giant and our own cooler heads prevailed - so down to the car we went. The guy up on the peak, by the way, had just hiked Giant for the second time. He had finished the 46 a while back, but had climbed Rocky Peak and Giant that day to remember a friend he'd lost and who had climbed many peaks with him.

Money Shots: Giant Mountain (28) - Summit 2008-10-10 15:00 EDT

Down the Mountain: Heading back down, we reached the branch off to Rocky Peak again at about 1515. We looked longingly at Rocky Peak for several minutes still before giving up. We estimated that we could get to Rocky Peak in about an hour and back again in another hour. That would make it 1715 and back. But, oh yeah, it's October! Doh! It's beautiful weather for hiking. It's beautiful scenery with the fall colors, but it's miserable as far as daylight goes! It would be really dark at about 1730. We toyed with the idea of being a half hour further down the mountain before it was dark and just making our way down, but there had in fact been several open rock faces with sheer and high ledges along the trail on the way up. They were not at all narrow (many feet across, in fact) but we really were certain that it was unwise to attempt those at night with such little familiarity of the trail. Before we started down again our companion from the peak came down. He stopped and waited for us to continue - and took a rare picture of the two of us together. He waited while we started down and caught up with us again after a mile or so. He then passed us, but was always only just far enough ahead of us that I infrequently caught glimpses of him or heard him scramble down a rock in the obscured terrain ahead. For about half an hour I entertained the possibility that were were doing a good job of keeping up with him. Soon after I began to doubt that. With about a mile left to the trail head and when the trail finally turned over from frequent rock scrambles to simply steep rocky path he rapidly disappeared. It's now quite clear that he was not only concerned that we'd make the unwise choice of heading off to Rocky Peak that late in the day, but that he was also concerned we'd be caught in relatively treacherous terrain after dark. Once he was assured we'd gotten through the worst of the trail and would certainly reach the trailhead at or shortly after dark he was gone like a shot. Don't get me wrong. We're not slackers by any stretch of the imagination. We do pretty good. But we do pretty good for novices. In fact, I'd put us near the top of the pack for novices. But we can't hold a candle to serious hikers. And this guy almost doubled his speed when he decided he was free to.
That having been said, we did 6 miles round trip at a 15% grade in about 4 hours (including time on the peak) and that's nothing to sneeze at!
Within about 1/4 miles of the trailhead Kristy had to don her headlamp. My night vision is a bit better and I was only starting to decide I really had to put on my headlamp as we came out on Route 73 and the car.

Kristy and Merrick at the trail branch off to Rocky Peak - with Rocky Peak taunting us in the background.
Side Trail to Rocky Peak

Trail's End Inn: We went into town to find a room and there was no room at the inn! So we ended up a little off the beaten path at Trail's End Inn. It was a perfectly nice place, but it was more than a little pricey. Pricey is not terrible - but wholly unexpected when you have to share a bath with the other guests! And what else do you get for the cost? A continental breakfast, served promptly at 0600. Not particularly useful when you plan to hit the road at 0500 so that you can get to the trailhead before the crack of dawn.

The hike

11 October 2008
Ward Brook Trail: We were up at 0500 and on the road shortly thereafter. We probably hit the trailhead at 0600 and were making remarkably good progress by the time the sun came up. It's about 4-1/2 miles to the beginning of the herd path for Seward and because it's very flat and a well worn trail we easily did that in much less than 2 hours. The herd path is well beaten and the trail in general was not too hard to follow. I'm sorry if this is getting a little old, but man was this a steep trail! The total hiked distance from the beginning of the trailhead to the peak of Seward is a little over 2 miles. The pitch of trail is (nerd alert!) remarkably parabolic, with an average grade of a little over 5% for the first mile increasing steadily to an average grade of over 20% for the last mile. It just keeps getting more and more brutal the whole way up. The path also, helpfully, becomes more and more rugged the whole way up, and can be a little difficult to follow at times. but we were never in fear of losing the trail. We just spent a minute or two exploring alternatives two or three times.
But, and here's the rub, the generally poor trail conditions (and did I mention that the going was quite muddy?) meant that we didn't summit Seward until about 1245. So, from the beginning of the herd path to the peak had taken us almost 6 hours, or a little less than half a mile an hour. In retrospect, this is not a terrible pace for Seward. The grade is quite steep and the  trail is quite rough. But what that actually meant is that if we were to head back to the trail head now we'd likely arrive at about 1630-1700. That pretty much meant that, like Rocky Peak the day before, we weren't going to get up either Donaldson or Emmons. What a depressing turn of events! We were leaving Rocky Peak as an orphan for sure, and although Donaldson and Emmons weren't strictly countable as orphans (they really can be considered a separate hike from Seward) we were getting only two peaks in the amount of time we'd originally scheduled to get four! Had we camped in the Ward Brook Lean-To area a VERY LONG day could have probably have gotten us both Donaldson and Emmons. That would have been 10 October hike in, 11 October for the Seward Range, and 12 October out. And a MUCH more fruitful trip. We'd only have had to return to the Ward Brook Lean-To area for Seymour (probably only a day hike - a VERY LONG day hike!) and would be have Giant left, but on a day that probably would have left plenty of time for Rocky Peak. Lessons learned...

Money Shots: Seward (29) - Summit 2008-10-11 12:45 EDT

Trail's End: So down the mountain we went. I had developed some sort of pain in my leg. Perhaps I twisted it funny, perhaps I'd bruised something, but in any event, shortly after starting down, bending my leg in a particular direction caused fairly excruciating pain. I was able to alter my movement sufficiently to keep the pain well within bearable limits, but it did effect our pace. We still made it down in about the same amount of time it took to get up the peak, so we did hit the herd path trailhead at about 1630. By then, however, given the work of the previous two days and the pain in my leg we opted to continue out to the car and call it a trip. Our flight out of Burlington was at (1400? - checking this) the next day, so we had plenty of time to hike out in the morning and make the ferry back to catch the flight, but we were muddy enough and beat enough that we just weren't up for spending the night in a tent getting more sore before the hike out. We were expecting a two hour hike out with about half an hour in the dark, but the trail was so flat and we were heading to the car, so out we went. Sure enough, night fell before reaching the car. Poor Kristy had blisters on her feet and her knees were bothering her, but I wanted out so I kept pushing. We hit the car about 1900 - what a site for sore eyes!

Back to Burlington: Wow. We're out. And who wants to spend the night in that ridiculously expensive inn again? And we still had just enough time to make the last ferry - if we made good time. So off we flew and wouldn't you know it - only two minor turn-arounds heading to Essex and we were at the dock in time for the last ferry! Our luck appeared to be turning around. A nice hotel room in Burlington, a hot shower, and a hot meal were really starting to sound good! Too good...

Burlington on Columbus Day (Eve): Did I mention this was Columbus Day Weekend? We'd made it a habit of hiking the Adirondacks around Columbus Day in part because of the amazing hiking weather and since it's Kristy's birthday. Big deal, right? Well, and who knew, Columbus Day weekend is the busiest tourist weekend of the entire year in Burlington. Everyone, apparently, comes to see the leaves! So we drove up and down main street stopping at every single hotel looking for any accommodation. This time there really was no room at the inn! Finally, around midnight, we simply gave up. Kristy spotted a KOA campground and we pulled in, got cleaned up in the public showers, and headed off to find food. Food was sounding really good. Too good!

12 October 2008
This is Burlington, after all. We drove from fast food restaurant to fast food restaurant and they were all closed. So we finally found a 24 hour gas station with gas station food and filled the gas tank, bought marginally edible food, and headed off to Enterprise to drop off the car.

Enterprise: Arriving at Enterprise at about 0100 we noticed  that the sign on the door said they closed at midnight! Argh! What wasn't going to go against us on this trip? Frustrated that if I'd given up on trying to find a hotel earlier we could have made it to Enterprise by midnight I had become resigned to our apparent fate. There were still people in the Enterprise office, but I figured they were cleaning up, doing paperwork, etc. After all, the sign said they'd closed at midnight. So I called a cab and started cleaning up the car, planning to drop the keys in the after hours box. So after we'd cleaned up and gathered all of our equipment together I went to drop our keys in the after hours box at the door. At this point one of the people inside came out to ask if he could help us. I commented that I'd have liked to check the car in and catch a ride to the airport, but since we'd missed the closing time we'd called a cab. "But we're still open," he said. "But your sign says you're closed at midnight", I said. "Yeah, we should change that," he replied, "we're open until 2 AM." It was, of course, at exactly this time that the cab showed up. So I gave the cabby ten bucks for her trouble, checked the car in, and we were shuttled off to the airport.

Burlington Airport: Of course, this is Burlington. So the airport has been closed for hours. The doors are open, but other than cleaning and minimal security staff everything else is shut down. So we found some seats, plopped ourselves down, ate a well deserved but undeservedly bad meal, and settled in for the night - planning to put ourselves on standby for the 0700 flight back to D.C.

Burlington to DC: Morning comes, I ask to be put on standby, and it costs $100 per ticket! Apparently, the flight immediately before our booked flight and any flight after could be put on standby for free, but since this was two flights before our scheduled flight, pay the man. OK. You know what I did. After all of that it was cheap at the cost to end up at home in the early afternoon as opposed to evening. So on the flight we went, and we were back in D.C. pretty early.

Foster's Grill:  Aunt Cheryl picked us up at the airport again and we were home and in and out of the shower in a flash. Of course, this is Sunday, and Kristy's birthday, and everyone wants to celebrate. We're certainly not prepared for anything elaborate, so we take everyone to Foster's Grill, one of our favorites since Lance at our previous job introduced us to it.

Next trip: ???

Child stats: Rachel - 5 months

Epilogue: Not much to add. We added another orphan to our seemingly growing list. The flight was a definite improvement in that I'd hate to imagine 20-24 hours of driving on top of what we did, but one thing we know for absolutely sure: no more October hikes! June and July, thank you very much. Two October hikes have resulted in two orphans which certainly wouldn't have occurred on longer days of the year. But we're still knocking the peaks off...