The end of winter (at least officially) was rapidly approaching, and our drive to help my friend Brian make progress on his winter 46 meant we were looking for whatever nice weather window opened up (I mean, technically we could hike on less than perfect days, but Brian's winter 46R drive is a good-conditions effort). Anyway, that next nice day turned out to be Sunday, March 12. Up for consideration were a number of mid-length outings, and we decided today on Tabletop - the forested and technically un-trailed nondescript-looking highpoint not far to the north of Mount Marcy.
We arrived down at the Adirondack Loj / Adirondack High Peaks Visitor Center parking lot shortly before 8 a.m.. We'd absorbed an extra hour of time deficit owing to today being the day that daylight savings time kicked into effect for 2023 (Lest you think that we were being slack on our start times).
Approaching the High Peaks
We started off from the main trailhead towards Marcy Dam at around 8:15 a.m. Although the forecast high for the day was above freezing, the morning was quite cool - cold even, and seemingly quite a bit colder than the forecasted low. This made for nice firm snow conditions, however, and we started off bare-booting it (not even microspikes, just straight bare boots).
The trail from the ADK Loj area to Marcy Dam is something we've have done many times over (and probably you as well, if you've spent any amount of time in the Adirondacks). It is, I am sure, the most arterial trail in the entire Adirondacks. Maybe even in all of New York State. Therefore, I will not describe it in any detail, other than to say that the snow was white, fresh, well-packed and that the crisp clear sunny morning was invigorating.
We motored at a fairly fast clip and arrived at the Marcy Dam area shortly after 9 a.m.
The Marcy Dam area was, as always, very scenic. With the clear conditions, we had great views to Colden and to the open slides on the north flank of Wright (which was well-scored with countless S-curves from backcountry skiiers and snowboarders). The marshy area was solidly snowed over and packed down and it was no problem to bare-boot across to the other side, bypassing the official bridge crossing.
On the far (eastern) side of the Marcy Dam area, we started up the Van Hoevenberg arterial trail that leads up to Marcy and which has various side trails branching off of it on the way up. The trail continued to be very well-packed out and firm so we continued our microspike-less, snowshoe-less hiking.
Again making good progress, we arrived at the upper bridged crossing of Phelps Brook shortly before 10 a.m. From here the trail takes a sharp right and becomes abruptly steeper, beginning the first of the two major climbs of our hike: the ascent up to the Indian Falls area. We thought that we might have to don microspikes here, but the snow was of a condition that we had enough grip just with boot soles.
Staying off the ski trail
It only took us about twenty minutes to make it to the Indian Falls area. We encountered the signed junction with the "route" (or herdpath) to Tabletop, but we did not immediately take it; the lookout at Indian Falls is only a couple of hundred yards further up the Van Hoevenberg trail and it is not to be missed, especially on a beautiful sunny winter day like today.
Side trail to Indian Falls
The Indian Falls lookout was - as expected - beautiful today. It is a large open area at the top of a waterfall along Marcy Brook. Today, in late winter - a winter with a large, clean snowpack - it was a wide, snowy ledge. The Indian Falls lookout gives probably the best, most aesthetically-pleasing view over towards Algonquin Peak and the entire MacIntyre Range. With fresh white snow covering everything - including all of the above treeline terrain - it was a terrific view.
We had our first real rest and snack break here at the Indian Falls lookout. The strong springlike sun had sharply increased the air temperature, which was now probably hovering around the freezing mark. There was no wind at all, making it feel even nicer. Alana was not quite yet willing to accept it as truly warm, but I feel she was close to saying so.