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Jul 1, 1999 (Thu)
Elevation: 4960 feet; Order of Height: 3
Participants: Brian Connell, Peter Krug, Andrew Lavigne
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An ambitious hike, this one. I wanted to do Haystack, never having done it before, but didn't feel like hiking all the way in and back from the Garden trailhead. So.... I propose a two-car point-to-point, starting at Elk Lake and traversing over Haystack, and ending up at the Garden. For some reason, Brian and Peter agreed to this!

We spent a bit of time in the morning arranging the vehicles, one at Elk Lake, and one at the Garden. Then we were off, on an excellent sunny day. The hike through the Elk Lake area crosses many 'private' paths belonging to whatever club/organization owns that section of land. Our first test is climbing over the Colvin-Blake-Boreas range of peaks, through a fairly low pass. From there, down to Marcy Swamp, with some good low-altitude unique views of the high peaks. Lots of good boardwalks over the marshy areas - nice area. From there it is a slow rise into Panther Gorge up to the Panther Gorge lean-to. We stop for a good break here, and then tackle the real ascent, up the backside of Haystack. Very steep and nicely isolated (haven't encountered anyone so far today). Soon we are above treeline with excellent views into the gaping gulf of Panther Gorge - definitely the most impressive basin of this sort in the high peaks region. Soon, the summit is conquered - and an excellent summit it is, being nicely out in the open and narrow and elongated.

We continued our traverse by heading northeast down towards Little Haystack. Getting on top of Little Haystack requires some fun scrambly climbing, too. Too bad it isn't a peak in its own right, because Little Haystack is quite nice.

From Little Haystack we headed down towards Slant Rock and then on down towards Johns Brook Valley. We were encountering other hikers now, including one lady who had decided to hike topless!

It was not soon after this that Brian started to wonder about whether or not he had his keys with him. Finally, at one rest stop, he had a thorough look and to his dismay discovered that the keys to his car (which was at the end of our hike) were back in Peter's car (which was at the start of the hike), now probably 20+ kilometres behind us! This was a pickle we'd gotten ourselves into... We needed some way to get all the way back to the Elk Lake trailhead, which by road must have been at least 40 or 50 kilometres. Rental Car? not in Keene Valley! Hitchhiking? what is the chance of finding someone going to Elk Lake, of all places? Not good. At the very least we hoped to catch the Shuttle bus that runs down to Keene Valley from the parking lot, and manage what we could from there (maybe a taxi). Only one problem: the Shuttle ran until 7pm and we were still a ways from the trailhead and 7pm was approaching! So... I offered to jog the whole remainder of the way back to try and flag down the Shuttle driver and get him or her to wait.

I made it *just* in time, and did manage to get the Shuttle bus driver to wait. Not long after, Peter and Brian arrived, and as we were getting driven back down to Keene, explained our situation to the driver. In the end, we managed to convince the driver to drive us all the way to the Elk Lake trailhead (with a little payment, of course). Close call, that!

This ended up being one of my longest day hikes ever, at over 35 km! Quite an adventure!

Trip Reports, Image Galleries or Other References:
 Image Gallery: Haystack, July 1999


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