Every autumn, my friend Pu organizes a weekend outing to the Adirondacks with his local Ottawa hiking club. They stay at the hostel in Keene valley and spend the weekend hiking scenic peaks, and enjoying good food and company.
Pu planned two hikes for Saturday, September 20 -- a harder hike and an easier hike. The harder hike was the Rocky Peak traverse route -- one of the best hikes, in my humble opinion, in the entire Adirondacks. The easier hike was to Cascade and Porter.
We hadn't really planned on joining Pu and his group this weekend, but events conspired to line things up and we were available. The weather forecast was excellent, and there was no reason not to attend and enjoy this fantastic hike, especially in the fall. Hopefully the colors had turned!
The plan was to traverse from west to east, hiking up the Giant Ridge trail and heading east across Rocky Ridge, finishing at the trailhead in New Russia. Although I've done this traverse many times, this would be the first time doing it in the west-to-east direction.
In all, eleven of Pu's friends chose the Rocky Ridge hike. We would be a large group!
Jenn and I joined up with the rest of the gang at the Giant Ridge trailhead at 9:00am. Pu and others had already gone off to reposition cars at the other end.
Our start was delayed somewhat due to Pu's mind-wandering: he led the shuttle convoy past the New Russia trailhead and all the way to Elisabethtown! It was, in the end, past 9:30 am by the time we started off up Giant's Ridge trail. I mused about adding a little personal extra to the journey, with a side trip to the Giant's Nubble -- a fine lookout not far from highway 73 on Giant Mountain's west flank. I'd not been atop the Giant's Nubble since way back in 1995, and I remember it being a fantastic viewpoint.
Pu's group - ready to go!
Our pace was suprisingly brisk for such a large group, and I wondered if I'd be able to catch up if I did my little side-trip. I discussed it with Pu, and he seemed keen to do it. Patrick and Bob also chose to join us. The rest of the group would head up the Ridge trail and we would try and catch up with them after finishing with the Nubble.
The hike up to and past the Giant's Washbowl was scenic, as always. Not far beyond the Washbowl, Pu, Patrick, Bob and I headed off on the side trail that led to the Giant's Nubble. We upped the speed where we could, trying to ensure that the main group didn't get too far ahead.
The trail leading to the Nubble had several fine viewpoints that I had never seen before (this was the first time for me approaching the Nubble from this side). And the Nubble itself was indeed a great spot. It has a nice summit-like feel, even though it is clearly not. A nice, round, smooth dome of bedrock, the Giant's Nubble offers excellent views down to St Hubert and the Lower Great Range -- plus, it offers a nice fairly close view of Giant Mountain's western side. Well worth it, and a fine destination on it's own as a short hike.
The Giant from his Nubble
Speeding back, we managed the round-trip to the junction with the Ridge trail in twenty-six minutes total. Meaning we were twenty-six minutes behind the main group. Hopefully they weren't hiking too fast. Twenty-six minutes is a large deficit to erase, especially up a steep trail like this one!
Wasting no time, we put our heads down and started churning up the ultra-steep part of the Giant Ridge trail. I was thankful for the recent trail re-routing here, which added some nice switchbacked sections. Even so, we were pushing hard and dripping with sweat as we ascended to the many open lookouts and slabby areas that make the Ridge trail so great. In the interest of time, we did the 'around the bump' when that choice presented itself to us. Still no sign of the others.
We passed a group on the way up that looked vaguely familiar, but it wasn't until someone said 'Hey, it's Andrew' that I recognized them. It was Bill and Judy, who, coincidentally enough, I first met in almost the exact same spot in the winter of 2005. And, this was a very special day for Bill. He was headed for Rocky Peak, number 46 in his quest to become an Adirondack 46er. Today would be the day for Bill! I promised to try and sync-up with him for the momentous moment, and then we continued on up in pursuit of our group.
Despite being a bit ragged from ascending so briskly, we made very decent time, and soon merged with the Roaring Brook trail on the upper part of Giant's western ridge. It wasn't too much long after that, next to the big erratic in the forest, that we met up with the rest of the group. Whew... now we could slow down!
At a much more reasonable pace now, we hiked up the short remaining distance to the summit. Giant was busy today, and we had to head farther along on the crest in order to find a spot for a lunch break. Although a little hazy and with a bit of high cloud, the day was fabulous. Unfortunately, almost none of the leaves had turned yet. It was still a very summery-looking view.
Jenn and I had decided to hike from Giant to Rocky with Bill and Judy's group. It was only fitting to honour Bill's important accomplishment on Rocky. So, we left Pu's group for a bit (who were still eating their lunches, anyway) and headed off with our Bill and Judy's hiking group. So far, we'd hiked with over twenty people today -- a new record!
Judy and Jenn head to Rocky
It was great to chat with Bull, Judy, Cindy, David, Ian, Tony (and the others in their group). We talked about all of the great places there are to hike in North America, sharing stories of southern Utah and the High Sierra, Yosemite and Glacier National Park. In no time we were climbing the last little bit of elevation to Rocky's summit, and I wormed my way ahead to get some pictures of Bill on his final ascent.