Wednesday, August  23, 2017
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From time to time, I get inquiries, postings, and feedback from users of my Adirondacks High Peaks page. Recently, I answered some questions from Julie -- the leader of a Albany NY-based hiking group (known as 'Hiking Mates Challenge' - link here). We got to chatting back and forth, and eventually she invited us on one of her hiking group's outings. That initial invite was for a Porter-Cascade traverse in late May. Unfortunately, we were unable to go.

Julie had organized another outing for the end of June: a circuit of five peaks in the Lower Great Range area: Lower Wolfjaw, Upper Wolfjaw, Armstrong, Gothics, and Sawteeth. A relatively robust but interesting dayhike!

The timing and logistics worked out for this one, and we told Julie that we would be able to come along on this hike. The designated date was Sunday, June 28, but a very unsettled bout of weather gave us a not-so-nice forecast, and led us to relocate that to the Saturday. So, the morning of June 28 saw us pile into the CR-V for the drive down to the St Huberts trailhead -- our starting point for this hike. Our bodily contribution to this hike were myself, Jenn and Brian (Pu was scheduled to come also, but the last minute change to Saturday scuttled things for him).
Getting Introduced
The Speedster Gets Ready
Off to the trailhead
We pulled into the St Hubert's parking lot at 8:45am -- a little late for this length of hike, but with all of the extra daylight available at this time of year, still doable. We soon met Julie and the rest of the Hiking Mates Challenge gang. We met Chris, Mirek, Johanna, Jim, Rocky, Duncan, and, of course, Julie. All cheery and all raring to go!

We had driven down through some intense rains, and the forecast, although initially not too bad for Saturday, had deteriorated to the point where it was pretty much the same as the Sunday forecast we had avoided. As we approached St Huberts and Keene Valley, we did get a bit of sun and things seemed dry. Perhaps we would be lucky!

We headed off from the parking lot just after 9am, walking up the road. Although the temperature was not that hot, the air was very humid. As we walked past the lush greens of the AMR golf course, we could see 'unsettled-ness' above us. There was probably a good change we'd get wet at some point!
Gloomy at the Golf Course
Brian Signing In
Julie Signs In
With the formalities at the trail register at the AMR Lake Road's gate (and advice from the wardsman about the length of our hike and the possibility of bad weather), we headed off, hiking earnestly along a... gravel road. This didn't last long, though, as we soon turned right onto a connector trail that brought us to and across the Ausable River, connecting us up to the West River Trail.
Along the Road
Across the Ausable
Colorful Fungi
We then started our walk south-westward along the West River Trail. The trail winds around, sometimes close to the banks of the Ausable River, and at other times climbing up the bank and parallelling along through the leafy forest. The trail was in very good shape -- lightly used and not very eroded.
West River Trail
Rooty Ascent
Bridge over Cascade
Julie's group had set a fairly brisk pace, and I was wondering if they were going to keep this up for the entire hike. If so, it would be a relatively short but strenuous hike!

Presently, the trail angled uphill a bit, reaching, then crossing Wedge Brook on a bridge. There is a beautiful cascade and waterfall at this point, and the particular setting and topography of the stream, bridge and trail make for a wonderful little spot. On the other side of the bridge is the junction with the Wedge Brook Trail -- our path up to the crest of the Lower Great Range.
Wedge Brook Waterfall
Wedge Brook Waterfall
Wedge Brook Cascade
We started up the Wedge Brook trail, heading towards the Upper Wolfjaw / Lower Wolfjaw col. I had never been on the Wedge Brook Trail before, and discovered that it is most pleasant, for several reasons: firstly, the lower part of the trail runs near Wedge Brook, and there are some mighty pretty cascades and flumes (assuming the water is running well, which it was today). Secondly, the trail is in great shape, lightly used, and not very eroded. And thirdly, most of the trail winds up through some very nicely laid-out forest. I give it 3 full stars!

A bit of light rain began to fall during our ascent, but it wasn't serious enough to warrant rain-gear.
Wedge Brook Cascade
Leafy Wedge Brook Trail
Excellent Trail Shape
Near its top, the Wedge Brook Trail lost a bit of its luster, becoming a bit steep and eroded. But this was only for a short bit, and then we were at a junction with a couple of short connector trails -- one leading to the col proper, and another leading to a point on the range trail partway up Lower Wolfjaw. The speed of various members of the group had started to vary wildly, with Chris and Jim rocketing on ahead, and others falling behind. We stopped at this junction so that most of us could re-congregate.

Although it had been mostly dry to this point, the skies above were getting darker. I feared a good downpour was about to come our way.

After most of us were back together, we continued our ascent to Lower Wolfjaw -- our first peak for the day. Sure enough, the blackened heavens opened up on us, and we got a thorough soaking for the remainder of our ascent to Lower Wolfjaw. I met Jim and Chris coming down from the summit, going full steam ahead and on track to finish ahead of the rest of us.

It [the rain] slackened off at the top, leaving us with a dripping and soggy and viewless summit. On the plus side, Mirek offered us some excellent sauerkraut-ish meat-filled pastries. Yummy.
Shortcut Junction
Lower Wolfjaw Mtn
Scrambling to Upper Wolfjaw
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