This trip report documents a September first traverse of the peaks of Esther and Whiteface (in the Northern Adirondacks), from North to South, starting at the Marble Mountain trailhead and ending at the Connery Pond trailhead.
The planning and organization of this trip was done by hiking acquaintaince Julie Moran. Initially, the hike had been planned as an outing for the Albany/Saratoga dog hiking group, but by the time the event rolled around, everyone had dropped out - except for Julie herself, and her chocolate lab companion Mike. I myself had to schedule some time in NY state in order to fix up an administrative glitch with regards to my US AT&T phone sim card, and I figured that if I was going to have to drive a few hours into the US, I might as well make the best of it and go on a hike as well. So, when I got wind of Julie's outing, I asked if I could tag along. A few days before the hike, Julie got another tag-along request, this time from Ann - a hiker in Maine looking to do some hiking in the Adirondacks.
It was a beautiful late summer morning in the Northern Adirondacks, and (as you can see from the pictures) I stopped several times along the drive to capture some beautiful scenes - including several of our intended twin-peak objective.
Moon and Jenkins Mountain
Whiteface-Esther morning silhouette
Julie had planned the traverse from North to South. We therefore agreed to meet up at the southern terminus of the route, at the Connery Pond Trailhead. From there, we shuttled up in one vehicle to the Marble Mountain trailhead, and started our hike south.
Marble Mountain Trailhead
The first section of trail can only be properly described as semi-official. There's a trailhead sign, but otherwise it isn't marked; however, it is still very easy and obvious to follow. It follows the line of an old tow-bar ski lift that used to be part of the Marble Mountain ski area (now decommissioned for over 50 years). If you look at the map for this section of trail, you'll see that it is perfectly straight all the way up to the top of Marble Mountain, where the trail joins the official Wilmington Trail (the trailhead for the Wilmington trail is seven hundred feet lower than the Marble Mountain trailhead, along route 431 (if interested, see trip report here
for details on that start point).
Generator, Marble Mtn Trail
We started off, heading slightly downhill on an old road track, before curving around and back up to a small open clearing with an old but serviceable-looking generator. We then started following the line of the old ski lift. The tread is wide and obvious, but somewhat rocky. Because the trail is now following the line of the old ski lift, the direction at this point is dead straight and the grade uniformly steep. At points along the climb, we observed the old footings of the lift.
750 feet of steady climbing brought us to the top of Marble Mountain, where there is a very nice lookout to the southeast. The still air and warm morning had made for a somewhat sweaty climb.
Marble Mountain Lookout
We now joined with the Wilmington Trail, and started up the ridgecrest that connects Marble Mountain with the broad area of high land between Esther and Whiteface. Along the way, I got to learn a bit about Ann - our new hiking companion. She was fairly active in the Maine hiking community, but had not hiked at all in the Adirondacks in the last thirty years. This was her "re-debut" Adirondack hike after all that time.
I also learned that Ann was soon to be off on a climb of Mt Kilimanjaro in Africa, along with an associated safari and a visit to the island of Zanzibar. Since I had done virtually the same itinerary myself back in 2005, we immediately started talking about it, and on and off over the next few hours I answered many of Ann's questions about what to expect. I had forgotten a suprising number of minor details about the trip, such as a rundown of the different foods that our guides had prepared for us. I told her that a complete accounting of the trip was to be had on my web page (specifically, here
), a repository which did not suffer from memory loss. I'm quite appreciative now that I took the time to write it all down!
The Wilmington trail was much nicer to hike along than the Marble Mountain connector trail; The ridgecrest portion we were on had several nice semi-open slabby sections, and instead of a monotonous straight cut up through the forest, the grade sometimes flattened out, sometimes steepened. We eventually reached an old ski/toboggan shelter near the four thousand-foot mark, and knew that we were near to reaching the junction with the herd path off to Esther.
I mentioned to Julie that it might be nice to try and get some good, high-quality images of Mike (her canine companion). Given Mike's super-exuberant mindset, he is practically always moving around and it is therefore quite difficult to get a good picture of him. I said that I would put my efforts towards remedying that on this day. As a result, you're going to see quite a number of dog-shots in this trip report!
We soon arrived at the junction with Esther mountain's herdpath, marked by both a cairn atop a boulder and an official sign marking the way. After a quick drink break, we headed off towards Esther.
We followed the "herdpath" up and over the small bump of Lookout Mountain, where we got our first limited view of nearby Whiteface's summit. You'll notice that I've put the term herdpath into quotes, and that is because the Esther herdpath is much more trail than herdpath. Apart from the fact that there is now an official sign marking its start, it is for almost all intents and purposes just that - a maintained trail, just not an official one. I was most suprised to see a high-quality section of planking across a boggy section of terrain - a recent development that I had not known about since my last few ascents of Esther were in the winter, when the ground is covered in several feet of snow. I wonder at what point they will just decide to be done with it and place NYSDEC trail markers along this path.
Although it seemed to take a little longer than usual, we soon arrived at the summit of Esther, complete with its bedrock-mounted tribute to the mountain's namesake - Esther McComb. We admired the limited view back to Whiteface Mountain and had a short snack break, then headed back along the herdpath towards Whiteface.
Good Planking, Esther herdpath