At about the 3700-foot level, we surmounted the last of the cliffy bits, and the trail became much flatter. The snow depth had increased to about four inches. Still not enough to warrant snowshoes.
Ten minutes' worth of hiking brought us to the highpoint of Yard Mountain. The highpoint is a short distance off trail, and a brief bit of bushwhacking brought us there. There are only very limited views from the top of Yard, so we did not stay long.
side note: Yard mountain is over 4000 feet, yet it is not considered one of the Adirondack 46. The reason given for this is a rule: a mountain must rise at least 300 feet on all sides from the lowest point relative to a neighbouring peak. I find this rule to be applied somewhat inconsistently, though. A prime example is nearby Armstrong Mountain - an official 46R peak - that definitely does not rise 300 feet from the low point between it and nearby Gothics Mountain. So, maybe Yard should be a 46R after all....
Boulder passage, Yard Mtn
We proceeded along the well-defined and cleared trail from Yard to Big Slide. The lowest point along this route - roughly 3,850 feet - is just over 250 feet lower than the summit of Yard. Beyond this, it was a fairly easy stepped rise along a wooded ridgecrest, culminating in the open ledge that marks the summit of Big Slide, at 4,240 feet.
Arriving Big Slide Summit
As expected, Big Slide's summit is where we began meeting a lot of other hiker traffic. Most folks aim to climb to the summit of Big Slide and no farther.
Since it was almost exactly noon, we stopped for our lunch break.
Jenn and Andrew, Big Slide
We kept our lunch break short, and we were moving eastward off of Big Slide's summit shortly after noontime. Prior to reaching Big Slide's summit, we had not elected to put our microspikes on. However, the descent off of the east side of the summit is quite steep, and combined with the slippery hard pack formed by much higher hiker traffic, we decided to put them on.
After carefully descending the tricky bits down the east side of Big Slide's summit, we started off on the long ridge walk that would lead over "The Brothers" and back to our start point. After passing the junction with the main Trail leading down from Big Slide to Johns Brook Valley, we continued east, following gently descending terrain at the bottom of a high valley that drained to the northeast. After descending for a bit, the trail angled up the side of the shallow valley, soon reaching the crest of a narrowing ridge.
A Blocked View
There are a number of bumps along this ridgeline from this point eastward. The first and highest of these is a 3750-foot highpoint. I was expecting to turn around at this point and take a profile picture of Big Slide - something I've done every time I've hiked along this trail. Except for today.
Today, I had no view of Big Slide. For a moment I was a bit confused, since I was sure this was the right spot. It then dawned on me that this in fact was the right spot, it was just that the view was no longer here. Fir trees to the west of the lookout had grown over the years and were now obscuring the view. Have a look at the composite picture titled "A Blocked View" - it shows how the view from this point has changed over the course of ten years. Was this because someone had previously cut these trees, and they were only now recovering? Or had the conditions grown easier for the trees, such that they were now able to achieve greater height.... (note that in all three cases, the snow depth was the same, at about 1 or 2 inches - so this is not due to the shot being taken at various heights off of the ground).