The hike from the T-junction to Seward's summit and back again had gone quite smoothly and quickly. From near the summit of Seward, I had pointed out Donaldson and the ridgeline to neighboring Emmons, stating that that was what we'd be tackling next. It looked similarly easy to the leg we'd just hiked, and we expected no great difference in difficulty.
Approaching Donaldson Summit
Donaldson Western Lookout
From the T-junction with the Calkins Brook herdpath, some steep slabby sections and a few mud-hole sections brought us to the summit of Donaldson, where twin lookout ledges (one looking west, the other - with the summit marker - looking east) provided the best views of the entire hike. The day was - again, somewhat surprisingly - still mostly clear, although the skies were very hazy and distant visibility was not so great. An even worse black fly situation encouraged us to move on quickly, though, so we did not enjoy the views for very long.
Herdpath to Emmons
Next up - Mt Emmons. You may recall my words from earlier, describing how we visually traced the line of the ridge between Donaldson and Emmons from a ledge back near the summit of Seward, and how it seemed to us to look quite easy and short, with only a slight dip in elevation. Upon walking along the herdpath between Donaldson and Emmons, however, we discovered the opposite.
For one, there were several large mud-hole sections. These needed to be carefully and slowly skirted to avoid dropping knee-deep (at times) into muck. Secondly, the topography of the ridgeline between Donaldson and Emmons has many short changes in elevation - little ups, downs, ledges. These are on a small enough scale that you don't notice them when viewing from afar, but big enough that they become tiring after a while. Thirdly, the herdpath - while obvious and not hard to discern - does not exactly follow the ridgecrest, instead dipping down a ways onto the western flank of the ridge. Because of this, the amount of elevation lost and then gained is more than what you would expect from just looking at the ridgeline. And, finally, the short-looking distance was deceiving. The hike to Emmons (from Donaldson) was 30% longer than the hike over to Seward.
Add in a generous cloud of annoying black flies and the fact that we had now been hiking for over six hours, and you get a generally unpleasant experience. That, and the knowledge that we had to turn around and hike right back the same way to Donaldson again (to return to the Calkins Brook herdpath for, ultimately, our descent back down). To describe the Donaldson-Emmons-Donaldson walk more succinctly: the least enjoyable part of our hike today.
I was happy to climb a small final ramp of rock to the wooded summit, and its accompanying yellow-on-black "Mt Emmons" sign. The trees - though relatively short - were still more than high enough to more or less obscure any view. My last visit to this point was definitely enhanced by the fact that it had been winter: five or six feet of snow covers all of the mud, small ledges, elevates you above the short trees, and you don't have any black flies. I think I can safely recommend that if you do this hike, you'll have a better time in the winter - assuming the conditions are good, of course.
The others soon joined me on the summit. After a few pictures in front of the sign, we returned back down a few feet to a shadier and flatter spot. Here we had a snack break - a quick snack break, because the swarming of black flies was even worse than it had been on Donaldson or on the hike to here. So, after a minute or two of gulping down something to eat, we started the journey back along the herdpath to Donaldson (and to the T-junction top of the Calkins herdpath route just beyond).
Moving along as smartly as we could, we arrived back at the T-junction top end of the Calkins Brook route at about 3pm. Again, black flies encouraged us to move on quickly, and soon we were descending along the Calkins Brook route. The better quality of this herdpath (combined with a continuous downhill grade) allowed us to ramp up the hiking speed. Relatively quickly, we dropped elevation, and soon we descended out of evergreen forest and into the more open deciduous zone. It was a pleasant change to be walking along a more open, less rough, soft path again. And the annoying bugs had greatly dropped in intensity, too.
Gentle Side Brook
Immediately after crossing Calkins Brook itself, we stopped for a foot rejuvenation break (ie taking boots off and soaking tired feet in crisp cold water).
Now nearly at the bottom end of the Calkins Brook route, we walked a few more minutes along flat ground to its end (or start, if you prefer), at the old forest road. Here we turned right, heading back north towards the Blueberry foot path and the Sewards trailhead.
Rest Break at Calkins Brook
Now walking 2-by-2 on the old forest road, we made excellent time back up and over the shallow pass between the two low sets of hills, eventually arriving at the horse trail varient of the Blueberry path. Although it was marginally shorter than the foot-only route, we elected not to do it - it had been somewhat rough and muddy, and we hoped that the foot-only route would be a better experience.
Private land warnings
The footpath-only variant started out perfectly - a nice, dry, smooth path. However, it degraded into an extended muddy mess as we neared the re-joining with the horse trail variant. I'll assume that the extra wetness was due to recent heavy rains, and that in normal conditions, the walking is good all the way along.
Now rejoined onto the combined-use section of the Blueberry Path, it was a short 1km-ish (less than 1 mile) walk back to the parking lot. At a total of roughly 25 km (15 miles) and well over eleven hours, this had been the longest hike we'd done in quite a while. However, while we felt sore, everyone seemed in decent shape (at least for the moment!).
So, that's about it as far as the accounting of our Seward Range hike goes. Perhaps not the most scenically exciting of Adirondack hikes, but still a good outing. However, perhaps better done as a winter hike.
Interactive trackmap with photo points - Sewards via Caulkins Brook - click map to view
Sewards via Calkins Brook - Hike Data
* : +/- 75 feet
Total Elevation Gain:
Total Elevation Loss:
* : +/- 75 feet