Looking to get out to do some longer, more strenuous outings before my upcoming June mountaineering / backpacking trip out west, I decided to head to the Adirondacks this weekend to get some mileage under my feet. I chose the "back-way" to one of the Adirondacks better peaks - Gothics - a 4700+ foot highpoint along the main Great Range. I say "back-way" since most people approach Gothics from the Garden / Johns Brook Lodge side. I was planning to approach from the opposite, southern side.
Overcast at Sunrise
The weather forecast for my chosen hike day called for increasing clouds and for rain to start later in the afternoon. In order to avoid that, I left Ottawa nice and early (3 a.m.), hoping to start and finish well before any precipitation entered the picture.
The drive down was of course mostly in the dark, but as dawn approached there were several beautiful scenes as the approaching overcast interacted with the sun's first rays. Pretty.
The super-short nights around this time of the year allow some pretty early full-daylight starts, like today - I started walking shortly before 6:20 a.m. and with the scattered light from the overcast, it felt like practically like mid-day.
You may notice that I was by myself on this day. In fact, this is the first solo hike I've ever done in my entire life (from start to finish, that is - there have been other times where for various reasons I've split up with a group and gone solo for a bit). Hiking alone is not something to which I'm generally predisposed, but various happenings in my life (of my own doing, I might add) mean that this may well be the start of a new trend for me. Perhaps the universe will deign to replenish my karma from the peace and wellness that comes from walking in the wilderness.
Leaving the car, I walked up the AMR road, past the Golf Course, past the historic clubhouse, and slightly downhill to the trailhead kiosk and fancy-wood entrance gate of the Lake Road. All of AMR land is private, and rights of way are given to hikers on certain trails, subject to strict rules. I signed in at 6:30 a.m. and started my walk up the road.
In a few short minutes I branched off to the right; Although I could have taken the gravelled, vehicle-grade (to AMR members only) Lake Road, I wanted something a bit more natural on my hike in. The little branch trail that I took led me over to one of the two trails that run alongside the main river in this valley - the East Branch of the Ausable River. The two trails are called, somewhat conventionally, the East River Trail and the West River Trail. I chose to say on the side I was on, the east side, for my walk upstream.
I was glad for my choice, for the East River Trail turned out to be delightfully... secluded. Clearly not a lot of traffic uses the trail on this side, and it wound lightly across loamy forest floor, through little clearings, next to bouldery flows, pretty waterfalls, and at times high atop the river's sometimes steep banks. And, for such a lightly-used trail, it has good signage and infrastructure - witness the excellent bridge across Gill Brook (picture).
I walked up the East River Trail as far as the junction with the cross trail leading to Beaver Meadow Falls, Lost Lookout, and Gothics (my destination). I could have continued farther up the trail and taken the Weld Trail, but that was to be my return route, and I wanted to do a loop today.
Immediately after crossing the Ausable on another of the very sturdy foot bridges in this valley, I was immediately presented with the delicate tracery of Beaver Meadow Falls, a 60+ foot high braid of multiple flows of water. Immediately to the left of the falls, a long ladder marked the steep start of my chosen trail up to the spine of the Great Range (and from there to the summit of Gothics).
There wasn't too much to say about the lower part of the ascent trail - it was a fairly standard low-elevation ascent trail for the Adirondacks. Trail conditions were quite good - It was relatively free of mud and blowdown, and the initial grade was fairly moderate.
At just over the 3000-foot mark the trail crossed a relatively fresh landslide scar, one that must have been made in one of the more recent hurricane storms, because I didn't remember it being there the last time I came this way. Beyond the landslide scar was an impressive few hundred feet of very good trailwork - a combination of re-routing, switchbacking, and excellent rock-work. Thank you very much to whoever did all of this work.
Beyond the nice bit of trail was, well, less nice trail - the more usual steep and rough and bouldery variety that is also common in the Adirondacks. I clambered up this for another few hundred feet of elevation before the trail surface became increasingly smooth slab bedrock - the bones of the mountain, so to speak. And easier to hike on.