Climbing Mt. Marcy — Marcy Dam to bridge above Phelps Mtn Junction

Climbing Mt. Marcy — Marcy Dam to bridge above Phelps Mtn Junction

I had left the parking lot trailhead of the Van Hoevenberg Trail at 8:30 AM and ran into no difficulties getting to Marcy Dam, 2.3 miles from the trailhead in the first hour. Now, at 9:30 AM, I was off to tackle the next section of the Van Hoevenberg trail. There is no specific section marker and anyone can divide the trail up in any fashion that they like, but, when I am out on a trail, I like to think in terms of sections so that I can better track my location, condition and travel times. When I was younger, the question would have been whether I would run the trail or walk the trail; now the question is whether I will walk the trail slowly or walk the trail quickly and will I have time and energy sufficient to get to the end and back :-).


At Marcy Dam, you could see some snow on the peaks but there was no sign of the heavy snow that had fallen in this mountainous region only two days earlier. The trails above the dam were definitely wetter than the trails immediately below the dams but the snow had all melted in the two days and was now rushing down the mountains with a mighty roar in the rivers and streams coming from higher up in the valleys and mountains.


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It wasn’t too much further uphill when I began to see remnants of snow in the bushes to the side of the trail and there were definitely rivulets running between the boulders in the trail itself.  When I reached the high water crossing bridge, it wasn’t hard to make a decision about whether or not to go further up the river before crossing. Crossing at the high water bridge easily won out over any other possible options.

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With all of the running water sounds coming from all directions, the woods were actually quite noisy.  I was happy, though, that the noises that I was hearing were not the noises of mosquitoes or black flies buzzing around my ears.  With the cold weather and snow of the previous two days, the adult bug population had been knocked down quite a bit and I was having a relatively bug-free morning walk along the trails.


Once I got to the low water crossing point , I took a look and decided that I might have been able to cross there if I didn’t mind getting my feet soaked in ice cold water. Glad I decided on the bridge crossing!


Not far above this crossing point, snow began to become much more plentiful in the woods and by the time that I got to the Phelps Mtn junction, thee was no denying that I was going to have a much tougher trek for the second half of the climb than I had has so far.

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It was almost 10 hours before I would get back to the Phelps Junction location and by then most of the snow seen in the image above had melted and added to the water running down the trails.

Past the Phelps Junction, conditions underfoot began to deteriorate fairly rapidly and past the next bridge the trail was for the most part snow-covered, slush-covered, water-covered or, at times, all three. Thankfully, some of the trail maintenance crew had been through the day before and had chopped away most of the branches and serious blow-down obstacles.

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At the bridge above the Phelps Mtn Junction, I briefly spoke to three individuals contemplating whether to go on or go back. I passed them at that point and never saw them again. My assumption is that they decided to head back down when they encountered even more snow only a short distance higher up the trail.

Despite the sometimes slippery conditions, I was making reasonably good time and had covered the first approximately 3.5 miles in two hours. Things would not get easier after crossing this bridge!

Heading for the Adirondack Mountains

Heading for the Adirondack Mountains – May 27th, 2013

My goal for this trip was to reach the peak of Mount Marcy in the High Peaks Region of the Adirondack Mountains. I had tried to do that twice before on snowshoes in the middle of winter and had been unsuccessful both times. This time my plan was different. By going on the Monday of the US Memorial Day weekend, I figured that everything would be open, there would be space in the campground and the snow would be gone and the bugs would be moderate at worst.


Once again, I found myself heading over the bridge at Ogdensburg and into the Amish country which is directly south from there. I should have heeded the warning of the US Customs gent who put on a big smile when I told him that I was planning on tenting in the Adirondacks for a couple of days and planned to climb Mt. Marcy. When he then told me that the Adirondacks had had two feet of snow fall over the weekend, I thought that he might be joking with me! Turns out his knowledge of the weather was fresher than what I had heard.

RON_3203-Amish-and-modern RON_3204-Amish-and-modernMost times that I drive that way I see an Amish buggy heading in the opposite direction and occasionally I have to slow in order to safely pass one of their buggies going in the same direction as I am traveling. To watch them make their progress along the highway is an interesting occupation when I have the time. They may not be traveling at anywhere near the speed of the modern car but there progress is steady and they do eventually get to their destination.

I, too, got to my destination after passing through Saranac and then getting a closer look at snow on the peaks as I turned off of the highway and headed along the road to Adirondack LOJ.



I have stayed in the LOJ on occasion and stayed in the campground on occasion. This time around I expected reasonable temperatures and dry weather so opted to stay in the campground.   As mentioned above, the US Customs agent was correct about the weather.  T3wo days earlier it had snowed all day and there were certainly a number of disgruntled hikers and campers who had battled the elements trying to reach their favorite peak. Some spoke of the mud on the Cascades Mountain route, others discussed how they turned back trying to reach the peak of Cobden due to the deep newly fallen snow. With respect to Mount Marcy, the story was the same, plenty of snow and slush on the trail but, according to the ranger and the trail maintenance crew, I should be able to make it to the top if I didn’t mind getting really wet!

So with that bit of reassurance, I set up my tent and spent the evening exploring the area around the LOJ.

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Season’s Greetings

Season’s Greetings

Starting up a website., with my son, Graeme, was one of the major milestones for the year. Graeme had been prodding me to think about a blog format for my photo postings for quite some time so this was the year that it happened. I like to add text to the photos that I post. Although that works fine on Flickr for single photos, a blog format provides me with a better sense of continuity of thought and sequence of events when uploading a series of photos. In 2011, I intend to continue uploading to Flickr but will likely leave the story-telling here with my blog uploads.

Boxing Day 2010 has arrived with sunny skies and -10C temperatures a far different situation than Boxing Day 2009. Icicles on the Thule.

Rather than seeking out one “best” photos, here are some of the highlights of my year and some of the memories that keep me attached to my camera. Clicking on the thumbnail images in this annual review will take you to a larger version on my Flickr photostream or to the specific blog entry associated with that photo.

New Year's Eve Fireworks - Mont Tremblant, Quebec Photographing fireworks on the ski slopes of Mt. Tremblant in Quebec to end the old year (2009) and start the new year (2010).

With hands out they waited Kanata Badminton Club meeting on Jack Pine Trail Flickr Wakefield outing - March 16, 2010 - Unabridged Yup! Definitely tastes like Introducing complete strangers to the enjoyment of feeding the Chickadees or meeting friends out on Ottawa’s Greenbelt trails and enjoying the company of like-minded souls on outings with Ottawa’s Flickr groups

The creation of a masterpiece - Winterlude ice sculptures - Feb 2010 Crocuses in shock! +27C/81F today! Where there are dreams there is hope. Watching artists at work carving large blocks of ice into masterpieces at Ottawa’s Winterlude and then seeing another Spring arrive and being able to use my camera to help out in a small way at the Lower 9th Ward in New Orleans.

A project of Mairin Peck in Oregon Stonehaven Drive Fire - Kanata, Ontario Helping students achieve their goals and being glad that not all fires take lives.

Last campground site - Obatanga Provincial Park -  Breeding Bird Survey Road to Dubreuilville, Ontario 5AM Awaking many, many mornings at 4:30AM to conduct Breeding Bird Surveys for Environment Canada.

Full Moon - VMC 50th - Vincent Massey Collegiate, Winnipeg (Fort Garry), Manitoba Participating in some of the craziness of my school’s 50th anniversary reunion under the watchful eye of a full moon.

 The group The hosts of the show - Jennifer Podemski and Don Kelly - APTN Aboriginal Day Live! 2010 - Ottawa, Ontario Kinnie Starr - APTN Aboriginal Day Live! - Ottawa, Ontario Inez - APTN Aboriginal Day Live! Grandfather William Commanda, Algonquin Elder, Keeper of the Sacred Wampum Belts readies for greetings and opening ceremonies - APTN Aboriginal Day Live! - Ottawa, Ontario David Usher - Canada Day 2010 - Kanata, Ontario Photographing local events and concerts. I don’t normally take photos of people, so this was a new challenge for me. “Sloan” and “Monkey Junk” at Ottawa’s Westfest; “The Initial Reaction” and “Insensitivity Training” and “The Duck Wife” at Ottawa’s Fringe Festival; “Jennifer Podemski”, “Don Kelly”, “Kinnie Starr”, “Inez”, “Lucie Idlout”, “Digging Roots” and Algonquin elder, Grandfather William Commanda, at the APTN (Aboriginal People’s Television Network) broadcast; “David Usher” and “Elliot Brood” on Canada Day: and “Blue Rodeo” later in the year.

Grand Hall - Museum of Civilization Finally taking my camera to the Museum of Civilization, a much overdue totem pole experience.

Osgoode Medieval Festival 2010 -  Am I missing something?   :-) Taking Aim - Battle of the Thousand Islands 250th Anniversary Commemoration - Fort de la Presentation - Ogdensburg, NY Land Battle  - Battle of the Thousand Islands 250th Anniversary Commemoration - Fort de la Presentation - Ogdensburg, NY From the staircase - Boldt Castle, Heart Island, NY Pump House - Boldt Castle, Heart Island, NY Taking a step back in time at medieval festivals and re-enactments and restored “castles”.

Black and Yellow Argiope Spider Christina and the butterflies Cascade Mountain in the Adirondacks Running out of light! Experiencing the excitement of finding a bug, flower, bird or animal that I haven’t seen or photographed before or successfully testing my recuperated Achilles with a nice mountain climb with my wife, or just enjoying the thrill of another beautiful sunset.

Lion cub out for a morning stroll - Serengeti, Tanzania Lion in the Serengeti Lilac-breasted Roller Licking the lips. Mmm. Good. Of course, spending two weeks in Africa looking at lions, elephants, giraffes and exotic birds with Graeme does have its benefits and plenty of high points.

Photographing lights at night is always a favourite pastime especially when winter approaches and I don’t have to stay up all night to do it!

Shades of Nudity - Sculpture Garden - City Park, New Orleans Alien Communication Device - Canada Day 2010 , Kanata, Ontario And, finally, to finish off this rather long post, there is the enjoyment that I get when wondering what people think when they search on words like “nude men” or “alien communication devices ” and arrive at my on-line offerings :-).

Fireworks - Canada Day 2010 in Kanata Not sure where I will be on New Year’s Eve but, hopefully, I will find more fireworks to photograph where ever I end up being.

Have a Happy New Year everyone!

Cascade Mountain trail, Adirondacks High Peaks Region

When I’m hiking on my own and staying in a tent, breakfast can be a rather meager and stark affair, but my wife was with me this trip so, breakfast was a bit more sumptuous. Nothing against the law about eating well before climbing in the Adirondacks, I guess, so I ate well this morning :-).

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Lake Placid and Mirror Lake, New York

We had arrived the night before and were staying at the Mirror Lake Inn.  Weather continued to be rather unpredictable. The drizzle of the night before had subsided but low menacing clouds continued to hover over the valley. It was one of those types of days where sitting inside in front of a nice warm fireplace seemed to make sense. Although an interesting thought, that thought was not congruous with something that I might have wanted to do in the middle of an August day.

Even though the fireplace and the possibility of tea service had some appeal to my wife, we decided to take a chance on the weather and go for a walk around mirror lake. She got to carry the umbrella 🙂

Adirondack Community Church

The walk around Mirror Lake is a combination of sidewalks and roadways and provides many unhindered views of the lake itself, the community of Lake Placid and Mirror Lake on the opposite shores and, on a clear day, the surrounding hills.

The shore walk is quite pleasant and as we passed, we moved from open expanses into more wooded terrain before arriving back at the Inn to plan the rest of the day. The umbrella had been needed for a few moments during the walk but the weather was clearing a bit so we decided, as we walked past the entrance to Northwood School, to take a chance and take the drive to the summit of Whiteface Mountain.

Snowshoeing up to Mt. Marcy, High Peaks Region, Adirondack Mountains

Snowshoeing up to Mt. Marcy, High Peaks Region, Adirondack Mountains

Joined up with Tom Bissegger of Brampton, Ontario for a weekend winter camping and snowshoeing trip to Mt. Marcy in the Adirondack Mountains of New York State. The goal was to camp out at Marcy Dam on Friday evening and then the next morning don snowshoes again and hike to the summit of Mt. Marcy.

Despite the -15C temperatures and forecast breezes, I made the mistake of overdressing by a layer or two and overheated early on. I had to reduce my speed substantially to keep my body temperature down.  That meant that I had more time for photography but ended up making much slower progress along the trail. As seen in the photos, most of the trail was well wooded and I had anticipated a bit more of the trail to be open to the breezes. Oh well, will know better for next time. Had a good time anyway and the scenery was fantastic with all of that fresh snow.

There were a few side trails that would have been open in the summer but during the winter the snow quickly blocked all but the well traveled trails. Lots of tree markers too so unlikely to get ‘lost’ but some do every year in the High Peaks Region and require rescuing.

As the heavy snow causes the spruce boughs to bend in over the trail, it is important to keep your head and neck covered or else a gust of wind will drop a load of snow on the unprepared hiker.

The initial few miles of the trail is through fairly thick bush so tough to see the sun but once we reached this spot on the trail, at the Indian Falls cut-off, it was nice to get out in the open for a bit to see the blue sky and the surrounding terrain. A biting wind made for a very short break and getting back onto the sheltered trail was soon the goal.

With about 1.5 miles to go to the summit we began to encounter shorter and shorter trees as we got closer to the tree line. There would be a few ups and downs before we actually got above the tree line but by this point we were beginning to notice that there was a decent breeze blowing to further cool us off.

Tom had gone on ahead when I had decided to slow down due ot overheating. WHen I reached this spot and could finally see the summit, I knew that with my energy fading and time beginning to become a factor, I wouldn’t likely make it to the top on this trip. When, a short distance later I came upon another sign indicating that I still had 1.2 miles to go and a good climb as well, I knew that I knew for sure that I wouldn’t make it to the top this time around.

From this point on I just followed the trail upward so expecting to meet Tom on his way back down. The snow caked on the trees and the bright blue skies made for a beautiful time and I was on a section of the trail that, although open, was relatively sheltered from the biting wind.

It wasn’t too much further along on the trail, when I met Tom on his way back. Although he had made pretty good progress, he found that the wind right into the face, once he got above the tree line, was making things just a bit too dangerous to continue.

As we headed back down toward Marcy Dam, a look out over the scenic landscape confirmed that we had come quite a way and climbed quite a bit but the peak would have to wait for another day.

Trail info (from ADK High Peaks Region guidebook):

Van Hoevenberg Trail to Mt. Marcy

Distance from Trailhead (one-way):
To Marcy Dam – 2.3 miles
To Indian Falls – 4.4 miles
To Summit of Mt. Marcy – 7.4 miles

Ascent: 3166 ft (965 m)
Elevation: 5344 ft. (1629 m)

How far did I travel on snowshoes?
On the Friday – 3 trips between parking lot and Marcy dam = 6.9 miles
On the Saturday – just short of the tree-line from Marcy Dam and then back to the parking lot = approximately 10 miles.

A couple of Tom’s photos to show what it looked like a bit higher up.

Edit: I went back a few weeks later. Weather wasn’t quite as nice but I got closer to the peak before turning back.




Adirondacks, High Peaks Region, Trails 13 & 15

Adirondacks, High Peaks Region, Trails 13 & 15

There are 46 peaks in the Adirondacks High Peaks Region that are 4,000 feet or more in elevation and there is a 46er club for those who have climbed all 46. I have now done two so still have a long ways to go. I enjoy the exercise, photographing what I see along the trails and meeting the many wonderful people who are out there on the trails doing the same thing.

I have included the Adirondack Mountain Club trail numbers in the photo titles. For those who have traveled these trails before me or with me, I hope that the photos bring back fond memories of wonderful experiences in beautiful country.

My son and I started the day fairly early at the Marcy Field airfield parking lot near Keene, NY.  (location) There is a shuttle bus from there to the trail-heads at the Gardens parking lot. The Gardens parking lot fills up very early most mornings during the summer, so the shuttle is kept pretty busy all day.

Janet from New York City, Ken and his niece from the US and a couple from the Montreal area joined up with us along the way so that, by the time that we reached the highest point for the day, we were a loose knit group of seven hikers.

I stop for Bald Eagles in flight but I also stop for Caterpillars. Today, it was a caterpillar that caught my attention and just forced me to stop going uphill.

It isn’t really a large as this macro image might imply but when something like this comes rolling down a trail in the middle of nowhere and comes to rest at my feet, it is certain to get my attention.

By the time that I had stopped to take my shots of the caterpillar, the other members of our loose group were well ahead of me on the trail and I had to move along rather quickly to try and catch up. Of course, as soon as I got closer, I would find another reason to stop and take more photos and fall behind again. For the most part, this trail combination is in wooded areas, but does break out into the open often enough to offer up some beautiful views across the valley at more of the High Peaks.

The couple from Montreal joined our small group while I was stopped to take yet another panoramic shot of the valley. We tended to play leap frog along the path after that, since they would catch up about the time that I was finished photographing and, while they stopped to enjoy the view, I moved along to try to close the distance between me and the ones at the front.

It was the time of the year when blueberries were still around in some areas but even though there were not too many berries along the path, their foliage was just beginning to show Autumn colours.

After a bit of time on an open rock face, the trail once again would plunge back into the woods and lead us on to the next peak which was just that little bit higher :-).

As we climbed higher, and closer to our high point for the day, the going got a bit more difficult.  Not too much of a problem for everyone else but definitely a bit of a problem for me with my camera equipment hanging around my neck. Janet headed up first, Alan followed and I brought up the rear. Two more were just ahead of us and two more were just out of sight behind us so that, by the time we all gathered at the top, we were a loose-knit group of seven.

Once we all got out into the open on the nice flat rock at the top of the climb, it was photo taking time.  Alan had to back into the bushes to get the widest angel possible and Janet decided to do here best to get a self-portrait without falling off the ledge and I just caught my breath and took a few shots of my own.


After awhile at the top of the mountain, we all found the trail marker again and headed back to the parking lot, some taking the same route back as we had come but some of us headed back via a separate trail that took us down through a valley following a creek most of the way. Definitely easier going down than climbing up but we knew that we would need to keep our pace up in order to arrive back at the trail head before dark. As it turned out, it was dark when we got back tot he parking lot and the last shuttle had departed. We were able to arrange a ride back to our car and a long day in the mountains came to a successful conclusion.


Cascade Mountain, High Peaks Region, Adirondacks

High Peaks Wilderness Area - Trail Head for Cascade Mtn and Porter Mtn

Cascade Mountain, High Peaks Region, Adirondacks

I had to be half way to Boston, MA later in the day, but when I woke up, packed my tent and apparel back into my car and looked around, I decided that it was as good a day as any to climb one of the “High Peaks”. I spoke to a group of fellows in the Adirondack LOJ campground and they recommended Cascades Mountain because of its relatively straight forward trail and the proximity of the trailhead to the highway. Right on the highway, actually.

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Mount Jo, Trail #77, High Peaks Region, Adirondack Mountains

Mount Jo, Trail #77, High Peaks Region, Adirondack Mountains

Mt. Jo (2876 ft) is not one of the 46 “high peaks” but the trail is certainly a fun one to climb. It starts innocently enough close to the Adirondack Loj and Heart Lake. Two routes to the peak are well maintained. The short route rises about 700 feet in a bit over a mile of hiking distance (1.8km) while the longer trail features a more gradual climb of about 1.3 miles (2.1km).

October 12, 2006 – I chose the short route which heads up through a field of boulders and offered an interesting challenge especially since it was approaching dusk and a drizzle was falling and the temperature was hovering around zero at the summit.

An early glimpse of the boulder field yet to come.

Difficult to show the change in elevation but the trail at this point had definitely begun to tilt upward and the boulders were slippery so I tried to step around them and not on them.

Many of the trails in the mountain areas of the NE USA feature sections where one must climb through granite boulders left behind when glaciers retreated from the area many, many years ago.

Boulders, boulders, and more boulders.

Although the leaves did not present much of a problem on the way up, they certainly added to the danger on the way back down as the rain intensified and temperatures hovered around freezing making everything super slippery.

Most of the trail is in hardwood forest but does shift to conifers near the summit.

On the first time up the trail this is about the most that I saw of the surrounding mountain peaks as the weather was closing in quite quickly.

Looking back down on Heart Lake, about 700 feet or so below.

The rain was coming down quite heavily by the time that I reached the summit so I didn’t stay there too long. The view was for the most part basic grey in all directions with just a glimpse of a the surrounding peaks every so often.

Not too many other climbers in this sort of weather but I was passed by this climber who waited at the summit to make sure I made it. We headed back down together but she soon disappeared from sight. As well as moving up and down mountains faster than I do, she told me she is a sketcher and painter specializing in bob sled events and hoped to be doing so at the next Winter Olympics.

The climber I met at the summit soon disappeared into the rain and mist once we had navigated off the steeper sections of the trail.

Heart Lake in the Adirondacks. Located at the base of Mt. Jo and next to the lakeside location of the ADK LOJ.

I was staying at the campground maintained by ADK at the base of the trail and was happy that I was off the mountain trail before dark considering that weather conditions continued to deteriorate.

The next morning I climbed up Mt. Jo again to see what it looked like with blue sky overhead. Then I headed over to Cascade Mountain to climb that one before heading further east