Adirondack Adventure Part II
Day 1 - Marcy – Skylight – Grey
Marcy #1 of 46 high peaks, 5,344elevation
Skylight #4 of 46 high peaks, 4,926 elevation
Grey #7 of 46 high peaks, 4,840 elevation
This is the big one – the #1 high peak in the Adirondacks! Completing Mount Marcy is an accomplishment all on its own with an elevation of 5,344 feet, an ascent of 3,166 feet and a 15 mile round trip hike. The trail itself is fairly approachable for the average hiker, but what really matters here is stamina. Leaving from Adirondack Loj it is safe to say you can summit within 3 to 4 hours, perhaps longer if you like to take more frequent breaks. When we hike we like to push through as best we can, stopping frequently for water, but we don’t take too much time to sit and rest. Perhaps we were also feeling particularly motivated because we had intentions to add on a few extra peaks if time and energy allowed for it.
Summiting Marcy was a steady and gradual process with no big surprises along the way, though obviously tough and challenging at times. We were really lucky with the weather, so views from the top were sunny, bright and clear – 360 degree views from all around!
After reaching the top we had a nice long break and decided that we had the time, energy and determination to keep going. It’s funny, once you make it up you find yourself in a strangely euphoric state feeling as though you MUST climb more! So we did. From Marcy, Skylight is a mere 0.7 miles away and Gray another 0.4 miles away – when you have already come that far, that little bit extra just seems like nothing.
Skylight was a little more challenging than I anticipated. Some parts of the trail were very steep and grueling, but views from the top are gorgeous and the summit itself was much quieter than Marcy. After another break to hang out, enjoy the views and re-energize, we continued on to Gray. The trail to Gray peak is not on the maps, but the trail is well marked and easy to follow. Gray was quite a fun and short summit with some scrambling and minor rock climbing opportunities, though there wasn’t too much to say about the view. Gray does not have a bald summit, so you are kind of sitting on a rock among the trees with Marcy to your left and Skylight dead ahead.
It was after all the excitement of summiting three mountains had passed that we realized just how far we still had to go in order to finish off the day. We began the long treacherous hike back to the Loj taking the route along Lake Arnold. The miles seemed to go by so slowly, my feet were throbbing, the pain radiated into my knees and then to my hips – this was by far the most difficult part of the day! When we finally stumbled out into the parking lot at the Loj we had been hiking for a solid 12 hours! NEVER AGAIN, we thought… or at least until next year…
Day 2 – Cascade – Porter
Cascade #36 of 46 high peaks, 4,098 elevation
Porter #38 of 46 high peaks, 4,060 elevation
Needless to say when we went to bed after our 12-hour day, we did not set our alarms to be up at the crack of dawn to tackle some more mountains. We decided to wake up naturally, see how we feel and make a game plan.
The body is a strange and funny thing, and I am always amazed at its healing powers. It is amazing what a good nights rest can do for an aching body! Apart from a few slightly raw places on our feet and a creaky knee here or there (man that makes me feel old), we felt pretty fantastic. We were not about to let the day go wasted, so we headed out to tackle Cascade and Porter Mountain.
Cascade is one of the most popular high peaks in the Adirondacks because it is so approachable for people of all fitness levels and parking is right at the trailhead. It is a short few hour venture, and Porter is a quick and easy addition to mark another high peak off the list.
Our hiking legs and lungs must have been jacked because we summited Cascade in an hour, it was quick, intense and a nice change to the slow agony of Marcy. Cascade was definitely busy, so pack your patience if you are wanting to move at a decent clip. Views from the top are gorgeous, so take a break and let it all soak in.
If you have made it to Cascade, you might as well climb Porter at the same time since it is a short 0.7 jaunt away. Porter has no mark at the top and the summit is somewhat still under tree cover, so it might be easy to miss. If you start going downhill again, you have passed it!
After making it to the bottom I highly recommend checking out Cascade Lake, which is just at the base of the mountain. There is a small park area with picnic benches and beach, and it is the perfect way to relax and refresh – your feet will be oh so grateful!
Day 3 - Gothics
Gothics #10 of 46 high peaks, 4732 elevation
When doing research, both online and by word of mouth on the trail, I kept hearing about how challenging but rewarding Gothics was. Perhaps the appeal came from its dramatic name or these words of caution, but we decided to embark on Gothics our final day in Lake Placid. It is a bit of a slow start down an unpaved road, then through a golf and country club, then through a paved road leading who knows where! But after this 2 mile walk you will make it to the trailhead, and it is immediately beautiful.
Gothics has been my favourite high peaks hike so far. First, it is a little less traveled so you can’t help but feel like you have the trail to yourself. Second, it has a lot of variety – forest, bog, waterfalls, steep latters, scrambling, and getting all four limbs moving. It is definitely a more technical climb, but I found this part of it a lot of fun! Third, the trail is beautiful. From lush forests, to waterfalls, to the gorgeous views at the top, and of course the variety of unspoiled nature along the way. We worked hard but took our time, just wanting to enjoy our last day in the mountains. The summitcame on surprisingly quickly and offered spectacular 360 views, though some pesky tiny bugs had us moving on a little quicker than we would have liked.
After finishing the long grueling 2 miles on the road back to the car we headed back to Cascade Lake for a little swim and barbeque – what a great idea it was, the perfect end to a long day on the trail.
Where We Stayed
We played it cheap and booked a room with Cascade Bunkhouse. This is a ski lodge and pub/restaurant in the winter, but most of their services are closed for the summer time. This is a fairly bare bones no frills accommodation. It is a place to sleep and shower, but not much more than that.
Location – Location couldn’t get much better. It is outside of downtown Lake Placid, a few miles from Adirondack Loj and on the major highway toward the Keene Valley. All of our hiking was a short drive away.
Facilities – We had a private room with bunk beds and shared washroom. There is not much to say about the facilities – very basic and clean enough. No kitchen though – so if you are hoping to do your own cooking you are out of luck, unless you are like us and you brought your camping stuff – then you can cook out back on the deck.
Cost – This was the cheapest accommodation we could find, but even at $104 per night, it still feels like a lot for what it was! Not a bad place to stay if you just need a place to stay, but next time I would pay a little more for a little more comfort.
Money Saving Tips
-Pack some of your camp gear and you have the beauty of cooking for yourself anywhere! We cooked dinner at the guesthouse once or twice, we boiled eggs for our hikes, and we even had little cook outs at the lake. Doing this gave us the ability to save a few dollars and make the experience a little more our own.