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Lead us to the Wright stuff

We’re just back from the high peaks region of the Adirondacks putting a period on a two week long vacation that has taken us from Washington D.C. to Weirton, WV, Niagara Falls, Canada, and finally Lake Placid, NY. Sounds like a crazy trip but it’s been quite good with no more than six hours of car travel between each of our destinations, great family visits—my dad met us in DC and we spent several days with Kathy’s family in Weirton—and excellent sightseeing of the sort that we don’t usually undertake on vacation.

The high peaks were the planned highlight of our trip as we’d hoped to hike to the top of Mount Marcy, the highest mountain in New York. But after checking the weather for the day that we planned to hike it became clear that Marcy was not going to be possible. Friday morning, it appeared, was going to bring rain and thunderstorms and we didn’t want to get caught on a ten hour hike to the highest peak in the state with that kind of storm looming. So, on the advice of a waitress at Lisa G’s restaurant—a primo local joint that beats the pants off of any other restaurant in town—we decided to attempt Algonquin Peak—the Adirondack’s second highest peak—on Thursday instead.

As Thursday was originally planned as a light day, we slept in, had breakfast at the hotel, grabbed some sandwiches for the trail (again from Lisa G’s) and headed out to the Adirondack Loj trailhead which was about 15 minutes down the road from our hotel. We ended up hitting the trail at just after 1:00 PM, which was much later than we should have started. not dangerously late, just hot afternoon, middle of the day late. The kind of late that has you drinking all of your water much sooner than is reasonable. The “I didn’t bring a water filter” kind of late the leaves you parched—or giardic—by the end of the hike.

We had two books in hand to help us along as we hiked. Barbara McMartin’s 50 Hikes in the Adirondacks and the Adirondack Mountain Club’s Adirondack Trails High Peaks Region trail guide. The ADK’s book is excellent and includes a topo map in the back with clear markings for all the trails in the region, but 50 Hikes was the book we used as our guide to select the trail we’d hike for the day. McMartin’s book stated that Algonquin Peak was a moderate hike that would take us about 6 hours to hike out and back.

The Adirondack Loj trailhead was as wide as a super hi-way and nearly as crowded, although most of the people we saw were walking in the opposite direction. In all Kathy and I figure that we saw about 50 people on the trail, including two groups of 10+ kids that were part of a local camp. Even with the crowds the trail was beautiful. The evergreens gave it both the smell and the feel of Twain Harte, where I spent all of my summers as a kid, and every turn revealed a different vista, from stone steps to a slow-running but beautiful waterfall.

Algonquin Trail

Algonquin Trail

Algonquin Trail

About three hours into the journey we were no where near the top of Algonquin Peak and the kids (and I admit it the adults too) were feeling pretty toasty. We’d finished drinking about 1/2 our water, hadn’t eaten our late lunch and weren’t certain how much further we could afford to go forward before we’d end up hiking the return trip in the dark with the aid of headlamps. About 30 minutes earlier we’d met a ranger on the trail who suggested that we forgo Algonquin and head for Wright Peak. “Same view,” he said, “but you’ll be able to get out and back again before dark. The last 9/10 of a mile on Algonquin Peak is going to take you at least an hour to get up.” I wasn’t buying that until about 15 minutes later when I met a 10-year-old girl coming back on the trail who looked at me like I was crazy when I told her father where we were headed. 10 years old, and much wiser, she said, “You’ll never make that today.”

Out of the mouth of babes…

At the split for Algonquin and Wright we went left, which was Wright, and hustled the last half mile to the top. It was steep and challenging but the ranger was correct, the view from Wright was beautiful. A complete panorama of the entire High Peaks region. And, while the trip up had seemed like a super hi-way, we enjoyed the top of the mountain all alone. Not a soul in sight for miles.

Going back was rough but good. The downhill trudge wreaked havoc with Kathy’s knees, but seven hours after we started we were back at the Loj and ready to head to dinner.

Back in the hotel and ready for bed I fired up my MacBook to see why a six hour hike was going to end up taking us about nine hours. Well… if you look closely at the link above you’ll note that Algonquin Peak is listed as a NINE HOUR hike. So either this is one ugly typo in 50 Hikes in the Adirondacks or Barbara McMartin is a serious mountain goat. (Just in case you’re wondering… I’m not going to go the other direction here and say that I’m a wuss…) The seven hours listed on this web page for the Wright hike, by the way, was right on target.

Lovely hike to be sure. We all had a great time and Wright Peak put a perfect period on our high peaks vacation.

Wright Peak