Kingdom Trails & the Adirondack High Peaks

A few months ago I was helping a friend clean up his house for selling and he mentioned coming to Vermont to help him with his booth during Nembafest. After some deliberation, I rented a car for a full week with the intent to drive to Vermont, then come home through the Adirondacks. I am not sure I’ve driven much more than 10 hours total in the last 5 years, and have definitely never driven that far in one day.

Nembafest was super fun! I didn’t get to ride a ton because it rained on Friday, but a guy I met at Big Bear last summer decided to come up so we did a loop on Saturday (we had to find the infamous Sidewinder trail). then on Sunday I demoed a few bikes. The trails there were all really well built and drained quickly (given that it POURED on Friday). I didn’t get to do any of the more technical stuff on the other side of the park, and would want to take another few cracks at Sidewinder… so think a longer trip may be in order.

Sunday night I headed straight for the free parking spots on South Meadow (in the Marcy Dam area). It started storming so the drive was a little nerve wracking. When I got there, I got out of the car to set up my tent and saw some lightening (and was assaulted by mosquitoes) so I decided to sleep in the car. Unfortunately the mosquitoes followed me into the car, but the storm was loud enough that I didn’t hear them buzzing around too much.

Monday morning I managed to wake up pretty early. I had it in my head that I would play it by ear because of the weather, but I headed out and optimistically put “Gray, Skylight, Marcy” on the sign in sheet. This was an 18 mile hike up three of the high peaks. I took the truck trail into Marcy Dam, which was uneventful and not wildly scenic. Marcy Dam was pretty neat though.

After Marcy Dam, the trail got quite a bit steeper and rockier. All of the water crossings were high, some of the board walkways were completely under water so I didn’t stay dry for very long. After one of the rougher crossings I definitely thought about turning around, realizing that there was no quick way out if the weather did get bad. I also debated on rerouting to a much shorter trail (cutting through to Indian Falls) but the water was so high at the trail intersection that I opted out. I told myself I could sit and eat some food when I reached the Feldspar lean to (maybe 7-8 miles in?) At that point, I was seriously wondering about my decision making. The trails were rocky enough, and the water was high enough that any misstep could end with me soaking wet and alone in the woods or worse, knocked out in the fast running water.

By some chance, some kids came out of the Feldspar campsite and were heading to Mount Skylight. They let me tag along… they were much quicker than I was, but seemed to be ok with waiting for me. At first I told them they could go without me and they didn’t, then after a while I absolutely did not want to be hiking alone anymore.

The climb up Skylight was steep and I’m pretty sure it was a creek, not just rain water. And of course, once we got to the top it was too foggy to see anything. It was also significantly chillier but still cool. At this point, I had decided that I would do the return trip with the kids I was hiking with instead of climbing Marcy alone (with a chance of storms). My route would have been shorter for me, and it looked like the elevation changes were less steep so (in theory) less rocky… but I didn’t want to be hiking by myself.

Hiking back from Skylight, we went by Lake Colden & through Avalanche Pass. All beautiful, but very rough. Lots of janky ladders, bridges, and big rocks to climb over (the entire trail by the lake was climbing over large rocks with a steep fall). My knees were both screaming at me, to the extent that I was having trouble stepping down off of rocks and ledges. I didn’t stop at all, realizing that with my slow moving and crazy pain I would barely make it back before sunset.

At this point, most of the kids I was hiking with started moving a lot faster than me – luckily one hung back and made sure I made it over the crazy stuff. Once we got to regular rocky trail, he moved ahead to find the rest but told me he’d wait at the trail intersection. It took me FOREVER to get to them, at that point they had to split quickly to make it to their car in time to drive home. I had a few miles to go by myself, but they were significantly less rocky. I limped through Marcy Dam & up the truck trail. I had decided that I would pay whatever it cost to sleep at the LOJ and if they didn’t have any rooms available, I’d find one somewhere.

The sunset from the LOJ was beautiful! Unfortunately as soon as I stepped out of my car I started crazy shivering and could barely walk, so I didn’t step down to the lake to see it.

The LOJ was actually pretty cool, I’m glad I ended up staying there. I slept in the Loft, but there were only two other women in there. I immediately took a shower, then put my legs up the wall by my bed. Sometime around midnight I stumbled down to the front desk to ask for ice because the pain was becoming pretty terrible. They also gave me extra pillows to keep it elevated. In the morning I went down for breakfast, and an older (76, he said) volunteer sat across from me and asked if I ever did anything about my leg. Don’t think I talked to him the day before so that was interesting to me. He talked about maintaining the trails in Long Island, and different places that he has volunteered. He expressed concern about me driving home since it was my right leg that wasn’t working.

Driving home, a weird thing happened… for the last several miles of hiking I pretty much had decided it wasn’t my thing and that I’d never be back. In the car, however, I decided that it was actually kind of fun an that I’d just never go alone again (and I’d be a little more prepared in case I ended up stuck out overnight).

 

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