NY-Mount Marcy

The three of us at the summit marker just below the actual summit.

Summit Date

August 12, 2017 (around 11:00 am)

Party

Ryan Cragun, Mark Woolley, Tom Triplett

Trip Report

In my big swing across the US that allowed me to complete most of the highpoints in the Northeast in 2013, I didn’t manage to fit in Mount Marcy. It’s a solid day hike, and I just didn’t have the time. I ended up arranging a trip to Lake Placid, NY specifically to hike Mount Marcy, with my two hiking buddies.

We all flew into Newark on Friday, August 11th, picked up a rental car, then headed to Lake Placid, stopping in Albany for dinner and food to take up on our hike the next day. We arrived kind of late (close to 11:00 pm) and planned an early start the next morning (on the mountain at 7:00) in order to hopefully avoid the impending rain storm that was forecast for the next day.

The trip reports we read about the hike varied quite a bit. Some suggested it was really challenging, with a lot of uphill and rugged terrain. Others suggested it wasn’t that challenging and was a pleasant hike. We also got variable times and distances for the hike. Some trip reports suggested it would take as short as 4 hours while others suggested as many as 15 (that’s a pretty big range). Mileage estimates were also varied, though with a smaller range, hovering between 12 and 17 miles. Because of all the varied estimates, we planned for a 10 to 12 hour, 17-mile hike, just to be safe. As it turns out, using my GPS enabled watch, I now have much more accurate information on the hike.

We stayed at a B&B in Lake Placid, got up at 6:00 am, and drove straight to the Adirondack Loj. There is a parking fee there ($5.00), and by the time we arrived just before 7:00 am, the lot was getting pretty full. This is obviously a popular destination for hikers. We got our boots and gear on, did some stretching (a requirement once you hit 40), signed the register, and hit the trail.

We made good time for the first three miles or so, covering them in about an hour. The first three miles of the trail are fairly level and it is mostly a well-maintained dirt trail, with a few roots, rocks, and other small objects in the way. But around the 3-mile mark, there was a noticeable shift in the trail and terrain. Not only was there substantially more uphill terrain, but it became rocky to the point that at times you are literally boulder hopping.

Me on a nice patch of the more rugged terrain.
Me on a nice patch of the more rugged terrain.

I’ve climbed a lot of mountains and was impressed with how rugged this trail got. This is not a trail you’d want to attempt in light tennis shoes (unless you’re an experienced trail runner); sturdy boots are a very good idea for this hike, ideally with good ankle support. We didn’t make as good of time on the remaining 4 miles to the summit but still did fairly well.

We arrived at the summit at just under 4 hours. When we arrived, the summit was completely enshrouded with clouds. We had no view whatsoever. We spent about 40 minutes on the summit, eating a little food and chatting with the forest ranger on the top who was reminding people to avoid the vegetation, which they are trying to get to grow back.

The three of us at the summit marker just below the actual summit.
The three of us at the summit marker just below the actual summit.

Alas, about 20 minutes after we dropped off the summit, the clouds broke and we finally had some nice views. It was at this point I took a photosphere:

We got better photos at this point, but we were still worried about the impending rain storm. The top of the mountain is largely exposed rock that wouldn’t be all that fun to ascend or descend in the rain. As a result, we opted not to return to the summit and instead to continue our descent. We stopped a few times on the way down to take advantage of some of the toilets that are along the trail and took a quick detour to the waterfall that is also fairly close to the trail. With our detours and stops, we returned to the parking lot in just under 8 hours. The distance on my watch indicated exactly 15 miles. So, there you have it – it is a 15-mile hike. Our average moving pace was 26 minutes per mile. If you know how quickly you can move on fairly rugged terrain, you should be able to estimate how long the hike will take you. We were passed by a couple who were clearly trail runners. They were the only ones moving more quickly than we were and they probably did the entire hike in 6 1/2 hours. I can see how this hike would easily take 12 hours if you’re not an avid hiker and in good shape. It is genuinely rugged terrain, particularly after the 3-mile mark, and you should be prepared for it.

Obviously, if you can, try to go on a nice day. The views from the top are supposed to be quite nice. But even hiking in cloudy conditions, the terrain was pretty. We passed through multiple types of forest – pine and maple – and really enjoyed ourselves.

Panorama

Directions

Triple Falls Trail – Dupont Forest, North Carolina

I was attending a conference in Asheville, NC, and had half of a day free.  Rather than stay cooped up in my hotel, and knowing there were hills in the area, myself and my colleagues, took a trip out to Dupont Forest to hike Triple Falls.

We didn’t have a lot of time – just about an hour and a half.  That worked well for the hike as it isn’t particularly long.  Also, there was a risk of rain.  There was a light drizzle in the surrounding area as we approached the hike, and a light mist at times for parts of the hike.  The light mist was nice as it cooled us down while we climbed the hilly sections.

Here are a few videos from the hike:

We made it to the top of the falls fairly quickly. Here are a couple of videos of the scenic view from the covered bridge that crosses the river just above the top fall:

Just as we were headed out of the covered bridge, which provided some protection from any possible rain, the rain really picked up.  It lasted for about 20 minutes and got us pretty wet. Despite getting soaked, it was a fun hike and I’m sure even more delightful on a bright, sunny day.

Here’s the GPS track:

Hiking in Silver Springs State Park

I was invited to give a presentation to a freethought group in Ocala and thought it might be a good opportunity to explore a little more of Florida.  I looked up hikes near Ocala and found Silver Springs State Park.  From what we were told by some of the people where I gave my presentation, Silver Springs used to be a privately owned amusement park and Florida’s first tourist attraction. Apparently, the park fell on hard times and eventually was taken over by the state.  Now it’s a state park with boat rides on the springs and some hiking trails.

My presentation was supposed to be in the early afternoon, so we decided to go to Silver Springs State Park in the morning, try to get a hike in, go to my presentation, and then come back for another hike afterward.

We got a bit later start than we had hoped as we had to pick up a few supplies before we left Tampa.  We got to the park around 11:30 and walked through the main area where they sell boat rides and have a restaurant.

Toren and Ryan at Silver Spring State Park
Toren and Ryan at Silver Spring State Park

We managed to get in a short hike in the primary part of the park before we had to leave for my presentation. We did a newly created hike called Creek Trail, which wasn’t much of a hike.  It looped around in a circle, with Silver Springs Blvd. on one side and Silver River on the other side.  It did give a bit of a sample of what Florida’s natural land looks like, but it was a very quick taste.  Here’s the route:

We had to leave after the hike to get to my presentation on time.  The presentation went well and then we went to a late lunch with some of the people who were at the presentation.  After lunch, we headed back into the park to do another hike.  This one was a bit longer.  It took us through some Florida wilderness and eventually to the Silver River, as seen in this photo.

Debi and Toren by Silver River
Debi and Toren by Silver River

The trail then looped back around.  This was called the Swamp Trail; here’s the route:

After that hike it was getting dark, so we headed out for a bite to eat and headed home.  It was a fun little outing.  No elevation gain, of course, but a good chance to stretch our legs in Florida wilderness.

Half Dome – Yosemite National Park

I was in Northern California on a speaking tour but had a couple of days while I was there that I didn’t have any speaking engagements.  I had combined the speaking tour with a conference I was attending in Seattle, the plan being that I would travel to several locations in California to talk about my books then fly to Seattle for the conference before heading home.

The day before I was to fly to Seattle ended up being free with no speaking engagements.  I knew that a few days in advance, so I decided to put in for a permit to climb Half Dome in Yosemite.  Whenever I tell someone from California that I like to hike, they invariably ask me if I have hiked Half Dome.  They all seem to think it is the greatest hike in the world.  In order to be able to tell them that I had hiked Half Dome, I figured I’d put in for the permit and, if I was lucky enough to get it, I’d make a quick trip out to Yosemite, hike Half Dome, then head back to Sacramento to catch my flight the next morning.

I had a speaking engagement on the 17th in San Jose in the evening.  I also found out I got my permit on the 17th, so I had to inform the people who were going to host me that night that I was going to drive out to Yosemite instead.  The presentation went well.  After signing books and chatting for a bit, I took off for Yosemite around 9 pm.  It was about a 4-hour drive.

I asked my wife to help me out by trying to find me a place to stay near or in the park so I could drive straight there, crash for a few hours, then start my hike.  She ended up finding me a cabin in the park.  Luckily, the office for the campground is open all night, so when I pulled in around 1:30, they were open, handed me my key, and gave me a map to show me where to catch the shuttle to the trailhead for Half Dome.  I headed to the cabin and went straight to bed – around 2 am.

I got up around 6:30, packed up, checked out of the cabin, then geared up and caught the shuttle to the trailhead.  There were quite a few people on the bus and most were getting off at the Half Dome trailhead.  After I got off the bus, I made a quick decision to take the steeper trail to get away from the herd of people.  It was a good decision.  After I reached the first waterfall (Vernal Fall) and first set of stairs, the crowds started to thin.

By the time I reached the top of Nevada Falls, there were very few people hiking on the trail.

I continued to push my pace as I still had to summit, hike back out, and then drive to Sacramento that night.  I passed a few people who asked me if I had a permit, as they didn’t and weren’t sure if someone was going to check for permits.  Sure enough, about a mile and a half below the cables, there were rangers checking for permits.  I had mine and showed it to them, but they were turning others away.

I made it to the cables after about 2 1/2 hours, where there was, unfortunately, a massive group of very slow climbers.  I ended up helping a woman who was afraid of heights make it up the cables, but it took me almost 45 minutes with her and her slow-moving friends in front of me.  I was happy to help and it made for interesting conversation.

After I got to the top, I took about 20 minutes to grab a bite to eat and air out my feet, changing my socks in the process.  It was still fairly early, but the heat was starting to rise and my sweaty feet need to breathe.

Wary that I would get caught behind other rather slow hikers on the way down, I didn’t want to stay long.  As it turns out, I did get stuck behind a very slow couple, but they eventually let me pass them.  It is definitely true that you can make good time getting to the cables, but the cables are a traffic jam just waiting to happen.

Here I am just below the cables with Half Dome in the background.
Here I am just below the cables with Half Dome in the background.

After getting past the cables, I tried to move pretty fast on the way down.  I did, however, stop just above Nevada Fall to let my feet cool off.  I pulled my boots and socks off and soaked them in the river for about 10 minutes as they were getting really hot.  It felt amazing.

From there, it was a quick trip back to the bottom.

Here’s my route:

Total hiking time was 6 hours and 45 minutes to cover 15.1 miles with 6,216 feet of elevation gain across the hike.

Half Dome was a cool hike.  Is it the most amazing hike I’ve ever done?  No.  It was beautiful in spots, and the waterfalls were really pretty.  But it has a serious competitor with Zion National Park, where the cliffs are equally amazing and the slot canyons are other-worldly.  I have been to lots of places that are stunningly beautiful.  I’d definitely do this hike again, but I think it might be more fun to hike half way and camp, summit, then hike out, giving yourself plenty of time to get stuck on the cables and to enjoy the river and scenery.  Sorry, Californians, Half Dome is cool, but it’s not the best hike I’ve done.

Point Lobos, California Hike

While on a book speaking tour in California, I had a few days where I didn’t have any talks.  One one of those days, while I was staying in Santa Cruz, I drove down the coast to Point Lobos State Natural Reserve.  I was using my down time to get some work done but also needed some exercise.

I had to park along the freeway, as the parking lot was full.  As I walked in, I asked the woman in the booth what trails she would recommend for someone who wanted a good workout.  She suggested climbing to the highest point in the park, Whaler’s Knoll.  I made a note of that, then headed out.

Based on the map I had, I thought it made the most sense to try to do a big loop, with a side trip up to the highpoint for some elevation gain.  I headed mostly northwest, to begin with, worked my way around the edge of the Reserve, took a detour up to the top of the Reserve, then returned to finish my loop around the edge.  I ended up back where I started, doing about 5 miles of hiking and seeing most of the Reserve.

Sea lions nest on part of the Reserve.  While I was there, that spot was blocked off as there were babies and they didn’t want people disturbing them.  However, it was possible to still see the sea lions from a distance.  There were also a lot of birds in the area and some really pretty beaches.

I didn’t get the impression that there were a lot of good places to stop for a picnic, but if you’re interested in nature and wildlife, Point Lobos State Nature Reserve has a lot to offer.

My GPS route: