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

Iceland – final post – drone footage

I took my drone to Iceland with us. I knew that there were lots of places where I could fly the drone and it seemed like the ideal opportunity to take advantage of the drone to get shots we couldn’t otherwise get. Here’s my Iceland drone compilation:

Iceland – Day 7 – The Golden Circle: Gulffoss, Geysir, Strokkur, and Þingvellir National Park

Debi, Toren, and Ryan at Þingvellir National Park

We saved some of the most visited sites for our last day in Iceland. Lots of buses take tourists to visit three sights in a single day: Gullfoss, Geysir, and Þingvellir National Park. This is often referred to as The Golden Circle as you can include Seljalandfoss and actually make it into a circle. Since we had already visited Seljalandfoss, we headed straight to Gullfoss.

Gullfoss is a very powerful waterfall with two levels.

To get a good view of how tall the lower falls are, you need to hike up a bit so you can see down into the trench it has carved.

Toren, Debi, and Ryan at Gulfoss
Toren, Debi, and Ryan at Gulfoss

Just down the road from Gulfoss are two geysers, Geysir and Strokkur. Geysir was the first geyser to be documented by modern Europeans and is the source of the English word “geyser.” Geysir no longer regularly erupts, but Strokkur does every few minutes.

We walked around the geysers for a bit and watched several eruptions, then jumped back in the car and headed to our final destination for the day, Þingvellir National Park. Þingvellir is cool for a lot of reasons. First, it was the original seat of Iceland’s Parliament and an important meeting place for the various tribes of Iceland for a long time. Second, it is the location where two continental plates are separating by about 2 centimeters per year, and you can literally see the result as the area is being pulled apart. There is a large canyon you can walk down that is the result of tectonic plates moving. You can see the canyon in this photosphere:

Here’s another photosphere from the Parliament rock, where the laws used to be read:

We spent a couple of hours here walking around the lake, streams, the church, and the canyon.

Ryan, Debi, and Rosemary at Þingvellir National Park
Ryan, Debi, and Rosemary at Þingvellir National Park

Here’s a short clip of a waterfall that drops right into the canyon:

And a photo of us in front of the waterfall:

Debi, Toren, and Ryan at Þingvellir National Park
Debi, Toren, and Ryan at Þingvellir National Park

We actually had big plans for this evening – it was time to try Icelandic cuisine. We made a reservation for a nice restaurant in Reykjavik, Þrír frakkar, where they serve traditional Icelandic fare. We ordered three appetizers and two entrees to split between the four of us. First up, fermented shark:

fermented shark
fermented shark

Everyone but Debi was able to get their piece of frozen, fermented shark down. Debi gagged on hers. Imagine the most fishy tasting fish you’ve ever had, then leave it to spoil for, let’s say, a week. Then freeze it. That’s what fermented shark tastes like. Not a winner.

Next up was, sadly, puffin breast:

puffin
puffin

We asked on our whale and puffin viewing trip if puffins were endangered and they said no, so I didn’t feel bad ordering this. It’s basically thin strips of puffin breast, perhaps lightly cooked, served with a mustard sauce. It tasted kind of like chicken, but more oily and stringy. Everyone tried it, but I ended up eating most of it.

We also ordered fish stew as an appetizer, which wasn’t particularly exotic, and most everyone liked it. For the entrees, it was a lamb steak (split between Debi and Rosemary) and a horse steak (split between Toren and me). The steaks were all good; horse tastes a lot like cow.

Dinner was crazy-expensive, but we got to sample the local cuisine.

After dinner, we headed back to our B&B to pack up and get ready for our early flight the next day. We did stop briefly at the park near our B&B to let Toren run around a bit, but otherwise that pretty much wraps up our trip to Iceland. Though, see my next post where I highlight one other thing we did while we were there…

Iceland – Day 6 – Deildartunguhver, Hraunfossar, and Barnafossar

Our goal on day 6 was to make it from Akureyri back to Reykjavik, while doing a little sightseeing along the way. I found three things that looked cool in Western Iceland (that we could do on the way), but we only managed to visit two of them. One location I wanted to visit, Grábrók, we couldn’t find. Google maps sent us off on a really sketchy, dirt road that we should never have taken. It was a single lane road with big pot holes, cliff edges, rocks, and all the fun stuff that would be great in a large SUV, but not so much in a small, close to the road, wagon.

With that side adventure out of the way, our first stop was Deildartunguhver, which is another spot with volcanic activity. This location was pretty cool as it had lots of boiling water and sulphur vents, but was also a location where the country had tapped into the geothermal energy and was using it to heat water.

After Deildartunguhver, we headed to Hraunfossar and Barnafossar, which is another set of two waterfalls. The first set of waterfalls, Hraunfossar, kind of drizzle out of the side of a cliff, which you can see in the background of this photo.

Ryan, Toren, and Debi in front of Hraunfossar
Ryan, Toren, and Debi in front of Hraunfossar

The second set of waterfalls, Barnafossar, which are about 100 meters up the river, have carved through rock and formed an arch, as seen in this video:

Both were quite beautiful.

From Hraunfossar and Barnafossar, we opted to take the new Hvalfjörður Tunnel, which drops under a channel by going under the seabed (541 feet below sea level).  This cuts about 45 minutes off the time to get to Reykjavik and costs about $10.00. It’s deep enough that your ears pop as you drive underneath the sea. Pretty cool to say we have now driven under the ocean!

We had two nights scheduled in a bed and breakfast in Seltjarnarnes, which is the tail end of the peninsula where Reykjavik lies. That wrapped up day 6.

Iceland – Day 5 – Húsavík, whales, puffins, sailing, and Akureyri

whale tail

While we spent the night in Akureyri, on day 5 in Iceland we wanted to go whale watching and Rosemary really wanted to see puffins. So, we booked a trip on a boat out of Húsavík, which is about an hour and 15 minutes away from Akureyri, called: Whales, Puffins, and Sails.

We had nice weather the day we went to Húsavík. Húsavík is a very cute town on the north coast with a very clear emphasis on shipping, fishing, and whale watching. I could definitely envision renting a house here for a couple of weeks to enjoy small town life in Iceland.

Before boarding the boat, the company we booked with had us all put on full body jumpsuits that doubled as both insulation and a flotation device. Given the cold wind on the boat, this added layer of protection was quite welcome.

our jumpsuits
our jumpsuits

We then boarded our re-purposed fishing boat that was also a sailboat, Haukur, and headed toward Puffin Island. Puffin Island is a small island off the coast that is filled with puffins and other seabirds. There are literally thousands of puffins living on the island, which meant when our boat sailed by, we saw hundreds of them floating on the water, diving, and flying. Despite seeing so many, they are quite small and even with my telephoto lens on my camera, I didn’t manage to get all that many great photos:

puffins near Puffin Island
puffins near Puffin Island

Even so, we saw hundreds of puffins, which fulfilled a life-long dream of Rosemary’s. (In all honesty, Debi and I didn’t even know what a puffin was before we booked the boat ride. Happy to learn something new!)

We spent a good 30 minutes or so navigating around Puffin Island then sailed (really, motored, we only sailed for about 5 minutes of the 3-hour tour) across the bay to look for whales. And whales we did find – perhaps as many as 10. We observed probably 50 different instances of whales surfacing for air, with the whales exhaling, swimming on the surface for a minute or two to take a few deep breaths, then diving back down to feed. Some of the whales came up kind of far from our boat, but others were so close that they genuinely scared everyone on the boat when they let out their breath of air. One came up about 10 feet from the boat. We spent at least an hour just floating around while half a dozen whales surfaced all around us. I did manage to get a lot of great photos of the whales, but I’m not going to post the hundreds of photos I took. This one should illustrate how amazing the experience was:

whale tail
whale tail

After watching the whales, we put all the sails up and sailed for a few minutes. The crew also had hot chocolate and cinnamon rolls for everyone.

enjoying hot chocolate and cinnamon roles
enjoying hot chocolate and cinnamon roles

We then slowly motored our way back into port.

Húsavík
Húsavík

After we returned to Husavik, we walked around for a bit, enjoying the very, very small town, and even checked out souvenirs (something we never buy, but Rosemary wanted a puffin souvenir).

puffin hat in a souvenir shop
puffin hat in a souvenir shop

We then drove back to Akureyri and walked around Akureyri for a bit. It’s a much larger town, but the downtown area isn’t all that large and it’s quite pretty and interesting. Akureyri is another place I could see myself getting a two-week rental and just enjoying small town life.