May 29, 2017
Weather: sunny & warm
Well after a failed attempt at a sunrise hike (AKA we didn’t wake up), we rolled out of bed, caught the almost sunrise leaving the hotel, grabbed some breakfast and lunch to go from Stewart’s, scraped together a few bills for HPIC parking, and were on the trail by 6am!
We got stuck behind a big group for a few minutes but managed to weave our way to the front and head off. Within 20 minutes we were passing the McIntyre Range junction and off toward Marcy Dam. We were both tired but it’s nice to not meet any crowds on this highway. Morning light was just starting to peek through mountains as we stopped briefly at Marcy Dam to consult the map at 6:40am.
We quietly made our way past tent sites, although an enthusiastic dog ruined our efforts to go past without disturbing anyone, and the path quickly became what I vividly remembered it to be: steady climbing over boulders, mud and streams. Our pace slowed down immediately as we adjusted to the incline and tried to find safe footing for each step.
It felt like a long hour and a half before the trail flattened out and we reached the puncheon at Lake Arnold. There was no doubt it was a wet season as they were surrounded by water and we both walked carefully to avoid slipping and dunking our feet. We happily sat down next to the lake (pond) for 15 minutes and enjoyed a quick snack while basking in the early morning sun.
The short section of trail around the lake was a complete mud bath and I definitely felt it seeping through my boots as we squished our way through the mud and water. Fortunately we started climbing immediately after and then the trail was only messy with roots and boulders.
There were a couple of slippery sections, but mostly it was just normal walking. We hardly even had to deal with mud as there were a lot of sections with puncheon. I think it was around here that I became vaguely aware that there was a lot more trail work that had been done since I had last climbed Colden in 2015!
We came out onto the false summit of Colden after almost 40 minutes, just after 9. We said a quick hello to a small group that was hanging out there and then pushed on. I was thrilled that it was such a lovely day out (my first sunny day on ol’ Colden rainy) and anxious to get to the top to enjoy my pb&j sandwich!
We noted other new puncheon and ladders (I’m pretty sure it’s new – my memory isn’t 100% but it was more than there had been two years before) as made our way along. We passed under the huge rock and came out onto the gorgeous views Colden is so famous for.
We tagged what I’ve come to assume is the highest point on the peak, Greg tried to do his own trail work, then we went over to the open rock to enjoy some well earned lunch. Time since Adirondack Loj: 3.5 hours
With no particular need to rush, we hung out for a while and considered our options. I had never done the loop down to Avalanche Pass and was curious to do it, and our parents had been toying with the idea of walking in to Avalanche Lake that day so we thought it might be fun to meet up with them there. Greg said he had done it before with his dad and if his dad had been willing to walk down it then it couldn’t be that bad; I also thought my dad had suggested going down that way before but we had run out of time to do it. With our dads’ “approval,” after 35 minutes we continued along the trail down toward Avalanche Pass.
The first little bit (still basically out on the summit) was reassuring; it was nice flat rock instead of pesky boulders. A few minutes down, we met a duo who had come up this way and we asked them out it was, the response we got was: wet and muddy. Well, sounds about the same as the way we came up so we kept on going. How naive.
Now boulders might be annoying, especially wet and muddy boulders, but not as annoying as slick flat “slide rock”. For two people with knee problems, we realized maybe we should have consulted the guidebook. We pulled out our poles, unfortunately, it was hard for our boots and our poles to get a decent grip. I spent most of my time on my butt, figuring I could get a more controlled slip/fall that way. We slipped and slid our way down this never-ending stretch, all the while asking ourselves how our dads could have suggested this descent route?? It was similar to the stretch up Algonquin after the junction from Wright, but it felt a lot longer.
Finally, we saw a couple coming up and even though I don’t usually like to do this, I asked them how much longer we would have to deal with this type of terrain. They told us we only had 50 feet left before the trail flattened…YAY. She also warned us that we might want to cut through the forest for this section as it was quite slippery, I didn’t have the heart to tell her she had only just started it and there was way more ahead.
A short slip n slide later and we were back on solid ground. That 1.5 mile section having only taken almost AN HOUR AND A HALF. Please don’t be scared off by my melodramatics, I’m sure once the trail has dried out (assuming it does) this is a really nice walk! I think I might still prefer to do the loop in the opposite direction, though.
The great news is that we were almost immediately rewarded with beautiful lake views. We skirted Lake Colden, crossed a stream, chatted with a lovely couple and their daughter, and then came out on a familiar view of Avalanche Lake. I had to have Greg take a picture of me here, because that is where I sat on my first Adirondack hike (Wright-Algonquin, the hike that convinced me to become a 46r) and dipped my toes in.
As we continued around the lake, we heard shouts coming from the Trap Dike. At first we thought people might be in trouble, but it became clear that they were just freaking out. One day I would definitely like to do it, but I don’t think I would try during wet season; we could even see a small waterfalls pouring down. Our peaceful adventure was clearly over as it was midday and we ran into traffic along the Hitchup Matildas and the rock scrambles. I was trying to move quickly along this part because a group of guys had told us (when asked) that they’d seen our parents lounging on the other side of the lake just an hour before! (I had asked and described them and it was further confirmed when he said that the man had even mentioned his daughter was on Colden that day)
We reached the other side of the lake, our parents were already gone and there were quite a few people taking pictures by the water so we just kept moving. I was once again impressed with the amount of trail work that had been done in that area, the whole section was puncheoned! We walked past the slide debris, that I had remembered being a lot higher five years ago, and kept up a decent pace down the well worn trail.
About 10-15 minutes later, we caught up to our parents! We stopped for a few minutes for hellos and they kindly provided me with the one thing I had been missing all day: victory chocolate! Our dads were shocked to learn that we had decided to go down to Avalanche Pass since it’s known to be rugged, apparently Greg and his dad had actually done the loop in the opposite direction and my dad had never really considered it. OOPS. We strolled back to Marcy Dam together, and then sat down to enjoy some real food. Greg and I were pretty hungry and my mom always packs the best hiking lunches! After that we parted ways, they followed the truck trail back to South Meadows and we crossed the bridge toward Adirondack Loj.
It took us about 45 minutes to make our way past/around the other hikers who had made their way out. We were tired and ready to take a nap before the 46r banquet! We couldn’t believe how packed the parking lot was (I guess we sort of could, but still) but we were certainly happy that we had gotten there early! Time since departure: 8:15.
Mount Colden: elevation: 4,714 feet, elevation gain: +2,535 feet
Round trip: 13.7 miles