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Old 10-13-2017, 02:19 PM   #1
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For want of a nail. 1/4 of the MacIntyre Range. 2017-10-07

Marshall. 2017-10-07

Photo Album.

My plan to traverse the four peaks of the MacIntyre Range (Marshall, Iroquois, Algonquin, and Wright) transformed into 1.5 peaks. For want of rain pants, the traverse was curtailed.

It was a joint holiday weekend (Columbus Day/Canadian Thanksgiving) so an early start was advisable. I checked the rainy forecast and decided Saturday would be the best day for my chosen itinerary.

Saturday's forecast, for Lake Placid, only called for a slim chance of an early morning shower. The summits would be shrouded in clouds all day but that was acceptable. In comparison, Sunday's forecast had a higher probability of rain and Monday was just plain ol' rainy.

A short section of the traverse, from Cold Brook Pass to the summit of Iroquois, involves bushwacking up a steep, rugged, thickly-wooded slope. Rain would make the experience particularly ornery due to slippery footing and the "car wash effect" (moving through rain-drenched conifers). I hoped the showers wouldn't turn into full-on rain for that part (cue the foreboding music).

I arrived Friday night (~10:00 PM) and slept in my car along Meadows Lane. Instead of counting sheep, one could count the late arrivals, slowly driving along Meadows Lane in search of a campsite. I fell asleep after the fourth car. I was awakened at around 3:30 AM by a very late (early?) arrival but quickly fell asleep again. The next thing I heard was my phone's alarm at 5:00 AM.

By headlamp, I signed in at the Loj trailhead just before 6:00 AM. I wrote "6:00 AM" in the top margin to help me find my log-entry later. Upon my return, some nine hours later, the note was very helpful because my entry was followed by about ten additional pages!

I paused on the boardwalk, spanning MacIntyre Brook, to take a photo of the Harvest Moon playing peek-a-boo behind passing clouds. It cast an eerie glow but not enough to forego a headlamp. The rising sun would take care of that shortly.

Harvest Moon.

Beyond the Algonquin junction I met a young man and (I assume) his father who were heading to Colden. We discussed our respective plans and he too had done the bushwhack to Iroquois. He agreed it would become a trying, soggy affair should the weather turn to rain.

Rather than follow the squirrel-crossing, I continued north along the Van Hoevenberg Trail to explore the new reroute. It swings southeast, away from Marcy Brook, and runs for about 0.2 miles before rejoining the original trail. It does a good job of avoiding steep inclines and provides a better view of nearby Whale's Tail.

Despite the previous evening's light rain, the new trail's surface was notably free of mud. However, upon my return, after fresh rainfall, one sloped section was saturated and quite slick. It'll be interesting to see how it fares over time.

White bags of rocks, delivered by helicopter, lay in the center of what was once the reservoir for Marcy Dam. As predicted, the low cloud-deck obscured the summits. The temperature was mild and I stripped down to a T-shirt. I crossed the grassy meadow, rock-hopped the brook, and continued south along the Avalanche Pass Trail.

While passing Marcy Brook Lean-to I noticed a tent pitched near it. I greeted the lean-to's occupants and asked if the tent belonged to them. One of the many lodgers spoke up and confirmed it was their tent. I asked if they were aware that one couldn't pitch one so close to a lean-to. The 'group elder' curtly replied "Yeah, we know that."

His tone signalled there was no room for discussion. I wished them well and left. Upon my return later in the afternoon, I noticed the tent had not moved. I reported the incident to both the Lake Colden and Marcy Dam caretakers. The latter said he would inspect it during his rounds.

A short portion of the Avalanche Pass Trail has also been rerouted. It winds its way uphill and avoids following the fall-line. It's only about 330 feet long and emerges at the junction of the ski and original foot trail.

The remaining trail, through the pass to Avalanche Lake, has also seen its share of improvements. The most notable being the reconstruction of the two "Hitchup Matildas". The new version seems slightly different than the old one. I noticed a sizable gap between the walkway and the rock face. Maybe it's always been that way but it sure seemed evident this time.

One of the two recently renovated "Hitchup Matildas".

The beavers have had their way with Avalanche Lake. The northern end is completely submerged; the flat muddy "viewing area" is now under water. In addition, just prior to the reconstructed ladder/staircase, there's an interesting rock-hop on partially submerged boulders. If they choose to raise the lake another foot, this section will become much more "interesting".

Beaver dam at Avalanche Lake.

I arrived at the Herbert Brook Trail junction at 8:45 AM. Compared to starting from Upper Works, it had taken me 45 minutes longer to get to the junction. I turned west and followed the well-worn path up Marshall. Along the way I greeted a descending hiker. He had ascended Marshall via Cold Brook Pass and was on his way to Colden to complete his 46. I congratulated him and he replied he hoped there would be a view. I didn't have the heart to tell him the forecast called for cloudy summits all day. I replied I'd be satisfied if it didn't rain (cue the foreboding music again).

I took my customary selfie with Marshall's summit sign and continued to the southern lookout. I didn't expect a view and I didn't get one. Throughout the day I would facetiously tell hikers "All summits have the same view today." What I didn't expect was the strong gust of wind that greeted me; it could make things wild and woolly later in the day.

I returned to the summit where I rolled down my pants and donned a rain jacket. A light drizzle had started and the narrow Marshall Trail, leading to Cold Brook Pass, would give me a little taste of what was to come.

By the time I reached Cold Brook Pass, the drizzle had intensified. I figured as long as it didn't turn to full-on rain, the bushwhack up to Shepherd's Tooth and Iroquois would remain less than miserable. At 10:50 AM, I located the subtle herd-path and turned north towards the cliff.

I've descended from Iroquois to Cold Brook Pass several times but this would be my first ascent. The milestones were to locate the gully that breaches the cliff, ascend it to a manageable exit-point, head west to a drainage, then follow it up to Shepherd's Tooth. From the Tooth one follows a more distinct herd-path to treeline and continues on bare rock to the summit of Iroquois. The steepest, most rugged portion of the entire route would be the lower third.

A few spots were a bit less familiar when viewed from below. Nevertheless I connected the dots and made good time working my up into the drainage. Then it was just a matter of staying on the worn parts and following the Law of Up. Unfortunately, the drizzle had turned to rain and I was now well into the "car wash" mode I had hoped to avoid.

Twenty-five minutes and 375 vertical feet into the bushwhack, I stopped to assess the situation. I was above the most challenging terrain and the remainder was comparatively easy. Shepherd's Tooth was just 250 vertical feet above me. Iroquois was 600 feet. However, the rain had intensified and was now accompanied by wind-gusts.

My head and torso were warm but everything south of (and including) the family jewels was soaking wet. My saturated pants clung to me like tights and I needed a bilge pump in my trail-runners. My pack contained additional layers plus hat, spare gloves, mitts, plastic bags and socks, etc; I was not concerned about keeping my core and extremities warm. As for the wet pants, I knew I could grin and bear it based on a similar experience bushwhacking to Sawtooth #4.

What concerned me was I was heading above treeline and would remain there all the way over Algonquin. I had no rain pants, or wind pants, or spare pants of any kind. I did not relish the idea of being exposed to driving rain in soaking wet pants. I also could not be certain if the weather would improve or get worse. I could soldier through it but this wasn't supposed to be "that kind" of trip. I owned up to the fact I had miscalculated and should've brought my rain pants. Safety was below treeline, not above it, so I (reluctantly) turned and headed down.

Descending the wet, steep slope was no walk in the park but at least I knew the terrain and I was heading away from nastier conditions. Upon emerging onto the Cold Brook Pass Trail I felt like a wet cat (both peeved and chastened). I turned east and, as a consolation, discovered the trail was not its usual flooded self. I paused to inspect the airplane wreckage because, what the heck, I was in the neighborhood.

Airplane wreckage in Cold Brook Pass.

During the descent to Lake Colden (my right knee never failed to remind me it was unhappy), I met just one other hiker and he looked far more 'wet cat' than me. Despite drenched runners and wet hair plastered down, he managed to muster a little smile.

Upon reaching Lake Colden, I paused at the Interior Outpost and spoke to the caretaker about the tent. Given the weather, I didn't expect anyone to do anything about it but I thought they might record these incidents. The polite nodding I received gave me the impression I was wasting my time and theirs. Only later did I realize they probably see more infractions in a week than I do in a year.

The trip back gave me the opportunity to meet many inbound hikers and backpackers. A large proportion was from my home province. I asked where they were headed and quite a few responded "Algonquin" (in French that's approximately "al-goh-kay"). When asked, I explained the Algonquin Trail rises steeply, is very wet (crosses and re-crosses the brook), and the summit is likely to be unpleasant today. I received incredulous looks. One fellow confided he had tried to convince his crew that Algonquin isn't the best choice in this weather. To whoever was willing to listen, I suggested Colden as an alternative. The trail is steep but now has staircases, the summit isn't nearly as exposed, and the view (thick fog) will be the same as from Algonquin.

The weather improved north of Avalanche Pass. Blue sky and sunshine poked through the thinning clouds. I stowed my rain jacket and my saturated pants dried by the time I reached Marcy Dam. Just past Avalanche Camp I passed a couple and then heard "Excuse me sir! Are you Trail Boss?" I turned and chatted with a couple who recognized me from ADKHighPeaks forum. It's always fun to meet fellow members in the "real world".

Peak foliage.

From Marcy Dam onwards, the weather was lovely and made my return a pleasant stroll under technicolor trees. The fall colors were more vibrant than ever. As luck would have it, I met the Colden-bound, father and son team again. They reported Colden was cloud-shrouded and I shared a summary of my aborted bushwhack.

The Loj's parking area was alive with cars and hikers. Parked cars lined the Loj road north to Meadows Lane and just beyond. I paused at North Meadows to take one last look back at the MacIntyre Range. A thick blanket of cloud continued to cover it and most everything else above 4000 feet. My rain pants will definitely join me on my next hike.

Cloud-shrouded High Peaks from North Meadows.
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Old 10-13-2017, 02:23 PM   #2
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Nice pics...turned out to be much nicer on Sunday after all, but then completely washed out on Monday.
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Old 10-17-2017, 02:06 PM   #3
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Well done! I was able to get 3 of 4 (W-A-I) on the 14th. I've read so much about the incredible views, but I had no luck in that regard. All three peaks were completely socked in with very heavy and misty fog. I didn't realize adding Marshall was even an option...without a map handy, where is that located in relation to the other three?

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Old 10-17-2017, 04:46 PM   #4
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Marshall is 0.9 miles (as the crow flies) southwest of Iroquois.

0.5 miles of that has an unmarked trail. The other 0.4 has none and rises about a thousand feet in that short distance.
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