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High Peaks + High Water = Hiking Fail

I had grand plans for today. They involved climbing a High Peak and then drinking a beer while cleaning the house. What? Which part of that doesn’t sound like fun?

Unfortunately for me, the first part of my plan failed miserably.

I had hoped to take advantage of today’s glorious weather and climb Phelps Mountain, which is number 32 on the list of the 46 Adirondack High Peaks. It’s one of the easiest High Peaks to climb, at just under 9 miles round trip from the Adirondack Loj with less than a mile of sustained, strenuous climbing.

But I wouldn’t know because I never got to the sustained, strenuous part. Because I’m a chicken and high water scares me.

I knew the trail conditions would be tricky. In early spring you can expect it all – ice, mud, water, snow, snirt. So I did my due diligence and checked conditions online at the ADK website this morning before I left. I was disappointed to learn that the High Water Bridge to cross Phelps Brook had been washed out, which is a necessary crossing to get up Phelps (unless you want to go waaay out of your way). So I called the High Peaks Info Center to get the real scoop. I was told (very confidently, I might add) that the snow bridge was still intact and that the brook was still very much passable. Excellent news.

I’m sure you can guess what happened next.

I arrived at the Adirondack Loj, happy to be outside on such a beautiful day, and set out towards Marcy Dam. The trail wasn’t too bad – several icy parts, but nothing dangerous, and the snow cover was only an inch or two and bare in spots. I carried snowshoes with me, but didn’t feel the need to slap them on just yet.

It’s always interesting to see what other people choose to start out in – most others barebooted it, some wore stabilizers, others wore snowshoes, and some people strapped on the crampons right away. Some wore shorts and carried snowboards with them. Ah, spring.

I made it to Marcy Dam in no time flat and lingered for a few minutes. I had never been there this time of year. Surprisingly, I had the place to myself until the snowboarders showed up.

And then it was on to Phelps, which is only 2 miles from the dam. A few minutes later, I came to this sign:

Which was pointing to, well, nothing.

But that’s okay, because I knew the High Water Bridge was out. So I walked further up the trail, confident that my snow bridge would be just around the corner.

Well, it wasn’t. And in its place was a roaring brook.

I rocked hopped as far as I could go. Hemmed and hawed. Started and stopped. Got my toes a little wet. But then I chickened out. I just didn’t see a way across without getting significantly wet and cold. And I was by myself, which increased the wimp factor. And I knew that, as the day wore on and warmed up (we were already at 75!), the water would rise even more and make the crossing on the way down even more difficult.

The water wasn’t even that high. Had my long-legged husband been with me, I don’t think it would have been a problem at all. We have a system for obstacles like this. But I was all by my 5’nothing self with no other hikers in sight.

So I turned around. And found an empty lean-to at Marcy Dam and sulked while I ate a snack.

Speaking of snow bridges. On the hike in, this bridge was solid snow/ice. On the hike out, my tootsies got wet. Things are melting fast out there, folks.

On the drive home, I was stunned by how different the Cascade Lakes looked compared to just a few hours before. They were white this morning and now they’re a mix of blue and yellow and white. So beautiful.

I have one more very important announcement for those of you still reading. If you happened to be out hiking in the Eastern High Peaks area today and you happened to lose a small silver key on your way into (or out of) Marcy Dam, I found it. I turned it in at the Info Center. You’re welcome.

Wait, one more thing. People, LEASH YOUR DAMN DOGS. I love them, really I do. I’ll gladly scratch their ears and pat their head while they sniff me in inappropriate places. But other people don’t like that, and some people are afraid of dogs. I know, I don’t get it either. But guess what? There’s a LEASH LAW in the Eastern High Peaks. Please stop breaking the rules. Thank you.

Sorry, I’m still bitter from today’s hiking fail. At least I’ve still got beer in the fridge and a dirty house to clean.


  1. tourpro

    Nice pics. At least you got out there.

    • Jessica

      True! And it’s nice to know that I can try again next week, or whenever – and not have to wait another year until we’re back here on vacation.

  2. Not the Only One | Towns and Trails
    Not the Only One | Towns and Trails04-03-2010

    […] article over at the Adirondack Daily Enterprise is making me feel a whole lot better about my failed attempt on Phelps yesterday: Sun above … and snow […]

  3. Will Munn
    Will Munn04-14-2010

    If people are afraid of dogs then stay off the damn trails. Who makes them more important than dogs? Assholes like you should be shot!

    • Ted

      Me paying taxes that support these trails makes me more important than your crotch sniffer. She didn’t say leave the dog home, she said follow the damn rules and leash it. Next time, let the dog hike and keep your ignorant ass home, douchebag.

      • Jessica

        Thanks, Ted. I’m glad someone understood where I was coming from.

    • CJ

      and people like you don’t want to follow state law should be banned from the park.

  4. Jessica

    Hey, look! My first death threat! Normally belligerent comments get deleted, but I think I’ll keep this one around for posterity.

    • CJ

      I totally concur with the leash regulations, and your sentiments Jessica. Last fall I did a day trip up Phelps. There was a couple on the trail and their two kids. The dog – although very nice – was not leashed and kept getting ahead of them. The entire way up I had to listen them calling for it every 5 minutes… “Viper! Viper!”…
      Leash your damn dogs…

      • Jessica

        Ah, don’t you love it? The particular dog that inspired my rant was wearing a BELL. I have no doubt this obnoxious bell was an attempt by his owners – who were very, very nice – to be considerate and let other hikers know the dog was approaching. Really, though?! **Jingle, jingle, jingle** with every single step. I about lost my mind – and my breath from sprinting ahead of them.

  5. Phelps Mountain, an Adirondack Day Hike | Towns and Trails
    Phelps Mountain, an Adirondack Day Hike | Towns and Trails07-13-2010

    […] don’t know if you recall my failed attempt on Phelps from a few months ago, but I’m pleased to say that I finally tagged it. It’s only one […]

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