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Marcy Dam Mud

Marcy Dam and Avalanche Pass (Trap Dike) – Post Irene

When the DEC announced late last week that most of the trails in the High Peak were open again… it was music to my ears.

I was itching for a hike and really interested in seeing what changes Irene had brought to the backcountry. Having heard about the damage to Marcy Dam, and slide activity on Wright Peak and the Trap Dike, I figured a quick trip into Avalanche Lake was a good way to get my eyes on all of them.

It was a gorgeous day (seriously, this may be the best time of year to hike in the Adirondacks), but didn’t take long before I ran into a reminder that Irene had left her mark on the area.

This is (I am assuming) the bridge on Adirondack Loj Road that was washed out and that trapped people at the Adirondack Loj for several days. It was repaired and is now 1 lane.

The hike in to Marcy Dam from the Loj was mostly uneventful. This boardwalk was the only noticeable damage I encountered.

If you are familiar with that boardwalk, it seems to have a history of being flooded and damaged anyway. In that photo you can sort of make out the old boardwalk, in the water underneath the current one.

Shortly before hitting Marcy Dam the trail is re-routed across Marcy Brook below the dam and hooks up with the Truck Trail. That re-route involved some rock hopping but otherwise seemed used to me, not recently cut, and I was told it was the “Squirrel Trail” by another hiker. But did not confirm. This was one of 3 re-routes I encountered on this day. All were well marked, and in good condition.

Here is a quick video of the Dam so you can get an idea of what it looks like now and how much water is flowing through it.

The damage to the dam is apparent as soon as you approach it. The most obvious missing feature is the bridge that used to span the top of it. Here is a view of the Dam from the little “beach area” that was popular as a resting spot.

And from there you can start to see the real changes that have taken place here. The body of water that sat behind the dam is now mostly drained. Mud… that is what is left. It is a sad sight to be sure.

On that image above, in addition to seeing the mud flats that used to be a body of water, you can also make out the new slide on Wright Peak – it is the one on the far right.

Here are some side by side comparison images so you can get a feel for just how much this area has changed.

Immediately after Marcy Dam there is another very well marked re-route along established trails, and then yet another one along what appeared to be freshly cut trail. Both of these routes move the trail away from Marcy Brook where some wash outs occurred.

Shortly after the second of those re-routes you begin the ascent to Avalanche Lake. I didn’t hike up the ski trail, known as “Misery Mile”, (because you are not supposed to!) but initial reports were that it had sustained significant damage. From what I could see however, at points where the hiking trail and ski trail cross each other, it looked more or less ok. It is possible though that there are sections that were hidden from my view that were in rough shape.

Just before reaching Avalanche Lake, and just after the debris field from the Hurricane Floyd slide, there was a short section of significant mud on the trail. This was apparently washed down from the slope on the left side of the trail and represented the worst section of trail on the hike, but really… it wasn’t that bad.

Once in the pass the most notable sign that a tropical storm has raged through here was damage to the Hitch-Up Matildas that skirt along the side of the lake.

They lost a plank here or there and crossing them now has a bit of an Indiana Jones feel to it… Don’t fall! Ok fine, it is maybe 3 feet to the water…

As you approach the second Matilda the Trap Dike begins to come into view. Almost immediately you can see the new debris field at the bottom of it.

The Dike itself appears to have been completely cleared out. This is best seen in the image below which compares a photo of the Dike taken earlier this summer. You can see that the trees and other growth are missing.

I didn’t have time to swing around to get a good look in the Dike itself, but hope to do so before the end of the season.

Overall, I have to say things were not nearly as bad as I thought they would be. Marcy Dam being the exception. But the trails are mostly in fine condition. A little muddy in spots, some blow down, and some of the logs and boards in place to help traverse wet sections are moved, or gone – but the trails are absolutely hikeable. And from what I am hearing, such as from Phil Brown of the Adirondack Explorer, this particular hike might just be the worst of it.

So if you were planning on coming up to the area to get some hiking in, but had hesitations due to the storm, I’d say you can put them to rest. Come on up and enjoy your hike!

2 Comments

  1. Maria
    Maria09-28-2011

    Thanks for your informative article! I was in the Adirondacks and decided to hike this trail based on what I read – it was beautiful!!! Thanks again.

    • Dave
      Dave09-28-2011

      Maria, so glad you were able to do this hike! It has been one of my favorites for as long as I can remember. Those views of Avalanche Lake never get old.

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