Sunday, July 10, 2011

Adirondacks Report: Mt. Colden and summer fun!

Every year the Connecticut Climbers and Mountaineers hosts a trip to the Adirondacks on July 4th weekend.  We camp at Whispering Pines Campground located halfway between Keene and Lake Placid in the heart of the high peaks region.  There is a lot of tradition associated with the events of the weekend, so there is usually very few surprises for those who have attended in the past.  It's a great time, and I have attended almost every year for the past 8 years.  Last year I missed the trip, so Charlotte and I could spend some time together as we had just started dating.  This year, Charlotte and her younger son, Christopher, joined me for a great adventure.

Since there were 3 of us going, I needed to figure out sleeping arrangements for us.  My tent will only hold 2 people comfortably.  No worries though as I was anxious to try out sleeping in the Honda Element, so I started building a sleeping platform.  I got some ideas on the Honda Elements Club Owners Forum, and came up with some embelishments of my own.  I barely finished the construction before packing all the gear on Thursday night, so didn't have much time to check out the system.  I removed one of the Element rear seats for added room, and was glad I did.  This would be the maiden voyage for car camping in the E!

We drove up Friday afternoon, set up a tent for Christopher, and greeted CCM members as they arrived at camp.  It was great to see my friend, Paul (a.k.a. EuroMan) as I haven't seen him in approximately 6 months.  We drove into Lake Placid for dinner and ran into the Goat, Jessica, and Batboy at a local Greek restaurant.  The food was excellent.  I highly recommend the Greek Salad with beans.  Yum!  After dinner, we headed back to camp, prepped the Element for sleeping mode, and caught up with many friends at the campfire.  The typical question is, "What are you climbing tomorrow?" and "Who are you climbing with...?"  For us, we were planning a big hike and had our eyes set on summiting Algonquin.  As it turns out, Goat, Jessica, Batboy, and Euroman (and Grover) had similar plans, so we all agreed to go together.

After a hearty breakfast in Keene, we headed for the ADK Loj trailhead only to find the parking lot full. No worries...we went to the trailhead on Meadow Road.  This is the cheaper option since it is free, but adds a couple miles to the round trip.  It's a pleasant, relatively flat walk to Marcy Dam, so the added mileage is no big deal.

With Euroman and Grover taking the point, we set off for Marcy Dam.

I was pleased that I was able to keep up with everyone with minimal discomfort.  I figured I would be the weakest link on this hike, so was paying close attention to my aches and pains to ensure I did not put us in a situation that would slow us down too much or create a potential rescue situation.  Here's a shot of the crew taking a break at Marcy Dam.

The plan was to hike through Avalanche Pass to Lake Colden and then decide whether to conquer Algonquin (2nd highest peak in NY) or Mt. Colden (still a big peak at 4,700+ feet elevation).    The hike around Avalanche and Colden Lakes is so much fun and the views are amazing.

After covering more than 5.5 miles, we decided to take a left and save a little time by hiking Mt. Colden.  It only saves about 1-2 miles on the round trip, but it was a wise decision nonetheless.  Once we started the climb up to the ridge, it became obvious that Charlotte's son, Chris, was slowing down.  I hung back with Chris and did my best to coax him along.  Goat, Euroman, and I took turns trying to keep him moving along.  Chris hung in there and we finally made it to the summit and collapsed for a short break.

Goat and Euroman were a bit restless and wanted to get back in time for happy hour while Char and I hung back with Chris.  Chris was having trouble on the descent, and it seemed he was bonking and possibly not getting enough electrolytes.  I put some endurolyte powder in his water bottle, and after awhile he seemed to get back to normal.

We chugged along and finally made it back to Marcy Dam where the faithful and trusty Euroman was waiting for us.  The four of us hiked back to the E while being attacked by mosquitos.  It was a long 9.5 hours covering about 15 miles and Chris asked that we never do that again!  After realizing I may have traumatized him again (1st time was the climbing accident where I dropped 100 feet to land right next to him), I figured I better come up with something to make up for it.

We had a fantastic potluck dinner at camp that evening with a cello suite solo by the burgeoning Batboy!   If you haven't heard the Batboy play the cello, you are missing something special.  He's got talent!  The nice thing is that he makes it cool to play the cello.  All the young kids sat quietly and listened intently while he played.

During the potluck, I quizzed the families for ideas fun kid activities for Sunday.  I've spend at lot of time in the DAKS, but most of it was climbing or hiking.  Piton Paul and Jen Reed both advised me to take Char and Chris to a gorge with cliff jumping.  It sounded like fun, but I was a little nervous about jumping off another cliff despite the fact that water was down below.  Nevertheless, after a big breakfast in Lake Placid (huge pancakes at the diner next to Mr. Mike's Pizza), we headed off for some swimming.

This swimming spot is on the right side of the road 1/2 mile past the KOA in Wilmington Notch.  It's free and about 100 feet from the pull out parking spot.  There are 3 tiers on the cliff where you can jump into the water below the waterfalls.  Here is  someone jumping from the middle tier.  The upper tier is about 30 feet up!  Yikes!  Chris and I both jumped from the middle tier and Jessica (Goat's girlfriend) jumped from the upper tier.  Yeah!   Chris had a blast playing in the water.  The current is really strong in spots, so be careful if you go there.  We hung out there for a bit and then went to find some lunch.

We decided to have a picnic at Cascade Pass next to the lake just below the cascade.  Chris, Char, and I had fun thumb wrestling, and enjoying the views.  Life was good!  After a bit, we headed back to camp and Char and I decided to try a run together.  We stayed on the gravel road going through camp and I experimented with the shim in my shoe.  It hurt like heck to run downhill, so my run was more like a controlled limp.  Either way, we covered a little over 2 miles in about 22 minutes, and I followed it up with a full set of physical therapy exercises and stretches.

It's always fun to hear the stories of the day from all the climbers and hikers as they filter back into camp.  The best stories are the late arrivals of the hardmen as they arrive late for pizza at Mr. Mike's in Lake Placid.  At Mr. Mike's, we always have big bowls of family style salad, pizza, and Sammies.  We toast the Chief, Dennis, and Ken, take the traditional group photo, and make our way to the ice skating rink for the traditional snow ball fight courtesy of the zamboni shavings.

Chris was really into the snowball fight, and snow kept flying as we made our way down to Ben & Jerry's for the traditional ice cream stop.  All good fun and it was great to share it with Char and Chris for the first time.

We packed everything back into the Element on Monday morning, and set off down the road.  We stopped by the new Cedar Run bakery for breakfast and then said goodbye to Euroman who was setting off to save lives in Tennessee.  Grover wanted to stay with the CCM, but Euroman told him they had a higher calling.

All in all it was a good Adirondacks trip with some of the best weather I've seen on a July trip to the DAKS.  I'd like to get back on the rock at some point, but it didn't feel like the right time on this trip.

Running update:

Monday, July 4th

After returning home, I went over to the Plainville HS track and attempted another mile.  I ran without the shim and it seemed to be worse without it.  My time was 8:37 which was a bit slower than my last attempt.

Wednesday, July 6

15 minutes warm-up on the bike, and about 15 minutes of prescribed pre-run warm-up exercises (they seem to help)

2 miles on the treadmill - YEAH!

1st mile - 8:30
2nd mile - 9:15
Total - 17:45

Not bad, about equal to my old 5K time, but making progress.  Stride is feeling more natural, but still run a bit lop-sided.  Finished up with all my PT exercises, core work, and chin-ups.  Big workout!

Friday, July 8

Early morning PT session.  They beat me up good.  Eric gave me a real shim to put in my shoe.  It's about 1/8' -1/4" thick.  I had to remove it around lunchtime due to pain, but then got used to it later in the day.

Sunday, July 10

Goat and I went for the record for the Pinnacle to Rt. 6 and back 4.5 mile course.  I ran almost the entire way.  Our goal was to break one hour.  Last time I did the route with Char, it took 1:10, so I thought 1 hour was doable.  I worked my tail off, but we could only manage 1:01:30.  A new record, but a little short of the 1 hour mark.  Nevertheless, it is sub 14 minute pace on difficult single-track with some good elevation gain.  I'll take it for now!   Just need to keep getting stronger.

Post-Script -

Goat and I leave for the Tetons and Yellowstone on Saturday.  We'll be there for a week, and then I fly to San Francisco to meet Char for a few days in Yosemite.  We'll have plenty to report on when I return!

Be safe everyone!