When you love the mountains, repeating the same hikes never gets old. Each trip brings a new adventure with changing weather, varying trail conditions, and different combinations of people and personalities.
This was my 3rd year organizing the Young Members Weekend at Johns Brook Lodge for the Adirondack Mountain Club, and was once again a fun and rewarding experience. Hikers joined us from as far away as Buffalo, Boston, and Washington, D.C., and we spent Friday – Sunday together in the Adirondack High Peaks. A 3.5-mile backpack in the rain brought us to JBL, where we dried off and spent the rest of the day getting to know each other, planning routes for Saturday, and enjoying music from our “JBL jam band.” One participant even hiked in his violin!
After waking up to French toast and bacon, our group of 26 divided up and set out for our destinations, which included Bushnell Falls, Mount Marcy, Skylight, Haystack, Basin, and Saddleback. My favorite part about organizing this event is allowing for flexibility and individualization, so each person can hike their own hike, summit the mountains of their choice, and be as relaxed or challenged as they’d like – all while making new friends.
Trail conditions were wetter than any past trip I’ve done along this route to Haystack, and water was just high enough to make brook crossings tricky, prompting many of us to take our boots right off to avoid accidental submersion off the slippery rocks. Wide puddles, deep standing water, sticky mud, and flowing water in the trail, especially up above Slant Rock, forced us to take our time and focus on each step. The last half mile before hitting Little Haystack was like climbing a waterfall, and it was near impossible to make it to Little Haystack without wet feet. We’d been hiking in light rain and mist all morning, so the rocks above treeline ranged from damp to dry, and it seemed like we wouldn’t have a view.
Similar to last weekend’s morning on Algonquin Peak, for a few brief moments while we were on top, the clouds broke up around us, allowing for a view of Skylight in one direction, and an undercast in the other. We snapped photos quickly, as the view disappeared as quickly as it appeared. While it would be amazing to have had another clear, sunny day up there, hiking up into the clouds and watching them swirl around you creates its own unique, dramatic experience, and everyone seemed to enjoy it. Our group descended toward Basin to avoid going down the waterfall of a trail section, and split up at the junction below the summit of Basin. A couple chose to continue over Basin and Saddleback to complete a loop, and others descended back to Slant Rock and met up with one of the Marcy groups for the hike back to the lodge, where the smell of grilled chicken welcomed us. Another night of games, music, and attempts at stargazing as the clouds cleared, and we’re already talking about next year.