Some images from 2013.  What a season, and it's not over yet.  Good times!  
Trolling from a Hornbeck on a perfect May morning.
PictureA fine wilderness brookie.
Waterfront wilderness camping trips that involve fishing are always tricky to blog; highly successful outings like this one make the task even more daunting.  Thus, I will begin by stating that the location of this trip will not be disclosed in the blog post out of respect to the fishery.  

Our party set out for some solitude and great fishing; we got both.  A number of beautiful brookies and lakers were taken, and a few were kept, cleaned, and dressed for a fire-roasted supper.  Camping and fishing conditions were ideal--air and water temps were in the decidedly happy zone, nasty bugs were few and far between, and we were constantly reminded of the gloriously cyclical nature of seasons in the Adirondacks.  The water was alive with baitfish, leeches, and crayfish.  Osprey hovered overhead at midday.  Loons made their eerie cries at dusk.

In addition to some great fish on the fire, we enjoyed an excellent breakfast creation by AWGS dining guru Nyle Baker.  His combination of scrambled eggs, sweet bell peppers, onions, and grated sharp cheddar is something special.

PictureA wonderfully dressed brook trout, ready for the fire.
All in all, we had a stupendous weekend enjoying the woods and water.

A beautiful rainbow for a special girl.
Got out with my two best fishing buddies for some early trout.  While our initial attempts were met with high water, cold hands, and wet feet, I was ecstatic that Quinn and Marlee broke through with the first fish of the season.  Not pictured is Mar's brown trout, which flopped back in the water before we could get a pic.  XO to my two beauties.

Wintergreen Point
This past weekend provided unusually mild temperatures, which made for some superb wilderness camping weather.  I had been planning a trip with Seth Greenky of Syracuse for weeks and we were able to make the most of truly fabulous fall conditions.

Seth and I met up at The Crossroads, in Chestertown, N.Y., where a lucky hunter was giddy over an eight-point 190 pound buck he had just taken.  The Crossroads is a stop that suits nearly every need for the avid outdoorsman; the fisherman, hunter, or hiker can find great food, gas, clothing, beer, and the best selection of cold-water fishing gear in the area.  After a quick bite to eat, we left for the trailhead.

To say that Pharaoh Lake Road is rough would be a gross understatement.  While considered legally closed by the DEC, access is not denied.  Some areas of flagging at the beginning of the rough section indicate that this may soon change, though.  Nevertheless, we were able to drive almost the entire way to the parking area at Mill Brook.  One area of washout made me a bit leery and we decided not to chance it.  A lot of clearance and four-wheel drive are necessities for those who choose to take on this rough, wet trek.  Walking the rough section adds 1.1 miles to hike.

Hurricane Irene had previously washed out the bridge at Mill Brook.  Fortunately, it has been replaced.  After years of wading, there is also a log walkway over the notorious flooded section before the sign-in register.  While peak colors are behind us, Seth and I were able to enjoy some low-lying orange foliage which brightened the hike.  Leading the way was Seth's golden retriever, Saul, who sported a bright red coat to alert hunters.  Saul added a lot of humor to the trip as he regularly hopped off trail for a quick dip in any water that he could find.  He is also a near twin to my eight year-old golden Pharaoh, who was named after the very place we were targeting that day.  For those who know Pharaoh, you will see the resemblance in the pictures--it's stunning.
Seth, with Saul, at the outlet of Pharaoh Lake.
The trail climbs above a now fairly empty marsh--another victim of Irene.  Beaver activity was still obvious, and it only seems a matter of time before they will have the area dammed again.

Before long we arrived at the outlet of Pharaoh Lake which provided a nice photo op for Seth and Saul.  After signing in we took the trail up the Eastern shore of the lake, where we settled in to our waterfront sites.  The view from Lean-To #1 provides views of Watch Rock on the western shore, two of Pharaoh's picturesque islands, and Treadway Mountain towering above to the Northwest.  A beautiful hemlock that acted as a Pharaoh landmark on the first island is sadly gone.

Seth and I dined on freeze dried meals throughout the trip, with Mountain House Beef Stroganoff, Spaghetti with Meat Sauce, and Pasta Primavera being favorites.  We rehydrated our meals using water directly from the lake--a water purification device is a must for trips such as these.  After brining a few cups of water to a boil using ultra-light MSR stoves, it was time to eat, and we ate well.

Saturday called for a day hike to Wintergreen Point.  Although it was Seth's first venture here, I was equally excited as I hadn't traversed the Eastern Shore trail in some time; my Hornbeck was my usual means of travel, but taking in the beautiful panoramas by foot was indeed a treat.  Saul plunged in the water whenever a good opportunity prevented itself, and lead the way as the pack leader the rest of the time.  Wintergreen Point is a true spectacle: with a view that encompasses the entire northern part of the lake as well as Pharaoh Mountain looming to the west, this spot should not be missed.  We agreed that the tent site here would make a great target for a future adventure.

Overall, it would be hard to script a better weekend.  Seth and Saul were terrific clients and I enjoyed their company greatly. The wonders of Pharaoh Lake Wilderness are many.  There is no better place to experience the magic of waterfront wilderness camping in the Adirondacks. 

Some lingering fall colors on the trail to Pharaoh Lake.
The new Champlain Bridge and the Green Mountains from Cheney's "Window".
High Peaks and former mining operation from Cheney's Western Summit.
Mid to late August is simply one of the best times to hike in the Adirondacks.  Fortunately, I was able to get out yesterday on a spur of the moment trip to one of the park's newest trails--Cheney Mountain.  This route comes courtesy of Champlain Area Trails--CATS--and opened to foot traffic within the past year.  This group is doing a stellar job of developing new hiking opportunities in eastern Essex County.

Cheney offers moderate grades through a nice mixed forest.  The ground is soft and forgiving on this 1.5 mile round-trip jaunt, which is the antithesis of the rock-hopping one must often deal with in the High Peaks.  The mountain also offers viewing diversity with three different summit lookouts.  We started by traversing to the Western Summit where one can get a terrific look at not only Cheney's big brothers and sisters to the northwest--The Dix Range, portions of The Great Range, and several other High Peaks loom over a number of foothills--but also a bird's eye glimpse at the old mining operation which long ago had the area economy booming.  The South Summit offers a spectacular, head-on view of the new Champlain Bridge.  I fell in love with this view instantly and have nicknamed this spot the "Cheney Mountain Window" for the way the trees frame in the view of the bridge, lake, and surrounding mountains.  The North Summit offers a nice view of Lake Champlain.  While this is a relatively easy climb, the trail branches off to each of the summit sections, and this could be confusing for someone new to hiking.  A map would be helpful.  The West Summit also offers a mini-loop to soak in the many views from its open sections.  All in all, Cheney has a lot to offer and is a welcome addition to the list of spectacular hiking destinations our area offers. 

Directions: Hire me to take you there...just kidding...The trail is located on the Pelfershire Road in Mineville, NY.  From Mineville, turn right onto this road, drive past Linney Field and PAST the turn for Cheney Road and you will see a sign for Cheney Mountain on the right.  When walking through the field--the site of an old landfill--walk straight across toward the woods and you will see a trail marker on a tree.  The field itself has no trail markers.

The final approach to Mt. Marcy
The MacIntyre Range from Indian Falls--a great place for a break on the way to Marcy.
When a group approached me a month ago about a fall ascent of New York's highest peak, it brought back a ton of memories.  Mount Marcy happens to be the most commonly climbed first peak among aspiring Adirondack 46ers.  While I'm not surprised at this--most people aim big, often too big--such a daunting task is not always the wisest way to begin a conquest of our beloved high peaks.  

Marcy was my seventh High Peak.  I had already bagged Big Slide, Sawteeth, and Gothics that summer, which was certainly nothing to scoff at.  I felt more than ready to ascend New York's highest peak.  However, I was not at all prepared for the distance: at fifteen miles round trip, I had my work cut out for me.  The humidity on that July afternoon certainly didn't help matters either.  I slogged my way to Indian Falls, struggling to keep pace with my three hiking companions.  While I made the summit, I am sorry to say I was not in the best spirits.  Adding to my annoyance was a mall-like atmosphere of people.  The crowds were far worse than I had seen on other peaks.  One lady carried a small gray kitten with her--yes, literally, a cat--and didn't hesitate to show it off to anyone and everyone who passed.  Near the summit, a man with shoulder length sandy hair barked at a group of plate-eyed kids--no older than twelve or so.  I think the jerk confused mountain climbing with boot camp; the poor boys and girls in the party looked as miserable as I felt.  Eventually, I made it back to the car in one piece, proud of my accomplishment in day-hiking Mount Marcy, but I was still hurting.

As I continued my journey through the 46, I got in much better shape.  I learned through experience how crucial it is to do warmup hikes to start the season, and how wonderful peaks like Hurricane, Noonmark, Jo, Pharaoh, and Treadway can be, regardless if they don't "count."  Many more peaks were climbed and my confidence as a climber began to soar.  I started thinking about Marcy again.  I had climbed the highest peak in the state, but I still felt like she had gotten the best of me.  When it came time to do Skylight and Gray, my companion and I decided to approach via Lake Arnold, climb Gray and Skylight, and walk out via the same route.  But their bigger sister and neighbor, not to mention the appeal of an avenue-like descent courtesy of the Van Hoevenburg trail, began to call to me.  Although it is frowned upon, after a great climb of Skylight where I swear we encountered a shapeshifter (I'll save that story for another day), we climbed Gray and bushwhacked over to the summit of Marcy.  I do not recommend this bushwhack to inexperienced hikers.  The cripple brush is so thick you literally cannot see three feet in front of you.  We had to crouch down to detect the old herd path and we called to each other throughout the traverse, even though we were separated by no more than ten feet the whole way.  When we came out of the summit conifers, we were standing very near the summit of Mount Marcy.  Coming out of that thicket is when I finally fully appreciated that beauty of a mountain.  That experience is what has compelled me to plan a fall ascent of Marcy.  I already have some people interested in a guided trip, and we would love to have a few more who feel up to this intimidating, but wonderful challenge. 

I got out over the weekend with some fine folks and managed some decent large mouth bass.  Now, everyone knows I'm a trout guy first, but for clients who fancy bass, we have a lot to offer.  Among those in my party was notorious bass-slayer Mike (left), and a "gentleman" named Frank from Texas who managed the dandy pictured below.  What a terrific night with two awesome guys. 

My wife and I loaded the Hornbecks, enjoyed a nice paddle across Putts Pond, stashed and locked them up in the woods, then proceeded to hike one of my favorite mountains.  The last couple of times I've climbed Treadway have been in the winter; it's amazing how much different things look with the leaves on. I have never experienced such dry conditions. I think a burning ban will be in order soon. A lot of the undergrowth on the exposed rock sections was actually wilting. Despite the heat, this was still a tremendous day. With views of the High Peaks, Green Mountains, and Pharaoh Lake Wilderness, it was worth it. Bugs were persistent but not too bad.  This trip will be even more enjoyable in the fall as the leaves are changing.  See the "Featured" page for more information and to book this awesome trip for you and your family.