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Old 12-07-2016, 03:24 AM   #1
dynamicjade
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Question Please suggest moderate 2 day backpack hike for family of 4

I grew up in Ausable valley climbing mountains and picking off leaches after a summer swim.. my heart is in the mountains and I want to share that with my family. We live in Florida and will be driving up in the last week of May. My husband and I, our daughter (17) and son (7) all love hiking and camping. Although my son is young; he has hiked rigorous trails with me up to 7 miles so far and loves it. We are very schooled in gear and necessities and all are very physically fit.

With all of that said, I really need a suggestion for a two to three day, multipeak, moderate to light climb rate (no scaling) loop.. I prefer to camp mid mountain and not at the bottom trails. The main idea for the kids is packing in primitive experience.

* must be able to camp with fire
*waterfalls a huge plus
* beautiful summit views a must

We are also taking the second half of our week to do something fun and interesting with the kids in the area any suggestions on that would be awesome !! We would like to find a rustic small inexpensive privately owned cabin to rent or private land to camp on for the second half. Thank you !!
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Old 12-07-2016, 10:54 AM   #2
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On the easy side, consider Nundagao Ridge Loop in Keene.

It's a loop; you can throw in Big and Little Crow, and Hurricane for additional summits with great views; there are two leantos on the way around, and fires are allowed.

It's shy on waterfalls, although you can find a couple small ones; and it is pretty easy, so maybe not enough challenge.

Of course no fires are allowed in the Eastern High Peaks, and that is where many of the waterfalls are located. But there are certainly options in the Dix and Giant areas for "falls and fires" loops.
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Old 12-07-2016, 01:09 PM   #3
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I don't want too easy .. we all love a little challenge . I figured moderate would be perfect considering our kids .. they are both rugged and love the outdoors. What are the Giant loops like ?
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Old 12-07-2016, 01:10 PM   #4
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RE: Fires: There's definitely nothing wrong with wanting to have a fire, but please understand that campfires were banned in the Eastern High Peaks for a reason- there wasn't enough dead and downed wood to sustain all of the campfires that people were having, and a lot of groups turned to (illegally) cutting down standing trees as a result. Tree cutting has been a problem in some other areas of the Adirondacks, and this could conceivably lead to campfire bans in other backcountry areas in addition to the Eastern High Peaks. It's important that we all do what we can to minimize campfire impacts. I'm certainly not suggesting that you would cut down standing trees, but there's a few techniques we can all use to help ensure that all of the available dead and down wood at a campsite isn't being consumed. Things that can help (in high use areas especially) include minimizing the size and/or duration of our campfires, and at least occasionally choosing not to have one at all.

Also, your requirements are pretty specific and make it a bit difficult to suggest something that fits all of them- I'm having a hard time thinking of anything that fits all of your desires. Camping mid-peek often isn't possible in the High Peaks. Camping has been restricted at higher elevations to protect the alpine ecosystem, which is particularly sensitive to camping impacts (a few seconds of poorly planned foot steps on alpine vegetation can take decades to recover). In most instances in the High Peaks, you'd have to descend off of a ridgeline a fair distance before you could access a legal campsite.

There's a few exceptions to this- the Snowbird Tent site on the Great Range, and the Lake Mary Louise tent site on Rocky Peak Ridge are both higher elevation campsites that are legal for use. Both of these hikes are extremely arduous, though, and I'd be hesitant to recommend attempting them with a 7 year old and full packs, regardless of how enthusiastic that 7 year old might be. A loop hike is also not really possible with Giant/Rocky Peak Ridge.

I think TCD's recommendation for the Hurricane Mountain Wilderness is a good one. It's a bit rugged here and there, but nothing that an enthusiastic 7 year old couldn't handle (provided you get an early start so that time isn't an issue). In addition to the 2 lean-tos, there's also 1 or 2 tent sites near the Gulf Brook shelter. Big Crow, Nundagao, and Hurricane all have spectacular views.

If you were willing to base camp and forgo the idea of "camping among the peaks", the Dix Mountain Range might work. You can have fires there, and the range can be hiked as a loop. There's also numerous trails and herd paths that access the range, so it's easy to hike only as many peaks as you want. You'd have to set up a base camp and day hike the mountains, though (Slide Brook and Lillian Brook, on the south end of the range, are good spots for this). Also, most of the trail along the Dix Range is unmarked, so you need to do your research on the route (and have competent navigational skills, including ability to navigate with map and compass). Some of the peaks in the Dix Range have phenomenal views.

The Pharaoh Lake Wilderness is mostly lowland hiking, but there's two sizeable peaks there with outstanding views- Pharaoh Mountain and Treadway Mountain. Pharaoh Mountain can be hiked over (there's 2 trails to the summit), while Treadway is an out and back (only 1 trail to the summit). You probably wouldn't be able to fit both peaks into a 2 day trip, but even just one of them would be a worthwhile inclusion in your itinerary. Be warned, though, some locations in the Pharaoh Lake Wilderness Area are very popular- including Crane Pond, Oxshoe Pond, and Pharaoh Lake. These locations do fill to capacity on nice weekends in the summer.

There's also the Tongue Mountain Range, near Lake George, which is everything you're looking for minus the waterfalls. The hike between Fifth Peak and Montcalm Point especially is non-stop views out over Lake George, one after the other. Again, this is a pretty rugged hike that I'd be hesitant to attempt with a 7 year old, so I mention it here mostly for future reference (a good one to keep in mind for when he's a little bit older). Finding water along the Tongue Mountain Range can especially be an issue- in the summer, all of the sources along the ridge dry up, and hikers are often forced to descend over a thousand feet down to the shore of Lake George to get water, then carry it all the way back up to their camp on the ridge.

There's a few options in the Catskills that might work for you. Blackhead can be done as a loop backpacking trip (with an optional out and back to Black Dome and Thomas Cole). A little bit longer loop is possibly by include Acra Point. There's a lean-to near the ridge north of Blackhead, and I believe there's a designated tent site between Blackhead and Black Dome. Shorter loops are also possible on the eastern end of the Devil's Path, including a loop over Sugarloaf and a loop over Indian Head, with camping options nearby (although be warned also that this area is very popular for backpacking). The Devil's Path is also pretty rugged but these individual loops are relatively short so I think you'd be OK if you took your time. Lastly, the Burroughs Range can be hiked as a longer loop, with camping available between Slide and Cornell, as well as on top of Giant's Ledge. Again, the Burroughs Range is a bit more rugged and longer so I'd be hesitant to attempt this one with a 7 year old and full packs, but this is a good one to keep in mind for the future.

If you're willing to forgo peaks entirely, then your options in the Adirondacks for 2-3 day loop backpacking trips in an area where you can have campfires open up significantly.
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Old 12-07-2016, 01:13 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dynamicjade View Post
I don't want too easy .. we all love a little challenge . I figured moderate would be perfect considering our kids .. they are both rugged and love the outdoors. What are the Giant loops like ?
Have they done any backpacking previously?
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Old 12-07-2016, 07:24 PM   #6
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Good info from DS, as always.

If I were taking kids on a loop in the Giant Wilderness, I would not try to include Rock Peak Ridge an Lake Mary Louise - that is indeed arduous.

Giant features one of the most spectacular accessible waterfalls at Roaring Brook Falls. And it does have a leanto, but they are on opposite sides of the mountain so it's hard to build a loop that includes both. Here's one option: Hike up the Giant Ridge trail to the large camping area near the Washbowl Pond and make base camp. One day, take the Washbowl Pond trail over to Roaring Brook Falls, and return via the Nubble (views). The other day, go up Giant, return to camp and hike out. Not really loops, but lots of good terrain.
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Old 12-07-2016, 11:20 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by TCD View Post
Good info from DS, as always.

If I were taking kids on a loop in the Giant Wilderness, I would not try to include Rock Peak Ridge an Lake Mary Louise - that is indeed arduous.

Giant features one of the most spectacular accessible waterfalls at Roaring Brook Falls. And it does have a leanto, but they are on opposite sides of the mountain so it's hard to build a loop that includes both. Here's one option: Hike up the Giant Ridge trail to the large camping area near the Washbowl Pond and make base camp. One day, take the Washbowl Pond trail over to Roaring Brook Falls, and return via the Nubble (views). The other day, go up Giant, return to camp and hike out. Not really loops, but lots of good terrain.
This might be a great option ! I will def look into this !
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Old 12-07-2016, 11:21 PM   #8
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Yes we do a lot of it ! Between Florida and North Carolina .
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Old 12-08-2016, 01:53 PM   #9
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Dsettahr awesome points !

No we are not those people !! Lol. They do frequent many areas though and leave a trail of unnecessary natural destruction . We see it on trails we frequent in South Carolina and north Georgia .. even parts of the AT have been diminished of natural fallen wood. We simply are the type that enjoys cooking over fire as well as a simple low light crackle during our camp outs. We typically only run a small fallen branch fire for a couple of hours for dinner and conversation and practice the "leave no trace" rules effectively. Thank you for all of your knowledgeable suggestions. We are moving to Pennsylvania next year so I will definetly keep your Catskill trip in the back of the noggin !

Speaking about the afformentioned people .. we will be coming up the last week of May during the holiday . Do you think Tcd's suggestion below will pose any problems with security of gear at a base camp?

"Giant features one of the most spectacular accessible waterfalls at Roaring Brook Falls. And it does have a leanto, but they are on opposite sides of the mountain so it's hard to build a loop that includes both. Here's one option: Hike up the Giant Ridge trail to the large camping area near the Washbowl Pond and make base camp. One day, take the Washbowl Pond trail over to Roaring Brook Falls, and return via the Nubble (views). The other day, go up Giant, return to camp and hike out. Not really loops, but lots of good terrain."

Questions for all : The holiday might bring young and wild to the area no? Looking to camparty? I am concerned that we may not be able to leave our things at washbowl for the roaring brook hike or the Giant. What is your suggestion on this concern ? Also are you knowledgeable on how far it is from car parking to washbowl pond camp? I have yet to receive my trail maps and books I ordered to find this information accurately ☹️.. one more thing .. is fishing allowed on the washbowl pond?

Thank you ALL so much for your help !!
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Old 12-08-2016, 02:31 PM   #10
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In general in the Adirondacks, stuff left at camp is safe. Naturally, I would put everything (except food, which needs to be canistered or hung) inside the tent and zip it up; I would not leave a wallet or an Ipad sitting out on a rock by the trail. But in general things are safe.

You would need a NYS fishing license, of course, to legally fish the pond. But I don't think there are many, if any fish in that pond. It's quite tiny, and has lots of fluctuations in level (including draining out almost completely through a hole in the bottom about 15 years ago!). Back down the hill by the car at Chapel Pond there is fishing. But I am not a fisherman, so others might want to chime in.
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Old 12-08-2016, 02:52 PM   #11
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RE: fishing

Good to know !! We won't have any electronics beside a camera anyways .. it's electronic free week!! I have purchased my bear canister for sure ! My husband said just pad lock the tent zips! You never know these days and it's sad .. there are misguided teens lurking about down here that take anything they can .. I remember the Adirondacks as a kid being full of people to help and not hurt but it's been 20+ years!! I'll check in on the fishing thread about those ponds you mentioned as well and get licensed ! We love fishing a dinner or two!!
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Old 12-08-2016, 03:11 PM   #12
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Backcountry theft does happen but it's pretty rare. I wouldn't leave anything super valuable (wallet, phone, etc.) unattended in camp. I'd also be sure to put things away inside your tent, and zip the tent up so that no one can look into it without opening it. If you're staying in a lean-to, leave your space neat and tidy (and leave space for others to use if they desire- lean-tos are meant to be shared between groups until they are full, typically around 6-8 people depending on the lean-to). Other than that, I wouldn't worry too much about theft.

Going to the Adirondacks during a holiday weekend, however, poses another issue- crowds. This will especially be an issue in the High Peaks, but can be a problem in other areas of the Adirondacks also. On 3-day weekends there are a lot of visitors to the Adirondacks, and competition for backcountry campsites can be pretty high. Many backcountry camping areas can and do fill to capacity during holiday weekends, and late comers are often forced to either move into and share already occupied sites (there is a limit of 9 persons to a site, 8 in some areas), or find a non-established site on their own (in accordance with the 150 foot rule). Finding non-established, non-designated sites in the High Peaks can be pretty tricky due to the both the density of the understory and the ruggedness of the terrain in many areas in the mountains. In some places, if you're not set up in a campsite the woods by early Friday afternoon, you'll miss out entirely on the nicest sites. If you're not in the woods by Saturday morning at the latest, you may miss out on getting an established, designated site entirely.

I'm not really sure when you're planning your trip- it sounds like your week in the Adirondacks is either the week leading up to Memorial Day weekend, or the week starting with Memorial Day weekend. In any case, my suggestion to you would be that since you have a full week, plan your backpacking trip so that it doesn't happen during the holiday weekend. Do the normal touristy stuff during the holiday weekend (be sure to check out the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake, the Wild Center in Tupper Lake, and the Olympic venues), and do your backpacking trip either before or after the weekend (depending on which week you're visiting the Adirondacks). You'll encounter far fewer other hikers in the backcountry this way, and your backpacking trip will likely be a lot less stressful since you won't have to worry as much about finding an available, unoccupied site to camp in.

With regards to fishing, like TCD says, you'll need a NYS license. I would guess that the Washbowl is probably classified as a trout pond, so no live bait is permitted. I would agree, though, that there's likely not much fish there for the reasons TCD states. You can view the 2016-2017 NYS Fishing Syllabus online. There's a lot of confusing regulations, but all of the important information is in there.

As an FYI- bear canisters aren't required in the Giant Mountain Wilderness Area, but using one anyways definitely isn't a bad idea (they are effective for squirrels and mice in addition to bears). Make sure you learn how to use it correctly- don't leave the canister open, only take out exactly what food you need for that particular meal and close and secure the canister lid immediately (some bears have learned to wait unseen until the canisters are open, then charge into camp and steal the still-open canister). Practice packing it (getting everything to fit is tough, and it may affect your food choices as you shop as well). Just as importantly, make sure you keep camp clean, and follow the LNT protocols for dish washing. You didn't specify which brand of canister your purchased, but be aware that the BearVault brand has failed in the High Peaks in the past, and is not recommended for use in the High Peaks.

A few other important considerations given your time frame: Memorial Day Weekend is often right smack in the middle of black fly season. You'll want to be adequately prepared with bug nets to wear over your head, bug repellent, long sleeve clothing, etc., for sure. Be sure also to adequately warn your family so that they're prepared mentally. (The nice thing about black flies is that they go away at night, but when they bite they sure do take a chunk out of you.)

Second, winter may not quite be over yet by Memorial Day. It's likely that you'll still encounter some snow at higher elevations, and if we have a normal winter, it may even be deep enough in spots to necessitate snowshoes. Areas of ice may necessitate microspikes. Cold temperatures at night are a possibility; two years ago during Memorial Day weekend the temperatures dropped down into the 20's at night in the Champlain Valley, in the high peaks they were likely even lower. There is even a slight (but nonzero) chance that you'll see snowfall- during Memorial Day weekend in 2013, over 14 inches of snow fell at higher elevations in the High Peaks. You'll definitely want to be prepared for cooler temperatures at night at the very least, so warm layers and appropriately rating sleeping bags are necessary. (May in the Adirondacks in a lot of ways feels pretty similar to February in the southern Appalachians. Unless your family has done winter trips in the GA/TN/NC area, I think that after living in Florida, they may be in for a bit of a shock in just how cold it can get in the Adirondacks at night even in late May.)

Third, that time of year is typically mud season. The DEC often institutes a voluntary hiking ban in the High Peaks during mud season, where hikers are asked to stay out of the High Peaks. The reason for this is that this is the time of year that the most damage (erosion) is done to higher elevation trails by hiker traffic. In steep terrain, the combination of wet and saturated soils at the surface with still frozen soils deeper in the ground leads to easy sheering of soils by foot traffic, which in turn means more erosion. The ban is purely voluntary, so you wouldn't be ticketed or fined or anything if you went to the High Peaks anyways, but IMO it is worth at least considering as you plan your itinerary. As an alternative, if you were to pick a destination anywhere outside of the High Peaks (which still leaves you a significant majority of the Adirondacks), you'd likely still encounter mud but you'd also likely be doing less adverse impact by hiking through it at the same time. (There's also some debate over the efficacy of the hiking ban, but in any case the best case scenario during late May in the High Peaks is still lots and lots of mud. If you don't already use them, you may want to consider investing in gaiters.)

One other last thought with regards to difficulty- I've done a fair amount of backpacking in the Southern Appalachians myself (including trips into the Cohutta Wilderness, the Ellicott Rock Wilderness, the Joyce-Kilmer Slickrock Wilderness, the Snowbird Mountains Wilderness Study Area, the Black Mountains (including Mount Mitchell), the Linville Gorge Wilderness, and along the AT). My experience has been that the Southern Appalachians really aren't nearly as rugged as the Adirondack High Peaks (except maybe Linville Gorge). So again, I think some level of caution with regards to not pushing your family too hard (at least on your first trip or two) is warranted. I think your willingness to do the Giant's Washbowl base camp is a good choice in this regard.

To be clear- I know that this post sounds kind of doomy and gloomy, and I'm not trying to suggest at all that you shouldn't undertake this trip. It sounds like you're well prepared. The above are all things that I think are worth considering as you plan your trip, that someone who's been out of the state for a while might not think to address ahead of time. If you're sure to consider all of these issues through your planning and preparation, I think your trip will be more safe and fun for everyone involved.
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