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Old 03-24-2016, 09:22 PM   #1
Stageloid
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Question Trip Suggestions

Hey guys!

First time post here, I'm an Eagle Scout from Princeton NJ about to go for four days and three nights into High Peaks with two of my college buddies. We're all fairly experienced with ultralight backpacking, all having been on multiple multi-day trips before. I'm working on getting crampons since I understand we may run into some snow and ice up there. Otherwise, we're well equipped and looking to do some bushwhacking!

What would you guys suggest for a four day backpack through high peaks around this time of year?
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Old 03-24-2016, 09:52 PM   #2
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This isn't the easiest time of year to backpack in the High Peaks, as there is a bunch of things you'll need to think about.

Spring seems to be well on its way but you definitely need to be prepared for winter. We're not in the clear yet as far was winter weather goes- we could easily yet get another storm that drops a foot of snow. Several years ago, the High Peaks got 14 inches of snow over Memorial Day Weekend.

You'll want clothing that will allow you to layer. You'll also want warm sleeping bags- for a trip in the High Peaks this time of year I would personally bring a bag that was rated around 0 to 5 degrees. A vapor barrier liner may also be necessary to prevent moisture build up in your bag since you'll be doing a longer trip in colder (below-freezing) nighttime temperatures. Make sure you bring tents even if you plan to camp at lean-tos, as lean-tos often fill up and space isn't guaranteed.

This has also been an icy winter, so things have been a bit technical. There is also still a fair amount of snow at higher elevations. You'll want snowshoes for sure (they are required by regulation when the snow is 8 inches or more deep) as well as microspikes. Crampons are probably essential as well.

In addition to snow, there will be a fair amount of mud and water from melting snow. Stream crossings can be tricky or possibly even dangerous, especially in late afternoon after a warm, sunny day. Hypothermia is very much something to keep in mind and watch out for, especially if you end up hiking in rain. A rainy day at 40 degrees will sap heat out your body a lot faster than a snow day at 20 degrees will, as water conducts heat much more readily than snow does.

You'll also want to familiarize yourselves with the DEC's state land use regulations as well as the Leave No Trace Principles, if you haven't already done so. Note that the High Peaks Wilderness (and the Eastern Zone of the High Peaks Wilderness specifically) has its own set of regulations. In particular, you need to be aware of the fire ban, and that bear canisters are required for overnight food storage starting on April 1. The fire ban exists due to the extreme high level of use of the area and the impacts that campfires generate, and the bear canister regulation is to prevent negative encounters between bears and hikers (which can lead to the DEC having to euthanize the bears). Remember also to be extremely careful at higher elevations, where vegetation is extremely sensitive to trampling and can take decades or even centuries to recover if it is damaged or killed.

If you end up putting this trip off a few weeks, remember also that the DEC typically implements a hiking ban during mud season every spring and asks hikers to stay off of steep trails in the High Peaks. During this time of year, soils that are still saturated with melt water are particularly susceptible to adverse impacts from hikers. The soils in the High Peaks are pretty sensitive to hiker traffic to begin with, and erosion in particular is already a problem on my High Peaks trails. Hiking during mud season can significantly exacerbate this issue. The ban is purely voluntary, so you won't be ticketed of fined if you hike in the High Peaks anyways, but ultimately complying with it is generally in the bests interests of protecting resources in the High Peaks. If you're determined to do something in the High Peaks and are interested in helping to protect the area at the same time, I would encourage you to at least consider timing your trip so that it avoids the ban.

With all of that being said, if you want bushwhacking, I recommend looking into trips in either the Seward Range, the Santanoni Range, or the Dix Range. Most of the peaks in these ranges are accessed via unmarked trails that are minimally maintained. They aren't true bushwhacks in the purest sense, but they will nonetheless force you to rely on proper planning and navigational skills. For phenomenal views, check out peaks like Algonquin, Marcy, Haystack, or Skylight. Each of these peaks has above treeline terrain that offers spectacular scenery (again, remember to be super careful in the alpine zone where the ecosystem is the most fragile).

I hope this helps! :-)
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Old 03-24-2016, 10:45 PM   #3
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Thanks for the quick response!

We are bringing layers, we have 0 degree mummy bags and liners, we have tents and can bushcraft groundpads if we decide not to bring the good ol' thermarests. Like I said I'm an Eagle Scout, besides that a lifeguard and well-versed in hypothermia prevention leave no trace. I read the Eastern High Peaks region rules and noted the fire ban, which will suck if we end up having to camp somewhere in there and it starts raining. I know about the Alpine zone ecology which is really incredible to read about.. all the hundred year old mosses and lichen! I'm actually an Environmental Science major up at Cornell University, so you could say I'm pretty sustainably minded haha.

Thanks again! I was thinking of starting at Keene Valley and trying this route: http://www.lakeplacid.com/blog/2014/...after-traverse starting very early and ending quite late hopefully somewhere around Marcy. Day Two we would head towards Algonquin and then over the border into Western High Peaks to set up a comfy camp with a fire. Day three would be another big one and I'm not sure what we would want to do yet. Any Thoughts?
Remember we want to back at Keene Valley on day four.

Alternatively We could start in the Western High Peaks.. any suggestions there?
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Old 03-24-2016, 11:11 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Stageloid View Post
Thanks again! I was thinking of starting at Keene Valley and trying this route: http://www.lakeplacid.com/blog/2014/...after-traverse starting very early and ending quite late hopefully somewhere around Marcy. Day Two we would head towards Algonquin and then over the border into Western High Peaks to set up a comfy camp with a fire. Day three would be another big one and I'm not sure what we would want to do yet. Any Thoughts?
Remember we want to back at Keene Valley on day four.
That is an extremely difficult and ambitious itinerary. On your day 1, you're basically attempting the better part of a full Great Range traverse in single day, with overnight packs, and possibly in winter conditions. Even with relatively light gear, it will still be an extremely tough day. Very few hikers would be capable of this, even in summer. It's really only doable if all of the members of your group are in amazing hiking shape and have trained for such an itinerary. Even then, you'll likely find that your capacity for hiking is significantly diminished on day 2 as your body takes time to recover. It's not something that is advisable to attempt unless you're absolutely sure that you and your group are prepared.

Camping along that route is also limited- camping above 3,500 feet is restricted to designated sites only, and above 4,000 feet it is prohibited entirely. There is a single designated tent site partway down Trail 59, the trail that branches off of the Great Range Trail to the south just east of Haystack. That's really your only realistic, legal camping option along that route until you reach Marcy Dam.

Also, there is no easy, quick way to get into the Western High Peaks from Algonquin. The boundary between the two runs along the Street/Nye/Lost Pond Peak/MacNaughton ridge line, and is pretty far west off of the map that you linked to. The closest access to the Western High Peaks from the Eastern High Peaks is to hike south almost to the Upper Works Trailhead, and then head west towards Duck Hole. You pass into the Western High Peaks zone about halfway to Duck Hole from Upper Works. If you were also to do Algonquin and the MacIntyre Range on Day 2, I think it is pretty likely that you would be unable to get to the Western High Peaks until Day 3, at which point you'd be pretty far from your starting point and unable to get back by Day 4.

In general, any 4 day itinerary that gets you into the Western High Peaks from Keene Valley and back again is going to be pretty ambitious.

It might help if we have a better understanding of the physical ability level of your group. What is the hardest hike you (or your group) has undertaken, and how would you like this trip to compare to that one in terms of difficulty?
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Old 03-25-2016, 03:18 AM   #5
Stageloid
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I'm a pretty quick hiker and am aiming for about a 22lb pack in all with the capability of storing 2L of water at a time.

Penny stove system(mainly the bottle of alcohol is the weight at 3/4lb),
.75
lightweight pot(1/4 pound?),
1.0
insulated mug and spoon(8oz),
1.5
lightweight oversized (3snug) man tent (3.5lbs),
5.0
possibly a thermarest(9oz),
5.9
0degree sleeping bag (2lb),
7.9
about 3lb/day and 2lb on the first and last day is 10 pounds of food tbd this weekend of carb/fat dense food along with some protein obviously.
17.9
Buck 119 knife (7.5oz)
--
Toiletries(6oz)
18.5
First Aid(~6oz)
19.1
Clothing system:
--
Hat: lil synthetic triathlon beanie
--
Gloves:Thick ones and I'll take em on and off.
--
Neck-warmer: Synthetic thing, can be used as a balaclava
--
Base: (I don't know what the material is), but it wicks well and breathes but does help trap some heat and it's entirely synthetic, long sleeve shirt to be worn most days.
--
Mid: long sleeve merino wool blend thin jacket
I will have an extra similar midlayer in my pack for sleeping along with sleeping socks.Socks are the winter hiking smartwool socks. Top notch socks, btw.
--
Outer: Two part inner shell with synthetic insulation, outer thick water resistant shell with hood
--
Pants:Scout pants! They're synthetic and very light! I'll have rain pants in my pack as well.
--
Trial sneakers, my feet are just going to get wet and I'll dry them off with a chamois when I really need to get em warm!
(I know this is counterintuitive and people will freak out at the thought of me getting frostbitten toes, but as long as you keep moving the blood gets to them and they'll dry in the event I absolutely have to get them wet.)
--
Crampons:2lb
21.1
Paracord, sleeping socks and extra midlayer: 1lb
22.1

Weight of pack itself: 2.5lbs
--
In the overall pack weight at about 22lbs I excluded water weight and clothing weight because that's what I'll be wearing. My knife will hang on my belt and so it was subtracted.

I'm a pretty athletic kid and my friends and I are ambitious. 20 miles in a day I think is very achievable given an early start each morning, some coffee, and a good pace and spirit along the way.
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Old 03-25-2016, 10:09 AM   #6
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Respectfully, your desired route indicates only one of two things to me:
  1. You are extremely fit and skilled backpackers who have completed many challenging hikes in the High Peaks. You're now embarking on your most ambitious hike ever.
  2. You have no idea what hiking in the High Peaks is like.
Which is it?

Like DSettahr said, knowing something about your previous hikes will enable us to make realistic suggestions. What was your most ambitious hike?

BTW, if you don't have a map and guidebook for the High Peaks, I urge you to get them and familiarize yourself with the region.
Guidebook: "High Peaks Trails Guidebook".
Map: "Trails of the Adirondack High Peaks"

The trails on this map aren't 100% accurate but they'll give you a sense of scale. http://caltopo.com/map.html#ll=44.14...592&z=13&b=mbt

Read the links DSettahr provided. You need to know the area's regulations before you plan your trip. For example, you indicated "ending quite late somewhere around Marcy". There's nowhere to camp "around Marcy". You must descend below 3500 feet to legally primitive-camp. If your first day involves traversing the Great Range, you'll want to know precisely where you can camp.
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Old 03-25-2016, 12:49 PM   #7
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You say that you "think" a 20 mile day is doable. This indicates to me that you may not have ever hiked a 20 mile day before (please correct me if I am wrong). Yes, 20 mile days are doable, but the Great Range is not just a 20 mile day, it's a 20 mile day with nearly 10,000 feet of elevation gain, through extremely rugged terrain. That elevation gain and the ruggedness of the terrain is going to make the hike substantially more difficult than a 20 mile day over relatively flat ground would be. Ignoring effects from fatigue and weather conditions, the average hiker would take at least 15 hours to traverse 20 miles with 10,000 feet of elevation gain.

And to expect that you'll be able to get up early after a day like that and keep the pace up, hitting more High Peaks like the MacIntyres... that's not something you do unless you hike these kinds of distances in terrain this rugged on at least a somewhat regular basis.

Remember too that "being in good shape" doesn't always translate to "being in good hiking shape." Hiking uses muscles (particularly for balance) that don't often get much use otherwise. The often quoted adage is that "the best way to get into shape for hiking is to hike." In shape, athletic people with day packs, hiking in the summer, can still struggle with a great range traverse if they aren't used to hiking.

With regards to your gear, it seems like you are generally well prepared. You probably need to add snowshoes, though. Remember that you can be ticketed and fined if you don't have them and the snow is more than 8 inches deep. People are still reporting several feet of snow in spots at higher elevations, with deep post holing possible without snowshoes. Even from a non-regulatory stand point, post holing can sap your strength and energy quite quickly.

Unless you are planning for your hike to take place within the next week, you also need to factor in the weight of the bear canister, and make sure that the canister will hold all of your food, and fit your pack.

I would also encourage you to pack a full change of base layers- extra top, bottom, and socks, to have a dry base layer to change into in the event that you get soaking wet. A few weeks ago, a Forest Ranger on a rescue mission went through the ice of a stream, and even though they had a complete change of clothes, they still needed to be evacuated by helicopter.

I disagree with your decision to wear non-waterproof trail runners. It's not "in the event they get wet," it is "they will get wet, and they'll probably be wet about 30 minutes into your hike and will never dry out afterwards." I agree with the use of non-waterproof trail runners in summer (I use them myself) but in early spring, when you have a lot of melting snow, I don't really think that this type of footwear is appropriate.

Also, make sure your crampons fit your shoes- some models of crampons will only work with plastic mountaineering boots that have heel and toe welts. Attempting to use these "step in" crampons with regular hiking shoes can be dangerous.

Please don't take this the wrong way- you have to understand that 99% of the time, when someone asks for advice on this forum about an itinerary as ambitious as this one, it turns out that they are relatively new to hiking and don't really understand just what they are getting themselves into. There's absolutely nothing wrong with being ambitious, and I think it is great that you have a desire to follow an itinerary just as difficult as this one. It's just that this isn't something you do on a whim- the best way to make it happen, and to ensure that you are successful at completing it, is to work up to it with intermediate hikes of increasing difficulty.

Again, you very well could have the experience and skill necessary to do this hike- but you haven't yet shared what that experience is. Letting us know what difficult hikes you've done in the past, and how you want this trip to compare to them in terms of difficulty, can help us to give you better advice. I can't speak for other forum members, but until I at least know what your experience level is in better detail, I'm going to err on the side of caution and keep my recommendations extremely conservative.
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Old 03-25-2016, 12:53 PM   #8
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Thanks for the concern,

I'm not exactly sure what the route we took was, but the hardest hike I took was mid-summer with about 6 other older kids from my scout troop and a (20 something) year old chaperone when I was 16 (three years ago). I remember being able to hike about 12 miles a day then and we hit the summit of Marcy and Algonquin, starting and ending at the Loj. What made it hard was a pack weight over 40lbs due to poor planning and excess packing on the part of our parents. That hike spanned 5 days and we all did fine. I understand the conditions are poorer due to the spring thaw and ongoing precipitation.

That said, we may get out there and not be able to go as far as we had planned, as long as we make it 150 feet from a trail, or water source of any sort, and below 4,000 feet we can set up camp and reevaluate where we want to go. Are people allowed to camp this way anywhere within high peaks region? What if I crossed East Branch Ausable river
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Old 03-25-2016, 01:06 PM   #9
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I'm not exactly sure what the route we took was, but the hardest hike I took was mid-summer with about 6 other older kids from my scout troop and a (20 something) year old chaperone when I was 16 (three years ago). I remember being able to hike about 12 miles a day then and we hit the summit of Marcy and Algonquin, starting and ending at the Loj. What made it hard was a pack weight over 40lbs due to poor planning and excess packing on the part of our parents. That hike spanned 5 days and we all did fine. I understand the conditions are poorer due to the spring thaw and ongoing precipitation.
The itinerary you are proposing is significantly more difficult than the trip you did 3 years ago, even disregarding the season and the difference in pack weights. I think you would be well advised to plan a less ambitious hike. If everyone goes fine, then you can start to plan more and more ambitious itineraries with confidence.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stageloid View Post
That said, we may get out there and not be able to go as far as we had planned, as long as we make it 150 feet from a trail, or water source of any sort, and below 4,000 feet we can set up camp and reevaluate where we want to go. Are people allowed to camp this way anywhere within high peaks region? What if I crossed East Branch Ausable river
In the High Peaks Wilderness, you can only camp at designated sites between 3,500 feet and 4,000 feet, and there are very few such sites (the Snobird tent site is the only one I know of off the top of my head). So it is more than likely that you'll need to descent to below 3,500 feet... and that doesn't necessary mean that you'll be able to find a decent place to camp. At 3,500 feet, the terrain is still fairly steep, and the vegetation is still pretty thick. Finding patches of flat ground with enough room to pitch a tent is going to be difficult. For a Great Range Hike, I would generally just plan to descend to a designated tent site or lean-to, which means you'll generally be descending a couple of miles off of the ridge.

In the Giant and Dix Mountain Wilderness Areas (and on all other state land), you can camp pretty much anywhere below 4,000 feet and 150 feet off of trails and water. Again, though, from a practical standpoint, finding decent camping locations that high up in the mountains is going to be pretty hard.
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Old 03-25-2016, 01:32 PM   #10
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That's a very sketchy description of your trip. Your most ambitious hike ever and you can't recall the objectives, distances, or elevation gain? Could that be because it was a guided trip and you were simply following in someone's footsteps?

This won't be a guided hike. You've chosen one of the most challenging day-hikes in the High Peaks to be the first day of a multi-day backpacking trip. You continue to misinterpret the DEC's camping regulation (no primitive camping above 3500 feet in the HPWA except at designated sites and there's only one such site along the Great Range).

I truly believe you are underestimating the challenge and attempting it with little or no understanding of the local rules. If nothing else, learn the location of all "bail-out" trails along your proposed route.
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Old 03-25-2016, 02:15 PM   #11
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Ok, so scratch high peaks almost altogether then? I'm asking for you guys to offer possible routes/destinations. I'm just trying to string a four-day trip together here before Tuesday. My proposal was way too ambitious, it seems. We are D1 college athletes who can walk up and down hills all day long (I know hiking is different) and do not often get to go backpacking for too long.

What are some destinations you guys would want to do around this time of year with either crampons or snowshoes (can I get away with one or the other or do I absolutely need both)? I can string what looks do-able and exciting together and will certainly put the route back up here and upload pictures after we go. I just really can't wait to get out there again, it's been about a year since I went last and just winged a two day trip with another buddy.

The weather forecast is for rain on Friday and possibly Saturday. It will be below freezing at night and above it by about as much as 15 degrees during the day for pretty much the whole region.
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Old 03-25-2016, 04:03 PM   #12
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You don't need to avoid the High Peaks entirely- there's plenty of other itineraries that would allow you to enjoy challenging hiking that isn't anywhere near as difficult as what you original proposed.

For maximum flexibility, I would suggest a base camp approach, that allows you to remain camped at the same location for 3 nights. Some possible options:

1. Hike into the Johns Brook area on day 1 and set up camp. Climb Big Slide in the afternoon of day 1. On day 2, do the lower Great Range (Lower Wolfjaw, Upper Wolfjaw, Armstrong, and Gothics). On day 3, do the upper Great Range (Saddleback, Basin, Haystack, and Marcy). Pack up and hike out on day 4.

2. Hike into the Marcy Dam area on day 1 and set up camp. Climb Phelps (and perhaps Tabletop) in the afternoon. On day 2, do a loop consisting of Marcy, Skylight, and Gray, and return to Marcy Dam via Lake Arnold. On day 3, do a loop consisting of Wright, Algonquin, and Iroquois and return to Marcy Dam via Avalanche Pass. On day 4, do Colden in the early morning, return to Marcy Dam, pack up, and hike out.

3. Hike into the Lake Colden area on day 1 and set up camp. Climb Marshall in the afternoon. On day 2, climb Grey, Skylight, and Marcy via Feldspar Brook. On day 3, do Iroquois and Algonuin (you could also loop over Wright and return to Lake Colden via Avalanche Pass). Pack up and hike out on day 4.

Any of these itineraries would be still be challenging. By using the base camp approach, you can also adjust and tailor each day to how you are feeling, without having to worry about sticking to an itinerary to ensure that you are back to your car on day 4. The first and last day is also relatively easier, so if you end up getting a later start, it's not a huge detriment to your trip, and you can be headed home early on the last day and not have to worry about staying awake for a lengthy drive back the NJ after a 20 mile day.

If you go to the High Peaks Wilderness next weekend, though, you'll need to carry snowshoes, crampons, and bear canisters- 3 heavy and bulky objects.

You could do something in the Giant or Dix Mountain Wilderness areas- bear canisters are not required in those areas. Snowshoes aren't required either but if you go without them you could still end up post holing and losing a lot of energy.
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Old 03-25-2016, 04:46 PM   #13
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+1 on the basecamp suggestion.
One more option is a counter-clockwise loop around the Seward Range.
I think it offers much of what you're looking for in a 4-day BP trip.
  • Starting points in Long Lake, Newcomb or Corey's Road.
  • Plenty of leantos with fireplaces.
  • The Cold River leg should be savored. It's one of my favorites stretches in the ADKS - beautiful scenery, some interesting history, and a few side trips. Take your time and poke around a little bit.
  • Seymour and Donaldson are along the way too if want to tag a couple of high peaks. (Emmons and Seward too, but adding those might complicate your plans.)
Search this forum and the HighPeaks forum and you'll find many helpful threads about the Sewards, Cold River, and the NPT.
Be well. And I hope you have a great outing!
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Old 03-25-2016, 07:04 PM   #14
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An alternative that is challenging, but doable, with more camping options would be to start at the Ausable Club parking lot off Route 73 and hike up Noonmark and then Dix, and camp at Slide Brook leanto (approx. 13 miles). Next day, hike around Elk Lake, then up to Blake and Colvin and camp at the designated sites along Gill Brook. Day 3, leave camp set up and day hike the lower Great Range, with the option to add on Sawteeth and Pyramid if you're feeling ambitious. Last day, pack up and take the short but very scenic hike over Indian Head and Fish Hawk Cliffs, then hike out along Lake Road back to your car.

This route lets you camp out of the official High Peaks Wilderness, but offers great views and challenging terrain, with camp fires allowed. If your group isn't feeling as strong as expected, you could camp day 1 at the Bouquet leanto, then at the designated site northeast of Elk Lake, and then at Gill Brook on day 3, and skip the Lower Great Range.

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Old 03-25-2016, 07:27 PM   #15
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+1 on the basecamp suggestion.
One more option is a counter-clockwise loop around the Seward Range.
I think it offers much of what you're looking for in a 4-day BP trip.
  • Starting points in Long Lake, Newcomb or Corey's Road.
  • Plenty of leantos with fireplaces.
  • The Cold River leg should be savored. It's one of my favorites stretches in the ADKS - beautiful scenery, some interesting history, and a few side trips. Take your time and poke around a little bit.
  • Seymour and Donaldson are along the way too if want to tag a couple of high peaks. (Emmons and Seward too, but adding those might complicate your plans.)
Search this forum and the HighPeaks forum and you'll find many helpful threads about the Sewards, Cold River, and the NPT.
Be well. And I hope you have a great outing!
This is one of my favorites. I do this almost every year. Having done both directions, I prefer clockwise though.
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Old 03-26-2016, 06:43 AM   #16
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I agree that the Coldriver trip , with the gate closed at Corey's you can hike to the summer trail head an take the wardbrook truck trail to Coldriver hike the npt. to Shattucks take the Calkins brook trail back to the trailhead or go up an go out an over mud mt trail an come out at your trail head by the gate, If you do this trip take your time an enjoy it. I've done it many times.
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