A Shinny Up Sawteeth

“Don’t be pushed by your problems, be led by your dreams.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ok…so it was not exactly a “shinny” by any means! It was hot…hot…oh and hot!  But I had the day to myself so it would have been a shame not to follow through with my hiking plan.

This past Sunday, I awoke at 3:30 a.m., sleepily plunked myself into my truck and began my day trip to the Adirondacks. Four slowdowns for meandering deer, 5 wild turkeys and 1 shooting star later (it was AMAZING, by the way…closest one I’ve seen yet!), I arrived at the St. Hubert’s parking lot in Keene Valley.

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The plan was to hike Sawteeth and a repeat of Gothics for good measure.  A repeat of Gothics because I had already summited Gothics, along with Armstrong and Upper Wolf Jaw this past January…in snowshoes!  We neglected to nab Sawteeth at the time because one of my hiking partners was having difficulty breathing. She was such a trooper!  #asthmastinks

This meant, however, that this here aspiring 46er would have to make the return trip for Sawteeth as a solo peak.  A looooong return trip! But I was up for the challenge yet again!

After eating a quick “parking lot”breakfast, I started on my 10 minute journey to the trailhead.  The incredible part is that you walk through the grounds of the Ausable Club and to your right….magnificent mountain beauty to behold!

Giant Mountain

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The lupines were so pretty.

At 9:12 a.m., I signed the trail register and wrote next to my name:  “This is the day the Lord has made, rejoice and be glad in it.” (One of my favorite Psalms) And…I was off, down the 3 mile stretch of Lake Road.

There had been reports of a mama bear and cubs sighting the day before near Rainbow Falls, as well as that morning near Beaver Meadow Falls trail on Lake Road.  Unfortunately for me, I was hitting both of those trails that day!  So as I walked on, my eyes were peeled. I attempted to stay calm and not lose my nerve by singing, of all things.

Lake Road was alive with wildlife! Butterflies fluttered about everywhere! (and so did the black flies…gross).  The butterflies made up for the pesky flies though.

This is the day the Lord has made…rejoice and be glad.

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After about 30 minutes of walking, I saw them.  Bear prints…in the road. Crossing from the east by Gill Brook to the west by Beaver Meadow Falls.  Eyes peeled once again!  But alas, my terrible eyesight spotted nothing. (Later on, I would meet some hikers that spotted the bears crossing and said I missed then by 10 minutes).   However…

Frogs croaked haunting melodies from the swampy pond off to the right of the road.  As I listened to their songs, I started to wonder if this road would ever end!

At 10:19 a.m., after over an hour of walking, I reached Lower Ausable Lake.

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Here we go again!  I was tired already from waking up so early and driving so far to reach this point!

The lake was gorgeous! Drastically different from the last time I was here!

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Now (Summer)
Then (Winter)
Another hiker passed me at this point.  He was running in trail sneakers and had only a Camelbak.  Running…unbelievable!  I was lucky if I could make it to the summit in one piece!

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We had actually approached the lake from the East River Trail in the winter…which was quite beautiful.  Again…another look at now and then:

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Now
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Then
The sound of the rushing water over the dam was mesmerizing and  just beautiful. This is always the way when hiking in the mountains…there are so many stopping points that you could remain at forever.  Always torn between staying and relaxing or moving forward to continue the adventurous climb!

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After my water gazing was finished, I stopped to grab a quick bite of some grapes and drink some Gatorade.  And then, there she was…the trail sign marking my repeat hike up the Weld Trail!

Ok…let’s do this! So far, no bear sightings…onward to Sawteeth and then Gothics!

At 10:25 a.m., the ascent began. Moderately steady at first…nothing but the sound of Rainbow Falls cascading rapidly and the crunching of…leaves (yes, leaves) that had been hidden by the winter’s snow underfoot.

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I contemplated a side trip to Rainbow Falls ( in hindsight I should have based on what happened on my descent..), but I pressed on.  Again, the trail looked unrecognizable in comparison to my winter ascent.  It was absolutely glistening and gleaming in the winter…pines trees under the weight of newly falling snow.  But this day proved to be just as magical.

In the winter, the entire trail was covered with about a foot and a half of snow.  No rocks or boulders visiable…no streams seen.  But today, the woods were alive, just as Lake Road had been earlier.

Mostly with squirrels and scurrying chipmunks…but still.  I met quite a few hikers on their descent.  They had all ascended via the Scenic Trail.  Again, in hindsight, I should have done the same.  However, my plan was to climb Sawteeth and then head over Pyramid to Gothics.  I did not have enough time to try the Scenic Route this time.

Rainbow Falls Lookout

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Again…in the winter!  Both equally as mystical and marvelous!

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This is the day the Lord has made…rejoice and be glad.

There wasn’t much of a breeze in the woods (haha!) so the humidity began to rise.  I know I say this all the time, but I favor hiking in the winter!  Easier to breathe and easier on the knees because of the snow…and heel lifts on the snowshoes.

I had to stop often on the ascent.  I’ve been recovering from some setbacks physically and my head was taking a beating!  I probably stopped every quarter-mile.  The Weld Trail is only 1.8 miles. Summer heat makes it feel like 100 miles!

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Love Mother Nature’s architecture

img_0864At 11:10, I plunked myself down on a rock for another break.  I devoured a protein bar, chugged the lime Gatorade, and prayed for a gust of wind, a gentle breeze or even a puff of air at this point!

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As I fought my way to the junction point, the charming nuances continued to appear.  You just had to know where to look!  For some reason in my mind, I kept thinking “fairies.”  The enchanting landscape was reminiscent of little fairy homes from storybooks.

Sweet delicate trillium, lush green moss, teeny-tiny white flowers bursting up everywhere…

This is the day the Lord has made, rejoice and be glad.

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Step for step, I kept on…and then like magic, these beautiful stone steps appeared!  I knew..I was close to the junction now.  My experience with hiking in the Adirondacks is that there are usually little treasures such as stone steps or ladders located either at the beginning or towards a junction or summit.

Picking up the pace, I repeated out loud, “Come on, give a girl a sign…”

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About 20 minutes later, at 11:40 a.m., I reached the junction between Sawteeth and Pyramid.  Ah yes…I recall this junction well.  We stood here, refueling in the winter, debating whether to take the .5 side trip up to Sawteeth or not…my gut said to go.  That it would be a long journey back…but alas, we pressed on to Gothics then.

Today…I would be finishing this mountain spur!

Now

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Thenimg_9309

I rested at the junction briefly…the black flies were in full force here!  Mud and heat: Black Fly Paradise!   More water and the last of my grapes, then off to climb Sawteeth!

My pace continued to increase with anticipation and a renewed sense of spirit…smiling and singing as I hiked on.  Gnarly trees and uproots, like something out of Hansel and Gretel.  (Am I dating myself here??)

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Happily hiking along, the trail curved around revealing some awesome lookouts! I was fairly sure I was staring at Pyramid but I did get a bit confused at first being on the south side of the Great Range.  I would consult my map later to confirm!

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Yes…happy, cruising, making great time…and then:

“What the $%&@ is this?”  (Yes…I did it, I swore at this gigantic boulder!)

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I should have taken a picture of myself standing next to it, so you could get a sense of the scale of this thing, compared to 5’2″ of me, on a good day!  I stepped back and assessed every angle, every possible vantage point.  I considered dropping my pack here (I should have..).

Finally my short legs and I began our way up.  There was some tricky footing and I had to find places for my fingers to cling to in order to hoist myself up.  It took a few tries, with each step careful not to lean back too much because of my pack.  But I made it!

Phew! Onward!

More lookouts…yes, I was very sure that I had a view of Pyramid to the right and Saddleback off to the left!  Truly one of the best views in the region!

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Almost there…

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At 12:12 p.m., I had reached the summit of Sawteeth!! After a little over 3 hours of hiking and climbing, Sawteeth became my #16 of the 46ers!

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It was truly incredible!! An unbelievable view!  Sawteeth itself is the 35th highest peak, standing at 4100 feet tall. This peak does not get enough love, if you ask me! The summit is mostly wooded but the view from the summit rock is just incredible!

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And if you look further to your left…there she is! Off in the distance…my Miss Marcy.  This is my first time gazing at her from the other side! When I climbed Gothics in the winter, it was snowing and there was zero visibility!  Majestic Marcy…

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I remained at the summit for 20 minutes.  I drank some more water (It was 80 degrees at the summit!) and ate my peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  I had cell service at the summit…it was the other place, other than the junction, that my phone worked.

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So I FaceTimed my dad for Father’s Day! I showed him the summit and the views!  I’m not one for technology on the trails, but I have to admit, this was pretty awesome! I was able to bring the mountains, a place I love and cherish so deeply, to my dad on Long Island.  My dad and I were able to share #16 together!  #shouldhavetakenascreenshot

This is the day the Lord has made….rejoice and be glad.

At 12:35 p.m., I headed back down the trail to the junction point again.  I was cruising!  Remember, the plan was to reclimb Gothics via Pyramid and then descend via Beaver Meadow Falls.  I had reached that gigantic boulder…remember the one I swore at?

Well, it seems descending that boulder was more dangerous than going up, for me.  As I attempted to climb down, my foot couldn’t reach the tiny foothold the tip of my foot was stretching towards.  I lost my balance, and when I tried to regain my center of gravity, I leaned back a bit too far….the weight and size of my backpack took over at this point.

And I fell backwards…landed on my back and hit my head.  My heart was racing. It took me a few minutes to get my bearings again.  I checked myself, to make sure I wasn’t bleeding from anywhere.  No blood. No sprains.  Thank goodness.  But my head hurt…a throbbing pain.

I guess you shouldn’t swear at rock slides and boulders…

The sweltering heat didn’t help the situation…so I was forced to make a judgement call.  Continue on with my plan or head back down the Weld Trail instead.

I headed back down the Weld Trail…better to be safe than sorry.  The mountains weren’t going anywhere so Plan B it was…

Down, down ,down the trail I went…checking my head and drinking water every so often.

At 1:58 p.m, I made it back to the Lower Ausable Dam.

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One more final pit stop….

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And then the 3 mile trek down Lake Road…

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Finished! I signed out of the register at 3:10 p.m.  Just a 10 minute (very slow walk) back to the parking lot.

Total time:  6 1/2 hours.

Total distance: 13 miles.

It was a beautiful day, despite my epic fail, I mean, fall.  I was thankful I walked away with just a tiny bump and some bruises. Thank you, Sawteeth, for this wondrous adventure.  Your views are astonishing, your hidden trail treasures spellbinding.  I approached my struggles with curiosity and wonder on your trails…and there was certainly much to be discovered!

This is the day the Lord has made…rejoice in it and be glad.

Rising still,

J

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