Tough Love on Lower Wolfjaw Mountain

Saturday, January 20th

Lower Wolfjaw.  Or Woofjaw, if you pronounce it the way I do. (Must be a LI thing, accents die hard, lol)  This mountain.  It was my nemesis during my regular season 46 hiking.  The route through Rooster Comb was a killer.  Hedgehog was a mess and untouched.  This mountain.  A lesson in tough love. It required 2 tries to reach the summit from Rooster Comb trailhead. My first attempt was in November 2016 and I failed.  About .2 from the summit.  The sheets of ice and lack of crampons sealed my fate.  Regular spikes just didn’t cut it. The tricky, steep rock slabs were staring me in the defeated face.   Too steep for me.

I was literally stuck between a rock and a hard place.

I blamed it on my height.  I blamed it on my upper body weakness. (although it wasn’t)  I blamed the failure on many things.

Truthfully, the reason I did not make it to that summit was the pure fact that I couldn’t get out of my own head.

A lesson in tough love.

Still.  I hit the gym and trained hard, convincing myself that physical strength was the only way to a summit victory.  Oh my goodness…I am literally shaking my head.  Are you laughing too??  How ridiculous.  The mountains represent way more than physical strength alone.  Nonetheless though, I returned to my nemesis a month later and repeated the exact same route, including rehiking Rooster Comb as well.  That December,I was ready for victory.

Eye of the tiger, Rock. Eye of the tiger.

Now, Lower Woofie was back on my agenda once again.  You see, when I revisited the peak for my second attempt, it was winter…but not technically, ya know?  I was about 11 days too soon for Woof to count as a winter 46.

It was time for a new perspective.  An open mind.  My tough love peak was tough to love. I was determined to give LWJ a second chance. I didn’t want to hate him.  But I wasn’t too fond of him either.   So return, I did.

This time, the approach was from the AMR.  Wedge Brook Trail.  Not a fan of that path either, lol.  My hope was to hike in from the Garden and ascend via Bennie’s Brook.  The wind was insane, however, and probably would have blown me away like Toto. Alas, Bennie’s was put on hold. Mallory needs LWJ so we can hit that trail this summer, yay!  I was definitely missing my partner in crime this weekend, but she’ll be back at before we know it. 🙂

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After a late start to the morning and a packed trailhead, I began the slow march to the AMR gate.  A warm front had graced the Adirondacks that weekend after weeks of below freezing temperatures.  Warm weather equals mealy, slippery snow.  My snowshoes went for a ride on my pack for most of the trip, which was ok with me.  I move faster in spikes.

Ok Woofie, let’s do this…

in just a baselayer! (Best Odlo baselayer, by the way.) It was warm out.  Even my hat may have been overkill. Someday, Eddie Bauer will design hats and clothes for little people.  Until then…

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The bridges were charming as always.  The trickling sound of the brook sang its late morning tunes.  The trail was simple and steady…and long up to the Wolf’s Notch.

There are 3 bridges that lead you to the junction on the West River Trail.

Some spectacular ice formations surrounding the river boulders.

The final bridge at the base of frozen Wedge Brook Cascades before heading up to the notch.

A view popped out here and there along the trail.

I changed into my snowshoes for this section as to benefit from the heel lifts.

Once in the notch, the path delivered the peaceful beauty I’ve come to love in the Adirondacks.  The wind whipped through from time to time, but journey eased up.  Soon, it was all about “Ice, Ice Baby!” The ice was plentiful and overflowing out the yin yang! However, LWJ was not as steep from this approach, which was a pleasant surprise. I felt it was much more challenging from Rooster Comb for sure.

A look back before the final push to the summit.  The cloud system moved rapidly through the sky, causing the nearby peaks to drift in and out of view.

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Slowly, I was making peace with Woofie.  He had his moments of reprieve and charm.

There was a party on the summit at my arrival, but not for me. Haha! Huge groups heading in and out of that place! Popular day in the mountains with the mild weather.  Gusts of peak air-conditioning blew through the trees so the layers went on. I was hiking in only a baselayer for most of the hike up until now! Crazy for January.

After roughly 3+ hours of hiking, at 2:00 p.m., I attained my 18th Winter 46er with my former nemesis!

Hazy view from the summit rock.

Another summit staple. Unofficial marking signifying you have, in fact, reached your destination.

I enjoyed a winter warmer to toast my “it’s all gonna be alright” heart with my tough love peak.  Eric Church played in my head for most of the trek.  “If you find your way back, I owe you a beer…”

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My way back.  Sure did. Cheers.

I tried to quiet my mind (despite the busy summit activity) and reflect back on my adventures to this guy.  He was my 24th peak during my regular season round.  And in less than a year since I climbed LWJ, I became a 46er. Well, you know the story.  But…I do believe, every once in a while, it’s essential to remember just how far you’ve grown as a person.  Helps tremendously with your ebb days. Smile with joy, I did.  #yodaspeaksorry

After 20 minutes at the summit, I ditched the snowshoes and descended in just spikes.  Fast! My hip begged for buttsliding fun as it twinged a little, which made the down, down, down fly by.

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The winds died down and the quietness returned to the footings below.  One more peaceful melody from the river before hitting Lake Road again.

The sunset glowed in the distance, indicating the time to rest was creeping in.

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A quick 2-hour sliding/walk in the woods, and I was back at my truck, ready to call it a day.  My hip made some noise on the descent, giving me the business again. Even my hip has ebb and flow days too, I guess.

As far as trails go, (and I almost shudder to say this) I think I prefer the approach from Rooster Comb or even possibly the W.A. White Trail where you climb the “wolf’s chin” first.  The Wedge Brook Trail is definitely the quickest way to the summit, but fairly vanilla. Can’t wait for Bennie’s now, quite honestly! Slides are my favorite. 🙂

Nevertheless, a day in the mountains is ALWAYS a good day!  A very good day, at that! I uncovered another necessary layer about myself on this trip.  Every day, a little bit freer and more courageous. More importantly, a whole new level of clarity with the Next Thing and Not This when it comes to my field of honor, as Liz G’s calls it. Heck yeah!

Lower W and I have an understanding now.  Sometimes in life, rugged tough love is exactly what you need, whether you like it or not.  Maybe Lower WolfJaw and I have more in common than I realized.  Tough to love?  Possibly.  Or maybe our common bond is simply about second chances and an open mind. Yea, I’ll go with that one. 😉

Cheers to finding my way back.  Cheers to a new outlook on an old friend.  Cheers to yummy beer on windy winter summits. Cheers to the slew of other hikers who shared the mountain with me that day.

You’re alright in my book, Lower WolfJaw.  I’ve got your back, forever and always. Eye of the tiger, Rock. Eye of the tiger.

Fist bump,

J

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