The trailhead for these two peaks was in a new location for us - the Ausable Club. The road to the Ausable Club is easily missed but it's right on Route 73 in St. Hubert's/Keene, New York. There is an interesting history to the Club, which dates back to the late 1800s. At that time there was a possibility that the land in the area of what is now the Club was going to be purchased for logging. The residents of the area formed a corporation called the Adirondack Mountain Reserve and bought many acres. Over time, the place became a haven for summer guests and the land acquisition eventually reached about 45,000 acres, which included some of the High Peaks and the Ausable River and Upper and Lower lakes. It's a very exclusive place, that has a golf course and clay tennis courts, along with private residences and an impressive Clubhouse.
Over the years, the Club conveyed many acres to the State to remain "forever wild". An agreement is in place that allows hikers right-of-way to the trailheads, which are deep into the AMR property. Hikers, however, are not allowed to park on the Club's land. So that's why we found ourselves in the small lot just off Route 73. On busier days, the lot overflows with vehicles parking along the main road. One nice feature of this lot is that there is a port-a-potty located here.
Six of us arrived at the parking lot and began our trek at 7:15 a.m. I was the only female on this hike, which included Hubby, my older son and 3 teen friends. The walk up the road to the AMR gate is .7 of a mile. Once you get to the gate, there is a sign-in booth with a guard and you'll want to make sure you sign in and record your intended destination. After signing in and going through the rustic gate, you will be on the Lake Road. This is a very flat beginning to many trailheads (Dial/Nippletop, Gothics, Sawteeth, the Wolf Jaws) and a good warm up walk.
The trailhead we took for Colvin was about 3 miles from the parking lot. We could have taken the Gill Brook Trail, but Hubby was reading the ADK guidebook that we always have handy and we determined it would be better to return this way if we were going to take this trail at all. It took us just over an hour to reach our launching off point from the start of our hike. We were now leaving the Lake Road. The trail was a fairly moderate climb to the junction of the trail to Nippletop. We reached that point after 2 hours 20 minutes. From there we had 1.1 miles to go to the summit of Colvin. After a quick snack break, we began the final push, and reached it in an hour. I would call the last mile a bit strenuous and rocky.
The summit of Colvin had nice view of Gothics, Upper and Lower Wolfjaw and Nippletop (in the other direction). We could also see down to Lower Ausable Lake. The summit area itself was much smaller than I expected. Apparently there was another summit area with views too but I never looked for it. Colvin is the 39th highest of the High Peaks, at 4,057 ft. It was named after Verplanck Colvin, the Superintendent of the Adirondack survey. He spent his entire career mapping the Adirondacks.
After a rest on Colvin, the kids and I decided to push on to Blake, named for Colvin's chief assistant and close friend, Mills Blake. Because Hubby is not an aspiring 46er, he did not join us. He went in search of Fish Hawk Cliffs, from which the guidebook promised spectacular views (he found it and they were). To get to Blake, you have to go over Colvin (unless you choose the less popular route over Pinnacle from Elk Lake). Neither route is very rewarding and the ultimate goal, Blake's summit, is really only attained by people who are aspiring 46ers. I can think of no other reason why anyone would WANT to hike Blake. And the ultimate irony is that it isn't even over 4,000 ft. Blake is one of the 4 High Peaks that was originally thought to be, but later measurements showed it to really only be 3,960 ft. However, to become a 46er, you must climb all 46 High Peaks on the original list.
But I didn't know all of this when we set off from Colvin at 11:05 a.m. Initially it was a gentle downhill pitch which flattened out. I was thinking, "This won't be too bad." Next, we encountered a series of pretty steep drops - most of which were rock. At one point, my son (who is 6'3" and whose legs are far longer than mine) went down a rock face, turned around, looked back up and said, "Mom, you're never going to be able to get back up this." Well, that's encouraging. But we kept going, even though in the back of my mind I was wondering how I was going to make it back!
We finally got down to the col between the Peaks and began the mostly rocky climb up Blake. We reached the summit at 12:35 - 90 minutes from Colvin. No too bad. This summit does not offer much in the way of views. In fact, if you weren't paying attention, you could easily walk right past the summit and keep going on the ridge that takes you over to Pinnacle. The actual summit is a very small clearing surrounded by trees just off the trail to the left. There's a small place to sit but there was no actual summit marker that said "Blake" and that was disappointing. There was a sign that pointed one way for Pinnacle and the other for Colvin.
Amazingly, shortly after we reached the top, another small group came up out of nowhere behind us, stopped long enough to take our group photo, and then headed back. No reason to linger! There was a small part in the trees through which we could see Gothics, but that was about it. After a 20 minute rest for some nourishment, we began our trek back to Colvin. It was a good hike and those rock slides on Colvin were certainly challenging. Thankfully I had 4 teenage boys with me, because I made use of their boosting abilities and hoisting techniques to get up some of those slides! (UPDATE: A year or so after we did this hike, ladders were added to the back side of Colvin over a few of those larger rocks. Basically, it means I could now make the climb solo if I wanted, since I wouldn't need one person pushing and one pulling me up!)
We left the summit of Colvin at 2:35 and made it to the junction with the trail to Nippletop at 3:30. The hardest part was over. On the last 3 miles, including the Lake Road and the walk through the Club grounds, I felt like I was just putting one foot in front of the other. I think we all felt that way. We did stop for a short rest at a small damned area along the Lake Road to cool off with water. While we were still walking on the Lake Road, the shuttle bus pulled up behind us and stopped. The Club provides this bus to take its members down to the Ausable Lake from the Clubhouse. We thought it stopped to offer us a ride. One of the teens hopped on the bus when the doors opened - he was so happy! So were the rest of us, until the driver said, "I can't give you a ride; I just need you to get out of my way." Maybe we were just giddy, but we laughed about that for the rest of our walk.
We reached the parking lot at 5:45 in a light drizzle. Hubby was waiting for us in the car, taking a little snooze. I couldn't wait to do the same.