Moms on the Mountains

High Peaks trip reports for the Adirondacks of New York State.

#12 Mt. Marcy - 9/5/09

Mt. Marcy.  Number 1.  The big Kahuna.  I couldn't wait to do this hike!  The highest point in New York State was waiting.  Hubby and my two older kids had hiked it the year before and said it was not difficult, just long.  I could handle that.  I was looking forward climbing the mountain originally called Tahawus, the Native American word for "Cloudsplitter".  It was later renamed for New York's Governor William L. Macy who authorized the exploration of this area in the early 1800s.

And so the day arrived.  It was Labor Day weekend and the weather could not have been more perfect.  The sky was clear and there was no humidity.  While there are several ways to approach this mountain, we opted for the route from the familiar Adirondack Loj.  We signed in and departed at 7:15 a.m.  Nine of us were headed for the summit - Hubby, my boys, Hiking Buddy and two of her kids and two teens in our usual group.

It was actually a bit chilly when we took off.  After 45 minutes on the Van Hoevenberg trail, we made it to the Marcy Dam.  By 9:30 we had traveled 4.4 miles to Indian Falls.  We took a 15 minute break to eat our first lunch!  After an hour more of hiking, we reached a split in the trail that indicated we were 1.2 miles from the top.  Just about 15 minutes after the split there was a spot with a nice open view of Marcy's summit.  I believe this spot used to be a camping site, but it's no longer allowed here.  Youngest son got his first glimpse of what lay ahead and he began to get nervous about being above tree line.  We took turns encouraging him and reminding him that we didn't come this far to go up without him!

We crossed a flat section of boardwalk that was covered with water in spots.  Thinking I'd be smart and go around, I actually ended up getting my feet much wetter than if I had just stayed on the wooden planks.  I filed that thought for the return trip.  After the boardwalk, we were on to the last push.  A "mini summit" area was windy and a great place to put on our sweatshirts.  Hubby and Hiking Buddy decided to drop their packs here for the last climb up Marcy's rock.  Since my pack contains my camera equipment, it stayed with me.  Youngest son was very nervous on the bare rock, especially when the wind picked up.  He mustered his courage and sprinted to the next spot that was blocked from the wind.  My older son was waiting at the summit and yelled down to encourage his brother.

We all got to the summit by 11:50.  I will admit that I was a little choked up on reaching the top.  I had looked forward to this hike even though I never thought three years earlier when I climbed my first High Peak that I would ever be standing here.  I was also so happy for my son, who had faced his fears and was elated to be standing with the rest of us at the top.

We were greeted right away by a Summit Steward.  The Summit Steward is a person who educates hikers on summits that are particularly susceptible to erosion and trampling due to their popularity.  The program began about 20 years ago and is a cooperative effort between the Nature Conservancy, the Adirondack Mountain Club and the Department of Environmental Conservation of New York State.  Before camping was prohibited on the High Peak summits, hikers and campers used to unwittingly damage the fragile ecosystems of the High Peaks.  The mountains have undergone successful revegetation and the Stewards encourage people to walk only in certain areas and avoid picking any of the plants.  They also can point out nearby mountains and answer general questions.

The Steward was definitely necessary on this day as Marcy's summit looked like Grand Central Station.  I literally could have set up a hot dog cart and made a fortune!  It's nice to see everyone enjoying the day, but it's also nice to find a spot away from everyone and that's what we did.  We were also looking to get out of the wind because it was VERY windy.  We were on top of New York State after all!  The views were indescribable.  In one direction we could see Haystack and Skylight.  In another we could just make out the water tower in the little town of Newcomb.  Looking off the other direction we could see Lake Placid.  It was so amazing to stand in one spot and be able to see for hundreds of miles.


After enjoying our lunch and the views, we wandered around a little and found the survey marker and plaque.  We chatted with the Steward and began our descent.  It took almost 4 hours to get back to the Loj parking lot. 

Overall, we made the round trip hike in 9 hours 15 minutes - which I thought was pretty good time.  On a scale of 1 to 10, I rated this hike a 12!  I'm anxious to climb Marcy again.  While it may be the highest peak at 5,344 ft., it is definitely not the most difficult.  If you have the stamina, you can do this trip.  What I liked was there were defined break spots - such as the Dam, Indian Falls, the old camping site - and that really broke up the trip.  I think I've mentioned this before, but Indian Falls is a worthwhile spot as a destination in and of itself.  The view of the McIntyre Range from here is beautiful and you could spend the day lazing on the rocks and soaking up the sun, as many people were doing when we passed by on our way down.

Since our hike, I found a really great quote by John Cheney, a guide for the group of men who made the first recorded ascent of Marcy in August 1837.  He said, "To be on Mount Marcy makes a man feel what it is to have all creation under his feet.  There are woods there which it would take a lifetime to hunt over, mountains that seem shouldering each other to boost the one whereon you stand up and away, Heaven knows where."