In continuing our annual tradition of hiking on Columbus Day, we planned to conquer both Upper and Lower Wolf Jaws today. I was joined by Hiking Buddy, two of her hiking former co-workers, and my older son. The morning actually broke warmer than we expected, with temperatures in the low 40s when we left the St. Hubert’s parking lot on Route 73 for the Ausable Club trailhead. The parking lot was so empty compared with our summer hikes. We signed in at the guard shack 15 minutes later, at 7:10, and began our trek along the Lake Road. At 7:33 we crossed the bridge just off the Lake Road to the right and started into the woods. There is a little wooden sign here that says “Bridge to Wolf Jaws”. This trail crosses the East River Trail and is still wide enough for a vehicle, until you get to the Cannon Bridge. This Bridge crosses the Ausable River. It had been raining during the week as well as the night before and the river was running pretty fast. At 8:10 we got to another footbridge, this one at the base of Wedgebrook Cascades. At this point we picked up the Wedgebrook Trail, which runs along the series of cascading waterfalls.
By 9:40 we reached the first split to Lower Wolf Jaw. My son, who at 16 moves much more quickly than the older members of our group, was waiting for us. He was also shivering because he had sweated through his shirt and sweatshirt. He took the sweatshirt off for a few minutes so it could dry in the sliver of sun through the trees, while we grabbed a quick snack. After about 10 minutes we moved on. Eventually, there was another split to Lower Wolf Jaw, along with a trail that led down to Johns Brook Lodge (2.4 miles). At this point, the sign indicated 1 more mile to Upper. We left here at 10:05 and reached what we thought was the summit 45 minutes later. It was a nice clear spot, marked by a huge boulder. However, there were no views at all, so we checked our trusty ADK guidebook and map. Unfortunately, we learned we were not at the summit. We grabbed some water and at 11 we headed up. The wind had picked up and the temperature was dropping. We started seeing icicles on the rocks. The thermometer on my backpack said it was in the 30s. We reached Upper Wolf Jaw’s sunny summit, where temps had climbed to about 45 degrees, at 11:25. This is not a very large rocky summit and the views are not really 360. We could see Armstrong and Gothics and Round Mountain. We could also see Lower Wolf Jaw, with the peak of Cascade in the distance.
We headed down at 11:55, planning to climb Lower Wolf Jaw as well. However, a few steps on icy rocks made us (ok, mostly me) change our plan. Several people we met coming from LWJ said it was extremely steep up that side. So we aborted our plan. Hiking Buddy was not happy. She really wanted to finish our hiking season at our 23rd High Peak, halfway to the goal. I wanted that too, but I was also tired and thought I would err on the side of safety. We passed the false summit at 12:20 and reached the parking lot at 4:05. The trip down was a bit slippery and footing was uncertain due to all the fallen leaves that covered the trail in parts. We did stop for some nice pictures of the cascades. Overall, it was a challenging hike on a gorgeous fall day.
And so we ended 2010, having completed 22 of the 46 High Peaks. Upper Wolf Jaw, at 4,185 feet, is number 29 in height. The Wolf Jaws were so named by a landscape artist named Alexander H. Wyant who thought their profile resembled a wolf's jaws. Lower Wolf Jaw will be a good way to start the 2011 hiking season.