We truly lucked out with the weather this year. Columbus Day weekend was just spectacular for hiking. I might even say it was a bit too warm - but that would be wrong! Because the weather promised to be perfect, we decided to fit one more hike in for 2011. Our first "post-Irene" hike. We didn't expect significant blowdown because the Western Adirondacks supposedly weren't hit as hard as the Eastern/Keene Valley area.
Seymour, the 34th highest of the High Peaks, is part of the Seward Range. Many people hike the 4 peaks in this range (also Seward, Donaldson and Emmons) in one trip, likely as an overnight. We decided to pick off Seymour and then go back for the other three.
Here's an embarassing truth about this hike: We attempted it in August of this year and never found the trailhead. We tromped around in the woods for several hours before giving up and heading out. It was very disappointing. So I will tell you right now, when you sign in and head up the trail, be SURE to take the foot trail to the left after about 15 minutes. We continued on the truck trail and just never figured out where the herd path started for Seymour.
But this time we were ready. We had learned from our mistake! Today our group included my youngest son, Hiking Buddy, her two friends (who seem to always hike with us on Columbus Day weekend) and a hiking newbie teen (it was his third High Peak). We set off at 7:13 a.m. from the parking lot on Corey's Road. Corey's is about halfway between Tupper Lake and Saranac. The drive back to the parking area is several miles, turning to a seasonal dirt road at the end. There are camping spots along the way for people who want an early start. When we attempted this hike in the summer, the lot was pretty empty at 7 a.m. On this day, the lot was full when we arrived and we parked on the road.
Within 15 minutes, we reached the not-at-all confusing signs that point in both directions for the trail. Here is where you want to bear left, and you will then see a sign that says "Foot Trai Only". Yes, this is the sign we failed to follow the last time.
This trail is pretty flat, save for a few minor ups and downs. Within a half hour of leaving the parking area, we came to a sign that indicated we had gone 1.2 miles. We continued straight here, heading for the Blueberry and Ward Brook Lean-tos. At 9:05 we reached the Blueberry lean-to, 3.8 miles from the start. Another mile and 20 minutes more and we were at the Ward Brook lean-to. Both are really nice places to set up base camp to hike the Seward Range. The hike in to this point was really pretty flat and would not be difficult carrying heavy overnight packs (at least that's what we're hoping when we do it next year!). The trailhead for Seward/Donaldson/Emmons begins at a point off the trail between the two lean-tos. It was marked with a cairn.
We stopped at the Ward Brook lean-to, which was occupied, for a snack break at 9:25ish. After about 20 minutes we set off. Just after the WB lean-to is a bridge and JUST after the bridge on the right is the beginning of the Seymour herd path. There was a cairn marking it, but if that's not there, you shouldn't miss it. The trail initially starts along the brook that you would have just crossed on that little bridge. It was 9:45 when we picked up the herd path. We met some guys on their way out who told us it would be "just a short scramble up" from here. Initially we believed them, but we were mislead! The climb did begin moderately, but after about 30 minutes we started to climb in earnest. We realized that after such a lengthy period of relative flat, we were going to have to pay the piper at some point. It took us 2 hours to reach the summit from the start of the herd path, which was about 2 miles (and about 2300 ft ascent). That's pretty much our average speed on the climbing parts.
This trail was a little slow going because there was quite a bit of muck and some slippery rock to navigate. Once you reach the summit area, don't be fooled by the nice rock outlook on the right - it's not the "official" summit so come back to it. Continue up the trail, which curves to the left a bit. There is a little clear spot in the woods. To the right you can walk out a small trail and view the Santanoni range. Look up in the trees just to the left and you'll see the yellow disk marking Seymour's 4,120 ft. summit. We took our "official" summit photos and went back to the scenic overlook for lunch.
We were really blessed with the weather. On the way up we met some guys who said it was very windy at the top, but we didn't encounter that at all. The scenic overlook is really just a narrow ledge, but there's enough room for 6-8 people to sit in a row. The view is gorgeous, especially with the distant foliage.
To the very left of the ledge we could see the rest of the Range - Seward, Donaldson and Emmons. Straight ahead was Ampersand Lake with Ampersand Mtn behind it. To the far right we could see the ski trails on Whiteface. This is a good summit to break out the map and test your peak identifying skills.
We headed down at 12:40, thinking we'd make better time than we did on the way up. Unfortunately that really wasn't the case. The mud and wet rocks slowed us down a bit. Also, youngest son and I were slowed by our frequent stops to take pictures. The sun on the different colors of this brilliant fall day was just too good to pass up! We made it to the main trail by 2:40 and were at the Blueberry Lean-ton by 3:05. We rested at the picnic table for our "final push" snack and made use of the facilities (outhouse)! After 10 minutes we set off for the final trek of nearly 4 miles and were signing out at 5:05, just under 10 hours from when we started. More important, it was still daylight!
Our total mileage for the day was about 14. This is my 35th High Peak and my son's 25th. I'm hoping to finish my last 11 next year, then go back and help my son complete his 46. It was a great year for hiking and by all reports, volunteers all over the Adirondacks have done a great job clearing trails that were pounded by Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. Thank you so much to all those volunteers!
And lest I forget, Seymour was named for a former New York governor, Horatio Seymour, who presided over the State in the 1850s and 60s. Seymour is one of 4 High Peaks located in Franklin County.
Just a nice little walk in the woods...