As I think I've mentioned before on this site, things don't always go as planned... For today's hike, we were hoping to complete the Seward Range, having hiked Seymour at the end of 2011. Hubby (not an aspiring 46er) was actually joining us on this hike, but had decided in advance he would only be hiking Donaldson.
We knew we needed an early start. Hubby, Hiking Buddy, Youngest Son and I were on the trail at 6:33 a.m. (a little later than planned). Believe it or not, the temperature was more like fall, in the 40s when we began. Perfect hiking weather! About 15 minutes after signing in at the Corey's Road trailhead, we reached the split to the foot trail, off to the left. If you stay straight you'll end up at the same place (the truck road) but it's a tougher hike. By 6:59 we reached the truck road. It's very obvious. There's a gate to your left which marks the border of private property. If you go straight, across the road and back into the woods, you will head toward the northern trailhead for Seward, the Ward Brook leanto and the trailhead for Seymour. We turned right, to the Calkins Brook trail.
The truck road narrows after a bit and is a very easy walk. In fact, it actually goes downhill! Noooo! I hate that because it means uphill at the end when we're tired. Oh well. Down we
went, until we reached a "T" intersection with an overturned bucket smack in the middle on a rock pile. If you somehow managed to miss this and walk straight past it, you would be in the brook. It's that obvious of a spot. We were here about 70 minutes from the start of the trip. We took a brief snack break and were on our way again at 7:48 (turned left at the bucket). The brook was on our right for a short way (10-15 minutes) before we actually crossed it. There was a cairn on the stream bed, but I can see how this could be missed, as the trail dips down here to cross.
Once we were over the brook, we began a moderate climb which eventually became more steep. Overall though, it really wasn't too bad. There were not a lot of rocks and boulders; more roots to watch out for. At 10:10 we reached the col. Actually, I'm not sure it's technically a col if one side goes down and the other goes up! In any event, the trail to Seward dropped sharply to our left. We looked down it and thought, "We'll save this for later". So we headed to the right, immediately climbing a large rock. It was a nice little rock scramble that required a big step/pull up. Very shortly after (like 12 minutes from the "col"), we were at the summit of Donaldson. Too bad we didn't know it! Before the summit boulder to the left, there is a trail split to the right. Then there's the summit boulder to the left. Both are off the main trail, so we kept trucking along, focused on our goal. My son, however, climbed the summit boulder (which we didn't realize was the summit) and said, "Oh, there's a nice lookout here - and a couple of backpacks." We said, "Get back down here and let's keep moving -
someone probably dropped their packs for the summit!" Ha! Little did we know HE officially hit the summit! So, the four of us trudged along until the trail seemed to begin to descend. Hmmmm... Maybe we did miss the summit! Duh! My point is, this one is easy to miss. Because we decided to continue on to Emmons and THEN hit Donaldson, we actually bagged Emmons first. That's probably not very common.
However, see prior note about Hubby not aspiring to be a 46er. Once he realized what we'd done, he turned around. The 3 of us continued our trek. We came upon a series of bogs that I would imagine in a rainy year would have been a total mess. They weren't terrible. We were able to get beyond them without getting too muddy. There was also a little ridge from which we had a view of Tupper Lake(?) off to our right. This trail was not what I expected, which was something along the lines of a ridge walk. Instead, there were several rock scrambles that took a little negotiating. Overall, the hike to Emmons took just over an hour. The summit is very small and has a slight view if you stand with your back to the tree that holds the yellow disk that says, "Emmons". Looking forward you can see Long Lake through the trees (see below). There were 2 gentlemen at the summit, one of whom had hiked this peak years prior. He said at that time the trees were much smaller and the view was much better. In any event, it was a view you normally don't have from a High Peak so it was pretty cool to see.
We ate and left the summit at noon to return to Donaldson and see if Hubby was still there or had begun his descent. At this point we were still planning to hike Seward as well, but somewhere along the way that changed... In talking with Hiking Buddy on the way back, we realized we would probably not return to the trailhead until at least 8 p.m. Because we both had other plans for the evening, we decided not to kill ourselves to get all 3 and instead be home for dinner. As Hubby always says, "The mountains aren't going anywhere." By the time we returned to Donaldson at 1:05, my son was also on board with the plan. Instead, we spent a good half hour relaxing on Donaldson, which has a smallish summit rock but also a nice view of Seward, the McIntyre range, Marcy, Grey and Skylight.
Hubby was still there when we returned! He was the official summit greeter for the afternoon, chatting with all comers! In fact, when we reached the summ
it (marked with a disk that just said DON), there was quite a large group from the Rochester ADK taking a lunch break on their way to Emmons. After exchanging some hiking tales, they left and we had the summit to ourselves (until the two gentlemen from Emmons caught us!). We snacked again, told Hubby of the new plan, and began our descent together at 1:38. We reached the col at 1:50 and the overturned bucket at 3:36. We took a 15 minute re-fuel break for the final push out. The bummer was walking back UP the truck trail! We reached the point where we turned left to pick up the foot trail at 4:33 and were back at the parking lot by 5. Yes, we will have to return to this area yet again to climb Seward, but we were pretty happy with our day. Overall we covered about 15 miles in 10.5 hours. Not bad.
Of course I do not want to forget to mention the naming history of these two peaks. Donaldson was named for Alfred Donaldson, who wrote "A History of the Adirondacks", an early definitive edition of the area inside the Blue Line. And Emmons was named for Ebenezer Emmons, New York State geologist who led the first ascent up Mt. Marcy. Two men who were deserving of the honor!