Moms on the Mountains

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

#8 Mt. Colden and #9 Tabletop - 7/10/09

Today's hike was a planned family hike - just Hubby, myself and our three kids.  We were going to hike Mt. Colden - and that's it.  It was in the 60s, clear and slightly breezy when we left the Adirondack Loj and signed in at the trailhead at 7:40 a.m.

 We moved at a nice pace for our family, arriving at the Marcy Dam in just under 50 minutes.  The sky was blue and there was just enough of a breeze to keep the bugs at bay.  There were not a lot of people on the trail yet.  After about a 10 minute break, we signed in at the Dam checkin for Colden via Lake Arnold (the northeast approach).

The next half hour after the Dam was just moderate hiking before we started some climbing.  We reached Lake Arnold, wet and muddy, at 10:20 a.m.  It's a beautiful spot, but when the breeze died down we found out that the black flies were still out at the higher elevations.  As a result, we were back on our way within about 5 minutes.  Within 50 minutes we reached what we thought was the summit.  It was not.  It was the north, or "false" summit.  The views were great and we would have been happy to say we reached the top at this point.  But Hubby was reading the trusty ADK guide book which pointed out this common misconception.  We looked toward the real summit and it seemed so far away.  Among the trees we could see a giant boulder sticking out on the left side near the top.

Trudging on, we headed back into the trees and onto the trail, down to a col between the two "summits" and began climbing yet again.  It turns out there was a small rock "cave" under the giant boulder we could see from the north summit.  We had to make our way through that rock opening to finish our ascent.  We reached the REAL summit at 11:55 a.m.  The one way hike was 6.3 miles up the 4,714 ft. Colden, the 11th highest peak in the Adirondacks.  The peak was named after David S. Colden, an investor in the McIntyre Iron Works, in 1836. It was briefly renamed "Mount McMartin" the following year, but Colden stuck.  The McIntyre Iron Works was located in the town of Tahawus in Essex County.  Tahawus is now a ghost town.

It was clear enough to see in every direction.  The views from Colden are spectacular.  We could see the McIntyre Range, the Marcy Dam, Avalanche Lake (looking straight down), Lake Colden, the Interior Outpost on Lake Colden, and even the firetower atop Mt. Adams.  Off the other side, we could see Mt. Marcy looming large.

While we were at the summit, two other hikers came up from the Lake Colden trail.  They said it was a pretty steep trip up that way.  They graciously took our obligatory family photo, for which I had stashed a Santa hat in my pack.  This was to be our Christmas card photo - it's never too early to plan!  Mt. Marcy was strategically behind us in the shot, a mountain I was hoping to climb before the summer was out.

As we ate our lunch, my older two kids and I read the ADK book and formulated one of those, "what do you think about trying..." plans.  We ultimately decided to try hiking over to Tabletop and knocking off a second peak as the day was still young.  It didn't look like it was going to be terribly difficult.  Hubby and youngest son had no interest in conquering a second peak, so we agreed to meet back at the Loj.  The three of us left Colden's summit at 12:30.

It took about 90 minutes to reach the cut over trail from the Lake Arnold trail to Indian Falls.  I don't know why, but we were under the impression this was just going to be a nice flat walk.  It was...at first.  Then we began a moderate climb until we could hear the falls getting closer.  We could see them through the trees to our left.  About 100 more yards and we were up on top.  There were a few other people here, just resting and laying around soaking up the sun.  I took some pictures (of course), because the view of the McIntyre range from the flat rock area at the top of the falls was breathtaking.  If you ever feel like just hiking around in the area of the Adirondack Loj without a peak in mind, I would recommend Indian Falls as a destination.

After a quick break to read the map, we crossed the stream that feeds the falls and searched for the trailhead for Tabletop.  My son and I were afraid we'd passed it, but my daughter, the map reader, was confident.  Sure enough, we came to it on our right.  There was a small clearing and a wooden marker nailed high up to a tree that said simply, "Trail to Tabletop".

Our trusty guidebook said it was .5 miles from here.  The time was 2:45 p.m.  As we started the climb we realized it was not going to be an easy half mile.  The herd path was EXTREMELY MUDDY, steep and very rocky.  Twice my boot was nearly sucked off my foot.  The rocks were big and required us to pull ourselves up in many places, often by grabbing small trees alongside the trail that had previously been dislodged by hikers before us.  My son was a good leader, pointing out which handholds to avoid.  We were getting tired, but we were so close!  It was a LONG half mile.

At the end of the half mile climb, we walked .1 mile along the plateau (the table's top?) to the "official" summit marker, which was in the trees.  The lack of any breeze sent the black flies into attack mode.  We took our requisite photo and then we "bugged out".  I did take a few quick shots of Mt. Marcy through the trees.  We were getting attacked by the flies on the way down - they were in our ears, eyes, everywhere.  Literally, we arrived at the summit at 3:40 and left at 3:43.  We were back at the Tabletop trailhead at almost 4:30 and began the hike out on the Van Hoevenberg trail.  My son went ahead and we did not see him for about 30 minutes (which did not make his mother happy). 

Our little group of 3 met up again at a brook crossing.  We welcomed a break to rinse off with some water.  While there, retired DEC Ranger Pete Fish came along.  My two kids had seen him the previous August when they climbed Mt. Marcy.  On the same day he was making his 700th ascent with a newspaper reporter.  Today we chatted with him a bit and accepted his teasing of the fact that we were covered in mud and he did not have a spot on him - not even on his boots.  He said it was because he knew where all the rocks were because he put most of them there!

We reached Marcy Dam at 5:50 and it was packed with overnighters just coming in to set up camp.  My son decided to run the last several miles to the parking lot.  My daughter was in need of some coaxing to make those last miles.  We signed out at 6:50 p.m.  Hubby and youngest son had spent the afternoon swimming in Heart Lake and were awaiting our return.

This was probably my most physically challenging hike to date.  And, truth be told, we really were not prepared to do these 2 peaks.  We had just enough water for the entire trip and were low on food, which caused pretty low energy levels by the end.  I estimated the total mileage for the day to be just over 14.5 miles logged on my new hiking boots.