Climbing Log: Seward Mountain

Mountains Climbed: Seward Mountain
Date of Hike: Saturday, 21 November 2009
Hikers: Seth C. Burgess, Adam C. Chapin, Jessica L. Burgess, Tanner W. Burgess, Zach Hussion

Trail Conditions: Muddy. Some ice on rock near Seward's summit. Did I mention Muddy?

Comments: Our group left Wayne County, NY on Fri. night (20-Nov-09) and drove partway to the High Peaks, stopping for the night at Adam's Camp on the Independence River. We had plans for a meal on the drive so instead of shooting up I-81 N as we might otherwise have, we broke over toward Rome and stopped just north of it at Okey Dokey's Restaurant for some Friday Night Fish Fry. This was our 2nd time at Okey Dokey's as we had stopped there on our "Santanoni Revenge" trip in March 2009. At Okey Dokey's we were intrigued to find "Buffalo Haddock" on the menu--a fried haddock filet smothered in Buffalo wing sauce and served with a bleu cheese dip. Delicious! We watched the 2nd half of the Syracuse vs. North Carolina men's college basketball game there and SU was victorious in a move that would push them up in the national polls.

We continued up Rt. 12 into Lowville, stopping at the Walmart there for breakfast food and a Sam Adams winter pack. A short drive to Adam's Camp from there, we settled our gear indoors while Adam started poking his fingers around in the high-voltage electric box on the power pole in order to get the lights & heat to stay on. We stayed up altogether too late, although the Sam Adams was enjoyed (except for the Cranberry Lambic).

Grizzly Adams' camp just outside the Blue Line

Adam was up at 0430 Sat. morning making breakfast, the rest of us didn't really start kicking around until 2 hrs. later. Good, hearty breakfast of fried eggs, bacon, sausage, crescent rolls, and O.J. After shutting down the "Pine-Sol Lodge" and the rest of camp, we gazed into the Independence River for awhile before finally moseying on our way toward Tupper Lake and the High Peaks region.

Independence River

It was about 1100 when he hit the trail after parking in the Corey's Rd. lot. Waaay late start for this time of year, although we entered the woods with the contingency gear we'd need.

Tailgate "map-synch"

This was Zach's first Adirondack High Peaks experience and he was hiking in cotton jeans. People do it, I know. And most learn on a wet day that jeans are better fitted for use in "civilization" as opposed to the Adirondack Wild. The temperature and general weather in the air was actually quite ideal for comfortable November hiking--near 40ish I'd wager.

After 0.5 miles we chose the horse trail at the split, and then wove around for the next 4+ miles. The horse trail is the "high-road" and has to deal with more ups and downs in elevation change than the lower foot path. It was sort of surprising how unmaintained the horse trail seemed--with all the large trees down we had to fight around, there's no way a horse and rider could've made it through on the trail.

On the Horse Trail

We emerged on the Ward Brook Truck Trail just west of a bridge. Crossing that bridge, Grizzly Adams immediately spotted the low rock cairn marking the start of the herdpath up Seward. The herdpath crosses Ward Brook twice when it's larger, then several more times as it narrows before hiking right in the brook before it disappears shy of the top. The herdpath was pretty easy to follow--albeit cramped at times--and had actually been maintained recently with a handsaw.

Bridge over Ward Brook branch

Rock cairn at start of Seward herdpath

Brook crossing

Sunset came before we summited. This had never happened to me before on a High Peak, although feeling comfortable with the weather outside of it being dark we pushed on and topped out on Seward Mountain, 24th in order of height of the Adirondack 46. Zach threw out a concern once or twice about hiking in the dark, although I assume he either felt he had no other choice or was comfortable with his company. At the totally enclosed summit of Seward, we enjoyed our Peanut Butter and Jelly Bagelwiches. Very tasty after the hard hike up. I handed Zach a headlamp to use for the rest of the hike, and that seemed to "light him up". The summit was about 6.75 miles in from my Avalanche back in the parking lot, and 2 from the Ward Brook Truck trail.

Zach on his 1st Adirondack High Peak

We descended Seward steadily and purposefully. Jess did take one unfortunate step forward where there was nothing but air, and I heard a shrill cry and some cursing. In the back of the pack, I couldn't do anything until I caught up. It hadn't sounded good. Turns out she had stepped directly off of a 15-ft. sheer drop, and somehow slowed her fall enough by pulling on vegetation to land at least somewhat softly below. No injuries. Phew. Our late night could've turned into something completely different there. Every step is important in the dark mountains, every step.

Jess readily relinquished her lead position and we moved down to the Ward Truck Trail without incident. Some of us were mentally notching off checkpoints, as is good practice in order to keep encouraged that progress is being made when the body starts to speak the language of tiredness.

This time, we chose the foot path route over the horse trail. Much flatter. Very muddy. At this point, we weren't concerned about stepping around water and mud though, so it just became a muddy sludge out for the last 4.5 to 5 miles. At the sign indication 1.4 miles to the trailhead parking lot, Grizzly Adams took off running with Tanner and my truck keys to go warm up the truck. Grizzly is also a bit mad and feels the odd need to sprint after 12 hard miles in the Adirondacks.

We trodded on that longest and last 1.4 miles, the darkness playing some mind games although we never strayed from any path. The tail and headlights of the truck were a welcome sight after a 12-hr., 13.5 mile dayhike of the 4,361' Seward Mtn. It was 2300, the latest I've ever returned to the vehicle on a dayhike.

Back at the Corey's Rd. trailhead after 13.5 miles

You know, the confidence AND care our well-oiled group of friends had on this late night hike felt just right. I would never plan to have had such a late start--all things perfect--but this one went just fine. There were extra AA's for the headlamp when needed, everyone had a light, no injuries, and a safe return to the vehicle. Success. I imagine the list of folks who have hiked Seward Mountain as their very first ADK High Peak is very short--Congrats to Zach.

I drove as far west as Cranberry Lake following the hike before pulling over for a 3-hr. nap. All the other passengers, including the Golden Retriever, were already out cold. After that I drove all the way back to Wayne County, stopping quickly in Watertown for a Pike Place coffee at Starbucks. We arrived home around 0700.

Tanner the Mountain Dog, our priceless hiking companion

There was one lookout nearing the summit of Seward with a view that remains a mystery as it was shrouded in clouds on our hike. So there's the lure for me to return to Seward...

Special Equipment Required: Stabilicers helped on the icy rock slides toward the top of Seward, esp. on the descent. And once again, Tanner the Mountain Dog was an incredible companion in helping to keep us on path in the dark. It was our 2nd dark descent in the Seward Range.



Adam C. Chapin said...

Yeah, Next time Jess asks me to take the lead I'll Listen! Scared the crap out of me when I heard that sceam!

Seth C. Burgess said...

maybe that Buffalo haddock from the night before made her hallucinate

zhussion said...

great post! cranberry lambic was def the extra fule that helped chapin run that last mile...

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