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Adirondacks to Mount Marcy and Colden

May 22 to 24, 2020

Sitting at over 5,200 feet, Mount Marcy is the tallest mountain in NY state. Hiking this mountain was a super fun challenge. Making our way up and down the mountain was like experiencing all four seasons in one day.

This was my first time camping in the Adirondacks. I’ve hiked Mount Marcy before but it was just a day hike, so I was in and out. This trip two friends and myself spent two nights camping near Lake Colden. What surprised me about camping in this area was how well-cared for it was by the park rangers.

The ranger station and parking lot was in the heart of the Adirondack mountains. Despite driving off-road for about 45 minutes before reaching our destination, the parking lot we arrived at even had an attendant. Shortly after parking a ranger made his way over to us to ensure we were properly prepared to camp, with items like a bear canister and crampons.

The bear canister was to prevent bears in the Adirondacks from eating our food; crampons are spikes you attach to your boots for snow hiking. At first I thought it was odd they required everyone to have this kind of stuff, but on our ascent to Mount Marcy it made perfect sense why they do. I have never encountered such an organized trail head and active ranger station than that at Mount Marcy. After chatting with the ranger and showing him our equipment, we were all cleared for the trip and made our way out.

I recognized the first mile or so of the trail from the year prior when I hiked the mountain. The trail’s nice, flat open ground, traveling alongside a beautiful stream, is a two mile stretch that still took us a long time because we often stopped to enjoy the scenery and take pictures. This led us to an intersection that breaks off into about four different routes, one leading up to Mount Marcy, and others leading to surrounding mountains and lakes.

We headed down the east trail towards Lake Colden about five miles away from our destination. Despite little-to-no elevation gain in this trail, the hike to our campsite was difficult! The last couple of miles of the hike took its toll, navigating along the very rocky edges of the lakes that required us to hike up and back down large boulders. Some of the boulders we had to freestyle climb, but along the bigger ones there were wooden steps built into them.

While having steps to walk along was helpful, it presented new challenges for my friends and I. The stairs were not made under ideal circumstances -- they were strong and sturdy, but very narrow and steep. Some brought us up twenty feet without the safety of any kind of hand railing, presenting a pretty scary situation to be in especially with heavy camping packs on. Falling off these rocks or steps could have left us with serious injuries far from the parking lot and campsite.

After making our way safely through the boulders, we hit a section of trail that actually crossed the lakes. Rangers used wooden planks to connect the trail across the water. Some of the planks were fashioned into a very nice bridge that was a pleasant walk across, while some sections consisted of just loose planks thrown onto the water. All the wooden steps and makeshift trails were another testament to the very organized and rangers program that monitors these parks and makes them a bit safer in the otherwise unforgiving wilderness. It’s obvious they spend a lot of time caring for these mountains and trails. Ultimately after a few close calls, we made it to camp dry.

When we arrived at our campsite we were all amazed by the beautiful area we were lucky enough to stay at. Our site happened to be right next to a large river that feeds into Lake Colden about a quarter-mile up from the lake. A very powerful river, it was amazing to sit and watch the water roll and rage by.

Unfortunately we were not able to make a good campfire meal so we enjoyed our dehydrated meals for dinner. Because the Adironacks are so popular and many people camp there it is against the rules to make fires there to preserve the habitat. So it was romen and jerky for dinner, not a very tasty meal but it gave us the energy we needed. For snacking and lunches we resorted to PB&J sandwiches and granola bars. This situation also made me realize how much I love and depend on campfires, they are such a big part of the social camping aspect. When we got to camp there was no need to spend time finding and preparing firewood and no need to prepare dinner. Without a campfire, I realized there really wasn't much else to do which eventually led to us getting to bed early for a good night's rest.

I knew we were in for a difficult climb up Mount Marcy the next day but I had no idea what was actually in store for us. Stay tuned for part 2 of this adventure to hear about one of the most difficult climbs I've ever done.

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