A friend and I recently backpacked 16 miles through the Giant Mountain Wilderness in the Adirondacks. It had been a year since hiking in the High Peaks, and it was time to return. The plan was to summit two high peaks- Giant Mountain and Rocky Ridge Peak. After a late start, we made our way up along cascading streams, between ledges, and under a bare forest. We had some great views from Owls Head, but the wind was frigid. We continued through the forests as the mountains rose around us, glowing in the setting sun. The trail reached the top of an eroded bank, above a stream. We were treated to great views of the mountains, and forests filled with the stark white trunks of birch trees; it was beautiful. The trail entered a spruce forest and we reached a side trail to the shelter. Along the way we saw a semi-tame snowshoe hare that was molting into white, it was the first time I had ever seen one. The legs on the hare were long and powerful, what an impressive animal.
The shelter wasn’t the greatest, but was fine for a night. All the wood was damp, so we didn’t have a fire. We could feel the cold settling between the mountains and we were soon in our bags for a very early night. A snow shower passed, coating everything white.
We woke up and began a steep climb up Giant. It was a winter wonderland with snow dusted spruce and moss covering the tree trunks. The woods were aromatic. The climb was tough due to the sheen of ice on the rocks. We made it to the wind blasted summit in the clouds as rime ice covered the stunted trees. The descent off of Giant was tough, but manageable. Next was the climb up Rocky Ridge Peak. The clouds broke to reveal awesome views, but the summit was very windy; this summit had an alpine feel to it. The descent off of Rocky Ridge was awesome, it was along an exposed ridge with non-stop views. Layers of endless ridges and peaks spread out to the south. Below sat Mary Louise Pond, nestled in a valley high on the ridge. We could see the length of Vermont, into Massachusetts. Lake Champlain was blue in the valley below and the Green Mountains rose to the east. The summit of Giant was white, shrouded with ice. We reached beautiful Mary Louise Pond and continued the challenging roller-coaster descent with non-stop views under bright blue skies. This is considered one of the finest ridge walks in the Adirondacks due to all the views, but it was tough with several climbs along the way, followed by steep descents. We finally reached the bottom and my car. Despite the modest length, this was a tough hike, but the scenery was superb. I was happy to summit two more High Peaks.
The Adirondacks are one of my favorite places to hike, offering vast wilderness, alpine peaks, northern woodlands, and endless lakes, ponds, rivers, and wetlands. Gorges and waterfalls hide between the mountains. The northern woodlands reveal ancient spruce, cedar, and birch- creating a tapestry that exists nowhere else.