For this edition of Throwback Thursday we’re taking it back to October 2014 for our first “Girls’ ADK Adventure Weekend”. You know what’s truly awesome? Having fantastic female friends who love trails, mountains and adventures as much as you do. I am lucky to have met some inspiring and fearless ladies in the past few years whose appetite for adventure is absolutely contagious.
After bagging my first high peak in the spring of 2014 with my partner, I was aching to get back to the mountains for some more adventures. When the idea for a ladies’ high peaks trip came up at the bar after a kickball game, I knew I had to go! After hearing about an easily accessible camping area close to the Giant Mountain/Roaring Brook Trailhead, we decided we would rough it for a fall weekend and attempt 3 High Peaks: Giant Mountain, Cascade Mountain and Porter Mountain. We decided to depart on a Friday evening after work, knowing we would be arriving to set up camp in the dark. We weren’t very worried because we had it on good authority that our camping spot would be easy to find and close to the parking lot. Off we went – four women and a Goldendoodle.
The drive went by quickly and uneventfully, but that’s probably because I slept a good part of the way there. However, once we got to Keene Valley things started to get challenging almost immediately. This too-good-to-be-true camping spot turned out to be impossible to find, likely because it was nothing like what was described to us. We followed the instructions from our trusted source to a T only to find the parking area completely surrounded by “No Camping” signs. It was late, dark, and we were following bad directions in an unfamiliar area. We were not at all prepared to venture out for a hike to find a designated camping spot, as we weren’t planning a backpacking trip. Car camping is more of what we had in mind. In our tired, frazzled daze we decided to park at the Giant Mountain/Roaring Brook Trailhead and wander in a short distance to find a place to set up camp. Every flat area that looked ideal was met with a nearby “No Camping” sign as well. We gave up, running out of time and energy, and decided to camp a little ways off trail and risk eviction if some night-prowling park ranger were to stumble upon us.
We managed to set up camp pretty quickly and get settled in for some sleep. Three of us shared a tent, while another stayed in a separate tent with her dog. I must have been exhausted because even after my car nap I fell right asleep. The other ladies didn’t have as much luck and hardly slept. Of course it didn’t help that a short time later a large group of people came down the trail and set up camp all around us – loudly. I’m really surprised at how well I slept; I only woke up briefly once and fell right back asleep. The others hardly slept at all, partially due to the fact that the our new camp neighbors were up talking and laughing directly outside our tents for much of the night.
We wanted to get an early start for our Giant Mountain hike, but when our 6:30 am wake up time came none of us felt like moving. A reminder that we should pack up camp before it started to rain was enough to get us to all sit up in unison. We packed up even faster than we set up the night before. There were almost a dozen tents all around us, filled with hikers who had been asleep for only a couple of hours, or so it seemed. We loaded our gear into the car and used camp stoves to make (instant) coffee and oatmeal in the small parking lot. We packed our daypacks with water and supplies and ventured onto the trail just as it began to rain lightly.
The light rain eventually turned into a moderate rain which become a heavy rain for much of our hike. For two ladies it was their very first high peak, and for two of us it would be our second. None of us were willing to let the weather stand in our way. We made our way up toward the summit of Giant via the Roaring Brook Trail. A short ways into the trail there is a split where hikers can go straight to Roaring Brook Falls or left to continue up to Giant’s open rock summit. The falls didn’t appear to be much farther on the trail map, so we decided to check it out before continuing up Giant. Because we were still low enough in elevation to avoid complete cloud cover when we reached the top of Roaring Brook Falls, it offered the best view of the area we got all day. We rock-hopped across the brook and made our way to the top of the falls to take in the breathtaking sight.
After exploring Roaring Brook Falls we continued to follow the trail all the way up to the summit of Giant. The 3.4 mile trail ascends 3,375 feet from the Roaring Brook Trailhead to the summit, and has several steep sections that require scrambling – hand over hand climbing. The rain never let up and only became heavier as the day went on, turning the trail into a muddy stream for us to traverse during our several-hour climb. This was a pretty exciting trail, and it would have been a lot of fun to hike in more favorable conditions. However, we were soaked to our core, freezing, and growing more surly with each difficult step.
We finally reached a rocky clearing with a sign indicating we were 0.1 miles from the summit of Giant Mountain – our goal destination felt within reach! You heard it here first – that was the absolute longest one tenth of a mile in my entire life! Be warned – that sign is very deceiving, especially when you are cold, soaking wet, tired and eager to head back. We pressed on, nonetheless, eventually summiting the mountain with high winds, falling snow and complete cloud cover.
While it was difficult to enjoy the moment in the conditions we faced, we all still felt the significant sense of accomplishment that only comes with touching a survey marker after such adversity (admittedly, hikers and climbers all over the globe face much greater adversity than cold rain – this isn’t Everest, after all). A couple of us still managed to crack open a ceremonial summit beer and scarf down a sandwich before beginning our long, cold, wet descent back to the trailhead. The rain eventually let up, but not until well after each one of us was so uncomfortable that the thought of tenting another night was completely unbearable. I think most normal people would have cut their losses and headed home to relax and recover from such a grueling experience. We aren’t most people, though.
Read Part II of our “First Girls’ ADK Adventure Weekend” here!
Have you ever had a bad-weather adventure? Share your experiences in the comments below!