Fresh off the excitement of climbing Giant Mountain, I was anxious to hike another. The Ausable Club located just down the road from Giant provides access to the Adirondack Mountain Reserve (AMR) with trails leading to nine more High Peaks. The original plan was to hike through there on Sunday, but the forecast now called for rain and thunderstorms. After some last minute adjustments, the car was packed to leave early Saturday morning instead.
Fortunately, the lessons learned on Giant led to some immediate gear changes and those items had just arrived. In particular, the longer hikes to other High Peaks demanded a hydration bladder and method for filtering water on the trails. The long Colvin/Blake hike offers a good filtering source along Gil Brook, but nothing on or between the peaks. My plan was to carry a full 3L bladder then stop here on the return trip. Since you’re hiking into the AMR on Lake Road, your typical dirt road, there isn’t really a need to filter on the way in. Packing a water filter would later prove to be a wise choice.
I arrived at the parking lot just before 7 am and was maybe the 10th car there (having noted the overflow warnings for that lot). After walking to and signing in by the AMR gate, the attendant came out to say, “It’s going to be a hot one today”. The High Peaks forecast showed sunny skies and high 70′s with wind of 5-10 mph. All that mattered to me at the time was a zero percent chance of rain.
The walk in from Lake Road was uneventful other than the entourage of black flies. Public vehicle access is not allowed, but there is an easement allowing hikers to pass through. About two miles in from the AMR gate, I took the Gil Brook cut-off from LR and then picked up the trail leading south towards Elk Pass. As you’ll see, all of the trails are clearly marked and easy to follow. A large colorful DEC disc on a tree shows hikers where the state land begins. Just past this marker is the first of three camp sites. The first one is pictured below and looks ideal being right next to Gil Brook. The second is a little further in to the right and the last one is just before the Elk Pass junction.
This is where the real climbing starts for the next 1.1 miles to Colvin’s summit. It’s a fun, moderate ascent that didn’t seem as steep as Giant’s ridge line. A couple of spots are tricky, but the exposed roots make for great hand and footholds.
There were also three or four little toads that dashed by my path, too fast for grabbing my camera from the pack, but this fellow was happy to pose for a pic.
Finally the summit of Colvin appeared without another soul in sight. The views of the Great Range are incredible from this tiny summit! The peaks of Marcy, Basin, Saddleback, Armstrong, Gothics, and Lower and Upper Wolfjaw are all easy to spot. I could also see Giant and Rocky Peak Ridge through the haze to the north and Dial and Nippletop to the east. There is a summit marker at the peak named after Verplanck Colvin, the man who led the great Adirondack Survey of the region in the late 1800’s. Surveying the peaks was Colvin’s passion and not even a harsh October snow storm atop Mt. Marcy would deter him from his work.
A slightly better vantage point for seeing the Great Range and points south is just past the summit on your right and not to be missed. After soaking in all of the views, taking pictures and resting, I packed up for the trek to Blake thinking that this little outcrop would be the perfect lunch spot on the way back.
From this point on, the satisfaction and joy of reaching Colvin quickly faded. The temp was climbing fast and there was no breeze whatsoever. The hike down from Colvin and back up to Blake is hard, steep and no fun with plenty of eroded soil, debris and elevation to cover. At least the conditions were dry (no wonder hikers don’t like this col when it’s muddy). Here is the first of two ladders to be found on the south side of Colvin.
It was a grind to finally reach the summit of Blake over an hour later. Unlike Colvin and Giant, I found myself standing there saying, “Is this it?” The peak named after Colvin’s chief assistant, Mils Blake, offers little reward for the effort it takes to get there. It is also one of several High Peaks that were later determined to be less than 4000’ according to GPS measurements. All remain included in the Adirondack Forty-Six High Peaks though and I was here to check that box. Here’s a pic of the only view from Blake’s summit and the trail sign that casually marks the spot.
Hiking back to Colvin took its toll on me. Early afternoon temps were climbing faster than I could. The gate attendant’s weather prediction was echoing in my head with each and every scramble. At this point, my water was running out fast, I was overheated and generally not having fun anymore. In hindsight, it was a mistake to hold off the planned return lunch break on Colvin. After finally arriving back, I passed up the shade-less scenic outcrop and dropped back to the summit which had a couple of bushes offering a little bit of relief from the sun. Talk about having two different feelings when reaching this peak on the same day! It wasn’t about taking in the incredible views anymore; I was just trying to catch my breath and get some much-needed food into my system for energy. It was also the first chance to chat with some other hikers, including an Adirondack Forty-Sixer on his way to Blake then Pinnacle.
My hydro bladder was now dry and Gil Brook was the only watering spot some two miles back down Colvin. Getting there was a slow haul with feelings of heat exhaustion compelling many short stops and being careful not to take any missteps that would compound my problems. In contrast, there was one surreal moment when a trail runner passed by as she hopped over the rocks behind me and dashed out of sight into the trail below.
Reaching the Gil Brook stream and filtering 2L of never-tasted-better cold Adirondack water was a Godsend. After gulping half of that down and drenching my head to cool off, it was time to finish the hike back. The final walk back up Lake Road was a blur. I finally reached the car filthy and exhausted about 10 1/2 hours after starting out that morning with High Peaks #2 and #3 completed.
This was a much further hike than anything I had attempted before and the lessons learned will prove useful on the next leg of this journey. Where there are weak spots in your conditioning and preparation, the High Peaks will gladly point them out.
Total Hike Distance: 13.6 miles (from the AMR gate; add 1.0 mile RT to parking lot)
Total Time (including breaks): 10 hours 35 minutes
Elevation Gained: 4310′ (estimated)
Mt. Colvin Summit (39th highest): 4057′
Blake Summit (43rd highest): 3960′