Friday, August 22, 2014

ADK46: Santanoni, Couchsachraga, Panther

Somehow, it is my last week of summer vacation.  Hard to believe it has gone by so quickly.  Last summer I was able to get in 8 high peak and until this week I had only summit-ed 3. Truth be told,  I've been feeling nervous about my remaining hikes.  They are more remote, longer, and often trail-less.  But I've made tentative plans to complete my 46 peaks during the last weekend of September, and those mountains will not hike themselves.  After some planning, I decided to do the Santanoni Range for a mid-week hike.  In all honesty I wanted bang for my buck and wanted to get as many as I could in one day to get me that much closer to #46.

I found my way to the parking area - this is my first time in the general direction of Upperworks, but it was quite easy to find.

7:30 started walking on the access road to the trail. 

8:07 turned right onto blue trail

9:04- Cairn for Santanoni Express  Somewhere before 9 I ran into a couple who had been on this trail earlier in the week to climb Santanoni and were now returning for Couch&Panther. We chatted briefly and before I knew it,I was at the cairn (fork in the path) to take the Santanoni Express

Lots trees down due to beavers - which also causes a variety of flooding problems at times too...

10:30- Reached a clearing and the first ( and most depressing) false summit for Santanoni. My blood sugar is low and I am grateful that I am hiking alone because I feel very crabby.
10:52 -After the longest 12 minutes of the 10 o clock hour, I reach the herd path, I turn left and head towards the summit.
11:00   Santanoni Summit. Not surprising, I am the only one on the summit.  There were only two groups in before me ( the couple who wasn't planning on coming to Santanoni today, and a group of 3 women)   A few required summit pictures are taken and I decide to dig into half my sandwich.   A cloud came whipping through taking away any views I might have, so I decided to press on.

11:08  left Santanoni & also dug into my second half of a sandwich.  I love mustard and cheese sandwiches.  They have always been my favorite.  
Immediately after leaving the summit, the weather cleared.

12:03 Harold's Square. Unknowingly to me, I blew past "Time's Square" where I was meant to pick up the next herd path to Couchscharga and ended up in "Harolds Square"  I stopped here to put on my winter gaiters.  Every trip report I read indicated that the probability of getting wet was likely on this trail so I decided to attempt to keep my feet dry.
12:13  I left Harold Square only to wander around for a few minutes trying to figure out where the path to Couch was, I decided to backtrack a bit and noticed a trail I hadn't yet taken.  Someone had also stored a water bottle there.  I took this as a good enough sign and decided to go for it.
13:07 Arrived at the infamous bog.  It wasn't nearly as bad as I was anticipating.  I had brought one of my snowshoe poles (sans basket) to aide just in case.  It was helpful, but I could have also gotten across without it.
only non selfie of the day
13:30 - I met up with the 3 women that were also on the trail.  One had just completed her 44th and would finish out the day at 45!  We chatted for a few minutes before they headed off to Santanoni (reversing my route)
13:43 Summit Couchsachraga.The hike to Couchsachraga wasn't as bad as I was expecting. And while not an amazing view - still better than Blake or Esther.  I again had the summit to myself.  I ate some more food and got ready to make the short journey down Couch with the long journey back up to Times Square.
if you wonder why the yellow disc is so high, come back in February when there is snow.  

13:54- Uneventful descent.  I ran into the couple from the morning, based on how long it was taking me, I assume they made plans to hike out in the dark since they hadn't yet reached the summit.  I kept them in mind for most of my hike out particularly when I wasn't sure I was going the right way, it was nice to know that there was someone else on the mountain too.
14:33 Re reached the bog and began the painful hike back up. I entertained myself by eating loads of cashews and completely zoning out.  (if I hadn't occasionally added time stamps to my phone for reminders, I'd have no clue what I did all day)
15:25- Reached Time Square, I ran into 2 of the 3 ladies from earlier.  I was feeling very hot and tired.  The hike to couch isn't bad, but the hike back sucks. 
15:30   I was quickly back over at Harold's Square,which in my head I started calling Harry's square,which lead me to question if Prince Harry was actually Prince Harold (he's not, he actually has 4 names, Henry, Charles, Albert, David but none of them are Harold) I dropped my bag behind a bolder (because you know those other 5 people on the mountain really want to carry my crap out of the woods with them...) and took off for the Panther Summit.

15:45 Panther Peak Summit. I'm glad that I had saved Panther for last for a few reasons.The weather turned into an awesome awesome day, and there was some instant gratification with this climb. The summit is only .4 from Times Square so it was a quick conquer for late in the day.
 I can never get enough of the mountain view.  I wonder if I would grow tired of it if I lived closer

High Peak # 37 single digits left !
15:50 Left Summit. I didn't stay for very long.  It was nearing 4 o clock and my car was still over 6 miles away.  I had some hustling to do if I wanted to avoid hiking out with my head lamp, as the sun would set past the very mountains I spent my day on far earlier than the noaa report of 7:46.
every talks about how wet and muddy the range is,  I fully agree.  Somehow I think this range has its own ecosystem & rainforest.

16:04  Arrived & Left Harold's Square.I was bombing through the herd path that I nearly passed Harold's square to Time square before I notice the cairn in the trail. I grabbed my bag and began the descent towards Bradly Pond.

The path is actually panther brook.  In wet season it's probably a huge mess, but late august it is very reasonable.

17:04  Rest. I ended up stopping at a perfect point,had a great cascade and was the last time I was with running water for a while.   I refilled a water bottle.  I was only carrying 72 oz vs my usual 104 and I needed more.  I ate a snack and pulled out my headphones.  Feeling a bit mentally beat up and with one else to distract me, music fixed it tremendously. My attitude immediately improved.
17:12: Onward. My break didn't last for terribly long, I wanted to keep plugging forward until I was back on the blue trail.  While I feel confident of my night hiking skills.  Being on a new to me herd path in the dark seemed like a bit less fun than I wanted for the day.
Bradley Pond

18:00  Blue Trail. I came upon a clearing with no real indication of where the herd path lead.  I did see some foot prints zig zagging around a beaver lodge which ultimately spit me out onto a very clear cut wide trail.  After a few hundred feet I finally spotted a blue trail marker. 

18:15.  Fork in the trail. With my Dave Matthews Band Spac show playing on my iphone, I very much enjoyed my personal concert while walking on this great trail.  Quite quickly I found that the trail met back up with the Santanoni Express, which I had taken 9 hours earlier.

19:09 Found Road: The trail had definitely flattened out and I was able to cruise along as I made my way out.  It's always exciting to see the road. However, if my car wasn't still 2 miles away, it would have been even better.  had I realized it was such a long distance on this gravel and rock road, I would have grabbed sneakers to put on.  By now my feet were beginning to revolt. 
19:42 Arrived at car. Just over 12 hours of hiking I returned to my car.  To my surprise all the other cars were still there and I was the first one to make it back out.  I laid in the middle of the parking lot for a few minutes moaning about my achy feet, then stumbled into the car to head home.

I'll be completely honest, I felt like a BOSS when I finished this 3 peak, 16 miles, trail-less trip.

Santanoni Peak (#14th highest at  4607')
Couchsachraga Peak(#46th highest  3820' - and yes, less than 4,000ft)
Panther Peak (#18th highest at 4442')

Mileage RT: Roughly 16+ miles
Total Ascent:  4900'
Time: 12.25 hours

37/46 complete !

Gear used:  Dueter Backpack, hydroflask waterbottles (40oz, & 32 oz) Asolo boots, oiselle shorts, and hairy gorilla race socks.

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