Snowshoeing in the High Peaks Wilderness, New York

Trip Start Jan 28, 2008
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Trip End Mar 12, 2008


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Flag of United States  , New York
Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Much of New York's Adirondacks region is state owned parkland, and the boundaries of Adirondack State Park (which includes a significant amount of privately-owned land within its borders) encompass an area more than twice the size of Yellowstone.  The most scenically impressive areas are in an area known as the High Peaks Wilderness, an area south of Lake Placid that includes several of the highest mountains in New York State.  I'm quite familiar with the region, having climbed Mount Marcy (the tallest in New York) in June 2005 and Algonquin Peak (the second tallest) with my brother Doug in September 2007.  My intended conquest of the day, Mount Culden, is a slightly shorter peak almost directly between Marcy and Algonquin. 
I quickly decided a winter ascent of what is, in the scheme of things, a rather low mountain would be a fitting preview for my goals for my 41st year of life, which I will soon enter.  The goals for my next year include taking up trekking/backpacking and maybe a bit of mountaineering, much the same way I had set a goal a few years back to see some very remote parts of the world and spent much of the last two years on overland trips
When my alarm clock went off at 6:30, though, I opened my eyes and found myself still in a state of physical exhaustion that bordered on paralysis from the previous day's physical activity.  When I did get up around 8:00 it was a bit too late a start to realistically climb a mountain on snowshoes, mostly because of the long distance on the trail from the parking area at Adirondack Loj to the base of the peaks.  The day, though, was bright and clear, and my five mile walk on snowshoes to Avalanche Lake via Marcy Pond and Avalanche Pass was spectacular, the pines leafless maples and oaks still almost completely encased in ice from the storm and shimmering in the brilliant sunshine.  I felt like I needed a hardhat to keep from getting bludgeoned as I walked through the woods, though, since it was the warmest day since the ice storm and probably close to the freezing mark, resulting in dagger like icicles and other big chunks of ice falling from the trees all around me. 
Set between nearly vertical cliff faces on two sides, Avalanche Lake has to be one of the most beautiful spots in the northeastern U.S.  The cliffs are so shear that the trail that runs alongside it in many spots is wooden boardwalk that is bolted into the cliff face.  That and the multiple ladders and scrambling over boulders make it one of the most fun as well as most beautiful trails I know.  This time, though, I saw Avalanche Lake in a different light and didn't need use the trail since the lake was completely frozen over.  The combination of brilliant blue skies, blinding white of the lake's surface, gray of the cliffs, and green of the evergreen trees on the slopes above made the trip well worth the walk even if my late start ruled out climbing Mount Culden.  Maybe I should say "waddle" instead of walk, since I was on my snowshoes and thus moving with an awkward wide gait that their width necessitates.  Anyway, though, it was a great day!
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