A Hike Around Colden
Submitted By Michael Virdone
The Mountains & Stats
People On The Trip
Loj to Lake Arnold: 4.6 mi 1650 ft gain
As usual the hike to Marcy Dam went nice and quick. It had rained pretty hard earlier in the day so there were a lot of puddles along the trail that we had to tiptoe around. Typically I wouldn't use my trekking poles for this section of trail but I was doing so much rock hopping and balancing that I felt I needed them. Quickly hiked from Marcy Dam to the Avalanche camps and that is where the climb began. Luckily the trail up to Lake Arnold was not bad (even in the dark, with full packs). We arrived at Lake Arnold, I nearly fell into the stream coming out of the lake, and we set off to look for a campsite.
We had a very hard time finding someplace to setup camp. I had checked the register at the Loj and Marcy Dam and no one had indicated they were going to Lake Arnold in the past 2 days yet when we arrived there were 2 tents there (and the canisters were from the mountaineer, so chances are they didn't come in from UW), Oh well... We found a spot for the tent and promptly passed out.
Lake Arnold, Uphill LT (drop off gear), Cliff, Redfield, Uphill LT (getting gear), Lake Colden (drop off gear), Marshall, Lake Colden (pick up gear), Hiked around the Algonquin side of the lake, Through avalanche pass, back to Loj: 19.8 Miles 4116 feet gain
The original plan was to hike the 3 peaks on Saturday, camp Saturday night and then hike out Sunday morning. I knew the forecast was questionable for Sunday plus we were up at the crack of dawn (5 am) so we decided to push hard to make it through all the peaks in 1 day. We were on the trail (after a hot breakfast and breaking down camp) by 6:30. The hike down to UHB leanto wasn't as bad as people made the Lake Arnold trail seem (we saw a lot worse mud throughout the day). We met a nice guy at the leanto with camping with his dog. We spent a few minutes taking a break and un-packing our backpacks (left the tent, sleeping bags, therm-a-rests, and bear caninster to lighten our loads).
We hiked Cliff first, the mud was muddy and the scrambles slowed us down quite a bit. It took about an hour each way. Every other time I did Redfield & Cliff I did Redfield first, now I wholeheartedly recommend doing Cliff first. There are so many false shoulders, then the false summit it really takes the wind out of your sails at the end of the day. Redfield is one of my favorite herd paths, I love hiking in/along the stream and I love the fact that it has what I call a "built in altimeter" (most mountains you have no idea if you are close to the top or not, on Redfield, you know you're not even close as long as you're near the stream). The climb up Redfield was nice, mud wasn't as bad, but there was still plenty. We got back to the leanto in approx an hour+ each way for Redfield.
The hike down to Lake Colden was kinda crappy (more mud). We easily found an empty campsite to stash our gear before crossing the dam and heading to Marshall. I was surprised to find most of the campsites empty and most of the lean-tos occupied but not full. I guess the cold weather scared away a lot of people.
We crossed the dam and I quickly remembered that I hate the trail around flowed lands (PUD & Mud). We arrived at the Marshall herd path turn and headed up. I had forgotten what a very nice herd path it is, I really like how it meanders along the stream at the beginning (and in the stream later on). I don't know if I really appreciated it this day because I was starting to get pretty tired. As we climbed the trail got muddier and muddier but luckly both of our feet were already soaked so we just plodded through all but the worst of it. Eventually we reached the bog near the saddle (We noticed a 2nd path going straight but the trail to the summit is marked with a carin) and completed the steep climb to the top.
After a quick break on the summit we began our descent (slowly because of the steepness and the mud). After a while we were back at the base of the herd path. We took another break in the (gorgeous) new leanto that faces in the direction of Flowed Lands (the one with the cedar shingle roof) before heading back to get our gear.
Just after we crossed the Dam we saw a ranger coming our way so I asked "How much farther to the JBL". She went from a smiling/happy look on her face to a look of "oh god, it is going to be one of those nights" before asking "please tell me you're kidding" (of course I was :D ). We had a great conversation with her and she was very helpful in telling me that the trail around Lake Colden was easier on the Algonquin side than the Colden side (despite the extra distance). She was also very pleased to hear we had 4 headlamps between the two of us (as she was concerned about us hiking out in the dark).
Nicole and I knew we were running low on time and we really wanted to get through the portion around Avalanche Lake before dark. We headed back to our gear, packed up one last time and headed out (across the dam for the 3rd time). The trail around the lake was OK, and I finally got to see the Interior Outpost (what a beautiful building). Finally we reached Avalanche Lake and we made good time getting through the worst of it. We made it to the end of the lake (and the obligatory view/rest area) just before headlamps were required.
The rest of the hike out from the Lake to the Loj was the typical auto-pilot march just putting one foot in front of the other. We made it to the car and quickly decided we were not camping out (as planned) we were getting a Hotel. I'm pretty sure Nicole wanted to kill me until I made that decision, then she was somewhat OK with the stupid hike we had just done.
Overall it was a great hike and very enjoyable. I could have done without the mud in a lot of places, but then again it is the High Peaks... I've been experimenting with hiking in sneakers this summer and this was the first big hike I did without carrying my boots along "just in case". I think having lighter footwear made the hike possible and my legs and feet were much less tired (I also found my self tripping a lot less on the death march on the way out).
The Good and The Bad
An epic hike
An epic hike
|Up 3, Stopped at Best Western in Saranac, drove home Sunday (with a stop at the lumberjack for breakfast)|