Posts filed under Adventure Tuesday

Conquering Algonquin Peak

Adventure Tuesday

Go North

When our friends sent us a wedding invitation to come to Montreal we did not hesitate to rsvp yes right away. It had been a different issue if we still lived in Madison. Money is always an issue and flying is (almost) always expensive. But living in New York, Montreal is actually really, really close. But we couldn’t just drive all the way up there and back again so we decided to make a stop in the Adirondacks on the way back to New York City. Driving north through the Adirondacks we were treated with the most eye catching fall colors I have ever seen. Red, orange, yellow and some greens from the coniferous trees. It was so beautiful and we knew we would see that again in a few days.

Heart Lake Campground

We hadn’t done enough research on where to camp or where to hike either to be honest. I found a hike on a website that looked pretty cool. They said it is moderately trafficked, because here in New York State there are many many people, and finding an empty trailhead is unheard of. The hiking itself was rated as hard! We chose the nearest campground to the trailhead, which is run by the Adirondacks mountain club. We arrived in the late afternoon and were a bit worried as we approached the campground and there were plenty of cars parked on the side of the road. We knew New York State is different from Wisconsin, Alaska, and Montana, but we were pretty shocked to see the amount of people that a trailhead like this apparently brought. There seemed to be plenty of open camping spots though, but it comes with a price. 40$. I was shocked, because you can literally get a large hotel room in Las vegas for 35$ (we actually did once) so paying 40$ to pitch a tent felt wrong. But since we hadn’t done any research and were tired since this was also the day after the wedding we sucked it up and payed, for one night. The next day we payed for a second night. We also bought firewood, because you have to have a fire if you are at a campground. We payed 7$ for a bundle. Started the fire and the wood was partially wet. This made me even more pissed but we sucked that up too. And we did have a nice evening at the smoky fire anyway, reminiscing about that time in Canada, where every campground provided free (and dry) firewood.

Not that prepared?

We hadn’t really checked our grab box with all the kitchen stuff so we also discovered essential pieces were missing. Like a can opener. The lighter was singing on it’s last song too…but we (barely) made it. (wouldn’t have been the whole world because you could buy lighters at the campground). I had saved important information about the hike on my phone, in my maps, but I closed te map app and with no cell service we could not access that again. Which didn’t really matter because the next morning my phone died anyway (my battery is also singing on it’s last song). The next morning when W went and payed for our second night he bought a map.

Avalanche Lake

The morning had shown some beautiful pink colors mixed with the existing fall colors. I went down to the lake and saw termination dust at the top of the nearest mountain, the air was cool, but I don’t know the temperature. Clouds were slowly coming in, and the weather forecast had said 70% chance of rain. We didn’t see anyone at the trailhead, and only a couple of parked cars. It was Monday after all, so we probably wouldn’t see that many other people. We met about three other pair of people coming back to the trailhead during the first three miles and those were the only people we saw until the very last bit of the hike. The hike starts through a beautiful forest dressed in yellow orange and green with some hints of red. You continue through that during a few miles at the same time as you are hiking up in elevation. Eventually you reach Avalanche lake. Low hanging clouds draped the lake and the surrounding mountains in this beautiful white veil that made the whole lake seem surrealistic and spooky. We continued hiking along the shoreline which included climbing boulders, ladders and hiking over the water on boardwalks. It was slow, because of all the obstacles and we started to get a little concerned about time. We had started around 9.30 am and this was suppose to be a 12 mile hike after all. You hit Avalanche lake after about 5 miles, so only a bit more than a third of the way (more or less), and I think it was starting to get close to noon as we approached the other side of the lake.

Up, Up, and Up

After the Avalanche lake we had some light rain in the air and could still see nothing (no view that is, which we never ever did during the rest of the hike either). But, even rainy days like this create a beautiful landscape. We hiked on a severely eroded trail, which looked like a stream bed, and from time to time I was unsure if we were actually hiking in a stream, because there was some water running through here too. Something I still wonder about, or the trail is just this heavily eroded that a stream bed has actually been formed due to the heavy traffic. The trail is hard on you because you basically traverse large boulders constantly, and no way to not hop from one boulder to another. We crossed streams, jumped stones and boulders, hiked through the forest up up and up. All of a sudden the trail took us up a waterfall. The hike went on to a completely covered bedrock layer, and then switched again to boulder hopping, stream crossings and continuing up and up and up. I started to get tired, and wondered how we could still be going up and up. Time got closer to 2pm and now we really started to stress about time. We passed a sign that warned about continuing without proper gear. I was thinking to myself what is proper gear, do we have proper gear, because now it was raining a little bit more and it was cooler. But we had more than enough, I knew because I had been carrying the backback about halfway, a backpack full with snacks, sandwiches for us, our down jackets, headlamps, first aid kit. I mean what could we possibly not have. Already after a few miles we had decided that only bringing one bag was a bad idea because, it’s heavy.

Algonquin Peak

Finally we got to a sign that informed us that we were approaching alpine and arctic environment and that the plants here are fragile. A warning about staying on the bedrock to prevent harming the fragile landscape we were about to stumble upon. I could see bunchberry and labrador tea on the side of the trail, it made me smile because they remind me of home. Both Alaska and Sweden. We still continued up and up, the coniferous trees were at a majority now, and they got shorter and shorter until we finally broke out in the open, onto the bedrock tundra. We were at the top. We could see absolutely nothing. It was even hard to see where the trail was. Up on the top it was windy, very windy. We could see patches of snow, or sleet. The wind made us colder pretty much instantly. I got scared and kept thinking what are we doing here. We kept going, it was hard against the wind and I kept thinking about the warning sign about proper gear. I was tired and I was thinking that maybe I had gotten in way over my head. W was walking (or almost running) ahead and all I could think about was to keep following him so I didn’t loose him out of sight. I was so tired. All of a sudden he veered off to the left.

- What are you doing? I said
- That’s the metal plate in the bedrock showing that we are at the highest point

I felt like I couldn’t care less, but still walked up there and stood there for a moment, actually smiled. Then we continued again, faster. We finally seemed to be going down in elevation, now we got headwind. It was ripping in our face and I got cold, so cold. The bedrock seemed less appealing now because half of it was covered in ice, and we slid down on our bums for large parts of it. Finally I started seeing trees again, short, but as we dropped in elevation they grew taller. Until we finally hit the sign that showed Wright peak 0.4 miles. That is yet another peak you can climb, if you want to. We did not want to, actually we probably didn’t want to climb any mountain ever again at that moment. We were out of the wind a bit and could finally have our lunches. We ate, sandwiches, chips, cookies. I was so hungry.

W said: -that is the beauty of doing a loop, there is no return after you gotten halfway, might as well keep going.

And then the Rain Came

Once we got back to the campsite it was already about 5 in the evening. We took a shower and after that the rain started. It was pouring down. We were sitting in the back of the car drinking beer and hoping for the rain to stop. But after a while I said, we better start cooking because I don’t think this will stop. It didn’t stop. We had already been wet, now we were dry so weren’t too excited about potentially getting wet again. We ate tortellini in tomato sauce and it was the best meal I’d had in days, well not really but at that moment that is how it felt. We went to bed pretty early that night again. On the way back I started googling about the peak and discovered that this was the second tallest peak in New York state, who would have known. We want to come back and conquer that mountain and see all those 360 degree views. We did a total of 12 miles and a net gain of about 4000 feet. We were beat but it was probably one of the best hikes we have ever done. AND on top of that we were literally the only people on the trail. As we were leaving the campground we could already see the distinct difference in the fall landscape. All that wind had literally blown all the leaves off the trees. And we have already started thinking about next years fall trips.

Death Canyon

Adventure Tuesday 

Hiking in the Tetons

    We went hiking in Death Canyon in the Tetons during our time there. As with all places you have to get there early, to beat the crowd. I am one of those too, one of those who get up early to try to get some views of the nature. I think many people have bears, bison, wolves or any other mammal on their list to see. I have seen a fair amount of bears and bison, less wolves but many coyotes. I would be very happy if I saw a large mammal, from a great distance, but if I don't I am still really happy. I love being outside, I love being able to see views, views of the mountains, views of the deep forest and views of all the tiny little flowers, or the texture of a rock.

Death Canyon Trail

    The Death Canyon trail is about 10.5 miles. This day we weren't aiming for a far or fast hike, we just wanted to be out and about.  W's mom and our friend's parents were with us too, and we enjoyed walking slowly and talking about ecology and geology as we continued towards phelps lake. Once we got to the lake we had lunch, just some sandwiches we brought, but we enjoyed the downtime in the shadows. It was once again a pretty hot day, and the mosquites were all around us of course. We never ventured into the canyons themselves, but we enjoyed looking at these magnificents mountains and the stories they silently tell. 

Magical Landscape of Christmas Trees

    The Rocky Mountain forest is so beautiful. The trees are a lot different from the typical black spruce you see in Alaska. They are in the same family, but belong to different genera. The Douglas fir stands tall in the forest, tall and green, and beautiful. A typical christmas tree. Depending on what elevation you are hiking at in the Rocky Mountains, you will see different species, Douglas fir in the lower elevation and whitebark pine at the higher elevations. Sometimes you even see an Engelmann spruce or lodgepole pine, but mostly in between (in elevation)  whitebark pine and Engelmann spruce. 

Fieldwork in Yellowstone part 2

Adventure Tuesday

My life choices and interest

    Often times I stop to think about my life choices, where I started, what paths I took and how I ended up over here, here in the US. There is no doubt that I am living a life that I love, I get to do all those things that are of big interest to me. Sure, I get the boring parts too, but even the boring parts can be enjoyable, which in some sense proves that I actually do love what I am doing. This summer I got to do fieldwork in two different areas, not my own fieldwork for once. I went to Puerto Rico with my job, and helped out with some fieldwork there. A few weeks later I flew into Jackson Wyoming, W picked me up and we drove into the Grand Teton National Park. The following week we spent most of our time in both the Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Park. The fieldwork itself was in Yellowstone during this trip.

A tale of several fires

    Both W and I study fires for our PhDs, I study how wildfires affect the stream water chemistry and the connection between the terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems up in Alaska. Our work is based on climate change and its effect on wildfires, we are trying to understand how a shift in climate might affect the future ecosystems in Alaska, and in the rocky mountains. W studies how changing wildfire regimes and climate affects tree seedling establishment after fires in sub alpine and boreal forest. Alaska with its boreal forests and the Rockies with coniferous and sub alpine flora are two very different ecosystems, but with many similarities. One really important similarity is that changing fire regimes likely mean profoundly different ecosystems in the future. 

Getting dirty

    We share the passion, the passion for our nature. I usually get tangled up int the small details while W tries to understand the bigger picture. We spent most of the fieldwork on all fours, counting seedlings, stumps, trees, charred vegetation, cones, ghost logs and logs. Temperatures were in the 90s and we were basically in a black forest. Mosquitos were not necessarily a big issue, but they were there. By the end of each day we were all black, tired and hungry. We camped at a campground outside the park and swam in the river most evenings. I had the time of my life.

    Did you go on any adventures this summer?

Holly Lake

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The Tetons

    This summer I flew out to Jackson, WY, to help W and his field crew with some ecology work, mainly in Yellowstone. We stayed at a lodge in the Grand Teton National Park, just about an hour or so south of where we were doing most of the fieldwork.

Hiking

    I had just arrived in Jackson a few days earlier when we decided to go on this hike. Originally we wanted to backpack and spend the night at a campsite or alike, somewhere in the mountains, but with all the logistics we figured that a day hike was a lot easier and maybe more doable given the circumstances. I always want to see some grand views during my hikes, and if you can fit in some forest, streams and alpine tundra into that mix I am all for it. A couple of other friends had done this hike the day before and said it was amazing, so we also went on that same hike. 

2900 Feet and 13 Miles

    As I said, we got forest, streams and mountains, right of the bat. We would have to earn the view of the alpine ecosystem of course, some total elevation gain of 2000 feet or so... The deep forest, consisting of spruce and pine does remind me about the Swedish forest to some extent. It reminds me that I have to go back there and get some hiking in. As always we marvel on this landscape, and the ecology behind it. We are both ecologists/biologists, so even the tiniest things matter to us. 

Holly Lake

    The end point of our hike was an alpine lake, Holly Lake. A beautiful lake at an elevation of 9450 feet. Originally W wanted us to continue after the lake, up on the ridge, before heading back, but that did not happen. We were satisfied with the lake being the end point of this hike. I for one was happy about this, because I was pretty beat after that approach. The last few miles before the actual lake we were treading through snowfields that were starting to melt. But what a view once we got there. I am always so blown away by these landscapes. I have to pinch myself in the arm to make sure it's for real. We took a nap at the lake after a quick lunch and then started the descend.

Heading Back

    Most often I am not a fan of out and back trails, with the exception of hikes that includes a view, which seem to be the norm nowadays. Usually when you hike up you keep looking back at the landscape behind you, and you get treated by that landscape all right in front of you when you walk down. Every single view of this hike was absolutely spectacular! Have you done any hiking this year that blew your mind away?