What I did this weekend on the Adirondack Coast………. Hike up Algonquin and Wright

 

For the first time in a long time, the weather reporters promised warmth and sunshine. Here the term warmth means anything above 35 degrees. The warming air might indicate that the hiking season will give way soon to kayak season. Until then I still want to hike a few more mountains before hanging up my gear for the season. This weekend, under blue skies, my hiking partner and I decided to take on Algonquin Peak and Wright Peak.

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The Hike starts very similar to many other hikes in the High Peaks region. We parked our car at the Adirondack loj and geared up for our 8.4 mile round trip hike. The plan was to go up to the summit of Algonquin before turning off to visit Wright. Algonquin is the second highest peak in the Adirondacks at 5,115′ , and one of only two mountains above 5,000′. Wright Peak is a nearby neighbor of Algonquin. At 4,580′, Wright’s summit seems to pale in comparison to the statuesque Algonquin. The hike starts off on the Van Hoevenberg trail , but splits off shortly before the junction for Marcy Dam to the Macintyre Range Trail.

View of Algonquin from Wright Peak

View of Algonquin from Wright Peak

The trail ascends at a fairly steady rate through the most magnificent Birch forest I have ever witnessed. I remember for the first time hearing a breeze rushing through the trees toward me. I braced myself for the familiar sting of cold winter air on my skin. To my surprise, the breeze was warm and carried with it the sweet smell of pine. The scent of nature was being freed from its frozen state by the 40 degree temperatures.  Was it time for the spring thaw to begin?

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The Perfect Birch forest

With the sun beating down, perfect hard packed trail, and warm breezes, I knew this hike was going to go down in my books as one of the best. The trail to Algonquin is significantly shorter than trail up to the 5,343′ summit of Mount Marcy, but is much steeper. The ascent is almost the same as Mount Marcy, in a much shorter distance. My hiking partner and I had never summited Algonquin or Wright in the past and were unaware of how lucky we were to have the deep, hard pack trail beneath our feet.

I paused to look back down at my hiking partner and noticed we had made a lot of vertical ground in a short amount of time. Through the trees was a clear view of  Whiteface Mountain standing proudly in the distance. Although I felt that I was taking my time, we seemed to reach the two-mile mark at the junction between Wright and Algonquin quickly. For Wright, you take a left for the .4 mile ascent to the summit along the blue blazed trail. For Algonquin continue straight ahead for the .9 mile ascent along the yellow blazed trail. Up first, Algonquin.

Whiteface Mountain from the trail up to Algonquin Peak.

Whiteface Mountain from the trail up to Algonquin Peak.

From this point the trail gets real! Real steep that is. I highly suggest using the level space at the junction to take in nourishment or allow yourself some time to mentally and physically prepare for the ascent. The last .9 mile stretch to the summit is very steep with a vast majority of it above the treeline. The deep hard pack snow was once again going to prove to be a very welcome friend and making the ascent much smoother than a summertime hike complete with large rocks and boulders to scramble over.

The junction for Algonquin and Wright.

The junction for Algonquin and Wright.

As with any of the bald summits, as soon as you emerge from the treeline you are treated to incredible views over the vastness of the Adirondacks. I will never grow tired of this breathtaking wilderness. All the hard work it took to get to that point of the hike faded away as the scenery in front of us opened up. I recently read the views described as ” a million dollar view that costs absolutely nothing but a couple of hours of exercise”. Some cloud cover had crept in during our ascent, but it didn’t obscure the distant views as far off as the Green Mountains of Vermont, lake Champlain, and the closer Adirondacks.

Walking the summit of Algonquin.

Walking the summit of Algonquin.

We stayed at the summit for quite a while soaking it all in, reminiscing about this hike and past hikes while identifying some of the other peaks we had visited. Sunlight poured in through a break in the clouds warming our skin, and a mild welcome breeze was in the air. The popularity of Algonquin brings a lot of visitors annually, but this weekend we shared the summit with only one other small group that had passed us near the treeline. After another snack in a sheltered area behind a large boulder, we geared up and began our descent back down to the junction for Wright. 

Descending Algonquin.

Descending Algonquin.

We paused again at the junction for a brief moment. Wright peak is only a .4 mile trek that should definitely be added to any hike up Algonquin. As another of the Adirondack 46 highest peaks, it is often added to an Algonquin hike. Iriquois Peak is also commonly added to a hike to Algonquin and Wright, but we chose not to tackle the third peak. The trail up to the summit of Wright is narrow, steep, and very short. We were only in the trees for a moment before popping up above the tree line. We could see the summit of Algonquin towering above us. Looking at Algonquin from this angle brought a real sense of accomplishment just knowing that we hiked to the top.

The view of Wright peak from Algonquin.

The view of Wright peak from Algonquin.

While on the summit of Algonquin, we experienced mild breezes and the occasional gust that would make the snow whirl through the air. While on Wright, we experienced sustained very strong winds that made standing upright near impossible. I was able to tuck in behind some boulders to get some photos as proof of our ascent. The intensity of the wind made our visit very short-lived. When I turned back to descend, a gust hit me strong enough to push me down. I lost footing in the soft snow but fortunately found myself a soft landing spot rather than the exposed rock.

Looking toward Whiteface Mountain from Wright Peak

Looking toward Whiteface Mountain from Wright Peak

We carefully shuffled our way back down into the trees. All of my snacks were worked off and my belly was grumbling for a big juicy burger. Call me predictable, but I am yet to hike ANY mountain without following up with a burger. Actually, come to think of it, I don’t seem to do any physical activity without following it up with a burger. Another perfect hiking day was behind us and only a few more hikes ahead of us before dusting off the kayaks and taking inventory of the camping gear.