June 21, 2014

Colvin and Blake

4,057 feet  |  ranked 39/46 in height  |  23rd peak climbed
3,960 feet  |  ranked 43/46 in height  |  24th peak climbed

Although we were disappointed not to have managed any May hikes, Erin and I were super excited to finally get up to the Adirondacks for our first hike of the summer.  We decided on Colvin and Blake for our season opener because our four High Peaks hikes last year had been at four different trailheads, but none of them were from the AuSable Club.  We have several hikes left that are traditionally accessed from the Club lands and don't want to leave too much Lake Road for the end.  We selected Colvin/Blake over Nippletop/Dial and Sawteeth, because I'd read on the Forums that both Elk Pass and the Scenic Trail along the Lake were flooded, and avoiding wet feet is certainly as good a reason as any. 

We met at the park-n-ride at 4:15 am, and drove north, making excellent time, if I say so myself.  I always take the general lack of traffic and development on Route 8 as a personal invitation to drive excessively fast.  It is such as fun road with all those twists and turns, so different in character from the campers and boat trailers with their gravy trains on Route 3.  We geared up, walked uphill on the road through the golf course, and signed in at the register shortly before 8 am

We decided to take the Gill Brook Trail up after reading about its many elfin charms, and it definitely lives up to the reputation.  It undoubtedly slowed us down a bit, all the oohing and aahing and picture taking, but so be it.  We embrace slowness: it's all part of the journey. 

We'd also read that there were some scary rock scrambles on the ascent of Colvin, so were actually a bit surprised when we popped out on the summit without encountering anything too frightening.  So much perspective on these climbs is dependent on conditions, and we had a really awesome day for our hike.  Colvin has a small summit, but there are stunning views.  We had it to ourselves for much of the 45 minutes we spent there, eating lunch and taking pictures and trying to prepare ourselves mentally to tackle Blake.  The daunting part is nothing specific to Blake itself, but the simple fact that it is an out and back.  Once on the summit of Blake, it is NOT all downhill to the car; the only way back out is to climb all the way back over Colvin again. 

We steeled ourselves to the challenge and departed the Colvin summit.  A short ridge walk, and then down down down.  The col between the peaks is very deep, and the trail is very steep.  Several strategically placed ladders got us down the trickiest parts.  The summit of Blake is wooded, with no views and no official summit marker, although some jackass took it upon him/herself to carve one into a tree.  The clearing is tiny, and quickly became crowded after we were joined by a noisy group as well as several more ordinary folk, so we snapped some evidentiary photos, ate some chocolate, and headed back down to the muddy col.  This hike is no joke.  It took about an hour and a half between Colvin and Blake in each direction. 

By the time we made it back to Colvin, I definitely needed another rest.  I was bitterly disappointed that the same noisy group was occupying a scenic ledge I'd been looking forward to on the summit ridge.  Their volume was so seriously off-putting that we didn't even bother taking our packs off, and pushed on to the true summit before taking a proper break.  Maybe someone is the group was hard of hearing?  Trying to be kind here, but it really rubbed wrong.  From here we re-traced our steps back to car, stopping to splash icy Gill Brook water on our faces right before re-joining the Lake Road.  The Lake Road was a relief, evenly graded, with no roots and rocks for our tired legs to stumble over. 

Changing into dry clothes back in the parking lot, we discovered that one of my tires was frightening soft.  Not a welcome sight after 12 hours of hiking and a long drive home ahead!  We detoured into the Keene to stop at Stewart's, and were super relived to find they had an air pump.  I remedied the tire situation and filled the gas tank while Erin went inside to get us some sherbet coolers.  Most refreshing drinks ever!  By this time it was getting quite late.  We made the decision to drive home via the Thruway, but that turned out to be a terrible mistake when we hit gridlock traffic north of Albany.  The Northway was essentially a parking lot for miles.  It was 12:45 am when we finally got back to the park-n-ride lot, and after 1 am when we arrived at our respective homes. 

Our statistics for the day: approximately 14.5 miles hiking with approximately 4,300 feet elevation gain, and approximately 450 miles of driving.  It was a VERY long day.  The horrible traffic added unnecessary time to the adventure, but we also learned that our drive-and-hike day trip approach will not be a viable option for some of our longer remaining hikes. 

Read Erin's trip report here.

Signing the trail register, 7:52 am. 
We had to stop along Gill Brook to dig out the cameras.
Gill Brook is really, really pretty.
Erin and I shortly after leaving the Lake Road.
The trail follows the creek bank for quite a ways.
There are many charming cascades and flumes.
It's truly magical.
Trail marker on the AuSable Club lands.
The club lands also have the funny hand painted signs.
Getting higher: on State land now.
At the summit of Colvin. 
View of the Great Range and Lower AuSable Lake.
Lower AuSable Lake, with Giant and Rocky Peak Ridge in the right background.
A zoomed-in view of the Great Range.
Layered up at the summit of Colvin.
Labrador tea (Ledum groenlandicum) at the summit.
Colvin summit marker.
Follow the sign to Blake...

Heading toward Blake from Colvin... it's a deep col down there.
Erin at the summit of Blake.
Unfortunate and unnecessary carving on a tree.  We know we're on Blake, thank you very much.
Back at Colvin's summit again (slightly worse for the wear).
Panoramic view from a ledge on Colvin.

June 4, 2014

Chemin de Nietzsche, France

"All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking." 
- Friedrich Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols, Or, How to Philosophize With the Hammer

Èze is the only locale in which we stayed during both 2013 and 2014 France trips.  We flew out of Nice both times, and ended up returning simply because our first stay there was so charmed... it felt too short.  The village is storybook, perched high above the Mediterranean.  The views are beyond amazing.  Plus, it is super convenient to the airport: a quick, easy, and scenic jaunt up the coast.  It was when researching the area before our first stay that Erwin read about the Nietzsche Trail.  The path is named for the German philosopher, of course.  Apparently he spent time in Èze-sur-Mer, frequenting the steep path up to Èze village, and perhaps even conceived some of Thus Spoke Zarathustra* on these hikes.  We saw the trailhead when staying in Èze the first time, but we did not attempt the hike.  The trail is approximately a mile and a half with roughly 1,400 feet in elevation change (each way).  Frankie was still 2, not yet ready to navigate such terrain independently, but too heavy to carry without the carrier.  

When planning our return visit, we decided not to let the opportunity pass by a second time.  Eight months is a long time at that age; by 3 and a half, Frankie had grown a lot and had become a much more capable hiker.  We'd had successes on hikes up Owls Head and Bald Mountain.  We felt certain he'd be up to the Nietzsche Trail.  To ensure a good time, we dedicated a full day to the pursuit; embracing "slow travel" is a necessity with a little one.  And we planned it as a one-way hike: we'd walk out the door of the Château and proceed all the way to the sea, then play at the beach before catching a bus that would take us most of the way back up again.  Finally, we'd to bring lollipops.

The plan worked like a charm.  At home, I commute to work by bus most days, but Frankie doesn't often get a chance to enjoy public transportation.  He loved it!  It probably  helped that the bus was crowded, and the road steep, winding, and bumpy.  He was literally squealing with joy.  "Whee!  Mama, this is fun!  Whee!"  Later, when I asked him what was his favorite part of the day, there was no hesitation - it was the bus. 

* In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that I have not read any Nietzsche.  I do read a fair amount, both fiction and non-fiction, but I've never so much as dabbled in philosophy (one of many failings, no doubt). 

The terraced gardens at La Chèvre d'Or.  We spent a few hours here the following day.
We three at the first overlook.
The trail was marked with yellow blazes.  Frankie calls them "clues."
There are a lot of stairs along the upper section.  Frankie counted over 500 before getting distracted.

A view down le vallon du Duc.
More stairs.

Rocky section approaching a switchback.
Frankie was super excited about the clues.  Here he is singing the theme song to Busytown Mysteries
(an animated television series based on Richard Scarrys's Busytown books).

Happy to have reached the sea!
The beach is rocky, with nice round cobblestones.
Perfect for little hands to throw.  Frankie will happily throw stones into water essentially indefinitely. 

See the tiny red circle along the ridgeline, just left of center?  The peaked roof is our room - we started our hike there.
Lollipop treat.