Chelsea Walker, from Mirror Lake Inn’s salon, logs many hours on the 46 High Peaks of the Adirondacks with her trusty dog, Ryder. She’s only too happy to share her experiences with you and serve as your high elevation concierge.
It was a two day, two night adventure starting at Tahawus and Upper Works trailheads in the Lake Placid region of the Adirondacks. We set up base camp at one of the available spots off the main road leading into Upper Works.
Day one we set out for the Santanonis planning to conquer all three and crossing our fingers for good weather. It turned out to be a perfect day.
Our first ascent was up Santanoni Peak, followed by Couchsacagra and then ending on Panther. We chose this approach based on my friend’s prior experience and judging where most of the “work” would be spent.
All three peaks in the Adirondacks require a good bit of scrambling over steep terrain. The trails, most being herd paths, are very tight and thick. However, this 15.5 mile loop is a great way to knock out three peaks in one day. We began our journey at 9 AM and were out by 6:45 PM, spending nearly and hour on each summit.
All three of these peaks in the Adirondacks offer amazing views. Couch however, is a bit of a pain. It seems so out of the way for a high peak that isn’t even above 4,000 feet. But once we reached Panther and we could retrace our steps on the open view of Santanoni and Couch and Times Square, it made our efforts seem worth the extra work.
We saw quite a few moose tracks, some between Santanoni and Times Square. Surprising to have seen them this high. It is very rugged and still at 4,100 feet in elevation!
The bugs were not to bad on this hike, but most of it was spent at higher elevation, the humidity was low, and there was a nice breeze.
Day two was the grand finale of the trip. Allen, the well known “way out there by itself” monster of a day hike, is known for being one of the hardest. We started fairly late for a hike like this, but with the reward of knowing we had broken down camp. Once we were out we were heading home to hot showers and firm mattresses. The late start didn’t seem to phase us.
The beginning of the hike was a deer fly war zone, swatting and batting them away for the first several miles which are spent in low elevation. It was much warmer and humid, and the air was significantly still compared to the day before. Once we reached the river crossing about 5.5 miles in, the bugs finally began to dissipate.
On and on we went. The never-ending trail. Yet again we saw tons of moose tracks.
After hiking what seemed like forever but was only three hours we crossed Skylight Brook and were finally beginning to climb the base of Allen. This is where it really kicked in. Allen is incredibly steep. Following Allen Brook most the way, it is an obstacle course of rocks, small and large boulders, slabs, trees fallen and in place, water, and red algae that is extremely slick.
This went on and on, for about a mile and a half, gaining so much elevation with every step. Though it was mentally and physically grueling, it was for me, one of my favorite hikes. The views were breathtaking once you got high enough on the brook near the slide. Though the view is not right from the summit, you can achieve a 365 degree view from Allen at a few different points with just a short stroll from the summit sign.
Luckily for me, I had two days in a row of beautiful open views and I got to see from a different perspective the mountains that I so frequently climb.
Being my first time in this section of the High Peaks, it was almost like rediscovering the Adirondacks, and after such a long, exhausting hike, you realize there is a reason Allen is “way out there” all by itself.
Happy hiking everyone! Be smart, be safe and remember….leave no trace and practice environmental stewardship in our pristine Lake Placid Adirondacks region!