Sunday, May 29, 2011

Plan B: The Santanoni Range

A couple of women that I met through the ADK met Saturday morning to carpool up to the Allen Trail Head near Upper Works. Our plan was to go with the CNY meetup group and hike to Allen Mountain. We waited with another two people at the trail head for about 50 minutes, none of the other hikers had showed up. We knew that they had all camped about 10 minutes away the night before, perhaps the severe thunderstorms had chased them out? We decided to attempt
Allen, just the five of us. We went about half a mile in on the trail in our water shoes. The suspension bridge over the Hudson had washed out in April and we were expecting thigh-high water to cross. We walked alone the river and bushwhacked further up and downstream from the bridge looking for a place to cross. It looked like the shallowest portion would be chest high at best, as a result of the thunderstorms the night before and the large amount of rain and snow-melt that had occurred so far this season. We decided to turn around, our packs would definitely get wet, and with projected storms throughout the day, the water level would only be higher on the way out.

We didn't drive all the way to Tahawus for nothing! We all needed the Santanoni Range and the trail head is located just down the road from the one for Allen. We were concerned about our late start, it would be 7:15 by the time that we would get started, and it is a very long hike to get all three in one day.

We started off fast, perhaps too fast, down the access road and onto the blue-marked trail. There were concerns that with the late start, predicted storms, and fast start that we'd all get out okay. We nearly missed our left turn off the blue-marked trail towards Times Square where the side trails (well, herd paths) to the three peaks in the range sprout off from. Carefully jumping from log to log we went through the bog by Bradley pond. I'm sure there is a herd path under the water somewhere but the best we could do was jump on logs and rocks and at times be ankle deep in mud.

The path dried out after this point for a ways, twisting through the woods and over blow-down. Our newly appointed leader's GPS assured us we were going in the right direction. At a junction where the path leads left to Times Square and right to Panther, we came across a few men that were climbing the range. They had camped the night before and had just completed Panther and recommended that we drop our packs because it wasn't too much farther. The five of us took their advice, ran over to Panther and took some pictures at the overlook and again on the summit. On the way out, we encountered to people that saw our note in the Register at Allen and decided to skip Allen as well because the river was too high. They told us that some of the group did go do Allen anyway, and nearly lost someone down the river that had to be thrown some rope. They quickly ran up to get Panther while we rested and ate some food and changed our socks.

Our group was now a group of seven and we decided to stick together and try to do all three peaks. At Times Square, we were disappointed at the lack of angry taxi cab drivers and there was no Hard Rock Cafe... We combined contents of our packs and most of us left our packs behind at Times Square while we all headed off to get Couchsachraga. That was a tough, muddy hike to the summit. It had started to rain but we could still see some views from the false summit. We were all excited at Couch and pumped up - we definitely had time to get Santanoni. Besides, after getting Couch it was shorter to head out on the eastern side of Santanoni instead of going all the way back to Times Square to go back down.

The rain picked up considerably between Couch and Times Square. We considered taking shelter under some trees but the rain did not seem like it was going to let up, so we decided it was best to keep walking out. By the time we got back to Times Square there was a few rumbles of thunder, thankfully no lightning. We reunited with the campers at Times Square, they had just done Santanoni and had decided that they were going to skip Couch and go out the way we had come in. We were determined to never have to come back into the Santanonis again - we were going for the third peak - Santanoni.

The rain had let up by the time we reached the summit of Santanoni, but at that point it didn't matter, there was no way we could get any more soaked. We were just hoping that the thunderstorms would not intensify. At the summit, we took some pictures and ate a little to fuel up for the hike down. The short cut trail was not too far from the summit, and we already knew where it was since we passed it on the way in. That may have saved some mileage but it was not really a time saver because we had to move so carefully as it the path was really steep. We eventually ran into a brook from the runoff of the mountain which we followed most of the way back down.

We had to cross a narrow river just before getting back to the blue marked trail. We were warned that it was about knee high, but after the rain it was up to my thighs. The guys helped the girls get across by making a human wall in case we were taken away by the current. The water was refreshing but very cold. We decided not to bother with the water shoes and went in our boots, they could not possibly get any wetter anyway! It took maybe an hour and forty minutes from this part to get back to the car, where we took a group shot and removed our feet from our wet boots - what a relief!

Despite the rain, mud, and obstacles, it was a really good day. Our moods could have been a lot worse, I think that its due to the company that we kept. They had a great sense of humor and kept us laughing through the whole miserable day.

Not many pictures were taken because of the rain, but the whole photoset can be found here.

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