This outstanding trip may have been my favorite hiking trip of the year to date. Sweeney has already posted his take of the excursion, though I have a few notes and photos to add myself.
The trip itself was thought up by Sweeney when he and a friend hiked part of the range last year, so he had more accurate expectations of what we’d encounter. The plan was to drive up Friday, stow the kayaks at the eastern end of Lake Flagstaff, then drive to the other end of the range, and camp out near the lake. We’d hike the range with all our gear Saturday, and then kayak back Sunday, leaving some extra time on Monday in case we didn’t make it all the way.
In end the, nothing went as planned, but everything worked out extremely well.
Sweeney’s account of Friday does a great job of describing our adventure, which began a little sooner than I was expecting. We gave my Pathfinder a good workout on the 4×4 roads near the lake, and it’s a good thing it was up to the challenge. After fair bit of driving and scouting for the campground in the car and on foot, I was glad to finally pitch our tents for the night and have a few beers.
I’ve been pairing down my back packing gear for a trip just like this, so I was pysched to have reason to bring it on the trail. I was not as interested in bringing my 70L internal frame pack when I only had ~35L of gear to put in it, so I borrowed Sweeney’s extra REI pack, which was much smaller, and fit everything perfectly. Since this was my first overnight of the year where we’d be on the trail, I really had a chance to test out some new purchases. My Big Agnes 2-man packed well, and I enjoyed the smaller, lighter sleeping bag and half-length pad I’d brought. We only shared our food and cooking system, otherwise we were pretty much soloing in terms of gear carried, which made for a good test, and allowed us some extra comfort.
The hike started slow but about three miles in we peaked Cranberry Mt. and got some great views of the lake and the rest of the range, the first of many. The foliage was in full color, but it’s a little hard to tell with Sweeney’s shirt out shining the color of the leaves.
Around Cranberry we ran into two guys doing the same trip as us, but in the opposite direction. They’d camped at the Horns, about half way, the night before. It was cool to hear that some others thought it’d be a sweet idea to do the traverse and then return by boat, but we didn’t run into them on the lake the next day.
Next was North Horn, one of a pair of steeply pointed peaks. We heard from a few sources that Horn’s pond, a glacial pond on the eastern side, has some great Trout fishing. Based on the number of fish rising while we were there, I’d love go to back and catch a few, but it’s a small pond, so it’s hard to say how many fish there are in it.
We trekked on to West peak, the first over 4000, and made sure to pick up the pace to Avery, the last peak before we descended and took a fork to leave the AT and head for the Round Barn campground, where our kayaks were. We caught the sun setting on the windy rock on top Avery, and by the time we reached the trial junction 2 miles down, it was dark in the dense woods, despite the bright light of the moon.
The campground was a maze of pine needles and more crowded than we expected, but we got settled in and had some time to unwind and enjoy the evening.
This was the part of the trip that was a bit questionable. It’s been awhile since I’ve kayaked, never with gear, and never in Sweeney’s boats. The weather, and wind would also factor into whether we’d make the trip in one trip. We got a late start after repacking our gear and getting everything situated in the kayaks.
Even with a strong head wind that followed us the whole day. and some patches of rough water with white caps, it was a beautiful day to be on the water. It was clear, sunny, with just a bit of haze.
Sweeney had his GoPro snap a ton of photos. but I managed to get a few of the range.
As we rounded the last corner for the last 1/3 of the trip, we got a great view of the entire ridge we’d hiked the day before. From left to right is Avery, West, the Horns, and then Cranberry.
We made good time and finished the kayak ahead of schedule, even with a few stops. That meant we still had time to head to the bar Sunday night and then find a place to camp.
We’d headed partway back along the ridge to camp near another ‘road’ that lead to Stratton Pond, which was a great scene to wake to up. After packing up we, a bit unwillingly, headed back to MA to drop off the gear.