June 18th, 2016
For my first hike in a long time, the initial thought of doing Gray, Skylight, and Marcy was actually kind of a joke. But then the more I thought about it, the more I got excited, and we decided we should just go for it.
We started out from the Loj around 6:30am. We moved along pretty quickly – those first couple of miles to Marcy Dam always fly by in the morning. The trails weren’t too busy at all, which was really nice. It’s just so much more peaceful and tranquil when fewer people are around. After a couple hours, we reached the turn off for Lake Arnold, and took it since I’d never seen it before.
It was stagnant but was still pretty cool. Since the weather was so nice we took a minute and had a snack here. We also loaded up on bug spray because the bugs were pretty bad right around the lake. From there we headed toward Feldspar Brook. On the way, we hit the floating puncheon! I wish I had taken some photos there because it was crazy. Alex went first and used his trekking poles to feel each piece of wood out before taking a step. This definitely slowed us down a little bit, but I would rather slow down a little and be cautious than fall in a swamp! It was difficult for me to keep my balance because I’m naturally clumsy and trip over my bare feet. But we made it! I’m pretty sure we both dunked our boots – me more so than Alex since my legs are shorter and so are my steps. But they were completely dry 15 minutes later. It hadn’t rained in probably a week so the trail really wasn’t that muddy either, which definitely helped.
Once we reached Feldspar Brook around 9:30, we took another quick snack break and filled our water using Alex’s steripen. We both brought 4 liters in with us originally, but since we knew we had a long day and a lot of miles ahead of us, we wanted to be prepared. This is a huge lesson that I’ve learned over the years – if you’re not hydrated, you’re gonna feel like shit by the end of the day. I would rather carry extra water than wind up dehydrated. I also learned from Alex that one Nalgene of water is 2 pounds – the weight adds up fast.
We kept moving at a steady pace and soon enough (right around 11) we reached the cairn marking the Gray herd path, about 7.5 miles in! Honestly, it would have been very difficult to miss the herd path.
We paused for a few minutes and soaked up the sunshine and warmth, had a snack, and then started moving again. We realized there was another group coming up right behind us, so after one particularly difficult pitch we had to climb down, we let them pass us. Overall, the herd path was a little difficult, but they’re never easy! Some of the boulders were a little difficult to maneuver, but we submitted right around 11:30! There was a really cool view of Marcy from the top. We took some pictures and had a snack, then headed back down after about 15 minutes. With a lot of milage ahead, and much greater views, we didn’t want to stay put for too long.
It took us about the same amount of time to come off the herd path as it took to climb it. Once we came down, we walked over to Lake Tear of the Clouds, which you can see from the cairn marking Gray. It’s pretty awesome to think about how this Lake, at 4,346′, is the source of the massive Hudson. This gave us a nice view of Marcy and also a great place to have a snack!After our quick break, we headed toward the four corners. Supposedly that’s only .3 miles. It took FOREVER. Maybe it was me getting anxious or the calories not kicking in fast enough, but boy was I glad to reach this crowded trail junction. One group of people warned us about a hornet’s nest right at the summit – and they were huge! Since there were so many people around, we didn’t take much time before heading up the last half mile to Skylight’s summit. This trail felt SO much easier than the Gray herd path. After being on an unmaintained trail and then going to one that’s well maintained, the difference is astonishing. We walked a little ways up and then you could just see a field of green. It was awesome. And again, I wish I had taken my phone out to snap some pictures because it was truly amazing. I have never seen anything like it. The rest of the way up was relatively easy, and we managed to avoid the hornets upon reaching the summit. I dropped off my good luck rock and we sat down for a longer lunch break. We reached the summit around 1:30. It only took about 25 minutes from the four corners.
I think Skylight might be my favorite summit to date. I could have sat up there all day long. Gothics gives everything else a run for their money, but I think that’s because that’s when I finally started to get into hiking, and got my first real view. Skylight was amazing. I definitely want to go back. After a while, we decided it would be best to get going since we were still going to go up and over Marcy. We headed back to the four corners, were everyone seemed to have gone their separate ways. We took a minute to put on sunscreen and have some more quick snacks. The sun was really beating down on us – I ended up with a really weird sunburn from my capris. We took a minute and laughed at the fact that the “toilet” sign was significantly larger than all the others. So odd! Then we got moving. That .8 to the summit of Marcy didn’t feel that long, but it was difficult! I’m so glad that we went up the back side instead of going down it. It was really, really steep. Not unmanageable, but it was definitely a test on my physical fitness, strength, and my patience. There were a couple of different spots which had odd grassy fields. I guess there used to be some lean to’s up near the summit, which is so crazy to me. I think I heard that one of the big reasons why the lean to’s aren’t there now is because of garbage. Unfortunate.
Once we got above the treeline is when I started to struggle. This steepness was unlike any I’ve climbed before. I moved cairn to cairn, taking a quick breather at each one, while Alex just walked up like it was nothing, talking all the while! Finally, after what felt like a really long difficult ascent, we reached the summit right around 3pm. There were so many people on the summit, it was crazy. We sat down for a few minutes and took a break to soak in the views.
When we reached the summit, I was overwhelmed by emotions. I was so happy, excited, and overwhelmed by the beauty of everything that it almost brought me to tears. After taking a bunch of pictures, we started to head down the other side. So many people were right behind us that we ended up letting them pass, which slowed us down a bit. Someone right behind me slipped and almost knocked into me, so we chose to just let it slow us down rather than get hurt.
Despite the slow down, we kept a pretty steady pace and made it to Indian Falls around 5:15. That spot was refreshing, with an amazing view of Algonquin. At this point, we had about 4.4 miles to go until we reached the car, so we took a really quick break and kept moving. Those last 4 miles felt like they took a while. Although the trails weren’t bad, the rockiness of the trail was getting to me. It was wearing me down a bit. We just kept moving, because if we hadn’t, I think my muscles would’ve been stuck stiff. We made it out of the woods at 7:30pm. 18+ miles and 13 hours. Such a crazy trip. I’m really impressed with myself for completing these three peaks in one day. I would definitely recommend doing this loop! Maybe I’ll do it again someday! 20/46