June 25, 2016
Originally, Alex and I had considered attempting to complete the entire MacIntyre range in one day, going from Marshall to Iroquois to Algonquin and finally, to Wright. But I knew that I just didn’t have it in me to attempt. We decided to start climbing and see where the day took us. We made it to the Loj around 6 and starting moving by 6:30am – I’m a little slow in the morning, especially after riding in the car for 2 1/2 hours! We started by going around Heart Lake toward Indian Pass. Although it now seems that this path may be less traveled, we decided to begin by going up Cold Brook Pass. Based on reading online and the guidebook, it seems that this trail used to be most commonly used to reach Marshall’s summit. But by the looks of the trail, it’s definitely semi-abandoned now. The more traveled route is up Herbert Brook. So, as usual, we wanted to try Cold Brook Pass to attempt to have a peaceful, stress free day. This hike had a TON of trail junctions, and I think I actually got photos of them all.
The trail wasn’t really difficult heading in, but it was quite rocky. When the trail’s more rocky, you have to watch your step and concentrate a little more, making it slightly more difficult. But overall, it was easy going for a while. After a few miles, we came across a lean-to that we did not expect to see! I believe that this was Scott’s Clearing lean-to, based upon the sign pictured above. It was actually in a really cool spot, right near the brook. We discussed how it would be the perfect spot to come back some day to explore and camp. A little further down the trail, we came to Scott’s Clearing. After completing this hike, I did some reading, and it turns out that someone used to have a camp there – you could tell. But there weren’t really any remnants of the camp visible. It appeared that someone had set up some logs to sit on where you could take a nice break and there was a perfect spot to pitch a tent. Through the woods just a little ways, you could see Wallace and also Indian Pass. This was a pretty cool spot. I can’t wait to go back and explore this another time. Since by this point we had only seen a few people, I think it really is the road less traveled – making it a great spot for camping!
After exploring for about 15 minutes, we decided to keep moving right along. We made it to the Cold Brook Pass junction right around 9 – we were about 5 miles in at this point. The sign doesn’t say Cold Brook Pass at all – just tells the distance to Lake Colden. And even that sign looks super old. Alex’s guess was that if that part of the junction ever was destroyed, it would never be replaced. The brook is right behind the trail junction sign. I guess that there used to be another path to get to this junction, which follows the brook directly. It seems that what we followed is also a trail commonly used, but may have been re-cut later to attempt to redirect foot traffic away from the brook. There’s also a cairn marking the trail, so it’s very hard to miss.
We took a quick break and then kept moving. Some parts of this trail had a lot of blowdown and were hard to follow. A lot of the trail was really green and mossy – despite the lack of rain we had seen over the past two weeks. It was cool because this unmaintained trail was so different from others that I have been on. I mentioned multiple times how this trip reminded me so much of Allen – it’s so desolated. After deciding not to complete the entire MacIntyre range that day, we shifted and decided that we would come back down this trail on our way out (we changed our minds again), so I didn’t take any pictures of the trail – I seriously wish I would have. You followed the brook up and at some points were directly in the brook. I swear we crossed that thing 4 times. But for the most part, it was easy, because the water levels weren’t too high at all and the rocks weren’t slick. We did see some cool swimming holes and some crazy rock crevices! We reached the cairn for the Marshall herd path at 10:30. Having no clue how long this herd path was, because Alex climbed up Herbert Brook when he originally summited Marshall, we just took a quick break to eat something and kept moving.
I had read on some trip reports/another blog that it took about an hour from this cairn to reach the summit, so we had something to go off of, but the exact distance is still something we don’t know for sure. Clearly this route is less taken, and so it was pretty rough. Bushwacking isn’t something that I’ve ever really done before, but my guess is that this is the closest I’ve ever gotten. I mean, it was almost like we were just walking blindly in the direction that seemed right. Clearly, Alex could see the trail better since he was in front of me, and he knew where we were going. The trail was super narrow and there was a ton of blowdown. And lots of mud. Honestly the earlier parts of the trail weren’t really muddy at all, until we reached this section. Clearly the sun doesn’t hit this area so it was expected. We climbed up a ways, reached a bump which the guidebook refers to as the false summit I believe, and then started going down. It’s a little demoralizing when you feel like you’re SO close and then start to descend. We had to climb all that elevation right back up to reach the true summit. Right before the summit (and I really mean RIGHT before the summit) the herd path we took and the Herbert Brook trail met. It almost just looks like a clearing where the trails meet. And if Alex hadn’t done some research prior to this climb, we wouldn’t have realized that. A few moments later, we reached the summit! It was crazy because it looked like the trail kept going past the summit, so I kept walking, and then stopped, and realized we were there! There’s just a big rock with a really tall tree (and sign!) marking the actual summit, and I had to look WAY up to see it. Just behind this tree, there’s a little path leading to a small lookout which provided some decent views that I wasn’t expecting.
The bugs at the summit were AWFUL. We had covered ourselves in bug spray a couple times prior to reaching the summit and then again once we got there, but no matter what we did, they were just swarming us. So we only stayed up there long enough for our pictures and to eat something quick. At that point, we decided to head down via Herbert Brook and make it a loop. We thought that going down this way would be cool since I had never been through Avalanche Pass, and we also thought it might’ve been a little shorter. It’s probably close to the same amount of distance, and going the way we went probably ends up being a little more difficult. But it was awesome! Going down Herbert Brook we only saw one other group. This trail was long, steep, and muddy – even given the lack of recent rain fall. It took us about an hour and a half to get down, without any major stops, and then we reached Lake Colden.
It was quick moving from Lake Colden to Avalanche Pass as we realized we had a significant number of miles left to cover. Once we reached Avalanche Lake I was in awe. Although going through Avalanche Pass was pretty difficult, I actually thought it was really cool and fun. It was breathtaking. The most terrifying part for me were the hitch up Matildas! So scary! The view of the Colden Trap Dike was really cool – we actually saw someone climbing it when we passed through. I can’t imagine doing that.
It took us about an hour I think to get all the way through Avalanche Pass. After that, we booked it out of the woods, we were getting tired but didn’t want to stop for any more long breaks! But of course we took another pit stop at Marcy Dam.
We reached the car right around 5:30pm. We even bought ourselves ice cream cookie sandwiches at the Loj after this long day! I think this hike was around 15 miles long, and although it was tough, it was eye opening. I saw so much that I’d never seen before, and I think doing Marshall in a big loop like this made for a really interesting hike. Going up and back would have been boring! 21/46