Joel and I celebrated our 15 year anniversary. That is just crazy! It does not seem that it has been that long since we got married. Since the day fell on a Thursday, we celebrated by going to dinner at our favorite restaurant, Good Luck. But since it was such a milestone, we nicely asked my parents if they would watch Julia for us for two nights… yes, two nights! Luckily for us, they said yes.
Our last trip to Lake Placid installed the hiking bug in us. Because of this and because of the anniversary milestone, we decided to go back to Lake Placid and hike a High Peak. But of course we did not hike just one High Peak, we hiked two High Peaks plus another “small” mountain who happened to be on the way. It had to be an epic hike, no?
In the days leading up to our trip, we discussed hiking Phelps and Tabletop. Joel was a bit on the fence about it, since he ran up Phelps last summer. He felt that he wanted to hike a peak that was new. So we decided to hike Dial and Nippletop… Bear Den is not a High Peak, but it is on the way to Dial.
The trail to hike all three mountains resembled a lollypop. One of Joel’s running friends recommended hiking it counterclockwise, but after chatting with the folks from The Mountaineer, they recommended hiking it clockwise… so that is what we did.
The parking lot for the trail head was about a mile or so from the actual trail head. I remembered this part from when we hiked Mt Colvin and Blake. You walk on a road alongside the Ausable Club grounds until you reach a gate, which is near the trail head’s sign in book. You then continue to walk on the road until you find the trail head. I remember this section being a chore last time we walked it and this time it proved to be just the same, especially on the way back.
The hike overall was great! It did start going up right from the beginning. It leveled a bit at times, but not very frequently. Reaching Bear Den was good but very unimpressive… you could not even tell that you were on its summit. Luckily there was a lookout prior to the summit and the view was just fantastic!
Reaching up Dial was also good. The views were just as fantastic, except that it was very one-sided. Nippletop was the same. We felt good the entire time. We even ran some sections. :)
Then the descent began… the steep, rocky descent, which felt like it took hours and hours. My legs were screaming!! The best part about the descent was reaching Elk Pass, where these beautiful ponds emerged from the woods. It was so beautiful and serene.
The descent continued but luckily it was not as steep as before. We could not wait to reach Lake Road. The trail markers came and went. We were so excited when we reached the last trail marker… Joel read about the Gils Brook Trail, which according to the guide book offered a scenic stretch. So we decided to finish the hike using the Gils Brook Trail. I am so glad that we did that! The entire trail was along the brook, which includes numerous waterfalls and also allows you to walk in the brook. It was super beautiful! It definitely took our mind off of reaching Lake Road.
Emerging out of the woods on Lake Road was a relief. My feet were achy and I just wanted to be done. Unfortunately, we still had to walk all the way to the parking lot. I am not exactly sure how long our walk was, but it felt like it took forever. It once again reminded me of our hike to Colvin and Blake, which we hiked with our friends Donna and Pete… I remember feeling the same way then. To take our mind off of it all, Donna suggested playing a car game… we had to think of names that started with each letter of the alphabet… we played it twice! Joel and I should have played the game this time too, but we did not. We quietly (with the exception of a few complaints from me along the way) walked all the way to the car.
The loop to and from the gate was 13 miles and it took us 7 hours and 45 minutes. We did not count the walk from the gate to the parking lot in either direction, but it definitely added some miles and time. I felt super accomplished!
For this hike we both decided to wear our trail running shoes (I have the Saucony Perigrine trail shoe). Overall they worked great, except for the last 5 miles or so. My feet were very achy. I am not sure if I will wear them again for such a long hike. Also, I used an older backpack, which was not very comfortable, especially when it was full with the water and food. I definitely need to invest in a new one.
We really enjoyed our epic trek! It was a great way to celebrate our 15 year anniversary, my 10th and Joel’s 11th High Peak, as well as our first kid free weekend getaway. :)
The last thing that I want to mention is that this hike really made me think of our friend Donna, especially since we hiked on a couple of similar stretches as we did for Colvin and Blake. Joel and I kept reminiscing about that hike. She passed away about 5 years ago. She was an amazing woman. She loved hiking and she also aspired to become a 46er. I tend to think of her a bunch especially when hiking around Lake Placid. She would have loved this trek… I hiked for you Donna!