5 days barefoot backpacking in the mountains

Discussion in 'Front Page News' started by Tristan, Sep 22, 2018.

  1. Tristan

    Tristan
    Expand Collapse
    Barefooters
    1. Ohio

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2011
    Messages:
    1,822
    Likes Received:
    2,681
    5 days barefoot backpacking in the mountains
    By Tristan


    This summer I went on my biggest hiking trip yet, and finally getting around to finishing up the photos and putting up a brief report. I had this trip in my head for the last couple years, just waiting for the opportunity to take it. A week of vacation, and my son in summer camp spelled opportunity to me! I had the basics of the trip planned, just had to make a few tweaks and get my gear together. Biggest challenge was getting all the food I needed into my small bear can which is required there, and fitting that and everything else in my modest 48L pack. Took some careful planning and stripping down to the bare minimum of what I needed but everything worked out perfectly. I didn't really want to purchase a larger pack or bear can as most of my trips are usually 2-3 days. I still overestimated my food demand slightly, my bear canister can probably be stretched another day yet, if I stick with the usual freeze-dried meals. Some optional gear I refuse to give up is my photography equipment, but it is trimmed down to just about the lightest dSLR setup I could get... For this trip I packed my Canon SL1 with Canon 10-22 lens, cpl, Sirui carbon fiber tripod, and one spare battery.

    Sunday finally came around and I loaded up the car and headed out with my son to his summer camp. I'd return the following Friday afternoon to pick him up. The rest of the time I'd spend in the Adirondack Mountains, getting a few more of the 46 high peaks there done. With the late hour I'd be arriving after the 3ish hour drive I decided to just stay at a state campground near the trailhead the first night.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Day 0, Lake Harris campground. Nice views and slept well.

    I'll link all the photos to larger resolution images, just click for up to 4k resolution on most of the pics.

    Day 1, Monday. Up early and took my last warm shower I'll have until Friday. That's a scary thought with what lays ahead of me... over 40 miles planned and thousands of vertical feet with a couple of the days well into the 80's. Good thing plenty of cold mountain streams are readily available! I arrived at the East River Trailhead, geared up, and signed it a little before 8AM. The first day I planned to hike Allen Mountain... one of the longest hikes in the Adirondacks with the peak about 9.4 miles from the trailhead. An 18+ mile round trip for those who dayhike it, but I'd save a few miles by camping overnight instead of hiking all the way back out (but at the cost of carrying a much heavier pack for 3/4 of it). For many years the bridges have been out over the first two river crossings, the Hudson and Opalescent, but both have been repaired. I believe it was hurricane Irene that took them out. During higher water these streams could require waist-deep fords or perhaps even impassable. Some info on hurricane Irene's destruction in Northern NY... Irene Leaves Widespread Damage in the Adirondacks


    [​IMG]
    New bridge over the Opalescent River


    [​IMG]
    Lake Sally on the way to Allen Mountain


    I dropped my heavy pack when I arrived at the actual Allen Mountain Trailhead, several miles up the East River Trail. I'll have to return to this spot so no sense carrying an extra 30-some pounds up the mountain. I hadn't had much of a view for a couple hours, so it was nice after finally gaining some elevation and getting a few glimpses when the trees opened up a little...


    [​IMG]
    First mountain view on the way up Allen Mountain


    [​IMG]
    A little bit of steep scrambling on the way up


    [​IMG]
    Allen at 4340' has a wooded summit, but offers some views from a couple viewpoints near the peak


    There were 5 groups signed in that morning ahead of me, and I passed them all but 1 on the way in. The final group was leaving the summit as I arrived, so I had the summit to myself. I took a quick break for lunch, took some photos, then back down to the junction where I left most of the contents of my pack. Continued up the East River Trail to the only designated campsite within proximity of Allen Mountain. It's a small site but rarely used, luckily no one there and had the place to myself. Mount Adams loomed in the background, and the Opalescent River was nearby for filtering water and rinsing off after quite a hot day in the mountains!

    Day 1: 14.7 miles, ~3100' ascent, ~2900' descent I did wear my Unshoes Pah Tempe sandals for some of the gravel road walk in.

    Day 2, rain. I snoozed my alarm hoping the rain would stop and things would dry, and got up around 7. Some coffee and freeze dried scrambled eggs helped get me going on this dreary morning. Had to pack up a wet tent and get on the trail. off an on sprinkles.


    [​IMG]
    Hanging Spear Falls


    I took a short side trail to the 75' tall Hanging Spear Falls on the Opalescent River. It was very nice though quite distant across a deep drop off. Even to get that shot I was in quite a precarious perch, having climbed down from the trail about 10' or so to get out of the tree branches. The pool at the base of the falls was pretty much enclosed in vertical rock walls most all the way around. I would love to come back here when there is more water flowing, it's been a very dry summer! Continuing on, the trail quite narrow with wet brush constantly brushing up against me and in some cases almost enveloping the trail. I was sopping wet, but my spirits were not dampened! Eventually I emerged at the lake called Flowed Land. I skirted around this to another nearby lake, Lake Colden.


    [​IMG]
    Foggy morning at Lake Colden


    Mount Colden on the right and several of the Macintyre Mountains to the left all obscured by fog/clouds. I continued across the bridge and now gradually climbing on the Mt Marcy Trail, until getting to my next campsite by midday. Everything was still wet, including the ground around the tent sites. I picked out the driest spot and setup my tent and then ate lunch. About 2PM I decided to go after my next mountain, Mt Redfield. This hike was an unmaintained trail, mostly up a brook. A very tight trail in spots, rugged, mostly just rocks and roots. Had a good time though, and the sky was starting to clear later in the day.


    [​IMG]
    Views on the way up Mt Redfield


    [​IMG]
    Rock hopping through stream beds most of the way, not a flat spot to land my feet in sight!


    [​IMG]
    If not rock hopping stream beds, then it was winding through tangled roots on the trail


    My left foot was bothering a little on the way back, the feet had really taken a beating so far. Mount Redfield especially, as so much of it was not level I was on my toes and ball of foot a lot, without a large enough flat to rest my whole foot. Felt like I was really straining my plantar fascia, and also all the uneven rocks were causing my metatarsals to move independent of each other which I was starting to feel in both feet. I took it real easy on the descent, focusing on finding good foot landings and trying to take the stress off the balls of my feet and allow them to rest flat as much as possible. Slow and steady, a had a few days ahead of me yet and much bigger mountains to climb the next day. Made it back to camp around 6:30 pm. Back out to filter water, then cook dinner and relax. Mountain House Beef Stew really hit the spot!

    Day 2: 8.2 miles, ~2600' ascent, ~1350' descent

    Day 3 started off very cold, I even warmed up my clothes by bringing them under my quilt for a bit before I got up. Had my coffee and breakfast and packed up a minimal day bag. Today was going to be a big day, at least bigger mountains some with great views and I was very excited. But first I was off to Cliff Mountain, then I'd return to camp. It was a very short hike and I wanted to get this one out of the way, it was another unmaintained trail, and not a whole lot of views. The trail started out very muddy and eroded with all sorts of paths trying to skirt around the mudded parts then ending up just as much mudded out too. To go straight through like suggested would be up to your knees in mud. And this was a very dry year. o_O Some puncheons through this section were desperately needed. Some day I hope to spend some time volunteering and would love to do trail work!


    [​IMG]
    Cliff Mountain had plenty of Cliffs and lots of scrambling up steep rock


    Not much of a view on top, and the most disheartening false summit I'd been on yet. After quite a bit of vertical scrambling and things leveled out as I approached what seamed to be the peak, the true peak revealed itself another half-mile away with a bit of a col in between. The true summit didn't have much for views, I'd not bother going there if it wasn't a requirement to hike 'the 46 high peaks'. Some of the rock scrambles where quite challenging and fun however! Was only about 2 miles from my campsite and a little over an hours hike. Retraced my steps back to the campsite, had a snack, and headed back out for more. Three more mountains (and the option of a fourth depending on time) were my plans for the rest of this beautiful day. Next up was Gray Peak, which was the tallest so far at 4840' but what was next to come was even taller. Gray, yet another unmaintained trail, but a little nicer than the previous 3 mountains and some nice views near the peak too.


    [​IMG]
    View from Gray Peak


    There was a small group on Gray, we chatted for a minute about barefoot hiking and they asked if I was going to get Mount Marcy and I mentioned I was pretty beat and probably wouldn't make it today, but I was toying with the idea. I headed back down and came out to a beautiful sight... Lake Tear of the Clouds and the beginning of the Hudson River.

    [​IMG]
    The very furthest headwaters of the Hudson River


    Ok, technically it's not called the Hudson until a few miles downstream where it crosses the Tahawus Rd, but this is often cited as the highest water source of the Hudson, Lake Tear of the Clouds which is just through that opening. At this point it is Feldspar Brook.


    [​IMG]
    Lake Tear of the Clouds, the highest pond in New York State at 4,293'


    Some neat history and info on Lake Tear of the Clouds
    Just past Lake Tear of the Clouds is a major trail intersection known as the Four Corners, which includes trails up Mount Marcy, the tallest mountain in the Adirondacks and New York State (5,344' which doesn't sound like much, but remember I started at only ~1,700' at the trailhead) , as well as trails to Mount Skylight, and Panther Gorge. I had hiked Skylight and Marcy in my teens, though I didn't remember them well. So I did not need to hike them again for my 46er quest, but I wanted some nice views which they both have and also to re-hike them barefoot (I eventually want to hike all 46 peaks barefoot, so will have to re-hike all those I did in my youth). I decided on Skylight, which was a favorite of my folks. From the Four Corners either mountain was a short but steep hike. The trails however were nicely maintained, a nice change from the mud and drainage and brush scraping paths I had been on.


    [​IMG]
    Mount Skylight's bald rocky summit is high enough it enters into the Arctic-Alpine Zone

    Some neat info on New York's Alpine Zone can be found at https://www.adk.org/discover/alpine-plants/ apparently these zones only have two frost-free months of the year, and most months of winter sees 100+ mph winds. One must tread carefully though these areas and try not to disturb the little bit of fragile vegetation that remains. I've always felt that I tread much more softly and carefully barefoot, so that's a nice advantage here.


    [​IMG]
    Cairns mark the route up to the summit


    [​IMG]
    Yours truly on Mount Skylight


    The views did not disappoint! Finally a 360° view, unobstructed by trees which is a rarity in these New York mountains. Even with a few others sharing this summit there was plenty of space to go around. Eventually I had the summit to myself as I continued to take pictures. After allowing myself ample time to enjoy the views I packed up and hurried down, thinking maybe I had a slight chance of also bagging Mount Marcy this evening if I didn't dawdle too much. It was only about .6 miles back to the Four Corners, almost straight down. I arrived just slightly after my self-imposed cutoff time of 4PM, but close enough I said what the heck. Mount Marcy was similarly a short but steep climb, about .8 miles and ~1,000' up from the Four Corners.


    [​IMG]
    On the way up Mount Marcy


    [​IMG]
    Getting closer to the summit


    [​IMG]
    Made it!


    [​IMG]
    Great visibility from Mount Marcy on this clear sky day


    [​IMG]
    Plaque on Mount Marcy


    The views were great! I could see to the east across Lake Champlain and it's valley into Vermont and the Green Mountains. To the north I believe I could see into Canada. It was just stunning, and I was so happy to visit this place once again. My memories of it the first time were pretty limited, it was 1996 and I had so much going on at the time (was just a week after graduating high school, and 2 weeks away from starting college). I more remember the difficult hike in, sweating on such a hot day, and all the black flies that were out. I believe it was my very first overnight trip... as a family it was too far to hike Marcy & Skylight as a dayhike though many hikers do. I was with my whole family at the time, and a little sad they couldn't join me this time.
    Mount Marcy was originally called Tahawus, meaning 'Cloud Splitter' by the first settlers, but later named in honor of Governor William Marcy who commissioned the first environmental survey of the area in the 1830's.


    [​IMG]
    Panorama of 5 stitched images


    [​IMG]
    Some of the exposed rock was quite rough on Mt Marcy


    I descended quickly back to the 4 corners. From there I decided to put on the Unshoes to make quicker time getting back to camp, I instantly felt like I could go twice as fast! My feet had felt better than the day before, but the soles were getting a little abraded and sensitive on all the rock and I decided to give them a little break just for the ~2.5 miles back. My lower legs were a bit fatigued when I first got up in the morning, towards the outer edge of the shins, but that mostly was replaced by some straining around the knees on all the descents. But overall nothing terrible. I wish I could get in better mountain shape before going on a big trip, but its pretty flat around my house. Usually the mountains are my first hills of the year, so I know I'll have to deal with a bit of straining.

    Day 3: 9.8 miles ~3600' ascent & descent

    Day 4 up around 6:30 was a pretty cool morning around 40ºF, had to wear all of the warm clothes I had which wasn't much but enough... a long sleeve running shirt and rain jacket. It was nice using the same campsite two days in a row, but this morning I had to pack it all up and relocate. I had one more mountain to get and then position myself closer to the trailhead for an easy departure the next day. My legs & feet felt pretty good, no particular soreness this morning. And best of all it looked like clear blue skies again, yay! I hiked back down the trail I hiked in on, but this time under bright blue skies instead of fog and rain. The trail followed the beautiful Opalescent River, and this time I was able to get the camera out a few times. Most of the beauty was difficult to capture on the camera, like this mini slot canyon with water cascading down into a very deep pool.


    [​IMG]
    I stitched a couple images together of this mini slot canyon


    [​IMG]
    Crossing the bridge over Lake Colden


    I stashed all my gear except what I needed for a day hike and proceeded around Lake Colden to the Cold Brook Pass trail up to Mount Marshall.


    [​IMG]
    The north end of Lake Colden


    The Cold Brook Pass Trail was pretty miserable going, overgrown with brush and sticks scraping you often. It was another 80º day so I had dressed very light with thin mesh running shorts - not a good choice for this trail! They survived, and stayed on me though snagged many times by the brush. Near the center of the col between Mount Marshall and Iroquois Peak is the remains of small plane crash from 1969. From what I have read the pilot was very lucky and survived the ordeal.


    [​IMG]
    Piper Cherokee 140 crash from 1969


    [​IMG]
    Views from Mount Marshall


    Mount Marshall's summit is still within the trees and not a whole lot of exposed area but wow the limited views were great in the deep blue July sky.


    [​IMG]
    Yours truly on Mount Marshall


    The hike down was a little better than the hike up, but not by much. I took the Herbert Brook trail down. I returned to where I stashed my gear and then made the decision to hike most of the way out, to the only campsite on that trail. I was a bit worried it might be full, but I arrived about 6pm and had the place to myself. A nice quiet last night in the mountains.


    [​IMG]
    Last night on the trail


    Day 4: 9.6 miles, 1808' ascent, ~2700' descent


    Day 5 was pretty short, due to my decision to hike most of the way out the evening before. I wanted to give myself time to take a shower if I could, enjoy a sit down lunch somewhere, and make it to my son's camp in time for the ceremony they do on their last day. I packed everything up for the last time and hiked out about 3 miles to the road, then walked down the road to where I parked at the other trailhead. Some of this final stretch of trail was quite rough with gravel, I once again put on my Unshoes for a portion of this trail.

    Day 5: 3.4 miles, 600' descent

    I went back to the nearby state campground and got a day pass to use the showers. Not the best shower experience I've had lol, but boy did I feel better after that. Well worth the $6 or whatever it was. I stopped for a hearty lunch at the Long Lake Diner, and got to my sons camp in plenty of time.

    Such a great trip! I covered about 46 miles, hiking pretty much all day every day. Only one dreary day. Met lots of people, but still had plenty of solitude, even on most of the summits. No problems from being barefoot. I hiked 7 peaks during this trip, which puts me at 44 of the 46 High Peaks. My remaining two are Whiteface and Esther Mountains, which will be a day hike I'll save for next year. Whiteface has a road up to the peak (it's where the downhill parts of the 1980 Winter Olympics were held) and my family should be able to join me on top to celebrate hiking all the 46 High Peaks. And of the 46 I'm up to 26 of them barefoot.

    Here are my GPS tracks imported into Google Earth, and daily stats on the left. I color coded each day... day 1 is blue, then yellow, green, white, and orange.

    [​IMG]

    I hope you enjoy the pictures! It took me almost two months to find the spare time to edit & get them all uploaded, sorry for the delay! I went on this beautiful trip the end of July. I do have many more pics from this trip, for these and more check out my online album at https://imgur.com/a/iRh9rqu
     
    Collapse Signature Expand Signature
    #1 Tristan, Sep 22, 2018
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2018
    posnerk, c17, Robin and 7 others like this.
  2. dutchie53

    dutchie53
    Expand Collapse
    Barefooters
    1. Canada
    2. Nederland -...

    Joined:
    Nov 6, 2011
    Messages:
    1,732
    Likes Received:
    2,792
    Fantastic pictures, and great relating of your adventure.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro
     
    Tristan likes this.
  3. Christian Lemburg

    Christian Lemburg
    Expand Collapse
    Barefooters
    1. Germany &...

    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2014
    Messages:
    204
    Likes Received:
    289
    Wow, what a great trip! Thanks for the beautiful pics and the great writeup!
     
    Tristan likes this.
  4. Barefoot TJ

    Barefoot TJ
    Expand Collapse
    Administrator
    1. Test Chapter
    2. Nomad
    3. Hidden...
    4. Hidden...

    Joined:
    Mar 5, 2010
    Messages:
    19,301
    Likes Received:
    5,570
    Amazing! You are really living the life, aren't you? Your pictures are always beautiful and inspiring. Thanks again, Tristan!
     
    Collapse Signature Expand Signature
    Tristan likes this.
  5. Tedlet

    Tedlet
    Expand Collapse
    Barefooters
    1. United Kingdom

    Joined:
    Aug 25, 2014
    Messages:
    547
    Likes Received:
    881
    Stunning trip Tristan -great report & pictures. I've never hiked barefoot, but I'm thinking I need to put it on my list!...
     
    Tristan and Barefoot TJ like this.
  6. Tristan

    Tristan
    Expand Collapse
    Barefooters
    1. Ohio

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2011
    Messages:
    1,822
    Likes Received:
    2,681
    Thanks for the kind words everyone! I certainly had a blast and being barefoot on this trip was just fine and really helped keep the body cooler on the hot days, especially when cold streams were frequent. I'm going to try a similar long week of hiking every summer if I can while my son is at his summer camp. @Tedlet you should! I'm not sure how trails there would compare, the Adirondacks can be quite challenging on the 'unmaintained trails' (and some of the official trails too) barefoot but usually doable if you go slow. I did go on another but shorter hike in the mountains more recently I'll probably post a trip report about in the next week or so.
     
    Collapse Signature Expand Signature
    Tedlet likes this.
  7. Yvonne

    Yvonne
    Expand Collapse
    Barefooters
    1. Ohio

    Joined:
    Dec 21, 2012
    Messages:
    124
    Likes Received:
    127
    Spectacular! I've dreamed of trips like that my entire life. I am officially completely envious. I may have to stowaway in your vehicle the next time you plan to make a trip like this ;):D
     
    Collapse Signature Expand Signature
  8. Robin

    Robin
    Expand Collapse
    Barefooters
    1. California...

    Joined:
    Apr 2, 2012
    Messages:
    337
    Likes Received:
    268
    Beautiful!
     
    Collapse Signature Expand Signature

Share This Page