The second night of our trip was not nearly as cold as the first, but it wasn't all that warm, either. While I went to sleep early, Derek was playing with slow motion videos at the fire, this one is from his camera:
The next morning I was again the first one awake. I didn't bother to fish, knowing now that the fish started eating later as the water warmed up... following a late spring pattern that we had emerged from over a month ago closer to home.
We were pretty efficient in getting ready on time and stopped at the junction of the trail to pump more water. There is none on the ridge, so we filled up everything and headed up towards the McComb slide.
The trail starts climbing right away, and after hiking along the stream for a bit, veers off and up the ridge above. Technically these peaks have no trails but they are well enough traveled that it doesn't really feel this way.
I love the alpine wilderness, where the firs and spruce meet the birch trees and create the most wonderful smells.
The trees are twisted and gnarled from exposure to the weather, and as we ascended, the green leaves faded and green needles took their place.
After climbing for a short while, the trail crosses the upper section of the stream once more, and enters the bottom of the slide. Its a loose slide, with plenty of talus and scree to keep things interesting.
There is a real need for paying attention here, as large rocks are easy to dislodge. At one point I dodged a sizable rock that could easily have knocked me unconscious or worse. But that's part of what makes the hike that much more interesting!
Its an impressive slide, and the views as you climb just keep getting better and better.
I loved how a few large boulders remained, waiting only for time to take its toll - at some point they too will roll down the mountains and become a part of the stream below.
The view of Elk Lake is perhaps the most captivating from this slide. There's just something about the angle of the light and the way it so perfectly sits in between the mountains that I prefer from this point of view.
The real challenge comes at the end where there's a bit of a sneaky climbing section. After a little moment of rough rock, there's a hidden route around the toughest section.
A little bit more climbing in the short, high-elevation forest and we were there.
McComb has a real peak-marker at the summit, as well as beautiful views.
Someone had rescued the old sign that fell off a tree on the summit.
And the final views of Elk Lake in the valley. You can see Santanoni behind and to the right, and the very end of the Seward Range way in the background behind all the other mountains on the right side of the picture:
At this point, the trail heads down a decent bit along the side of a ridge and into a little pass between McComb and South Dix.
Soon we came upon the rocky climb to South Dix, which, apparently, we had forgotten about from last time we did this a few years ago.
Seems that we also forgot about this false peak.
The climb was pretty epic... wind was blasting and gusting many miles per hour.
There were views in both directions as we climbed the exposed rock
I was blown away (no pun intended) by not only the views of the peaks, but the clouds, which were taking unique shapes due to the wind and the mountain-tops.
You would never know from looking at this that some gusts of wind were almost enough to knock us off our feet.
But it was not really cold, and we were well prepared.
Derek took a great video:
We walked through some very short trees... we were right around tree line and surrounded by the Alpine Zone.
We were careful not to disturb too much plant life up top while we navigated the second (or was it third) false summit.
We ate lunch behind a rock, completely sheltered from the wind and with a view of the southern and eastern sides of the mountain and surrounding valleys.
On the way back we took a different path than last time, which later would connect with the same path that runs down the ridge and meets up with Lillian Brook.
The descent was no easy feat, and at some points was pretty vertical. It would not be much fun coming up this particular trail unless you like climbing straight up.
The spot where the Brook begins is beautiful. There was still some ice and snow in the dark pockets and between the rocks and the water; which flowed mostly underground, gurgling and sloshing around out of sight.
Finally it emerges for good, flowing fast and cold, tumbling along moss-covered rocks that carried it quickly to the flatter land down below.
After some sketchy moments we arrived at that flatter land to find the light dappled through the evergreens and leaving a beautiful glow.
The stream was a little wider here, but would there be fish? We were still well above 3,000 feet in elevation, maybe even over 3500. I didn't have my rod to test it out at this point though.
A feeder stream met up with Lillian brook and we began to descend the final bit of the mountain.
A snake quietly sat still and thought we didn't see it as we took a water break.
Nearby, a woodpecker, or "tree stallion" as my friends have dubbed them had found a nest of wood ants. It had made quick work of accessing the colony and we came upon the few ants left trying to make sense of what had happened.
They seemed stunned.
Trickling water nearby added to the sound-scape, and I started to think about fishing again. I picked up the pace and we made good time back to camp.
I quickly got to fishing again, this time using the Shimotsuke Kiyotake 18. Its much shorter than the Suntech Suikei that I had been using previously. This allowed me to fish much more efficiently in the small pools of this tiny stream.
Fish smaller than this were between many of the rocks.
I caught another darker fish in this pool, but not as beautifully colored as the one from the night before. You can still see the purple on the cheek on this fish very well. Focus wasn't perfect on some of these as I left my real camera at the campsite in haste.
Each tiny plunge pool had fish, and each time I got hits. Many of the fish were too small to swallow the size 12 uglies I had with me, and therefore I wasn't hooking them all well.
That night we enjoyed a large meal, ate all of our sweet and chocolatey things, and recounted our experiences by the fire.
I must say it was a welcome change to have a real fire and nice fire-pit area to hang out and cook in. Usually when we hike the high peaks we are in areas where no fires are allowed. Derek brought his Gransfors-Bruk wilderness hatchet and we made quick work of the abundant downed wood available nearby.
The next morning I awoke to a light sprinkle of rain. We waited it out, which was the right move. I have been using my trekking poles to gain a few extra inches of head and foot room on my Zpacks Solplex tent and it works like a charm.
We broke down and headed out to the car. Making quick time, we were back early and headed down the road to find some good food. On the way, I noticed a public fishing sign. We usually drive here at night on the way from work, so I never noticed that there's public fishing easement along a river I always thought was private. I had to have a few casts and my friends begrudgingly agreed.
This is a classic free-stone adirondack stream. It tumbles along a gentle grade and creates ample plunge-pools among the many boulders in the water. Some pools are generous in terms of depth and width. There are also deep runs squeezed between some of these boulders and along the shore.
I hit a few pockets and got a really nice brookie on the line. Somehow it wiggled its way off after a quick fight, and I moved to the pool above. I had a huge hit but somehow failed to set that hook as well, I think I was just too late on it. My friends pulled me away but I can't wait to return here - I know there are some large trout that call this river home...