My Brother Catches the Bug

Hike: Marcy Dam (and a bit beyond)
Distance: ~7 miles
Date: November 28, 2014

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite times of the year to visit my parents. Winter has yet to become tiresome. The air is filled with the smell of woodsmoke as the cold air nips at my cheeks. I step inside, greeted by the dry warmth from the woodstove, fragrances wafting from the kitchen as my mother toils away, and some underhanded comment shot by my brother as he smirks and tries to contain his joy at seeing me.

Brian had summited Cascade 10 years earlier, and Marcy and Algonquin as a kid with Dad. All the recent talk of hiking had him excited to join us and get back up there. While others were going shopping on Black Friday, the three Jenks men decided to take a little exploratory walk into Marcy Dam and see where the hike went from there.

We arrived at the Adirondack Loj at Heart Lake around lunch time. This is the most heavily trafficked trailhead in the High Peaks, but it wasn’t too crowded today. Maybe everyone was still too full of turkey. It is right in the heart of the High Peaks, and provides the shortest route to more than a handful of peaks.

There was only a few inches of snow on the ground, but it had fallen recently and was still sticking to the trees. It was a magical winter wonderland, as the snow gently flurried down around us.

Winter Wonderland TrailThe first major junction on the Van Hoevenberg Trail is about a mile in. Go right and you start climbing up into the MacIntyre Range (or “The Macs”), left leads to Marcy Dam.

Trail JunctionThe 2.1 miles to Marcy Dam is pretty easy hiking over rolling hills. The dam was recently severely damaged by Hurricane Irene. It can no longer be crossed.

Marcy Dam damageWe stood and talked with some people while I drooled over their equipment. The item that was most obvious they had and we needed was a set of microspikes on our feet for traction. One couple had come from Avalanche Lake, the pass between the Macs and Mount Colden. We only had a few hours of daylight left, but thought we would hike up that direction and see how far we got.

A new bridge has been built to cross Marcy Brook downstream from the dam.

Marcy BrookThe views from the east side of the dam are phenomenal. Wright, the first peak in the Mac Range, dominates over the dam, and Avalanche Pass is visible beyond.

Marcy Pond and beyondAs we headed up the trail toward Avalanche Pass, we were watching the clock and realized we were losing the daylight battle. Brian and I decided to race ahead without Dad and see how far we could get. It felt good to stretch out and cover some ground quickly.

After what we guessed was about a mile, we came to a bridge and decided we had better turn around. We didn’t realize it at the time, but this was a bridge crossing over Marcy Brook, and right around the corner was a trail junction to either head up the shoulder of Colden or go into Avalanche Pass.

Brian photobombed a selfie. Now this picture sits on my piano.

Brian and I over Marcy BrookIt was a magical experience, sitting there in the silence on that bridge, miles into the woods and enveloped by winter. The kind of experience that puts its claws into you and doesn’t let go, making you want more.

Our thoughts returned to Dad and we decided to get moving. We trotted at a good clip to catch up. After a while and no sign of him, we both began worrying that we passed him somehow, if he had stepped off the trail for a minute. There is no cell service to communicate with, so losing your dad miles from the trailhead is generally frowned upon. Right at that moment he came into view. He had turned around and started heading back, figuring he’d get a head start on the trek out.

We hiked out in silence, reveling in the experience. My shoulders ached from my old backpack. My feet hurt from the seven miles of hiking. My thoughts began reaching forward to that woodstove, my mom’s hot dinner waiting, and a glass of wine. But I loved every second of it. And now my brother was hooked, too.

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